The century of the emergers

Maps of the emerging markets (colored in green), as of 2005.


Believe it or not, the world is currently turning upside-down right now. This has been obviously apperceived, to say the least, in terms of geopolitical and economic equilibrium. It is interpretable in many senses; some say that the world’s vehemence has again moved to the East, which many centuries prior, used to dominate global economy, before European colonialism became sporadically widespread and tense by the onset of 16th century. All of a sudden, these major powers were all of a sudden seduced in the arms of Morpheus, having themselves weakened by the rapid civilizational and technological progresses attained by Western societies. After hostile rivalries between European superpowers, it was British empire who in the end became the largest colonists in human history,  but their omnipotence only extended until the end of 19th century, when United States unexpectedly toppled down its position after decades of rapid industrialization as a by-product of the Civil War. Even in both World Wars, no matter how destructive they had been to humankind, it was the ‘big brother’ who in the long run managed to gain triumph, despite the fact they had to compensate it with hundred thousands of lives.

Cold War was also a spine-chilling period, where there was intense competition between United States and Soviet Union, not only in terms of nuclear weapons, ideologies they both exported to the whole world, and political intrigues, but it also triggered massive economic competition between these two superpowers, to gain sympathy among their allies. Near the omega point of the decades-long war, we had barely seen these countries did really emerge in the global stage, but the economists had far long projected that this might be a self-fulfilling prophecy: that, it is instead those countries, which had been severely affected by the aftermath of the Cold War, but will slowly-and-surely adopt democracy, that will dominate the global economy in the upcoming century.

Yes, it is. As of today, the reality is invisibly reverberating stronger than ever. United States might still play a pivotal role in global policing, perhaps until the next century, but the world has become increasingly polarized. The epicentrum is no longer in America; history, all in a sudden, again repeats itself. It is instead being divided, and is distancing itself in Asia, Africa, Middle East, Eastern Europe, Pacific, and Latin America. What’s more, globalization, which itself is a Western ideal, has unified all these regions economically.

No doubt, someday in the 21st century, we will perceive not only 1 superpower; there will be a plethora of superpowers emerging anywhere in the world, those which also used to be the similar major powers many centuries far before the Europeans came and set the thames on fire.

Welcome to the century of the emergers.





Let the ‘emerging market’ term be explained, firstly beforehand.

In the past, in terms of economic prosperity, the globe used to be divided mainly into three categories: First World (advanced, highly industrialized nations), Second World (newly industrialized countries or NICs, which haven’t fully achieved all the prerequisites of a standard, developed nation), and Third World (developing, less-, and least-developed countries). But this form of measurement began to experience minor changes after the introduction of newly-minted ‘emerging market’, which was originally named under the epithet of ‘less economically developed countries (LEDCs) in the beginning of 1980s. This term refers to developing countries which are undergoing transitionary phase into the next stage of NICs. Because of their striking differences with other developing countries, particularly in terms of macro-economic growth, some economists are currently suggesting that this term be given its own separate degree, independent of the three stages previously mentioned above.

The ‘emerging market’ trend itself actually kickstarted after the coinage of ‘BRIC’ term by Goldman Sachs economist, Jim O’Neill, in 2001, to identify 4 potential superpowers, largely Brazil, Russia, India, and China. There were multiple reasons why he chose to opt for these countries: all of these countries are experiencing rapid economic growth, and currently relish a demographic boom as a result of their tremendous population. Prove it: China’s population currently accounts for almost one-fifth of the world’s, with figures amounting to 1.35 billion, while India is placed in the second rank, with close to 1.15 billion residents. Brazil, as a result of population boom in which it was virtually commonplace to perceive a family consisted of 6 to 7 children, now accommodates 200 million people. And Russia has 150 million citizens, almost four-fifth of whom are situated in the European side. And add one more country which has recently conjoined the parvenu club: South Africa, which houses almost 50 million inhabitants. This might sound like a piece of good news, but it is not entirely a sort. Many obstacles are actually facing these countries away, which they have to tidy up in order to sustain the status, otherwise they may lose the chance to save their own faces.


