Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Teaching to Fight

Teaching to fight


October 23, 2006


Books aren’t just for learning anymore. Hardcovers and paperbacks along with pens, scissors, pencils, chairs, and desks are being turned into weapons in some American schools.

Recent attacks in Pennsylvania and Colorado in which lone gunmen singled out school girls for sexual assault before killing themselves are the impetus for the aggressive new stance that some schools are taking.

In Texas, The Independent School District of Burleson has hired the security company Response Options to train students to take control of school siege situations. The students are learning to throw chairs, stab with pencils, and rush attackers.

“What we are teaching here is for the children to not allow the predator to take control,” Robin Browne, a major with the British Army, who helped design the training, was quoted on as having said. “They actually become the superior, the dominant party in the room, and it is actually the gunman who becomes the prey. If you have got 15 sixth, seventh and eighth graders, they can be an incredibly effective weapon."

In Oklahoma City, a candidate for state superintendent of schools along with some aides produced a 10-minute video in which they shot textbooks and telephone books with an AK-47 and a 9 mm pistol.

Republican Bill Crozier was quoted by Associated Press as saying, "People might think it's kind of weird, crazy. It is a practical thing; it's something you can do. It might be a way to deflect those bullets until police go there."

Crozier, according to the AP, has promised that if he is elected he will mandate that used textbooks be stored under every student’s desk for self-defense purposes. In Crozier’s video, pistol bullets were stopped by a single book while the rifle bullets were able to penetrate two books.


Concern about school safety is not solely an American concern.

Although there is not the same history of school violence in Indonesia as there is in America, there are child abductions and bullying.

In Jakarta some feel the schools need to consider implementing self-defense training policies.


Antonious Sunaryo, the head police officer of Pasar Minggu in South Jakarta, says that such training would be beneficial for children. “Self-defense training is advantageous for children in both the short term and the long term,” the officer said in Indonesian. “Immediately, the students would be better prepared to defend themselves. At the same time they would gain a confidence that lasts a lifetime.”

Martial arts and self-defense trainer Yuri Amadin agrees, “Yes, but we must be realistic. For real life situations the basic skills of the three Olympic combat sports, boxing, wrestling, and judo will need to be taught. Once the concepts of punching, kicking, clinching, and ground grappling have been learned the children can graduate to impact and blade weapons.”

Amadin says that six to nine months would be required before the students were skilled enough to move onto weapons, “People think it is easy to learn how to defend against a weapon. They’re completely wrong. Try it yourself, give a five year old a marker and ask them to try to ‘stab’ and ‘slice’ you. You’ll end up with ink all over yourself.”

“The children have got to get the concepts of fighting down,” the American trained instructor continued. “Many people are technique collectors. They collect techniques as if they were collecting electronic gadgets. But when they are faced with a real confrontation they fall apart. People need to focus on the concepts, not the techniques.”

Likewise, Indonesian mother Rafi Hayati likes the idea of her nine-year-old daughter being taught self defense. “I’d love for her to learn it for protection. I worry. I’ve already taught Tika how to kick and punch a man in the penis. It would also be good for her to learn how to remain calm in stressful situations.”

Age restrictions

Students of different ages will require different training according to the experts. Officer Sunaryo says that children from kindergarten to grade four should not be taught any fighting skills. Instead they can learn other self-defense skills.

“The younger children need to learn how to avoid attacks and how to survive them, if need be,” he said. “We need to teach them how to recognize dangerous situations and how to scream as loud as they can and find a person of authority when they need help.”

Amadin agrees that the children below 14 years of age should not be taught too many attacking skills. “They can’t be taught submissions, such as bone breaking bone, but they can learn defensive skills and positional concepts so that they will be able to avoid attacks and hold and control the attacker until help arrives.”

“Once someone reaches 15 or so they can be taught submissions and other more aggressive techniques,” Amadin said. “These can be added to the foundation that the students have previously built.”

Though targeting younger learners Sunaryo too believes in building upon previously acquired skills. “In grade five the students can begin to learn fighting skills.”

