The Jakarta Post
In his article “Don’t Just Do something, Talk”, eccentric Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek writes: “we often talk about doing something instead of actually doing it — but sometimes we do things in order to avoid talking and thinking about them.”
That quotation may sum up gubernatorial candidate Anies Baswedan’s criticism of his opponent, incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama and, also, Anies’ former boss, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. Anies once served as a minister in Jokowi’s Cabinet.
During his visit to The Jakarta Post’s office on Monday, the gubernatorial hopeful, who was listed among the world’s top 100 public intellectuals by Foreign Policy in 2008, lamented the fact that fewer people these days appreciated the value of ideas and dialogue.
“To be honest, in recent years, the country seems to no longer have any appreciation for ideas. Words seem to be unimportant. Meanwhile, [many think] what matters is work, work, work,” Anies said in an apparent jab at Jokowi’s famous tagline.
Jokowi, who fired Anies in August last year, has described his administration as the “Working Cabinet” in a thinly veiled attack against preceding administrations.
Ahok, Jokowi’s deputy when the latter was governor of Jakarta, shares Jokowi’s general philosophy and, during his term as governor, has focused his energy on getting things done, a trait that has apparently earned him both praise and derision.
For Anies, building Jakarta needs more than just work. It also needs ideas and words.
“It is not ‘we should talk less and work more,’ but ‘we should talk a lot and work a lot,’” Anies said. “A leader must lead and therefore he has to talk. Therefore, what I offer is: ideas, words and action,” he added.
During his speech, Anies repeated his criticisms of Ahok’s leadership, arguing that the incumbent was focused too much on building “inanimate objects” and had overlooked the necessity of building human resources. He was referring to Ahok’s focus on expediting infrastructure development and what he claims to be Ahok’s lack of attention toward the city’s poor.
The former rector of Paramadina University said that, if elected, he would engage the public to develop Jakarta and close the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots”. He said he would invite the private sector to help the city administration alleviate poverty.
“There are so many kind people in Jakarta. Kindness is contagious. All people must be called upon to engage in [developing the city],” he said, citing his experience with Indonesia Mengajar (Teach for Indonesia), which he founded, as proof that asking people to help other people was not impossible.
He said it was important to invite everyone, regardless of their background, to contribute to the city. In his attempt to engage the public, Anies has held meetings with a number of communities, including members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI). His meeting with the FPI has drawn criticism from both his detractors and some of his supporters.
Anies defended his decision to visit the headquarters of the FPI in Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta, saying that he was there to clarify rumors about him that could seriously hurt his chances in the election.
He said he had been accused of being a Shiite, a liberal Muslim and a Wahabbi, a pejorative term used to refer to the strain of Islam widely practiced in Saudi Arabia.
The accusations have circulated for years but he had never taken them seriously until he decided to run for office, Anies said, adding that religion turned out to be an important issue for Jakarta’s voters.
“On the campaign trail, many voters asked me what my religion was. Not only that, they also asked whether my Islam was the true Islam or not. Then, they asked whether I was a Sunni or a Shiite. These are serious questions,” he said.
“Therefore, I think it is important to clarify [the rumors].”