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  • Writer's pictureElwin Tobing

URGENT: New orientation in promoting a better Indonesia

(A back to the future series where I will regularly post some of my writings from 2-3 decades ago which I believe are still relevant to our situation today).





Little doubt that our political and administrative landscapes are mired in bad governance. The new reform era notwithstanding, Indonesia is essentially still living in the old corrupt and hugely inefficient country. One scandal comes after another with very few being successfully prosecuted.


Almost all the social systems that should supposedly advance our social life have eroded. In our schools, children are being surrounded by incompetent bureaucrats, inadequate infrastructure and too few quality teachers. In private businesses, the work ethics is often missing and the moral ethics of the big businesspeople is often questioned.


Our politicians are still trying to politicize religions, making the latter less constructive in promoting morally capable individuals. The elites are operating only for themselves while falsely preaching that their mission is to fight for the people.


Our streets are not safe as the number of young people who are jobless is steadily increasing, inducing high crime rates. And with the challenges of the recent natural disasters, which were among the worst in modern history, we can hardly expect a worse situation than what we have today. Which brings us to a question: how we, as a society, should respond?


But first, have we made a deal with the devil? Or, do we still want to fight against the devil of our time--our depraved socioeconomic conditions and bankrupt mentality. An example of the latter is the mentality that believes that all our problems are due to the government's lack of competency and corruption, and hence the solution to our problems is in the hands of the government as if the government is a purely benevolent agent with its sole intent is to maximize our social welfare.


Most people perhaps forget that the government is a body that consists of individuals who, in turn, are also part of the society. They are among our family, friends and neighbors. When the government always lies, we also always lie. When the government is corrupt, the corruptors are all around us. When the government is not efficient, most of us are not efficient. The government is nothing but our mirror.


Consequently, we must start realizing that our efforts as private citizens to promote a better Indonesia--ending bad governance and corruption as well as overcoming our socioeconomic problems, are just as important as the government’s actions in those areas. We must not think of it as the exclusive government’s business to take care of. And neither should we pretend that by somehow imposing religious laws on our land, all of our problems will be solved and never come up again.


We need a new perspective and orientation in almost every field and at almost every level. There is an urgent need to break the cycle of poorly managed resources, negative attitudes toward the future, and poorly educated people. The country urgently needs a large injection of rigorous training, a vigorous work ethic, and a strong push of positive attitude.


How do we initiate the break? As human beings, we tend to learn by example. Sadly, we have reached the point where very few outstanding role models remain whether in education, sport, politics, business, and other aspects of our lives. And so, mediocrity rules.


To lift the standards up, we need to bring in an army of morally and intellectually capable volunteers as well as the experienced ones to share with the country’s current and future generations about the benefits of having ethics, hard work, and constructive attitude in life. We need those who can serve as an inspiration to others and make a difference in society.


For instance, those who have successfully created businesses through constructive ways which society has benefited from;


the artists who have shared their talents and brought us a new version of life;


the writers whose words and stories added meaning to our lives;


the fathers and the mothers who endure hardships and have gone through struggles in order to raise their children to become better individuals;


the scientist whose research and dedication have helped our quality of life;


the teachers who inspire us to learn;


and the honest and hard-working sportsmen and sportswomen whose incredible feats have made us strive for greatness.


Great countries such as Japan and the US are not built by their governments, but by their enthusiastic, hard-working and optimistic citizens. And great individuals such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King taught us to be true to moral and gentle approach, and to be steadfast in contributing to the improvement of a society.


It might take a decade to see the results of small steps we made, but the first step, however little it is, must be set in motion. As Homer in The Odyssey said, “A small rock holds back a great wave,” various seemingly small steps could bring great benefits to the nation in dire need of improvement.

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