Indonesia is a nation of contradictions.
But the image of a conservative Muslim society can be comfortably discarded after spending an evening with University students on the outskirts of Jakarta.
This post celebrate Indonesia’s diversity and it’s women. They are are projected on the big screen by a male population whose insatiable appetite for hour glasses, gyrating moves choreographed to Top 40 music, shows a society very open and liberal.
And remember only recently, the government wanted to ban Indonesian women from wearing miniskirts?
This liberalism is illustrated in a Youtube video of the Harley Davison riding doctors, who promote their services by hiring sexy nurses who danced at the Rolling Stone Cafe in Jakarta.
But despite these alcoves of liberalism, there have been controversies and witch hunts. A very talented Indonesian singer was jailed for two years for making home-made sex tapes with over 30 starlets. He’s become a folk hero. “It was a witch hunt.” says one social critic.” If he goes, another singer rises up the charts.”
It seems the TV host from Empat Mata, Sarah Ashari has been left alone, whose racy YouTube video of a leaked sex tape hasn’t been blocked yet. Just before Ramadan, over one million porn sites were censored.
This is what I mean when I say Indonesia is a land of contradictions. During Ramadan, night clubs are closed in the first and last week, and the opening hours are shortened to 2 pm. And the big ecstasy busts are usually during this time too.
I’m at a coffee shop. It’s on the outskirts of Depok, near a market. The prices are cheap as chips, but the quality of coffee is top-notch and the chips are very tasty too. It isn’t’ Star Buck’s. Better still it’s Star Smugs. Owned by a Surabayan, whose family are in the oil industry. The pictures hanging around the coffee shop of his off shore oil rig north of Java, are proof that this coffee shop isn’t for everyone. “We offer the best coffee,” says Alex, the manager. He’s in his 20′s and takes pride in his coffee. The Florian coffee is the best I’ve tasted. “Our menu is in English, and many of the owners’ foreign clients, who work in the oil industry, come here to relax and unwind.”
Star Smug’s is open from 2 in the afternoon, until 6 in the morning. “These are our Ramadan hours.” It’s 2 am and customers are coming in for their first meal of the day, known as surah. The staff is now singing karaoke songs from Indonesia’s most ingenious artist, Nazril Irham who goes by the stage name of Ariel Peter Pan. He was convicted for two years in jail, after being found guilty of filming sex tapes with 30 of his co-stars.
“He’s our hero. He represents all the good things of Indonesia,” says Boy, a student from the University of Indonesia. “If you can’t have freedom in your own living room, then the country will be become a police state.” Then Luna Maya, another super star, from Bali, starts shaking her booty next to Peter Pan. The early morning crowd start singing in earnest and cheer into the night. Luna May was one of the stars who featured in Peter Pan’s tapes, and his former girl friend.But this fairy tale ended up well for the Lux beauty soap model who wasn’t convicted due to lack of evidence.
But resurfacing, is another case with the lead singer of Peter Pan. A video of him and the actress, Cut Tari is circulating around the net. But the case has been dropped, according to the Jakarta Globe in an article last week, due to lack of evidence. But as we all know, some links don’t lie. “It really comes down to privacy,” says a social critic who refuses to be identified. “It’s shunned upon to have pre material sex in our Islam culture, but the reality is that everyone is doing it, and the women love wearing miniskirts!”
I’ve had four Flores coffee, one of the Indonesian islands east of Bali. This might not be Star Bucks, but it’s a place where the youth come to eat and drink and play. They are also left with change in their wallet. I get the impression that the prices are subsidized by the owner, whose family business is doing well with their oil business. This is the only place I know where you can surf the wifi, and sing karaoke all night, and not feel that you have gone bankrupt. Upstairs is a private karaoke room that seats ten people, and a massage room, where the barista double up as masseur.
Spend a night with University students and find out what is really going on in Indonesia. I say my good byes with my parting line.
“The coffee here is much better than Star Fucks.”
They get it and laugh. I’m crude, but I’m forgiven. It’s Ramadan after all!
Before I go home and try and understand Indonesia society,I’m given a very good insight by the social critique, who use to be a journalist: ”To climb up the ladder in the entertainment business, the actresses must have sex with the producers. If they don’t, they die in obscurity.”
My source added that it’s this culture that has led to sex tape scandals. “These actresses are raging against the status quo of hypocrisy.”
One more point, says my source, who says that this is very ‘inside’ information. “Don’t you think that someone one had a vendetta against Nazril?”
Who might that be?
“The wife of a very powerful lawyer slept with Nazril. He had been waiting for the time to stitch him. And when someone stole his lap top and circulated his videos, the lawyer got what he wanted. Indonesia is really full of contractions. You just need to dig a bit deeper to see the motives.”
Another comment by Valkyrie on a Jakarta forum confirms this rumor, at the very least.
It was rumored that he slept with the wife of a powerful individual. This occasion, hell has no fury like a man scorned.Thereafter, the FPI did a fine ‘blow job’ on it.
There’s a cultural revolution going on in Indonesia. And though there are growing pains, the vilified artists just maybe the the catalyst for a more open and just society.