Source: The Jakarta Post
By Poska Ariadana – Oita, Japan
The Sins of our Fathers
If you were born in Indonesia during the 1990s or experienced the 1998 riots, looking at the rows of buses filled with angry civilians waving their flags crying for change, then you more-or-less saw and didn’t see the same things through the same lens as me.
Perhaps what we see isn’t as important as what we don’t see.
After the fall of Suharto and the New Order regime, Indonesia slowly turned from being a feudalistic, authoritarian country to a somewhat “democratic” one. The change that people had been waiting for had finally come, or so we believed.
We, the 1990s generation, were always told not to remember the sins of our fathers through the mass media.
Our history textbooks only tell what the victors of history want to tell: the communist purge, Timor Leste, or any other site of state-sponsored violence and genocide. Not to mention the reasons they give us to justify the gory acts they committed on our Chinese-Indonesian brothers and neighbors; or how beautiful Bali is, until the ocean waves slowly wash away the sand that hides hundreds of graves of innocent men, women and unborn children.
West Papua is another perfect example. We are always told how primitive the Papuan people are; that we are the nobles in fine clothes while they are the koteka-wearing savages. We know that God created one of the most-stunning paradises on earth there, which we call Raja Ampat; that their land is rich in gold and natural resources. We are always told that not only do Papuans wear koteka (penile guards) but that they also harbor life-threatening separatists, and we are always told the number of soldiers killed by the OPM (Free Papua Movement).
But what we’ve never been told is that Papuans are also human. We have never been told how they struggle for their lives; how they fight for their land and trees, to prevent some multinational corporation from raping them; how they honor nature and their ancestors. We have never been told their history; how they fought for their independence from the Dutch in 1961; how their fathers were threatened at gunpoint to vote in support of Indonesia’s occupation in the 1969 “Act of Free Choice”.
We never knew the number of Papuan men that were shot in the head, or the number of women raped by our noble state military men in front of their own families in open fields, or how their children carry irreparable scars of trauma.
So who’s to blame for this confusion? Who should we believe? Which “truth” should we seek? Perhaps it is a truth that we only see what we want to see. That we’re born ignorant and will die in ignorance. Thus, to draw upon what history said about the RMS Titanic, our great “nation” will sail bravely to the “great perhaps” and sink in cinematic and obsolete nature, caused by our own iceberg of ignorance.