The coaching team

Sunaryo, Amadin, and Hayati all emphasized that parents and the police need to be involved in students’ self-defense training.

Amadin said, “In order to teach some advanced techniques a parent’s permission is needed. Also, parents are very important in helping the students steer clear of irresponsible behavior with the fighting skills they are learning.”

“Parents must instill good values by being role models: teaching the kids not to have excuses and reasons as a victim does, but instead giving them the ownership of a victor.”

Hayati would like the parents to be notified of any such training, saying, “I understand that this may be controversial for some families, so the school should let the parents know about the training and not make it mandatory.”

Sunaryo says that the police are instrumental to the success of this training. He believes that the police know how to spot the patterns of kidnappers and other criminals. The police, he says, are able to help children and their parents acquire this skill.

Amadin would like to see police involvement too, believing that they would be able to help the students become familiar with various firearms. “If we are to train students how to overcome a person with a gun, we need to teach them how guns operate. They need to not freeze up when they see one and they need to understand how they fire and where the safeties are.”

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Repairing the Faces of Indonesia

Repairing the Faces of Indonesia


JAKARTA – His eye strengthened by a jeweler’s loupe, his body clad in blue, and his learned hands gloved in lemon, the recreational jazz guitarist needs just 45 minutes to close a cleft and bring confidence to the indigent.

In seven years, Dr. Theddeus O.H. Prasetyono has notched close to 400 cleft surgeries in his scalpel and the Surabaya native plans on performing thousands more.

“I am fortunate to be a plastic surgeon,” the right-handed 39 year-old says in English. “I feel there needs to be a built-in motivation for every plastic surgeon working in Indonesia to help our nation’s high number of cleft patients. Both the adults and the infants”

The still single surgeon, who goes by Teddy, is the Secretary General of the Indonesian Association of Plastic Surgeons. The IAPS works with the government run Jaring Pengaman Sosial (Social Safety Net) and the Dharmais Foundation to assist such patients.

“Our strength is helping those who have congenital disfigurements such as cleft lip or palette,” the Airlangga University graduate explained. “We educate parents and families about feeding difficulties babies with cleft have, potential ear problems due to their Eustachian tubes not draining properly, and social challenges those with cleft face. To receive funding, JPS and the Dharmais Foundation require that the patients obtain a letter verifying their low economic status from their local administrator.”

Currently, there are approximately 285,000 Indonesians who have a cleft lip, cleft palette, or both. With 1.25 per 1,000 Indonesian births being affected by CL/CP, the archipelago is home to nearly 6,000 new cases every year. The rate of occurrence for Indonesians, and for Asians in general, is 20 percent higher than that for Caucasians and more than double that for those of African ancestry

While the fetus is developing, the right and left sides of the lip and the roof of the mouth normally grow together. However, for some, the sections do not come together and a separation remains. This is a cleft.

An infant with a separation in the upper lip has a cleft lip while one with the defect in the roof of the mouth has a cleft palette. Since the lip and the palette develop independently of one another, a child may be born with a cleft in the lip, the palette, or both.

Teddy, who has trained in Australia and America, believes life has improved for those with a cleft. “In the larger cities,” the doctor said. “Adults with cleft are socialized though they normally have a low-economic status due to their poor education. Kids with cleft are teased at school and therefore, academically, they perform poorly.”

Outside the cities the condition is much darker. “Many remain superstitious in the villages and believe that babies with cleft are cursed,” the diminutive man who has always wanted to be a doctor elaborated. “I’ve heard that some parents still hide their children in their homes if this happens.”

To combat this situation, IAPS sends Teddy and others on nationwide surgery tours. “We travel together in teams of 11 to 13 people,” he explained. “There are six plastic surgeons, two or three anesthesiologists, and four nurses. Local personnel also commonly work with us. During such tours we can operate on 80 to 120 patients in four days.”

Like most doctors, Teddy works long hours.

By day he works at the University of Indonesia. From within the depths of Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital, UI’s teaching hospital, Teddy leads a team made up of an anesthesiologist, a pair of nurses, and himself. With the work of jazz guitarist Lee Ritenour drifting through the operating theater’s air, the surgeon operates twice daily, six days a week.

