Wednesday, the 9th of July 2014

All of the Van den Brink family hopes to cheer and celebrate victories tomorrow. An essential one in Jakarta* and and the most important side matter in Sao Paulo. That is Jokowi’s win over Prabowo in Indonesia and the Dutch football squad’s win over Argentina in Brazil.

Last Saturday night my daughter in law Feby, my granddaughter Devica Esha and son Gunnar rehearsed for the events dressed in genuine Dutch colours already. Actually a pretty picture and a successful try out in my opinion:

Trio voor Oranje 5 juli 14.

To make the wished for outcome come true, voters in Indonesia and the referee in Sao Paulo have to make the right decisions. I trust our massive mental family support will help them doing just that ;-).

In the meantime I anxiously keep my fingers crossed.

* The advantage of this presidential campaign is that this time it’s a clear choice between the past and the future. One between a man who belongs to the Suharto era and is member of the old system and the old guys’ network on the one hand and the future, the new man on the block with good record, clean sheets and coming in from the outside, on the other. The problem is that bad boys ( be it Wilders, Bush or Prabowo) tend to have ( ample means, on the surface simple underbelly solutions and) a dark appeal to many voters. Therefore I sincerely hope – and trust – the people will make the most sensible choice for good governance and democracy, Jokowi (Though alas, Kalla, the man who in “The Act of Killing” is being exposed as supporter of a fascist youth organization, will be part of the package).

Well, till now, ever since Reformasi most of the time the Indonesian people made sensible political choices. So why not this time.

Keeping up appearances.


Seemingly Indonesian authorities are in the process of cleaning up public areas. A laudable case, isn’t it?

Surabayahas started the adventurous project process of closing down “Dolly”, one of the oldest and most renowned red light districts in South-East Asia. In other parts of the archipelago brothels disappear also. And Jakarta is getting rid of street vendors in top-end parts of the capital. Monas Park has been cleared already.

I wonder if those who are responsible really think they in this way offer a solution to the less well off. I can’t but thinking these are typical cases of sweeping dirt under the carpet.  Actually Mrs Bucket ( “Bouquet”), the leading character in “Keeping up appearances“, keeps popping up in my mind every time I read another one of these items on efforts to embellish urban imagos.

Moral choices


This week we saw the film “The wind rises” by Hayao Miyazaki.

It’s a beautiful film. A treat to the eye. An animated story of ambition and love. Set in the Interbellum and the World War, a time of natural disasters, epidemic tuberculosis, economic depression and political warmongering in Japan.

It’s about a very talented and creative Japanese engineer. That man,Jiro Horikoshi, stayed all his life dedicated to his dream of creating elegant and effective aircraft. Even though the socio-political reality forced him to make military machines in stead of contributing to civil aviation. His main accomplishment was the notorious and extremely successful Japanese WWII fighter plane Zero.

That of course implied an existential choice. Either he could accept the opportunity Mitsubishi offered him to work for the military or he could relinquish his dreams and ambitions altogether. He choose to go along with the army and navy. Rather design elegant instruments for horror, destruction and killing than quit. An utter moral decision. And not just petty morality.

Hayao Miyazaki’s message is apologetic. His motto is “The wind is rising we must try to live” (adaptation of the French poet Paul Valery’s line “Le vent se léve. Il faut tenter de vivre”). A way of saying that it’s all right for great minds and talents to accommodate if that helps to meet their challenge in life. So you should be forgiven for cooperating even with evil forces if that is necessary to bring about great accomplishments. An opinion which is being substantiated by the example that the world is better off with the Pyramids today, whatever the suffering and the cost of human lives may have been at the time.

Of course in reality this kind of accommodation happens all the time on a smaller scale. Also when much lesser geniuses are involved. Actually I’m not sure at all I didn’t get trapped myself once or twice in my life.

But the crucial question is, is that right? Is that morally right?

The answer I think is NO!

Jakarta is a metropolis

jakartanightlife 2 *

The “Stadium” has been the capital’s epicentre of sin for a long time. Officially these leisure time activities are outlawed in the predominant religious country, but unofficially they are part of a tradition, facilitated by a culture of corruption. Therefore and because of a growing and eager well off hedonistic middle class, expats, supplemented by abundant numbers of experimenting adolescents and students, it’s no wonder the club has been thriving.

We all know moderate and modest will do it, but too much is lethal. North Sulawesi’s policeman Jicky Vay Gumerung, didn’t stick to this rule of the thumb. Nor did Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, all members of the ‘club of twenty seven’, some forty years ago. Cause of death: Overdose.

The death of the police officer was a golden opportunity to act for a characteristically resolute governor. So it’s over now. Acting governor Ahok, in his energetic style, closed down “Stadium” immediately after the young cop died at the premises. The man in charge of the city has decided to join the “war on drugs”. Which world wide fight by the way over the years conspicuously has been lacking moderation and modesty unfortunately. Resulting in even deadlier results than drugs themselves do.

