It’s Happening

I lost of my train of thought in my last post, and so this was another thing I wanted to take note of…

The same book that I swore I would finish last night has inspired me again– this time to reflect on modernization that is engulfing Asia and the rest of the world at a terrifyingly fast rate….

Journalist and author, Terziano Terzani, on discussing the destruction of Chinese culture, but I think parts of this can be applied to Indonesia as well—

The fate of the extraordinary civilization saddened me. For literally thousands of years it had followed another path, had confronted life, death, nature and the gods in a way unlike any other. The Chinese had invented their own way of writing, of eating, of making love, of doing their hair; for centuries they had cared for the sick in a different way, looked in a different way at the sky, the mountains, the rivers; they had a different idea of how to build houses and temples, a different view of anatomy, different concepts of the soul, of strength, of wind and water. Today that civilization aspires only to be modern, like the West; it wants to become like that little air-conditioned island that is Singapore; its young people dream only of dressing like ‘businessmen’, of queuing up a Macdonald’s, of owning a quartz watch, a colour television and a mobile phone.

Sad, is it not? And not just for the Chinese, but for humanity in general, which loses so much when it loses its differences and becomes all the same. Mao understood that in order to save China it had be closed to Western influence, it had to seek a Chinese solution to the problems of modernity and development. In posing the problem Mao was truly great. And he was great in being wrong about how to solve it…Great like China, great like the tragedy it is now enduring.

…not by chance was it the Chinese who discovered the essence of everything lies in the equilibrium between opposites, between yin and yang, between sun and moon, light and shadow, male and female, water and fire. It is by harmonizing differences that the world works, reproduces itself, maintains its tension, lives.

I confuse myself. Remember how I was dying to get back into Surabaya to escape the boredom and all of the attention that I receive in my village? And then how I couldn’t wait to get back home to my village after spending an exhausting ride on the kareta api? I wanted to escape the village to return to something more familiar to me, where there’s Pizza Hut’s and McDonald’s, big buildings, where it’s okay to skip rice, where people wear business suits, where it’s socially acceptable to show your thighs, where women can leave their homes without wearing jilbabs, where I can find Nutella and cheese, where there’s siting toilets with toilet paper, where WiFi is accessible from almost anywhere, air-conditioning (!), dan lien lien,  and what I really meant to say was I miss Western culture [sometimes]. It makes me feel kind of sick that the very thing that’s destroying cultures all over the world is something that I miss. After getting that dosage of it twice in the past week, I have grown more content to how humble and different village life is–with its traditions, routine religious events, obnoxious roosters and brave chickens, jilbabs, sarongs, farmers, nature, lizards everywhere in my house, endless fields of sugarcane, damaged roads, neighbors being family, family being family, four generations of families in one home, eating rice, watching shitty dramas from Jakarta…you get it. But how long much longer will village life be like this? Back in Tlekung, there were already little modern gated communities sprouting up where farmland once existed. And even here, 68km from Surabaya, you can already feel modernization creeping closer and closer, like Indomart’s (like 7/11’s) start to push the old toko’s out of business, or when my host sister brings home her new Akon and Black Eyed Peas ring tones. It’s happening.

My sister, Elaine, has a tattoo of the words “same same but different” and I’m thinking of getting a matching one but in the mixed languages that I feel most connected to… maybe English, Chinese, and Indonesian. Really, if you think about it, wherever you go, everything is “same same but different”. For real, going to go home now and finish this book…


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