Teddy feels that everything he does at UI, from the counseling to the surgery to the follow-up, is teaching. There are currently 25 residents learning their craft from the doctor.

By night he builds his private practice from room 105 at Mitra Kemayoran Hospital in North Jakarta. The doctor says half of his clients come to him with purely aesthetic desires. These types of patients are often the most complicated for him due to their psychological demands.

“Counseling is very important for patients who are within the so-called ‘normal range,’ Teddy said. “Through counseling, I turn down perhaps two of these patients a month. Not every condition will be overcome through surgery.”

The other half of the patients requires reconstructive surgery. Surgically speaking, burn victims are the greatest test. “After their lives have been saved, plastic surgery becomes very important for them,” he explained. “Tendons in the hand are often destroyed by the fire and donated tendons are nearly always rejected so we must rely on transferring tendons from the same hand. Unfortunately, most of the time all of the tendons have been burnt.”

The 70-hour work weeks do not trouble Teddy. He is passionate about his profession, saying, “It was like falling in love the first time observing my teacher help burn patients. I saw there is a sense of art to it. That’s when I knew I was to be a plastic surgeon.”

This article was first published in KABAR Magazine which can be found at bookstores throughout Jakarta. It is a fine magazine that deserves a look at.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Life at the Fire Post

Life at the Fire Post


Friday, November 17, 2006, 12:45 PM Local Time

MAMPANG, JAKARTA – For the five members of Mampang Fire Post’s Team A, battling the residents whom they are trying to help is sometimes tougher than fighting the fires.

Ladio, Team A’s leader, remembers a fire in Manggarai, South Jakarta in 2002 in which, he says, one man’s house had already been destroyed by the time the fire truck arrived on the scene. “He was very angry and wanted everyone else’s house to burn too. He blocked our truck’s path.”

“After we were eventually able to connect our hose, he cut it. Fifteen to 20 houses ended up being destroyed and all the residents were enraged. By the time we returned to the fire post we had been attacked with fists, knives and sticks and all of truck’s windows had been smashed.”

Even when not facing the wrath of the people, fighting fires can be tough and dangerous work. Last year a Block M market burned for three days, killing South Jakarta’s Tebet Zone Sector Head, before being extinguished. All three of Mampang’s five-man teams joined that battle along with the teams from 31 other fire posts. Ladio considers it to be the most difficult fire he has ever faced.

The city’s lack of firefighting infrastructure also presents the team with a variety of challenges. Though some of Jakarta’s streets are protected by a fire hydrant every 200 meters, this is dependant upon population density and is not always the case.

When hydrants are not accessible, other sources of water must be found. Firefighter Ahmad Gozali says, “In many areas we’re forced to pump water from the canals or from anywhere we can find it. As a last resort, we carry foam that is normally used for fighting oil-based fires.”

Getting to the fires can be difficult too. The standard for all of Jakarta is for a firefighting team to be on the road within nine minutes of the first emergency call being received. There is no standard for how long a team has in which to navigate its way through the capital city’s congested and narrow streets.

Ladio says Team A averages less than 15 minutes arrival time adding, “I wish that other drivers would respect the siren more and make way for our truck.”

Ordinarily, Team A does not fight many fires. They have not been on a call since late October and average only one or two responses a month.

Calls do not often come in. “I would like people to know that they need to call us on 113 when there is a fire,” says Gozali, 22, a second-generation firefighter originally from the Thousand Islands. “Don’t hesitate to call. People think they must pay, but we are free 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Three teams, A, B, and C, work out of the Mampang Fire Post. Each team consists of a leader, a driver, and three fighters. The teams work 24-hour shifts starting at nine each morning before receiving 48 hours off.

Ladio, the only married member of his squad, has been a firefighter for nearly two decades and A’s leader for five years. Their driver is 23-year-old Denny Wahyudi, a Sukabumi native and a rookie with a year’s experience. The firefighters are Rahmat, 26, Ahmad Gozali, 22, and Rizal, 20, who have all been in the profession for less than three years.

