After a meeting with Ministry of Communication and Informatics yesterday night, I am still amazed about how linear, short-sighted, narrow minded and low self-esteem my government is. From the discussion, all of those attributes were coming out one by one and it scared me. A lot.

Self-Esteem

If I burn the barn just because I can not catch one rat, I believe people will call me stupid, absurd or even idiot. But that was what happened with YouTube case. I don’t know who was behind the idea of blocking YouTube, the Minister said it was coming from the President, just because one crappy movie. Yes, the movie insulted the religion of the majority of Indonesian, no doubt about it, but the way Indonesian government reacted was totally over reacting.

Let me turn my flashback engine. Indonesian government told YouTube to takedown a movie, I don’t have to tell you what movie it is – if you don’t know what movie I am talking about, just help yourself with Google. YouTube didn’t respond because well, it’s YouTube, all of the content were user generated content. But instead of following the spirit of the web by flagging the movie as negative or offensive, the government grumpily chosed to block the entire YouTube. Yeah, I said grumpily because the government thought that YouTube didn’t respect Indonesian government request. So low self-esteem. So low that the government didn’t have guts to create a creative way to counter the movie on the content level. So low that instead of encouraging its own people to create a counter movie, the government chosed to close down the infrastructure. It’s pathetic, really.

That action was also very New Orderly. In the New Order era, if the government did not like one article then the government would ban the newspaper that have the article. The history repeated itself. Welcome to the New Order 2.0.

Narrow Minded

It’s clear that the intention of the Ministry to invite the community was to ask how to block a certain movie discussed above. Nothing else. So no matter how the community screamed out their heart out and even offered brilliant alternative solution other than blocking, the Ministry simply shrugged those off. The Ministry only want to hear the solution for their solution which was the blocking, imagine how strange it was.

Who put us into this mess first time? Who brilliant enough to come out with the idea of blocking the whole website, without even knowing the essence of user generated content, just because of one content? Then when they realized it was not so easy, they were asking help for their problem and closed their eyes and mind for any other better and yet smart alternatives. They can not even solved their own solution. Nice work.

Xenophobic

One of the department staff continuously talking about xenophobic and racism toward us in the international world. As if Indonesian were not xenophobic and racist toward others? I always said this and people kept getting angry with my statement: “Indonesian are one of the most xenophobic and racist people in the world”. Do you think it’s not true?

Even worse, Indonesian are just not racist, Indonesian are tribalist. How many times we hear: “Javanesse vs. Sundanesse”, “Sumatra people are better than Java people”, “Where are you come from? Java? Solo? Jogja?”, “You don’t look like Batak”, “Are you Chinese? So you must be very rich”, “Indonesian girls who are dating foreigners are only looking for money” and other racist/tribalist comments? Don’t say you never heard it or even don’t say you never said it, because that will be a lie.

Putting the blame to the international world for being xenophobic and racist against us was like a childish act. We are racist, we are xenophobic, we are tribalist – even I sometime fallen into that trap, not just toward the international world but toward our own community, our own country.

Commander

I saw yesterday meeting as a step forward for the government to listen the voice of its people directly. I appreciated the effort, really I did. It’s just a shame that the government was only looking for one track solution. There were other inspirations, other ideas and other things that could become a better solution without losing our dignity as a nation.

International world treated us with xenophobic and racism. Fine, that’s already happened. Are we stand still? Of course not. But not in the level of forbidding access, not in the level of an undemocratic country (yeah, some of you probably laugh about this), not in the level of a security personal. We showed them that we are great. We are creative. We are proud of our identity. We are able to compete on the same level with them. That will be a very smart and dignified solution.

Somehow the word ‘Government’ made me wonder. It means ‘someone to govern’. While it translated into Indonesian as “Pemerintah” which actually means “someone who command”. Commanding vs. Governing. Is that what the Indonesian government all about? I command thee to block YouTube – no other option! I didn’t want to believe that it was true but it seems like the truth.

Epilogue

It was clear that the commander er… government only could think of one solution. Blocking (or in the milder term: filtering). That’s all. They want to control the information again. I was joking around and said that the Ministry of Communication and Informatics (Depkominfo in Indonesian abbreviation) should probably changed its name into ‘Departemen Kompilasi Informasi’ (Department of Information Compilation) – it still retain the name ‘Depkominfo’ but with a different meaning because that’s what they did right now. They decided and compiled which were the best content for their people – for some it was an insult for an intelligence, of course, but those ‘some’ are not majority, so don’t worry.

There you have it.

Additional Note (April 9, 2008 – 0:23):

I just watched this movie. This is an example of a smart way to deal with the issue. This is what I was trying to tell the Ministry – which of course, like shouting against the wind. This is the mature solution. This is what I called “playing on the same level”. This is a high self-esteem. This is a broad-minded view. This is what our government lack of…