The Indonesian Prohibition: Why It Might Not Be A Good Idea

“Those who cannot learn from history, are doomed to repeat it,” said the philosopher George Santayana. This relative famous quote is appropriate for the conundrum Indonesia presently faces. For you see, there is currently an ongoing campaign for prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages in mini-markets and supermarkets—all for the purpose of supposedly restoring the moral values Indonesia supposedly lacks, according to the more conservative and traditional religious populace of the archipelago.

Let me first say that I am all for the restoration of positive moral values, virtues, and such aspects of such aspects of humanity. However, restricting the sales of mild alcohols, especially the kinds which hold as few as beers, may not be the most effective way to accomplish such a lofty goal. As another, peculiarly familiar happenstance has already occurred once in recent history, with unintended and severe consequences. I am of course, speaking of the Prohibition Era of the United States.

Beginning in 1920, the US’s Prohibition Act introduced a ban on the selling, producing, purchasing, and transporting of any drink with an alcohol content higher than 2.75% (the average can of Heineken holds a 4.6 percentage). The only alcohols people were allowed to consume, were the wines required for religious rituals, and whatever few falls below the two-percent bar. Practically speaking, those who are used to drinking spirits, liquors, stouts, were all cut-off from one of their primary sources of entertainment. How would these enthusiasts—as well as assuming some were addicts before the Prohibition—react? They, predictably, would turn to whichever party willing to give it to them. That is to say, smugglers, bootleggers, both of which the mafia would end up adopting into their repertoire.

Prior to the Prohibition, the mafia kept their business away from alcohol. They stuck themselves to theft, gambling dens, narcotics, et cetera. When the Prohibition came into effect, they suddenly found themselves a brand new market with customers thirsty for a product they could easily stock up on. A market, with consumers willing to empty up their pockets with unregulated prices had suddenly popped up. Hence, famous mobsters the likes of Al Capone made their names—and riches—throughout the period from something people once could buy for a few bucks at the local grocery. Thus, the money that could have went to the coffers of the government via taxes, flew to the pockets criminals. The events that followed, were quite predictable.

The mafia absorbed enormous amounts of wealth in an unregulated market. Law enforcement could not enforce the dogmas of the Prohibition due to insufficient funds, personnel, et cetera. In 1933, suffering from plunging tax rates, rampant crime—increased homicides, thefts, smuggling, the exact same things the Prohibition was meant to prevent. These are the risks Indonesia is taking today.

Perhaps the criminals of Indonesia aren’t as organized as the American mafia was, but that does not necessarily mean that they are entirely inept. For instance, an area known locally as “Lapo” in central Jakarta has for years been distributing bootleg whiskeys, vodkas, gins, and so on with brands common only to their perusers. These drinks are obviously unregulated, often found with ingredients the likes of benzene, methyl alcohol, and—oddly enough—bug sprays.

Lapo represents a problem that will only intensify with the introduction of a Prohibition-esque ruling in Indonesia: that of black markets reaping in profits from regular alcohol consumers, without any percentage flowing into governmental institutions. This is hazardous in many ways, to say the least. As the Americans have unfortunately illustrated, it would lead to a spike in crime-rates, a weakened economy, and a population highly displeased with the governing body—likely enough to turn form protest groups, stage demonstrations as the US citizens did, and to turn to smugglers rather than be the average law-abiding citizen, which most of them presumably were.

Moreover, bootleg liquors inherently possess potentially fatal dangers. That of the irregular materials used for the production such types of beverages. As already stated, they are quite bizarre in nature, as basically anything that can amplify the ‘high’ experienced by their drinkers would be added in. Too many have died because of this ongoing, perilous practice, and many more will follow.

When the sale of light, legal, cheap, and perfectly safe alcohols are prohibited, who will their consumers turn to? As previously shown, anyone who can and are willing to get their hands dirty and sell the much requested products. Teenagers, young adults looking to prove themselves or find a cheap thrill will now actively seek the distillers of abominable liquids. For alcohol releases endorphins into our systems—the hormone which makes us feel joy and fall into a state of relaxation—hence the addicted or candidates of alcohol dependence who want, or need, the ‘happiness’ provided by alcohol, would be forced to bow to the black marketeers.

