What does Indonesian culture have to do with American politics?

Apologies in advance to all those people out there who are heartily sick of that overly long dog and pony show that is going on in the States at the moment.

I usually don’t like expressing political opinions, because it’s like the kiss of death to a politician, if I like them.  For years, I voted against John Howard and the little creep kept on getting voted back in by the majority of the electorate.  I also voted “yes” in the referendum as to whether or not Australia should become a republic, when the majority of Australians voted in favour of the monarchy.  In short, I’m out of step with the majority of Australian opinion.

This fact was driven home to me one time when I was arguing with a neighbour, about something that I can’t even remember now, and she said something that I thought was really stupid. In my normally non-confrontational, measured, thoughtful and diplomatic way (not), I blurted out to her, “you’re so stupid, I bet you voted against the republic and you voted for John Howard”.

To which she retorted as quick as a whip, “of course I did!”

I then remarked that she was the only person I knew, who would admit publicly that she did. 

Her response was, “I don’t know anyone who didn’t vote that way”.

That’s when it hit me how polarised the society I live in is.  My neighbour lived in a world that was pro-monarchy, and right wing economic rationalism.  Whereas I inhabit a world that is populated with pro-republic left-leaning liberals. 

I must be careful what I use the word “liberal” here in Australia because the “Liberal Party” is the name of the political party here in Australia that more closely resembles the Tory party in England and the Republican Party in the USA.  Let me state, right here and now, I am not, and never will be a supporter of the Liberal party, here in Australia.

From the June 5th Sydney Morning Herald by Moir

I’ve been interested in Barack Obama for some time now, and to be honest I didn’t think he had a hope a hope in hell of winning the Democratic party nomination.  I lost interest in Hillary Clinton, when I read this very interesting blog entry about her business interests and connections.

I think it’s very ironic that the Democratic party, that used to be pro-slavery, has nominated the first African American to run for the American presidency.  Personally, I couldn’t give a damn about Obama’s skin colour (after all, I used to have recurring dreams as a small child of being the first black Pope.  But that’s a story for another time).  What does interest me about him is his upbringing and the fact that he spent some time at school in Indonesia.

I think that Obama’s Indonesian connection is very important to America’s future for two reasons.

The first reason is because Indonesia has the world’s largest population of Moslems.  The Islam as practised by the Indonesians is much more moderate than that of the Saudi Wahhabis that the western media like to portray as the face of Islam.  I think it is extremely important for not only America, but the rest of the world, that America engages with this more moderate form of Islam instead of using Moslems as a bogeyman to scare their population into line.

The second reason why I think Obama’s Indonesian upbringing is important to America, is because I’m fairly certain that he’d be familiar with the Indonesian notion of consensus (mufacat).  Traditionally, Indonesians have always tried to find a middle ground, and therefore compromise, rather than polarising opinion.  The polarisation of the American political scene (just like here in Australia) is so counterproductive. 

I think the world needs to find another way, other than, “if yer ain’t with us, then yer agin us”.  Such false logic is the tool of demagogues.

The trouble with a polarised society, is that neither camp knows or is interested in what the other camp is doing.  Each side has its own press, complete with its own propagandists, preachers and demagogues.  There just doesn’t seem to be a crossover of ideas, which leads to a hardening and intransigence of opinion.  It would seem that the world has forgotten about Socratic dialogue, and how to find out about the truth by talking to each other and testing each other’s ideas in a civilised fashion.

People with a polarised mindset, have a very difficult time in exchanging ideas.  Bailed up behind a wall of dogma, such people aren’t open to reason or persuasion. I often like to quote Carl von Clausewitz from his book, “On War” that, “war is merely the continuation of politics by other means”.

I’ve always taken that to mean that war is the natural outcome of the failure of diplomacy.

When people don’t respond to words and negotiation, what’s left but force?

I just have a gut feeling that Obama is a man who tries to find what people have in common rather than use their differences as a wedge. 

