L'anthologie of Global Inestabilidad Transpuesta - Instabilitas Toleransi: Indonesia (Part 29)

Transposing emblem by Rina Sitorus
In mid-2016 a riot in the North Sumatra province of Indonesia saw several Buddhist temples set on fire. The riot was provoked by a hoax disseminated through social media. Someone began spreading lies that a Buddhist immigrant complained about and insulted the adzan (Muslims' call to prayers). It infuriated people and led a few to burn several temples in the neighborhood. Ironically, a police investigation showed that the guy who started the rumor didn’t even live there: he was from Jakarta.
Jakarta, Indonesia - Downtown Jakarta
With 259.1 million population, Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world after the US, China and India. A country with more than 546 languages, 1300 ethnic groups and 6 officially acknowledged religions is bound to experience instabilitas toleransi (instability in tolerance) between different groups. These days tolerance can be destabilized even for the tiniest of reasons and is easily fueled by unethical social media usage.

Social media allows us to get news about things happening in other parts of the world in (almost) real time. Attacks at the Bataclan concert venue in Paris, outside the Istanbul soccer stadium or Christmas market near Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, were discussed by Indonesian social media users not long after the incidents. Information travels easily, turning the world into one big global village.
North Sumatra, Indonesia - Ambarita stone chairs
Yet social media is not only about technology and communication. It also portrays behavior, the embodiment of humans’ desire to socialize and share experience. Studies show that we tend to choose content suitable to our liking and surround ourselves with those of the same mind. Instead of looking for a new opinion or point of view, understandably, we tend to look for support online (Pew Internet’s 2014 study: “Mapping Twitter Topic Networks from Polarized Crowds to Community Clusters”). This, coupled with users’ immaturity and anonymity behind the screen, has been creating instabilitas toleransi between diverse groups in Indonesia, especially in big cities.
Indonesia - Face of Buddha carved from wood, photo
The ease of social media access is also (intentionally) used by groups with a certain agenda. Based on Techinasia’s report published on January 2016, Indonesia has 88.1 million active internet users and 79 million active social media users. In Indonesia, we can easily find videos promoting calls to join ISIS. Personal blogs or community websites publishing articles provoking intolerance are also easy to find. This will make intolerant people feel like they are being supported and given a platform to do as they wish.
Bali Island, Indonesia - Traditional characters of balinese and javanese fold shadow puppet show
Another interesting example of instabilitas toleransi started by/on social media in Indonesia can be found in Jakarta’s gubernatorial election in February 2017. Just like young people in general, Indonesian youngsters basically don’t care about politics. But this election campaign for governor brought about a change in this phenomenon. The race between three candidates never felt so personal. Social media enables supporters of each candidate to unite openly and ‘fight’ against their rivals. The phenomenon of social media may be something virtual, but whatever is written on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram can feel real, especially when it comes to things we don’t necessarily agree with. People have opinions, they throw in their arguments. When arguing, supporting facts are assumed, and both supporters and opponents often don’t bother to check the validity of the presented facts and numbers. Somehow a lot of people (choose to) believe that if you can find it on the internet, then it is legitimate.
Bali, Indonesia - Balinese street market
There are also people who are very creative with their memes or photoshopped pictures, meant satirically, but used by people with a hidden agenda or poorly understood by those who don’t get the satirical meaning behind the memes or pictures. The anonymity of being unseen behind the screen makes it easy to say whatever comes to mind, without regarding ethics or other people’s feelings. Rules and ethics in real life are often easily ignored on social media and may even result in violations of the law.
Bali, Indonesia - Guardian statue at Bali temple
Multicultural Indonesia is a source of great power, but it can easily turn into a weakness when not approached properly. Apparently the sentiment of us against them is still very easy to sell. Especially when it comes to religion. And then there is majority against minority. Indonesia is not an Islamic state, yet Islamic principles often influence political decision-making. If you live in Indonesia, you’ll see for yourself that some extreme Muslim groups have been able to influence political decisions by (barking) violence. A recent example of this absurdity is the candidate for governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, being put on trial for blasphemy.1 And how do these groups gain followers? Don’t let their somewhat naive appearance fool you, their social media usage is just as advanced as yours and mine.
Bali, Indonesia - Masks of gods
A lot of Indonesians will say that they grew up in (what they believe was) a very tolerant Indonesia. The way things are going these days makes many people feel uneasy. The instabilitas toleransi driven by (among others) unethical use of social media has become real. Also due to the nature of social media, information travels fast, which means that uneasiness also travels fast. The hope, however, is that these dynamics will encourage people to act to turn the instabilitas around or ensure peaceful instability between various groups.

Rina Sitorus


1. See https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/12/jakarta-governor-ahoks-blasphemy-trial-all-you-need-to-know

Works cited

Balea, Judith. “The latest stats in web and mobile in Indonesia.” Techinasia. January 2016.

