Saturday, March 18, 2006

Culture of Contempt

As mentioned earlier I have been on the "road (and air and sea) over the past few days trying to make living.

By good luck, more than good management, we had time to take a walk through a planned tourist "walk" in the jungle. I admit I sometimes have trouble understanding some apects of Indonesian culture and that would be my fault. I can understand why local people would kill Elephants raiding their food crops or for the couple of extra dollars they can earn selling various bits and pieces of Elephant (Although I do not excuse a government more concerned with what people wear, see and listen to than preserving a world heritage). What I cannot understand is why so many people seem to think it is perfectly acceptable to trash and pollute the very Environment they live in.

The walk through the jungle was highlighted not by the beauty of nature or the potential award wining natural tourist attraction but the endless trails of plastic bottles and mounds of rubbish. Sometime in the recent past funds had been made available to build a pool and some villa (?) units at the base of the “walk” (being a government facility, I can only assume it was done via some grant or other). The pool was green with slime and the piles of rubbish were blowing around in the wind.

My disappointment and frustration was so great, I could not help myself so I asked one of the five workers sitting around smoking “Why is the pool green and why is there so much rubbish lying around? Answer: “Belum Bersih Mister” (Not clean yet). I then had to ask “You not embarrassed at this, this is your country, your home” Answer..Blank Stares.

The sad part is forest tourism is like “money for jam”, people the world over will pay to walk through pristine jungle, and it costs next nothing and is forever renewable. I guess it takes a modicum of thought.

Same thing happens August every year, flag waving, singing, pride in the nation and when it’s all over the people go home whilst the countryside groans under the weight of the rubbish left behind.

I can only assume it’s me and I am missing something in the culture, because I can find no excuse poverty or otherwise to treat your mother land with such contempt.

As a start, I think there is a lot to be said for placing a 500Rp returnable deposit on every plastic drink bottle in Indonesia.


rich expat said...

what an ugly country filled with horrible people. that's a brilliant idea, stumpie. i'll supply the 500 rupiah for each bottle.

Anonymous said...

maybe you are too young to remember when people in Australia did the same sort of thing. It took a while to sink in.

And I'm sure you have come to realise that the reason people litter here is because there is always someone who will make a living picking it up - I think they are called "pikkies".

Joepsc said...

Hi, Oigal,

Just as in many other parts of Asia, littering is a common eyesore, a health risk and an ecological problem.

Having a refundable monetary deposit may only solve the problem created by that particular item, and littering will continue. This requires a long-term educational approach cum heavy penalty to begin with. It took sometime for the people in Singapore to be inured to the habit of keeping a clean and green surrounding.

oigal said...

Hi Anonymous,
Actually no I am not, I do remember. Perhaps its more an issue for me but I would have thought that the majority of the Indonesians would have a a closer direct connection to the land than the average urban aussie.

Hi Joe,

I agree education is part of the answer, penalties would not work here. Most people have no money and any law is just another avenue for the local authorities to get rich. In my opinion, whatever needs to be done needs to be on a reward rather than punishment system.

I don't claim to have the answers, wish I did.

rich expat (pist expat, drunk expat or whatever you want to be today).

I left your comment only to show what an ugly Troll you are..

For the record (and I shall not feed the Troll again) I love Indonesia and her peoples thats why it hurts to see the future being so damaged by sheer lack of thought.

Anonymous said...

is the vitriol I detect here between u (stumpie!) and the indigenous enemy about "loving someone else's country" - are we expats "allowed" to do that?? Or should we only love our own country?

im sure u have thought this one through by now - i havent, and that's why I ask.

Joepsc said...

I spent a couple of years in Indonesia in 1973/1974 and remembered there were people like what anon called "pikkies" all over the place, especially along the railway track, going through the wastes. And since a punitive system won't work and only serves to help perpetuate corruption, then perhaps a reward system (cash payment) to encourage clearance of litters by the weight, apart from education of the young.

oigal said...


You are probably right although the approach may be different for the city to the country. I would also be in favour of the companies selling the products to bear some of the costs. If there is a cost involved THEN they may think more about the packaging.


I am not really sure of your question (Brain freeze perhaps) For what is worth I have sunk very deep roots in Indonesia (family and otherwise) and care about her. I personally believe I am entitled to an opinion as much as the next person. Some people have a problem with that but that is more an issue with their own xenophobia than any desire debate any topic in a rational manner.

Anonymous said...

i think there are many interesting points to understanding the way indonesians react to expats, many are what I would call psychological:

1. they think we are lucky therefore..
2. why arent we in your own country
3. from #1 they have a low opinion of the wealth of their own country, almost ashamed of it
4.from #3, im sure you know how indonesians react when they feel ashamed
5.even though we (you) love the place, there is a suspicion u are only here for the money (in fact this may have been true before 1996)and we will suddenly dessert if we/you cant make money (i.e. disloyalty - even if we/you are "allowed" to be loyal to this country)
6. people here are getting sick of (or bored with) respecting expats who dont know that much more than them anyway
7. I CAN GO ON AND ON... and then there are all the (rapidly changing) political, cognitive, cultural, social, religious, economic differences that people here have to comprehend when they see you or read you ie. try to interpret you

BASICALLY, IF YOU GO FOR WHAT IM SAYING, THEN you must conclude one thing at least:

"DONT COMPARE AND DONT ASK TO BE COMPARED"... im sure you heard that one before, here, and "there"

but Im sure you, as well as most of us, make our living using such "god-given?" analytical tricks.


oigal said...


mmm, A lot of points for consideration. I shall only touch on a couple. Respect is a funny thing anyway,in this post it was to raise the issue of Respect for the Environment (Indonesia is not the only country with the problem but it is where I am so it should not be a surprise thats what I write about).

Expats here for the money.. yes of course (95%) that why we get up in the morning and work, I have an obligation to do the best for my family, I am just very fortunate that I can do it here.

Yes, many jobs should be going to Indonesians not expats but until you have a government who recognises the importance of education (i.e its an investment not a liability) then nothing is going to change. Again this is a choice only the Indonesians make.

God Given,,(mmm perhaps) but worked for came from poor background, lazy at school but woke up in time to go to night school before it was too late.

I agree if you try and compare the other guy always looks like his life is easier than yours.

Lastly, I may well and often am wrong in my opinions ..debate me or help me understand but skip the racist s#@#t because it is just the product of a lazy mind

Jakartass said...

Hi Oigal,
Not too long ago, before the advent of bottled water and plastic packaging, snacks here were wrapped in banana leaf, a biodegradable throwaway.

I used to think that the littering problem was a hangover from those days, a force of habit.

That there are people, pikkies (eh?) who will make a living picking it up is a consequence and not an excuse. Who'd choose to be a scavenger?

No, I agree, education is the key, especially with incentives. The water companies, Danone et al, should be at the forefront, perhaps by setting up bottle banks.

Incidentally, did you know that Jakarta residents are supposed to sort their household trash into organic and other? I've got the different coloured plastic bags to prove it, although the collection system remains the same.

Finally, part of the education thing is to set an example, if necessary by returning dropped items to their 'owners'. If you're not shy about doing it, trust me, it embarrasses the hell out of the litter bugs.

oigal said...

Thanks Jakartass,
In must admit I had trouble connecting the "pickies" as a reason for rubbish surely there is a better way.

I am no where near as "green" as you (no judgement, just statement) but I do believe companies have a responsibilty beyond the sale.

Sorting rubbish..really? In our little kampung, I used to think we had it under control once a week a truck used to come and collect the street rubbish ..One day by accident, I saw where it was the creek about 2 km out of town..oh well.

I do like your last paragraph..mmmm