Celebrating Genocide.

by Verdi Adhanta.

There was one quite lengthy mass murder in Indonesia from 1965 to 1966. 500,000 to 2.5 million lives were slaughtered, human life composed of Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) members, which was the third biggest communist political party in the world at the time, in the fifth biggest nation in the world. The rest were left leaning political thinkers, land reformists and even peoples who ignorant about politics. Before killed, many experienced atrocities beyond belief. Torture and rape acts that wouldn't be conceivable without deep contemplation and strong imagination about how to get most pain, humiliation and degradation from a human being.   

The forgotten genocide.

The civilized world indeed had seen genocides and other atrocities alike, so this one, for an instance, may look like just another sheet of statistic in a cold, silent and dusty historian desk. But one thing made this uniquely strange, bizarre and, once you really take a good look at it, so incomprehensible. That one thing is the fact that this is the only genocide that the world celebrated. Or it was, back then.

For full movie, watch here.

In this excerpt from the famous powerful documentary by Joshua Oppenheimer, you see people cheering up for the murder of 2.5 millions lives, while the TV presenter cheerfully laugh at the inhumane torture of thousands of people, talked about it lightly and asked the perpetrator about how he sometime skipped the torture and killed his victim straight away, with a tone of a little girl asking her father for a candy. They were celebrating the massacre while thinking they were about to produce a great commemorative cinematic presentation of atrocities they or their predecessor had done in 1965, for the young generation to learn and remember.

What was captured in this video immediately begs a question: is it even possible that this kind of dystopic realm in a fictional universe could ever be imagined by even the best science-fiction writer? Any sane storyteller would at least add up a little remorse or a flash of doubt to make their worst antagonist at least look three dimensional? And then in an instant, you suddenly shocked by one terrifying realization that hits you straight in the stomach: that this scene, was real.

This wasn't a scene about the crew of Star-ship Enterprise that have just survived a wormhole that took them in a horrifying alternate universe where their copies are the exact opposite of them self. Everything in the video happened as it was, with real history, real people, real life and real victims with real families and descendants. Millions affected by this, and they were celebrating it, happily.

There was an article in the New York Times that praised the Indonesian massacre of 1965 as "A Glimmer of light in Asia," as the rest of the world chose to stay silent. Economists were busy redrawing map of commodities, investments and financial channels, as new opportunities had just been opened. Politicians restructuring their information base on sphere of geopolitical web of connections and influences. As for the ignorant, easily described as common people, it was just a flip on the score board in their nation's game of cold war against the reds. It was so easy to cheer, and no reason to contemplate.

So when the news and other publications clearly showed the number of victims; 500 thousands to 2.5 millions life that was massacred, it was probably hard to see beyond it, or to grasp what was it really meant. Those numbers stayed as it was. Numbers. Without face or name, or anything to relates, they were immediately drowned in the sea of glaring words of victory. "Long live America", shouted by the mob who played for their side of the playing field. "We won!

The second red scare.

There was what is now called the "red scare" in the United States, in the fifties. The scare was that communists were in their very doorstep, probably like how now the "muslim terrorists" are. History proved that fear is the most efficient tool to control the ignorant, and the ignorant are folks that had their information limited and thought simplified. The scare was the second one, and it was comprehensive, thorough and intentionally redundant. They called it McCarthyism. A full spectrum of social, cultural, and political propaganda now recognized by the name of one major actor behind it, a U.S. Republican senator, Robert McCarthy. 

World War II was just ended, and the middle class America just transformed by the rapid growth of the suburban life. Boys that just got home from war got benefited by the U.S. Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, which gave them cheaper home, lower interest on loans, easier access to education, and free money for the unemployed for a period of time.

This created a shift in U.S culture, with picture of an ideal suburban heterosexual family life. This however did not include those who weren't fit in it; racial minorities, homosexual, feminist, and everyone somewhere along the line.

With this cultural shift, the conservatives were gaining ground. The era after the world war II in the U.S was one that full of conservative social policies, defining how women should be; a feminine but not too sexy mother that stay at home waiting for their dependable husband to feed the entire family. 

These stay at home mothers doesn't need education so they were discouraged from pursuing education or careers, except of course the black ones, who still able to work as maids to white families. All women need of course only a nice kitchen set. White and black people were segregated and homosexuals painted as amoral being accused of being easily manipulated by foreign spies by way of blackmail, while the TVs portraying nice and harmonious patriarchal family as the best way to live. At the same time, through promotion by writers, social experts and public figure, little girls are encouraged to play with dolls and boys with toy cars or uniforms. The easiest way to say it that these social-cultural trends were aimed on creating simple-folks with mediocrity as the goal of life.

Once you have the culture ready, you could easily installed the fear and this what McCarthyism were all about. First, you pick your demon. And what better fits the role than a red flagged enemies with weird languages and funny fashion from a country across the sea which people you'd never even met? Second, you spread the fear. You repress your own people with aspects similar to that of your demon. So from 1950 to 1956, suddenly there were communist everywhere in the U.S, and a good patriotic citizen need to drive them out.

