You don’t have to live long in Indonesia to realize that the concept of responsibility doesn’t mean too much here. Indeed, as one of my Indonesian friends is always reminding me: never apologise for anything. Period.
If you have maids like me, you’ll know what I mean: not once have they ever confessed to a broken plate, cracked mirror or chipped vase. They simply attribute any breakages to more malevolent forces at play, like evil spirits, tuyuls (a sort of mischievous, thieving boy genie) and all sorts of other hocus pocus claptrap that they conjure up in their highly imaginative village minds.
It’s not just maids who don’t like to accept responsibility though. At the opposite end of the social spectrum, are the nation’s ruling elite. You’d think they’d know better. But of course they don’t. Whatever might go wrong, it is always someone else’s fault. This explains why Indonesia’s transportation minister could still remain in his post a number of years ago even though crashes had occurred relatively frequently. Anywhere else, and he’d have been out of his job long ago. Two planes down at the weekend. Oh well, it isn’t my fault is it?
Even if you assault people in Indonesia you don’t have to assume responsibility. A number of years back, the nation’s then-chairman of the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) Theo Toemion didn’t like the way his kid was being penalized in a school basketball competition. So he ran amok, overturning tables and punching people, even breaking someone’s nose. But did he come to admit that he was in the wrong after his rampage? Of course not. Someone else was to blame: the referee, the match organizer, even the other parents. Take your pick. Basically anyone but him!
And as for forest fires? Well, don't even mention them!
For this reason, it’s not a good idea to lend things to people in Indonesia. Because not only are they unlikely to be returned, but you may also get an unpleasant surprise into the bargain, as Bartele Santema, the writer of a widely distributed Indonesian expat newsletter, found to his cost.
In his book Bule Gila he recounts how he lent his car to a former girlfriend as she wanted to visit her hometown in Central Java. Well, not only did she trash the car, but she also had the audacity to blame the accident on Bart for having a car that was too big! Of course this was more than any normal man could handle, and he dumped her soon after.
Well, it’s getting late, so I’d better do some work now. But even if I don’t, it doesn’t really matter. If I'm asked why I’ve done sweet FA today, I’ll just blame it on this blog!