Recently, I have been reading David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell (which by the way, I read it using my brand new iPad Air. Reading at it feels natural, unlike any other tablet before. Nope, I’m not paid by Apple for even one cent for this). While the book offer several interesting point, I’d like to explore deeper one of its point, that is desirable difficulty. Amid the gloom outlook, Indonesian can always finds it in theirself to be cheerful. The photo below shows how in the face of looming flood, a girl still have time to photo herself.
For some time, there has been saying that Indonesian people today are so ignorant (about their country’s condition). With so much as 25% weaken in local currency, high inflation, rising fuel gas and other core product, rising interest rate and other macroeconomic that less visible, people should already realize that their country is in dire situation already. (It’s time to) Rise (and revolt) !!! Such thinking really can be expected since Indonesian people have a history of staging a large protests to government’s performance. In numerous occasional that Indonesian organized a large-scale protests when faced with difficult condition brought upon by its government. Suddenly, an eerilly similar pre-condition of Trisakti Incident comes to mind. Strangely enough though, this time, people seems to be ignorant (or dare I say, cool-headed) of the situation and feels like they can accept what reality offered them. No effort to sound their opinion at opinion, lest say take down the incumbent government. Some country, which are in the same boat as Indonesia (emerging country with bad economic outlook) suffer a very different fate. People of those country are staging a public demonstration coupled with riot that deserve one full page in Wikipedia alone. What is more interesting is that, the culprit that rallied public outcries in Brazil are price increase in public transportation ticket prices, something that is hardly more serious than fuel gas price hikes or a significant weakening of local currency in Indonesia.
Here, one of theory brought by Gladwell in David and Goliath feels like a rational explanation. In his latest book, he explore three kinds of conditions that happened to people when faced with a serious threats and its social impact. The first kinds is direct-hit, it is the victim that caught up in the bombing and killed. Being a corpse, there is not a noticeable impact from this kind of victim. The second one is near-misses, it is the people that when the bombing incident occurred, they are in very close place and because of that, can feels the horror, starting from security officer at the front office who have his bodily parts maimed because of the incident to innocent bystander who happens to witness the incident (even in the safe place). This kind of people cause a negative social impact since they really feels the horror of being an inch away from death. The third kind is remote-miss, this is the rest of the people that have potential of becoming a victim, but didn’t and hence, only knowing the horror from others. This third kind is the one who responsible for spreading positive social impacts. Here is a simple explanation for this. If you know that you can be one of the victim, but miraculously survive (eventhough it is not miraculous at all), you will developed an unconscius sign of self-confident or unreasonable courage. After all, you feels that you just cheated death. What is more interesting is that in remote-miss, the worse the problem is (anticipated or not), the more positive its impact is on social issue. People on this part feels prouder when in fact they have just survived from something really, really bad.
So, if we apply the same theory on current state of Indonesia, it does makes sense. After all, Indonesia has several history of fearful encounters. Until know, the topic of 1998 crises bring horror to most people. The media has done a good job of blowing it up out of proportion. Both international and local media emphasises many inhuman activity at the time, starting from collosal rape of chinese female to uncontrollable riot across the country. Knowing that, there are no sane person who didn’t horrified at that time. The result? My father said that there is really nothing serious happened at that time. There is not even a serious public destruction at all in Surabaya, nothing likes what the media brought up.
Let’s explore another issue, the fuel gas price hikes. For the last decades, there has been an numerous increase in gas prices, each associated with public outcries. The two-term era of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono alone has brought a 4 times increase of gas price, from Rp. 1810 per litres to Rp. 6500 per litres. For each increase, people always reminded of how disastreous and how helpless it can be when a major need in their life are going to see a huge increase that is absolutely become unaffordable. But each time also, after the fact, people will peacefully continue their life like there was nothing happened in the first place. These 2 kind of examples flawlessly explain how their minds works out. If they can survive four, five or more of bad problems, there is no reason to believe that they can’t survive the next one.
Inevitability, this help foster a self-sense of confident and courage that take its roots deep in most Indonesian’s heart, developing it into a habits that in the end can be nothing sort of desirable as what Gladwell proposed. Whether this is a something that is desirable in a country or a hidden diseases that can ultimately brought disaster upon the country’s fate, no one knows about this. For know, in the face of dire macroeconomic conditions, Indonesian are still so adamant, cool and confident as the are. Recently, one of the biggest consulting firm in the world, Boston Consulting Group conduct a survey and unsurprisingly found that, Indonesian people are the world’s most optimistic.