However, the government has provided Indonesians an alternative. Albeit a mildly effective one, at best. Bars, clubs, and lounges are still permitted to stock up and sell alcohol. Yet these venues miss the prerequisite of affordability. Something that a lot of beer drinkers desperately seek. Whenever I visit the sorts of venues I mentioned above, even the cheapest and shadiest of them, their beers are priced at a value of at least two times higher than what I would’ve found at the nearby mini-market. Not everyone, either underage or legally eligible, can afford to pay for the once easily purchasable drinks. And again, the nauseating heads of bootleggers and smugglers rear themselves up, as their prices are lower than what the most economical of places offer.

So what have we learned so far? That there is a very high probability of the introduction and application of Indonesia’s anti-alcohol campaign turning itself into an unpredictable boomerang. That is to say, it could prove disastrous in ways that our government has not yet foreseen or have prepared for; consequences which would affect the nation’s peoples, and that of its chiefs. It is a prediction based on a nearly parallel incident that has occurred in less than a century before now. I’m not sure a hundred years could have turned human nature on its heels, and suppress our basest of urges.

If Indonesia is indeed committing itself to eliminating the effects of alcohol on its society, is must be prepared for the X factors that will undoubtable come. I do not intend to present this post as a verbal assault on the Indonesian chief executives, though. What these paragraphs are, amount to nothing more than a warning. A piece of advice which is basically intended to the advisement of Indonesia’s leaders, to assure themselves that there would be numerous issues up ahead in the campaign, and that they should scrutinize their stance once more. A counsel based on the heeding of lessons brought to light by history. Dismissing the records of our past entirely, even claming that Indonesians are “special,” “different,” or what have you, and would pull through, is follow. Worse, it would be overconfidence on our part, an aspect of humanity that has endangered the survival of our species, our societies, our Earth time and time again—all because of our propensity to ignore the evidence obvious to our eyes, but blurred by the selectiveness we harbor in tandem.

I would love to further discuss the topic of alcohol in Indonesia. Yet would likely multiply the length. of this already overdrawn opinion piece. As of now, I ask only that readers from Indonesia react accordingly, maybe even petition for a repeal (without the employment of violence, of course). Know this, however, that alcoholism is a symptom of moral corruption, not the root of the disease. Devoting most of our resources to a temporary treatment is possibly more taxing and threatening than to do nothing at all. It would be of more use to us if we researched whatever moral issue currently at hand, than to shoot at it blindly. Such a step may well lead us into discovering the underlying causes of Indonesia moral descent. The consequences of an action based on wobbly evidence, could reach and harm the economic, social, political, and various other spheres of this beautiful archipelago I call home.

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References:

http://www.tribunnews.com/bisnis/2015/02/01/pengusaha-ritel-minta-pengkajian-ulang-larangan-miras-di-minimarket

http://nasional.republika.co.id/berita/nasional/umum/15/02/03/nj6m6m-genam-larangan-peredaran-miras-bentuk-revolusi-mental-mendag

http://khazanah.republika.co.id/berita/dunia-islam/islam-nusantara/15/02/01/nj3m1l-larangan-jual-miras-di-minimarket-tak-rugikan-pariwisata

http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,954983-6,00.html

Report on the Enforcement of the Prohibition Laws of the United States. National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement. Dated January 7th 1931 “Bad Features of the Present Situation and Difficulties in the Way of Enforcement

Dwight B Heath, “Prohibition, Repeal, and Historical Cycles,” Brown University Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies

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Depression: How it Led Me to Suicide

Many of my acquaintances, friends, and families have claimed to me that they suffer from a pathological case known as depression. They have said this in times of grief—the loss of a family member—heartbreak—losing the one you love to some kind of misunderstanding or so—and so on. Perhaps they were right, but at times their assertions sound exaggerated at best. They say that they are depressed in periods of extended sorrow, of uncontrolled weepings and such. Yet as someone who has been diagnosed with the disorder, I dare say that the emotions attached to depression are not as many perceive it to be. The sickness is not mere tears dripping from our eyelids, the hurts that we feel in our chests. Rather, it is a state of profound emptiness, where nothing we do, and nothing around us, seem to matter.

