I used to think that news was the only program I could watch on Indonesian TV channels. So-called infotainments had gone pass their guilty-pleasure status to simply degrading. And now they’re replacing prechers with clowns, while local TV dramas aren’t just abysmal, but they’re also capable to brainwash audience and turn them into a toad. I don’t want to be a toad. I prefer to be an animal with a soft skin.
But now the news are also unbearable to watch because they keep reminding you it’s a terrible time to live here. Bombs, bird flu, gasoline price hike and how people getting poorer and poorer because of it. Many small school kids have to hitchhike trailer trucks to school because they can’t afford to take public transportations which have adjusted their fare to the gasoline price.
The government try to give away cash, 100 thousands Rupiah (USD 10) per family every month, to poor people to compensate the price hike. I just can’t imagine how they’ll do that.
When I was still a journalist, I once followed some officials from the National Bureau of Statistics conducting census on poor people in Jakarta. They started around midnight and then drove to a slum area in East Jakarta. After taking data from five homeless people, they were ready to go home. When I asked why, they said they already had enough data. If this how they do their census, how do they know to whom they should give the cash?
I remember when I was in Junior High, my mother would look at my father’s hand-written paycheck note for half an hour, wondering how she would manage the money for a month. Because my father always took some cash advance, my mother would only receive 35,000 Rupiah (USD 3,5) a month. We were lucky because my mother was clever enough to make rice and soya sauce plus some of her secret spices taste like first-class risotto. But I don’t think many of poor people out there are as creative as she was.
This morning, however, I accidentally tuned on to a news program on our local TV station which showed a 10 year-old boy named Zulkifli recovered from bird flu. He was diagnosed with the disease and predicted not to be able to live for more than two weeks. But he did recover. I saw him playing with his friends at school. The boy who wore glasses and looked like Harry Potter seemed very happy. Somehow, his smile gave me hope. Indonesia is Zulkifli when he was still sick. I hope we will recover like he did.