Thursday, March 05, 2015

Blog #4: Indonesia's Civic Culture only Grazes Democracy

Indonesia’s “street justice” and open distrust of its urban authorities has long since held the nation back from fully accepting any form of democracy. Scientists Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba had created a term 50 years ago, “civic culture,” which was related to a political culture that is opportune to democracy, but someone or something was holding it back. 

Not too long ago, there were reports of a young man in Jakarta suffering from a motorcycle fall that resulted in him being wedged under a car; the unfortunate part is that the driver of the car, who was aware of the youth under his vehicle, continued to drag him along for another 30 kilometers before he was forced to stop. His justification? The fear of being lynched by a growing mob of witnesses on the scene, which prompted him to speed away. His fear wasn’t far-fetched, for there had been another recent case in the city of Tangerang, where a mob had lynched and incinerated a man caught stealing a motorcycle. The mobs taking matters of street crime into their own hands shows a lack of confidence in the present authorities, which is one of the loftiest walls separating the nation from accepting full democratic reform. Almond and Verba had argued that civic culture society should be able to build a bridge of trust with its government, and expect to be protected and judged fairly by its agencies, however this is lacking in Indonesia’s current state.

Civic culture also includes tolerating different views, which, to an extent, is missing in parts of Indonesia where minority groups are sometimes treated as second-class citizens. A recent lecture on creating a system of healthcare for the 1965-66 Communist Purge victims in Solo was ended by the Islamic Defenders Front, who dictated that it had been an attempt to spread communism. Last week in Sidoarjo, East Java, the same illiberality was present when GP Ansor, the youth organization of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) was successful in the removal of town square statues that had shown traditional rural occupations. The Muslim youth organization alleged the statues were a form of idolatry, thereby disrespecting Islamic tenets. 

Finally, several parts of Indonesia lack civic cooperation, or the ability of citizens cooperating to achieve the common good. Last year when free rice was being given away at a Chinese temple in Tuban, East Java, several people had been injured from agitation and crowding, being shoved along while waiting for their turn. 

Writer Johannes Nugroho dictated in the article that in order for democracy to sow its seeds and grow, civic culture must be strong. Elements of democracy, like elections and judicial systems, can be assimilated relatively easily only once the country meets strong civic culture standards. I think it’s important to consider here that even as the holder of the largest economy in Southeast Asia and the epicenter of major trade routes, it’s still a nation that has succumbed to inter-disputes among it’s diverse populations, and unfortunately has yet to establish a trust between it’s authoritative organizations and it’s booming urban population. The concept of street justice, racial and ethnic inequality, and intolerance only being elements of crumbling states or impoverished countries is no longer relevant; Indonesia is a major Pacific power and is one of the emerging market economies on the globe. With so much potential, and I know this is a problem that takes a painstaking process to fix, it’s unfortunate to see such a massive population hindered by an untrustworthy government. I’d hope in the near future a fitting state of democratic ideals finds its way among this archipelago of islands and ends its inner-city rabbles. 

Read the article here:

Salwa Majeed
Thursday, March 2015
7:24 PM

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