Your So-Called (Well-Established) Morality And Ethics Make Me Sick
Mother has advised me on many things. But one thing I always refuse to listen is the one when she repeatedly says, “You have to be rich. People won’t look at you when you have nothing. Nobody will bat an eye on you when you’re sick either. You have to be useful for any purpose.” First of all, although my life could be classified as prosperous, my father always leads an ascetic life. No bright colours for clothing, dyeing hair is “unnatural” (for whatever it means), wearing gold could lead you to sin, I practically wear no earrings, rings, and necklace. Somehow I believe my father reads Gandhi in his free time.
Thus, this results in my appearance who always keeps it low because every time I try to spend money on my skincare, beauty care, etc, my father’s voice always echoes, ‘spending money on mundane thing is a sin’ (I’m not sure if books belong to ‘godly’ category, but my father said learning through books was among God’s will). In short, my father’s concept collides with my mother’s advise, and I choose to listen more to my father because I don’t believe that being poor is a mistake, while wealth is too overrated.
But today, somehow I understand why she insists so. Father often jokes with me that being poor people in this country sucks. Because there isn’t much you can do when you’re an Indonesian poor. It’s either you end up being dragged away by any powers trying to gain control, or you could only pray that an educated middle class (probably an influencer) wouldn’t bash or mock you in reputable media, saying that you didn’t do enough for your life and that was why some idiocy, according to ‘justified moral’ by some educated people, occurred. You are FPI? You must be an idiot have-nots who barely made a dollar a day. Well, no shit, of course I would like to if I were him/her. FPI could bridge me to other influential people who need someone to do casual labor. They gave access to advance my life. As you said, I am poor, and I don’t see your morality, ethics, and sophisticated brain ever do something practical about your promising so-called “social transformation” nor do I see you tiptoeing around my neighbourhood producing any significant change. It wasn’t that I did nothing — I was an elementary school-only graduate, I had to make money, no better school around my village, and females in my village weren’t expected to go higher to pursue education.
In this point, you might think that I’m making that up. But that’s what one ex-migrant worker told me when I researched about the patriarchy among wives’ of migrant workers in Central Lombok. He said that with the cold tone when I asked what he thought about the idea to stop sending migrant workers. There’s structural problems, there’s also agency problems. Both play important roles in creating this fucked up state we have now. But to point out only the marginal people wouldn’t make us develop anything, and even worsen the condition; (pseudo) addressing the problems without knowing layers of the root cause. This is not to say that we must defend poor people at any cost, in fact; we must defend the society, not to argue which is right or wrong, but to fully grasp and comprehend the dynamics and unpredictable probability of any society.
Indigenous Wana people in Sulawesi could be seen as those who surrendered their ‘locality’ since they were willing to plant soy bean as part of transmigration scheme from the government (Yudanto, 2016). State would see they finally give up the ‘uncivilised/nomadic’ life, and many activists were disappointed, but it was a very rational choice. As indigenous people, nothing’s wrong to have image of prosperous life reflected in a city, after all we, as educated ones, are responsible to spread that portrait. So is for those who joined FPI/any hardliners, because apparently those in ivory tower (either in university, or really high tower of rationality/logical paradigm/schooled/educated system) who researched about and fought for them failed to build any fundamental/progressive/radical change in the grass root. We keep saying that barter system is stupid, ignoring the geographical landscape and limitations of highland Papua society. Insisting our rationality and middle-class/the haves/well-established ethics and morality to people who by the skin of one’s teeth could spell “revolution”, what’s so different from imperialism? Can I be shady and call this epistemic violence (and the irony, it’s all conducted to promote anti-violence movement)?
Anwar Congo, the butcher from North Sumatra who killed hundreds of suspected communist, was a poor guy whose work only sold fraud cinema tickets to people. When Soekarno insisted to stop playing ‘decadent western’ movies, he lost his jobs, and as the table had turned, he got recruited to kill those ‘commie bastards’ who made him lost his only income. Can we really blame him solely? And look at him now; quite suffice if I may; fancy tv, small ducks estate. Does this change his perspective? Yes. We could see at some point, in the narration of Jagal (Act of Killing) (2013), he stopped telling stories and cried, ended in suffocating silence, although he didn’t implicitly say he was sorry for what he did.
I don’t think the condition would be any different for many urban poors who choose to join so-called conservative/violent group as FPI, FBR, etc, they just got tired after years of living defectively. Poking on their nose with our clean fingers made out of education industry and lambasting them as a failure in life wouldn’t change anything. For me, it’s just another hypocritical apology of people who promise promises — those who talk sophisticated things and plans about progress, but only as empty signifiers for the have-nots.
There is also a problem to see education level as indicator of someone’s success in life, especially in terms of material posses, and to see why they want to join a hardliner group. Just because someone is poorly educated, it is not necessarily that this sole reason combined with economic background would lead one to be a jihadi calling names to Ahok. Many rich educated people join the Pemuda Pancasila or any ‘unpeaceful’ group, this should be seen as distribution scheme just like how AKP won votes in Turkey — they successfully bridge the people’s micro business with big player in the market, creating access for their cadres and promises for sustainable longevity for their political means. I don’t see something similar or anything close happen on these ‘holier than thou’ people with bachelors/masters/phd from top-notch university, they even barely organise themselves properly.
An Indonesian diaspora said the reason why Indonesia was underdeveloped because Indonesian were lazy, singing the same old lullaby that those colonials said to native centuries ago. This particular person was educated abroad, considered as better opportunity to have more intelligent books to read and meet better scholars, but ended up poorly analysing what is wrong in his/her own country, proving that education, especially in this system, can’t really guarantee anything.
If you still persist, Osama bin Laden graduated as civil engineer, it didn’t stop him killing and bombing people.
Pak R only brought two clothes of his and her wife’s when he moved to palm oil plantation of Riau — the most hated industry to this date. “I’m afraid of being a robber back in Madura,” he said to my father in 1993, when asked why he agreed to join the transmigration scheme. The point is clear; he had no better but provincial choice, there was no access, so any offer that could make him a better person that was the capability to feed his family, clearly was understandable.
In this time of growing atrocities, it is important to critically reflect of what we have done so far, as someone that is self-proudly trained and accessed to gain “better” (oh really?) education level, and filled with the idea of social justice, social welfare, ‘facts’, ‘science’, ‘civilised’ society and so on, and so on.
We are marching in a compact group along a precipitous and difficult path, firmly holding each other by the hand. We are surrounded on all sides by enemies, and we have to advance almost constantly under their fire. We have combined, by a freely adopted decision, for the purpose of fighting the enemy, and not of retreating into the neighbouring marsh, the inhabitants of which, from the very outset, have reproached us with having separated ourselves into an exclusive group and with having chosen the path of struggle instead of the path of conciliation. And now some among us begin to cry out: Let us go into the marsh! And when we begin to shame them, they retort: What backward people you are! Are you not ashamed to deny us the liberty to invite you to take a better road! Oh, yes, gentlemen! You are free not only to invite us, but to go yourselves wherever you will, even into the marsh. In fact, we think that the marsh is your proper place, and we are prepared to render you every assistance to get there. Only let go of our hands, don’t clutch at us and don’t besmirch the grand word freedom, for we too are “free” to go where we please, free to fight not only against the marsh, but also against those who are turning towards the marsh! — Translated from Russian Lenin’s «Что делать?» (What is To Be Done?) , chapter one.