I would need to elaborate on my previous statements further to give a clearer picture of depression. You see, depression is not what it is commonly perceived to be. It is not an unquantified level of sadness, it is not an uncontrollable urge to murder ourselves. Instead, it is a state wherein we feel as if we are surrounded by a vast and eternal nothingness. There are no dreams, no futures, no days to look forward to for the sufferers of depression. There is only the here and now, the constant condition of not just assuming, but knowing, that there is nothing of importance in the whole wide world.

I’ve suffered depression for more years than I can remember. My mother is a psychologist, and I had been assigned as one of her colleague’s patients when I was just a little over eight. Afterwards, I’ve went to a few other experts, and have lately begun seeing a psychiatrist on a regular basis. Something had happened which multiplied the levels of awfulness I had been enduring. I won’t bore you with whatever it is that occurred until later on, but I will tell you how the incident made me feel, and how it distorted the shape that I have adopted for so many years—for now, I request that you be satisfied by knowing that it involved someone’s death.

When I first entered my psychiatrist’s office, I reluctantly explained the condition—and its cause—that I am in. He calmly engaged me in a casual conversation, asking me how I felt then, the kinds of pain I went through each time I tried to sleep, et cetera. He is, I would say, quite talented at extracting information from the emotionally vulnerable. So I told him everything: from how I thought and sometimes still think that I had failed those who mattered to me most, how each time the moon comes up all I could taste was dread, how my slumbers lasted for only three to four hours at most, if any. In a clinical yet friendly fashion, he responded by saying that I would feel better, one day. He could not tell exactly when, save for the fact that the relief is a certainty. Then, he wrote down on his notepad a prescription for my medications, whilst recommending me a few books that I should probably read, and telling me how common my illness is in this day and age.

I still take the pills he prescribed to me to this day. A good year after our first meeting. I can’t function adequately without them. I was unable to write, read, do anything that I used to do before the incident without the proper meds. I’m not an addict, that much I’m sure, but I am aware of how dependent I’ve become to my shrink’s treatments. Without them, the all too familiar air of emptiness and apathy would flow right back into me; reducing myself into a husk, incapable of producing anything worthwhile.

Once, I let myself slip. I persuaded myself that I did not need the pills, that I have been restored, healed into whatever I was beforehand. That was a major mistake on my part. After a week, I began planning my own suicide. The plan consisted of me pretending to be drunk in front of satisfactory witnesses—numerically at least, and if possible, that they be quite attached to me—then ramming my car into the side of a highway at a speed I imagined would be enough to kill a man (oddly did not do enough research into this). I reasoned that when my parents saw my corpse, they would assume that I had died whilst driving drunk, a case that may be easier to swallow than discovering that their son had deliberately killed himself.

I didn’t die, obviously. A couple of police officers dragged me out of the burning pile that was my Ford Fiesta, asking me again and again if I was alright. I told them I was, then I cried whilst laughing. One of them asked me if I was on drugs or intoxicated by anything else. I replied by asking, “If I was, would I be able to talk you as clearly as I do now? Would I be capable of walking in a straight line?” They tested me for that last one, and I did manage to follow the bright yellow line on the side of the road without diverging or slipping. He could tell that I was not under the influence of anything—not enough to hinder my movement and other cognitive processes anyway. The two officers stood silent for a while, finally concluding that they should inform my parents. I gave them my father’s number, they called, and we waited.

