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Showing posts from November, 2013

Lessons of history

As Joshua Oppenheimer's brilliant "The Act of Killing" has made its way around the world the past year or so, it has drawn to public attention the gruesomeness of the massacres of mid-1960s Indonesia. The depictions of the horrific ways in which street gangs were able to to lynch those suspected of leftist political leanings, those of Chinese heritage and anyone else with whom the thugs wished to settle scores presented in unflinching terms the terror of the early days of Suharto's New Order era.

Clearly the film is a damning indictment of that dark chapter in Indonesian history, in which a million or more people were killed. But it also serves as a savage condemnation of contemporary Indonesia and the warped values that have become entrenched in the popular consciousness.

Consider the fact that the perpetrators of the crimes in Oppenheimer's film can hold their heads high and be feted on TV talk shows as they recount their past actions, while the victims (and th…