Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Darwinism and political decision-making processes

Dr. Sri Mulyani Indrawati decided to leave for the World Bank in Washington, DC. Lay people and some naïve politicians unwittingly share the pride of an Indonesian to be catapulted to a strategic international position.

Certain opposition leaders expressed their dismay against the “American power arrogance” and vented their anger by criticizing the step of Sri Mulyani and the stance taken by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

More clever ones saw it as a loss for Indonesia. Yet the enigma rests mainly with the question as to why a high-ranking brilliant professional from one of the most corrupt countries in the world became entrusted to handle world finances.

I remember the case of Sabam Siagian when assuming a reputation as an effective ambassador to Australia in 1991-1995. President Soeharto valued his envoy’s success as the success of the whole Indonesian nation.

The late political philosopher John Rawls would say: That was an unfair assessment. Apparently our political elite have a problem with grasping matters by a simple but clear logic. Let’s just hope that Sri Mulyani will work from the international platform to move Indonesia to reform itself.

Sure, there is heavy political baggage behind the exit of Sri Mulyani to the World Bank. The opposition leaders in the House of Representatives are still chasing her for her role in the Century Bank case.

However, the biggest riddle for charging Sri Mulyani (and other related people) allegedly involved in the Bank Century case hides behind the question of how and when a political policy can be criminalized. It is undoubtedly a dilemma to draw a line between a political failure (that will hamper a future re-election) and a willful crime that should be subject to prosecution.

Legal theory has the endless problem of making a difference between a political failure that is for history to judge and a criminal offense that we cannot let go unpunished.

Democratic decision-making processes are indeed perennially trapped in the dilemma of making correct and at the same time legitimate decisions (Adam Swift, Political Philosophy, 2007).

Amidst the grinding deadlock in Indonesian politics, the World Bank president Robert Zoellick apparently has stolen the treasure trapped amidst a Hobbesian homo homini lupus quagmire.

Nevertheless, either like or dislike, we are facing an international paradigm that may well undermine political squabbles at the national level.

Our concern should be about strong elements among the Indonesian elites that may go partying for the exit of Sri Mulyani: Those who have been hit hard by the reform measures she launched.

In the long run, the Indonesian people while being proud of the international acknowledgment of one of their brightest daughters will suffer a setback in the struggle for a better Indonesia.

The painful and protracting long years of the Reformasi are for now lost in a battle against bad governance, endemic corruption and bad practices that only eat up the people’s welfare. Perhaps at the end of the day the world leaders will not care about that either.

The international platform is becoming more indiscriminate anyway about when and where to recruit the best people “they” need in order to usher the world to a better paradigm. It seems as if they were saying: “If Indonesian politicians want it their way, let them be.”

But let’s get it on. If Indonesian politicians have problems of behaving logically in encountering the dilemma of making legitimate and correct decisions, somehow history will have it made for us along the Darwinian rules.

The process of natural selection leading to the survival of the fittest obviously also prevails in political processes, which Samuel Huntington has admitted: Even nations and states vanish from the world if they fail to cope with the challenges posed by the international playing field and become “ineligible” to proceed with history.

For the moment, Indonesia’s corrupt officials, tax rats, foul bankers and corporate thieves may celebrate the regaining of their good life, at the cost of the people’s welfare and nation’s future. And so fades the hope that was hedged by the Reformasi of 1998 for a developed Indonesia with affluent Indonesians.

Sooner or later we all may regret the loss of Sri Mulyani as it also indicates the result of indecisiveness vis-à-vis the handling of various domestic political squabbles.

Rather than consolidating toward building a strong hand in the war for a better Indonesia, the dominant political elite let Sri Mulyani go and embarked on a compromise with devious elements laden with vested interests and visionless politics.

These elements are indeed political predators against which we cannot forego the pretty simple rule of the history of nature: If you don’t fight and subdue a predator, it will maul you.

Exactly that has been evidenced by the early hunters being the hypothetical predecessors of mankind, and it is merely imprudent that our political leaders are ignorant of that primitive but proven wisdom.

Sooner or later we all may regret the loss of Sri Mulyani.

Budiono Kusumohamidjojo, professor at the School of Philosophy, Parahyangan Catholic University, Bandung.

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