Lamb, Kate. “Jakarta governor Ahko’s blasphemy trial: all you need to know.” The Guardian. Dec. 11, 2016.
Emblem of Instability in postcard booklet or Archive of Instability at 1080 Wyckoff, Queens, NY


Photo 1: Indonesia - Mount Sinabung by Yosh Ginsu

Photo 2: Jakarta, Indonesia - Downtown Jakarta by Bagus Ghufron

Photo 3: North Sumatra, Indonesia - Ambarita stone chairs, photo by travelancer

Photo 4: Indonesia - Face of Buddha carved from wood, photo by travelancer

Photo 5: Bali Island, Indonesia - Traditional characters of balinese and javanese fold shadow puppet show by Tropical_studio

Photo 6: Bali, Indonesia - Balinese street market by swiss-hippo

Photo 7: Bali, Indonesia - Guardian statue at Bali temple by Netfalls

Photo 8: Bali, Indonesia - Masks of gods by taweesak

Parts of the Emblem of Instability

Bichen, Svetlana Novoselova. Mental and Cultural Instability: Russia and Turkey. February 2017.

Caetano, Raphael. Instabilidade emocional: Brazil. February 2017.

Cordido, Verónica. Instability, a Stable Reality: Venezuela and America. April 2017.

Dastan, S.A. The Stability of Instability: Turkey and Syria. March 2017.

D'Adam, Anton. Psychosocial Instability in Argentina and America: El granero del mundo and The Manifest Destiny. January 2017.

Delibasheva, Emilia. Political Instability: Electoral Coups in America and Bulgaria. December 2016.

Friedrich, Angelika. Introduction: The Emblem of Instability. September 2016.

Fondevik, Vigdis. Unstable Nature: Norway and Denmark. October 2016.

Halimi, Sophia. Modern Instabilité: Youth and Employment in France and China. March 2017.

Hernandez, Jonay Quintero. Embracing Instability - Spain. February 2017.

Kelvin, Sera. The Stability in Expecting Emotional Instability: Brazil. April 2017.

Larrosa, Mariela. The Very Stable Spanish Instability. April 2017.

Lobos, José. Political Instability: Guatemala. May 2017.

Mankevich, Tatsiana. The Absence of Linguistic Stabilнасцi: Does the Belarusian Language Have a Future? December 2016.

Meschi, Isabelle. Linguistic Instabilité and Instabilità: France and Italy. November 2016.

Mitra, Ashutosh. The Instability of Change: India. January 2016.

Moussly, Sahar. The Instability of Tyranny: Syria and the Syrian Diaspora. December 2016.

Nastou, Eliza. Psychological Αστάθεια and Inestabilidad during the Economic Crisis: Greece and Spain. December 2016.

Nevosadova, Jirina. Whatever Happens, It Is Experience. May 2017.

Partykowska, Natalia. Niestabilność and адсутнасць стабільнасці in the Arts: Polish and Belarusian Theater. January 2017.

Persio, P.L.F. Social Instabilità and Instabiliteit: Italy and the Netherlands. November 2016.

Pranevich, Liubou. Cultural Instability: Belarus and Poland. March 2017.

Romano, Mavi. Unstable Identities: Ecuador and Europe. October 2016.

Shunit. Economic Instability: Guinea and Gambia. April 2017.

Sousa, Antonia. Social and Economic Instabilidade: Portugal. January 2017.

Vuka. My Intimate Imbalanced Inclination. March 2017.

Walton, Éva. Historical and Psychological Bizonytalanság within Hungarian Culture. January 2017.

Zadrożna-Nowak, Amelia. Economic Instability: Poles at Home and the Polish Diaspora. November 2016.

Zakharova, Anastasiya. Instability in Relationships: Russia. April 2017.

To follow: texts by Guatemalan, Korean, Indonesian, Serbian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian writers and translators

Further reading

Azazeal, Alex. Отражение Spiegelt Reflection. 2014.

Friedrich, Angelika. The Emblem of Instability. September 2016.

Friedrich, Angelika. Sub-Under-U-метро-Bahn-Ground-Way. 2014.

Gergiev, Vladimir. Street - Straße - Улица. 2014

Metivier, Anthony. Kunstart. 2014.

Smirnov, Yuri. Art de streetулица. 2013.

Whittlesey, Henry, et al. Transposing Emblem - Junk Culture - Müll Trashed Мусор (Part I). August 2016.

Whittlesey, Henry, et al. Transposing Emblem - Junk Culture - Müll Trashed Мусор (Part II). August 2016.

Whittlesey, Henry, et al. Transposing Emblem - Junk Culture - Müll Trashed Мусор (Part III). September 2016.

Whittlesey, Henry. Forward to Next Transposing Emblem. January 2016.

Whittlesey, Henry. Changes to Transposing Emblems. November 2015.

Whittlesey, Henry. Excerpt of new emblem transpoзиция on trash. September 2015.

Whittlesey, Henry. Müll trashed мусор. 2013

Visit www.transposing.net for more information about transposition.

Emblem of Instability in a postcard booklet or Archive of Instability at 1080 Wyckoff, Queens, NY

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