Middle class and their political obligation

Yesterday, Lynda Ibrahim wrote an interesting article in Jakarta Post to defend us the Indonesian middle class. I respect her as well as her opinion. But I am afraid she missed the point.

I can see the way Tempo wrote the cover story about middle class somehow reduce the middle class into some shallow hedonic creatures. In this, Lynda provided a very good reminder on how much this middle class has contributed to the wealth of nation. I am sure, Tempo or other cynical eyes cannot argue with this fact. One for Lynda. Nil for the cynics.

However, the main issue is not about what the middle class has done. It is more on what the middle class is expected to do but refuse.

We, the middle class can get away with any stupid things that government do. Lousy public transportation? We have our cars. Ridiculous public health services? We can afford to go to expensive medical services. Low quality education? Let’s send our kids aboard. The list goes on.
But with these behaviors, are we doing our country a favor?

In surface, we might say yes. We drive the economy by creating enterprises, which are supposedly government job. We create jobs and provide needed services. Where is the harm?

It turns out that in this “silent” process we help the incompetence/ evil government to rob the poor. To deny their rights as human, let alone as citizen. Don’t get me wrong. I am not socialist. In fact, I am a hardcore liberal. But there must be certain standard of government services where ones can still keep their dignity. Look at all public services (which we refuse to use). Do they treat the “customers” humanly? And we let this happen. Mostly because it won’t affect us.

We let it happen by thinking that’s not our jobs. We pay our taxes. That should be end of our obligation as citizen.

I know Lynda Ibrahim. She does put an effort to make a better Indonesian. She represents a minority of middle class or actually upper class who cares. But where are others? As numbers we are quite big. As economical power we are substantial. But we let incompetence people are elected everyday as our governors and city majors because we think it is not our job and won’t affect us anyway. Sad?

This is what one of the columnist in Tempo described as the selfish behavior of middle class. I agree with it and won’t defend.

Lynda on the other hand, refuses this label. She insists that when it comes to politics, we need to treat the middle class as teenager. I like her metaphor, teenager. It has strong association toward immaturity, fearfulness, yet full of idealism. I do have concerns with this metaphor, though. For me, it sounds that politics (for Lynda) is still not the responsibility of the middle class.

In my opinion:

Politics is our responsibility as the middle class. We have failed to carry out this social obligation. In effect, we have let our poor suffer due to our ignorance. Together, let’s change our attitude toward politics.

How is that?

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One Response to Middle class and their political obligation

  1. Hi Ardy, thank you for reading my JakPost piece and made a responses– which I’ve happily read. If I may, I’ve got some comments:

    1) That piece wasn’t written solely in response to Tempo’s Kelas Konsumen Baru special report. I also factored in the months-long, loud insinuations by Kompas on its front page. So it was more of accumulated responses.

    2) Some of the writing was cut, which perhaps would’ve made it clearer. The complete article was uploaded on my personal site a few days after.

    3) Why my piece hammered it down to the potentials? Because of most Kompas’ diatribes & Tempo’s spcl report, that was where they mostly sledged the hammer onto. Conspicuous consumption– without much credit to any potentials. To me, that imbalance had to be addressed first, before visiting other angles, like political involvement (which made like, what, 2-3 pages the most, out of Tempo’s 49-page report?)

    4) On political involvement, I always wonder what that actually means, beyond voting rights– everyone has their own definitions & boundaries. But one thing remains clear, as I mentioned on the article, we don’t even have the channel to force politicians to make do on their campaign promises and punish them when they don’t, and that’s one glaring thing that has to be addressed soon. Half of my middle class friends care and try/want to get involved, within their own capabilities, to fight for a better Indonesia. Many of them aren’t even on Twitter and it doesn’t matter to me as long as they deliver on commitment, compared to some fiery-brand online personas who keep falling flat on their feisty faces whenever I asked them to actually get involved offline. The other half who don’t want to get involved, I’ve been trying to lure them and what I found thru trial-n-error is that ppl are much more responsive when I made it ‘a fun thing to do’, instead of wagging my fingers at them. They’re teenagers– RI’s middle cls is around 15-20 yrs old, unlike their counterpart in the US that has existed for 50+ yrs– I have to be the smarter one that looks at the bigger picture. And if we’re even much fewer than what I think we are, then why should we risk alienating everyone, truly?

    Hope this help clarifying. Many thanks again for your feedback. 🙂

    Cheers,
    Lynda

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