Our dear president has been likened to a lot of things, including some of the most inappropriate things that better stay unwritten here, but watching the latest development of how this country goes in terms of dealing with religious tolerance and human rights, I’m surprised nobody has likened the character of his leadership to a Metromini bus driver.
Having been a regular passenger inside the red medium-sized public transportation, I’m fully aware of how reckless and careless a Metromini bus driver can be. If you only complain about how the driver usually takes a long time to wait for the bus to get fully loaded before he hits the gas pedal, then you haven’t seen everything.
I’ve been keeping a suspicion that Metromini drivers can excel in politics if they’re given the chance because some of their traits are much similar to politicians. Take one of the most well-known laws in Metromini: If the driver is already done for the day and satisfied with his earnings, then he can switch the passengers in his bus, no matter how many of them, to another bus. If the driver turns out to be a politician later on, he will exactly do the same thing once he’s inside a state office. Already satisfied with the earnings? We shall leave the constituents to the officers from the next term. We’re done for this term.
If the streets of Jakarta were a lawless jungle, then Metromini would be the kings. The wisdom of Jakarta’s streets says you don’t compete with Metromini on the streets because they are always right. If you’re stuck in a traffic jam and a Metromini next to you tries to fill in centimeters gap to overtake, you better make way because if the bus bumps into your car and you’re involved in a row, you can’t win an argument with a Metromini driver. They’re always right. A little bit like women, much like politicians.
I don’t know if there’s a research on the aggressiveness of Metromini drivers but they certainly like to get their adrenalines pumped. Their favorite pastime is racing against others to get passengers. Most often during nighttime, two or three Metromini drivers will demonstrate their slalom and late-breaking skills that will make professional racers proud. It’s a thrilling, or rather, scary experience for the passengers inside to be involved in such bravado acts, but of course the convenience of the passengers are the least variable for drivers because what they are after the most is daily revenue for bus owners. Replace the bus owners with political party and Metromini drivers with legislators and it will look like a familiar picture.
Of all the traits of a Metromini driver, the most agitating thing is how the drivers often turn blind eye to anything happen inside his bus. They don’t care about the security of passengers if there’s a group of pickpockets or robbers in action in his own vehicle. The driver only cares about his own work and safety and anything happen to his passengers due to threats from outside is not his concern. As long as the passengers pay the fare, the driver will be glued to his seat, doesn’t give a darn about what’s going on in the back.
There’s a possibility of the driver being afraid that the pickpocket gang will harm himself if he does anything to disrupt the ongoing criminal activity. So most of the time he will stay unmoved on the driving seat, humming melodious tune like there’s nothing happen. In some rare cases, even the driver is an accomplice of the criminal gang, having agreed about the pick-up and drop-off area and accommodating them with the passengers as the prey.
From the sealing of legal churches to the persecution of the minorities, most of the time the government uses the mentality of a Metromini bus driver: Totally ignoring what’s going on in the back. If this country was a large bus with the citizens as the passengers, the president would be the one who controls the wheels on the driving seat. Some minorities among the passengers are receiving threats and by saying the president has no authority to intervene makes him look like a proper Metromini driver with certain degree of ignorance. How could he not hold authority? He’s the driver, the president. It’s his bus, his country.
Indonesia is “the most tolerant country in the world” according to the Religious Affairs minister, Suryadharma Ali. Having watched the mentality of Metromini bus driver being practiced in the upper echelon of the government, I can only consider what the minister said as a very bad headline of The Onion.