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Indonesian Parties Changing Their Spots?

Tom Power
Kai Clark



“If I go to the parliament in Jakarta, it’s easy for me to just call up someone and ask ‘do you have time for a chat?’ They might be a member of parliament or head of a commission, but often times they are willing to talk. That’s the sort of access you just don’t get in Australia, especially if you’re a young guy that doesn’t have a name as a high-flying journalist or a diplomat or a professor.”
Tom Power is a PhD candidate studying how Indonesian parties adapt as they alternate in and out of office. His research revolves around case studies on the current governing party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), and on a former coalition party, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).
Tom researches by probing government and party officials on party fundraising and organisation. “To get these interviews,” he explains, “its sort of like snowballing.” For one of his first interviews, Tom sent an email to a rising star within the PKS — and, for a change of pace, got a response.
After interviewing her, she introduced him to other politicians who then introduced him to more party members. “Usually you interview them and they say ‘here’s the number of such-and-such’. It’s like you’re always on the hunt for someone to meet.”
His trophy collection includes several government ministers, the leader of PKS, and the secretary-general of PDIP. The secretary-general had noticed him at a couple of party events and one day asked Tom “to come up to Medan for a day and we’ll attend an event.” Flying first-class there, Tom spent the whole day chatting with him and attended meetings with other party elites.
The willingness of these politicians to talk to Tom is astounding, not just because of their seniority, but also because Tom is investigating how they funnel government money into party coffers.
“There’s a bit of a culture of impunity,” Tom tentatively remarks. “Indonesian politicians feel more comfortable talking to foreigners rather than local researchers — because they think a foreigner is less likely to dob them in.”
Indonesia ranks 90 out of 176 on the corruption perception index and much academic discourse on its public affairs analyses its patronage politics — where politicians offer money or power in exchange for votes.
Many politicians illegally take money from the state or use government positions to obtain kickbacks. And because Indonesian public subventions are too small to prop up most political parties, much of this money flows back into the party to feed itself.
But when parties are kicked out of government, they fall harder than a disowned trust fund baby. In 2010 the PKS, when it was in power, held a famous party conference in the Ritz Carlton, which Tom described as, “all-expenses paid, in the centre of Jakarta, with Swiss chefs preparing every meal.”
“And five years later, I went to the next party conference that was in a budget hotel in a satellite city of Jakarta. Outside the hotel, there was a market where party members were selling stuff to each other to raise money to donate back to the party. It was a classic example of the party basically going broke.”
Yet, PKS’s downfall was the eureka moment for Tom’s research. A year after losing power, PKS ousted many elderly leaders and replaced them with young blood. The new leaders immediately transformed the party from a pluralistic and inclusive party to an ideologically rigid party with a greater emphasis on grassroots activism.
The reforms helped the party field more competitive candidates, winning sub-national districts and more access to patronage. Party leaders also cultivated more zealous party sympathisers, increasing the flow of grassroots donations and expanding the pool of loyal recruits willing to run for elections.
Using the PDIP as another example, Tom explains that when in power it originally operated as a clientelistic party — which uses patronage politics to maintain its rule. But when voters kicked them out of office, they cleaned up their act and focused on ideological activism, fielding competitive candidates, and nurturing a strong party base. They had remoulded themselves as, what political scientists call, a ‘cadre party’. But, when back in government, they immediately relapsed into a clientelistic party.
Tom uses these examples to show the importance of understanding how political parties adapt as they shuffle through the revolving door of power. His research is also significant in that it explores a widely neglected field of political science.
“There is literature on party type, there is literature on change of party type, but there isn’t really literature on how being in and out of government affects party type. That’s something new. If these patterns are seen in other countries, this could be a new theory in political party operation.”

