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another try

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Ambition equals wealth?

Ambition equals wealth is one perception that is shared by most of Indonesians, according to me, still an Indonesian. Being a developing nation and suffered from a contradictory hate-and-love relationship with the West due to the past colonialism, Indonesian society gives enormous significant to appearance, which most of the time linked to money or material wealth.

Money rules. Not only to get what you want, but also (more importantly) to create what you are. Money will not only buy objects of comfort, it will also create a status and prestige along with perceived (by self and others) superiority from others in many (if not all) spheres of life.

The superimposing society that endows itself a right to control and judge its members takes its 'court' function very seriously. Each member has been trained to see others and themselves from a certain framework in which money plays important role. Material wealth sometimes become the only identification of oneself, and being not as wealthy as the neighbors would create an impression that one has been or would be casted down by the society.

It is sad that this society traps its numerous subjects with potentials into a narrow path of money-seeking and money-stacking. It has imprisoned the mind from the search of alternative meaning of want and ambition, and enhanced a culture of money-hunger.

This conclusion is a wrap-up of five years experience being abroad and still look 'normal'.

In Indonesia, to live abroad will create certain expectation from others on how you should look. According to many of my friends and family, I should look trendy, cool, branded, and rich. The fact that I still wear t-shirt, jeans and old snickers, and have dark hair without any sign of dye has given me look of pity and worried, a look by a mind thinking: "dear oh dear, what a shame. After being abroad all of these years and not a slight of (material) improvement whatsoever".

A short discussion with a friend enhanced my conclusion.

Long explanation on my perception of material wealth as something useful but not necessarily essential awarded me this comment "well, you don't sound like a woman. Your idealist husband must have influenced you, since it is completely normal that one, especially woman wanting more and more."

Well, I am not an idealist. Far from it. I am a pragmatist who always feels guilty knowing that the same amount of money for fancy bag or shoes can feed one family for a week.

And suddenly she gave me an advice that having ambition will give motivation to work hard and achieve a better life.

Hmmmm...but then is ambition always equal to wealth and material gain?

I must say that I want something beyond that. I am not saying that I do not want money. I want a comfortable life. But physical comfort is not enough for a troubled mind like mine. I want to taste personal and professional achievement in which money comes second as mental balance, good consience, understanding of the world around me, comprehension of others and myself, and mature mind are my first priorities.

No, I don't lack ambition. It's just that my ambition does not have money-o-meter. If I don't have a strong ambition, I won't be here, working my arse off to start my life from zero in a totally strange and different society. I would be back home, enjoying every bit of comfort that my parents or my education can provide.

*A conclusion by a middle class Indonesian with her own subjectivity and contextual relationship


  • I share your view. I've heard similar comments and/or stories far too many times. My advise - which you probably already know - just be yourself! At the end of the day, what matters most is whether you achieve your goals, and not those set by others. If you can live with that, then be it.

    By Anonymous $ugi, at August 22, 2006 11:12 PM  

  • each one has his/her target in life, others don't even have it.
    why bother listening to people that don't know what's your priorty/target in life?

    By Anonymous naga, at August 23, 2006 11:58 AM  

  • I live right in the middle of the society at the moment Pit, and as common people expectation of an overseas graduate should be, you have no idea how much pressure I took living my life here.

    All I do now is just believe in what I do, expanding my network & knolwledge to grow, and most importantly enjoying every bit of it (it's not always sweet you know).

    And one last thing, although MOST people judgements are not always right, I must admit that somehow they do have a point in certain things.

    By Anonymous Wira, at August 23, 2006 7:53 PM  

  • «In Indonesia, to live abroad will create certain expectation from others on how you should look. According to many of my friends and family, I should look trendy, cool, branded, and rich.»

    Je me sens comme un clochard en Italie parmi tous les Italiens, même ceux qui s'en fout de la mode.

    Untungnya, teman saya di JKT ngga terlalu peduli dg penampilan. Yg penting bersih, pantes dan ngga dekil. Kalo mau keren dikit, tergantung occasion-nya.


    By Blogger MACCHIATO, at August 25, 2006 12:31 PM  

  • I'm a gal who has been living in US for 6 years. I still haven't developed a knack for expensive cars & designers' bags - I just don't feel a need for them.

    What I want is to be the best that I can be. I totally agree with this western way of thinking.

    By Anonymous a0z0ra, at August 25, 2006 8:11 PM  

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