"Most returned to society rehabilitated to their former state. The thief returned as a thief. The clerk returned to his desk. The blackbirder for European companies went on kidnapping Javanese. As he walked home from the hospital that day, the old doctor had reached the following conclusion -- even with decades of service as a doctor, he had made no meaningful contribution to the advancement of his people. It was true that medicine was a humanitarian profession. But what a waste it would all be if all it amounted to was patching things up so that things could go on without ever changing. A doctor must not only cure the disease of the body, he must also awaken the spirit of the people, anesthetized by their own ignorance.

So he didn't go straight home. He turned right and set off for the bank. He withdrew all his thirty years of savings. And he used that money to travel throughout Java. Everywhere he urged the Native leaders to set up organizations that could advance the people.

"That's how the young doctors in our movement also talk," said Mei. 'I think it's no accident that it's always the doctors who are the first to think this way."

In the modern world, everything is specialization. People will become alienated from each other. People will have cause to meet only because of business or they will meet only by accident. You will never be able to tell if the person you're treating is a good person or not. "


food here isn't sweet because the people like it that way. it is because the islands used to produce sugar, and it was in abundance.

people everywhere on earth we used to adapt to what was available. now that we have everything, what do we adapt to?

javanese philosophy

"Mother, I will become a true dalang (puppetmaster)"

"My child is already a man of letters. Now he wants to be a dalang too. What else do you want to be? You'll no doubt become a doctor. You want to achieve so much! How much suffering you call down upon yourself, suffering that will knot you up inside even more, taking away your happiness."

'That is Europe's disease. Shouldn't you learn to think of others too? Haven't I told you, learn to be thankful? You have become like that child. I haven't forgotten your stories. The clever try to become cleverer, the rich, richer. No one has any gratitude in their hearts. Everyone is hurrying around trying to be better. Isn't what you yourself have told me? They all suffer. Their desires and ideals become monsters that rule over them. Do you remember?"

"There is a punishment, my child, for all those who cannot place themselves in the order of things. If it were a star it would be a shooting star. If it were a forest, it would be a forbidden forest. If a stone, a kidney stone."

I gave thanks that I had a mother who was so strong and firm in her beliefs and her thoughts. She was a Javanese woman and she had her own wisdom. And I would never be able to marry a woman like her. But it is not a punishment, Mother, it isn't. Mother, truly it isn't.




today i was preparing an information slide on political parties in indonesia. my first impulse of course was to grab all the logos of the political parties, do a short write-up about them and place them inside a nice template.

then i thought about it. isn't it the case that people like to be shown cute graphical ways to analyse data? For example, i have seen representations where ideologies of political parties are placed on a spectrum from left to right, or even quadrants, based on their economic/ideological inclinations.

i agree it's a quick way to convey ideas, and probably one that people would appreciate. it's the kind of quick classification people give in lectures that helps them capture the gist.

i look at the 24 major parties, of which i have picked 6 representative ones which are in the top 10 in the legislative elections. wanting to representing them from left to right, by impression, ok maybe golkar right, pdi-p left, but these are so vague and indonesian politics nowadays is so un-ideological anyway (not a bad thing, for some parties, this means pragmatic, centrist policies). i could rate them along 3 axes: economic conservatism, moral/religious conservatism, political/foreign policy conservatism? but labels like conservative are meaningless in a country like indonesia, because conservative to what? people defending pancasila are conservative to the 1945 constitution, golkar may want to preserve the "new order" priority on economic development. and is i put PKS and PPP or even PKB on the islamic scale of things, people will start likening them to Hamas when they don't really advocate an Islamic state and are more parties running on anti-corruption, anti-pornography etc

since my own voice will not be heard and only my opinion left on paper, it is best to be reasonably nuanced and complete. in a lecture, i can back up my visual aids, but here, i fear misunderstanding.
as the politicians around me dream (or say they do) of ASEAN integration, here I am, in the early 20's, learning about the history of the region of the first time. how do we integrate, when we know so little about each other? or maybe it's just my history.

we all know the success stories in south east asia, these are well-rehearsed. i also learnt in secondary school of the glorious past civilizations in the indus valley, and the dynasties of china, and the fables by which singapore came to be named.

but i was more likely the descendant of landless peasants from the south of china, perhaps rushing to pontianak during the west kalimantan gold rush. claims have been made even, that LKY had his origins there. some even say semarang. who knows?

