Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Change Begins at Home

As part of my Indonesian civil servant recruitment (CPNS), I had to do a complete health check at a local State Hospital. I was ready to go through an inefficient, bureaucratic experience of a day (which was the reason why I had procrastinated for a year before actually doing it). To keep my sanity, I told myself to approach it as ethnographic research :p.

After being pointed to several mistaken desks, a hospital administrator directed me to the health check unit that takes care of CPNS like me. The lady in charge of the unit ticked some boxes after asking what ministry I was from. Then she put me in one group with several others who were also recruits like me.

We were lining up to get our blood drawn, and the lady put one folder on top of all our folders. "Yang ini diduluin ya, anaknya Pak Tono," she said, asking the laboratory officer to let the woman who came after all of us cut the line. The laboratory guy nodded.

I looked around for responses. Nothing. The five people before me did not feel that that was wrong.

I asked the whole room, including the woman whose back was to me, if that was alright. They were silent. "Jadi ngga apa ya, antrian kita diselak? Bapak, sistemnya gimana, ya?" I asked the guy what hell of a system he has. He took a deep breath, then asked me if one person cutting in would be okay. I asked back to the whole room. They said yes.

So apparently we have all agreed to let this happen.

As my order in the line came up, I hoped silently that they guy would not stab me with the needle repetitively (he didn't). Instead, he said softly to me that like me, he thinks it's unfair. "Siapa sih yang mau ya, Mba, membiarkan yang kaya begini. Tadi itu kerabat Direktur sini," revealing that the woman before was a relative of the unit's Director. I shared to him, as he was drawing my blood, that I was from UI. That like many bureaucracies, I have also experienced injustice, whether it directly or indirectly. "Tapi kan ngga bisa diam, Pak," I said. I asked what his name was, and saw his body tense up as he answered. I realised that he was afraid I would report him, when I had only meant to get to know a person, and let him know me as a person. The person he unwittingly wronged because he opted to avoid conflict.

I am not very sure how to process what had happened, aside from acknowledging the fact that power abuse is also permitted by us workers. That if we refused to be treated that way, it would not have happened. That being afraid we would get into trouble is not a reason to deprive others of what is rightfully theirs. We become just as responsible.

I also appeal to bureaucrats, despite handling 1,001 trinkets and facing frustratingly idiotic rules on a daily basis, to once in a while not delegate administrative tasks to our staff. By doing these things by ourselves, we are reminded of how we ourselves can inadvertantly participate in sustaining an inefficient system that could enable power abuse.

And, to me, it begins with little things. In our every day lives. Constantly, consistently, with practice.

If you're thinking of why we should do this, we are poorly paid and appreciated as it is. I'd like to share the opening of a book I was reading for a class (Mike Wayne [2003]):

For my son Jacob, because change begins at home.

1 comment:

gadis said...

Indeed, am always inspired by how you can put simple things into thought-provoking piece of writing :) keep inspiring people, Mbak!