What’s Wrong with a Little Common?

One of the hottest topics right now in Indonesia is the rise of gasoline price; headlining newspapers, covered by TV talkshows and expert discussions, and even provoking an organised public protest held yesterday in the nation’s capital (I’m guessing somewhere around the National Monument and the Presidential Palace) which went on reasonably peacefully.

No one likes a price increase – except of course, sellers – especially looking back at how a rise in the price of gasoline affected prices of everything else, including basic needs like foodstuffs or housing. So the public reaction is understandable, particularly from the financially lower class who will take the hardest hit. Interestingly (or in my case, annoyingly), I’ve observed some complaints from those belonging to the middle class; those who have online access and Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as smartphones such as Blackberries, whining about how they’re going to afford gasoline for their cars and the inevitable rise of taxi fares.


Let’s get real for a minute here, shall we? I know, oh I know how hard it is to let go of the lifestyle that you’ve become accustomed to, simply because I’ve been there. When I hit a rough patch a while back and my car became more of a liability than an asset, I sold it without hesitation. When I was flat-out-on-my-ass broke, I pawned off my diamond rings and never looked back (well there was a little looking back, I loved those rings, dammit). My point is, holding on to certain comforts and status symbols when you no longer have the means or any conceivable way to maintain them is ludicrous. And while we’re on the subject of private cars, it baffles me that the same people who complain about gridlocks and bad traffic are often the same people who personally own cars and never even thought of carpooling. Here’s the deal: the fact that you’re riding in your car alone along with so many others riding their cars alone is the reason there are too many goddamn cars in this city, causing the traffic jams and the elevating levels of pollution that you keep complaining about. And yes, I’m fully aware that the infrastructure is poorly planned, executed, and maintained and yes, I know Jakarta public transport is dubious and considered unsafe but those are governmental issues. Somehow I don’t foresee any relevant government officials reading this anytime soon. And if I have trouble making you, the reader, a regular citizen, to see my point, how much success would I, another regular citizen, have in influencing the governmental body? Now, I’ve always been a firm believer that if you cannot exact change on a situation, change yourself to adapt to it, until the time when you finally can. So unless you can rub the government like a magical lamp and get the president as your personal genie who considers your wishes as his commands, quit your bitching and moaning because things ain’t gonna change if you don’t start to. Here, I’ll walk you through it:

Q: Want to keep the car but can’t afford the rising cost of gas?
A: Don’t go out as much.

Q: Have to go out a lot?
A: Leave the car at home and brave the wilderness adventure that is Jakarta public transport.

Q: Afraid for or worried about your safety and comfort in public buses and trains?
A: Sell the car for several months worth of taxi fares.

Q: Don’t want to sell the car?
A: Well you can’t afford keeping and running the damn thing anyway, can you?

See where I’m going with this?

Now let’s talk about the protests. Honestly speaking, I’ve never had much faith in the effectiveness of public demonstrations. Too many have been done yet few (if any) ever produced the desired results. For example, in 1998 there was a national incident: Asian countries including Indonesia were in a prolonged monetary crisis. People demanded that the president at the time, Soeharto, to either find a way to end it or step down from office. There were continual protests and marches and he finally did the latter; but only after a string of endless demonstrations, after the violent clash between protesters and the police which resulted in the death of University students, after the class riots when cars were turned over and burned, houses and stores were broken into and looted, and after the ethnic Chinese inexplicably became the target of social envy, resulting in rape, beatings, and other types of violence. Currency exchange rates reached record highs (and have never really came back down), prices skyrocketed even more than before, and the country was in such unrest and chaos that he had no other choice. That was claimed as the ‘successful attempt at the show of power of the people’. Yes, it successfully ended Soeharto’s 30-something year long reign along with his New Order regime and began what’s known as the Reformation Era, but at what price?

Can we survive another 98? I doubt it. And for those that say “common sacrifices have to be made to achieve a common purpose”, would that entail the well-being and/or lives of innocents? Easy to pay the price when you’re not the one doing the paying, huh.

Making matters worse, I’ve noticed some people writing, posting, and spreading emotionally provocative and socially divisive statements on Facebook or Twitter or Blackberry Messenger status and broadcast messages over the whole gas price raise and demonstrations. Are you kidding me with this? I believe that having opinions is a good thing; it means that you’re not completely brain dead and your intellectual capacities are capable of digesting and processing information. Yet I also believe that not every opinion need to be verbally expressed; just because you can, doesn’t automatically mean you should. There are moments that you have to stand up and speak your mind and others to just sit your ass down and shut the fuck up; particularly when what you have to say contributes nothing to the resolution of a situation, worsens it, or creates new, distracting problems that you’re not going to be any help in solving.

A friend once (well, more than once; and more than one friend) said that my ideas are often too Utopian; that I expect the best in people and forget the less ‘sunshine-and-rainbow-and-butterflies’ aspects of human nature. But hell, I’m human and that means I have all those aspects, too. And here we start the rapid fire questions portion of the blogpost:

Don’t aspects simply influence and not determine? Doesn’t it all come down to choice? With common sense being not so common and all that, would it be too much to ask when the common good is at stake? Wouldn’t speaking and acting wisely and responsibly for the common good of ourselves and others be a personal interest since it ultimately benefits each person anyway? Should the government pass the decision and raise the price of gasoline and we are unable to stop that from happening, why not focus on the things we can do? Rather than ‘power of the people’ why not ‘power of the person’?

Keep it simple and personal and actual, unless of course you have Gandhi or Jesus tendencies in which I congratulate you and wish you the best of luck. And if we’re out of things to do and ideas start rolling in our heads of what to say, for God’s sake filter them. And if they have no redeeming positive or mutually beneficial value whatsoever, well…

I said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s time to park that ass down and I’m telling you this in the nicest possible way, just shut the fuck up.

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