i think the british never really sank their tendrils into us, as they did with india, or the dutch with the east indies or the spanish with the phillipines. the stories were inspiring enough, but now i know even better ones. it was the phillipines that lit the way, with their mascot josé rizal! so this guy was apparently a polymath, poet and a freemason. why were all hyper-intelligent polymaths freemasons? perhaps it was the mensa of the times.

then it was indonesia. vietnam, but that got complicated, malaysia, singapore. i have a feeling we were the cushiest to begin with, no deep swell of anger. i think there's a well worn lesson that everyone thought that post-war, the phillipines would lead the region, being the first to achieve national conciousness and with a significant english background and ties to the US. the centre director here has been to both places, and they are highly similar. too much feuding with each other. having a sense of who they are, they dispute and argue.

so what most see as two countries of maids and nurses, but they have a glorious history we don't really understand. why do we draw our labour from them, and not other neighbouring countries who are equally impoverished? is it something in their culture? they definitely have much, much better literature.

but i am the descendant of a gold prospector, and they of friars, peasants and the feudal aristocracy. of course our fates differ.


beach at tambang ayam, anyer

my street! jln haji royani

karang bolong, anyer



the road to my place was blocked off this sunday for the independence day games. studying economics in a "scientific" way should probably alert one to speculation and deriving theories simply based on observation, but here goes!

the difference in structure of the celebrations is immediately obvious to me. national day for me, in singapore, is that big event which occurs in the national stadium and padang every year, and the massive, massive fireworks display which seems to get longer and grander every year.

here they had the sporadic fireworks within individual neighbourhoods. there used to be a grand marchpast somewhere near the presidential palace, but it's mostly decentralized here. the road outside my place was painted with a few lanes for a short 50m sprint for the kids. they also have keropok eating competition where they hang it on a string and you're supposed to eat it with your own hands. other innovations include tying a brinjal around your hips and then using it to hit a ball. i didn't get to see much palm tree climbing, but it was replaced by a greased bamboo stick over a pool and the kids trying to get the prizes in the middle. what was amusing was reading in the papers that for a certain village, the adults didn't organize the games, so the kids pooled their own money to organize cause they missed the games.

but of course it is decentralized. this country is sprawling. i cannot say if independence matters any more to them than the average singaporean. i mean among the elites, the writers here, obviously they would write about how hard independence was to win, but how many of them are the kids playing in the streets? similarly in singapore, you can't doubt the genuine enthusiasm of the people who attend national day events. it's becoming a bit more decentralized now, in my year (in army) they started to have associated events like fireworks competition and racing, this year maybe there was singfest (no idea if that had to do with national day). Even neighbouring countries are jumping in on the act.


how hard is it to grow close to someone? in an average romantic relationship, why does trust grow so much faster? and how much faster it gets to grow as well. of course, i'm not saying the trust cannot and isn't broken, but it's amazing how it sometimes leapfrogs ordinary friendships there for years. sure they exist in parallel, but why are we always so screwed by biology?


philosphy of life

maybe what it means to be wise is to have a settled life, or to be old enough that your path has already been set.

and once you're on that path, you will defend it with and know what you stand for, because you cannot pick another. everything else is just youth and inexperience. us young people, we explain things one way when we're hurt by one person, and another when we have this job, and yet another way when we're drunk or having fun. i spit on our philosophy. my philosophy.

there is something crazily romantic, about a couple. a summary. best thing i've heard all week.

"she has five years to live"
"i'll spend time with you in singapore"
"no lah, it's ok. we should take the chance to see the world"

and then proceed on posting tours all around the world.
and then the doctor says:

"you're doing better than expected. but you have to stay on the medication. oh and no kids"
"it's ok, we'll adopt. but maybe it won't be the same. no kids never mind lah. more mobile also."

and while people are dreading their extension, they look forward to the next one because it allows them to live their crazy life alone.

happy ending! love is alive, satan is conquered.

