Short Stories

Aug 31st, 2009, in News, Opinion, by and

Two short stories on the theme of cultural change and Islamization in Indonesia.

  1. "Duke Of Jaksa", by Ross
  2. "The Pilgrimage", by Timdog.

Vote for your favourite below.

1. "Duke Of Jaksa", by Ross

Duke, out of Jakarta on family business, left Lestari to cope with the rainy season's rigours and Ramadan's. She'd look after their kontrakkan, time still to help out in her pal Sinta's warung.

When Duke touched down at Soekarno Hatta, he rang. No answer, no worries - probably shopping or at Sinta's. He shouldered past rip-off cabbies,caught a Bluebird.

Disembarking on the corner, he sensed something amiss, quickened his pace. Faces peering over fences, normal nosiness, but this day unsmiling, Something in the pembantus' expressions raised his hackles, on edge immediately.

Their garden gate lay flattened. He charged through, as Sinta called his name.

"Pak Duke! Ma'afkan saya!"

Tearful bursts of ululating prose told him of the DOGS, Defenders of God's Statutes. They'd raided her warung (despite respectful curtains shielding hyper-sensitive fasters from the horrors of Christian meal-times) white-capped faces snarling at this 'blasphemous' affront to the devout.

In vain Sinta declared herself a Christian, unobliged to puasa; should she demand customers' KTPs before serving them?

They'd slapped her about, shredded the curtains, wrecked the warung. Lestari interceded, till a spiteful tukang jammu yelped that here was a Muslim living with a bule - the huffy old bag's seasonal sembako'd fallen short of expectations.

That revelation provoked fearsome rage, the thugs heedless of the fact that Duke had 'converted' when they'd married.

' A bule's cheap bitch!'

They turned on her,

'Where's your jilbab?'

She'd fled, along the little kali, swollen by the floods. Panic blinding her to danger, she'd stumbled into a cavernous flooded pothole, fast swept away.

'She surfaced once, Pak, called out, then...gone,'

Sinta choked up, led Duke indoors, scenes of ransacked chaos. Hoodlums, not content with manslaughter, had returned to loot the bule's home.

"The police?"

Busy, it transpired (hadn't they also been too 'busy' to relieve the siege of Tempo by a tycoon's hired gangsters?) with riots, flood problems; after all, the DOGS hadn't killed her. Death by misadventure, they'd said.

"Because she was fleeing terrorised by those swine.'

Duke's wrath frightened Sinta, her broad Javanese face convulsed.

'We put up decorations together when I was young, she helped at Christmas, me at Ramadan...'

By invoking civilised times past, Sinta sought to distance all the wong cilik from the new jihadism.

He put a hand on her shoulder, thanked her...by waiting for him here, she 'd done more than anybody else, he realised. If only he'd returned a day earlier. if only she'd stayed out of it...
Lestari's demise never made the papers, Islamist depredations these days barely rating a paragraph.

Duke quietly strove to rebuild his life, sought solace in favoured Jaksa watering-holes with buddies, Falatehan's finest sedulous in their efforts to assuage his stress..

But alone at home, cecaks his sole companions now, he slithered down King Lear's path - 'this way lies madness.'

Fury gnawed relentlessly as he hassled officialdom and the media. No body, no funeral...a missing person, he'd been advised, so not a lot they could chase the perps for, except 'disorder,' and God knew Jakarta had plenty.

He''d been in the Big Durian long enough to understand that but also to have met useful people.
If Lestari's killers weren't to answer for their crime, anguish pointed another way to give her her day in court.

A late-night tryst with an amiable preman in Pappa Cafe on Jalan Jaksa secured what he most required, a country-boy's life-long love, a gun.

Availing himself of the internet, he tracked down the DOGS' kennel, a notorious pesantren school in Grogol, run by the elderly fanatic, camelious-faced Ustad Basam, who thrived on propagation of hatred.

For the first time in his life, Duke appreciated his erstwhile in-laws' intransigent intolerance. They'd forced his conversion to Islam. Indonesian marriage law, bigotry entrenched, lovers of diverse faiths persecuted if they lived outwith wedding vows, yet banned from marrying - unless one of them turned apostate. Muslims who chose that option, said the venerable Basam, merited death.

