Each step you take in Indonesia, a small bribe goes along. If there is no problem, a problem will be invented and solved for a small sweetener. There are stories where a robbed one is held in police station as long as they lose the patience or at the doctor’s waiting room until the health cannot take it anymore, so that they would pay some bribe just to fasten the process. After that, of course, things get done immediately.
Sometimes they drive you around between different offices, keep your car stuck at the customs or keep visiting your home for some random papers. An European mostly doesn’t surrender and plays along until the corrupters get tired after hours. But an Indonesian tallows the system with cash notes without even questioning why has the tradition grown into something intangible like this.
Nothing without money
Though the West is more likely to be blamed in capitalism, then the power of money seems to have even a bigger role in Indonesia. People would do anything for money and nothing without it. And it is not always money that has to be paid, but an even wider concept – a gift (hadiah in Indonesian) and gifts should always be shared.
The city of Jogja is covered in posters which promise awards for the ones who attend. “Come to concert and win money”, “Take part in out bicycle ride and win a scooter”, “attend the seminar and receive a free language course”, as if a concert, a bicycle ride and a seminar weren’t worth visiting on their own.
Unfortunately also our program was forced to follow the road if we wanted to have any participators, because we started receiving questions concerning the extra profits of cleaning up the whole city, the profits of coming together and discussing about the green environment and the profits of changing something in the mindset of people. And as a cherry on a cake, when arriving at the city hall to fix the final logistics of the clean up day with fifty leaders from the riverside communities, an envelope of 12 000 rupiah (1 euro) was given to participators as a thank you for wanting to clean their neighborhood.
Food and paper as a form of a present
If the organizer has a bit less money and not too many sponsors to back up the activities, then the poor man can buy his guests in another way. Two most effective ways are food and paper.
Food definitely is not a shortage in Indonesia and I never saw a gathering within my time spent there where no food was given out. But even if it is a banquet hall, food is still served in boxes and a new box brought in each few hours. There is rice, snacks, sauce, fruits and everything else packed separately in plastic bags and accompanied by a plastic spoon. Boxes are given and thrown away so easily as if Indonesian kids had never heard horror stories of starving children in Africa in their childhood.
The same applies for papers. While Kalimantan, Papua and Sumatra’s forests are cut down breathless, a tradition in Jawa follows that the more paper, the better. Therefore a gift can also be given in a form of certificate. To earn it, one really needs to do nothing. He needs to be there, write down his name, gulp down the content of the food box and be awarded with the recognition.
So in this country where things are given out without ever asking: do I or the other really deserve it, how can one ever overcome corruption?
Anyway, we wish a strong will to the new governor or Jakarta!
** Read how it really works: http://www.letsdoitworld.org and do not get discouraged by my subjective blog posts about leading the project. The stories are intended to be entertaining, therefore I will mostly describe the conflicts instead of successful moments, which there were plenty as well. How ever it all sounds to you, I still believe this one one truly amazing project and should be carried out in all parts of the world. Hopefully, with your help.