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?