There are a million ways to describe living in Jakarta, but the one you can read here is among my all time favourites.
The article is short, but by goodness the author’s skills as a professional writer come through as he manages to weave a short history of Indonesia’s recent politics and social drama into a small part of his morning.
There were volcanic tremors in Indonesia with Agung volcano in Bali stirring to life as described here, while in Malaysia the political tremors keep coming with the arrest of former Prime Minister Najib Razak as announced here.
And the headline photo above? The best compromise I could find between volcanic impacts and the fading embers of a political dynasty.
Those readers who share my passion for Indonesia’s volcanoes would need no introduction to Rinjani.
For others, I will briefly point out that Rinjani volcano, on the island of Lombok, is a giant of the Indonesian volcanic landscape.
As the picture above, taken from the Rinjani summit, makes clear, this is a volcano whose head sits in the clouds. Rinjani is Indonesia’s second highest volcano, and there is compelling evidence that it was once part of an even higher formation. There’s more on that story here.
Rinjani’s last major eruption was over six hundred years ago, and it was no small event. That particular eruption must have been among the most spectacular in Indonesia’s known volcanic history, which is no ordinary achievement given the competition.
Those interested in this topic can see, or read the transcript of, a wonderful television program about that eruption here.
As those with direct memories of World War II pass away our collective memory of that time is increasingly shaped by the available photos.
These photos are usually of poor quality and are almost always in black and white.
As such, it is easy to forget that the war was conducted in vivid colour.
Thanks to the great website here, some of their colour pictures bring the conflict in the Pacific Theatre (and thus the Southeast Asian region) to historical life.
There are hundreds of pages and tens of thousands of pictures, so feel free to search for better examples than the ones that follow.
I will gladly update this post with other relevant links that readers can offer.
For those readers seeking some diversity from my own opinions, over the next few weeks I anticipate some posts from a guest blogger.
Nadia, the pseudonym for a Muslim student studying International Relations at a leading university, will offer some insights from her imminent Southeast Asian travels. Here are her introductory thoughts.
“I will soon be in my favourite Southeast Asian country, Thailand.
On this trip I plan to visit Thailand not just to enjoy its crowded markets and delicious food, but rather to seek answers for complicated questions.
Over a month I will be meeting government officials, NGOs and engaging with the community to discuss issues such as public administration, workers rights and ethnic minorities. I am looking forward to hearing the direct testimony of the people we are going to meet, and see how they view these issues.
Different sensitivities may restrict me from sharing every story, however I will do my best to bring you with me as as much as I can”.
I look forward to her contributions over the coming days.
The contest between state power and religious freedom is, for those unfamiliar with the expression, as old as the hills.
The struggle between those forces is enlivened significantly when it involves an emerging democracy and a major religion undergoing a crisis of identity.
Indonesia today is a case study of those pressures, and as the story here indicates the Indonesian state has just made its latest move.
I wouldn’t anticipate the issue being resolved any time soon. Western democracies are still arguing about where the lines should be drawn after centuries of heated debate and often bloody conflict.
Furthermore, any “peace” achieved between the state and religion isn’t necessarily healthy. Peace in this context requires a dominance of either cold authoritarianism or theocratic privilege.
Indonesia deserves better than that, so I sincerely hope their bloodless struggle lasts indefinitely.