Thu, 30 Mar 2000

A muddled tale indeed

In his letter published in The Jakarta Post on March 29, 2000, titled A muddled tale, Y. Santo claims I overlooked a few basic facts. Rest assured I did not, and I surely do not need to watch romanticized movies to realize the "Dutch" became filthy rich at the expense of their colonies. But my point was that they were not the only culprits in our colonial history. Muddling this message with the religious context of that time will make that message more difficult to grasp. But since Y. Santo mentioned this context, I feel I should partially defend my ancestors again.

The point I am making is that one cannot judge people without some reference to their frame of mind! Judging from your name -- Y. Santo -- I assume you are a Catholic, which means you likely pray to the Virgin Mary and other saints. Many Protestants -- Muslims too -- claim this is a heathen custom that should be eradicated. In the unlikely event the Catholic Church has disappeared in 300 years from now and every earthling prays directly to God, can they blame you for praying to saints? Can we actually blame anybody for their misinterpretation of any religion?

Y. Santo should realize that spreading the gospel through word and sword in those days was an accepted practice that would surely reserve one's place in heaven. Similar dogmas are spread today among the child-terrorists in the Middle East. Throughout human history potentates abused their local religions to brutally rule mankind in a similar manner. The greed for money and power can thus not be solely attributed to the Dutch; the events in Aceh, Maluku and East Timor prove Indonesians are just as capable of it.

Again, I do not condone the actions of my ancestors; in fact many fill me with a sense of shame! But I truly wonder if the archipelago's atrocities would have been much different if they -- and all other colonial powers -- had not been there! As to determining who were the main culprits of that period, my historical knowledge is just as insufficient as Chichi Marti's and Y. Santo's. With this in mind, the "holier than thou" blamestorms recently published in the Post have very little foundation.


Bogor, West Java