Me and Music

These days, I seem to spend time for music as much as I spend time for doing political science. I do love music. I remember I’ve begun collecting cassette records when I was in middle school. Aside from several Indonesian bands, my brother introduced me to listen to western rock bands like The Calling, Coldplay, and Oasis. Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head and The Calling’s Camino Palmero, for instance, have never failed me.

Then back in high school, I took my music to the next level. My friends and I forged a band. We were not that good at playing instruments though. But there was a regular art performance coming down. And we believed that we had to perform something to look “cool.” So there you go. We rented a studio. We practiced music a lot more than we had for our exam days. And crazily enough, we took sometime to practice in the midnight on the third day of national examination because our school was going to hold a farewell event for us right after the national exam was over! Yes, it was crazy. But looking back, it was worth experiencing too.

The upside of having a band in the past transcended when you start listening to music of your interests. This is something that I bumped into quite recently. During my grad school years, I was given privilege to get access to record stores – the independent ones. America was such a heaven for music junkies. Independent record stores were perhaps literally available in every corner of the town, including in small counties like Athens, Ohio where I lived.

Despite the presence of big corporation like Barnes & Noble or Amazon, independent record stores, and so do indie bands, withstand. The stores catered vast collections of used CDs and vinyl records from hugely different artists from various genres. With very affordable prices. Starting from $2 or $3, you can get your all-time-favorite albums on your pocket.

And by chance, I lived with a roommate who liked to buy CDs. He told me to come to local record store near campus to look around. So I went there. I ended up buying two or three CDs (Bob Dylan and Pat Metheny’s albums) to be played in my music player I inherited from my Indonesian’s mate who was about to move out of state.

I didn’t really figure the keen experience of listening to music until quite recently. My music playlists were used to be exhausted me. The playlists were barely improving. Perhaps because by then I was not literate enough to a set of ‘good’ music playlists. But I’ve come to like watching some blues and rock covers on youtube for quite awhile. These covers enthralled me. There was hardly a night passed without watching some covers. I wanted to learn that. So I thought it’s time to buy me a set of music gears. I decided to buy a used Fender electric guitar, an amp, and an effect – all from online stores.

As a student, these gears ripped me off. But they helped me a lot to keep me sane. In fact, music was a great escape when I felt fed up with politics. Likewise, getting your hand an instrument makes you become more sensitive about sound, rhyme, beat – all those stuff. And the side effect of that is that it induces you to listen more, meaning, in my case, buying more CDs! So whenever I got a chance going out of Athens, I made a visit to used record store. It was a great experience. Getting to record stores and finding your favorite albums in there, I bet you, is an experience that cannot even begin to compete if you listen to your music from youtube or simply download it from iTunes.

PKI and Sukarno in the Words of Suharto

I’ve never found any works on Indonesian massacre of 1965 referred to Suharto’s own words on why and how did he purge the Indonesian communists (or allegedly communists). This video below is mesmerizing to me as it shows, at least, why did he take a strong force against PKI in 1965 and, consequently, the feuds he had on Sukarno during the raucous time of 1965.

Suharto revealed that he had warned Sukarno since 1958 about the potential recurring rebellions of PKI when the two met in Central Java. When Sukarno made a visit, Suharto was a then-military commander of Diponegoro area (it covers the whole territory of Yogyakarta and Central Java).

Central Java was considered the center of electorates of PKI. As such, PKI won in Central Java in 1955 election. Suharto assumed that the greater PKI could endanger the army power – as it should have been obvious as PKI did two early rebellions in Java back in 1926 and 1948. These rebellions were recent enough to put PKI always in likely confrontation against the army. But when Suharto told the president about his anxieties, Sukarno was getting grumpy. Suharto said he was blamed by the president (“saya dimarahi”). Paraphrasing Sukarno, Suharto said “the strong PKI is the fact. They earned power from people. That’s the power that must be taken. We have to make them comply with PKI Pancasila” (“Itu kan kenyataan (PKI kuat). Kan PKI dapat dukungan dari rakyat. Itu harus kita perhatikan. Sekarang bagaimana caranya kita berjuang menjadikan PKI itu PKI Pancasila”). Suharto also said that communism, along with nationalism, and Islam, had been the ideals that Sukarno proudly sold to the world (“Nasakom itu adalah jualan bung Karno ke dunia, termasuk ke PBB”).

Thus it becomes clear for the young general that the president himself will always back the communist party. Nonetheless within such a raging context, we don’t yet to have any hints whether the systematic plans of coup existed within the army. There is no plot that convinced scholars about whether Suharto carried out or planned the coup from the very scratch. In fact, the coup of 1965 was not at all look like the recent failed coup in Turkey. And if Suharto, after all, did a coup, apparently it was not planned as such. At least it was not until the killings of 6 generals in the night of October 1 that changed the game. Suharto and the army saw the support from people has swung toward him and then he confiscated the power from Sukarno – who shunned putting PKI in the sideline in the aftermath of October 1.

So, in retrospect, what we seen is more about a situational yet rational response from the army (or Suharto) too deal with intense pressures in the midst of post-Gestok rather than a committed and planned taking of power from Sukarno. This is the insight of Asvi Warman Adam, a historian, who dubbed the 1965 coup as the “creeping coup” (kudeta merangkak). For Asvi, the transfer of power from Sukarno to Suharto took place in a number of sequential steps: (1) The killings of general October 1  1965, (2) the issued of Supersemar on March 11 1966 through which Suharto granted discretionary power to dissolve PKI, (3) the rejection of Nawaksara Speech of Sukarno in front of parliament (MPRS) on June 22 1966 that caused the immediate termination of presidential position from Sukarno as the parliament’s mandatory, and (4) the appointment of Suharto as acting-president on February 22 1967.

But, for sure, this situational response comes at the expense of unimaginable ramifications for Indonesians in the years to come, particularly to those allegedly communists.