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Filming in the Most Depressing City on Earth: Jakarta

Filming in the Most Depressing City on Earth: Jakarta

It stinks, it’s the most polluted metropolis on earth, however that isn’t the most horrible factor about it.

You possibly can drive for ten and even twenty kilometers via it, and see solely ugliness, fences and damaged pavements. However there are lots of depressing cities on this planet, and I’ve labored in virtually all of them, in 160 nations.

So why is ‘Jakarta killing me’?  Why am I overwhelmed by melancholy every time I determine to movie right here, or to put in writing about the state in which its residents are pressured to reside? Why, actually, do I really feel so determined, so hopeless?

I’m robust. I hardly succumb to melancholy even in such locations like the war-torn Afghanistan, Iraq, or in the center of the hardest slums of Africa.

So, what’s it, actually, about Jakarta?

Right here, I typically discuss ‘immorality’, however once more, what do I imply by this time period? I’m not a moralist, removed from it. I’ve no faith, and I very not often cross ‘moral judgments’, until one thing really outrageous unveils in entrance of my eyes.

So why, as so many others, do I land in this metropolis in good spirits, and depart one or two weeks sick, damaged, actually shitting my pants, filled with wrath, despair?

Why? The Western mass media and native servile sheets are continuously bombarding the world, describing Jakarta as a ‘sprawling metropolis’, or to make use of the terminology of the Australian Nationwide College, as a ‘normal city’.

However it isn’t. The truth is, it’s the most ‘immoral’ place on earth that I do know. It’s one monumental monument to fascism, mental collapse, Western neo-colonialism and turbo-capitalism.

This time, proper right here, I’ll clarify, briefly and determinately, why!


You’ll be able to truly keep away from feeling this manner, for those who determine to land in Jakarta, work for every week or two surrounded by native ‘elites’ (often shameless thugs), sail by means of life right here with half-closed eyes. Or in case you receives a commission nicely ‘not to see’. You can too be a Western journo who lives in considered one of high-rise condominiums, will get himself native bimbo for a girlfriend, and collects his ‘news’ from official briefings and press conferences.

Such overseas ‘visitors’ are warmly welcomed in Jakarta, they usually get included into the lifetime of native tsars, of feudal ‘cream’, of bandits who double as enterprise individuals or politicians.

It isn’t so troublesome! You land at that lavish Terminal Three of Soekarno-Hatta Worldwide Airport (half of issues don’t work right here, already, or ‘yet’, however the terminal does look lavish), you possibly can take a luxurious limo to certainly one of so many 5-star lodges, have conferences at a steel-and-glass workplace tower, dine in a complicated mall the place no one outlets (a cash laundering idea), however the place these with limitless budgets, typically dine. In any case this you possibly can depart considering that Jakarta is simply cool – bit ‘shallow’, too loud and too vulgar – however a ‘kind of cool’ metropolis.

And you may, for those who select to by no means study that about 90% of its residents are literally dwelling in slums.

That’s, if ‘international standards’ for what’s a ‘slum’ and what’s ‘poverty’ or excessive poverty, have been to use right here.

You see, ‘officially’, in response to the treasonous Indonesian regime, solely 9.9% of Indonesians are ‘poor’.

In Indonesia, you aren’t actually ‘poor’, not essentially, should you or your youngsters are shitting into canal, and that canal is actually poisonous from chemical, medical or different waste, and if, just some meters ‘down the stream’, somebody is washing garments, and even brushing tooth, getting little bit of your excrement. You aren’t ‘poor’ if in case you have no entry to wash water, or to an honest electrical energy provide (virtually no one does in Jakarta, as the voltage fluctuates and destroys virtually all electrical home equipment in no time). You aren’t poor in case your youngsters can’t afford to eat milk merchandise and turn into bodily or mentally sick from a scarcity of nutritional vitamins, minerals, or out rightly affected by malnutrition. You aren’t poor in case you are ‘functionally illiterate’, can’t examine and know near nothing about the world.

In Indonesia, you’re poor in case your revenue is under Rp.400.000 per thirty days (the definition utilized since March, 2018). That’s, as I write this essay, the equal of US$26 per 30 days. Even the most cynical ‘absolute poverty’ line stands at US$1.25.

