I'm Not Crazy About CrowdsI believe compassion is something that humans unlearn, so it’s more natural to have it than not.Utin commenting on a Rima Fauzi post
It's true that, being just short of two metres, I stand out in a crowd. However, you'll be lucky to spot me because in general I don't enjoy being in one. I've been in my share, that's true, but through choice and design.
During my teens, I would regularly and willingly join as many as 66,000 Charlton Athletic fans for the many pleasures and occasional disappointments 'our' team gave us. Rare are the disturbances witnessed at other grounds, such as at matches between Indonesian teams, and.Charlton remains a family, a community club, albeit with much smaller attendances.
I've been to many concerts too, mainly in London, but also in the USA and here in Jakarta. I've never been because I wanted to say, for example, "look at me, I'm at a Stones concert". (They were somewhere distant and I could barely see them; they certainly couldn't see me.) I go because I want to experience the emotional highs with fellow afficionado that recorded music doesn't always give. (I was at Pat Metheny's first gig in London in 1981/2 and his only gig to date here in Jakarta in '95. This was, sadly, sparcely attended.)
Although opportunities for gig and match going are somewhat limited now, I remain a member of those families. Thanks to online groups in which we share memories and comment on our shared (mis)fortunes, I remain one of an 'in-crowd', albeit a semi-virtual reality.
Living in Jakarta there are many occasions when friends and acquaintances invite me to be part of theirs. Sorry, but I'm an unwilling part of the madding crowd.
As a child, I was taught that it's polite to hold doors open and to stand back to allow others, especially the elderly and those with young children or expectant, to exit or enter. Do that here and rare are the acknowledgements, let alone thanks.
But it's not common courtesy that I'm after, but common sense.
One of my earliest memories here is of escorting the pregnant girlfriend of a colleague to the beach town of Pelabuhan Ratu for a weekend away from it all. We arrived at the Cililitan bus terminal and prepared to descend the stairs of the double-decker bus - this dates me - but couldn't thanks to the onrush of hoodlums. Finding the hand of one of them in my pocket, I was quite prepared to be chivalrous so I brusquely pushed him back down the stairs.
Since then I have remonstrated with insensitive souls who jump queues, who drive their motorcycles along busy sidewalks, and who attempt to board buses, ships, trains
as I, and many others, attempt to disembark. It's not the pickpockets that I'm worried about, so much as the risk to life and limb. It's as if Indonesians are unable to recognise that each of us is entitled to a bit of personal space and the freedom to move freely within it.
Crowds can be controlled but too often they are not.
February 9th 2008
As hundreds of music fans tried to force their way out of a concert in Bandung by Indonesian 'melodic death metal band' Beside, ten young people were trampled or crushed to death.September 17th 2008
In Pasuruan, a small town in East Java, at least 21 people were killed in a stampede
for a Lebaran handout (zakat
) that amounted to Rp.20,000 (c.$2).January/February 2009
Ponari, a third grader of an elementary school in Kedungsari, a small village in East Java, reportedly healed villagers suffering from fevers and other ailments by making them drink water into which a miraculous stone was put. Three people died in the stampedes to his house.
Crowd crazes are not unique to Indonesia, but whereas poverty, a lack of education and limited infrastructure could be considered as root causes here, elsewhere it is often pure greed
For example, last year, on 28th November, a temporary security guard was crushed to death by a crowd of 2,000 people surging in to a discount sale in a branch of Walmart's in Long Island, USA. It was not an unusual occurence
.There is a disturbing pattern arising in the use of marketing gimmicks - specifically crowd crazing in which a company "hypes" a product. This often results in serious injury and death.
It's only fair to say that the public isn't trained in the art of waiting, of giving way to others. An obvious example is that it seems so much easier to employ an agent in government offices, such as immigration, because you know that if you wait your turn and follow due process, you may never get served.
Queuing is not de rigeur here, except in a few places such as supermarkets, banks and customer service departments, and even then tempers can become frayed. Try using your bank's facilities at lunchtime and you'll probably find that their staff are not available because, the security guard may tell you, it's lunchtime.
There's little point in queuing at bus stops either, because buses stop seemingly willy-nilly in an attempt to let the fittest of the waiting hordes board.To quote Alta Planning, "improving pedestrian safety and comfort should be a goal for any forward-thinking community", yet we see little evidence of fundamental foresight from City Hall. Jakarta is not designed but, amoeba-like, it spreads its tentacles wherever it will. Buildings, such as malls, are allowed to sprout without regard to traffic flow, be it vehicular or pedestrian.
We all have to walk somewhere, even if it's just from the car to the curb, and that's where the problems are. No-one in City Hall seems to have a copy of John Fruin's classic 1971 study Pedestrian Planning And Design. An interesting chapter entitled The Perception of Personal Space has such illuminating sections as Pedestrian Spacing and Conflicts and The Body Buffer Zone.
We hear tell of 30% of next year's City budget being devoted to transport systems, but few details have emerged of how we will benefit.
If our 'tulers' deny us knowledge of how we should behave in public, then anarchy will continue to reign. There are, seemingly, no rules to waive.
.....................................The above was an article submitted but rejected for a reason or two by the Jakarta Globe. I should have updated it before posting it here to include the dozens trampled in the rush for 'free meat' last Friday, Hari Raya Idul Adha (the Muslim day of sacrifice/mass slaughter of innocent cows and goats), at Jakarta's main mosque and in Surabaya.