Jokowi, the fall of a “copy-and-paste” and indiscriminate construction of infrastructure

Haris Rusly Moti
The author is a veteran of the 1998 Yogyakarta
student movement and founder of the
Intelligence Finance Community (Infinity)

IO – One of the many causes why infrastructure construction halts and the reformed State structure is because both of them are based on “latah”. The “latah” syndrome has been spread to the leaders and elites of our nation for some time. Referring to the Third Edition of the Great Dictionary of the Indonesian Language (Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia – “KBBI”), the term “latah” has the following two meanings: First, “a nervous disorder that causes the sufferer to mimic the words or actions or others repeatedly”. Second, “to copy the attitude, action, or habits of another person or nation indiscriminately”.  To put it simply, “latah” is a “mimicking tic”.

Inferring from these definitions, the “latah syndrome” we mean in this commentary is a social behavioral disorder characterized by parroting, indiscriminately copying-and-pasting any advance, whether infrastructure or State administration, such as the democratic advanced earned by other nations.

The danger of the latah syndrome among our nations’ leaders and elites include:

First, this might cause legislators to formulate State policies without due mature and comprehensive research and planning.

Second, this might cause State cause us to generate State policy without due research on the compatibility of one policy aspect with another, whether physical or non-physical.

The lack of compatibility among policies may cause an overlap of structural authority among State institutions. Overlap of the functions of the infrastructure constructed would also occur. In fact, the incompatibility between the State structure and the living culture of society may cause social and political conflicts. The liberalistic and individualistic structure of the State would naturally conflict with a social culture based on togetherness, cooperation, and family feelings.

Even worse, incompatible State structure would cause cannibalism among existing institutions, for example between the Corruption Eradication Commission (Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi – “KPK”) and the Indonesian Police (“Polri”). In terms of infrastructure construction, cannibalism will occur between two infrastructures with similar functions and purposes. For example, the long-existing Jakarta-Bogor Electric Railway Route (Kereta Rel Listrik – “KRL”) versus the Jakarta-Bogor Light Rail Transit (LRT) currently being constructed.

The latah syndrome means that we always allow our eyes to get “large and green” when we see, when we read about, and hear about the progress of democracy in the Western countries. Our eyes also become “large and green” when we see the infrastructural advances achieved by the Chinese. We then copied-and-pasted the Chinese infrastructural model in our country – we do not check our nation’s environment, we did not make any integrated planning, and we did not consider our needs and abilities. Earlier, we copied-and-pasted the Western liberal democracy, which is not harmonious with our country’s long history and tradition.

Being latah, we want to copy-and-paste the advances earned by other nations so that we can achieve them in an instant. We do not consider that all policies must be executed gradually, in accordance with actual gradual development of our capacities and needs. Being latah, we want to copy the success of other nation’s liberal democracy in its entirety, without considering our environment, nor considering the history, culture, and tradition that are inherent and living in our bodies and souls.

The danger of the latah syndrome is that our eyes are blinded, our ears are deafened, and our minds are closed. We no longer want to hear, see, and read the causes of why these other nations advanced. We close our eyes and ears from the long history of the rise and fall of each great nation in the path to achieve their great civilization. Both the Western nations and China have become great by going through a long, steep path. They have different environments, histories, and philosophies that are different from ours.

The latah syndrome pushed us to a mania of construction, but we do not have the ability to organize. Dramatic construction of infrastructure is found everywhere: toll roads, Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) routes, LRT routes, maritime toll roads, etc. – but no organization is visible. We ignore zoning and territorial regulations; we put the Environmental Impact Analysis, which should have been the base of all construction work, straight into the trashcan.

Latah causes us to always feel that we lack State agency and have insufficient authority. We then create new political structures, create new agencies, add to the piles of authority, but there is no true organization of the State system. This causes extensive overlaps of the functions and authorities between both State agencies and existing regulations.

Imagine if Allah, the Most Powerful God, create humans with no art of organization! The brain, which should be placed in the skull, might end up getting placed in the kneecaps. Imagine if we excrete our waste through our mouths! Even constructing a house requires good feng shui for organizing room and furniture layouts, in order to generate harmony between mankind and the universe, even if in a small space. Don’t we use our arts to make our little individual homes beautiful, not barren to look at and live in? Then how come it is in this great matter of building the system for our country and infrastructure, that we fail to care about order and beauty in our layout?

Notice the construction of the infrastructure in the urban areas: there is no beauty in them at all. Just to take the example of our capital city, there is no art or culture used when constructing infrastructure: the only thing that seems to matter is “there is something constructed”. More and more roads have been constructed in the capital city, but traffic jams have worsened because roads are constructed without considering Environmental Impact Analysis. Don’t art and layout reflect the achievements of a civilization? A nation is well known for its cultural achievements, not because of the high volume of infrastructure it has constructed! We measure civilization from the loftiness of art and culture in the nation, from the values that it has based on religiosity, humanity, unity, democracy, and justice.

If we look deeper into the latah syndrome, we should note that it is a reflection of our inherited curse, the “inlander mentality”. Due to our prolonged colonized history, we still think of ourselves as inlanders or the lowly natives of colonies. We as a nation suffer from an acute personality crisis: our leaders lack the capability of thinking independently, forcing us to copy-and-paste the way other nations build up their civilizations. When we are too used to copying other nations – of thinking and talking and acting like other nations – our people have lost the power to create. We have fallen into the stagnation as the follower of other cultures. We have now reaped the consequences of our latah-ness in copy-and-pasting Western liberal democracy to our nation: the crash of the reformed country, which is expected to occur in 2019. We are simply waiting the stoppage and obsoleteness of a large number of infrastructure projects, which is caused by the latah-ness of Joko Widodo’s Government in copy-and-pasting the model of its infrastructure construction from China.