Endy Bayuni at PostGlobal

Endy Bayuni

Jakarta, Indonesia

Endy M. Bayuni took up the job of chief editor of The Jakarta Post, Indonesia’s independent and leading English language newspaper, in August 2004 shortly after he returned from a one-year Nieman Fellowship at the Harvard University. Endy has been with the newspaper since 1991, working his way up from Production Manager (Night Editor), to National Editor, Managing Editor, and Deputy Chief Editor through all those years. He previously worked as the Indonesian correspondent for Reuters and Agence France-Presse between 1984 and 1991, and began his journalistic career with The Jakarta Post in 1983. Endy completed his Bachelors of Arts degree in economics from Kingston University in Surrey, England, in 1981. Close.

Endy Bayuni

Jakarta, Indonesia

Endy M. Bayuni took up the job of chief editor of The Jakarta Post, Indonesia’s independent and leading English language newspaper, in August 2004 shortly after he returned from a one-year Nieman Fellowship at the Harvard University. more »

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America is Powerful -- and Vain

A new favorite American pass time is to ask “how much do you like me?” or “how much do you hate me?” And later the question develops into “do you like me enough to do what I say?” or “do you hate me enough to want to kill me?” And then, lo and behold, the question becomes “either you are with me, or you are against me.”

This is like an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, where the central character thinks he deserves to be loved by everybody because he is the nicest person in the world, though his wife, his cop-brother and his father often despise him. He can’t seem to accept that from time to time, his closest relatives (except his mother) would love to strangle him for his obnoxious behavior, though of course because of their love, they never get round to do it. It is after all a sit-com.

But America today, the lone superpower, seems to see itself as this Raymond character. American media and survey organizations have all been engaging in this trivia of how much the world loves or hates American.

To their disappointment, however, the answer is never clear cut, and the level of global adoration or detestation of America changes constantly. The world is much more complex to foster a simple “love you or hate you” dichotomy. Sadly, many of these articles and surveys seem to be taken seriously, not only by the American people, but also by officials in government -- to the point of influencing policies. Perhaps they could learn from Everybody Loves Raymond not to take these things too seriously.

Surveys of “anti-American” sentiments are the most misleading of all. Depending on how they ask the questions, they will most likely get the answer that they want -- meaning that the polls will confirm the view of ever rising anti-American sentiment all around the globe. Indonesia, a country with a predominantly Muslim population, is of course a target for successive surveys in the wake of 9/11.

But here are some facts that such surveys miss or don’t tell you about Indonesia: McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken (and recently Burger King) are doing brisk business. Young Indonesians are now picking up the habit of spending $3 for a cup of coffee (instead of the regular 30 cents) from Starbuck outlets which are mushrooming in major cities. Cola (both Coke and Pepsi) is the preferred soft drink even in rural villages. We watch almost every single movie churned out by Hollywood; every American sit-com (yes, Raymond too) and reality show fills the air through our TV stations. Many Indonesians can name the finalists on American Idol but not a single participant on our local version, Indonesian Idol. And American companies are making profitable operations in petroleum, mining, manufacturing, banking and other services. Every year, thousands of young Indonesians go to America to study at its best colleges and universities.

This is from a country in which survey after survey suggests that anti-American sentiment is one of the highest in the world.

What the surveys fail to distinguish is that a lot of the resentment in the wake of 9/11 has been targeted at American policies and at President George W. Bush, and not against all Americans. But being the powerful and vain culture that America is, the story changes by the time it is written, to become a general rise in anti-America sentiment.

By failing to make this distinction and lumping the two perspectives together into anti-Americanism, they are playing into the hands of the terrorists, and the few diehards in the anti-American minority. Yes, they do exist, but they are a minority, and we should treat them as such.

Even if there was strong anti-American sentiment, the Indonesian people have never engaged in self-destruction or attacks on Americans or American property. Contrast this with the way Americans reacted to France’s failure to join the war in Iraq in 2003, when Americans boycotted French products and restaurants had their menus reproduced with French Fries changed to Liberty Fries.

Being liked and hated, or being loved and despised, comes with the territory of any major power. The more powerful a country gets, the more likely that it is subjected to these tests. And there are times when even your strongest admirers despise you, or the ones who love you most hate you for some of the things you do. Want proof of this? Watch the reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond.

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