For a lack of anything better to do, I asked one of the cops if he had a cigarette. He said he did, and I lighted it up. His partner came forward and asked, “Why would you do this?” I could only retaliate by asking him another question, “Do you have a son?” He said “Yes.” I inquired further, “How old is he?” He instantly replied, “Two, kid. Why do you ask?” I laughed again, with remnants of tears on my cheeks, “How would you feel if you had to make a life-or-death decision? About your son, I mean. Then realizing that you made the wrong call?” He did not offer a reply. When I was left with only a butt of the other officer’s cigarette, he offered me another, and patted me on the back. I don’t know for certain, but I think I heard him say, “I’m sorry.” I simply inhaled the stick of tobacco while looking at my feet, thinking about absolutely nothing at all.

My parents came, probably a half an hour after my short chat with the policemen. I can’t tell for sure how, but they immediately and accurately guessed that I had tried to kill myself. No rants, no scowls, just hugs from the two of them, telling me that “Everything will be okay,” and the somewhat cliched, “It wasn’t your fault.” I went home, my car was scrapped, and that was that.

What did I feel when I tried to plunge myself into the clutches of death? As strange as it sounds, I do not know. It was blank, a moment where nothing entered my consciousness and everything was just background noise. As if static had penetrated my perception. If there was anything worthy of notice, it did not reach any one of my senses. Then there a was a banging noise, as my ribcage, face, everything, was punched back, and a blackness came. No fear, no sorrow, no regret, just a force in my mind driving me towards my goal.

That was how a suicide felt. No dramatic release of feelings beforehand or anything of the like, it’s really just like doing any other thing. And this I’d argue is what makes depression and its accompanying suicidal tendencies as dangerous as it is; a disease which kills slowly and silently. It’s not something that the bearers show publicly, it is even something that we try to hide as best as we can.

Why would we hide such a sickness? One that could cause death in the most inopportune of times? To answer that, I could only say that shame plays a prominent role in making that decision. There’s a certain stigma attached to the depressed. That is, that we are making a big deal out of a “phase.” Depression does not always make sense to those who have never went through it. They think of it as just another kind of sadness—deeper perhaps, but not an obstacle one cannot power through.

The depressed sound and seem like “the girl who cried wolf.” A liar who screams for help when there is no peril that surrounds her. As I hope my previous paragraphs have illustrated, this is an erroneous view of the subject. I wish that I could impart some useful piece of advice, life tips, or anything that could be helpful to my friends who are hurting, who can care for naught, and are trapped in emptiness. But I cannot. All I can do for now, is to try to convince the people around you to believe in your pleas for help, to give you the recognition and medical attention that you rightfully deserve.

I am sad to say that I have seen two very close friends of mine be ignored by their parents. One of them was lectured on how psychiatry is a sham, the other, that she had been wasting her parents’ money on good-for-nothing placebos. Hopefully, their progenitors could one day see how critical their daughters’ ailments actually are, and be useful for a change.

Regardless, this is the best that I can do in describing how it feels to suffer depression: Constant, seemingly endless days of lethargy, voices—or urges—in your head telling you repeatedly that death is the only way out, and the lonely solitude of being ignored, uncared for in the hours when we need the people we love most (thankfully, my parents have given me the attention I needed, but I unfortunately cannot say the same for the others in need).

My request, more of a plea actually, is that those who read this, can understand better the malady we know of as depression. It is not a “phase,” it is not something that we can overcome through sheer determination. It is an illness that requires the treatment of professionals, same as any other diseases that you yourself have suffered. Please pay attention to those around you who seem to be enduring depression—even secretly, as the unfortunate death of Robin Williams have shown—and treat them as best as you can, care for them as you would any other in ill health. Bring them to the professionals that have been specifically trained to heal them. These are not difficult objectives. The only blockade that could stop you, is the oddity of handling a psychological condition, and the mistaken view of non-physiological conditions being of no importance—that they are to be ignored, and would eventually pass away by themselves. Depression is not a cold, it is more similar to a cancer that demands constant observation and treatments.

