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Tuesday, November 16


Why People Choose to Stay in Merapi and Not Flee

Until today, Mount Merapi still erupting, burst lava, stone, rock, and ashes. Few days ago, when I had a conversation with friend of mine, I said, "Look, later they (victims) will go back to Merapi, open a new field, farm, buy new livestocks, and start live there again like nothing happened." My friend, who is a foreigner, seems surprised and said, "What?? Are they dumb or what??"

That conversation was simple, only 2 sentences, but enough to gave me a plenty food of thought. Foreigner, usually see Indonesian people as a fatalistic, a trait believed to be behind their “silly decisions.” The myth of Indonesians as people driven by destiny has been confirmed for many by the notion that their behavior is driven by superstition and mysticism. The death of Mbah Maridjan, spiritual guardian of Merapi supports the assumption of that "silly".

Beside death, volcanic eruption also has another dangerous effects such as, ash particles are minute and can easily get into the lungs, volcanic ash can cause serious and lasting pulmonary conditions. Inhaled, they can make even the healthiest people fall ill. And they make those who suffer from asthma prone to experiencing severe shortness of breath and coughing fits. So Why People Choose to Stay in Merapi and not Flee?

There are factors, that if we look deeper, can explain everything. First, believe it or not, when you live in a country for years where natural disasters can happen anytime and where the resulting death tolls are often high, the concept of fatalism in your mind will be different. Example, traffic issue in New York. You who's living or ever lived in New York know how bad the traffic is. You won't be surprised about bad traffic anymore because you've known worse. See below news I got from an online magazine

A Portuguese psychology student of Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta who visited an Indonesian evacuee camp to help the people deal with the psychological impact of the catastrophe, expressed shock at how the victims all seemed to be “fine.” They had been displaced by a major disaster and many had lost everything, but they weren’t crying as he had thought they would.

They just lost everything, belongings, homes, families, but I’m not sure they need me here,” he said.(Jakarta Globe)

Another factor, which is for me is the most important, most of Indonesian people believe in the afterlife. There are more believers than Europeans and Americans. We (I use "we" because I'm an Indonesian) believe that death is just a door to another phase of (eternal) life. We believe that there's nothing compared to God and He is so powerful that when He says, "Up", we'll be up and when He says, "Down", we'll be down. Maybe not all the victims think like that. It's just what most of Indonesians believe between human and God.

The last factor why they keep stay and go back to Merapi, and for me is the most logical, is vulcanic area is the most fertile land. especially after an eruption. Hot lava burn the soil, produce many oxygen, carbon, and many other substance that will make any plant that grow on it has top quality. Economically, it has more benefits and money than taking a job in a city. Water quality in vulcanic area also greater and purer than other place. Fresh, cool, and healthy. And one more, Mount Merapi doesn't erupt once a month. That's also an important thing that we have to start thinking of. Mount Merapi erupts once every 2-3 decade or more. Between that time, people can start a new life, run a family, have kids, build a new business, and more.

In my opinion, these people (victims) are not completely "fatalistic, a trait believed to be behind their silly decisions". They have their own reason that maybe not really fit with us but completely fit for them. The matter is just the way we look and analyze it, whether we are able to look deeper and stand on their position or not. Interesting, isn't it?


Idclicker said...

Nice article Ame, keep up the good work :)

graphic design inspirations said...

pity they live so close to a natural disaster area should they move not live there any more perhaps

Amelia said...

@idclicker : Thanks :)
@graphic design : it's difficult to not stay there. That vulcanic land is the richest soil which can produce the best quality of fruits and other plants

Aditya Perdana said...

hi, I want blogwalking to some blog friends, and eventually I got back on amelia's blog. I like your style of writing ...

budiutomo[dot]com said...

blog mbak jarang update ya

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