Sat, 25 Jan 2003

Indonesian youths becoming more aware of global injustice

Evi Mariani, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Bandung

When he was a university student, Tristan thought fighting what he considered global injustice was a cool thing to do. Now, at the age of 28, he has continued the struggle, but in a more organized manner.

"As a young student, I thought it was cool to have a different attitude towards the established system," he said. "Later, as I began to understand how unfair the world system is, I started to make a serious effort to fight against it."

As part of his campaign, he and his friends arranged in early January an anti-globalization video program in his hometown, Bandung, West Java.

He collected various documentaries and films from some friends in Yogyakarta and Jakarta, then invited several friends including some in the punk music communities that share a similar view about the globalization to come and watch the movies.

More than a hundred youths packed the show, some of them came from other cities such as Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Makassar.

Dodi and Howard, both 21, came from Makassar to attend the screening and meet some friends. They would spend three more days in the city and go back to Makassar, carrying the anti- globalization movie replicated in video compact discs (VCDs) along with them to their hometown. They planned to hold a similar show in Makassar.

Other visitors from Yogyakarta and Jakarta also exchanged and copied the movies.

"We will hold a similar show and invite the public and several anti-globalization communities to attend the show in Yogyakarta," said Tjuan, an activist in one Yogyakarta-based non-governmental organization (NGO).

From this meeting in Bandung, an anti-globalization message among youths began to spread to other cities.

However, as to the question of how big the network is, no one can give a clear answer. "I do not know exactly how many people will attend the show in Yogyakarta," said Tjuan.

One thing for certain is the network is not a solid organization. They do not meet or contact each other regularly. They communicate with each other through discussion forums on the Internet or through distributed leaflets and pamphlets published by different people within the anti-globalization community.

As a consequence, some of them know others merely by their Internet nicknames. And they do not necessarily feel they must share the exact same views about everything.

However, most of them have similar opinions about global consumer brands such as McDonald's, Coca Cola or Nike.

"I oppose the global corporate processes that enrich the owners of the capital by exploiting the workers," Tristan said.

However, he conceded that even though he hated all the processes of multinational corporations such as McDonald's, he does not go so far as to actually deny himself a Big Mac and fries every now and again.

"I don't hate the products but the unfair process inside the corporations," he said.

Bowo, from Jakarta, shares the same view, "It's useless if I refrain from eating at McDonald's, and just eat Indomie instant noodles instead. Both are big corporations running unfair systems, despite the fact that the latter is from a local corporation."

Then he quoted Ani DiFranco, a punk folksinger from New York, "Every tool is a weapon if you hold it right."

Thus, Internet, which is a product of globalization, can be a tool for fighting global injustice.

These youths are moving to fight, however small their hands are or limited their commitment. One such example was the protest against the Consultative Group of Indonesia (CGI) meeting in Yogyakarta last Sunday.

The protesters demanded the foreign lenders to write off Indonesia's debt and called on the government to reject new foreign aid.

The police took harsh measures against them, firing warning shots at the protesters, beating them and arresting some of them.

However, they promised not to back down and keep fighting. "We continue to refuse the CGI agenda although the police took stern measures against us," said Ari, one of the protesters.

The globalization snowball may inevitably keep rolling, but among these youths, the fight to promote global justice also keeps going.