So Duke had knuckled under, for love. Subsequently he'd eschewed participation in its rites, but first he'd explored the doctrines, trying to comprehend how anyone these days justified pedophilia or polygamy, affronts, indeed, to decent Muslims; but not confrontable, misguided adherence to the 'ummat' concept, sectarian solidarity above all.

Turning that very concept to his advantage. Well-versed in Islamic lore, he knew the format and timing of prayers, could blend into any mosque, even Basam's, which had once echoed to exhortations to assault foreign tourists.

Night fell at 6pm, as always in Grogol, when Duke approached, his tanned but patently foreign features drawing askance glances. But he assured the toughs by the entrance that he was a convert, come to pay his respects. They'd heard of Aussie turncoats serving with the Taliban, whose heroic exploits - throwing acid into unveiled faces and burning girls' schools - they admired.

Duke, nodded through to an unassuming back-seat, heard the obnoxious brute enliven his flock, another rant against Zionist-Crusaders.

Basam revelling in rapturous appreciation from the 'born-again' preman who constituted his audience, Duke stepped forward, levelled the hand-gun under his floppy shirt, put one in the head, one in the gut, a classic free-lance execution.

Swirling around, racing for the street, before anyone grasped what was afoot. (his armed status meant few of the yellow-bellies would seek to obstruct his exit) he'd no wish to escape. He wanted be taken by the police.. for that day in court.

Touch and go, but the police van escaped the mob, who, once Duke was disarmed, went frenziedly after him. Solitary confinement ensured survival in pre-trial custody. Worldwide headlines made Lestari famous.

Months passed till the big day. Cretinous Islamists frothed publicly for hukum mati; international awareness had diplomats in attendance for the guilty verdict - 'twas how he'd pled.

But his speech from the dock echoed round the archipelago, reinforcing the shame his Lestari's fate had inspired among thinking citizens.

"Basam's life was an ode to hatred. Who hates humanity is an enemy of God, who created mankind. Don't all your religions denounce Satan, not the pura2 Great Satan those mongrels..'

here he pointed at the DOGS...

invoke to stoke prejudice, but the real Satan, who delights in death and mayhem. I'll serve my sentence. But I killed a pig, not a High Court judge, Your Honours!. And I did it myself, not second-hand. Five years max, please! I've exorcised one demon. Up to Indonesian justice to get the rest!

Even in the Istana Negara, heads jerked up, took notice. In Pappa Cafe, a chorus of 'Good on yer, Duke!' erupted. Fights broke out there, and at universities.

The judges weren't fools, deliberated for ten days. 'Diminished responsibility.' 'Temporary insanity.'

Time served in custody, plus deportation.

Rioting lasted till next Ramadan, but so antagonised police and public that finally the DOGS were banned and simliar dregs of society rounded up, interned, pursuant to prosecution for treason against the Pancasila State.

Deprived of access to his duchy, Duke of Jalan Jaksa drank himself to death in exile in Dili instead. But he died happy, no virgins waiting in Paradise, just Lestari...


2. "The Pilgrimage", by Timdog

The ferry showed first as a flickering blemish between towers of dark cloud on the melting horizon; then it loomed tall in middle distance; now it was turning on the oily water of the inner harbour.

The ferry was big and beige with a high, sharp prow. Stocky men in blue boiler-suits were flinging ropes and shouting. There was a clamour of voices on the quayside, and behind it the tock-tock-tock of the bakso-seller tapping a cracked bowl with a dirty spoon. There were piles of bulging white sacks, and second-hand motorbikes, armour-plated with sheets of old cardboard, ready for shipping.

The Muslims floated like pale ghosts in the middle of the shifting crowd – men in their best black pecis, women in pink head-scarves – watching the ferry eagerly as it backed against the buffers. They had hired the best vehicle on the Island – a minibus, silver-grey with tinted windows – and made a banner for the occasion. It was strung along the side of the minibus, marked in childish block capitals: "WELCOME HAJJIS OF THE YEAR 2008".

The ferry squeezed up against the jetty and dark boys in long shorts launched themselves up the mooring ropes like broken spiders. A first rush of passengers surged down the narrow gangway and head-carried loads bobbed in the crowd.

The Muslims shifted and strained:

"Where are they?"

And then three men appeared at the top of the gangway and they hissed excitedly –

"There they are!"

