Senin, 24 Maret 2008

Out of My Element/ A Culture Clash

"In this proud land we grew up strong
We were wanted all along
I was taught to fight, taught to win
I never thought I could fail...
Lately I've been thinking a lot about how optimistic I was when I started out on this journey around the world. But I must say that being in Indonesia is definitely out of my element and it exposes who I am--the good, the bad, and the ugly. It's true I had asked God to help me grow, but nothing could have prepared me for Indonesia and the reality of living in a third world country where much western comfort is stripped away (Indonesia makes me appreciate Thailand a whole lot more. Even though both are considered "third-world", there are degrees of differences), of living in a place where sharing one's feelings is a novelty and expressing one's opinions is absurd and borderline tabooed; and better yet, fighting for one's rights is almost unheard of and the people of the republic say "Rights? What rights? You do what you're told. Don't be so bold, just do what you're told."

...Got to walk out of here
I can't take it anymore
Going to stand on that bridge
Keep my eyes down below

That rivers flowing
That rivers flowing...

I know there's a time and place for everything. It's not like I can just air my opinions anywhere in a western culture either. Nonetheless, the West values people speaking up, but here in Asia, or more specifically I feel in Indonesia, you are looked down upon if you do so, considering its history of hundreds of years of colonization by Japan, Britain, and mostly by the Dutch. (Speaking of which, shouldn't the West take the blame for this, but I won't go into it cos that'll just lead to a post-colonial debate of which I'm not an expert in the area.) All I know is that Indonesian people, for the most part, still like being told what to do and aren't encouraged to question things with the exception of certain media like the Jakarta Post. And it's too bad for me because I look Indonesian; therefore, many expect me to act like one. (Don't get me wrong. There are many good things here as I have mentioned in previous blog entries.) This section is simply my own experience toward an appreciation, or the lack thereof, in individuality and individual rights. A first-hand experience in a minute part of Anthropology 101--a collective culture. Again, it's just my opinion and you are welcome to disagree.

A whole new world. A whole new set of values.

"To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men." ~Abraham Lincoln

"In giving rights to others which belong to them, we give rights to ourselves and to our country." ~John F. Kennedy

The moral of the story is this: I'm more American in my head than I look. I had lived in a country where people celebrate the men and women who dare to stand out and speak up for what they believe in. However the American way isn't the only way to live. The East has its own values that, although I don't feel comfortable with, I must adapt in order to survive.

...Don't give up
'cause you have friends
Don't give up
You're not the only one
Don't give up 
You still have us
Don't give up now
We're proud of who you are
Don't give up
You know it's never been easy
Don't give up
cause I believe there's a place
There's a place where we belong."
                               ~"Don't Give Up" by Peter Gabriel

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