Monday, 14 January 2013

Going Gaga

I'm not going to write about the Lady Gaga saga. It's too depressing.  Besides, too much has been discussed about it already.  Suffice to say that if I had my way I would nuke those hardliners till they glow.  Or, as my war-minded friend says, make them disappear the mysterious way, just like the criminals in the old Soeharto days when he was the dictator around here, and not these moral dictators who think they're doing God's work by intimidating people who do nothing except mind their own business. No, I would rather talk about this gem of a seafood place I tried for the first time the other day.

I also have nothing to comment about our police who, lacking the manliness to square up to the thugs, prefer to keep the peace by petting and feeding the mad dog meat rather than locking it up where it belongs while telling everyone else to stay at home and not venture to the street because it's a dangerous world out there.  Because protecting sane and ordinary people from crazy and uncontrollable attacks is just something beyond their professional skill.

Instead, it seems that the police is more interested in protecting our so-called 'culture' from the wicked influence of Lady G than upholding the law and cracking down on unruly behaviour. Why the police think we need them to dictate our musical taste is beyond me, but one cannot help wonder what culture it is that they have in mind that needs protecting.  As one of the most corrupt countries in the world and a voracious consumer of Internet porn sites, it could hardly be said that our morals are beyond reproach, while when it comes to erotic performances, surely Lady G pales in comparison to the sexy gyrations of some of the local 'dangdut' artistes.

As to corrupting our youth, we can leave that to the shameful shenanigans of many of their leaders and elders who make a living out of being appalling role models not to mention robbing the future generation of a better future through their inability to do their job of improving welfare and education.  If anything, Lady G could teach our young people a thing or two about the merits of hardwork, the importance of developing talent and creativity, and what it takes to be a global success at a young age.

The said seafood place is in North Jakarta, an area that I rarely frequent.  The last time I was here was a longtime ago when the eating places had dirt floor and hard wooden benches to sit on.  But the seafood, big fat crabs and juicy prawns, were out of this world.  This time however, the whole place feels out of this world.  At least out of Jakarta.  It's in an area called Muara Karang, in a huge seaside estate called Pantai Indah Kapuk, where massive development had transformed this former marshland into a dream city of concrete, tall buildings, bright lights and shopping spaces for the ethnic Chinese community.  Here there is even a huge Buddhist school that would look quite at home in the middle of Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

That's the beauty of a democracy in a pluralistic country.  Diversity is seen as a blessing, rather than a curse.  This after all, was the vision with which Indonesia was founded.  Ideally, there is a place for everybody, where all can feel safe and their freedom to express their religion protected.  Unfortunately for democracy to really work requires the ability and the will of the communities to live alongside each other and accept each others' differences.  Where this will is lacking, for example in cases where minorities rub shoulders with an unwelcoming majority, democracy by voting or consensus cannot be implemented.  It would be like Switzerland doing a referendum on the building of minarets.  The answer would always be a rejection of what is outside the norm.  Instead, it is for the government to ensure the protection of these minorities from the tyranny of the majority through clear policies and law enforcement.

Unless, of course, the government is a lily-livered bunch of politicians more concerned with vying for the next election and pandering to the lowest populistic sentiment, than actually doing what is good for the integrity of the country.  In which case it's easier and more convenient for them to capitulate to the moral dictators, knowing that the majority of the ordinary people would be too acquiescent and apathetic to confront those rabble rousers.

After all, when it comes to a discourse on morality, only those with the fanatical conviction have the loudest voices and the fearlessness to take to the streets.  As to the moderate, more secular and beer-drinking rest? Well, nobody wants the risk of being called infidels, morally deficient and worshippers of Satan.  While the police, reduced to pusillanimity in this mob democracy of thugs, armed gangs,and stick-carrying religious zealots, cannot do much other than watch in the sidelines and hope they don't get hurt.

But then enough of this gag-inducing brouhaha.  I do recommend for you however, to try this seafood place called Bandar Djakarta at the Green Bay in Muara Karang.  The crab in black pepper sauce is so yummy it can leave you absolutely gaga.
(Desi Anwar:  First published in The Jakarta Globe)

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