Monday, March 29, 2010

A Shameful Subject to Discuss


He gazed at the world outside in the porch. Sitting comfortably in his chair, he enjoyed some fried food served on a plate on the table near him. He was silent. He seemed to be occupied by his own thought.

At first, I was hesitated about whether or not I should sit with him. Sitting with him always excited me as he often discussed an interesting subject and came up with fresh ideas that attracted my mind and stimulated my motivation. To me, he seemed to have gone through a long chain of experiences that taught him the wisdom of life.

I remembered having a discussion with him on the learning atmosphere in schools once upon an evening in our porch. He stated that there ought to be a progressive change in the way teachers teach students. He argued that the conventional teacher-centered learning style, which was still widely used in schools, would only result in passive students lacking confidence and courage to think critically about new things. He pointed out some instances taking place within people in his generation. “I know you desire not to be a teacher, Son,” he said,”But when you happen to teach a group of kids, let them talk. Encourage them to be critical of what you have taught them.” Stricken with such an opinion, I could only nod as my mind processed the information so intensely that I couldn’t say any word.

I hoped that such an appealing discussion would happen again between me and him. After deliberating for a while, I slowly walked and sat in an empty chair next to him.

“Busy, Dad?” I asked him.

He gasped a long breath, stretched out a bit.

“Not really. How are you doing?”

“Not bad.”

“What have you been busy with lately?”


“No protesting against the government again?” he asked with a provoking smile in his aging face.

“Hehe…well, a group of friends and I just held a protest prior to my coming home.” I took his question a little bit seriously, realizing that I was about to find a chance to have a discussion with him.

“What was the issue?”

“Corruption. The local mayor was suspected of committing corruption worth billions of rupiahs. It was our third time to speak out the issue.” I answered enthusiastically, hoping the discussion would be lively. But to my surprise, there was silence. An awkward one. I waited for him to make a comment or at least give a response, but he didn’t seem to do so. He took a piece of fried banana instead. I had to say something, I thought.

“So Dad, what do you think about it?”

“About what?”

“Our protest, or corruption itself.”

He kept chewing the banana.

It was not our first time to discuss corruption, nor the first time did he seem not to be interested. I remembered one day I expressed my opinions eagerly about the contagious crime affecting most bureaucrats in this country. I told him its history since the VOC era until the recent years along with the effects of such a shameful act. Uncountable number of examples I gave him to support my ideas, ranging from Edy Tansil’s case to the case of the local head of the village that was suspected of cutting direct cash aid (BLT). But he seemed not to be interested.

Sometimes I even went further. I compared this country to one of our neighbouring countries that now spangled with modernity and prosperity. Since this republic was founded forty four years ago, corruption had become a deadly disease crumbling our potentials into pieces.

“Were our ascendants true men, honest to themselves and the country, this country would have become a prosperous one, a world superpower perhaps. Can you imagine that, Dad? ” I argued exuberantly. “What’s the difference between corruptors and thieves anyway? Corruption is such a disgraceful crime. A ruthless one. Some corruptors deserve death penalty, I believe.” But he remained silent. All my arguments and enthusiasm seemed in vain.

I had no idea why he responded so differently to that subject. Sometimes I assumed that subject about corruption never really attracted him or perhaps he didn’t know much about it.

In contrary, he would excitedly respond to other subjects such as education, terrorism, economy, politics, et cetera. He would eagerly listen to me and responded with questions that stimulated my mind to think more critically. But such responses never happened during any single discussion about this particular subject, like what was happening at the moment.

“Dad?” I shattered the silence.

“Young man, how is your GPA? Doesn’t drop, eh? You know, everything should be balanced; academic achievement, organizations, and part time jobs.”

“Dad, I thought we are discussing….”

“What was your last GPA? 3, 92? That’s not bad. I’m sure if you study harder you’ll get 4, 0.” He smiled brightly at me. “I’m so proud of you.”

All of sudden, his cell phone rang; he pulled it out of his pocket. I sighed and took a piece of fried banana. Changing the subject with flattery won’ work, I’ll keep discussing this subject, I murmured.


“Hello. Sir, I have a bad news.” Said a voice from his cell phone speaker softly.

“What do you mean?”

“The state prosecutors are preparing to investigate our last…you know…”

“Which one?”

“The inter-regency road construction, the budget of which we overestimated.”

“How far have they gone?”

“I heard they’re gonna call some of us for hearing tomorrow.”

He stunned for a while.

“Sir?” asked the voice in the phone.

“I’ll talk to you later.”

He hanged up the phone, looked at me nervously, and then went into the house.

I gazed at him, hardly believed what I just heard.

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