In line with the UN declaration that resulted from the World Summit on Social Improvement in Copenhagen in 1995, absolute poverty is “a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education, and information. It depends not only on income, but also on access to services.”

If this definition have been to be utilized to Jakarta, no less than, however in all probability extra, than 90% of the inhabitants must be thought-about as ‘absolutely poor’. And almost definitely between 95 and 98 % of individuals throughout the complete archipelago.

However this entire nation is wrapped in a cover of lies and fabrications. A number of years in the past, once I was writing my huge guide about Indonesia Archipelago of Worry, Pluto, UK), I spoke to a number of main statisticians from the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS), which is predicated in Montreal, Canada. I used to be informed, on the document, that Indonesia doesn’t have 245 million individuals as was generally reported, however greater than 300 million. Nevertheless, all worldwide and native statisticians are strongly discouraged from disclosing the actual numbers. Why? As a result of these 60 or in all probability hundreds of thousands of extra individuals merely ‘do not exist’.

In the event that they ‘do not exist’, the state, the authorities, the regime, don’t have to deal with them, to feed them, to even hassle registering them. These are the poorest of the poor, the most weak people.

Virtually all over the place in the world, poor nations are addressing their social issues publicly, as a result of they need to increase consciousness of the plight of their individuals. Some nations are then combating their issues themselves (like China or Venezuela), or they’re asking the worldwide group for assist.

In Indonesia, the rulers are covering-up the true horrors of the Indonesian actuality. Why?

As a result of they don’t give a rattling about the poor. They couldn’t care much less about the nice majority that really lives in destitution. They don’t want ‘help’, as a result of the individuals don’t matter. What issues is the income of the few who’re from the ‘elites’, in addition to servitude and prostitution to the Western rulers. In any case, it was the West that triggered the 1965 coup in which between 1-Three million intellectuals, ‘atheists’, Communists and unionists misplaced their lives. And so, the Indonesian treasonous enterprise ‘heads’, the army generals, spiritual leaders in addition to the servile students and media ‘stars’ are merrily prostituting themselves, eternally grateful to Washington, London and Riyadh, for saving them from the simply and egalitarian society, which the nice father of the nation Soekarno and the Communist Social gathering of Indonesia (PKI) have been aiming at.

‘Positive statistics’, which are literally simply detectable lies, deliver ‘more investment’ for his or her enterprises. Or in order that they consider. The Indonesian financial system is nearly solely based mostly on the plunder of pure assets by overseas multi-nationals, in addition to native corporations. Income find yourself in the pockets of only a few. The enterprise of the savage plundering of Kalimantan (Borneo), Sumatra and Papua has been monumental. The nation has been virtually absolutely stripped of its forests; it has leveled to the floor whole mountains and polluted mighty rivers. However the loot flows overseas, or it stays in the pockets of Jakarta’s chosen few.  Aside from ‘commodities’, Indonesia produces virtually nothing of worth. Its scientific analysis is principally nil, and its mental output minimal. Even judged by Western requirements: the 4th most populous nation on the planet, doesn’t have one single Noble Prize laureate, and never one internationally recognizable thinker or a author.

And so, there are these 5-star lodge towers, workplace buildings, and ridiculously overpriced malls and supermarkets (most of them designed and constructed by overseas corporations), principally catering for many who steal, and by no means needed to work for his or her cash.

Dwelling in slums that aren’t referred to as slums

However in between, there are the so-called kampungs – ‘villages’ – the place the nice majority of Jakarta’s residents stay. A Kampung sounds romantic, however in actuality, it isn’t – anyplace else on earth it will be referred to as a slum. The slums of Jakarta and, in reality, of the complete Indonesia, are rat-infested, open sewage colossuses, with darkish slender alleys, poisonous canals, and very restricted entry to consuming water (water in the capital was privatized by French and British corporations, and in consequence, the high quality dropped and costs turned unrealistically steep for the majority of individuals).