Shanghai is currently China’s largest city, inhabited by more than 25 million people, and has the highest GDP per capita compared to that of all the other cities in the country, which surpasses 10,000 US$ this year.


China may enjoy its vibrant prosperity today, but it won’t be too long, and even might sound improbable, to catch up with the United States, unless they begin to make some en masse changes, ranging from reforming one-child policy (experts have forewarned that unless the government ends this repressive rule, at least as many as one-fifth of Chinese people might have aged beyond 60 by the time of 2050, which may increase social burden), decreasing a widening social gap (the urban elites are getting richer, while many of the rural peasants remain impoverished, as seen from increasing number of social protests and riots, which have increased to a staggeringly high 70,000 as of this year), liberalizing more of its economic sectors (many of the vital and strategic sectors are still controlled largely by state-owned corporations, which may hundred billion dollars in assets), improving its environmental quality (China should invest more in clean, green technologies than in building coal power plants), emphasizing more on domestic consumption and trading with other emerging markets (the country so far exports more products to United States and Europe than to their own co-equal counterparts), and most importantly, but also the most challenging one, introducing a more democratic, and more transparent, political system. This is just a matter of time how long Communist Party would last in China. People’s voices are actually getting louder, no matter how harsh they are suppressed.


Mumbai has been, since British colonialism, the economic epicentrum of India.


India’s case is different from the former’s. It boasts the largest democracy in the world, but its bureaucracy is even much more obnoxious than that in China. In terms of foreign direct investment, India had only so far succeeded to persuade foreign businesses to invest 40 billion US$ in the country in 2011, at the same time more than 100 billion US$ of FDI had flowed in the rest of BRIC members (except South Africa), respectively. The red tape is painstakingly sluggish, as it needs the approval of not only by local authorities, but also those in charge of the state, the nation, and most importantly, majority of the people. Corruption rate prevails exceedingly astronomical, which inspired a series of nation-wide hunger-strike protests by anti-corruption apparatchik, Anna Hazare. Furthermore, India is also posed to another serious challenge: caste-based societies. Indians, especially of those lower castes, are often subject to discrimination and depredation by those of upper castes. Sectarian violence, especially Hindu-Muslim conflicts, are overwhelmingly high. Many of the territories, particularly in rural areas, end up as battlefields which witness bloody insurgencies between Naxalite rebels (Marxism-inspired combatants who are fighting against inequalities and injustices) and security forces. The vulnerability to national disintegration is quite high here, as some provinces accommodate certain movements which aspire to establish independent states throughout the country.


Sao Paolo is Brazil’s largest city, with its metropolitan areas inhabited by more than 20 million people.


Brazil has been licking its own lips from fluorishing economic growth in the last decade. It is endowed with abundant natural resources, the bulk of which is based from Amazonian rainforests, and recent exploration efforts have uncovered more than 10 billion barrels of oil off the eastern coasts of the country. It also relishes a very stable population growth, with an average family nowadays, either rich, middle-class, or poor, having in average 1 to 3 children. Nevertheless, there is a very huge, behemoth cost they have to compensate in expense of its own rapid, cash-rich growth: environmental destruction that is currently taking place in the country. It is estimated that as many as 60 million hectares of tropical forests had been cut off to pave way for brobdingnagian corn, soybean, and sugarcane plantations which supply billions of litres of ethanol oil – another alternative in case of fuel shortage – every year. At the same time this article is being written, as many as 70 hydroelectric dams are being planned for construction throughout the entire rivers in Amazon, a numismatic figure beyond measure which can flood up large swaths of the remainding jungles. Excluding large infrastructure and mining projects proposed by the country’s largest conglomerates, the possible side effects of these works must be vividly examined by the government, and remains a major responsibility for Brazil’s current president, Dilma Rousseff. Moreover, there is a high social disparity between the less developed Northern territories, and the largely-urbanized Southern territories, in which more than half of Brazil’s GDP is based (particularly in the metropolitan areas of Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro, which are almost entirely covered up in concrete forests).


