Super-Strange Mini-Encyclopedia of Countries on Earth (Part V)


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SAUDI ARABIA 2

This is what most of us in Indonesia perhaps do not know, or probably, do not want to know. An oil-rich country, surrounded by deserts, has plentiful camels (but some of them are imported from North Africa), the land where Muhammad The Prophet and Islam were born, the place where Ka’bah is situated, and a mecca for almost a million Indonesian servants, are what those people basically know about Saudi Arabia.

In the previous note, I had written out that many of them do have and even preserve this bad habit for many, many centuries: rather than getting paid for some kind of low-salary difficult work, they prefer to remain unemployed. In many cases, that was true. See how many of our countrywomen are ‘exported’ to there! Almost half of the entire workforces in Saudi Arabia do belong to foreigners, while the bulk of Saudi Arabians have either two choices: monitor these workers, sleep at the offices or monitor the wives, sleep at the beds.

This is what the whole world, especially Indonesia, must be a bit concerned: an estimated 100 billion US$ have been poured worldwide for the recent 3 decades to fund pan-Arabic organizations, those which aim to advocate the establishment of Islamic states and the mass implementation of sharia law worldwide. These aids can be in many forms, and takes many shapes: they can be the latest mosques,madrasah, or any community centers worldwide. In short, they are promoting what most of them claim to be ‘the purest form of Islam’: Wahhabism. The main principle is like these: the ideology that all religions are equal and indifferent is haram, and thus, Islam must be the only religion in the world to be followed.

Do you have any comments?

JAPAN

We know that what Japan had done in the past was much more tormenting several dozen times fold than the other colonizers had throughout Asia: an estimated 35 to 50 million Asians died during the colonial rule of The Empire of The Rising Sun in less than one decade (exception: Japan, both North and South Korea, Manchuria, and several micro-countries throughout the Pacific Ocean had been colonized since the end of 19th and the beginning of 20th century). Meanwhile, 2.5 million Japanese troops either died or missing during the most deadly war in human history. Wives turned out to widows, and children ended up as orphans. Due to massive efforts of colonization and frequent attacks by Allied forces, the country as if had been fated to be shattered by itself. Japan was especially rock-ribbed when two of its main economic hubs, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, fell prey to the first and the last atomic bombs. But the Japanese had gambare, the spirit of ‘fighting to the end’. Within less than 5 decades, Japan was able to compete with United States in terms of economic dominance.

But, I had better put a question mark in the phrase of ‘economic dominance’.

Japan’s economy is basically slowering down. Debts are found out to have soared to 200% of GDP (that means Japan owes twice as big as what Japan produces within a year), more and more of the population is aging up, more and more youngsters commit suicides, and more and more couples refuse to have children. One-fifth of Japan’s 130 million people are estimated to have been up to 60 years old, while there are more than 40.000 people who age up to 100. And now, the latest earthquake and tsunami that penetrated the country last month, which was followed by Fukushima nuclear crisis, even weakened Japan’s now ‘weakened’ position. If this trend continues, it is feared that the population would have shrunk from 130 to 100 million in 2050, and further beyond, with a shocking prediction on demographic trend: one out of three or four would age up to 60.

SINGAPORE 3

Now, the same case also happens to Singapore. Research has found out that ethnic Malays and Indians, in average, do have three children, while ethnic Chinese do have only one. The government fears that one day in the future, it is indeed the Malays and Indians (Not trying to be racist, anyway) who become the dominant majority in the future. Which is why the government continuously makes efforts to ensure the ethnic Chinese to have more children, with each child born given financial rewards, valued up to tens of thousands of Singaporean dollars. But, one question arises: assume that both parents, in order to adjust with the living costs, have to work, who are going to take care of the children? Starting from this point, the government’s program seems to have discovered its Achilles’ heel.

Government’s another fear: the population shrinks. Population depletion means more people end up aging without any children, and that means government’s higher subsidies, which would one day disrupt the country’s economic stability. And, this is their own alternative solution: harvest more geniuses. In form of ‘scholarship program’, they harvest many smart, intelligent, and visionary youngsters worldwide to work in their country. Especially those from Indonesia; like what Mark Twain once said, “There are thousand more geniuses remain yet to be discovered.” I wish I am one of them.

INDONESIA 2

Recently, there are fears that if there were no efforts at maximum security, Indonesia would be disintegrated into many states. Communist threat? That might be irrelevant in 21st century as communism has almost vanished in the edge of 20th century (exception: China, Cuba, and North Korea are still notable examples), but it does not mean that it is impossible to happen. Extremist threat? One important point that all of us should be concerned. Religious relationship remains fragile and brittle; one of the latest examples was the mass destruction of 3 churches and 1 Christian school by angry Muslim masses who were angry towards one racist priest whose statement (regarding to sexual matters) insulted Islamic values in Temanggung, Central Java, and the slaughter of three Ahmadiyah followers in Banten. Don’t all religions teach us to be patient and not to be ‘animalized’?