The good patriotic citizen of the U.S must drive them out of TVs and movies, because Hollywood and Broadway financed by the Reds. The directors and actors are communist who glorify Marxism, and UNESCO (what ever that might meant for them back then), and "One-Worldism." And if you watched their shows it meant that you are helping Moscow and "Internationalist", because you let their ideas piped into your living room and poisoning the mind of the young!

Third step, be aware that some folks will see behind your tricks and criticize you, and for that you must prepare to launch a political technique called demagoguery (leader of common people). Its a neat ancient trick of the Athens to cheat your way up to power or to maintain it, inside a democratic society. Demagoguery exploit the fundamental weakness of democracy, which is the people it self. Massive enough amount of people could give the power to anyone who are the favorite of those who are the lowest common denominator in the society you are in. 

In the fifties, the U.S had seen how thousands of their citizen accused of being communist or its sympathizer. Thousands must endure intense questioning by the state or private organization. Union activists, government workers, teachers, filmmakers, artists, etc are among them. And many immediately lost their jobs, whether the accusation proven or not. The FBI under J. Edgar Hoover was the main agent that ran these anti-communist activities, with also organization like "House Un-American Activities Committee" or HUAC that produce the Hollywood Blacklist, that denied employment of many Cinema professionals.

Those who are familiar with Indonesian history from 1965 to 1998, will immediately recognize the traits and realize where the New Order regime of Soeharto get their ideas from. 

The echo of fear.

Many have changed since the cold war ended. In most of the western world, "Red scare" tactics obviously lost its strategic advantage since the fall of Soviet Union. Western world of today got new fear installed and I would called them "Green scare", but that is another story. Indonesia in Soeharto's New Order era were like a clone of the US in the Red Scare era, but with intensity and success a US McCharthyist could only dreamed of achieving. US McCharthyist couldn't manage to killed 2.5 millions people and got away with it.  

Soeharto said this to president Ford,
in a meeting at Laurel Cabin, camp David, Maryland.
Basically, Soeharto asked for more ships
 to carry out repression on any possibility
of Communist activities trough out Indonesia.
From declassified Washington documentation
number E 12958 Section 3.5
An explanation from Joshua Oppenheimer nailed it spot on: Post 1965 Indonesia were like how the Germany would be in an alternate universe where Hitler won the world war II. Millions of people massacred and the perpetrator not just got away with it, they ruled and hold the power until present time. And that is why the scene in the act of killing about perpetrators celebrating their massacre and have people cheering for them, can exist.

As a copy of the US in the Red Scare era, Indonesia also seen how progressive women groups like Gerwani (Indonesian Women Movement) were destroyed only to get replaced with the same ideas American conservatives had on women. Soeharto created Dharma Wanita organization as the embodiment of those ideas and a working model for the rest of to follow. Dharma Wanita was an organization made for wives of government civil workers. 

Indonesia also purged itself from its thinkers, especially left leaning cultural, social and political organization. Lekra (left artist organization), Pemuda Rakyat (left leaning youth organization), and other leftist or socialism-oriented bodies amd organizations were crushed and its members either killed or sent to prison island of Buru. 

Feminist movement in the west managed to grew and destroyed the patriarchal sub-structure that held the very foundation of conformist society the McCarthyist relied on to maintain the scared culture. It deprived them of their once held power relations that benefited male gender structurally. The voting power of women managed to shift priorities, and showed that the once weak and vulnerable became the equal, and the old fear wasn't shared by half of the citizen. The democratization of information that came with the internet, also crippled the old power structure even more. The once subdued voices became heard and public discourse were advanced. Old scares became funny things, and the old fear started to diminish.

Brad Simpson, the author of Accomplish in Atrocity
the Indonesian Killings of 1965.
In an Interview aired by ABC.net.au, an Australian radio.
September 7, 2008
For the western world the Red Scare had been long since ended, and many writers, historians, scholars, human rights activists, filmmakers and others, found out what happened in Indonesia and how their own nation might had something to do with it. Books and articles written. Works by researchers published. Journalist reported. Activists rising awareness. And thanks to all of them, the eye of the world begun to see and recognize the forgotten genocide. The International People's Tribunal of 1965 massacre held in Den Haag, are a sign that the west had already begun to ready them self to acknowledge it, and with that the history behind it, which probably also had their name written on it. 

The same liberating power the Americans get, Indonesians managed to taste, but with one big difference: US Citizen doesn't have a mass murderer and his network of perpetrators govern and have power over them for almost 50 years. Indonesian does. Even after the fall of Soeharto, these perpetrators managed to cling to power, managed more atrocities, mass murders included, and still got away with it. All these created a culture of impunity and ignorance, where echoes of fear still reverberating in open air, to get utilized by new generation of perpetrator, to do even more violence.

When you watch the excerpt of Joshua Oppenheimer's act of killing in the video above, you will see people celebrating genocide while not even realizing how it wasn't right. They can't. Their ears still hearing the echo of fear, and were too muffled for the voice of reason.