As a result of oil boom, Moscow once underwent through massive property boom (before it doomed because of GDP’s downfall in 2009), as well, with numbers of skyscrapers drastically on the rise.


Of all the BRICS countries surveyed, Russia remains the most serious focus, and also the one largely questionable by many economists whether this country is actually appropriately titled as ‘emerging market’ , or everything else is just coincidences. After the downfall of Soviet Union in 1991, Russia faced a period of economic malaise and stagnation which would last almost a decade long, until Vladimir Putin was sworn in as president of Russia. Despite his cold-blooded, steel-hearted methods in handling the nation many Western observers regarded as ‘undemocratic’ and ‘unjust’, Russia in the long run managed to sustain very high economic growth, witnessed a massive surge in numbers of middle-class, cash-rich societies, and gained more prestige in international affairs. But the country does also have its own time-ticking bombs which may lead itself to self-organized criticality, a point of no return: severe corruption, acute oligarchy in which most of the economic sectors are controlled by a mere handful of politically and economically powerful, pro-Kremlin families, dirty collaboration between police, bureaucrats, politicians, and organized-crime syndicates, and heart-breaking bureaucracy, all of which cause mass ‘brain drain’, or an outflow of intellectuals and educated scholars, to other more advanced countries. Russia’s economy has also not been fully diversified, as oil & gas sector remains the utmost priority in terms of revenues (as a matter of fact, Russia has outpaced Saudi Arabia in oil production, which hit a record-high 10 million barrels a day). This was the main reason behind the steep contraction of Russia’s economy when crude oil prices freefell from 147 to less than 50 US$ a hogshead. In order to sustain its ‘emerging country’ status, there is nothing more urgent than reforming its police and bureaucracy, minimizing corruption rates, reducing the leverage held by the oligarchists, diversifying its energy-based economy, and most importantly, introducing a more democratic, transparent environment. The government also promises that an additional 1 trillion US$ will be invested in infrastructure until 2020, but what makes the public concerned is its vulnerability to corruption and misappropriation. This might be a rigorous task, but if the similar cycle is sustained, in the long term, it is Russia itself which must bear a painful shame in global stage, because of its failures to handle its own heels of Achilles.


Gauteng metropolitan area, inhabited by 10 million South Africans, 4 million of which are situated in Johannesburg, currently produces as much as thirty percent of South Africa’s, and 10% of the continent’s total GDP.


South Africa also needs to be taken in full consideration. It is true that situation has been overall much better, especially in post-Apartheid era. Government has so far built 3 million homes to provide housing for black South Africans, while the number of middle-class black families is on the rise. But, still, there are myriad obstacles which remain unsolved in so far, ranging from high unemployment (the actual figure may be 25% for blacks), a prevalently high social inequality with little progress even after Apartheid has ended (it is estimated that white South Africans, although they only account for 10% of the population, do still have 80% control in the country’s overall GDP), and high ratio of people living with HIV/AIDS, which claims one in nine individuals in average. Although AIDS-related deaths have gradually decreased by slightly 10% after the massive antiretroviral (ARV) campaigns, this disease continues to be the dominant force behind the large economic losses suffered by the country after en masse brain drain (this is very ecumenical among white South Africans, in which between 1 and 1.6 million well-educated South Africans are known to have emigrated overseas since 1994), which is forecast to be close to 50 billion US$ every year, and the similar trend will go on for decades to come. It also faces a mass exodus of economic refugees from many neighboring countries, especially Zimbabwe, whose population is expected to surpass 5 million. This helped sparkling a series of anti-immigrant riots in major cities in 2008, which led to massive internal displacement of more than 60,000 immigrants. Security prevails vulnerable to murders, robberies, and rape. For the third case, more than 500,000 South African women are subject to rape every year. The country also suffers more than 100,000 homicides every year, among the highest per capita in the world.