The three men were paler ghosts even than the Muslims on the quayside. They wore white skullcaps and long shirts and yellow sarongs. All three had red-and-white Arab keffiyehs draped across their shoulders. There was a lean youth with a tuft of black hair at his chin and a dark, stocky man. Between them they supported a thin old man with papery skin. From the top of the gangway the old man looked out with cloudy eyes, beyond the rotting roofs of the little port, north along the empty coastline of the Island.

***

The Island was small and far in the east. It drifted alone and behind it was the emptiest ocean on earth. Half a century ago the islanders believed only in their own ancestors. They lived in tall houses and the Ancestors lived above them. But they called themselves Christian now, and in their own language they called the church the Bitter House.

The Muslims – a dozen families – lived only in the little port. They had been there for four hundred years and their forefathers came – the story used to go – from Makassar, riding on the back of a giant swordfish. The swordfish beat across shining water between curls of white foam and the Muslims clung to its quivering sail and it ground ashore at the Turtle Beach, a strip of white sand north of the little port.

That used to be the story, and every year, on the day of the first full moon in August, the Muslims would walk to the Turtle Beach and kill ten chickens, and the blood would run into the hissing water and they would remember the swordfish.

But it had been more than twenty years since anyone killed a chicken at the Turtle Beach. The Muslims all claimed Arab blood and no one mentioned the swordfish.

If you wanted to hear the story now you had to ask the Bitter House People. They could still tell you how the swordfish had charged the bright water, its purple fins humming, and how the Muslims had stepped ashore amongst the laying turtles and founded the little port. Some of them could even tell you how, long before the swordfish, the Muslims had washed from the sea in Makassar as fish eggs the colour of milky pearls, and how they had swum onto the land like raindrops on glass and coagulated in the form of men.

But none of the Muslims would tell you that story any more.

Things changed when the Arab arrived, one hundred years ago. The Arab came from the pirate port at Ende to buy horses and sandalwood. He wasn’t really an Arab. His grandfather had indeed come from Yemen, but he was of slave stock, not a Sayyid. He came to Java and married a woman from a village in the trees below Gunung Muria, and his son married a Madurese girl.

The Arab traded on just one-quarter of his bloodline, but he told everyone that he was a Sayyid, and the Muslims of the Island made small changes because they thought it would please him.

First they stopped eating pigs. Then they stopped drinking palm wine. Later some of them learnt to say their prayers, and after the Arab went away they began to intimate that the Arab had been their own grandfather. The truth was that too much palm wine in Ende had made the Arab impotent long before he arrived. But no one remembered that.

The Muslims were shopkeepers and traders. In a hundred years they had earned money to send their children to schools in Java. The girls came back in pink headscarves; the boys came back with tufts of black hair on their chins.

They earned money to buy televisions and motorbikes and they stopped going to their neighbours’ ceremonies. Once a year, in August, they still went to the Turtle Beach, but by the end it was just a picnic with sticky rice and dirty blankets and men going off to piss in the yellow scrub and at midday the kyai saying some prayers. No one killed any chickens, and only the old women thought about the swordfish.

And then the Muslims earned money to go on the pilgrimage to Mecca, and after that no one ever went to the Turtle Beach.

***

This year three men had gone on the outbound ferry to Java, and then on an aeroplane. The aeroplane was the same colour as the ferry and it beat across shining sky between curls of white cloud and landed on a strip of black tarmac in Saudi Arabia. The three men were a youth who had studied in Java, his shopkeeper uncle, and his grandfather who had eyes like milky pearls.

In the desert heat the youth was voluble and intense. The uncle smiled like he was on a picnic. The old man was silent.

The old man had never eaten pig or drunken palm wine, and one day, sitting in the heavy shade of the veranda, looking out at the dark ridgeback where the villages were, he had said to his sons

"These people are infidels."

It was the first time anyone on the Island had ever said that teeth-to-lip swearword.

"One day there will be trouble here,"

he had said, putting down his cup of grainy black coffee and placing the sticky metal cap over it to keep out the flies.

"What kind of trouble?"

asked his sons.

"Poso trouble. These people are infidels."

But now, in the desert, he said nothing, and when he slept at night in the mortuary ranks in the white tents his sleep was rotten with dreams. He dreamed of a giant swordfish.

The next day the old man said nothing, and saw nothing but a blank white crowd turning like water at the bottom of an emptying tank. His son and grandson had to carry him back to the white tents.

