When political elites lack a sense of crisis — Donny Syofyan

February 1, 2012


When political elites lack a sense of crisis — Donny Syofyan

It is really shocking to see the dramatic pictures of students risking their lives to get to their school in Sanghiang Tanjung after three suspension bridges in Lebak regency, Banten province, collapsed due to flooding recently. It is not wrong to say that such kids are more daring than Indiana Jones, a famous Hollywood hero, judging by their numbers and ages. This story has been covered by various global media outlets such as Reuters and several international newspapers.

Though government officials finally closed the bridges for repairs, the pictures are a contrast to the country’s recent political scene where elites such as lawmakers are preoccupied with their own business and getting comfortable. The new House spending on the renovation of the House Budget Committee’s meeting room, pricey chairs from Germany, parking lot, toilet cubicles, or calendars featuring portraits of the House leadership simply suggest that Indonesian elites lack a sense of crisis or even worse.

A tendency toward pro-elite politics contributes to a dying sense of crisis among the country’s elites. The new House spending certainly does not represent public interest, prioritising the elites’ comfort over the people’s urgent necessities. The pictures of children crossing a collapsed bridge to reach school against the new House spending are a startling contrast between poor public infrastructure and opulent facilities for political elites. It seems that the standards of the elites are totally dissimilar to those of the rank and file.

Rather than issuing a public apology and cancelling the spending plan, lawmakers and the House’s Household Affairs Committee (BURT) members disclaimed liability and blamed each other. Indeed, House of Representatives Speaker Marzuki Alie visited the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) office with Nining Indra Saleh, the secretary general of the House, to submit reports on the controversial construction projects. Yet that is nothing more than a smart and temporary defence and an escape mechanism. Though Nining and her staff are responsible for the House spending chaos, it is the House leadership under crisis now.

The performance of the elites is similar to that of Sophocles’ Athenian tragedy Oedipus the King whose sins led to disaster for others. Adopting the perspective of Sophocles’ tragedy, it is to a serious extent that public crime and social disaster in this country are inseparably bound to elite injustice, not necessarily moral wickedness. The elite’s sense of crisis vanishes in their amnesia about widespread poverty and starvation.

Recent Indonesian elites should learn from Mohammad Hatta, the country’s first vice president and one of the founding fathers, on how to appreciate modesty. Hatta had a dream of purchasing a pair of Bally shoes. He deposited money in a gradual manner but failed to purchase them. His savings were mostly spent on helping relatives and people who needed to make a living (Detiknews, Nov. 15, 2011). Learning from Hatta, lawmakers and government officials must avoid political blunders by setting aside their vested interests and giving in to the people they are representing.

The elites’ sense of priorities could lead to horizontal crises. Public tension between the pros and cons of particular policies and issues in the House, for instance, has destroyed social cohesion in society in the form of respect for diversity, mutual assistance and friendliness. Lawmakers’ hedonistic behaviour in their spending plans has sparked a burgeoning survival mode among citizens without taking propriety and prudence into account. “The ends justify the means” approach will be most commonly used to show public resistance to despotism, lack of justice and imbalances in democracy.

Elite figures could get down to earth to show their sense of crisis if they set about annulling biased legislation. For example, they should perfect the Law on the National Police to put an end to corrupt recruitment procedures. Otherwise, there is not going to be a change in the corrupt police force any time soon. Other conflict-prone law is about bridging a yawning gap between employers and employees. The 2003 Labour Law is subject to reforms since it makes Indonesian companies uncompetitive, which is not good for the economy and workers. The corrupt police force or relations between employers and employees, to mention just two, are sources of conflict and crisis within our society.

Indonesia is never short of leaders and politicians performing in an exemplary manner. Popular Surakarta Mayor Joko Widodo, much praised for his pro-people approach and down-to-earth attitude, or State-Owned Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan, who is famous for his endless breakthroughs, are sources of inspiration for millions of people hungry for exemplariness and guardianship.

People mostly have found role models outside the political power circle, such as Aa Gym, Syafii Maarif, the late Munir, Nurcholish Madjid, and many others. Now, role models have been and are coming from the inner circle of political power and bureaucracy. Those political role models will be instrumental in returning power back to its place and function, namely to serve the people to the fullest degree.