Apart from just some tiny soiled specks of inexperienced areas, and the most of the time closed small sq. in the middle of the metropolis referred to as Monas, Jakarta has no public parks. Overlook about public playgrounds for youngsters, or public train machines! The truth is, Jakarta has nothing ‘public’ left. Nothing ‘belongs to people’ – as every thing was bought, corrupted, grabbed and privatized. A household of Four has to pay round 7 USD to even enter Ancol, the solely obtainable seashore space, regardless of the undeniable fact that Jakarta is theoretically a maritime metropolis. However even in Ancol, regardless of the entrance payment, the tiny seashore is affected by rubbish, and a slender promenade is damaged and outrageously filthy. In any other case – there’s nothing!

A tiny public area a la Jakarta

In a single monumental slum (sorry, kampung), I just lately filmed lots of of youngsters enjoying in the center of a cemetery, just because they haven’t any different locations to go.

On the different hand, Jakarta has extra mosques per sq. kilometer than some other metropolis on earth that I do know (and I’ve visited virtually all Muslim nations). Mosques and small mushollahs, are actually rising on each road, typically taking up land that ought to be meant for public use. However in contrast to in Malaysia or Turkey, these spiritual establishments don’t present playgrounds for youngsters, or a ‘public space’.

The distinction between the tiny minority of extraordinarily wealthy, and the destitute majority (I don’t consider that Jakarta has any substantial ‘middle class’, anymore), is so large, that these two teams look like dwelling on two completely totally different planets, whereas inhabiting the similar metropolis. The construction of Jakarta is such that the two realities typically by no means even meet. And it’s thought-about regular, by each the exploiters and the disadvantaged plenty.

Poor are used to being poor, obedient and ‘entrusting their fate into God’s palms’, in the Indonesian language referred to as pasrah. And the wealthy are secretly laughing at the poor, all the solution to the financial institution. I do know them, the wealthy of Indonesia, too. I labored, for many years, with Indonesians from throughout the spectrum – from the poorest of the poor, to the richest of the wealthy.


So why do I really feel as I do? Why do I need to throw up?

Haven’t I labored in Mathare and the different large slums of Nairobi, Kenya, or in Uganda, or India?

Sure, in fact. I made movies about the distress in Africa. However it’s totally different there. In the whole metropolis of Nairobi, which is the so-called service middle of East Africa (a lot of the cash from Uganda, Rwanda and even DRC Congo is being washed there), there is just one really big luxurious mall, of which Jakarta has dozens. Evaluating the palaces (ugly, vulgar, however palaces) that the Indonesians are constructing from the blood and sweat of the poor and from the theft of the pure assets, with these in Africa, the African ‘elites’ a minimum of have some disgrace left. They don’t make contrasts so seen. They intuitively know that what they’re doing is incorrect, and sometimes attempt to cover their wealth.

And in Africa, slums are referred to as slums, and each slum dweller is aware of that his or her life is shit.

In India, issues are dangerous, virtually as dangerous as in Indonesia, however a minimum of there’s some true resistance, and the Communist Events are commonly in management of varied Indian states. Left-wing guerillas are preventing a civil warfare throughout the sub-continent, and the nation has some true nice thinkers and intellectuals, most of them from the left.

The Indonesian poor do not know that they’re poor, they ‘thank God’ for what they’ve, or, extra exactly ‘do not have’. And the super-rich looters are pleased with their achievements. They’re hiding nothing. On the opposite – they flash their wealth, figuring out that they’re above the regulation, or any ethical rules. They drive their Mercedes limos proper subsequent to the slums, with out worry. They’re truly revered, not solely feared. The extra they steal, the extra they’re admired.

And if they’re crossed, they kill.

They kill human rights activists, peasants who refuse to surrender their land, or anybody who stands in their approach.

Justice is completely corrupted. Truly, every little thing is. Solely those that pay are protected.

To even simply irritate the true house owners of the metropolis can result in dying. In Archipelago of Worry I wrote about the case of an proprietor of the former Hilton Lodge, who shot a waiter point-blank in his personal institution. Why? As a result of he had humbly dared to tell the proprietor’s girlfriend that her bank card had been declined. For the homicide he solely received a number of years, and he bribed himself out just some months after being put behind bars.

