Peace Is Restored.
Or is it?
A meeting was held on our terrace for an hour or so following the fracas. Our first echelon RT, an old friend, and second-echelon RW who'd encouraged the yobbos to congregate outside his house, "Er Indoors and her youngest sister who lives with us were in attendance. I think (hope) Our Kid slept through it all. One of the street hooligans was also there. His name is Angga, pronounced 'anger', which I did think apt except that he seemed prepared to listen.
Throughout the meeting, I didn't clean up my wounds: the most noticeable was the blood that had streamed from the small cut below my eye. ('Er Indoors took a photo for future reference.) Of major concern to our local 'authorities' was that I might call the police. Certainly it was a tempting thought, but I figured that if we pressed charges then we'd make permanent enemies for however long we continued to live here.
What I had confirmed was that all those guys sitting around every night are local, mainly of Betawi
stock, and all unemployed.The Betawi (orang Betawi, or "people of Batavia") are the descendants of the people living around Batavia (the colonial name for Jakarta) from around the 17th century. The Betawis are mostly descended from various Southeast Asian ethnic groups, plus Arab, Chinese, and Indian brought to or attracted to Batavia to meet labour needs, including people from various parts of Indonesia. They have a culture and language distinct from the surrounding Sundanese and Javanese. The Betawis are known for their piety towards Islam, as well as their short temper and their openness to others.
Ah, yes, their "short temper". It's too late for regrets, but I really should have stopped to reflect rather than charging into their den and upturning their carrom board. But when you see your wife surrounded by a bunch of jeering layabouts, what's a real man to do, eh?
Having sorted out the non-appearance of the police - this time only, I asserted - Pak RW proposed a compromise: the playing of carrom would cease at 10pm. But, we asked, who would enforce that? Besides, even if there wasn't someone's parlour available, why didn't they play in the daytime? They're all unemployed, many relying on their wives' earnings as cleaners, laundry maids or through running a small food stall, and need some 'entertainment' to occupy themselves. Two nights ago, I was it..
Yes, unemployment is a major factor in Indonesia, with over a million contract workers being laid off in the past year or so. That's why we pay over the going rate to the various ojek
(motorcycle taxis) drivers we use, feed our street crazy, and slip the occasional note to those who give us help, however small.
For a few months we provided the capital for the lad who pushed his cart of vegetables around our streets. He paid us back with the choicest veggies. (The last we heard, he'd buggered off to Bogor to become an illegal gold miner.)
So it's not as if we live aloof from our locale.
All that aside, I decided to offer a possible solution, one that could both rebuild the lost community spirit and get the yobbos off the street with some money in their pockets.
All those years ago when I first moved in, there was a system of having our electricity bills paid by the street secretary. Instead of each householder forking out for transport to the local electricity board office, but now at a bank branch, just the one person went and paid the bills of each household who added a 'fee' of, say, half the regular transport costs. A win-win system which generated a considerable sum per month. Our street built up a stock of chairs and tables for the wedding receptions and occasional funereal lie-ins when all and sundry arrive from near and far to pay their respects.
I suggested that this could be revived. Furthermore, perhaps something could be done about our rubbish collection. There isn't a system in Jakarta of sorting organic and non-organic waste, yet there are a few kampungs in Jakarta which have developed profitable composting enterprises.
Ours is a fairly densely occupied area so there is surely scope for a non-profit community run organisation which could operate these and other projects. Our RT certainly liked the notion, particularly as it could be operated on quite a large scale involving the other communities roundabout, from an elite complex to our neighbouring kampung
where the street lads all live.
'Er Indoors is not so sure, however.Orang Betawi
have an inclusiveness, much of it based on landgrabs which have seen them marginalised by rich folk as Jakarta has expanded. Unfortunately, they are also seen as being non-entrepreneurial, lazy and shiftless. We can certainly name a few individuals from around here who fit that stereotype.
At the end of our lengthy pow-pow I proposed that we exchanged mutual apologies. The RT and RW put this to the gang, who were still gathered opposite, and they trooped in a line through our front yard and we shook hands. A few seemed sincere.
Engineering a change of mindset which embraces all our differences would be hard work. I believe it is possible - I have to - but can others be convinced?
Only time will tell, long after my wounds have healed.