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Let's Kick Our Colonial Mentality Out

The Philippines also experience colonial mentality

Last night, I had dinner with two friends at an Italian restaurant around Thamrin area, one of the main business districts in Central Jakarta. It was a nice and open door restaurant to hang out since I could enjoy the beautiful scene of Jakarta’s glowing skyscrapers from where I sat.

My friends and I then ordered some snacks and beverage. The food was good and not too pricy. But, just a couple of minutes after I finished my meals, one of the waitresses cleaned my plate and my glass.

“Do you want to order anything else?” she asked me who replied with a simple “no thanks.”

Then, the same waitress approached and cleaned my friend’s plate as soon as she finished her meals, while asking the same question she asked me. To which, my friend said, “later probably.”

My friends and I continued chatting for a while, talking about life and future plan. While chatting, my other friend was finishing her food and enjoying her second bottle of liquor. Right after she finished her meal, that waitress came to our table again, cleaned my friend’s plate and took away the empty beer bottles.

“Do you want to order anything else?” the waitress said.

That was the third time the waitress asked that same question to me and my friends. We then knew that it was the waitress’ "polite" way to say “you finish your meal, please leave the place immediately.”  

I am a Javanese, my other friends are Maduranese and Floresnese. In short, we are just typical Indonesians: black hair, darker skin, not so tall, you know the rest. We stood out among other visitors of the restaurant who happened to be white, having blond or white hair, speaking French or English.  

After a small observation, I noticed that no waitress approached the tables where the foreigners sat even though they had finished their meals and emptied their beer bottles. No one bothered asking whether they wanted to order anything else.

Why? My best guess was because they were foreigners thus the waitress ‘did not have the guts’ to do what she did to me and my friends.

It really upset me that the waitress, who is an Indonesian, treated me and friends differently than how she treated those foreigners. I probably would tolerate her act if there was a queuing line outside the restaurant. But, there was no such line. There were still many empty tables. Then, why did the waitress try to kick us out? Why didn’t she kick the foreigners out?   It was like she instinctively did this racist treatment only to her fellow Indonesian nationals.

Studies and theories mentioned that the waitress’ act and treatment to me and my friends was based on a colonial mentality. Wikipedia writes that

A colonial mentality is a conceptual theory around feelings of inferiority within some societies post-European colonialism, relative to the values of the foreign powers which they became aware of through the contact period of colonization. The concept essentially refers to the acceptance, by the colonized, of the culture or doctrines of the colonizer as intrinsically more worthy or superior”

Indonesian society, which was occupied by the Netherlands for over 300 years, without a doubt exhibited such mentality. I would not lie that I still felt inferior to people from the Western society every time I interacted with them. However, as much as I feel inferior to the Westerners, I cannot believe that such feeling of inferiority has led the waitress to unconsciously did a racist act to me and my friends, her fellow Indonesians.

If my anecdotal story cannot be categorized as a display of colonial mentality, then you probably need to read this opinion piece of Dewi Anggraeni at The Jakarta Post. In the article, Dewi shared some instances of encountering people with colonial mentality. You probably ever experienced this yourself without realizing it.

Image result for inferiority clipartColonial mentality is a sickness in our society that we all need to eradicate. It is a dangerous trait because it makes you always feel inferior of our own nation.

I have been working in international setting for almost three years and I dare to say that Indonesia has its own distinctive beautiful values that other nations lack of. Indonesia may not be a perfect nation, but so are other nations. The superpower nation, USA, for instance, is a nation of paradigm. While it declares itself as a champion of human rights and democracy, the nations’ policies and social reality quite often contradicts those core values.  There is nothing as a perfect nation, I believe. Each country has its own positive and negative values.

Therefore, we really need to start throwing away the feeling of inferiority to citizens of other nations.  Once we are able to kick our feeling of inferiority, then I believe Indonesians can more develop themselves and will have better confidence in facing the global society and competition. Lastly, be proud of being an Indonesian because believe me; the Westerners I have worked with, they really love Indonesia.


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