Not way back, they put into jail the former reasonably left-wing governor of Jakarta, often known as Ahok, for making an attempt to enhance the infrastructure, sanitation and public transportation. The official cost: “insulting Islam”. A nasty joke, actually, as virtually all Indonesian linguists agreed that there was no insult in any way. However once more, it labored: to do one thing for the individuals, one dangers being branded as a socialist, or a Communist (which right here is unlawful). To pay an excessive amount of consideration to the wellbeing of the widespread residents might model you as an atheist, which can also be unlawful. So, when you construct a couple of new practice strains, a couple of sidewalks, erect a few parks; you’re risking ending up deep behind bars. Religions – be they Wahhabism or Pentecostal Christianity – have, for many years, been absolutely inspired by the West, which is gaining significantly from destitution, ignorance and the obedience of the Indonesian plenty.

Sure, I’ve seen loads of horrors in this world, and confronted indescribable cynicism. However Indonesia is actually ‘unique’, and so is its capital metropolis.

It is sort of a large, decaying carcass of a fish, inside which 12 million individuals breathe the most polluted air on earth, surrounded by indescribably ugliness, gloominess and pop-ridden meaninglessness.

And there’s no struggle, no true revolt towards this completely fascist association of the metropolis and the society.

The poor ‘know their place’. They’ve obediently accepted their destiny. They steal from one another, insult and oppress one another. They don’t dare to take on the actual usurpers and bandit rulers. Or extra exactly: they don’t discover them to be the actual cause of their plight. In Jakarta, there’s a lot pressure and hatred, however it isn’t directed towards those that introduced the metropolis and the nation to their knees.

All this, whereas the wealthy don’t even hassle to look down at the plenty. They really don’t even discover that the plenty even exist. They be sure of not counting the tens of hundreds of thousands of monstrously poor human beings.

And the West lies, its media lies, and so do its economists.

Learn the US and European newspapers and you may be advised that Jakarta is a ‘sprawling metropolis’, that Indonesia is the ‘third biggest democracy’ (my god, in response to them, India is No. 1), and that the Indonesian religions are average and tolerant.


Jakarta is a shameless fusion of fascism and feudalism. As the nice Australian painter George Burchett (the son of the legendary left-wing journalist Wilfred Burchett) as soon as informed me: “Cities are usually built for the people. But the Indonesian cities, particularly Jakarta, are built against the people.”

Ciputra Mall

I’ve written many occasions about Jakarta’s ‘cultural offering’. With 12 million inhabitants, it has not one everlasting live performance corridor, its cinemas solely displaying Hollywood junk, with some variations of Southeast Asian horrors and different rubbish. The one artwork cinema at TIM has solely round 30 seats and a really sporadic schedule. The few trendy artwork museums are all privately owned, and keep away from all social subjects, or any criticism of capitalism and Western imperialism. However there are, in fact, the work of Warhol and some decadent Chinese language artists mocking Communism, hanging on their partitions. This manner, the native elites can get even additional indoctrinated, whereas taking their selfies.

Deeper ideas are discouraged. Popular culture – its lowest grade – is actually in all places. Intellectually, the metropolis has been ruined since 1965.

Noise is in all places, too. Loud, aggressive noise. Monstrous decibels that might be banned anyplace else in the world, beat people who find themselves visiting malls. Mosques throughout the metropolis are, in contrast to their counterparts even in the Center East or Malaysia, broadcasting complete sermons over the Orwellian-style loudspeakers, at the least 5 hours a day, however typically for much longer. Church buildings of utmost right-wing orientations preach ‘Prosperity Gospel’, periodically telling the worshipers that “God loves the rich and that is why they are rich, while hating the poor and that is the reason why they are poor.” To flee religions is unattainable. To flee noise is unimaginable. It typically seems that the individuals of Jakarta are scared of silence. Silence would make them assume, and considering might result in some extraordinarily scary conclusions.


And subsequently, I movie.

