Those are the words regurgitated by Americans and, to a lesser extent, Brits and Aussies every time I -an Indonesian- critically comment on their countries. They believe I don’t have the grounds to do so and should just focus on my shitty country.
Do they have a point? No, they don’t.
Yes, I have only visited the US and the UK once long ago and I only lived in Australia for around a year. But, at the same time, I am (relatively) proficient in the English language. It enables me to interact with Americans, Brits and Aussies and getting to know their worldviews, both the good and the ugly.
Some of them try to camouflage their rotten true selves by spraying fragrant rhetoric into the air, successfully fooling the fools. Some don’t even try to hide their rottenness. While it is indeed hard to smell beyond the perfume, the unconcealed rotten stench is hard to ignore.
My English fluency also enables me to consume Anglophone media (even though I have been consuming it long before I could properly understand the language). Yes, it does not represent the reality. But, it does represent the ideals approved by the establishment and/or the masses.
As the Queen’s accent has become less prevalent in British TV shows and films, we can confidently say its social prestige has dwindled in the UK. As American pop culture has romanticise depictions of America’s interventionist foreign policy and no one bats an eye, we can confidently say the American public and establishment tolerate or even embrace interventionism.
How we react to the news stories are also very revealing. As many Americans are aroused by reports of police brutality, we can confidently say violent authority figures are worshipped by a large chunk of the American public.
How about those foreigners who want me to shut the fuck up? How much do they know about Indonesia?
Unsurpisingly, almost nothing.
None of them have ever visited it; when they do, they have only visited Bali, an extremely touristy province with predominantly-Hindu locals. None of them can speak Indonesian or any Malay dialects, hindering them from exploring the Indonesian mass media and the people’s reactions to its content.
For many of them, I am their first contact with an Indonesian. Some of them claim to have Indonesian friends which they are deem more knowledgeable about the country than I am, probably because they affirm false preconceived notions.
Sometimes I wonder if their Indonesian friends actually spent much of their lives abroad and have spent little or no time living here. Sometimes I wonder if they even exist. Call me a denier. But, knowing how humans behave, my scepticism is justified.
Those foreigners are indeed right to say Indonesia is a predominantly-Muslim country with human rights violations. But, those are extremely broad remarks. Everyone knows Indonesia is predominantly-Muslim and saying that a country has human rights violations is as in-depth as saying it has foods. It means shit.
When they do detail the cases, they exaggerate virtually all of them to a thousandfold.
Aceh does enforce compulsory hijab. But, there is no national policy obliging women to wear it and they can been seen ‘uncovered’ in the public spaces.
There are indeed territories that shut down churches under the pretense of ‘permit issues’. But, outside those territories, there are tens of thousands of churches still standing with thriving congregations.
Aceh, an Indonesian province, does implement provincial Sharia and that empowers Islamists all over the country. But, we have thirty-four provinces and Aceh is literally the only one governed under religious legislation; our national government does not use Sharia as its guiding principles, never declares the country as ‘Islamic’ and, in fact, acknowledges five other religions. The reality contradicts that infamous Pew Report (which probably only surveyed ‘mosque dwellers’ instead of those who have lives outside mosques and idiots still believe in the inherent quantitative researches despite sampling bias being a fucking real problem).
If you ask those foreigners, they would probably get many basic facts of Indonesia wrong.
Ask them to find the country on the map and they would probably point to the wrong location.
Ask them about its number of population and they would be surprised the country is the fourth most populated in the world.
Ask them to name our official language and they would probably answer ‘Arabic’, thinking that all Muslims are Arabs and vice versa.
Ask them to name our ethnic groups and they would probably stutter and think there is only one, not expecting any forms of diversity (there are far-right westerners who falsely believe every non-western country is homogenous and they utilise the lie as an argument against multiculturalism in the west).
Ask them to name the country which Bali is a part of and many of them would be shocked it is not a country; they would also be shocked that a predominantly-Hindu territory and an extremely hedonistic tourist destination is a province of a predominantly-Muslim country (and it seems the misconception indirectly endorse the falsehood about Indonesia being a Saudi Arabia clone).
If you ask me any basic facts about Australia, the UK and the US, there is a chance I would fare better than many of the citizens. Many Americans still think English is the de jure official language of their country and many Aussies and Brits still don’t know the duties of most present-day monarchs, including the British ones, are entirely ceremonial. I can also name of said countries’ many territories, including their still-existing colonies; many Americans don’t know what DC stands for and that Puerto Rico is a US territory.
In conclusion, not only the foreigners who told me to shut up don’t have any credibility to comment on my country, I have more credibility to comment on their own countries than they do… and mind you, my credibility is still low considering I don’t live there.
To change the topic a bit…
I am also rather assertive with my opinions about East Asia. Not as much. But, it still manages to irk one of my friends.
He said I couldn’t speak any East Asian languages and I have never lived in the region. As a person of East Asian descent who can speak multiple East Asian languages and have lived in two East Asian countries, he was annoyed by me and reasonably so.
But, he was also fucking annoying.
Instead of giving me evidences that counter my remarks, he simply said I should simply try living in those countries. For him, it was more than enough to put me in my place.
When foreigners claim Indonesia is an Islamic theocracy, I can tell them that the country still has loads of active non-Islamic places of worships, hijab-less women outside Aceh and things that are considered ‘un-Islamic’… and I can support my claim by simply linking them to countless videos showcasing hijab-less Indonesian women, vibrant church worships and the secular, extremely hedonistic and highly-westernised Indonesian pop culture.
Whether they convince the fools or not, it does not matter. I know my country rather well (I love to think so, anyway) and I have a decent internet access. Therefore, I have the means to debunk the falsehood and I can do so almost instantly. I have no excuses to not do so.
My friend annoys me because he complains about my alleged ignorance… and yet he does not bother to counter despite having the means to do so.
I don’t know how a person can see ignorance right in front of him/her, get agitated by it and somehow too lazy to annihilate it.
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