(happy endings are merely stories for which the sequels haven't been written). but who cares! it's now!

by the way. about a certain mr toer below, wasn't it kinda like buddha. i really really like the philosophy, but maybe i don't understand what it was. but yeah, kinda the model for leaving your family and privileged background to a higher calling. it's kinda running from responsibility though. but the spiritual types, who say love your parents (and they do indeed treat them with respect), they eventually have to leave, because they cannot fight the higher calling. they are merely the parents "of this earth", after all.

i am reaching the point where i believe it is possible to be spiritual and be an atheist. atheists aren't all that cold blooded and rational. though maybe if you believe in random spiritual forces you're better off being called an agnostic.
how emotional, yes. nobody would guess that looking at me, i don't give anything away, i'm this picture of a quiet guy who doesn't disturb the peace. so why all the mental melodrama? could it be... repression?

somewhere down the road in life, i've never learnt the skill of putting images into boxes where they're supposed to be. they teach us in statistics that anecdotes lie. what i should really be doing is: "seen it all before. deal with it". just another x. should deal with it like all the other x'es. faster, and statistically, it's likelier that he's an x rather than a y. that's how one is wise, right?

why do things still bug me? why do i feel like i'm constantly buffeted by ambience? i buy a friggin pocari sweat from a vendor, and the kid gets in between me and the fridge and wants to get a drink for herself. vendor (older brother) gets me a drink and lovingly removes her from the cold blast of the fridge, through a clever mix of coddling (like oh look sweets over there) and brotherly authority. i manage to get my drink, and the kid is swooped away and carried by her brother, who lovingly rocks her from side to side while getting my change. wow. why did i never do that? in all my years of brotherdom i never did that. it felt so nice and good and warm and then i always think "why didn't i do that". now, theory first or my next digression?

it's as if i've learnt to love only recently, and maybe only because of that biological thing called love. i wished at that moment i had a big family, or a family so immense with so many sisters that they couldn't survive from the love only 2 people could get, or even less because their mom was massaging someone somewhere and their dad driving a taxi till late. so brothers could step in. somehow. to excuse my inaction, i dreamt up a circumstance, a theory of why we are so apart from our siblings. but it is me who is apart.

but you know, pity is a luxury, for men who are incapable of action. sometimes romance and sentiment too. this is when the other half of the pickpocket pair comes up and grabs your wallet. is it true that behind every smile, danger lurks? in another clime, emotion or sentiment could get me killed, or leave me without food, or my daily bread.

just as well perhaps, that character is a product of circumstance. they also say sometimes no, that everything's in our destiny. i don't deny that. i could turn myself into a hardass bitch. it's working sometimes, after all, what is 23 years of life without knowing what a carefully placed hurtful sentence can do, some passive aggression, and now a bit of forced shouting at those who deserve it. although after 23 years, some of it comes from exasperation, perhaps.

but the emotions don't find themselves easily to the top. under the influence perhaps, but then i become a babbling ball of love, generosity and all that is right about this world. pathetic.

it's because i come home today from the beach to a home, and then i am alone. what a change! but no, it's just the time of the night. because at this time last night i was listening to the waves and thinking the same kinds of things. in the day when everyone's swimming it's alright.

why did you graduate from the best school in surabaya, when everyone thought you were going to be a bupati, why, that was the very reason they sent you there, as the best and brightest in the family, the only native in a school full of dutchmen, why did you become a writer? why did you mix around for a while with the wrong company? why did you spend all those years in prison? "i don't want to be bupati. i only want to be free. giving orders to nobody, nobody giving orders to me." are you for real? are those words real, and do you really walk this earth of mankind? and how many inmates drew strength from you, and how many others were just waiting for you to pick up the soap?

but that must be it. maybe you write because you have an explanation to give. why you didn't do all these things, why you chose to do all these weird other things that people don't understand. the weirder you are, the more they demand an explanation.

forgive me, i don't mean to write like a sixteen year old. but when you peel it all off, i don't think i've grown much since then.

somebody's thoughts about me today. my (indonesian) colleague said, "jesse doesn't talk much, but when he does, he has a really sharp tongue."



reliability: it's quality, childhood expectations, expectations of people, and tradeoffs with other priorities. from columnist writing about the indonesian psyche.

"happiness is chemical". wonder about the qualitative nature of other happinesses. would it really be bad to hook up to the experience machine if one were chemically depressed? how is it that some pleasures are addictive and others are not? what is a reward system? role of serotonin and dopamine. is pleasure from fulfillment/success second order?

note-taking, and choosing the language in which to write. pramoedya ananda toer

patience: how i personally feel that the bourne ultimatum was a really good film and one which breaks the usual rule of sequels. in this case, the last one is the best one. power of build-up

live band at ex annex of plaza indonesia, dinner with clarence's dad

jakarta nightlife, description

thoughts on lousy food and lush forests, and my love/hate near death relatonship with waterfalls.


you could be perfectly happy sitting over there, munching.

