Why So Many Indonesians Resent the West?

By Jakarta100bars
If you can read or understand Indonesian, you will discover that while almost everyone condemns the Paris attacks, many are bitter. It has become impossible to express grief for France without being shamed because “other people have died before and you didn’t grieve for them”.

Among Indonesians posting on Facebook, the most popular statuses are not the compassionate ones. Instead, you will read things like "I won't pray for Paris because Paris didn't pray for Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon". Western medias are accused of being biased and having double standards whenever Muslims are involved. Some go further and imply that it is normal to be attacked because France attacked Muslims countries and killed innocent civilians.

Most comments mention humiliation, abuse or neglect they consider developing countries are facing from developed nations. In particular, Muslims feel they are being victimized and blamed whenever there is a terrorist attack. Many believe that ISIS is in fact a creation of Israel and the US to spur troubles in the Middle East (no joke, you can see it here for instance: Was Isis Created by America?). 

Some people feel Facebook is forcing them to use the French flag filter and that it is, again, a proof that lives in the West are worth more than in the rest of the World. This reminded me of the executions earlier this year: Many Indonesians were against clemency because they felt that sparing the inmates' lives would be a sign of submission to foreign influence.

This illustrates the resentment towards the West in Indonesia, even though few Indonesians would directly admit it. For some people, this anger becomes hate. And for some, it becomes madness. I’m convinced that this is exactly the kind of feeling terrorists had in their heart when they blew themselves up. They are no different in that sense from the lone wolves that regularly go on shooting sprees in the US.

A major misunderstanding exists because few Westerners are aware of this silent hatred. Behind the smiles, the “Hello Mister” and the fascination for "white skin", few of them really understand how they are perceived in Indonesia. 

A Negative Perception Based on Stereotypes
Westerners are seen as being rich as a result of the exploitation of the wealth from poorer countries. The difference in wealth is seen as unfair. This is further exacerbated by the feeling that all Westerners have an easily life with cash growing in their backyards. This rhetoric is conveniently repeated by the Indonesian elites (for instance Jokowi here) to shift the blame from themselves to the West in order to justify the poor economical results of the country. 

On the contrary, Westerners will blame corruption for the country’s lack of development. Just look at the list of the World’s most corrupt countries and you can see the obvious link between corruption and development. Corrupt countries are poor, non-corrupt countries are rich. It’s as simple as that.

Westerners are also often viewed as arrogant, rude and “acting like kings”. This is something I can understand as I’ve often seen visitors behave in ways that are not acceptable. In a country where politeness, pride and respect are valued so highly, it is not surprising that many Westerners do not fit. But to say that all foreigners are disrespectful in such ways is racist and untrue. Ask a maid if she prefers being employed by an expat family or an Indonesian family and you’ll see what she has to say...

Another reason Indonesians feel humiliated is that they believe Western countries are racist. Again, while racism exist and is a major issue in Western societies, it is simplistic and dangerous to generalize. Anti-racists are much more numerous and represent the majority of the people. There are no laws in Europe/US/Australia discriminating against the color of one’s skin or a religion. On the contrary, the reason many people from all races are looking to immigrate in those countries is that they know they will benefit from the same rights as others.

In France, it is actually easy for foreigners to obtain citizenship compared to Indonesia, even for “non-white”. Citizenship means that people get access to free medical care, free schooling and social benefits.

Are Indonesians Made to Hate the West?
While there is some legitimate reasons for Indonesians to feel angered by the West, I think that some people try to make things look worse than they really are because they benefit from this hatred.

As I mentioned before, the political elites will explain that the country is not developing as fast as, say Singapore or Japan, because of foreign countries and companies. They will blame also blame colonization, forgetting Indonesia has been independent for 70 years now.

More worrying, I think that some organizations are politically and religiously motivated. For instance, you will notice that Indonesians are obsessed with Jews and Israel. It is not surprising considering the money being poured in the country from Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.

You would be surprised how little a typical Indonesian know about Palestine/Israel, yet almost all Indonesians I know will say they don’t like Jews. Anti semitism is so widespread it is like a reflex that does not need any justification.
The country is not short of contradictions when it come to the Israeli/Palestine conflict. They will support the Palestinians' right to their lands while refusing the same right to Papuans. They will shout "Save Palestinians" but they closed the door to a few hundred Rohingyas. They will mix in the internal politics of Israel but criticize any country interfering with Indonesian internal politics. If you ask them about Tibetans, Kurds, or Armenians, they will wonder what you are talking about.

Most information victimizing Muslims is not accurate. I could give tons of example. For instance, saying that there is no media coverage of the death of Palestinians or Syrians is plain wrong. There is not a day without news from the Middle East in Western media. 

In France, I have heard about the plight of Palestinians every single day since I’m a kid. There is not one topic that is more widely discussed that this one. Every single day you hear about protests, calls for boycotts, exhibitions, charity trips, etc, in favour of Palestinians. There is not an earthquake, a tornado, a bombing, etc that is not reported in the media. We follow everything and we care each time. 

The bombing in Beirut made the headlines of all French newspapers. To accuse French people, and Westerners of not caring for those lives is insulting and hurting. Worse, I think it is a lie intended to create more hatred and to break any possibilities of people uniting.

