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Jakarta Post

Don't judge people by appearance, preaches Jokowi. Message backfires spectacularly.

  • Rizki Fachriansyah
    Rizki Fachriansyah

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, January 21, 2020   /   03:39 pm
Don't judge people by appearance, preaches Jokowi. Message backfires spectacularly. Illustration of Twitter app on phone. (Shutterstock/Worawee Meepian)

A comic strip posted on President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s Twitter account that conveys the message of looking past appearances and instead judging people by their actions has been met with a less-than-favorable reception on social media, with many users pointing out the comic’s inherent irony in regard to the various instances of discrimination still plaguing the government's bureaucracy.

In a video that was viewed over 2.1 million times and retweeted by over 33,900 Twitter users as of 1 p.m. on Tuesday, a man who appears to be a cartoon version of Jokowi takes his grandson out on a trip aboard a commuter train.

As they look for available seats on the train, the grandson is scared when he sees a man with dyed hair, dressed in stereotypical “gang” attire, sitting across from him.

“Grandpa, there’s a scary-looking man,” the grandson said.

“It’s okay, don’t be scared,” the grandfather replied.

On the next page, an elderly woman is shown boarding the train when it arrives at a station. The man with dyed hair catches sight of her and tries to get her attention, prompting fellow passengers to suspect that the man is up to no good.

Throughout the last several panels, the man is revealed to be a considerate individual who offers to give up his seat for the woman, despite his supposedly aggressive appearance suggesting otherwise. The man then tells the elderly woman that she was once his school teacher who had taught him that being an intelligent person was not enough, as he must also be kind to others.

In the last panel, the grandfather -- who is wearing a white shirt, similar to Jokowi's trademark style -- is shown giving advice to his grandson.

“Don’t judge a person by their appearance. Judge them by their actions,” the man tells his grandson at the end of the strip.

The comic has since garnered a deluge of responses from social media users, including those who have criticized Jokowi's administration for failing to heed the advice.

Scores of Twitter users flocked to Jokowi's Twitter thread, with some posting sarcastic messages to express their disappointment at the government's discriminatory policies, including several regulations that prohibit members of the public who have tattoos from taking office as civil servants at a number of state institutions and bans on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

“But why are [people] who have tattoos not allowed to work as civil servants, pak?" Twitter user @PamanKevin tweeted in reply to the comic strip.

Another user, @strawberrychaoz, wrote, “I still don’t understand why LGBT people are not allowed to apply for work as civil servants.”

“Why can’t those who have tattoos apply for work as civil servants? Why are transgender people still not given the right to formal work?” @_banggiel tweeted.

Rules forbidding public servants from having tattoos have been imposed in the country since the New Order era. Although some government institutions did not stipulate the ban among the job requirements for those applying for civil service recruitment last year, some institutions, including the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) and the National Civil Service Agency (BKN) still imposed the ban on tattooed applicants.

Meanwhile, at least two institutions have stipulated a ban on LGBT applicants during last year’s civil service recruitment, namely the Attorney General's Office (AGO) and the Trade Ministry -- although the Indonesian Ombudsman said the latter had removed such requirements shortly after receiving a backlash.

The AGO’s special requirement even went as far as categorizing homosexuality and transgenderism as mental illnesses: Applicants “must not be mentally disabled, including deviant sexual orientation and deviant behavior”.

The requirement raised eyebrows as the country’s Diagnostic Classification on Mental Disorder Guidelines (PPDGJ) III, issued in 1987, states that homosexuality is not a mental illness.

At the time of the writing, neither Jokowi, through his official social media channels, nor his staff or ministers had released a statement regarding the comments.