Amid the hustle and bustle of short-termism, people long for alternative and far-sighted figures that think and act out of the box to cure deep-seated political illnesses in this country. Do not let fake politicians alienate those statesmen or reformers in the making. Political statesmen and reformers are urgently required to eliminate political crises and raise public optimism to meet the challenge of the country’s future demands. — The Jakarta Post

* The writer, a graduate of the University of Canberra, Australia, teaches in the Faculty of Cultural Sciences of Andalas University, Padang.

10 thoughts on “When political elites lack a sense of crisis — Donny Syofyan

  1. Over here, it’s not ‘short-termism’, it’s no determination besides erratic megalomania as a result of congenital syphilitic lesions in the ‘Elite’. To be a politician, one must have the ego the size of an elephant and a brain size equivalent to shrew. Some of our elite businessmen aver to Three Tenors, when they actually hear One Soprano – FLOM.

    Most Politicians like other elitists lack empathy, sympathy and humanity. All they want is power and money to ruin other peoples lives, if not make them slaves. So tell me about refurbishing Parliaments, flooding and falling ceilings.

  2. Most of the politicians around the globe have this tendency and that makes politics dirty and cruel. They do have a sense of crisis but only in preserving their power and authority.If any country is lucky enough to have a caring heart and sense of crisis towards the poor, it will likely become prosperous and strong.

  3. Here you have an urgency to make the most and quickly too! The natives are getting restless and the grumbling louder. You cannot convince them their race is under threat from just about everybody and all over. Your family can’t even enjoy on those too short oversea holidays and the stocking up of those branded goods without somebody putting your pictures on their facebook like you are thieving or something. For goodness sake, you earn it man. They are lucky to have you! After all that rope bridge is functional isn’t it?

  4. hahahaha…i’ve been in that situation quite some time…in my mind there are others who also have to face the same things again and again and again…that’s in Indonesia. There are also similar cases in Sabah n Sarawajk n perhaps in Peninsula.

    The wonderful thing about it my children doesnt have to bear the same experience as I was back then, however, the sad about it my children doesnt have the courage and mindset that has been empowered by my father during the terrible time..How ironic as this thing still happen in my village which I havent see in almost 25 years now back in Sabah!

  5. “….the elites lack a sense of crisis… ” Donny Sofyan.

    Why should they, b’coz they think they are in the heavenly ” abode ” whilst on earth…..and they are in Bliss – good for them.

    But there is Accountabilty, as much as people of this species do not care or do not beleive in the Karma….

    ” Grave indeed shall be their Recompense, IF only they Knew ” – in the sacred texts. They indeed knew Not that they consume ” Fire”……

    What is the Imagery of ” Hell-fire ” ?

  6. These guys don’t worry about karma; they think they are exempted from retribution or they feel they can bribe the AlMighty by going to umrah and the haj to atone for their sins of commission or by building mosques and suraus. So Abnizar, there is no “Hell-Fire” for them.–Din Merican

  7. Indeed Dato Din,

    they are too sure that they can ” buy” Al Mighty by bribing their way to….
    Heaven…. such is the level of religious instructions by the mainstream, which has not taught them either the way, or taught them the wrong way, out of Retribution…..
    Graver still will be their Recompense…. ( by ‘bribing’ their way ! ! )

  8. Twenty years ago I was distraught when I learnt that the Prime Minister of a Third World Country stayed for two weeks in New York in a Hotel that cost US 12,000.00 a day while attending the UN General Assembly – an amount 80% of citizens will not see in their life-time. Today we are beginning to hear similar news all over the internet. Is the FGO and the GO no longer valid. How I wish to return to serve in governments.

  9. ‘White’ Ang-Pow anyone? Cultural sensitivity of an amphibian. If you were to believe in Mokhsa and karma, most of these frogs were ‘humanized’ by a cosmic Joker.

    That’s elitist for you. With that ‘supremacy’ comes apartheid, and then just plain old ‘bribery’. It’s beyond embarrassment and reveals a ‘Grave’ mindset. Perhaps this is worse than waving a ‘keris’.

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