It’s a remarkable decision Ahok took. It’s a policy U-turn. And it’s not in line with the ambition of the Big Durian, the nickname, referring to the Big Apple. A name which indicates what it’s planning to become :). It strives to be an urban hotspot on the globe. That is with all the virtues and vices of it. Including every kind of entertainment most decent people and settled citizens tend to frown upon: prostitution, gambling, alcohol, partying, drugs.

The governor obviously loathes exploitation of women, drugs-abuse and ripping off people. And, most of all, breaking the law. Who doesn’t? Actually I have to admit I also instinctively – in spite of my occasional glass of wine-  tend to side by puritans and righteous ones in these matters.

Yet I doubt whether the governor’s decision is the right one. National, regional or local administrations trying to abolish vice in a big city, deny the realities of life. It’s administrative over-stretch. And it’s an invasion of people’s personal freedom.

I prefer pragmatism.

Don’t close down clubs, but curtail management, help involuntary sex workers to find an exit to other means of income, help drug addicts by health programs and apply a zero tolerance policy in relation to corruption. And keep on track turning Jakarta into an modern, innovative Asian version of Berlin ( for instance).

* This is not the “Stadium”.



If you would ask whether I, being essentially a twentieth century man, love to live now, my answer  will be affirmative. Actually I intend to go on breathing till I’m ninety. At least. Because we are going through exiting times. Technologically, culturally, socially, politically, economically, well, just make your pick. On the other hand, to be honest  I’m afraid gradually I’m growing  out of step with modernity.  The truth is staring me right in the face: most people love parts of modern life  I dislike. Let’s face it, I’m a grumpy old man now. Sometimes.

A few examples.

Take good taste.

I guess the first time I got that nauseating feeling was when I saw Big Brother on TV for the first time. And the last time for that matter. Since that tasteless disaster happened the stupidity of similar formats on TV is the common rule. In literature things also seem to go downhill. Just look at the huge  success of woolly and vague books in the Paulo Coelho style. Or worse than that. Isn’t it significant that  E.L. James’ “Fifty shade  of Grey” proved to be a box office champion. And look at the turn the pop-scene took. Since it headed for Techno, Trance and Hip-Hop it’s all beat, no harmony. That doesn’t make me happy either. And now, last Saturday the “the woman with the beard” from Austria won the European Song Festival by popular vote. Camp in stead of pop-music.

There’s a process going on which might result in a travesty of good taste. It’s a repulsive but irresistible premonition.

Next item for prosecution, “Mother’s Day”. Which we, eh, let’s say celebrated yesterday in this part of the world.


Yeah, I also loved my mother dearly. But actually I think the yearly event is a painful anachronism. A commercial celebration of degrading clichés on women. A commercial exploitation of the latter part of the obsolete  dichotomy of  ‘either whore or  holy’. A feast of prejudices one might hope were in the past forever now. Such as ‘women belong in bed and the kitchen, except for mothers’ (who of course are beyond any criticism). It’s the weird echo of a once prevailing but no longer usual division of  family labour, in which only the wife carried the burden of the household and the education of the children. A performance for which her children would forever have to endow her with tokens of gratefulness, regardless of the quality of that education.

So annoying.

And so is smartphone etiquette. Or rather the lack of it.

Peculiar. I belong to the sixties and it’s preference for casual clothing and informal behaviour. So I never cared much for etiquette. However times are changing. Because if you want to discuss the worries of daily life or tell anecdotes about one’s grandchildren today, people keep looking down to check their little displays. They seem not to pay real attention to what you say. Most of time they very  aptly text their messages to someone you only can guess about, while all the time you elaborately try to explain why they should try this or that delicacy. Or ask their advice on some ailment, some mishap, some love you fear to  suffer from. No doubt about it, since technology is in, genuine conversation is out. Except of course when someone happened to have bought the newest gadget for hipsters the other day. That, for a short period of time, may spark some old fashioned exchange of thoughts and opinions. Which, that goes without saying,  usually only adds to my discontent.

It’s sad but true, I often feel ill at ease seeing modern electro-technical communication prevailing over traditional communication at social gatherings . I want the immediate return  of etiquette. Or rather the introduction of good old fashioned etiquette in the world of smartphone -users. Electronics  should be ‘not done’ while in company of others. We should focus on the ones present. Show interest. Not be disturbed by the absent ones.


But is there still hope for less commercial rubbish, for better taste and less smartphone terrorism?

Yes there is. By way of a one-man protest-movement I refuse to carry such a devilish Apple  -or other brand- product on me as long as that etiquette is not the rule.  And I will thoroughly teach my grandchildren to distinguish between quality and rubbish :).