The Stopping Point

One of the basic and yet inspiring lessons I got from physics is Newton's first law of motion, or sometimes referred to as the law of inertia. It says that an object will remain at rest, or continue in motion at a constant velocity and in the same direction, unless an outside force acts upon it.

In High School, I was only good in Javanese, Indonesian, English and German languages, and history, but not physics. It was when I studied hard to get into ITB that I fell in love with physics, but life brought me to study in pharmacy instead. Still, the law of inertia remains fresh. In life, the law helps me to understand movements of people in their careers, businesses, and also development of a nation.

Consider China. For a couple of decades China was like a sleeping gigantic dragon or panda, whichever animal you like. The world largest population, cheap labor, hard worker people, centralized and powerful government, didn't really help a lot in improving the economy and people's prosperity, until at the end of 1978 when China embarked the economic reforms triggered by the open-door policy initiated by the late Deng Xiao Ping.

The result was quite impressive. In the last two decades, China has been the fastest growing economy in Asia, lifting more than 400 million people out from poverty, a lot more than the total population of Indonesia. It's the biggest poverty alleviation drive ever in the history of mankind.

Apparently China stopped sleeping ugly when the forces of Deng and his supporters acted on it, and since then the ball kept on rolling. But no big things in life happened without heavy challenges and heartbreaking sacrifices. Rampant corruptions and abuse of powers that triggered students demonstration which led to Tiananmen Square tragedy in 1989 were among of them.

When Deng visited Singapore and meet Lee Kuan Yew in November 1978, there's an interesting conversation between the two leaders during a dinner reception. Deng said, "I must congratulate you, you've done a good job in Singapore. I came to Singapore on my way to Marseilles in 1920. It was a lousy place. You made it a different place." Lee replied, "Thank you. Whatever we can do, you can do better. We are the descendents of the landless peasants of south China. You have the mandarins, the writers, the thinkers and all the bright people. You can do better." During his tour to the southern provinces in November 1992, Deng said to his people, "Learn from Singapore, do better than them."

Inspiration may come from different places and from different kind of people. Great people always have sensitive ears to listen to the wisdom and keep open minds and hearts to digest, absorb and utilize it for the benefit of the people.

What and whose forces to be acted to the sleeping apathy Indonesian people, stopping them from doing little to nothing, and yet complaining, bitching, corrupting state coffers, looting natural resources, political bickering, red-taping business activities, neglecting education and research drives, and all other inefficiencies and ineffectiveness that have made this beautiful rich country remains poor.

We are commemorating the 100 years of the National Awakening Day that falls on May 20. I'm wondering whether the commemoration still means something for the people. I hope it does, even though realities of life speak differently. We shall not wait for another 100 years to awaken the mind, heart and soul of the Indonesian people. We need it today.

If China needs 20 years for lifting 400 million of people from poverty, it is possible for Indonesia to work on the 40 million of poor Indonesians within a period of ten years. In order to achieve the goal, remember Newton's first law of motion, the law on inertia, that things will stop or start moving when external forces act on it.
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