Indonesia and the Politics of Escapism


By: Reza A.A Wattimena


During one of his speech, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of the Republic of Indonesia, stated that democracy have to pay attention to decency. He said that we, as a nation, have to learn from the prophet Mohammad about justice and wisdom concerning political leadership.

About the same time, but in different place, the vice president, Boediono, said that life is full of risk. He wanted to avoid legal accusation that take in place about his act concerning Century bailout. He also said that in his late life, he will use his strength for the interest of his country. Why later and not now, during his vice presidency? (Kompas, 27 Februari 2010)

What can we learn and analyze from these two nation’s leaders statements? On the one side, SBY mixed the political argumentation with religious argumentation. On the other side, his vice president Boediono mixed the political argumentation with existential argumentation, namely his personal reflection concerning his late life.

Both of our nation’s leaders showed the symptoms of escapism, namely the tendencies to avoid the main problems, and move to holy but somewhat illogical rhetoric which don’t have any direct connection with the pressing problems. In other words, both of them try to avoid dealing with the source of the social and political problems.


In Indonesia, the tendencies of escapism are quite common. In one of his articles in Kompas Daily, Ignas Kleden already gave his perspective concerning this matter. He wrote that many politicians in Indonesia refuse to use argumentum ad rem pattern of communication, and use the contrary, namely the argumentation which the sole purpose is to make the audience confuse, and therefore do not attack the core of the problems. Many politicians used this pattern of communication during the general election in 2009.

Actually, why people using the escapism pattern of communication? I can answer this question with three arguments. First, the escapism pattern of communication is a sign of weakness. It is a sign of the one’s inability to really analyze and solve the problems. However, this inability hides behind the moral and holy rhetorical argumentation. We can easily find this tendency in the argumentation of many politicians in Indonesia.

Second, the escapism pattern of communication is the effort to misguide people from the main problems. The purpose is to cover the political mistake made by certain politician so the people turn blind on it. The logic behind this second reason of escapism pattern of communication is the camouflage mechanism, namely the mechanism to change the public discourse to take people’s attention in the wrong direction. If this mechanism work, than the related political will not get punish or face any responsibilities for his or her act.

This second reason of escapism pattern of communication is not a sign of weakness. On the contrary, it is a sign of strength. Politicians and many other people use it to control the public discourse and the public opinion, so he or she doesn’t have to responsible for their act.

Third, the escapism pattern of communication is an effort to maintain the image and reputation of certain in person in public. The root of the problems never becomes part of deep and serious discussion. Holy argumentation and morality becomes the main subject of rhetoric. The purpose is clear, so the person will be connected with the morality that came out of his or her speech.

In the matter of politics, Indonesian politicians are more concern with image than with essence. This kind of thinking drives the politician and other public figures to avoid serious discussion concerning pressing social problems. The reason is simple, they cannot do it, and so they avoid it.

The Effects

What are the effects of escapism political style? The effects are obvious. Various pressing problems in society will never be solved. It will never be a part of serious and critical discussion or intense public debate. The mother of all problems in Indonesia, namely corruption, will never end.

Corruption will be a cancer in Indonesian social and political life, because it never seriously faced with clear thinking and courageous act. On the other hand, political leadership will never achieve effectiveness and acceptable legitimacy over the people. It all happens because there are no critical and deep discussions concerning social life. Public debate is filled with political ceremony full of holy and morality rhetoric, but so far from the main problems.

In the long term, people will give up with politics. The political life will surrounded by apathy. Extreme and shallow individualism will become society’s paradigm. The social solidarity will become merely imagination without reality.

These are the signs of political and cultural shallowness. All the sectors of public life don’t have strong roots, because it never becomes a part of critical debates among citizens. Education becomes merely the servants of business and industry. Health insurance becomes merely business to maximize profit. Politics is a matter of power struggle without the awareness to serve the public.

To steer clear of all those social problems, we need to change the pattern of our political communication. The escapism political style has to be abandoned. The morality and religious argumentation must be use after the strategic and sharp political decision already been discussed in critical public debates. The result of these debates is several practical principles and points, and will be applied with the political legitimacy of all the relevant citizens. **

Writer is the Lecturer in the Faculty of Philosophy Widya Mandala Catholic University, Surabaya

Diterbitkan oleh

Reza A.A Wattimena

Peneliti di bidang Filsafat Politik, Filsafat Ilmu dan Kebijaksanaan Timur. Alumni Sekolah Tinggi Filsafat Driyarkara Jakarta, Doktor Filsafat dari Hochschule für Philosophie München, Philosophische Fakultät SJ München, Jerman. Beberapa karyanya: Menjadi Pemimpin Sejati (2012), Filsafat Anti Korupsi (2012), Tentang Manusia (2016), Filsafat dan Sains (2008), Zen dan Jalan Pembebasan (2017-2018), Melampaui Negara Hukum Klasik (2007), Demokrasi: Dasar dan Tantangannya (2016), Bahagia, Kenapa Tidak? (2015), Cosmopolitanism in International Relations (2018), Protopia Philosophia (2019), Memahami Hubungan Internasional Kontemporer (20019), Mendidik Manusia (2020), Untuk Semua yang Beragama (2020), Terjatuh Lalu Terbang (2020) dan berbagai karya lainnya.

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