To clarify, I have never had a son. What I had was a nephew, placed under my care from birth, as his mother is not dependable, and his father was not involved in raising him. He wasn’t my direct biological descendant. But the nights I spent waiting for him to sleep, waking up immediately as I heard him cry, keeping constant watch from midnight to dawn to make sure that his weak heart did not quietly stop beating. Those five short months were some of the most and arduous yet beautiful days of my life. Failing to save him, watching his lungs be pumped only by machines and to hear the plugs be pulled… broke me. And that is why I’ve turned into the mess I am today; I have to admit, this piece is one of the toughest, emotionally, that I have written.

We, are You

I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked, “If you don’t believe in God? What’s stopping you from killing, stealing, and such likes?” This question, or any variation of it, irritates me somewhat. It shows how apparent the prejudice against nonbelievers is, how my kind are seen as amoral creatures with no fear or respect for what many call ‘sins.’ We don’t believe in gods nor do we believe in sins, that much is true. However, these disbelieves do not necessarily mean that we are not afraid of the repercussions from our fellow man, or that we would somehow find the well-being and lives of others to be of no value. Our belief, or lack of it, makes us exactly the opposite of the boogeyman conjured up by religious zealots fearful of Secularists, Humanists, and of course Atheists. I.e., any party that can challenge their current superiority.

Let me further elaborate on my previous statements. For some, it may be hard to believe that a nonbeliever would harbor some sense of decency within themselves, hence requiring an opinion piece such as this to be produced. To understand how we Atheists kept our moral compasses without the assistance of, and pressure from, gods, a quick review of the evolution of humanity as a species is necessary.

“Humans are social creatures,” said my Communication Studies lecturers repeatedly. We drink, eat, breathe, and—perhaps rarer than the other activities—sleep in the company of others, throughout our days. As a species, we have become so dependent on one another’s presence that prolonged periods of isolation could damage our psyche considerably, and at times permanently. Why is this? Why did we not evolve to be independent individuals, capable of defending ourselves against the worst Mother Nature can offer? Frankly speaking, when compared to other animals, our natural weaponry is quite lacking. We have no claws, no fangs, not even a hide worthy of mention. The most we can do, physically speaking, is grow our muscles—which would still be laughable to bears, lions, and tigers. What we have though, are our brains, and the people around us.

Alone we are vulnerable, but together, we have grown to be the apex predator of the planet. Achieving this position did not come easily. Early humans, and our evolutionary ancestors needed to somehow unite themselves, enough to challenge the predators that stalked them. Thus we created social structures, nomadic clans that revolved around a charismatic leader, common rituals, and obviously primitive religions. These groups invented their own unique systems for rewarding the just and punishing the unjust. A ‘government,’ if you will, which can still be observed in the isolated tribes of today’s world; the ones found in the most rural regions of Africa, Asia, and so on. Cooperation was essential for the survival of the individual, the clan, and the species as a whole. Therefore, through the selfish motive of self-preservation, were borne the noble traits of altruism, trust, and so forth. This is what we Atheists believe in.

A symbiotic, positive-sum relationship amongst ourselves is necessary to maintain us: be it only our own bodies, that of our kin, or that of strangers we’d never see. We need to help each other and to trust that they would help us in turn, to simply survive. This is something quite undebatable, as we can very easily observe how outmatched we are in our natural weaponries; in the seas, the skies, and the ground that we call home. Cooperation is key to our development, that much is certain. Even the most zealous of believers can see that without their brethren, their sect would not survive for so long in a world as competitive as ours.

To return to the topic of an atheist’s morality, we have evolved the same way as believers. Our sense of morality is the same as yours. Equal to that of the most devious of criminals and to the holiest of saints. We can be both good and bad, but that diversity in the moral spectrum is certainly as similar to that of God’s children—look at our DNAs, and find that there is nothing as diverse enough to cause us to be more cruel and apathetic than yours does. Like it or not, whatever creed we subscribe to, we are almost exactly the same. Some of us are dumber, smarter, weaker, and tougher. But as we have been conditioned as a species by nature or by the God you believe in, our morals have been aligned. We favor cooperation as much as you do. And we despise those who sow hate between ourselves and the religious, as much as the true and just Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, all of you believers, spite those who carry your banners in storms of violence.