Two days later, on the Hill of Forgiveness when he should have been praying, he dreamed again of the giant swordfish. It ran hard through a shining sea and the water bulged before it and it came bigger and bigger under a sky scattered with tumbling white birds. The old man was on the scorched sand of the Turtle Beach watching its sail-fin looming tall in middle distance, and it grew larger and larger and roared onto the shore and its sword plunged into the old man’s heart and he woke with the desert sun in his eyes and said,

"I am dying."

The youth was with him.

"Praise God,"

he said.

"If you die here it is a great thing, Grandfather. There is no better place for a Muslim to die."

"There is a better place for me to die,"

said the old man.

***

The last sunlight was coming through the clouds in bright bars and the ferry was rolling against the jetty like a bound buffalo. The youth and his uncle were bearing the old man down the gangway and the Muslims on the quayside were shifting like cotton plants in the wind.

As the old man stepped onto the concrete the red-and-white keffiyeh slipped from his shoulder and went under the feet of the crowd. The youth tried to bend to pick it up, but he could not reach it. And then they were in the floating white midst of the welcoming party. The wind was chasing waves through the cloth of the banner – "WELCOME HAJJIS…"

Women in pink headscarves were beaming and men in black pecis were holding out their hands. Everyone was muttering phrases of mispronounced Arabic, and real questions between them:

"How was it?" "Praise God!"

The old man’s pearly eyes shifted over them.

"I am dying,"

he said, but no one heard him.

"How do you feel now?" "God is great!" "Was it hot?" "God has willed it!"

"I am dying,"

said the old man, a little more loudly this time. A pocket of silence grew around him.

"Take me to the Turtle Beach."


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81 Comments on “Short Stories”

  1. avatar ET says:

    @ timdog

    on drunken Arabs

    I take it then that you’ve never spent an evening in the Bar Karnac off Martyrs’ Square in Damascus? Or in the cafes in Beirut? Or in downtown Cairo or Alexandria of a Saturday night?

    One more proof that shariah is bullshit. It only works in daylight.

  2. avatar Oigal says:

    Never met a drunk Arab and it seems rather unplausible given their draconian shariah laws.

    In another life, I worked for a very large international organisation that had some very large contracts in “The Kingdom”.

    Every year there would be a large “conference” in Australia and we were contractually bound to provide buses and escorted R&R tours for the delgates. Make no bones about it, these were brothel, strip club and discreet bar tours.

    Arabs get drunk, only difference is they are the worlds biggest gropers, bring new meaning to the term obnoxious.

  3. avatar Odinius says:

    ET said:

    One more proof that shariah is bullshit. It only works in daylight.

    Or that those countries don’t have sharia restrictions on the consumption of alcohol??

  4. avatar ET says:

    Arabs get drunk, only difference is they are the worlds biggest gropers, bring new meaning to the term obnoxious.

    Also proof that shariah breeds hypocrites.

  5. avatar Ross says:

    Yeah, I saw quite a few drunks in Morocco, though not in Egypt.But then the Egyptians are not Arabs, really

  6. avatar Odinius says:

    What’s an Arab, though? Probably someone who think they are an Arab and speaks Arabic, or whose parents spoke Arabic.

  7. avatar Ross says:

    Well, Egyptians certainly speak Arabic, and write it, but they are most aware of their ancient national idetinty, and proud of it.

  8. avatar timdog says:

    Actually, Moroccans are probably less Arab than Egyptians. A very large number of them identify themselves as Berber; and probably a majority have at least some Berber blood…

    Syria and Lebanon however are probably more “Arab”, but neither country is particular “Islamic” by Middle Eastern standards. Hence good beer and lively bars.

  9. avatar Odinius says:

    Syria and Lebanon however are probably more “Arab”, but neither country is particular “Islamic” by Middle Eastern standards. Hence good beer and lively bars.

    Yeah, as I pointed out earlier, there just ain’t so sharia there

  10. avatar ET says:

    timdog said

    Syria and Lebanon however are probably more “Arab”, but neither country is particular “Islamic” by Middle Eastern standards. Hence good beer and lively bars.

    When we speak of Arabs we usually refer to the Kingdom, Yemen, Oman and the Emirates. Although Syrians, Lebanese and Palestinians belong to the same ethnic group their history and culture had taken a different turn, especially after the fall of the Ottoman empire. Lebanon in particular had already a majority christian population consisting of Maronites, Greek-orthodox, Chaldeans, Jacobites, Armenians etc. Their attachment to Western lifestyle and culture became even more pronounced when in 1920 it became a League of Nations mandate administered by the French. There were even brothels in Beirut at the time – documented on film – something hard to fathom in Riyadh. No wonder they called it the Paris of the Levant.
    Question is how long this partucular non-Islamic status by Middle Eastern standards as you call it is going to last since it has become a Hizbollah stronghold.