The American philosopher William James (1842 – 1910) once said, ” real culture lives by sympathies and admirations, not by dislikes and distains – under all misleading wrappings it pounces unerringly upon the human core”.

But who cares about my opinion anyway?  I won’t be voting in that election and if I did, it would be the kiss of death to Mr Obama’s presidential aspirations.

12 thoughts on “What does Indonesian culture have to do with American politics?”

  1. Who says we’re polarized? You’re obviously one of “them”, so your opinion no longer matters to me.

    (end sarcasm)

  2. Wow. Personally, I’m looking forward to the story of your dream of being a black pope.

  3. Ah, Razzman, did you really call your neighbor stupid? Nah, I don’t believe it.
    Was she wearing high heels? Can’t talk politics, against my religion, the only religion I have btw, (although I did a Hillary blog today but don’t tell anyone) but I did just read your response to girlgriot and said, “Awww…” now I get why razzman has a sweetspot for the character disordered amongst us. The so called “normal” folks, the folks that should have known better, should have asked the right questions, did not. But, the residents of the boy’s home came through. Jeesh. This world, this world. Anyway, harden the f up Pat!

  4. Brooks
    Yep! I AM one of them.

    Anon
    Dreams of being a pope coming right up!

    Pat
    “did you really call your neighbor stupid?”
    Yes, I can not tell a lie (this time). She was (she moved….. don’t know why) actually a nice person (she wasn’t into wearing make up and high heels 😉 ) It’s just that I am such a jerk at times.

    “now I get why razzman has a sweetspot for the character disordered amongst us”
    They are my people and I am their story teller.

    Now come sit with me by the fire and I’ll you a tale or two….

  5. I think one of the great things about Obama is that he HAS spent time living abroad. We Americans are extremely provincial and see ourselves at the center of the globe. Every other country revolves around us. As you point out, his time in Indonesia, the fact that he is biracial, and the fact that his deep and profound connections far beyond our shores is a hopeful indication that we can actually work with and engage the world community in a way that moves beyond the hubris and arrogance that has defined American foreign policy under George Bush.

    And why did you give up on being the first black pope? Quitters never win, razz. Quitters never win.

  6. Fink

    Amen to that brother!

    “And why did you give up on being the first black pope?”

    The whole religion thing. Plus I’d have to be good all the time. Then there’s the no-sex thing (with women anyway).

    It was only a dream and as we all know, some fantasies are better not acted on 😉

    “Quitters never win, razz. Quitters never win.”

    That actually made me laugh out loud! Thanks for dropping by.

  7. No one’s commented on you voting for “republic over a monarchy”.
    Interesting; very interesting :)

    Commonpoor or Commonweath? Tough choice.

    Won’t miss the Aussie Swimmers at the Games.
    I smell more medals!!! :)

  8. I think there would’ve be lots of comments if I said I voted for the monarchy.

    “Commonpoor or Commonweath? Tough choice.”

    Wow, we get to pick again?!

    “Won’t miss the Aussie Swimmers at the Games.”

    You must be talking about the Commonwealth games.

    It’s going to be very interesting this year in pool in Beijing. Some of those Chinese swimmers have lats on them bigger that Arnie’s in his day.

  9. “But who cares about my opinion anyway?

    I do. And I like it a lot. Hoping that your gut feeling about Obama is right. And hoping he is not going to get shot too soon.

  10. Robert

    Thanks for the solidarity, but unfortunately my opinion as an Australian won’t have an effect on the outcome of the up-comming election in the US.

  11. Hi Razz,

    Personally (and I’m a woman, so girls, please forgive me) I’m relieved that Hillary C has backed down. In recent months she’s ranted too many times like a menopausal chick with a terrible hot flush, the heating on and HRT just out of reach. Imagine that sort of reaction to a bad day in the White House. Missiles would be flying off in all directions!

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