Soapbox: publisher's perspective |

Style or Substance?

Soapbox: Publisher's Perspective | 31 January 2020

Picture of Alistair Speirs

This month’s issue is about ‘love’ and I will leave my young and romantic editorial team to talk about romantic love and even platonic love in its various forms, according to them! I want to talk about our love for our country.

Every formal gathering here starts with a usually rousing rendition of the National Anthem Indonesia Raya (Great Indonesia) which reaffirms our commitment to, and love for, our country, our independence, our way of life.

The lyrics (in English) start as follows:

Indonesia, my native land
The land where I shed my blood
There, I stand to be the guard
Of my motherland
Indonesia, my nationality
My nation and homeland
Let us exclaim
Indonesia unites! (is one)
Long live my land, long live my state
My nation my people, entirely

There are so many good messages in this song that we need to be reminded of as we start what should be a great year for Indonesia, but which has started so badly with the worst floods in Jakarta for so many years, and too many other negative happenings.

I used to be in the insurance business, and as risk managers, we always advised our clients to plan for ‘the 100 year tide, wave or wind’. You plan to have your building, road, bridge or canal, built to withstand the worst event recorded over 100 years, and then leave a margin of at least 50 per cent to be really safe.

If you do that the chances are 99 per cent that you will survive the very worst that nature can throw at you. And that is what you do first before you spend money on beautification or entertainment. There is no point in making expensive and stylish pavements around our capital until we are sure our houses will not fill with water and our clothes, our chairs, our beds will not be destroyed by horrendous, foul, smelly flood water. But that’s what happened. The risk was simply not managed.

There is also no point in spending money on creating expensive sporting events, such as the proposed Formula E, until the traffic situation has been solved and the billions of dollars wasted in traffic on fuel and time and increasingly air pollution too, have not been completely and totally solved. And one single MRT track of 20km will not do it. London with a smaller population than Jakarta at about 9,3 million, compared to Jakarta’s 20 plus million (who knows?) has 420km of track – and still has a problem! We have a long, long, long way to go.

Loving your country and wanting it to look good is not enough, we need as the anthem says ‘to shed our blood’ and ‘to stand guard’. We need to give up style and go back to substance. It’s boring, it’s basic, but it’s what we need before we do anything else. Love sometimes has to hurt, but it’s better to hurt in the planning and preparation than in the sad aftermath. Tanahairku has become Tanahbawahairku.

Alistair speirs