The Breakdown of Norms

We have been complaining, and hearing complains, about the breakdown of norms. Certain groups claim that they are concerned with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual (LGBT) movements, with the apparent vulgarity in our television, or with the decaying sense of nationalism. The government generally responds to these concerns positively. The Minister of Research and Higher Education commented that LGBT movements are not welcome in college campuses. The Indonesian Broadcasting Commission zealously censored virtually anything, including a person milking a cow and beauty contest participants wearing traditional dress.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But here is the problem whenever we talk about norms. We think that norms concern only the society whereas they actually also concern the government and the way it governs. To see why, we need to understand a state not only as a collection of actual people, legal rules, and institutions, but also a set of tradition, precedence, and unwritten conventions. Tradition, precedence, and conventions constitute the norms that govern the state. These norms, just as societal norms do, define what actions are appropriate or inappropriate and constrain the behavior of state actors such as president and legislators.

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Pilkada DKI: Tanpa Data Kita Buta

In God we trust, all others must bring data.
(W. Edwards Deming)

Pilkada DKI sudah selesai dan kita sudah tahu pemenangnya, setidaknya versi Quick Count. Selamat buat yang menang, salut untuk pengabdian yang kalah selama ini. Saya tidak akan menulis kenapa Ahok kalah. Biarlah itu menjadi urusan pengamat. Yang akan saya tulis adalah mengapa menurut saya ilmuwan politik Indonesia baru saja melewatkan kesempatan emas untuk memahami secara lebih mendalam karakteristik pemilih Indonesia pada umumnya dan Jakarta pada khususnya.

Saya akan beri dua contoh ketidakmampuan kita menjawab secara memuaskan dua pertanyaan penting, dan apa yang bisa kita lakukan di masa depan untuk dapat menjawab pertanyaan-pertanyaan tersebut secara lebih baik.

I. Kita Belum Bisa Menjawab Secara Meyakinkan Kenapa Orang Memilih Ahok atau Anies

Sudah banyak laporan survei tentang alasan-alasan orang memilih Ahok dan Anies. Sayangnya, survei-survei itu menerima begitu saja jawaban responden dan tidak membedakan dua kemungkinan skenario:

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Manusia di Negeriku

Kata kakek, manusia itu kodrat
Bukan gelar
Tidak bisa diberikan
Tidak bisa diambil

Tapi aku bingung
Kenapa di negeriku
Makin sedikit manusia yang dianggap manusia

Ahli sejarah bilang
Dulu tahun 1965
Kita buat definisi
Manusia tidak boleh komunis

Haha! Kita senang
Kita buru para komunis itu
dan kita bunuh

Waktu aku SD
Dulu tahun 1998
Kita buat definisi
Manusia tidak boleh Cina

Kita bakar lah toko-toko mereka
Dan kita perkosa perempuan-perempuannya

Waktu aku bangun pagi
Suatu hari di 2011
Kita buat definisi
Manusia tidak boleh Ahmadiyah

Bergeraklah kita membela kemanusiaan
Kita pukuli para Ahmadiyah bukan manusia
Dan kita usir dari rumahnya

Waktu aku sedang bersama pacar
Suatu pagi di 2012
Kita buat definisi
Manusia tidak boleh Syiah

Tanpa ampun
kita buru para bukan manusia itu
Dan kita labelkan pada mereka, sesat

Puas
Bangga
Untuk apa menyesal

Kalau perlu, besok kita murnikan lagi manusia
Tidak boleh bertato
Tidak boleh liberal
Tidak boleh ateis
Tidak boleh homoseksual
Tidak boleh berganti kelamin
Tidak boleh melacur demi sesuap nasi
Tidak boleh tidak soleh

Tidak boleh…
Tidak boleh tidak setuju dengan kita

Chicago, 30 September 2012
untuk mereka yang harus mati hanya karena berbeda

What is in a Name?

If you are following the U.S. election, you are probably amazed, just as I am, how apt Americans are in debating almost everything, from emails, walls, to hairstyle and the sizes of one’s fingers. Obviously I am not writing about them. Rather, what I am writing about is a more subtle debate, probably missed by the Indonesian media. It is a debate over whether one should call people who committed terror attacks in the name of Islam “radical Islam” or “radical jihadists.”

The difference may not look obvious, but it is a powerful one. Republicans, including their presidential nominee Donald Trump, consistently use “radical Islam”, “Islamic terrorism”, or “radical Muslims” to refer to such people. They want to emphasize two things. First, that these people claimed to be Muslims; and, second, that they were not ordinary Muslims, but ones who were radicalized. Democrats and liberals, on the other hand, prefer the term “radical jihadists”. The word “radical” is still there, but the “Islam” and “Muslims” are not. In an appearance on ABC, Hillary Clinton says that using “radical Islam” sounds like “declaring war against a religion”. Obama declares choosing between the two terms “a political distraction”. Is it? Which one should we use, or should we choose at all?

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Ahok and Our Party System

Jakartans will elect their governor next year. Many would recall the last election where the Joko Widodo (Jokowi) – Basuki Tjahja Purnama (Ahok) pair beat incumbent Fauzi Bowo as a moment when the voice of the people drown that of party elites. The next election might well be another “the people versus the elites” moment. As Jokowi became president, Ahok took over the governorship and almost immediately became unpopular among party elites. Whether that unpopularity is due to his religion, his ethnicity, his brazen manner, or his anti-corruption stance will depend on whom you ask. But one sure thing is that Ahok’s frequent clash with the establishment has kept major parties from supporting his candidacy.

But it is not Ahok if he bows to the elites and begs for endorsement. Relying on a network of volunteers calling themselves Teman Ahok (literally, Friends of Ahok), Ahok decided to run as an independent. Great! Here we have another chance to show our corrupt parties that they are not indispensable—that ordinary citizens who work to support “orang baik” (a good person) are a remedy for our toxic politics. Right? Unfortunately, no. While inspirational, grassroots volunteerism such as Teman Ahok is only a temporary relief. It is not a long-term solution.

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This is ‘Muricaaa!

Pernah nonton cowok-cowok nyaris telanjang di 300 yang teriak-teriak “This is Spartaaa!”? Nah, Amerika juga suka teriak “This is ‘Muricaaa!” setiap ngomongin kepemilikan senjata api (gun rights). Meskipun dinobatkan sebagai negara dengan tingkat kematian oleh senjata api tertinggi, Paman Sam sepertinya gak pernah belajar dan tetap hardcore dalam pendirian guns for all-nya. Kenapa? Karena… This is ‘Muricaaa!

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