Mt Sinabung in c1905
For those readers as fascinated with Indonesian volcanoes as myself, the story here carries the news that Sumatra’s Mt Sinabung has again flexed its muscles.
There is a great picture at the end of the linked article above, with other great photos here.
Mt Sinabung has a recent (in geological terms) history of eruptive misbehaviour and the pictures above inspire awe. Nevertheless, when compared with the gargantuan historic eruptions of its volcanic neighbours clustered around the Toba supervolcano, Sinabung’s pyroclastic displays are trivial indeed.
For a country that could once have been said to have the world at its feet, it is hard to believe how far Malaysia has fallen.
If the MH370 debacle wasn’t enough to erase your faith in Malaysian governance standards, the world now confronts official insanity such as that described here. Then again, if attacking gays isn’t sufficiently destructive to the national reputation there is also the awesome lack of cultural awareness on show here.
Characteristic of traditional Malaysian/Indonesian rivally, when it comes to gay rights Indonesia is also doing all it can to beat Malaysia in the race to maximum intolerance.
Both nations are capable of much better than that, or is it an admission that they are not?
Image source: http://logos.wikia.com/wiki/Radio_Dangdut_Indonesia
For those interested there is a great piece in The Economist here about dangdut in Indonesia.
I would particularly welcome reader’s thoughts on the description of dangdut as “Indonesia’s closest answer to American country music”.
In an effort to reinvigorate my rather dismal posting rate I am trialling a weekly short summary of sources from a particular country.
I’ll start with Indonesia, where there is always something happening, and try to keep moving around the region.
So what are the three most recent stories about Indonesia on the online portal of Australia’s national broadcaster, the ABC?
Well, there is the story here on Aceh’s decision to require female Muslim flight attendants to wear a hijab on incoming AND outgoing flights. Garuda Air has already tactfully described it as a “suggestion”, and I expect a lot more flexible interpretations of the demand in practice.
There is also the story here of Indonesia’s decision to open up its university sector (just a bit) to foreign universities. There is a lot of potential there, but also some even bigger problems. Indonesian government demands for a high degree of control over staffing and course content will start to chafe veey quickly, and that’s before the first big (and inevitable) clash over academic values.
Then there is the story here about the omnipresent threat of violence confronting Indonesia’s LGTBI community. I suspect there will be a day in my lifetime when Indonesia looks back on this period with shame, but for now that day seems far into the future.
I have long been interested in how memories of significant events live and die among populations. This is important, because these memories are not neutral, and carry values, fears, hopes and expectations that are often transmitted to future generations.
I suspect few events are more significant, and traumatic, for survivors than major natural disasters. Perhaps the most significant in Southeast Asia in living memory was the December 26 2004 tsunami, but there are already adults with no memory of that event.
As result, what I term “peak memory”, the time when the biggest percentage of adults with a distinct memory of that disaster, has already passed. Taking as a starting point the age of memory for a child as being five years old, that would mean for 13 years after the event new adults would have a memory of the event, but from that time (in this case the year 2017) the total percentage with memory will diminish more adults emerge with no memory of the event and those with a memory of the event pass on.
Nevertheless it will be a long time into the future before nobody has direct experience of the event. Noting again the selection of the age of first memory at five years old, and assuming nobody who experienced that event lives beyond 100 years of age, direct memory of the December 26 2004 tsunami will collectively die in around 2099.
This timeframe may also be understood by looking at historical examples.
My grandfather, who died in 1992, was born in 1907. As a result, he undoubtedly met someone who remembered, and possibly heard, the Krakatoa explosion (see here) just 24 years before his birth. What is far less likely is that he met someone who remembered the Tambora eruption (see here) some 92 years before he was born.
That would suggest peak memory of Tambora lasted from 1815 to around 1828, and direct memory ended in about 1900, several years before his birth. If, however, a 5 year old encountered one of the last of those with direct memory of Tambora then that (then) 5 year old could have carried that shared memory through to around 1995.
In contrast, the Krakatoa eruption, which now seems an impossibly distant 135 years ago, would have existed as a peak memory until 1898, a direct memory until 1978 and will possibly endure as a shared experience until 2073.
And the December 26 2004 tsunami? Well, as mentioned above peak memory would have ended less than two weeks ago and direct memory will pass around 2099, but personal knowledge of someone who lived through that time will linger until possibly the year 2194.
Those memories can indeed experience a long life.
The post title is also the headline of the oneindia.com news article here.
That article’s opening paragraph concludes that “…with some careful planning, you can end up celebrating the New Year’s Eve in some of the most exciting places in Southeast Asia”. The planning required will be extraordinary indeed given that the article was published just yesterday, five days after New Year’s Eve.
Nevertheless, the purpose of this post is not to criticise in any way what I am sure are the fine folk at oneindia.com. I highlight this post merely for its curious nomination of Korea as being within Southeast Asia.
I am mindful that the list is perhaps less definitive of “best places to be on New Years Eve” than “best places to be on New Years Eve for the sort of reader who oneindia.com appeals to”. And that is fair enough, you can hardly expect oneindia.com to cater for a different readership, but it does raise the question; is Korea portayed as being part of Southeast Asia because oneindia.com believes it is, or is Korea placed in Southeast Asia because oneindia.com thinks it’s readers consider it to be so?
I cannot of course answer that question without significant research (unless, dear reader, you just happen to have a link to a peer referenced paper on this very question), but I suspect each option is possible.
From an Indian perspective distant east Asia is quite possibly just that, East Asia. The disinction between north-East and south-East is largely a Western cultural creation, and there is no special reason why Indian online newspaper readers must embrace that particular interpretation of the international order. The concept of Korea being part of Southeast Asia may also be an echo of a distant era of state relations and understandings that predate contemporary international boundaries.
Or perhaps it is simply the perception that there are an insufficient number of worthwhile places to be in Southeast Asia on New Years’ Eve for oneindia.com readers, and Seoul is considered to be an equally attractive alternative.
I will leave it to you as to whether that says more about the views of some potential Indian tourists or the possible lack of tourist appeal of most of Southeast Asia.
That’s the title of the recently released Australian Strategic Policy Institute report available in a .pdf here.
In a comprehensive breakdown by a range of metrics and individual country assessments, the report “assesses the national approach of Asia–Pacific countries to the challenges and opportunities of cyberspace, taking a holistic approach that assesses governance and legislation, law enforcement, military capacity and policy involvement, and business and social engagement in cyber policy and security issues”.
The five second summary? Greater national wealth correlates closely with enhanced cyber security. Now you know.
A good summary of the latest developments in the Setya Novanto chronicle by Tim Lindsey, who has a great piece here.
Indonesian social media users may see parallels with the Australian political candidate John Alexander, who is currently being ridiculed on social media for a photo here of him (and his staff) calling voters…using phones that were unconnected.
In another amazing coincidence a high profile Australian also suffered serious injuries on his recent trip to court. You can read the story here and, would you believe it, the matter also evolved into another police investigation (see here) on related matters.
Sometimes Australia and Indonesia are not that different after all.