In a nutshell, despite all the hindrances being faced by these countries, they still have tremendous potential to dominate global economy in the 21st century, alongside with other emerging-market countries. These problems might not be solved overnight, because of the long-term adaptability they have been to societies for many decades, but governments, in order to make all the economists’ streamline projections pass with flying colors, must co-operate together with societies to explore and exploit as many possible ideas as they can afford. More transparency, and open democracy, might be a better alternative.

On the next section, more sexy acronyms other than BRICS, and more about BRICS itself, will be fully discussed.



Everybody doesn’t have to be like Justin Bieber to be like Justin Bieber


It was my close friend, Carin, who had been sharing the same table with me ever since the first day we met in our new class, that she recommended this song for me. What made this cantillation so warmly mellifluous lied not only on its in-depth, jazz-as-usual music (the same thing Michael Buble would do it over and over), but also its sharp-biting messages, and particularly, Buble’s innuendo by ‘bandwagoning’ on Justin Bieber’s girl-adored styles, ranging from sitting in a sofa like a backbone-less creature, to his popular style of putting aside his dense, pony hair.



The main raison d’etre for this song was of his infuriating response on why so many human beings around Hollywood, and to a lesser extent, the whole world, are no longer ‘purely being themselves’. This is a generalization of multitudes of ’15-minute-to-fame’ cases that have been taking place in the world. It is getting a dime to a dozen that people can be easily talked-about, especially when technology becomes increasingly convenient to access. But there is one thing for sure: most of the people do only care to be famous. Talent is just another priority.

I think there are too many things that can be taken as perfect specimens of people no longer ‘being true to themselves’. Let me pick Rebecca Black as an epitome. Almost everybody knows she has a pretty face (she’s more suitable as a model), but it does not commensurate with her musical talent. The first time I listened to her Friday song, I was serious that I did not want to listen to this song for the second time. I had difficulty to comprehend why she still insisted on the studio to release this song. Now, there are three possible probabilities in my mind. First, she has not fully sharpened her musical skills.  Second, she does not have any knack in music, but she likes singing. Third, she just simply wants to be famous, no matter whether others do like it or not.Throughout her 15-minute moment, she had gained the ‘Most Popular Singer of The Best of The Worst Songs Ever Sung’ title in Youtube, with the ratio of dislikes and likes being 4 to 1. If you are so curious that you almost kill the cat, access it in Youtube.


It’s ‘pitiful’ that everybody knows Rebecca Black because of her ridiculed ‘it’s Friday! Friday!’ moment.


It’s an irony that it is becoming increasingly common that people achieve fame not based upon their natural talents; as long as your good-looking faces can guarantee your financial success (and notably, my studio’s success as well), it doesn’t matter whether people will love it or love it to hate. This is what I truly dislike. We must confess that we often judge the books by their covers, contrary to what the proverb has told us to do. In case of Hollywood, as Buble satirically described its current situation, it seems that most of the film critics do share the same sense with him. Roger Ebert once said that Hollywood does no longer have tastes in original and novel ideas, and instead have been focused too much on these 5 so-called highly efficacious words: re-makes, sequels, spin-offs, adaptations, and prequels. I feel the same sense as well. It seems that our minds have been fully overwhelmed with too many remakes of the same, old classic movies we used to watch and relish so deeply in the past. I do not say that it is an entirely and absolutely bad idea that we should recreate the same stories (some re-made movies did actually pass commercially and critically with flying colors, like Martin Scorsese’s The Departed or Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy), but won’t it be a conundrum if all the movies we watch are prioritized more in quantity than in quality? It might be an alternative if the studios attempt to make an equilibrium on the comparison of numbers of these ‘5-efficacious-word’ movies made with those entirely based on hibiscus.