Pluralism (the belief that all religions are equal and good) is considered haram by MUI. Isn’t that ridiculous? Excluding many other forms of topsy-turvydom and rambunctiousness, I feel puzzled about this country.

In my opinion, the establishment of a fundamental Islamic state in Indonesia is far from possible, but not impossible. Given that we have abundant number of ethnicities, races, communities, and groups with different customs, languages, and religious beliefs, the possibility of that crinkum-crankum coming true would be at its minimal point. But, for everyone, including me myself, please pay respect to all religions, as all religions are equal, are good, and are humane. It is men themselves who contaminate the religious values. Humanity is the largest religion after all.

SOUTH KOREA 2

In the past, in the 1990s, many Asians were amazed at Hongkong Wave: Hongkong entertainment industry was at the peak of the success, particularly for its action and martial arts films. What I knew is that many of the Asian young men would have bowl-shaped hair, something they followed from the Hongkong superstars. But then, this success slowly stagnated. The epicentrum of the shock then moved to South Korea. More chic, more romantic, and more feminine.

It is not uncommon to see many young boys nowadays do have ponytails that cover their foreheads (something they often follow from these Korean teen stars; by the way, Justin Bieber even follows their style!). K-pop emerges out, with many boy or girl or neither-boy-nor-girl bands fluorishing like crazy. Of course you know these bands like SUJU (Super Junior), Big Bang, 2AM, 2PM, or girl bands like Wonder Girls, SNSD, Girls’ Generation, and etc.

All right, that’s pretty awesome. But it seems that there is something ‘not really good’ behind many of these superstars. Plastic surgery? No-longer-virgin status? That is not uncommon in the country’s entertainment industry. Journalists have found out that many (perhaps, more than half) of the Korean stars have had plastic surgery. So, I shall describe their handsomeness or beauty as ‘synthesized’? Not entirely synthesized at all. What about the latter? That sounds more intriguing. Some South Korean media reports concluded that perhaps as many as 40% of Korean actresses are no longer virgin by the time they should be. Some even say that before they appear in TV series or films, they should firstly have sex with some of the senior leaders of the entertainment industry.

It’s entirely up to you to believe it or not. Never mind those; the good news is, their efforts to expand the influence of Korean Wave generally receive widespread supports from South Korean government. In fact, they even endorse financial supports whenever they are abroad, to promote their popularity.

SURINAME

Not many people worldwide know much about this country; not many people even know that there is a country named Suriname. The population is particularly less than 1 million (it’s not even approaching 50% of population in my hometown, Medan!), but the territory is of course thousands of times larger than that of my city. But, a few of the Javanese, especially the elders, are quite accustomed to hearing this place’s name.

Just like Indonesia, South Africa, Curacao, and Aruba, Suriname, located in South America, was also colonized by the Dutch. (Note: the governance of South Africa was later handled on to British government in the 17th century, but two-thirds of 5 million White South Africans today have Dutch descendants, patrilineally and matrilineally, and hence named as Afrikaners) In the end of 19th and  the beginning of 20th century, tens of thousands of Javanese peasants migrated to Suriname, under the jurisdiction by Dutch authorities, to work in local plantations there. So, whenever you have chances to visit the country, don’t be surprised to find out that many of the people in Suriname speak traditional Javanese language (additional info: there are about 150,000 Javanese people in Suriname, as of 2011). Some of the central government’s highest seats are even held by the Javanese, particularly in the ministerial seats.

VENEZUELA

Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, might have a very big hatred on United States (especially on 2002 coup d’etat attempt, in which United States, under the governance of George W. Bush, was largely believed to plot together to oust him from his presidential seat). All right, in terms of political relationship. But everything seems to be ‘almost’ fine in terms of oil & gas business; the largest importer of Venezuelan oil & gas nowadays is United States, but sooner or later, China would exceed the current superpower, as both governments had already signed multi-billion-dollar contracts in many sectors, ranging from defence (China would export jet fighters, tanks, and warships to Caracas), infrastructure, electricity, telecommunication, satellite, and especially, energy (Venezuela has given consent to Chinese oil & gas companies to drill the oil in Orinoco Basin).

Another reason why Venezuela is an apple in the eyes of Washington, D.C.: its abundant oil & gas reserves. In Orinoco Basin, it is estimated that the oil reserves which remain unexploited would exceed 260 billion barrels, and therefore, lower down Saudi Arabia’s status as ‘economic heartpump of the world’.

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