I ask you—whatever belief you may subscribe to—to believe that we Atheists are not the monsters many accuse us to be. We are not even organized. Each of us are independent, believing whatever it is we wish to believe; similar to that of the various branches that have emerged from one faith of origin. I personally do not wish to see religions eradicated. They have helped my parents, and the people I care about, rationalize the sufferings they have for so long, and for prices to high, endured. I do not wish to take away a gift as wonderful as that away from anyone. Other Atheists may not feel the same way, and I will do what I can to prevent them from assaulting your beliefs—a task that may consume my entire lifetime, which I’m not yet capable of. In this moment though, I shall beg, to have your perception of us changed, to accept us as equally human, as noble and corrupt as any you’d find.

We Atheists do not have a singular scripture to absorb. What we have are our own views, the opinions of scholars, the ideas that emerge as much from your lips as they do from ours. We are you: human. And if that assertion offends you in anyway then I apologize. But the things I’ve read, the ideas that pop up in my mind, have all led me to the conclusion that we are one and the same. As a species, of course. One with the same guides for our behaviors, with differences here and there, though none of which suggests that we could never coexist peacefully.

Our moral compasses were constructed in the same ways as yours were. Believe it or not, that is true. Perhaps a reiteration of an argument I heard from Richard Dawkins would convince you. This is a paraphrase, as I’ve sadly lost my copy of The God Delusion: “Would you shoplift if there were no security cameras around? If yes, then your belief in a god is hypocritical and selfish. If not, then you have the morality that makes us who we are.” The assertion more or less goes the same way. Essentially, if you would steal—commit a crime—as long as there is no god for you to believe in, you would be the same as those you call “sinners.” We are not such beings. A few of us might be, but they would not be respected by the majority of Atheists. Atheists believe that our lives are confined here on this earth, and that after death there is nothing. This might sound bleak and an excuse to be unjust, but the reasoning is not meant to be interpreted in such a way.

The heaven and hell of Atheists exist in the here and now. In the world that we live in. What we do with it, and how it reacts to our presence, is entirely up to us. None of us wish for suffering, for discrimination and persecution, and we are hence made aware of how heavy each of our decisions are. We will not have an afterlife, the lovely or torturous one. What we do have is this—all that you can see around you—it is permanence, as we can never seek for forgiveness after we’ve died. Our sins will die in this world as our bodies will. A sufficient motive to care for others and not be a general nuisance to our species.

We can never repent, we can never ask for peace. What we’ve done will stay with us until our deaths, and be remembered in the records made about us. No one sane would want to be remembered as a ruthless convict. The same goes for us. We’ll do our best as humans, to bring joy to as many as we could, because there is no other time in our lives than now. And to be late in doing so, would amount to having done nothing at all. A permanent death enforces us to be good, alongside the evolutionary conditions that have birthed us. Not exactly the same, but similar enough to the conditions you believers are subjected to.

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Reference:

Dawkins, Richard. (2006). The God Delusion. New York City: Bantam Books

Marr, Andrew. (2012). A History of the World. London: Pan Macmillan

Pinker, Steven. (2011). The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. New York City: Viking Press

Extremism in Indonesia: A Personal Encounter

This post will be an account of my personal encounter with the radical Muslims of Indonesia. It is not gripping story of escape, tense confrontations, or any other sort of drama. Rather, this account is taken more from a distant, passive perspective. One where I sat, listened, and watched.

It was a Saturday, when I was lighting up a cigarette in the living areas of my boarding house. There was no one else in sight and sounds emanated from the corners of the room, it being two A.M. in the morning. Then came a “Test, test, test,” from somewhere outside. Close enough to hear clearly, yet definitely not originating from inside the four-story building.

