Sunday, 20 March 2016

Jakarta and juxtaposition: The UK over the horizon.

I have been living in equatorial Asia for all of nine weeks; it seems like I have been here forever while feeling simultaneously like no time at all. I love so much of what I have seen, the people are welcoming although this explained a little by the lack of bule (pronounced boolay) here. This is Java slang for white foreigner and you will hear it said a lot as you walk around the city if you are one.

Strange looks are common and after the first week or so you stop checking if you have something on your face, people are just interested in what you are doing there at all. As you walk down the street there are waves and greetings of "hello Mr", especially from children, who tend to speak English better than the older populace. The reason for this is the quality of education here, although certainly not without it's faults, has improved massively over the last twenty years.

The food in the capital can not be overrated; the city gathers people from all of the islands of Indonesia  and their habits, culture and food with them.  There are no breakfast, lunch and evening meal foods, you just eat what you like when you like; from satay, soto, nasi padung and warteg (pronounced vartek) all is wonderful. I assure you I could devote an entire blog to this at some point.

One thing that has to be expected if you come here is that the standard of living is surprisingly low for the majority of the population; corrugated shacks and slums surround the occasional affluent mansion and there is no border between them.

The shimmering glass and the shacks.
There is a huge difference here between rich and poor and affluence is happily advertised. Jakarta is not centralised although there has been several attempts to alter this; this means that the poverty is not concealed like it is in many western cities. Children of a very low age sell packets of tissues and coffee on the street late into the night and carry umbrellas for the rich for a few yards and a fraction of a rupiah.

There is no clean water here, the river sits and bubbles, ominously green with unmonitored industrial and domestic waste, nothing lives in it and the only movement is the multitude of insects skimming at the pungent surface. The rubbish here is removed by hand pulled wooden carts, some collect elements of it in backpacks manufactured from old plastic barrels as they can form a meager living from selling it.

It is clear to an outsider that there is a problem here with caste; there is no social mobility here at all. I have asked several people, including a class of twelfth year students; what are the chances of someone here who works on the bins going to university? The response was uniformly given with a furrowed brow at the ridiculousness of the question. None. Of course none.

Sometimes the answer raised in pitch at the end, putting it into an inquiry of why I would ask at all. On occasion, with friends, I told them that that is what happened to me; I used to work the bins and I went to university. They were impressed that I lived in a country where that was possible, but it occurred to me, just recently; if I went home now I wouldn't.

I do not see myself as an ex-pat; this a term invented by white people to differentiate between themselves and what foreigners are doing. If you have moved to a foreign country you are a migrant; as you would presumably be if you had moved from Jakarta to Birmingham.

One habit that remains with me, as it was on cold mornings in Berkshire, before the traditional British commute on the apparently random Reading Waterloo line or the delightful bus to Bracknell, was to sip my black coffee and go through the news of the morning from a variety of perspectives. This usually includes The Independent, Guardian, Huffington post, daily mail, AFA, Fox and the spoof-like racism of The Express.

Immigrant INVASION. FOREIGN worker
All history students know that all sources are deliberately or inadvertently biased, so sometimes one must estimate the truth nestling among the human discrepancies. Contemporary media certainly forces us to do this in the present, presumably somewhere between the tits and the capital letter racism are the remains of reality.

Far away from me, not even peeping over the horizon, a tiny island seems to be regressing. A disenfranchised populace has no say in the direction of the country as a facade of a democracy is run by a by a ruling elite.

The news is completely distracted by the resignation of someone who was in no way qualified and no one wanted to be in charge of work and pensions in the first place. No depth needed on this; but for those who have tried to claim benefits can you imagine saying that you had quit because you disagreed with your boss or disliked someone you worked with? You would be sneered at. Who do you think you are? It is not your place to make judgments. And you know what? You are not in a position to make judgments and your position is your caste.

The removal of a tentacle doesn't kill Medusa, you have to
hold a mirror up to the whole monster.
From the bombing of Syria and it's inevitable international repercussions, newly formed contracts for doctors, zero hour contracts for everyone and the repeated and completely politically motivated delay of the Chilcot inquiry. It doesn't matter where you stand and no-one asked you.

Now the complete overhaul of the education system "announced by ministers". Announced. Sorry teachers, parents and members of the populace: Not your place.

Academies function in this way: The lack of pay scale results in teachers getting paid apparently randomly differing wages and are discouraged from discussing them with other members of staff. As there are no long term contracts you could be asked to interview for your own job every July to review whether you return in September.

This discourages anyone disagreeing with management however badly the school might be run. Altruistic motivation in a profession can only take you so far. The mental breaking point of teaching in the UK is by far far enough without it being made pointless by incompetent managers with misguided concepts of their own importance.

A vacant eyed lawyer who has never
worked in a school is in charge of education.
No one will want to teach. So why do it? A teacher is no use to a Tory: an educated populace looking between the tits for the truth is their nemesis and they know it.

Caste does not exist: it is in the minds only of those who believe they are in the upper one. We are not serfs born to carry on the tasks of those who preceded us. It doesn't matter what your stance is, it doesn't matter if our political ideologies differ if none have the right or ability apply them. Caste is a global issue, but in a race to the bottom the UK is winning.

It may take a while to take back what has been stolen, perhaps it's slipped too far this time, but it is the same thieves as before and we leave the door wide open to them again and again.

As for me? England looks like a nice place to visit, but I'm not sure I'd like to live there.