Wed, 15 Mar 2000

Pack mentality for savagery

In light of the recent savage attack on the deputy speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), Matori Abdul Djalil, there is another dimension of the case that seems to have been missed by most people. While the incident should be deeply regretted and condemned, the masses' act of taking law into their own hands should not be justified either. Regrettably, no one, either from the authorities, political leaders, legislature or from the media, made sufficient comment regarding the murder of one of the assailants by an angry mob, as if this kind of happening is something normal or understandable.

Why didn't the police or any high-profile officials air their regret regarding the mob's cavalier conduct, if not for humanistic reasons, then at least because this savagery has seriously obstructed the investigation of the motives for the attack and those behind it?

We read and hear every day about similar cases in every corner of the country where no serious investigation has ever been conducted. Or if it has, the findings have never been broadcast to the public; the results of the investigation, who are responsible and whether they were brought to trial remain shrouded in mystery. The police tend to say that they cannot arrest anyone because they were too many involved. Well, arrest them all; surely they know who are there since policemen are often at the location watching and collecting the dead bodies.

It is as if people in this country, as long as they are in a large group, could decide that whoever they dislike or suspect of doing things they dislike can anytime be dragged out of his house and beaten or burned alive. It has happened too many times.

Unruly mobs seem to believe that they can come to people's houses or business premises, loot or burn them and, if they are not already dead, kill the inhabitants.

We have witnessed the fate that befell a group of people considered Muslim heretics in Depok, the burning of a Christian theology school in Jakarta as well as many entertainment places, both modern buildings and also shoddy huts by the side of road, during Ramadhan --just to mention only a few cases.

We are responsible for giving birth to the type of community we live in the same way we are responsible for giving birth to our children. And if we are to raise our children, we must also raise our community since we cannot afford to let our children learn and grow in a rotting community such as the one we currently have.

These same children would one day give birth to their own children and teach the same values they have learned themselves. Unless we take time to nurture our community, our children will not have the right upbringing they deserve, which will perpetuate itself ad infinitum.

This is the time to stop complaining and start behaving like a civilized, thinking people. Preachy moralism is so much less important than putting our society back in order -- not that it once was ever in order, of course.

Unfortunately, our religious leaders are too busy fussing about who is sleeping with whom, and who is paying, at whose place rather than focusing on the things that could make a difference, like transmitting universal humanitarian values and character building toward our young, not to mention also the adults.

If we do not start doing it now, then do not blame others or cry out against a "Western conspiracy" to demean our religion and culture for treating us as the pariah of the world, together with the Taleban and its ilk.