Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Y.B. Mangunwijaya writes: “The people of Java are little different from the mountainous island on which they reside, a chain of volcanoes which at any moment can awaken to cough up a phlegm of burning lava.” (This quote functions as an epitaph in: Indonesian Politics under Suharto; Order, Development and Pressure for Change, by Michael R.J. Vatikiotis.) I wonder what Mangunwijaya (or Vatikiotis) wants to say. Are the people here as irrational as an erupting volcano? Is their violent uncontrolled rage – as amok is defined in my dictionary – of the same nature as the Merapi? I didn’t realize that a mountain can be passionate – or for that it matters: moral. In an authoritarian regime spontaneous violence is the only possible form of opposition, to show that enough is really enough. And this rage isn’t irrational, this passion isn’t immoral.

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