Thursday, June 28, 2007

Semarang: day 3

On the streets of Indonesian cities everything is for sale or hire – sometimes the salesperson is for hire, for example as a driver. And Semarang, Central Java’s provincial capital, is no different. Pirated music, software and Hollywood&Bollywood movies; sandals, underwear and fake designer t-shirts; birds, snakes, fish, rabbits, spiders and dogs (some Indonesians would prefer to eat dogs than have these as pets, horses also sometimes end up as sate kuda, which can be enjoyed on the streets here); toys&games; jewelry, purses and make-up; herbal drinks&medicine; bottled petrol (sometimes watered down), air for tires, cars, motors and their parts; furniture, windows and staircases; and of course food, lots of food are for sale on the streets of Indonesian cities. And everything from seemingly new to worn-out. For hire are drivers (and their vehicles, from pickup trucks to richshaws), day workers, massage therapists, barbers (the ones sitting outside offering a haircut are the cheapest), and of course female and male prostitutes. It is the open air economy of the poor who have switched on the survival mode. They would love to trade jobs with us and do our 9-to-5 office job, sit at a desk in an air conditioned room and wait until the monthly capital mysteriously arrives at a bank account that can be accessed with a plastic card. They are not engaged in open air economy because they favor its freedom. They have no choice. They are out of luck. They form, as Patrick Chamoiseau writes, a proletariat without the factories. These are modern times. These are the Third Worlds. So much for modernization.

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