Reflections from Jakarta

I'm back in Jakarta, Indonesia--my fourth visit. I am glad to report that the city shows signs of improvement. It is possible to walk (mostly) unimpeded along major roads, the traffic flows better, and the bus system is improved. If anyone has ever visited Jakarta in the past, you can appreciate how important this is, and how bad the traffic has been in the past.

For this visit I have come during the month of Ramadan, while Muslims observe daylight fasting. It is my first time to be in a Muslim country during Ramadan, and it is interesting to see how it is observed. Life goes on much as before with people working and carrying out their daily routine. Yet street-side vendors who offer food and drink during the day do not have much business. (The non-Muslim population here, comprised primarily of Chinese Indonesians, does not observe Ramadan.) At 6 pm the daylight fast is over, and people go out to eat and drink. The last meal can be taken around 3 am, when people may awaken to take some nourishment, before fasting begins again at 4 am. Here in the hotel where I am staying I have been awoken a couple of nights after 3 am, as people are returning after taking their last meal. This is all new to me, and helps me understand--in a small way--what is Ramadan and how it is observed.

My overall impression is that Jakarta and its people are doing well. The economy is growing. The city is better managed. Society is fairly open and free. This, however, must be understood against the backdrop of the recent election when the Chinese Indonesian man who was in charge of Jakarta and who many claim is responsible for these improvements, A-Hok, lost the recent election and is now in jail on a charge of blasphemy, for comments he made about Muslim extremists. So problems continue and persist.

Yet as I look at my own country of origin, USA, I cannot help but feel great sadness. A great country, the leader of the world, has abdicated its responsibility to lead the world in a positive direction by choosing a man who has no moral virtue, no experience or knowledge of government, no understanding of how the wof orld should work cooperatively to meet and address its problems. The results--almost daily "Twitter rage", withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, disputes with allies in Europe, admiration for un-elected governments and dictators--are most disheartening. Sure, the world is complicated. There are real problems with many very bad people, groups, factions, governments contributing to them. Yet solutions are not to be gained by hurling insults at people, by appealing to base instincts hatred and enmity. We need people and leaders who appeal to what is best in all of us. We need to heed the message of peace, compassion, and harmony, that is at the root of all the world's great religions, and is what the overwhelming majority of the earth's inhabitants want.

I am glad for Indonesia, as it has had a very difficult recent past, and seems to be doing better. But I am sad for the United States, where the damage caused by number 45 is great and increasing. Let us hope and pray for a better future.

Todd from Jakarta, June 5, 2017


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