  11. avatar Odinius says:

    People in Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Jordan and Syria generally consider themselves to be Arabs, and speak Arabic. Ergo, they are Arabs.

    Ethnicity is highly subjective.

  12. avatar ET says:

    @ timdog again

    To avoid confusion about the relevance of shariah why don’t you amend your pilgrimage story with the exact whereabouts of this drunken impotent Arab. 🙂

  13. avatar timdog says:

    ET – read the story again and you’ll note that the Arab was not really an Arab. He was quarter Yemeni, quarter Javanese, and half-Madurese.

    there were even brothels

    I don’t think you’d have to look too hard to find brothels in many Middle-Eastern countries even today. I imagine if you knew where to look and were prepared to pay you’d find them in Riyadh too.
    Hezbollah in Lebanon are Shia, ideologically tied to non-Arab Iran, so part of a slightly different scene from mainstream “salafi”-style Islamism. There is also a very distinct separation between Hezbollah Lebanon and non-Hezbollah Lebanon, and a certain attitude amongst the Lebanese that “never the twain shall meet”.
    Next door in Syria the Islamists have always had a very, very rough ride whenever they’ve dared to raise their heads…

  14. avatar ET says:

    @ Odinius

    People in Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Jordan and Syria generally consider themselves to be Arabs, and speak Arabic. Ergo, they are Arabs.

    Your statement is simply gratuitous. People of Germany, Austria and parts of Switzerland and Belgium speak German. Does it mean they consider themselves Germans?

    But you are right that ethnicity is indeed highly subjective. Otherwise the Jews could also be called Arabs as they belong to the same Semitic ethnicity.

  15. avatar ET says:

    @ timdog

    ET – read the story again and you’ll note that the Arab was not really an Arab. He was quarter Yemeni, quarter Javanese, and half-Madurese.

    My bad, but then why call him an Arab? Did he have a beard?

  16. avatar ET says:

    @ timdog

    Hezbollah in Lebanon are Shia, ideologically tied to non-Arab Iran, so part of a slightly different scene from mainstream “salafi”-style Islamism.

    Technically spoken you may be right. But whether it makes any difference in the end is highly debatable, judging from the islamist shariah strains Hezbollah’s (Party of Allah) Iranian counterpart imposes on their people. Women not allowed to come outside without the veil, hanging 13 year old girls for alleged sexual encounters…

  17. avatar ET says:

    timdog said

    I don’t think you’d have to look too hard to find brothels in many Middle-Eastern countries even today. I imagine if you knew where to look and were prepared to pay you’d find them in Riyadh too.

    I don’t know about brothels in Riyadh but I do know some form of carpark prostitution is practiced over there. Fully niqabed women wait in vans parked in remote carparks and when they spot someone sitting alone in a car they approach him and let him fondle their breasts through the open window. If the guy gets properly aroused they climb into the car for further proceedings in exchange for an amount of riyals (or dollars or euros). This method has been recorded with a hidden camera by a gay guy as a measure of revenge for the way he and his ilk were treated by the shariah officials. The film was edited into some kind of documentary about himself and his plight and subsequently smuggled out of the country to be shown on western TV stations.

  18. avatar Odinius says:

    ET:

    Your statement is simply gratuitous. People of Germany, Austria and parts of Switzerland and Belgium speak German. Does it mean they consider themselves Germans?

    But you are right that ethnicity is indeed highly subjective. Otherwise the Jews could also be called Arabs as they belong to the same Semitic ethnicity.

    I’m very glad you brought this specific example up! How much do you know about German conceptions of ethnicity and nationality? The concept of “Germanness” only emerged in the 19th century, with the Romantic philology. Before that, Germans thought of themselves as Saxons, Brandenburgers, Alsatians, Austrians, etc., or as Catholics/Lutherans. Ties were feudal and religious. Being philologists, the Romantics identified common mythic and linguistic themes, and constructed a sense of common identity explicitly based on language. This was the basis for the 19th century German unification movement, which would have reached further had it not butted up against France and Austria. In fact, its entire history up to 1939 was one of that state trying to incorporate German speakers from France, Austria, Czecho, etc. into the German state.