But let me mention a few other examples to epitomize how this ‘quantity-over-quality’ trend is taking place beyond Hollywood. South Korean music industry is another choice. To be honest, I myself personally have no profound interest in their music. But let me make an evaluation after observing at the songs they sing, and the styles they perform. I could conclude that no matter I am uninterested, I still prefer the country’s boy-bands to girl-bands, overall, in terms of creativity. Here is how I explain the difference: it doesn’t matter whether the songs sound good in your heart or not, as long as these girl-band personnel dance and perform as attractive as ever (most of them do only count on their pulchritudinous faces to attract audiences, which is unfortunately, obtained through en masse plastic surgery), you will be famous. If I am to be shown any of their music videos, I am seriously cocksure that I am quainted more on their artificial, facial beauty than on the songs I am listening to. This is a Hudibrastic reality, that they are more focused in selling their beauty, than their simon-pure, encased, and sharpened talents.

Indonesian film industry, as I observe, is of even more sombre corporeality. I dare to bet that at least, three-quarters of the films released annually are entirely tales of messy hodge-podge between sex, porn, and excessive horror. There is nothing to see, other than creepy, exaggeratedly ugly ghosts, sex rituals, bathing scenes, semi-erotic dancing, foreign porn stars co-starring as supporting characters, and mystic efforts to remain forever greenhorn. Most of the films do rotate on the same cycle, over and over. Quality has never been their top priority; all they do only care is more audiences to watch, more money to gain, more sensation-making to push fame, and more popularity to relish. Meanwhile, the producers do only care with attractive, sexy-looking, or six-pack actors and actresses, but there is barely any knack in them in terms of acting and embodying the characters they are going to portray. Seems like I’m not the only one who feels the same sense of outrage. Almost half of the people here do.


Is this being too ‘Indonesian’ or too ‘Westernized’?


It is unavoidable that celebrities became Buble’s targets in this song. As of my opinion, few celebrities accentuate quality over quantity. The examples are highly abundant to mention. Paris Hilton achieved world-wide fame through a mecca of sex videos, multitudes of break-ups, drug possessions, and drink-driving violations. Countless parents in United States have filed complaints to Miley Cyrus because of her brazen efforts on ‘being mature enough’. People know Kim Kardashian more frequently than Kim Jong-il (but I bet he won’t attack America, because Kim Jong-un is a fond, avid supporter of Kobe Bryant) because of her reality show, which openly showcases the family’s lavish, consumerism-addicted lifestyle, and to a worse extent, some cases of privacy violations. I don’t think that celebrity life should be exploited and broadcast worldwide. Much like ours, every individual, even these celebrities, deserves the right to preserve their privacy. But, often, as we see in televisions or read in newspapers, many of the celebrities do care to crucify their dignity, only to ensure that their popularity would not shrink. This is, theoretically, not a sustainable way to preserve fame.



But, I can say that the most miserable example can be shown from the emergence of countless ‘instant talent shows’ around the whole world. For television producers, this is definitely a subtle idea to improve ratings, but for some audiences, and perhaps, half of all audiences worldwide, this is just another form of ‘exploitation by mass media’. In every talent show, in less than 6 months, dozens of contestants are eliminated through a sluggish process of deleting one every week, while all of them perspire to earn high approval by millions of pairs of eyes. In terms of who is more gifted than who, this is a highly subjective issue. We can’t compare everybody’s talents, because it differs from one individual to another. What’s more, we often do not realize that sometimes we have eliminated contestants who have actually sharpened their talents better than their own counterparts, only because of our subconscious evaluations on their outer looks. Because someone else is handsome or pretty, but he or she can not afford a good tenor, then we can ‘forgive’ them by simply supporting them through SMS. Worse, majority of the winners of the talent shows do only enjoy their nine day’s wonder. Perhaps in their first year, the eminence still belongs to them. But, entering the second year, their luck slowly begins to shrink. By the time of third year, many people have been virtually oblivious on the guys they used to support very much in the talent shows.

The message behind this song is simple yet contemplating: just be true to yourself. When you already know that this is all the talent you have, that’s all. Don’t stay too long and too often on pursuing worldly ambitions, because as Buble has once mentioned, ‘you’ll be famous ‘cause you’re dead’. Stay focused on your efforts to improve yourself, being more successful than others is another priority. Popularity is just another illusory matter, because the most important asset in our lives is just one, and it’s only one: the ability to truly understand and appreciate yourself. No one out there is going to help you, except you. What’s more, stop comparing ourselves against one another. Everybody is of their own distinct qualities, where my talent is different from yours, and others’. When we only begin to appreciate all the qualities you have in your life, that’s where the whole world starts to value us.



