Social Scientist. v 8, no. 92 (March 1980) p. 74.

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Lessons of Indonesian Tragedy

BRIAN MAY, THE INDONESIAN TRAGEDY, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1978, pp 438, ^ 8.95.

MAY'S book can mislead the uninitiated or the unwary, for it contains, at the discriptive level, some quite interesting speculations and hitherto little known first-hand data. It includes a section on Indonesia's political prisoners, many of whom were youngsters, arrested in 1965-1966, an account of the 1965 putsch and the rise of Suharto (part one). However, special caution must be exercized in reading the account of Sukarno whose overriding message is that the former President was alright because he had been exposed to western "culture" (shown by his habit of dropping western names in his speeches) more than the new incumbent. Virtually all sections of part two (the true nature of the "New Order") again, barring the author's moralizing, are excellent journalism. Part three (excluding the "Western Solution") is a jumble of racist drivels.

To make it worse, instead of confining himself to description of events, May has embarkd on something for which evidently he is poorly qualified. Having been in Indonesia for only four years, spending most of the time hobnobbing with the local high and mighty in comfortable and salubrious abodes, air-conditioned offices and over haute cuisines, May apparently thought that he knew all about the subject, the complexity of which has baffled generations of scholars. May tells us that the most crucial single obstacle to Indonesia's "progress" is the ^state of mind" of the Javan masses, a thing he rarely glimpsed through his car's windows, or at the closest, through stagey encounters when he condescended to step out of that symbol of his great source of pride (western technology) to interview the "people".

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