Jokowi 2014: A Choice, Not an Echo

06 February 2014



Arguably, the most crucial issue facing the world is climate change and global warming. Yet many in Indonesia are unaware of the issue. They do know that we are suffering from strange weather patterns, floods and debilitating coastal conditions. The streets of Jakarta are live demonstrations of the disastrous impact of climate change. But they see this as freak occurrences. The explanation is deceptively simple.


Global warming is caused by increase in carbon content in the air which destroys protective layers in the earth’s atmosphere. In Indonesia most of the carbon increase comes from deforestation and forest degradation. Indonesia is one of the world’s main sources of carbon increase and also one of the world’s largest victims of pollution.  TV watchers and news readers know the more visible crises facing us: the lurking danger of state power and the omnipresent face of corruption. Indeed these are frustrating problems, seemingly insurmountable edifices of human selfishness. They invite public concern and disgust. Yet public outcry conceals the notion that abuse of power and corruption are the only sure ways to gain an easier life. While everybody wants to be good, Breaking Bad is what many would do if that opened the door to the good life.


Young people know that  you can make money by being smart and honest nowadays. With a bit of luck, brains and sensitivity can take you forward in new industries like IT and creative arts. But since Suharto times the olderv generation see forests as places to make money illegally. Take  illegal logging. You make money by destroying the forest. Now there is a less dangerous way to make more money, still destructive of the forest  but much of it is legal. By using forest lands as plantations, Indonesia has become one of the world’s largest exporters of palm oil and paper, making a few tycoons rich.  But plantations are antisocial because they destroy our tropical rain forests – releasing carbon into the air -- and replaces them with monoculture. The World Resource Institute estimates that the world lost the equivalent of 68,000 soccer fields of forest every day over the past 13 years -- 50 soccer fields per minute.


Clearly in the long run, forest degradation is more serious than any other issue. That is not to say human rights and corruption should be downplayed, because they go hand in hand with forest degradation. All are based on greed. And the main instrument of greed is politics.


This year of 2014 brings an opportunity to use politics as a means to escape the worst scenario of our generation. By exercising the right to vote, we can reject representatives of the old system of greed and choose fresh candidates. We would want the elections to provide a choice, not an echo. Currently all candidates are echoes of each other. Except Jokowi, leader in many informal polls.


Jokowi's strength reflects popular voter support for "new" or "clean" leaders rather than the "old" style of politics in Indonesia. Social media delight on Jokowi reflects desire to break free from old power.  Jokowi gives hope to the extent that he breaks free from traditional party power.  His charm would disappear if he shows himself as the proxy of big party bosses. He has to show conclusively that is a free man not beholden to Gerindra’s Prabowo or PDIP’s Megawati. It is no great loss to be disowned by Prabowo. And the best act Megawati could bestow on the nation would be would be to nominate Jokowi and allowing a competent VP-candidate. PDIP would win by landslide. It would be a powerful legacy from Ibu Megawati.


Two persons are perceived to be the running candidates, although formal announcement is a few months away. But it is not too early to voice the displeasure of ordinary people with redoubtable politicians.  People do not deserve leadership of the epitome of corruption and abuse of state power. We want a fresh new start. We have suffered from human rights abuse and corruption. As thought is given, and debates rage, over the choice of candidates, it should be noted that elections will not produce the best, but the least poor of other choices. Politics is, after all, the art of the possible. ‘Jokowi for President’ is a choice both of hope and desperation. Hope for fresh air to emerge, and desperate with the stale odor of the same old suspects. A rejection of unpalatable choices, more than the coronation of the brightest in the land.


An intelligent Jokowi ticket will not need huge campaign funds. Support comes spontaneously. Jokowi's vice presidential running mate  must be intelligent, experienced and mature, the anchor for a dynamic team.


Jokowi graduated with a degree from the Faculty of Forestry at Gadjah Mada University in 1985. He understands the huge risk of deforestation and forest degradation. He understands global warming. The biggest issue of all is climate change. And politics is the most effective means to deal with it. Choose the person who cares about climate change, with a partner who knows how to utilize collective intelligence. We must choose our own future.


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