    Looking forward to today, this is still the way Germans conceive of ethnicity. Ever heard of the concept of the vertriebene? This is a widespread term for “Germans who live outside Germany.” That is, people who speak German and consider themselves to be Germans. These people can obtain German citizenship merely by demonstrating their families are ethnic German.

    So sorry, but yes…if people outside Germany speak German and consider themselves to be German, they are considered to be Germans by other Germans.

    That’s how it works in the Middle East too.

    .

  19. avatar Suryo Perkoso says:

    Good lord, far to much “ma’af” and “jammu” for me. Nothing worse than a failure to properly research – Wilbur Smith in Gold Mine particularly annoys me with “he threw the switch on the magneto’s of the two big diesels and they roared into life’

    But hey, what the hell, the hardback version will surely make a fine axle stand.

  20. avatar ET says:

    Odinius

    I presume with ‘Vertriebene’ you refer to the ‘Sudetendeutsche’ . I admit that Germany wasn’t the best example I could mention, given their traumatic experience of the forced division in East and West after WWII and the subsequent desire to reunite all Volksgenossen into the pangermanic cradle. However there still is a big difference between reality and the dreams of some 19th century romantic intellectuals and idealists. It certainly is true that some unification movements were successful and produced a national identity but others were not, like German-speaking Switzerland and Austria, abstraction made of the forced Anschluss in 1938. Some were proven to be downright failures like the idea of the ‘Vereenigde Nederlanden’ (United Netherlands).

    Let me give you an example. If you want to insult a Flemish (=Dutch-speaking) Belgian Joe just tell him that he is Dutch and watch his reaction. Then try to explain him that in the 19th century there was this Aldietse Beweging a movement trying to promote the unity, cultural as well as political, between the various elements of the ‘Dutch tribe’ on the basis of ancestry, language and culture, and he will look at you as if you are coming from Mars. It is a bit farfetched and out of topic to go into much detail but if you are interested try Verdinaso.

    For you, being an American, this may not be evident because the American national identity is largely based on language in the absence of ancient common cultural and ‘tribal’ grounds. In fact your history has had only a lifespan of a couple of hundred years after the Peace Treaty of Versailles in 1783. European, Middle and Far Eastern history being much older however went through far more complex tribal interactions resulting in schisms between peoples with obviously common characteristics (e.g. the Mekong area) and viceversa strong alliances between communities whose only common ground was the fact that they are forced neighbours (e.g. Great Britain) . Closer to home see and read here in IM some of the reactions about topics concerning Indonesia and Malaysia that both share the same basic language and ethnic characteristics. Just tell diego whom I believe is keturunan Bali that in fact he could well be taken for a Malaysian.

  21. avatar ET says:

    People in Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Jordan and Syria generally consider themselves to be Arabs, and speak Arabic. Ergo, they are Arabs.

    If they all consider themselves Arabs then why is the Arab League such a pathetic attempt at panarabism? Why didn’t the UAR (United Arab Republic) between Egypt and Syria hold out for more than 3 and a half years?

  22. avatar Ross says:

    Perhaps Odinius had in mind the Volga Germans in Russia and the Saxon Germans in Romania. They get accepted automatically by German immigration, and naturally so.

    Reverting to the much more interesting question of Arabs and morality, I have talked to many former TKIs who tell me that much of the cash they remit is a result of work other than cooking and cleaning.
    Some go there with that in mind, some stumble into it and others are shamefully bullied into it.
    It appears there are residential centres from which the lasses are hired out. Also there are go-go bars, not known if booze is on tap but girls are.

    No reason for my informants to lie about any of this, and not sure if they refer to Saudi or Kuwait or Emirates. I’ve never been to any of those countries, but human nature doesn’t change greatly from one race to the other, thus I’m inclined to believe the tales.

  23. avatar Odinius says:

    ET,

    Sudentendeutsche refers narrowly to Germans from the Sudentenland of Bohemia. Vertriebene literally means “the displaced”, but is a term for all ethnic Germans from “the east,” which as Ross rightly points out, includes Volga Germans and Romanian Saxons, but also includes the Schwabe from ex-Yugoslavia, East Prussians, etc.