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Elderly Life in the Hidden World of Karaoke Kissas and Classrooms

Kai Clark
Benny Tong

Politics | East Asia


Benny Tong is a PhD candidate at the ANU studying the lives of elderly Japanese people in karaoke bars and how they seek fulfilment and purpose in the later stages of their lives. Born and raised in Singapore, he earned his Bachelors and Masters in Japanese Studies at the National University of Singapore before coming to the ANU. As a teenager, he fell in love with J-Pop which ignited his passion for Japanese culture.
“Karaoke is a huge industry worth billions of dollars,” Benny explained, describing how the many sorts of karaoke chains in Japan accommodate everyone from millennials to older wealthy businessmen. Benny’s research, however, focuses on two types of karaoke venues: karaoke kissas which are small open-mic bars that are open during the day; and karaoke classrooms, where people learn how to sing karaoke from a trained instructor. These venues, Benny says, “lean towards a mature working-class demographic that are very much over sixty.”
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Benny explains how karaoke kissas provide a strong sense of community for many of these elderly people who don’t have a family to rely on. “The foundational concept of the karaoke kissa makes it a very inclusive place — as long as you pay the cover charge. There are a lot of regulars who all become friends, forming a tightly knit community.” Many of these regulars lament the demise of Japan’s traditional family structure, which has separated many elderly Japanese from their families.
During the interview, Benny showed me some karaoke magazines containing song scores used for study in karaoke classrooms. These classrooms provide many elderly people with a continued purpose in their life. At the end of the school year, the school organises recitals for the students, “where they can present what they’ve learned in front of an audience of peers, friends, and family. It’s a very important place for them to vindicate their continued participation in karaoke — as something to learn rather than passively enjoy.”

Many of these kissas and classrooms are located in working-class suburbs, far off the beaten track. These places usually lack windows and have two thick layers of doors, making it both inconspicuous and intimidating to enter.
Benny described to me, how lucky he was to find his first kissa. “The karaoke operator, or as they call them, ‘masters’, actually noticed me pacing back and forth outside, and beckoned me to come inside.” Once inside he was warmly welcomed into the community that was “happy to have a younger person among their midst to learn about their lifestyle”, he said.
“One important skill for fieldwork is getting on socially with other people. For me, coming in with a very open attitude towards learning what these people are doing and not making judgements, especially since you know so little, is important.”
"There’s a lot of them who very much desire to tell people about their life stories,” he said, “so they can pass on certain values or certain ideas that they’ve gained through their experience in life.”

Through studying these karaoke kissas and classrooms, Benny has found a widely-neglected space where many elderly Japanese sing with each other and laugh over drinks. Some have even rekindled their passion for love, despite losing their first partners to death and divorce. For many of these elderly people, singing Shōwa classics, like enka and kayōkyoku, helps reshape their identities in the face of old age, and provides a new direction in their lives. This contrasts very much to modern representations of elderly people as a drain on state healthcare, living their last days alone or in geriatric care.
Criticising the post-war experience of modernity, Benny argues that, “Japanese policy-makers, academics, and public discourse tend to think of elderly life as a period of life where bodily functions deteriorate to the point where you need institutionalised care. I find that actually, especially with these people that I’m working with, that’s simply not the case. They are growing old quite healthy. A lot of them take pride in the fact that they still maintain a very good standard of physical health. They tell me that they are very happy that they rarely go to the hospital. And it’s the singing that allows them to have them this kind of constant exercise and socialisation that keeps them both physically and mentally healthy.”
“So that's why I think studying Japan now is going to be a very valuable lesson for the rest of the world for learning how to cope with an ageing population in a manner that will treat old people with respect and honour. Growing old is not a problem. It is not a crisis. It is essential and unremovable part of what it means to live.”

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How far I’ll go: Moana and Wayfinding

Jade Boyle

Society and culture | Pacific


Could Moana engage younger generations of Islanders and non-Islanders to the art of Wayfinding? The 2016 film starring Pacific Islanders Auli’i Cravalho and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is about a young Islander girl, Moana, who hopes to save her dying island; by stealing a canoe, sailing across the ocean and returning the heart of Te Fiti. To do this, Moana learns how to wayfind; a skill that continues to be taught in the Pacific.