Ladio explained that Jakarta is divvied up between five firefighting centers, North, West, East, Central and South. South Jakarta is divided into 11 sectors which are further split into 17 posts. Mampang Fire Post, part of the Lebak Bulus Sector, is one of these posts.

Unfortunately for the posts, only the firefighting centers and sector houses are equipped with traditional fireman poles.

When not out on calls, Team A keeps busy doing physical fitness, training, cleaning and performing maintenance on the fire post and their equipment, watching TV, and teaching the community about fire prevention.

“People need to use standard electrical cables and not to overload household sockets,” says the Yogyakarta-born, 42-year-old father of two, Ladio. “Also, many fires are caused by the careless use of cooking fires and kerosene lamps. We try to spread awareness about how dangerous these items are.”

The Jakarta Fire Agency was quoted by The Jakarta Post as having recorded nearly 500 fires last year, “mostly caused by electrical short circuits or stove explosions.”

About twice monthly, kindergarten and elementary school children visit the fire post. “The children love visiting,” says Ladio, his youthful face lighting up with the memory. “They love to climb aboard the truck and it is good for us and society for them to learn about fire safety and how to contact us.”

There are numerous obstacles to becoming a firefighter in Jakarta. IQ tests, physical challenges, psychological evaluations, and interviews await want-to-be firefighters. Three-quarters of the candidates do not get through this initial stage. This screening is so effective that virtually everyone who survives it passes the subsequent nine months of firefighting training.

The actual training begins with three-months of theoretical and practical firefighting education. “Learning to survive and work in a smoke-filled room is the most difficult,” says Gozali. “It’s dark, hot, and even with the breathing apparatus, very hard to breathe. Mentally, it’s very stressful.”

Following this training the candidates are assigned to a fire post where they are given half a year’s worth of on-the-job experience. Once this is finished, they officially become firefighters.

With the amount of time off that firefighters get, it is not uncommon for them to have second jobs. Rizal says that many firefighters, though reportedly no one from Team A, work as fire security personnel for hotels and other private companies.

Today, Mampang Fire Post waits for its call. The five-year-old Isuzu Ziegler fire truck, smaller than a London city bus, sits polished and ready for action. The team’s heavy black boots are lined up, toes to the wall, beneath the thick folds of hanging reflective jackets. Three team members joke with one another and watch soccer on the television. The other two personnel sleep in the post’s dormitory-style bedroom.

Ignoring the televised game, Ladio reflects for a moment, leans back, grins, and answers that he is satisfied with his career. “I joined because I wanted to help people. And, I know that we are doing just that.”

This article was first published in The Jakarta Post 20 November, 2006.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Book Review: "The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero and Myth-Maker from the Crimea to Iraq" by Phillip Knightley

Excellent History of Biased War Reporting

The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero and Myth-Maker from the Crimea to Iraq
Author: Phillip Knightley
Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press; 3 edition (October 5, 2004)

"The First Casualty" is excellent in that it lays waste to the current myth of the need for neutrality in war reporting. The book documents the history of war reportage from the Crimean War up until the Terror War of today.

Since the Crimean War of one and a half centuries ago there has been no shortage of persons eager to go and report from wherever it is that people are being shot, bombs are being dropped, and battles are being waged. For much of this period war reporters have not been concerned about their neutrality. In fact, according to Knightley, it could be argued that there has yet to be a war covered in which correspondents were neutral.

In the Crimean War, the conflict that gave birth to the war reporter beast, William Howard Russell performed admirably, though not as an objective recorder of history. He was definitely a writer who glamorized war with his "Charge of the Light Brigade" being one of history's greatest examples of a reporter's patriotism bleeding from between the lines. Furthermore, Russell, just about the world's first war correspondent, was not afraid to criticize his government and his critical reportage was eventually partly responsible for the collapse of his nation's government. Russell was anything but neutral.

