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LQD: Future like Jakarta?

by das monde Tue Jul 23rd, 2013 at 07:27:03 AM EST

From an article at Counterpunch, by Andre Cltchek:

If you take a train in Jakarta, be warned: the images that would unwind behind your windows could be too disturbing to bear for someone who is not a war correspondent or a medical doctor [...]

Jakarta, the capital city of the country hailed by the Western mainstream media as `democratic', `tolerant' and `the largest economy in Southeast Asia' is actually a place where majority of the population has absolutely no control over its future. At closer look it becomes evident that the city is stuck with the social indicators that are more common in the Sub-Saharan Africa than in East Asia. And the place is increasingly violent and intolerant towards religious and national minorities as well as those who are demanding social justice...


Who would have suggested a dystopia like this?

Since 1965 (the year of brutal US-backed military coup which brought general Suharto to power and took between 800.000 and 3 million lives [...]) the government worked hard to make sure that Indonesian cities would have no public transportation, no sizeable parks and no sidewalks. Public places in general were considered very dangerous, as that is where the people used to gather discussing `subversive' issues like their plans for the country.

Public parks were taken away from the people by `developers' whom built their private golf courses for the elites. Sidewalks had to go, too, as they were not profitable and `too social'. And the public transportation became private and eventually got reduced to polluting minivans and appalling second hand Indian Bajaj rickshaws that don't run for decades even in India.

And that was in Jakarta. Other cities with 1 to 2 million inhabitants like Palembang, Surabaya, Medan and Bandung have had no public transportation whatsoever, apart from dirty and tiny minivans and dozens of dilapidated, rusty and smelly buses...

[...] `elites' have been enjoying their chauffeured limousines, while the poor have been breaking their legs when falling to the open sewers, getting raped and air-poisoned in private, dreadful and unregulated minivans or risking to have their brains spilled on uneven pavement after frustrating maneuvers on their scooters between aggressively-driven cars and trucks [...]

Length of the rail tracks actually shrank since the Dutch colonial power; Jakarta became the only city of its size (over 10 million inhabitants, more during the weekdays) in the world without any type of mass rapid system.

Indonesia is perfect dictatorship with periodically held elections [...]: a leader in the new breed of countries controlled and sponsored by Western interests with absolutely no power given to the people.

Passengers who would fall through the rusty floors of trains to their dead or those who fall through unmarked holes that could be found all over the city get no apology, let alone compensation.

[...] Officially the West admires Indonesia. How could it not: Indonesian rulers and its servile elites sacrificed their own people, their own islands, even their own capital city for the good and profits of Western multi-national companies and imperial geopolitical interests. Which foreign corporation or government would not appreciate such a generosity

The busway system is inefficient, esthetically inacceptable and it is actually not helping to connect the city - it is fragmenting it further. There are hardly any sidewalks adjacent to the stations.  People arriving at the stop have to risk their lives reaching their homes walking through the streets congested with traffic, or by other means of transportation.

Even if the busway stops are near the train stations, planners make sure that there could be no direct connectivity. For decades, Jakarta's rulers made sure to disconnect all transportation structures, including Dutch-era train stations from the rest of the city. The city has almost no sidewalks, almost no underpasses...

[...] The city is being developed `against its people', as was noted by significant Australian artist George Burchett who had visited more than two years ago.

The population is uninformed and phlegmatic after decades of pro-business brainwashing campaign and after the destruction of inquisitive thought in this city that at this point has no art cinemas, permanents theatres, socially oriented press or art galleries specializing in unveiling Indonesian tragedy through art [...] the city is collapsing, covered in poisonous fumes, with enormous slums filling the space between giant but repetitive malls and office buildings. There is no water in its once glorious canals - just toxics.

... But despite everything, it is mainly the Indonesian middle class that rides the trains.

[It] is the middle class locally defined, using brackets of the World Bank and Indonesian government: [the] members of the middle class here are those who live on more than US$2.00 a day. And that applies even to the city, which is by many standards one of the most expensive in East Asia.

According to that calculus, the `middle class' forms the majority of the city in Jakarta. Great part of it lives in what would be considered elsewhere as `slums'. Some of its members don't have access to clean water; most of them live in inacceptable hygienic conditions.

Some members of Jakarta's `middle class' ride on the roofs of the trains because they can't afford the train fare; several people get electrocuted each year, others fall to their death. To keep them off the roofs, compassionate government began hanging concrete balls above the tracks to break their skulls, as well as spraying them with colors, even with excrements. Several stations including Manggarai, attached razor wires to the roofs of the platform, so the people who would try to jump from the roof would get shredded.

[...] The reality is brutal but clear: Jakarta does not fall under any definition of the city. It is a laboratory, an experiment of market fundamentalism. Guinea pigs are people. They are being studied: how much discomfort could they take, how much unhealthy environment, and what doses of depressing vistas would make them finally run away?

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About the author, in the words of Noam Chomsky:
Andre Vltchek has compiled a stunning record in evoking the reality of the contemporary world, not as perceived through the distorting prisms of power and privilege, but as lived by the myriad victims. He has also not failed to trace the painful - and particularly for the West, shameful - realities to their historical roots. The remarkable scope of his inquiries is illustrated even by the titles of some of his major books: "Western Terror: From Potosi to Baghdad," a vast range of topics that he explores with rare insight and understanding; and "Exile," his interviews with Indonesia's great novelist Pramoedya, who spent a large part of his life in internal exile, imprisoned by the murderous and vicious Suharto government in Indonesia, which was greatly admired by the West, and enthusiastically supported in its shocking crimes, after it won approval by carrying out a mass slaughter that the CIA compared to the crimes of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, and opened up the rich resources of the country to Western exploitation. In the present work, Vltchek extends his penetrating gaze to a lovely, desecrated, almost forgotten vast area of the world, Oceania, which he shows to be "a microcosm of almost all major problems faced by our planet." Again, he tears away the scabs and reveals the festering sores below with the insight, acuity, and sympathetic understanding he has shown in his earlier work. At the same time, once again, he brings to light the strength and courage of the people, and their achievements, and explores the hopes for decent recovery and survival if the powerful can allow themselves to comprehend what they have done, and to accept the responsibility of actually protecting their victims instead of mouthing comforting and self-serving slogans.

And his website
by das monde on Wed Jul 24th, 2013 at 04:38:50 AM EST
Stumbled onto another long article on Indonesia, at Alternet.org:

Meet the Next Country That Might Explode into Protests Against Corporate Plunder and Slave Labor Working Conditions

.... Much like Brazil and Turkey, Indonesia has been praised by the imperial powers as a "model democracy" and the IMF hails its progress as an "emerging economy" ....

In a country of 240 million people, roughly 120 million live on less than $2 per day, though the government maintains that only 12% of the population - 30 million - live in poverty (which it defines as less than 86 cents U.S. per day) ....

Extractive Industries and Exploited Communities ....

Land Grabs Lay Waste to Indonesia ....

by das monde on Wed Jul 24th, 2013 at 03:02:19 PM EST
Yikes.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Jul 31st, 2013 at 07:08:01 AM EST
Hard to avoid the feeling that this is the way we're headed.

Maybe not as a complete template, but the embedded control...

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Jul 31st, 2013 at 07:10:16 AM EST
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