The Bitter Truth: Why So Serious, Jakarta?
Tasa Nugraza Barley
People in this city need to calm down. Every day, I see people all stressed out. Their faces show that they’re not happy. There’s always something that they’re thinking about, whether it’s work, money or families. And without doubt, I’ve become one of these people. Shame on me!
If there was any survey conducted to find out the saddest, most frustrated people in the world, I’m sure we would make the top five. Look around you if you don’t believe me; watch things more closely. You’ll realize that people around you are all complaining about something.
Go ahead, ask around if you need to. And ask people the ultimate question: “Are you happy living in Jakarta?” I bet eight out of 10 people will answer that they aren’t. To people who say they’re not happy, follow up with this: “Then why don’t just leave this city?” On this question, I’m pretty sure that nine out of 10 will say they have no choice.
We all agree that life in the Big Durian is tough. Not only do we have to face the frustrating, never-ending traffic madness, we also have to deal with stubborn people who don’t seem to know how to behave properly in society. I don’t mean to exaggerate, but most people in this city don’t even know how to wait in line. And since the rainy season has come knocking on the door, it’s floods that we need to be worried about.
If you ask Deepak Chopra, the Indian spirituality guru, he’ll say that you can and should be happy wherever you are, no matter what problems you’re dealing with. But of course that’s easier said than done. If Chopra were made to experience the life of a middle-class or even lower-class resident of Jakarta for just one month, I’m sure he would eventually complain. Returning to his lavish lifestyle in the United States, he would probably write a book entitled, “The Things I Learned From the Unhappy People in a City Called Jakarta.”
The reform era brought us many good things, I agree. But it has also left us with one trouble we always forget to notice: It made us a population of people who like to protest and complain. When we see something wrong, instead of trying to be happy with whatever we have, we now choose to criticize. And the funny thing about it is that the more we complain, the more we tend to forget how to be cheerful and happy.
We should be thankful to the nonprofit organizations that tirelessly push the city administration to make our city a better place. They condemn officials for not building a mass transportation system, making more parks or cleaning the city.
But besides forcing the administration to give us the facilities we deserve, they also need to remind the government that the people have the right to be happy. And I’m very sure that our shameful officials, who think of nothing but profits, don’t realize that their people are actually very sad.
“How can they be sad when we have so many great malls in this city?” is what the administration’s excuse will be. But they should understand that the city’s shopping centers and commercial amusement parks, which seem to be in every corner of the city, don’t really make us happy inside. We may look like we’re having fun with those shopping bags full of branded items, but that doesn’t guarantee that our hearts are really happy.
The administration needs to make people realize that Jakarta is their home, not just a place to earn money. If people looked at things that way, they would treat Jakarta differently. Yes, they would still complain and criticize, but they would also maintain the city and make it better. As we know, happy people always want to make others happy too.
People in Jakarta are frustrated. It’s no wonder music concerts and movie theaters are always packed with people. Not only do they get to enjoy some entertainment, they’re even allowed to scream. This should be an sign for the administration that they need to make more festivals where people can party, sing and dance together.
The city should establish an institution called The Jakarta Center for Happiness. Subsidized by the administration, every resident could participate in training sessions. In front of the class, an instructor, who teaches all the things about happiness and joy, will say something like this to his or her sad students: “Close your eyes, take a deep breath and exhale slowly. I know the traffic is so cruel and it makes you want to bang your head against the window sometimes. But you have to remind yourself that you have the power to choose to be happy.”