Laugh to survive
LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph T. Gpnzales (The Freeman) - January 16, 2016 - 9:00am

It was a shock to see the attack on Jakarta.  While bombings aren't new to our sister ASEAN state, terrorist activities aren't really something we can (or should) get used to.

What was a distinct surprise, however, was the humor with which the Indonesians approached the whole situation.  Fortunately, I have the distinct pleasure of being friends with a few Indonesians, and through them, I was able to see the perspective with which their countrymen were viewing the attacks.

Of course, we should not attempt (and I am not attempting) to diminish the gravity of the situation.  Any terrorist attack has security implications to not just Starbucks, or Jakarta, or even South East Asia, but the whole free world.  I am just remarking on the remarkable resiliency which the Indonesians were displaying in the face of a horrifying and serious situation (and, dare I say it, exhibiting a very Filipino characteristic?)

What we here in Manila weren't seeing were the memes and viral messages in Jakarta, but like most Filipinos, the netizens in Indonesians focused on quite a few interesting things.

First, they focused on looks.  In particular, one hunky policeman by the name of Rino Soedarjo. In the span of a few hours, while serving duty by being in the front lines and exposing his safety and security on the streets, the handsome cop unwittingly became an internet sensation, and his provenance became fodder for many more posts and gushy articles.  Suddenly, pictures of him with gun in hand and screen grabs from his private accounts were circulating in the web.  Now, isn't that so Filipino?   (Much like how the APEC conference in Manila became less about the economic issues, but more a beauty contest between the heads of state of Mexico and Canada).

Second, they focused on the fashion.  One policeman was seen sporting a very nice leather rucksack, and it was instantly spotted, identified as a US$700 satchel produced by luxury brand Coach, and there you had it.  An internet discussion on how to fashionably combat terrorism: with the right accessories!  (I would bet you Filipinos would do the same).

And not just the bags.  The footwear was also eyed, with Gucci and Adidas camos being flagged to the watching public.

Third, they focused on the trivial.  While all these attacks were going on and the policemen were deployed everywhere and confusion reigned, life went on for the ordinary citizens.   And this was made patently obvious when a mango street vendor was photographed continuing his routinary trade by selling freshly peeled mangoes to a policeman, a scant few feet away from the action, and right behind a tank!

Of course, the jokes and wise cracks could not be far behind, when the contrast between normal routine and a life threatening scenario was brought out.  (That would be just like a Pinoy cop: buying fishballs and banana-cue while on the hunt for terrorists).

Last, but not the least.  The armchair critics were calling out the pedestrians for congregating at the police barricades.  There they were, the ordinary folk, in throngs, gawking at the exciting things happening before them, not really paying mind to the danger that they were actually exposing themselves to bullets or more attacks.  Does that remind you of anyone?

These examples of attitude and humor were remarkable, and it seems like they're something we share in common with our Indonesian brothers.  Perhaps, in view of the very real loss of lives, the impact to the Indonesian economy, and the persistent threats to the very existence of Indonesia, that humor is misplaced and something to be frowned at.  But then again, perhaps, it was a safety valve, an understandable way to deal with stress.  A survival mechanism, if you will.

That might be a good way to deal with the ISIS threat.  Laugh in their faces, and let them see we are neither bowed nor broken.

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