I movie damaged pavements – tiny slender sidewalks comprised of unmatched tiles, polluting scooters and unhygienic eateries blocking the means of the few daring pedestrians. Why is all that taking place? As a result of nothing public is revered or put collectively nicely. The whole lot that isn’t for a payment, is just dreadful. And it’s designed to stay that approach.

I’m filming slums. I’m filming filth, such filth which lately hardly exists even on the Sub-Continent. I can’t consider my very own eyes, and so I movie. I all the time consider my lenses.

Bus means cease — doorways not working, individuals typically fall to their demise

I do know the arteries of the metropolis, massive and small. I do know the corners, again alleys, clogged waterways. I do know the humiliated, imprisoned waterways, surrounded by depressing dwellings.

I do know the previous metropolis – Kota Tua, constructed by the Dutch and so badly restored, that UNESCO lately refused to place it on its prestigious World Heritage Websites record.

It’s straightforward to accuse me of being anti-capitalist, or “anti-Indonesian regime” of thieves and of barefaced collaborators. However it’s inconceivable to accuse me of not understanding the nation and its capital metropolis. I’ve actually been all over the place, masking each battle right here, for greater than twenty years, witnessing the atrocities dedicated towards the individuals, nature and the tradition.

Wherever I’m going in this world, I discuss Indonesia and Jakarta. It’s my warning to the world.

The Indonesian nightmarish state of affairs has already been carried out in many elements of the world, by Western imperialism, however, has typically failed because it was too monstrous for different individuals to swallow. The West tried to duplicate Jakarta in these nations that I deeply love and name residence: they tried it in Pinochet’s Chile (“Watch out, comrades, Jakarta is coming”, Allende’s individuals have been advised), however Chile rose and each the regime and the fascist system have been smashed. They tried it in Yeltsin’s Russia, and once more, the individuals rejected this horrible extremist horror present.

Jakarta isn’t just a metropolis – it’s a idea. Maybe it ought to at some point turn into a verb – “to Jakarta”. That may imply, to sacrifice individuals to greed, corruption, enterprise, faith and overseas pursuits.

However it isn’t all-powerful. It may be confronted and defeated. We fought towards Jakarta in each Santiago de Chile and Moscow. And we gained.

And we’ll win elsewhere, too. Perhaps even in Jakarta itself, in the future…

All this explains why I typically come to each Borneo and Jakarta – to work on movies, to outline and doc the horror, to warn the world what has already been achieved to the Indonesian nation.

I attempt to reduce via lies. I attempt to clarify that Dilma Rousseff, the former President of Brazil who was impeached (throughout a constitutional coup) due to the ‘massaging of statistics’ earlier than the elections (one thing that’s generally completed in many nations together with these in the West) must be, theoretically, executed by a firing squad, or quartered by a mob, if she have been to do proportionally what the authorities of Indonesia is doing with none scruples or second thought. In Jakarta, they don’t ‘massage’ – they pervert, lie, and name black, white, and day, night time. They usually get away with every little thing. Nobody dares to problem them. They usually get rewarded by the West – so long as they rob the nation and its individuals of every little thing, and ship big a part of the loot to the gates of Washington, Canberra, Paris and London.

I get exhausted. And ‘broke’ as soon as in some time (as a result of virtually no one needs to examine Indonesia, or watch movies about it). And as soon as in some time I get completely depressed, briefly dropping religion in humanity. And I shit from the horrible meals. And I get sick from the air pollution. And I get exhausted from fixed racist insults of the passers-by in this, certainly one of the most racist nations on earth, which in only a bit over half a century has dedicated Three monstrous genocides: in 1965, towards the individuals of East Timor, and now towards the Papuans. It’s fixed ‘bule’ (albino, or worse), however I’m fortunate, as my Chinese language comrades endure a lot worse insults, and, in fact, my African comrades do as properly, to not converse of my Papuan brothers!

Fascist Jakarta is a troublesome adversary. However I’m robust, too. And so I’m going, drive and crawl by way of the dust, noise and insults. As a result of it’s wanted. As a result of right here is buried the key to the numerous different conflicts that the West has implanted throughout the world.