The American Civil War in many ways represents the nadir of war reporting. No one can claim that journalists followed any journalistic ethics, let alone neutrality, while covering that conflict. Journalists lied, invented stories, and recreated events due to laziness, greed, and to support personally held views. My personal favorite is the journalist that was bought off for cigars and whiskey. Knightley exposes all of this.

Though war reporting did improve throughout the end of the nineteenth century and into the first two decades of the twentieth, correspondents continued to see war as an us-versus-them struggle and they all continued to romanticize war. Churchill, Gibbons, Hemingway, and Pyle are all prime examples from the book of reporters who did this. My favorite quote from this era is by Herbert Matthews who covered the Spanish War for the New York Times. He argued,
"... I always felt the falseness and hypocrisy of those who claimed to be unbiased and the foolish, if not rank stupidity of editors and readers who demand impartiality...of correspondents writing about the war... A reader has a right to ask for all the facts; he has no right to ask that a journalist or historian agree with him."

In Korea, American journalists were accused of being too patriotic and of not being questioning enough of their country's role in the war. Knightley believes that correspondents must accept some of the blame for the two million civilians that were allegedly killed in that war.

Soon after, in Vietnam, western journalists began covering the war while supporting America's position. As the Vietnam War dragged on journalists' points of view changed as did their coverage of the conflict. For example, the My Lai massacre was uncovered and helped to accelerate America's withdrawal from Vietnam. Today it is not uncommon to hear that the press was at least in part responsible for America's defeat.

I was not as interested in the sections of the book that cover the conflicts that I actually remember. However, one interesting note from this latter part of the book is Knightley's explanation of Bob Simon's experience of being arrested in Iraq. Knightley wrote:
"The Iraqis released Simon and his crew unharmed at the end of the war."

I recently saw a televised interview with Bob Simon and I doubt that he would agree with the above over-simplified statement. According to the interview that I saw Simon was badly beaten while he was in custody. And beaten for weeks or months (I cannot recall exactly) What really makes the above quotation remarkable is the paragraph that precedes the Simon paragraph. The last sentence of that paragraph says the following about a Time photographer being, "...blindfolded, searched, and held for more than 30 hours by a National Guard unit." Perhaps I am seeing something that is not there, but to me the two paragraphs, one right after the other, give a moral equivalency to the two events that should not exist.

The book at around 600 pages is close to becoming not a book to read but a book to refer to. That is fine in my opinion and I sincerely hope that Knightley continues to update it as wars continue to pop up around the globe.

Good reading,

Andrew Greene
Jakarta, Indonesia

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Oct 6, 2006--The Jakarta Post

This article was first published in The Jakarta Post on Oct 6, 2006

Placing His Trust in God


Friday, September 29, 2006, 7:33 PM Local Time

MAMPANG, JAKARTA – The pain awaits him each morning -- the result of the hours, months, and years spent working on the feet and hands of others.

Half an hour of kneading, probing, and massaging is required to free his hands from this pain. Every day Pardi is his own first patient.

Pardi is a reflexologist. Practitioners of this ancient craft believe in the principle that each foot contains over 7,000 nerve endings. Pardi uses a learned-technique that walks his thumbs and fingers over a person’s feet manipulating these endings. For some of the more difficult to reach nerves the skilled use of rounded and pointed wooden awls and lotion is required.

These nerve endings, it is believed, are connected to every part and every organ of the human body. When they are correctly triggered they send messages to the brain which in return releases endorphins. These endorphins regulate pain, modify appetite, and result in a sense of euphoria.

Through reflexology, the farmer’s son says, he has helped conquer more than 160 differing ailments. Some of the most common disorders he faces are prostate troubles, high cholesterol, headaches, digestive difficulties, and asthma.

The Yogyakarta native considers himself to be particularly skilled at treating the latter. “Asthma is traditionally thought to be a lifelong condition,” he said in Indonesian. “However, I have been fortunate enough to have successfully cured 100 percent of the more than 200 asthma sufferers who have come to me. I have even cured two medical doctors.”

Pardi never works alone. A practicing Catholic, he silently prays as he works bent over the suffering and gives credit to God for the health that they have together sown, “I am simply a tool. I leave it to God.”