you could be perfectly happy, sitting over there, munching. you don't need a lot to be happy, and i've tried it both ways both sides now. the problem is staying happy.

watch me now. i've a sore throat and a big fat bump on my head. we've visited quite a few clubs and hope to be able to start reviewing soon.

over the weekend i was so peaceful, it was so happy, i could spend the whole time listening to the back catalogue of music on my computer and sleep and wake up and be tired and be happy to sleep again. i thought i had a lot to share, i was pretty happy because i thought i made a few people happy, etc. i wish i had written more then and not now, when i'm pretty much more down to earth. but when you're happy why waste it right? besides, it all sounds so dramatic.

i'm brought down to earth now, i guess, caught now by expectations and sensitivities and a schedule, which will again be broken on thursday. the routine gives me time to rest, and buy groceries, maybe clean up my room, and sleep.

more things. but i will keep them to myself, where they best reside.

cafe batavia

went to a really beautiful restaurant in taman fatahilah, in kota, one of the few squares which are properly preserved in jakarta of old batavia. having driven around the area before and finding lots of run down old buildings, i was pretty surprised to find that there was actually a square with proper lighting (which the kids used to play soccer at night) and proper paved tiles. we tried to catch what we could with our handphones

it gets lots of marks for flavour. there are old photos all over the place with the menus pasted behind them. so to see one you just pluck a photo off the wall and read it. food is not really traditionally dutch but has expanded to fill many western cuisines. the decor was pretty authentic, from the speed of the rotating wooden fans to the high ceilings and the possibility of smoking next to the windows. there is a jazz bar downstairs which is not bad, but cramped by the fact that the english of the singer was heavily accented. they had very good coffee as well.


i am a mystic

today i feel spiritual. the sufi whirling dervishes, the girls rocking back and forth reciting the koran reading madrasahs, the kabbalists.

turn turn turn, forward and backward. what religion is this? there is religion that fights and struggles, proselytizes and converts.

there is the religion of the mass and the music and of the within. heaven is the white space you rise to.

my mind is so clear, so empty. and it is times like this that i know what i really think. and can say it, though sometimes it's too fast to keep up.

100% fucking pure

"i miss the future." - me.

it was so beautiful to step out at the club with daylight breaking after we had sent our friends back. the streets on thamrin and sudirman were free of people and vehicles, except for a few raucous motorcycles. smoke wafted from clarence's kretek cigarette out to the streets, and it seemed like everybody, this city, had a second chance. a second chance to escape somewhere more peaceful. to begin again without the chaos.

and the other one, she was really just lost in her own world.

and this song is just as fantastic as it was when i was younger

I'm packed and I'm holding
I'm smiling, she's living, she's golden
And she lives for me, says she lives for me
Ovation her own motivation
She comes round and she goes down on me
And I make her smile like a drug for you
Do ever what you want to do coming over you
Keep on smiling what we go through
One stop to the rhythm that divides you
And I speak to you like the chorus to the verse
Chop another line like a coda with a curse
And I come on like a freak show takes the stage
We give them the games we play,

She said I want something else
To get me through this
Semi-charmed kind of life
I want something else
I'm not listening when you say

The sky it was gold, it was rose
I was taking sips of it through my nose
And I wish I could get back there
Some place back there
Smiling in the pictures you would take
Doing crystal meth will lift you up until you break
It won't stop I won't come down, I keep stock
With a tick-tock rhythm and a bump for the drop
And then I bumped up I took the hit that I was given
Then I bumped again And I bumped again
I said..
How do I get back there to
The place where I fell asleep inside you?
How do I get myself back to
The place where you said

I want something else
To get me through this
Semi-charmed kind of life
I want something else
I'm not listening when you say

I believe in the sand beneath my toes
The beach gives a feeling an earthy feeling
I believe in the faith that grows
And the four right chords can make me cry
When I'm with you I feel like I could die
And that would be all right
All right

When the plane came in
She said she was crashing
The velvet it rips in the city
We tripped on the urge to feel alive
But now I'm struggling to survive
The days you were wearing that velvet dress
You're the priestess, I must confess
Those little red panties
They pass the test
Slide up around the belly
Face down on the mattress
Now you hold me
And we're broken
Still its all that I want to do

Feel myself
With a head made of the ground
I'm scared but I'm not coming down, no no
And I won't run for my life
She's got her jaws just locked now in smile
But nothing is all right
All right

I want something else
To get me through this...
I'm not listening when you say