Wayfinding is the art of sailing a boat using only your senses and worldly knowledge. Moana specifically uses star navigation in the film, using her hands she measures the angles between the star and the horizon to determine her latitude. Voyagers had also memorised star maps; learning where the stars rose and set, and identifying as many as 220 stars. Outside of the film, wayfinders also used other techniques to find their way. Birds can indicate nearby islands, as seen when they fly from one island to gather food, and return home to feed their young. Some very skilled wayfinders can lie in the hull of a canoe and feel the wave patterns, which indicates the direction the canoe is sailing in. Using these skills, wayfinders had travelled over a third of the earth’s surface, using the wind, the waves, and the stars as their maps and compass to find islands from Hawai’i to New Zealand.

[caption id="attachment_5728" align="alignnone" width="1763"] A Double Hulled Vaka moored off the coast of Rarotonga. One example of an ocean-going vessel utilised by wayfinders in their exploration of the Pacific[/caption]

So, where does Moana fit in all of this? The film also features a different kind of star power, as a variety of successful Pacific Islanders, from musicians such as South Pacific Fusion band Te Vaka to actors Jemaine Clement and Rachel House. Combined with Disney greats John Lasseter (Toy Story, A Bug’s Life), Ron Clements and John Musker (Aladdin, The Little Mermaid) and the popular Lin Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame, the film was given serious street credit; and has been the subject of great debate in the Pacific.

While the film has most definitely caught the attention of Pacific Islanders and non-Islanders alike, raking in over $635 million worldwide, problems over representations of Maui and the Pacific have arisen. In the Pacific, the demi-god Maui is a defender of the oppressed; his stories of stealing fire, fishing islands out of the ocean and beating monsters, as referred to in the Moana song “Your Welcome” are stories of freeing the oppressed. It is uncharacteristic of Maui to brag about these achievements. Furthermore, the key source of Maui’s mana that made these achievements possible, is missing in the film; the Goddess Hina. She is Maui’s counterpart, and none of the Disney female characters could take her place, as they lacked her sheer power. It is debated that because of Hina’s absence, Maui’s character traits had to be changed to reflect this, presenting him as comedic sidekick instead of the hero he is.

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The film has also been accused of depicting the Pacific as an exotic escape, continuing the tropes of the Islands brought on by colonialism. As the film depicts Tahitian drumming, Samoan outfits, tattoos, and Fijian music all on Moana’s home island, the film has also been accused of misrepresenting the diversity of cultures within the Pacific, and of profiting off Islander culture. Moreover, for people, and particularly children, who don’t know much about the Pacific, Moana could be the first time they are exposed to Islander cultures. Therefore, misunderstandings could occur about who Maui is, and the diversity of Pacific Islander cultures; despite the “Oceanic Story Trust” that Disney created to consult with experts of the Pacific, to make Moana as culturally authentic as possible.

But, could Moana’s success be an indicator that younger people are interested in learning more about wayfinding and the Pacific? The National Education Association (NEA) has suggested using Moana as a source for students from Kindergarten to Year 12 to learn about the Pacific. The Teaching with Primary Sources Western Region (TPS) has also created an educators guide to using Moana as a source to explore other subjects like science, language, and mathematics.

Beyond the silver screen, there are groups that are boosting awareness about the different techniques and types of wayfinding, such as the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) in Hawai’i. PVS had initiated a return expedition from Hawai’i to Tahiti in a 20-metre canoe known as the Hōkūleʻa in 1976. This expedition proved that wayfinding was not only a skill, but Islanders were travelling to new islands with a purpose, not finding them by accident. Furthermore, various other non-profit organisations in the Pacific are also promoting and protecting different types of Pacific Islander voyaging in their own countries like Samoa, Tonga, the Cook Islands and New Zealand.

While it’s still too early to tell what kind of course Moana has charted, one can only hope it is a positive way forward.

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