Later came the noises of a crowd gathering—footsteps, idle conversations, laughter. I tried to peer out of the west-side windows to see what the minor commotion was about. Unfortunately, it was too dark to even catch a glimpse of a stage, podium, or anything. The crowd was a blur, and as far as I could tell, they could very well be all-draped in black.

“Hello everyone,” boomed the speakers. “I’m glad to see so many of us could be here tonight,” the invisible speaker said. I thought that it was a routine meeting of some sorts—a group of hobbyists, amateur actors, whatever. How often they met I do not know, and this meet-up was the first time I’ve ever noticed such a group existing near my home. Perhaps their previous gatherings were set up in different times and places, or are simply scheduled irregularly. But that is only baseless, idle speculation.

The voice continued, “You might be surprised to hear, that our great teacher is here!” Loud clapping and cheering abounded. Some of the cheers came from men, others from women, and a few obviously from children. It’s a diverse group, that much I could tell. I was getting interested, ‘what sort of teacher starts his class at two in the morning?’ I wondered. I began paying attention to the event. At least it’s not the usual funerals or weddings that often took place in the area; this, was something new and interesting.

“He [the teacher] is here to tell us,” a pause, “something very, very important for us all,” proclaimed the speaker. “You will pay attention to him! Give him your utmost respect! Turn off your phones now, and stay quiet when he speaks!” Instructions, quite thorough ones at that. What for? What could possibly demand—and get—the unwavering attention of someone’s words? I needed to hear this thing play through.

Then he, the teacher, came forward. A shuffling of shadows, whose gender I could only discern when he began to speak, “Welcome, welcome everyone!” A thunderous clapping followed. “As you all know, a great danger has descended upon us! We, the holy followers of Islam are under threat.” Last I checked, the majority and national religion of Indonesia was still Islam, though that might have slipped past the man’s mind. “Ahok: the Chinese, the Christian, is the governor of our great capital [Jakarta]!” So that’s what this is about.

The former vice-governor of Jakarta, Basuki “Ahok” has recently come into power. As the “teacher,” has said, he is of the Chinese and Christian minorities; a member of the two most prosecuted groups in Indonesia—churches were and sometimes still are burnt to the ground, and the Chinese were murdered, raped, and robbed en masse during the 1998 Asian Financial Crisis as the scapegoats of choice. Needless to say, Ahok’s not the likeliest of candidates for the governorship of Jakarta. In fact, his current position is a hand-me-down from Joko Widodo, who held Ahok’s seat before he moved forward to become president of the country. Ahok is not at all popular with the more orthodox of Indonesian Muslims.

“Teacher” continued on with his speech. Spouting mindless drivel about how Ahok’s position would allow the outnumbered Christians to elevate themselves, crowding Jakarta with so many churches that mosques would be so outmatched as to be unnoticeable. This, the man thinks, is a disaster bound to happen. He riveted his followers with prophecies of how Ahok would escalate the power of Christians, how the governor is the greatest threat to the integrity of Indonesians’ morals and values. They cheered, clapped, as they already did, again and again. It was jarring to see how spiteful they were to the possibility of equality between the two religions.

But perhaps the possibility of equality did not occur to these people. Maybe in their minds, there is no room for two majority religions in Indonesia, only one. Only Islam should have influence over government policies. Those that are not with Islam must be terminated—in their eyes. Sure enough, that was exactly what they were thinking: “Burn, burn, burn the churches! Down with Ahok! Down with Christianity,” came the chorus of hatred and bigotry. I, being an atheist, was deathly afraid of the group suddenly exploding into organized violence on the nearby populace. My friends, myself, my classmates who live nearby, could be in a danger that they’re not even aware of.