    But basically what I am trying to impress here is that you can’t impose a single set of rules for determining inclusion/exclusion in an ethnic or national category. You have to look at the specific circumstances of a place, and the rules people use to determine who’s in and who’s out. These may be highly contingent on circumstance. For example, an individual may view himself primarily as a Manc in comparison to a Scouser (from Liverpool), a Northerner in comparison to someone from London, English compared to a Welshman, and British in comparison to an American. Actually he views himself as all of these things, but the importance of each varies according to circumstance.

    Methods of determining ethnicity and nationality vary tremendously.

    Germans understand the Vertriebene to be Germans based upon two things: that they consider themselves to be German, and they speak the German language as their native tongue. Turks or Yugoslavs who are born in Germany and speak only German are not considered German, even if they fully assimilate into German cultural life.

    The Flemmish example is different from the German one, indeed, as you describe.

    There are other ethnicities/nationalities, for example French, where this is not the case at all. If you are born in Montreal, consider yourself French, speak French and have a French last name, you are still not really going to be considered French. An Algerian who is born in France, holds French citizenship, speaks French and is fully assimilated in French life is considered, by most French, to be French.

    Ethnicity is therefore subjective and subject to different rules of inclusion and exclusion depending on circumstance. This is perhaps the single most important finding of the last 50 years in the study of ethnicity and nationalism. Whether you are in or out depends a whole lot on “consensus of feeling,” which can change by circumstance, space or time.

    Moving over to the Arabs…given that “Arabness” is based on your name/language and whether you understand yourself to be an Arab, it’s a bit silly to say “no, Arabs are only on the Arabian peninsula.” You might simultaneously see yourself as an Egyptian or Syrian in relation to other Arabs, but as an Arab in relation to a Turk.

  24. avatar ET says:

    Ross said

    Also there are go-go bars

    I wouldn’t be surprised. After all the belly dance and the ‘dance of the seven veils’ originated in this part of the world. BTW I’ve always wondered which veil is the last to fall. Given islamic sensibilities it must be the one from the … head.

  25. avatar Achmad Sudarsono says:

    Ross’s answer to Islamist militancy: waste the bastards. In “Duke of Jaksa” Ross airs his Clint Eastwood fantasy of walking not-so-soft and carrying a gun rather than a stick.

    He joins the likes of Gangsta Rappa Ice Cube who advocates puttin’ a cap in the ass of his enemies. Nice, Ross. George W. had the same idea with Iraq and what a success that has been.

    Ross’s apparent explanation for what drives groups like the FPI is that they are evil and must therefore die. Enter avenging white man bearing fire arm. So much for helping readers understand the world.

    I won’t even talk about the prose. A big thumbs down.

  26. avatar ET says:

    @ Achmad

    How would you handle FPI thugs? The tongkat londo?

  27. avatar Achmad Sudarsono says:

    ET,

    You mean as a writer, a policeman, or president ?

    As a writer, I’d try to do what the latter two couldn’t, and explain why they think the way they do. Not act out personal Rambo fantasies.

  28. avatar timdog says:

    After several offline days drinking teh tarik and eating nasi biriyani I step briefly amongst Tamil gentlemen browsing matrimonial sites to find that Mr Ross won the vote. And a sincere congratulations to him. I thought he would.
    While of course I agree with you entirely Achmad (so glad you showed up) about the actual sentiments Ross expresses, the point was to write a short story for the entertainment of the public, and evidently he did it better for this particular constituency.
    Highfalutin literary pretensions and stylistic affectations are all well and good, but that way lies starvation, obviously, and no man but a blockhead ever wrote – except for money [or votes]…

  29. avatar Suryo Perkoso says:

    Achmad Sudarsono Says:

    September 9th, 2009 at 5:40 pm
    ET,

    You mean as a writer, a policeman, or president ?

    As a writer, I’d try to do what the latter two couldn’t, and explain why they think the way they do. Not act out personal Rambo fantasies.

    I was rather thinking as the mayor of jakarta, if you remember what I mean.

    I

  30. avatar Suryo Perkoso says:

    Achmad Sudarsono Says:

    September 9th, 2009 at 5:40 pm
    ET,

    You mean as a writer, a policeman, or president ?

    As a writer, I’d try to do what the latter two couldn’t, and explain why they think the way they do. Not act out personal Rambo fantasies.

    As the mayor of Jakarta if you remember what I mean….

    As a writer eh Achmad? unusual for you to give much away, though you were the best they ever had…..

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