Last night I visited a political rally in the city Bandung. It was for the upcoming governor election in February. Some islamist group was campaigning in favor of one of the candidates. Beautiful religious music. People chanting and waving various flags, including green ones. People in turbans holding speeches. In the background, three huge screens was pouring out light. The middle screen, three times as big as the side screens combined, showed the candidate or the speaker or both. The side screens were advertising for various sponsors. A bank and a brand of chocolate, among others.
Sadly, we couldn’t stay. I was there together with a coworker, who quickly started to get worried. Some people in the audience was wearing the special clothing of the violent islamist group FPI (Islamic Defender’s Front, and these people was giving us weird looks. What if they thought he looked like a chinese?, my coworker thought. In this context, ”chinese” does not mean person from China. It means Indonesian with ancestors from China. Bigotry and other forms of categorism against this minority is very common here. Or what if they recognized him as human rights activist? Or, I added, what if they simply objected to me being white? We ”bule” are all ”kafir” anyway, right? 😉
In either case, my coworker didn’t feel safe there. So we left. Leaving is so easy. Leaving a political rally or other meeting. Leaving an organization. Even leaving a country. The freedom to leave is a wonderful thing. Don’t get stuck. However. Our individual freedom to leave makes the groups we belong to vulnerable to bullying. When a person or group is trying to gain power over a larger group, it is often efficient to gain and maintain power by making people leave. People who think for themselves, people who have competence and intelligence – better get rid of those, so they can’t challenge your bid for absolute authority over everyone who stays.
In a power struggle between people who get their strength from competence and people who get their strenght from bullying, the bullies often have two great advantages: Their own desperation, and their victim’s lack of desperation. The competent people always have other interesting places to go and often have little to lose by taking their skills elsewhere, while those who rely on bullying or other oppression often have far fewer options.
Today, Freedom House has tweeted a lot about how bad things are in Russia right now. The government is passing laws that brand human rights NGO:s as ”foreign agents”, and make it possible for the government to officially accuse people of ”treason” for even speaking with human rights organizations.
One of these tweets were:
” Susan Corke (@FreedomHouseDC): If #Russia doesn’t allow smart, committed people to continue their work, they won’t stay. #RussianCivSociety ”
”@FreedomHouseDC well, that’s the point, isn’t it? Bright people are often easy to get rid of, so they won’t threaten your power. #BrainDrain”
This is true for many countries, including Indonesia. I am worried about the future of the country. There is so much hope for the future, so much that can get better. And there are so many bright people who can change the country for the better. Individuals with intelligence, education and integrity. However, such individuals are often very tired of all the bullshit. They are tired of the corruption and of knowing that they probably won’t get any protection from the police if groups like the FPI target them for harassment. They are tired of the lack of academic freedom, how hard it is to get a job with decent pay, and so on. There is much to be tired of here. Many of the bright young people wants to leave.