Even with God’s helping hands, Pardi realizes everyone cannot be helped with reflexology. He always recommends to those with third-stage cancer or heart or kidney disease to immediately consult medical professionals.

The grandfather of two came to this healing work late in life after retiring at the age of 60 from Atmajaya Catholic University in Jakarta. Not wishing to stop working completely he enrolled in a 24-hour reflexology course offered through his church. He then started to see patients in a small room at the side of his South Jakarta house’s car port.

Word of this unassuming man’s work spread and he soon had 30 patients a day, seven days a week. At nearly 25 minutes per session his hands were at work close to thirteen hours a day. It was an unsustainable pace. “I had to cut back,” he said with his youthful face smiling at the memory. “Now I won’t schedule more than 12 patients a day. My hands cannot handle more than that.”

A meticulous professional, Pardi maintains color-coded records of the 2,915 patients he has treated since he started seven years ago.

The rainbow of the record cards is stored in tight rows behind the patient’s chair in the same room in which he first started his practice. At the foot of the chair is Pardi’s low leather stool and a worn wooden box containing six dark wooden awls of varying thicknesses along with a small jar of white lotion that he purchases at the local bookstore. To the right, as one enters the 8’ x 15’ room, sits a glass display case holding Indonesian, Chinese, and other Asian health supplements. A stand-up fan moves back and forth in a 120 degree arc uselessly stirring the room’s humid air.

Pardi believes that one of the keys to his success is within these records. “The diagnosis, though difficult, is very important to what I do,” he explained while leaning back on his stool, his back resting against the wall. “If a person complains of an upset stomach I must ascertain what the root cause is. Stress, diet, or more serious matters could all be behind it and they all must be treated differently.”

For 60 percent of his current clientele, his reflexology ability takes a back seat to his counseling and listening skills. “Many people these days are too tied up in minor worries,” he clarified. “It’s difficult to make a living and people often just need someone to talk to.”

Pardi enjoys helping others. He always has. Earlier in life he taught sociology at elementary, junior high, and high schools in Solo, central Java, and Malang, East Java.

He later began his work for Atmajaya University. There he trained Catholics from all over the nation on how to establish and operate social and economic projects that would help the local people. After a year of training the students returned to their home cities and villages and used this training to make differences at the local rice-root level.

Currently running two nonprofit nursing homes and one meditation center on Jakarta’s outskirts, Pardi has not stopped working to improve the lives of others. In fact, at the age of 67 he has no plans to slow down. Spreading his potent non-descriptive hands wide before him, Pardi promised, “As long as God gives me the power, my work will continue.”

A Betawi woman holding her grandchild in black and white.

Sept 17, 2006--All Quiet on the Waterfront.

All Quiet on the Waterfront.

By ANDY GREENE, KAPress Writer

Sunday, September 17, 2006, 9:10 PM Local Time

SUNDA KELAPA, JAKARTA – On a day in which churches were burnt, a nun was murdered, and protests erupted across the Muslim world, business continued as usual in Jakarta’s historic harbor, Sunda Kelapa. Of the ten dock workers and ship hands polled late Sunday afternoon, none were aware of the controversy caused by the remarks made last Tuesday by Pope Benedict XVI in Germany.

During a public discussion at the University of Regensburg about the relationship between Christianity and Islam, the pope quoted the 15th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Palaeologus by saying, “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

These words, quoted at the university where the pope had once been a professor and vice rector, have enflamed many Muslims worldwide.

AP reported seven churches were firebombed this weekend in the Palestinian West Bank. Such attacks are particularly troubling since relations between Muslims and Christians in this region are generally considered to be peaceful.

In Somalia, there is concern that the murder Sunday of an elderly Italian nun is tied to furor over the pope’s comments. According to the AP, gunmen standing outside the hospital where the nun had worked since 2002 shot her four times in the back as she was going to lunch. The murder took place hours following a top Somali cleric’s public condemnation of the pope’s remarks.

