Monday, October 08, 2007

Hey Kids!

At one point last year, there was a minor scandal at SMA The School Where I Taught. A picture was floating around the gossip channels--and handphones--of Semarang, a picture of naked middle schoolers, rumored to be students at my school. I heard this rumor from three or four different people--including a student's mother, who lived in a town about two hours outside of Semarang--before the principal decided to put these reputation-damaging rumors to rest, once and for all.

So, during the lunch break, he marched into the teacher's room, sat down at the computer, and pulled up the picture. "Everyone come here," he said, "and look at this picture. Look closely. See if you recognize any of the students."

So all the teachers, male and female, gathered around the computer and scrutinized the lineup of naked middle school girls. "That one looks a little like So-and-So," said the history teacher, but the geography teacher disagreed: "No, she's too fat." The math teacher observed that the one in the middle looked a bit like a student he had seen around school, but a chorus of female teachers shot him down right away, claiming that her hair was longer, her breasts were bigger, and her face was different. After ten minutes or so observing the picture, all the teachers agreed that those were not, in facts, students at SMA The School Where I Taught, and promised they would help squelch the rumor whenever they could.

Putting aside the weirdness of this scene for a moment--and it was weird, trust me--the principal was justly worried about an incident like this; such pictures not only represent a tragic loss of innocence but also a grand liability in an adolescent's life. Those who are positively identified in photos, or even falsely accused of being in photos of this sort, like this girl*, are ostracized by their friends, punished by their families, and expelled by their schools.

Nonetheless, the number of Indonesian amateur porn videos and naked pictures is increasing; one site claims that 500 videos, mostly made on handphones, are in circulation, with about two new videos being made per day. While that's no billion-dollar adult entertainment industry**, it's also not a point of pride for the country with (probably) the world's largest Muslim population. Now while Indonesia's brand of Islam is fairly liberal, relative to, say, Saudi Arabia, it's still a conservative society, with, on the whole, conservative sexual mores. Basically, shemale beauty contests aside, it's no Thailand.

Luckily, then, there are new agencies*** stepping up to combat this moral decline, people dedicated to eradicating this evil, professionals who will use all the resources at their disposal to speak to the youth, to discourage this sort of behavior in language they will understand, to create a cultural meme that will reinforce the message--something memorable, something new, something along the lines of "Just Say No!" or "This Is Your Brain On Drugs" or "Not Even Once."

Or hey, wait, I've got it! What about "Youth of Indonesia...Don't Get Naked In Front of A Camera!" Perfect!

That'll teach those young whippersnappers, with their fancy handphones and video cameras. Memorable sloganeering is for the weak: there's nothing like a direct order, after all, to encourage youth compliance. Imagine all the social evils we could solve this way: all we need is an advertising campaign saying, "Hey Kids! Don't Do Drugs Or Drink Or Have Sex Or Disobey Your Elders In Any Way!" That'll teach 'em.

*Yes, I know this link isn't in English. I just wanted to cite my sources.
**I really don't want to know what sort of hits I'm going to get on my blog after this.
***This isn't in English either. I'm not sorry. Must it all be about you, English speakers?


Guber said...

I don't care that your sources aren't in English. I only look at pictures, anyways. Especially the pictures in that second link ...

steve said...

I'm not sure if I ever told you this story. One time I was in a bemo (as all good stories begin), sitting just behind the front seat. When I looked up, I noticed that three guys about my age crammed into the front were all staring at a cellphone. Naturally, I took a look over their shoulder and saw they were watching some porn on their cellphone, pretty graphic porn at that. Surprised and trying to act like I wasn't looking, I galanced at the woman in a hijab sitting next to me. She too had seen the porn though and then we made the most awkward eye-contact of all time.

alea said...

Is the direct order method a little more reasonable in Indonesian culture? I mean, is youthful rebellion and irony at all time highs there like it is in the, uh, civilized world?

mysh said...

From The Simpsons I learned about the 3 levels of advertising the military uses: subliminal, liminal, and super-liminal. This clearly falls into the category of super-liminal.