And now it’s time for me to paste Michael Buble’s Hollywood lyrics here. Enjoy and contemplate.


Could you be a teenage idol

Could you be a movie star

When l turn on my tv

Will you smile and wave at me telling Oprah who you are.

So you want to be a rock star

With blue eyed bunny’s in your bed

Well remember when you’re rich that you sold yourself for this, you’ll be famous cuz you’re dead.



So don’t go higher for desire

Put it in your head

Baby Hollywood is dead you can find it in yourself.


I don’t want to take you dancing

When you’re dancing with the world

Well You can flash your caviar and your million dollar car

I don’t need that kind of girl

but you could be that next sensation or will you set the latest style

You don’t need a catchy song

Cuz the kids will sing along

When you shoot it with a smile



So don’t go higher for desire

Put it in your head

Baby Hollywood is dead you can find it in yourself.


So don’t fly higher for your fire

Put it in your head

Baby Hollywood is dead you can find it in yourself.

Keep it on your head Hollywood is dead.


Well you can do the mighty tango

You can start your little thing

You can swing from vine to vine

While the kiddies wait in line

With the money in their hands

But if you get to California

Save a piece of gold for me

If it’s the only thing you save

Then I’ll bet you’ll never wave when I watch you on tv.



So don’t go higher for desire

Put it in your head

Baby Hollywood is dead you can find it in yourself.


So don’t fly higher for your fire

Put it in your head

Baby Hollywood is dead you can find it in yourself.

Keep on loving what is true and the world will come to you, you can find it in yourself


Love what is true and the world will come to you, you can find it in yourself

No no no no no

Keep it in your head Hollywood is dead

Come come Hollywood is dead babe woo hoo

Oh Hollywood is dead yeah yeah

Keep on loving what is true and the world will come to you, you can find it in yourself

Get it in your head Hollywood is dead

Democra(z)y: 83 faces on the voting paper, and 1 to choose


The election had been over for almost 2 months, but in the minds of the analysts, this won’t ever be an oblivious experience: as many as 83 individuals throughout the entire country of Kyrgyzstan, which was previously shattered by a month-long riot, nominated themselves as presidential candidates for the election, which was held last October. While this might sound off everyone’s head that they might be confused with the ‘candidates overload’ they faced while they had to vote in the papers, this is an epitome of how a democratic experiment can run successfully wild in a country which was devastated by months-long hiatus after severe nationwide riots which ended up more than 400 lives, most of whom were Uzbeks, and drove other hundred thousand internally displaced and homeless.


Read more at The Guardian to know further about this insane story.

Who says there aren’t Jews here?

Many people might never know that despite strong sentiment of anti-Semitism in Indonesia, especially by majority of the Muslims, there are still an infinitesimal number of Jews living here. Numbered at no more than a mere thousand, they dwell in particularly Christian-majority urban areas, such as Manado. What’s more, a few hundred Jews are also found to have lived in Surabaya, East Java (as a matter of fact, there is even one – and only one – synagogue in this Indonesia’s third largest city). Nevertheless, this very microscopic minority group is facing another serious challenge beyond the strong anti-Semitism: formal recognition by the government. So far, it is only government of a regency in North Sulawesi to do so (they even helped erecting a torah for the community). In your opinion, do you think it’s time for the government to recognize them as an official religious community, no matter how tiny they are?

Read more at The New York Times.

In pursuit of majesty

The author

Note: the original version of this article is in Bahasa Indonesia under the title of ‘Membeli Gaya Hidup’. Click the link for more information:


Every society has their own social strata. This strata, or class, has its own various references. There are classes which are based on dynasty or nobility. Those who are born inheriting the nobility will be automatically positioned on top of the social strata. In Javanese society, there are families who preserve this strata by enlisting the ‘raden’ title or any other higher epithets, as a proof that they are the descendants of the kingdom.