All was not silent in Jakarta. Less than 30 miles from picturesque Sunda Kelapa, approximately 1,000 Indonesian demonstrators rallied to denounce the pope. “Only Muslims can understand what is jihad,” protest organizer, Heri Budianto was quoted by Reuters as having said. “It is impossible that jihad can be linked with violence, we Muslims have no violent character.”

Chief Indonesian Muslim Cleric Sheikh Marouf Amin was also, according to ANTARA news agency, disturbed by the pope’s quotation and said, “Such insulting and hurtful statements should not be made by a man of such high stature as the Pope.”

However, Catholic priest Benny Susetyo did not believe that those who were angry completely understood the pope’s message. He told The Jakarta Post on Saturday that the media was responsible for the uproar by failing to fully explain the context in which the pope had made the remarks. “It would be better for us to read the complete text first,” he said.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono urged the 240 million citizens of his nation to remain clam. Quoted from Havana, Cuba by Asianews, he said, "Indonesian Muslims should have wisdom, patience, and self-restraint to address this sensitive issue. ... We need them so that harmony among people is not at stake."

At least on this Sunday afternoon, in Sunda Kelapa, the president’s wished-for harmony was thriving. With the salt air wet and heavy from the aroma of clove cigarettes and the rough banter of seafaring humor, the men of the harbor were only concerned about their unloading of the shipments of tropical iron wood that was piled high aboard the double and triple mast wooden clippers roped up to the quay. For these men, toiling beneath the tropical sun, the pope and the world’s problems remained a world away.

Sept 13, 2006--On the Street Poll

Bush isn’t Heard in Jakarta


Wednesday, September 13, 2006, 4:39 PM Local Time

JAKARTA – A person-on-the-street poll conducted today at lunch time in Jakarta’s bustling business district failed to find a single person who agreed with American President George W. Bush’s recent claim that the United States is in a “struggle for civilization.”

Asked whether they agree with the president’s statement, 100 percent of the respondents answered negatively. According to some of the responses to this limited-in-scope poll the president is actually in a struggle for creditability.

“The truth is the opposite,” one young businessman said. “It should be that he’s in a battle to destroy civilization. He has made numerous problems throughout the world… I do not think he respects other cultures and civilizations.”

The Hezbollah/Israeli conflict was sited by one middle-aged lady in today’s noon-time poll as a reason to not support the president’s opinion. She said, “Civilization is alright. His words are just to get more support for what he did, like attacking Lebanon, and what he might do next. Who knows? He may, may, want to attack Indonesia to save our civilization. His words are only camouflage.”

America isn’t in a struggle for civilization,” another respondent replied. “[Bush] is in a struggle for power, for his power and to spread America’s power over the world.”

A Japanese housewife who said she has lived in the tropical nation for nearly three years seemed shocked by the question answering, “America thinks that its democracy is the best way for all countries. But it’s not right. There are many different types of traditions and governments that work for different countries.”

In the address from the Oval Office, Bush made the comment towards the end of a demanding day in which he had honored the memory of the attacks by visiting New York City, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania. Rocking the world, these attacks proved to be the genesis to the lengthy and controversial war against terror. “This struggle has been called a clash of civilizations,” the American leader said. “In truth, it is a struggle for civilization.”

The president’s address continued, “We are fighting to maintain the way of life enjoyed by free nations. And we're fighting for the possibility that good and decent people across the Middle East can raise up societies based on freedom and tolerance and personal dignity.”

In the congested streets of Jakarta, the president’s definition of the war on terror failed to resonate. None of those questioned said that they were even aware of his speech which had been carried live on cable and satellite international television channels in this capital city of twelve million.

The results show that there may have been a backslide to the recent climb in support for America in Indonesia. In a nationwide poll by Terror Free Tomorrow conducted throughout the world’s largest Muslim country at the end of January 2006 support for the United States had risen to 44 percent. This was the highest it had been since September 11, 2001. This increase had largely been accredited to American humanitarian aid to tsunami victims 12 months previously.

Today’s poll was carried out by KAPress with one Japanese and nine Indonesian adults being questioned on Jalan Sudirman Boulevard in Central Jakarta.