Wednesday, June 06, 2007

I'm starting with the man in the mirror….

Frequent visitors would know that the hosts of the Cafe rant about anything from protectionism , ill-informed journalists, silly concepts, halal labels, to government paternalism. In a moment of self-reflection, Puspa, a friend of the Cafe's and current guest-blogger questions our shared angst about things not completely right in our beloved country. She suggests that we ought to look closer. Much closer. - Manager
I'm starting with the man in the mirror….
by Puspa

A couple of best friends and I have a peculiar post working-day habit. We love to get together, chit-chat and unwind, in one of the most frequented coffee shop chains in the city (you known, the one known for its Latte Index), that is situated in one of the city's central shopping centers. Peculiar, you say? To be doing what almost every other middle-class Jakarta citizen is doing to kill evening traffic while trying to relax? Hold on a sec, I'm getting there.

The coffee shop has a table, with three very comfy chairs, that overlooks the shopping centre's busiest corridor. Simply put, a very strategic position that gives you ring-side seat to the who's who that are visiting and walking to and fro and crossing the shopping centre. If you are a person who enjoys people-watching as much as we do, you'll probably have an idea at what I'm hinting. It is so damn entertaining to see 'peculiar' habits of the passer-bys, observe outrageous outfits and accessories mall-goers assemble, and how people of various walks of life and of differing sexual orientations demonstrate 'I'm seeking for companionship' behavior. We also compared notes on how attractive or interesting certain passer-bys of the opposite sex were.

Fun, innocent, rather juvenile but interesting activity, no? Well, that's what I thought…Until today. I was brought into my better senses when I saw three very young men, fashionably dressed, probably college students, who were sitting in our favourite seat and doing exactly the same thing that we were. Suddenly, it didn't look nice so nice, the vision that I was seeing. I thought, "D'oh , this is quite childish, actually……"

When is it that we actually do get to that point? I'm talking about a point of reflection, where you actually realize that something's wrong and needs to be changed. It's not easy to get there. Sometimes you won't get there unless you see someone very close to you experiencing hardships. In some cases you won't get there without experiencing some hardships yourself. Most importantly, when the 'something wrong' is just so ingrained in your system, you can only see it when you are able to detach yourself from the system and put things in perspective.

I recall an earlier opinion I often used to assert. This country is not in a deficit of ideal, true-to-their-heart intellectuals and public figures that are capable of seeing the 'something wrong' in this country. Yet many of them, when inserted into the system as direct actors fail to deliver, fail to implement the necessary actions to get this country out of the 'strutting' and 'muddling through' phase that has been going through in the past five years or so. Some of those who used to be on the outside looking in, are having a hell of a difficult time creating that critical mass to tip the balance over and initiate change. What lurks behind this inertia? Can change then, only be pushed from outside of the system?

My experience as a life-liver so far tells me that human beings, even rational individuals are bad at anticipating personal crisis, even when they know that the consequences of their actions may be horrific. A smoker rarely quits until he/she is sentenced with 'bronchitis' or 'pneumonia.' Efforts to establish some kind of world order did not gain ground until country leaders got tired of saw their people die from never-ending war. Early warning natural disaster systems are rarely designed and installed until a country is hit by natural disaster of great scale.

Do we really want to see disaster unfold, before realizing that something is wrong and needs to be changed? Do we really want to be stuck in 'muddling through' for the next five or ten years, while our neighbours out-develop us? You tell me. Perhaps Michael Jackson had it right all along.
"I'm starting with the man in the mirror….
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer…"


  1. Puspa, your post remind me of rational man's dilemma in social change by thinkers like Adorno & Horkheimer from The Frankfurt School.

    Can't get a grip of the real condition and problem if inside but can't make a change if outside.

    Habermas try to solve the conondrum by proposing a communicative society.

    So those who are inside, please ask the outsider for their view and implement them if it is correct. And for the outsider, please dont hesitate to shout.

  2. "So those who are inside, please ask the outsider for their view and implement them if it is correct"

    Berly, how can the insiders know (and be convinced) whether the suggestion/thought is correct or not?

  3. kesimpulannya gak ada kongkow2 lagi di cafe atau langsung pindah lokasi nih? :)

  4. he..he.. that's why open communication is important to set up the agreed criteria.

    looking forward for a discussion over coffe next month in Jakarta