Sunday, May 12, 2013

Indonesia – Where Hypocrisy Rules

Looking at the endless shenanigans involving our leaders, politicians and those who are supposed to be our society’s role models, particularly in matters of power, money and sex, I’m inclined to add hypocrisy as part of our national culture, along with our other traits such as friendliness, being quick to smile and the inability to say “no” to somebody’s face.

Hypocrisy, according to the dictionary, is basically a pretense of having a virtuous character, moral or religious beliefs or principles, etc., that one does not really possess. It is a preoccupation with appearances at the expense of real substance. The inherent inability to practice what one preaches, which results in the skillful ability to manipulate words to suit the behavior.

That is why, even as this country has the largest Muslim population in the world, it also ranks as one of the highest in corruption and porn use. Frankly, one has nothing to do with the other. As a matter of fact, one of the most corrupt ministries in here is the Religious Affairs Ministry, and one of the parties most plagued by corruption is a religious party.

This concern for appearance often translates into one’s physical appearance where a woman with a head covering or a man with a goatee, ankle length trousers and a black splotch on his forehead, are seen as more devout and pious, while for a thug to be elevated to the ranks that occupy a morally higher ground, he needs only to wear a Middle Eastern garb and shout God is Great while creating havoc.

That is why I’m not too surprised about the result of the Pew survey that says 72 percent of Indonesian Muslims would favor Sharia as the country’s law. When asked any question whose answer puts one in the category of being seen as a devout Muslim or as one seemingly more concerned with earthly pleasures, the answer will likely be skewed to the former. There is after all, nothing more frightful for the ordinary Indonesian than to be accused of being lacking in faith.

Thus, whatever the sins, from greed, consumerism, corruption, licentiousness, cupidity to sexual misconduct, all are done with a shamelessness of one who has an assurance that there is an understanding deity up there who will always dispense forgiveness merely at the invoking of his name. That is why, when faced with the legal and social consequences of their iniquities, the standard response is rarely an acknowledgement of wrongdoing and the feeling of humiliation that comes with it, but with the words “I will leave it to God to deal with it.”

Mankind after all, proposes, while God disposes. Having power and position exposes one to all sorts of temptations, greater than those of the ordinary persons. Hence, if mistakes are made from time to time, such as accumulating a huge amount of wealth and a large number of girlfriends, it should be seen in the context of the frailty of the human spirit.

The key to not practicing what we preach is not to say otherwise. In other words, honesty is not the best policy. It is important to preach about things such as having good faith, upright behavior and doing things with good intentions, even as one’s actions have no bearings on one’s words.

Because here, saying the words are more important than actually keeping them. For instance, we say, yes, of course, we will come on time. But we never do. We come late. And we blame it on the traffic. Or we promise to do the work well and on time. But for some reason or another, they never get done.

Thus we live a life where appearances are maintained but promises are rarely kept, where prayers fill the air but ethics rarely accompany our actions, and where god is invoked, not to put love or compassion in our hearts, but only as a repository into which we cast our conscience and our moral failings.

The danger however, comes when one starts believing in one’s own lies and the firmness of the ground upon which our morality stands, giving rise to the conviction that the answer to living in peace is to get rid of those whose beliefs don’t conform with ours, such as the Ahmadiyah and the Rohingya.
Desi Anwar is a senior anchor at Metro TV.

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