Meanwhile, in the neighborhood of Hindu society, strata is entirely based on both understanding and faith in castes. For example, Brahma caste, which is preserved hereditarily.  Another epitome of social strata is shown from the surroundings of Islamic boarding schools, known in Indonesian as pesantren, in which a kyai’s son is often called Gus, indicating that he has the inheritance of a nobleman, who must be loved and respected by both the realms of students and societies.

As education has progressed, social strata which was built upon primordial references, pre-eminences determined by birth and hereditary lines, were gradually displaced by standards of academic achievements which were then immortalized through boffin titles. Whenever people attempted to show off with Raden title abbreviated as ‘Rd’, thus they are now unrivaled by campus titles, such as ‘Dr.’

Among the military circumstances, this strata is strictly maintained and any efforts to be promoted to higher positions might take a heavy scramble as a pre-requisite, as is the struggle to attain the designation of ‘Doctor’ and ‘Professor’. The same thing applies in bureaucracy. The social strata it has plays a pivotal role as it determines the effects of power and economy. Nevertheless, the validity period does not stick permanently, as it is restricted on its official legality.

All these samples are taken to emphasize that communities engender the creation of pyramidal formats, with references and levels of rationality varying from one society to another. People are free to stand up on the notion of ‘classless society’, equality before the law and God, but social strata and hierarchy do always exist all the time.

In a light conversation a middle-class woman spinned a yarn, telling how multitudes of middle-class heifers nowadays would like so much to elevate their social status, or say the least, be considered part of the upper-class communities. But, then, what do they do? Their answer would be to purchase ‘staircases’ which may be used as the foothold to the top, in forms of branded products, often at exorbitant costs. By engaging themselves in world-class accessories, someone thinks they have had the likes of the parvenu, being the inseparable moiety of the elite. Thus, everything they wear on, ranging from bags, clothes, shoes, watches, cars, and other kinds of bijouterie, must be of ‘cool’ brands and classy.

Ironically, the money needed to purchase these items is not always obtained in appropriate manner. Sometimes, it is harvested by snatching other people’s dues, for example, corruption. When someone feels he or she has been on the top which necessitates sumptuous costs, their position is comparable to someone who visits a megamall. But reaching the place might require extra patience as the entire route is congested, overcrowded with vehicles. But once the person has got up to the mall, they find out that the stores available offer products varying from tens of millions to hundred million rupiah. In no time, they turn out ‘impecunious’.

No matter how affluent they themselves are, people in general will never reach any point of satisfaction to shop on items that are not included in the category of rudimentary needs; instead they are purchasing for the sake of lifestyle. Those who are trapped in this domain do not realize that utilizing such goods as if caused their personal quality to elevate as well. Whereas, it is the items that are valued, not the personal quality. This kind of people must be reminded and must be pitied. They have been exposed to self-confidence and personality crisis.

Let us observe what is actually taking place on the societies, as uncovered by mass media. Multitudes of corruption scandals and myriad cases of broken-home families, they do all root when someone is entrapped to purchase lifestyle so that they be considered as part of the top social strata. Whereas, it has been long taught in villages, schools and universities, one’s self-esteem is determined by their knowledge, personality, and contribution to the societies, not by their lifestyle whose material wealth and social status mask their faces and jack up their social status.

It turns out that the elevation of someone’s dignity in terms of power and wealth is not always accompanied by their being more mature in interpreting, undergoing, and appreciating life.

Komaruddin Hidayat

Chancellor, State Islamic University of Syarif Hidayatullah (Universitas Islam Negeri Syarif Hidayatullah), Jakarta


Medan, as recalled from its culinary riches


My far-flung cousin, Novi, always has an unusual sesquipedalian to-do list everytime she returns to Medan after having much time spent studying in Hong Kong: she has an unbearable craving for food, or much to say, culinary scenes in this metropolis. Once I asked her why she missed the chow here exceeding that in Hong Kong, given that the semi-state has more to offer in all terms of dishes, she would simply reply, “Missing the culinary affluence makes me miss every single piece of memory of this city.”

