Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Honorary degree neglects people’s suffering

Honorary degree neglects people’s suffering

Al Makin, Jakarta | Sat, 09/10/2011 8:00 AM, opinion The Jakarta Post
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Theoretically not only should a university be a place of study and research, it should also be a place where knowledge and theory are examined as to whether they match what is really happening in society.

On one hand, a university should connect with reality, responding to political, social and economic demands. In this vein, a university, whose expensive administration is paid for through taxpayer money, should contribute to the needs of people.

On the other hand, a university — like an ancient monastery, ashram or other kinds of secluded places for hermits and ascetics — should be an “ivory tower”, immune from short-term political and social maneuvers.

This description is of an ideal university, where research among intellectuals and service to the people go hand in hand. The university is a modern monastery and intellectuals who live there are modern priests and monks, as Roland Barthes, a French post-modernist literary critic, put it.

However, in today’s Indonesia, politics — rather than knowledge or wisdom — is the driving force. Political considerations are often put ahead of everything else.

Sadly, the quest for knowledge receives too little attention. Bureaucrats and politicians are honored much more than scientists, scholars or intellectuals, who often want to become politicians when the opportunities arise.

Campuses in Indonesia illustrate this situation. The election of rectors, deans and heads of departments are engulfed by political maneuvering and intrigue. No wonder that politics has a higher place on campus than knowledge and research.


Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Corruption: From taboo to jokes

Corruption: From taboo to jokes

Al Makin, Yogyakarta | Sun, 09/04/2011 3:41 PM, opinion The Jakarta Post
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Even without a letter questioning President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s commitment to the fight against corruption (The Jakarta Post, Aug. 20, 2011), the public, and also perhaps the government, have long been aware of the grave danger of corruption.

When asked about corruption, Indonesians will point out how government and non-government institutions are mired in it.

The following is among the better known examples of small-scale corruption. You come to an office. A member of staff welcomes you, explaining the procedure to get something done, but the procedure sounds so complicated. Upon seeing your confusion and despair, a gratuity is suggested.

Alternatively you look for a “middle man” who can perhaps help you. In spite of a big board standing beside the front desk warning “Do not use the service of brokers”, a middle man is always available in the back. This, like so much else in this country, seems paradoxical.

There are many well known forms of large-scale corruption: manipulation, marking up, money laundering, making fake reports, counterfeit factories, etc.

Is it possible to find anywhere free from corruption?

The phantom of corruption haunts streets, offices, soccer fields, forests, seas, rivers, bridges, airports, bus terminals, train stations, schools and universities, even the very air, soil, and water.

Is it possible to imagine a time free from corruption?

Like rats, corruptors never stop; stealing public money from Monday to Sunday, from January to December, including the Independence Day anniversary, Ramadhan, Idul Fitri, Christmas, Nyepi, and other holy days.

Corruption is a public secret! This sounds like an absurd thing to say, but you understand it anyway.