I was reading a very interesting interview (in French) of an anthropologist, Dounia Bouzar, explaining that the brainwashing of future jihadist starts with the victimization of Muslims. ISIS recruiters show them videos of civilian deaths in Syria, Myanmar, Irak or Palestine and tell them that the rest of the World does not care. Sounds familiar?

I would be very curious to know who were the first persons spreading rumors that the Lebanon attack was not reported on media.

6 comments to '' Why So Many Indonesians Resent the West? "

  1. It is ingrained in our civics book. At one point there was this chapter discussing the difference between modernisation and westernisation and the latter is said to be avoided for moral corruption. It's a tool to control the masses, really.

  2. Dear Thibaud,

    I believe that you are still under a state of shock after the Paris attack and that's the reason why your post is genuinely naive and inaccurate, this being said I am going to try to give you another perspective, you have mixed up so many points that I am a bit lost though :

    The double standard: it is a fact, you may want to ignore it, but it is a fact since the beginning of Network News Channel, I will give you one example while I could give hundreds daily : if you remember, we could all see the faces of the Iraki soldiers being captured, attached and tortured, which is a violation of the Prisoners Rights according to the Geneva Agreement and at that time no one bats an eye.

    The creation of ISIL, well by definition ISIL means Islamic State of Irak and Levant, let me give a reflection : who is responsible if the destruction of Irak ? and then withdraw their forces at the worst moment leaving the country to a weak government that could be easily overthrown ?

    Why Indonesians have a bad idea about the west, well the only responsible is the bad western behavior in Indonesia : Its also a fact, you may want to minimize it, but its a fact,. This being said, I will just adventure a reason of this resentment, most of Indonesian can not go to the western countries and the only opinion they have about the west is the one made by the Expats.

    Palestine, you may like it or not, everyone is free to have his own opinion, even in Indonesia, based on facts or not, you are attacking them for their belief and that was too easy and not fair.

    Independence: you are comparing Indo/Papua to the Palestinian conflict which a complete none-sense, how about the Spain/Catalunya issue? is it also the same ? France/FLNC ? does this ring a bell ?

    Politics, Well after the January events, we have seen a lot of Arab Leaders walking on the street of Paris with the President Hollande however I have never seen him in the street of Bangkok, Istanbul, Algiers, Beirut or Benghazi,,,, (well, Sarkozy neither).

    Reactions: One of the first actions of President Hollande is to suspend the Schenghen Visa, as if the treat was coming from the outside, he is just blowing smoke. As you are denouncing that for Indonesian the foreigners are always bad, this kind of reactions are not carrying a different message.

    And to finish and that's the real debate I would like to open, How a french citizen, (second or third generation) can cultivate this kind if hatred toward its own country, people and institution to explode himself that way, The Republic has failed and that all what matters now, France has to look back and work on how to bring her own lost sons to the Republic.


    1. Thank you for your comment.

      I indeed wrote the article quickly following not so much the shock of the attack, but the shock of reading so many negative comments from Indonesians.

      I felt there was a lot of resentment, but a lot of manipulation as well. Some of the text posted on facebook are copy paste of dubious origin. I don't want to sound paranoiac but I'm quite sure there are some organizations behind them. I don't believe for one second that these are spontaneous. Some people did not want Indonesians to feel compassionate and they did everything they could to make them angry.

      This is what I tried to explain, probably not perfectly in my article.

      I don't deny that some events get more press than others. I am saying that it is a lie that the Western world does not care. It probably does not care enough, it probably does not know what to do to help, it probably screws up when it tries to help, but it cares.

      You probably talk about Abu Ghraib. What do you mean nobody cared? The photos made the headlines for weeks and it was denounced by all medias! Bush and Rumsfeld had to apologize if I remember. There has never been an American president more hated than Bush in Europe. What did you want to do? Bomb america? What did Indonesia do?

      Obama himself says that the war in Iraq was a mistake. It's not a secret. Can I remind you that France was the most vocal opponent to the war? Regarding Libya, it is easy to criticize France for intervening. Kadhafi was about to massacre its own people. What do you think should have been done? You can keep on blaming nations but how does it help with the current situation?

      America intervened in Asia and Latin America as well. How strange that most problems arise in the Middle East? Maybe because foreign intervention is not the only reason for the rise of religious intolerance? Is the FPI in Indonesia a creation of America and Israel as well?

      You cannot compare Corsica and Papua in good faith. Free elections are allowed in Corsica and the Corsican nationalist parties have never reached more than 20% of the votes. There is no repression from the state, no transmigration. Nationalists have the right to ask for Independence but the truth is Corsicans don't want it. A referendum was organized in 2003 to reform the status of the island and they said they didn't want to change. If you care so much about the right of people to own their lands, you should try to read more about the history of Papua from non-Indonesian sources.

      Hollande did not suspend the Schengen visa. Please check your facts.

