The shape of the world a generation from now will be influenced far more by how we communicate the values of our society to others than by military or diplomatic superiority. William Fulbright, 1964

Sunday, June 15, 2014


The Emperor’s new clothes
Was there no-one in the vast kampong of Jokowi’s boosters, minders and assorted acolytes with the  courage to tell their boss the truth -  that he had a white paper thrusting out of his otherwise natty suit at Monday’s great TV debate?
This wasn’t one of those reminder notes you stick on the computer screen to remember a bakso takeaway, but something more serious, maybe a Five Year Plan, though the pages seemed blank. That means it must have been a Five Year Plan.
On every camera shot the offending appendage grew bigger, threatening to envelop the man. It started as A4. Two squirming embarrassing minutes later it was A3, then A2, then big as a campaign poster.
The whole nation knew – but not the presidential hopeful? Doesn’t the man ever avert his gaze to see what’s going on down there?
Even his running / overtaking mate Jusuf Kalla noticed the wardrobe malfunction because it blocked his view of the giant image of himself on the studio’s back wall.
But JK’s an old hand and knows what to do in grave situations: Look elsewhere.
Adjusting his alleged boss’ dress in public might have created an image of Daddy telling scruffy son to smarten up. It was bad enough trying not to be the biggest guy on stage despite having the smallest stature.
Jokowi’s wife Iriana might have got away with it – she looks tough enough to stare down any giggling Gerindrans. It would have been a touching scene – a possible First Lady tripping across the stage in her trademark pink batik to straighten hubby’s socialist tie, dust off the dandruff and tuck away that naughty paper.
The You Tube clip would have eclipsed Psy’s Hangover.  The whole universe would have spent the week discussing Mrs J’s fashion statement rather than the pedestrian statements of the sartorially challenged. 
Michelle Obama would have phoned for style tips, batik orders would have flowed like the Ciliwung in January. We’d have been invited back into the World Cup. Taylor Swift would have declared:  “Pink is the new Red!”
What does all this tell us about a Jokowi administration should he win the top job?  Suppose the boss forgets to zip up his trousers or spreads Eggs Benedict down his shirt while digesting the news – will no one have the stomach to say: ‘Excuse me Sir, may I suggest a blusukan to the bathroom before meeting Xi Jinping?’
Under Soeharto public servants survived by following the ABS (Asal Bapak Senang) rule saying whatever was necessary to keep the boss happy.
Imagine the conversation in early May, 1998:
Is the rupiah stable this morning?  Adjutant: ‘Yes Sir!’ (Aside: It has been for the past ten seconds, but otherwise it’s plunging like a toilet cistern.)
Are the masses revolting?  ‘No Sir!’  (Aside: Only the students.)
Is this how we want the seventh president to be treated?
Likewise should the throne be filled by plump Prabowo, former slim general.  He’s a man who likes to stroke his microphone stand, presumably to stop it going limp. Why didn’t a technician tell Mr P that the thing stays up by itself?
At other times the commander stuffed his left hand in his trouser pocket as though fumbling for the keys to his horse.  Then he could gallop out of these badlands to where he’s the sheriff, not some prolix grinning academic in geeky glasses.
Note:  Get this guy’s university tenure checked tomorrow. About time he disappeared. No place for such types in Orde Baru Plus.
Even those deficient in Indonesian would have learned plenty through the candidates’ body language. Hatta ‘Tonto’ Rajasa kept a tight rein on his feelings hoping this might inspire the Lone Ranger to self control.
It didn’t work.  The Colt .45 finger was soon unholstered. My, the old gunslinger is fast on the draw. He’s started pointing it at … everyone!   OMG!  Just stare ahead, and pretend no-one notices.
That’s what Jokowi’s doing and it seems to be working for him, though he did look weird with those papers falling out.  Maybe it’s a gimmick to divert attention from what he’s saying. Except that JK’s doing all the talking. Duncan Graham

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