As a matter of fact, she was actually born here, and raised here until the day she turned 14, when she decided to pursue further studies in Hong Kong in 2003. She occassionally returned home, in average one month for every sojourn. Hunting for eateries prevails her cardinal, essential priority aside from gathering with her old friends. But it’s not only my cousin who always does it. Honestly speaking, it’s been the onus of almost everyone having migrated overseas for a seemingly infinite epoch to pursue higher education, or better dreams.

There are not as many people in the world who recognize Medan as they do to other major global cities, particularly Hong Kong, Singapore, Jakarta, etc. I even dare to bet that, say the least, half of the world’s population do not realize that a metropolis inhabited by almost 3 million souls in the northern part of Sumatera does really exist. Statistical figure may bolster the evidence: no more than 50,000 foreigners visited this mecca in 2010. The situation of this city was terribly unimaginable that it even sparkled complaints by many tourists paying a visit here. Some of the roads are filled with potholes and badly tarnished. The drainage system is overwhelmed with trashings. There are few bus stations, so public transport buses park themselves anywhere they like. Traffic is painstakingly time-wasting, as people prefer either driving sedan cars or riding motorcycles to taking public transport system. Worse, there is even no urban railway system available here. Blackouts still take place in certain places. Criminals threaten the night, fully equipped with weapons and a full dose of audacity. But, all things change when it all comes to food. Street-side cafes, Chinese-style so-called kopitiams, or those splurge dining venues emerge into a form of alternative escapism, of all sorts of commotion coming ahead of us.


Selat Panjang


Kampung Keling

Of all the dining places, kopitiams and street-side cafes seem to possess an enigmatic force no other places could have. I myself do not know what sort of sinew it precisely is, but I do feel it everytime I see how these guys, young or old, quinquagenarian or quasigenarian, stew the dishes with gusto. An old septuagenarian, despite slender body and dim vision, still tirelessly swings both his hands, stir-frying a boiling wok of rice noodle. A middle-aged lady is seeping a lump of noodle from a boiling steel pot, while her husband pours sauces, pepper, little pieces of chopped pork and shallot into the bowls. A moustached Minangkabau cook is stirring a gigantic wok of amounting spicy fried rice. Another old lady is pulling a lengthy piece of sweet roasted pork from a hanger (or as we know it in Hokkien, cha sio), and chops it into smaller pieces, before she places them over the top of cooked rice, and squirts some sweet sauces onto it. If you happen to stop eyeing your beloved gadget for a while to spot the slightest piece of hustle and bustle they are experiencing everyday, you begin to realize what makes these localities so vibrant is all what they are doing to serve the throng, who have been sitting and waiting patiently for these dishes to come.



Back to my cousin’s story. When she and her mother came back home in June, I recalled one event in which we brought them into a Batak restaurant named On Do. We ordered saksang – marinated pork with spices and sauces made from pig’s blood, roasted salted pork (the main favorite menu in this eatery), and ikan tinombur (grilled pomfret fish with local, unknown spices from Toba). Truly speaking, all the combined spiciness of these menus could make your stomach broiling, like you are going to defecate in no time. But, still, she told me as I remembered it, “Whenever I’m returning to Medan, I will not forget this restaurant! The menus are excellent and satisfactory!”

Indeed, there are too many steadfast eateries in Medan I would like to recommend. To paraphrase, let me just make it direct to the main point: it is strictly recommended that you pay much more attention to all those kopitiams (they are abundantly available in Selat Panjang, Kampung Keling, Jalan Sumatera, Jalan Palangkaraya, Jalan Asia, Jalan Jose Rizal, Jalan Semarang, Jalan Surabaya, Jalan S. Parman, and so much more) than the eateries available in shopping malls. It’s an option you can take whenever you insist your budget remains on the shoestring.

Medan would not have been that alive were there not such omnipresence.