Earlier today, around lunchtime, a co-worker warned us without losing her trademark sweet smile, “Don’t go to Sarinah. A bomb has just exploded there.” We immediately went into a tailspin, scrambling to refresh news channels and answering Whatsapp messages, but more in amusement and bewilderment than in fear-induced gasps or paralysis.
Sarinah, where the bombed Starbucks Cafe was located, is less than a block away from where we were. Then we heard several more explosions around Jakarta. Gun-wielding shooters parading the city streets randomly opened fire, so the rumors said.
We shook our heads in disbelief. We made sure our friends and families are safe, as safe as each building we are in. Then we pondered about how much longer it would be till the ensuing lockdown finishes; how difficult it would be to get home because of possible worsening traffic jam later on; how we should have had stocked enough snacks for emergency situations such as these.
Messages of “stay safe” were circulating, but not without one important caveat: “be careful of what you share in chat apps or social media. Don’t destabilize the economy further. Don’t make rupiah jump from 14,000 per USD to 17,000 or, God forbid, 20,000. The JSX Composite had weakened by 1.7% and continued to decline!”
We worry for our well-being, that’s for sure, but one thing that I felt was absent today, was fear.
By dusk fall, lockdowns were released as the situation in the streets of Jakarta CBD had improved. Albeit still on high alert, citizens of Jakarta flowed out of office buildings in only a slightly heavier flow than in usual days. I took time to immerse myself among the crowd in the sidewalk. Curious pedestrians flocked in front of the bombed Starbucks cafe, took pictures, reveled in the drama of the situation. Many pictures circulated of street hawkers selling grilled meat on skewers, assorted fries, or other popular street food to hungry on-lookers and policemen who must be tense and exhausted and in need of a nice, hearty, delicious munch.
Most of us are disgruntled. We are annoyed that some stupid assholes hurt our countrymen or foreigners who are our friends/colleagues/neighbors. We are angry because the difficult life in the metropolitan will become more pragmatically difficult: more security screenings, more stigmatization from abroad, more convincing to give to concerned parents or even self when needing to go out. We are testy that prices of daily goods might increase. We are tired of this long day, and we don’t like people who makes us feel more tired than we usually already are.
We worry for our well-being, that’s for sure, but one thing that I felt was absent later today, was fear.
Everyone I talked to in the street also said, this is not religion. They all shook their head and said, “these are just dimwits trying to appear bigger than they are, and failed miserably at it.”
So, assholes, you didn’t reveal to us fear; neither did you reveal to us power. What you revealed to us with today’s attack, is the source of our resilience: the community. Along with a message of “stay safe!”, which clamors security at an individual level; we always yell, “oh, and don’t make the situation worse for us collectively!” The hashtag we prefer to use is #KamiTidakTakut (“we are not afraid”). We use the pronoun “kami”, or “we”, because our individual entities might be at stake, but our ultimate defense is our collective strength. We have a collective strength that is defiant, brazen, resilient, and will not break simply, quoting a humble-looking but wise streetgoer I met today, “due to some assholes who’s trying to look bigger than they actually are”. We refuse to fear you, extremist assholes.
Love from Jakarta,
14 January 2016