Thankfully, relief came. “Children, my children, my family, my friends, calm yourselves. We are not ready. We must build, we must arm, and we must pray. We will bring the Chinese pig [Ahok] down! But we must do so with patience, as Allah teaches us.” I did not know whether to be thankful, or soil myself to hear that they’re amassing a force for resistance. They could be a minor and isolated threat, but I eat and sleep here. If this sect of extremists ever let themselves loose, I suspect my area would be in peril; especially perilous to the local Chinese and Christian populace.

They must be put to a stop. I do not know how. I cannot even guess how many they are, and how much more groups such as theirs exist. If the gathering I described above is a growing trend, Ahok would need to step up. As a citizen, I sincerely request that my governor would calm the Muslim populace, assure them that their belief and their position as the majority are not under threat. They are after all, only planning resistance out of fear. Some of their members may even not hold a grudge towards the Christians and the Chinese, and simply following the steps of madmen out of a misguided sense of righteousness and security.

Jakarta is not the safest of places for non-Muslims today. Ahok’s position is itself is in danger of a coup. I would guess that in upcoming elections the more radical and Muslim a candidate can be, the surer his chances of winning would be.

By the end of the sermon, the group dispersed. They left laughing, talking, in a general mood of joy and anticipation. I pray that they never come into possession of dangerous armaments, or gather enough members to start a violent rebellion. If it comes to that, Ahok might just be too late to save the lives he could have. I would not wish such a burden on the conscience—the likes of others’ preventable deaths—to be on anyone’s heart.

This is a request, a report, and a warning all at once. Hopefully, someone with more power than myself would read and recognize the gravity of the situation. Even if all-out armed conflict doesn’t pop up, people could still die or be lucky enough to just be hurt. And there are too many of those two things happening in the world already. If anyone can lessen the sufferings caused by violence and extremism, it is his or her duty to do so.

I’m Home Again

I’ve been gone from this blog for quite sometime now, literally having posted nothing at all for months. I am, to say the least, very regretful of letting this absence happen. I’m a writer, first and foremost, thus I have a kind of responsibility to myself to keep producing these sentences, paragraphs, and articles. Needless to say, I have pretty much failed in fulfilling said responsibility in these past months. And I apologize to the subscribers of Peculiar Ideas for this mistake.

The reason I’ve been away is—an overwhelming amount of personal matters. Troubles kept popping up here and there, both from within my mind and the world I live in. Suffice it to say, my state of mind was not well enough to produce any work of value; it was a frustrating period and state to be in, though I kept on trying and trying, all my ideas had to be scrapped. None of them were good enough to be publishable. I won’t elaborate on the things that had happened, but I will speak a little bit on why I’ve come back here.

I’m in college again. I spent eight months or so cooped up at home, drunk more often than not, and constantly struggling with my depression. All those things, to some degree, have been done away with—save for the depression that sometimes still hinder my activities. Yet as the popular expression goes, “my dog days are behind me,” and I can continue on with my life. With writing.

Being back in the world of academia is more than a reinvigorating experience; it is a revival of the thoughts and sense of curiosity that has been missing from me for far too long. I began devouring books again—treating them with the same thirst for water, rather than the occasional snack. And writing, god the writing, the essays I had as assignment fully rejuvenated the sense of love I had lost for this little hobby. Hence, this post you’re reading now.

I can’t say if college will continue to be as therapeutic of an experience as it is now. We all have to graduate at some point or another, move on with our lives. Or perhaps a horrible incident would occur, and would be pulled out of academics once more. I sincerely wish such a thing would not ever happen again (if I believed in a god, I would have prayed for its protection).

But I guess that’s all I have to say for now. Peculiar Ideas is up and running again, with the usual irregular updates some subscribers are already used to. I cannot yet say what the post’s topic will be, though I assure you that I will do my best ensure that it is adequate.

I’m home again, and this time, I hope I will not have to leave it so suddenly. Now, with the apologies and explanations out of the way, I honestly can’t wait to start composing articles for all of you again. Thank you, for granting me the chance to know that my thoughts are being read and appreciated for so long. Well, it’s time for me to get back to work then. I’ll see all of you again soon, with something worth reading.