      Hollande did not attend any marches in Bangkok, Algiers, etc. My question: Did those countries organize any? What you may have missed is that he participated in the one organized by Tunis after the attacks at the Bardo Museum early this year: http://www.leparisien.fr/international/attentat-de-tunis-francois-hollande-present-a-la-marche-contre-le-terrorisme-29-03-2015-4647115.php

      For your last argument, I will tell you that in France, people, and especially the poorest ones from the suburbs get free medical care, free school until university, free public libraries, free parks, free museums, free public transport for poor people in some cities, social housing, generous pensions and unemployment benefits, state sponsored youth organizations, etc. The middle class and companies are paying for this. One of the consequences is to have high taxation and to be less competitive economically, especially compared to developing countries. We've lost a lot of jobs and there are now over 3M persons without a job in Europe. Unfortunately, I think that recent migrants are the first ones to suffer from this. Some may think that we didn't do enough for them, but at one point people must take their responsibilities too. Someone who is smart and hard-working can succeed in France, even if he is from a poor background, even if he is black or muslim or asian.

  3. I can see that you are still in a panic mood, a respectable debate is not possible with you, this will be my last note on your website

    So you did not get most of my points and definitely not the sarcastic ones, so let me clarify my points, not for you as you seems to be hermetic to other's opinion, but maybe it will be useful for others if you do not delete it, , (after all its your website),

    1 / Yes you are paranoiac, there is no black hand trying to manipulate the Indonesian opinion if you were not blind by the sadness and the shock of the recent atrocity you would be able to see it. its just in your mind

    2 / Lets not fall into the trap of radicalization, I will repeat myself, double standard does exit and I have never implied that western medias do NOT care, however the treatment of the news coming from east and the west is different.

    3 / You are wrong, I am not talking about Abu Ghraib, you did not get my point, war atrocity are part of the war, its not a teletubbies world (Bisounours for the french speaking), its the media who tried to sell us the idea of aseptic wars however it does not exist, if you read again my point, you will maybe understand that what I am denouncing are the videos showing in all medias prisoners without blurring their faces and this is from the first gulf war. You ended your explanation with : what do you want us to do? its ridiculous and out of subject however, you may have put your finger in a point that will help you understand what has been going on.

    4 / Here again, you did not understand, here again you are showing a deep state of Paranoia, I have never said that this organisation was created by the US, read again I thought it was crystal clear, apparently not for you.

    5 / It was a sarcastic comment, which obviously you did not get, Comparing Indo/Papua to Palestine, it as stupid as Comparing Indo/Papua to Corsica, its strange and also informative on how its easy for you to understand one and not the other.then you fell into an easy and free aggression which I will not even answer to.

    6 / You got me, this is probably the highlight of your post, Hollande went to Tunis, Bravo! How many french citizen died there ? You got your answer! And again you fell into the insult toward the cities where atrocities happened, what you are implying is simply disgusting.

    7 / You are beside the point, you are in total denial, despite all the benefits that you are describing, people were able to commit what we are all watching in the news and its not the free school that is going to change anything, the problem is much deeper.

    1. It's too bad you won't reply because I would have loved having more explanations about some points you mentioned.

      1) I think there are organizations very active on Indonesian social medias with an agenda to spread more hatred. I'm sure you've seen the posts saying "Why ISIS did not attack Israel?", "Israel bombs found in Syria", "ISIS created by CIA to destroy Islam", etc... They flood every news story and they bring you to blogspot type website with supposed proofs. It would be interesting to know who are the people behind them and where their money comes from.

      2) There are cases of double standards but they are often used to spread more hatred. I like a quote I just read: "People didn't care about the Beirut attacks until it gave them an argument to bash the West".

      3) Ok I'm not aware of this particular issue. If you can give me a link that would be nice.

      4) You didn't say that ISIS was created by the US. You implied that the US created the conditions that allowed ISIS to develop. I agree with you and Obama also agrees with you. Nothing new here. The problem is what we do now? Blaming does not solve anything.

      5) I don't understand what is stupid in comparing Indo/Papua with Israel/Palestine. Actually at least in Palestine there have been Jews living there for 3000 years so they have a reason for justifying their claims to the land. Is the transmigration from Javanese to Papua really different from the Jewish colonization in Palestine? Can you explain to me how without going in full denial mode?

      6) See? You are victimizing again. I didn't insult anybody. I said that if marches were not organized, it is normal that Hollande didn't attend them.

      7) You said it yourself, this is not the teletubbies world. Yes, life is hard for million of French people. 3M of people are unemployed, millions live in poverty, millions cannot pay their bills. We are also a multicultural society with a complex history and that's challenging. I'll be happy to know what you think we should do.

  4. If you base your judgment on internet comments of (sorry to say) the less educated and lower strata masses of Indonesians then you are right. But as a more upper middle class Indonesian, I can say that nearly all of the people I know in my social circle sympathize with Paris for what happened because we are more educated and therefore better informed. So go easy on Indonesians, wont you? I mean many if not most Indonesians dont even understand why they shouldn't litter. Are you expecting people who throw their waste into the river, ride motorbikes on sidewalks, drive in the opposite direction and voting for someone in exchange for 100k rupiah to be sensical in their judgment? You are going too hard on average Indonesians my friend. Give us another 10 years may be then things will be different.