The Economist as soon as described Indonesia as the least documented giant nation on earth. Proper. And there are lots of causes for it. I typically describe 1965 as a “Cultural Hiroshima”, as a result of virtually all the intellectuals have been both, killed, imprisoned or muzzled – in a single day, and on the direct strategies and orders from the West.

That is the most intellectually and mentally broken nation on earth, which frequently looks like one big psychological asylum. It’s the largest untold story of the 20th Century. Too many individuals acquired killed right here. Too many individuals had killed. Everyone fears every little thing. However no one dares to talk or to outline issues.

Jakarta is a metropolis the place individuals ‘don’t know’, or they merely refuse to know that they’re being robbed of every little thing, that they’ve been fooled, and that that they had been completely brainwashed.

Right here, low cost popular culture, Western junk meals and compelled dependency on filthy scooters and personal automobiles are referred to as ‘modernity’ and ‘progress’. Watching European soccer is a ‘sign of progress’. Cell phones and textual content messages double as tradition, and so do video video games. No one reads books.

You ask the poor about poverty, and what do you hear? Ladies ‘put their fate in the hands of God’. Males start ‘analyzing’, talking like the IMF, utilizing enterprise jargon: “exchange rates, global economic situation, support for small businesses…”

In actuality, the majority of native households, in line with my very own survey, lives on US$2-Three dollars a day (household of Four-5). Meals in supermarkets prices 2-Eight occasions greater than in locations like Germany. Subsequently, the supermarkets are empty. The Majority of individuals store at pasars – markets, the place meals is usually filled with cancerogenic chemical compounds, and filth is in all places.

However most of individuals don’t really feel poor. They really feel insulted when they’re advised that they reside in distress. All with out exception reply that they don’t have anything towards capitalism. Most of them know nothing about the world; they’ve by no means been taught to match.

Anti-Communist Museum

Everyone ‘hates Communists”, as demanded by the West and by the local rulers. There are entire anti-Communist museums here, and people going out to go there, even paying from their own pocket to get further indoctrinated. If you tell them that all they see is one huge lie, they get mad, angry, sometimes even violent. Their entire lives are based on myths. Their lives depend on them, psychologically. If myths were to be taken away, their entire lives would collapse, as they would lose meaning. That is why there is too much noise, and no substance. People are scared. But they don’t know what frightens them.

Everyone thinks the similar. There’s hardly any selection. It’s scary. Indonesia seems like North Korea, as it’s introduced by the West and its propaganda. However North Korea is definitely completely totally different – there I discovered undoubtedly far more mental variety than in Jakarta!

No one needs to vary issues – at the very least not the system, the essence. Individuals need “more money and better life”. Is their life dangerous now? “No!” Do they maintain their elites accountable? “For what?” They don’t perceive – they don’t know what I’m speaking about, or fake they don’t know, once I ask such questions.

And the wealthy? Their youngsters are in the US, Japan or Europe, learning learn how to screw their very own inhabitants much more, after returning again. For them, the biggest satisfaction is to work for some overseas firm, or to be awarded with the Western diplomas, and to be given some reward from Europe or the United States.

And the metropolis is choking on its personal gasses, rubbish and excrement. Whereas the wealthy have their condos and villas in Australia, California, Singapore and Hong Kong. They will get out of Indonesia every time they need, as they’ve already stolen hundreds of thousands, billions of dollars. Once they come again to Indonesia, it’s to rob much more.

I’ve to confess, it’s all ‘a little bit tiring’. Fantastic, truthfully: it’s exhausting. Documenting all that is lethal. So now you already know.

And I additionally should admit, it’s typically lonely working right here. Nobody in his or her sane thoughts would come right here to work. The bills, each monetary but in addition associated to psychological sanity and bodily well being, are super. Rewards are close to zero. The West doesn’t permit the fact about Indonesia to succeed in the world, and subsequently, no highly effective criticism of the nation can ever by aired by the mainstream media.

However it’s my obligation to talk. Subsequently, I converse. And write. And movie. And as my maternal Russian and Chinese language grandparents did – I battle towards fascism, no matter the value!

• All pictures by Andre Vltchek

• First revealed in New Japanese Outlook (NEO)