So everything went unexpected. A year ago I wrote a review on a book called Archipelago of Fear. It talks about poverty, corruption, human rights issues, infrastructure, culture and education problems in Indonesia. The author is Andre Vltchek, whom I admire a lot, read my review and mentioned me on his twitter (that was totally made my day!). And a few days ago my mom and his publisher & translator, Rossie Indira, suprisingly arranged a meeting for me and Andre while he coincidentally is in Bandung. Of course, I felt very jubilantly and lucky. So the night before our meeting, I arranged several interview questions for him and struggled with the grammar accuracy. I even googled about ‘how to make questions for interview’ because I really had no idea what kind of question I should ask.
The next day on a clear sunny afternoon, I finally met Andre at Sheraton hotel. I felt extremely nervous because I never interviewed a foreigner like Andre before. With awkward-interviewer wannabe gesture, I asked him 3 short questions I’ve well prepared.
K: You’ve covered dozens of war zones, conflict, and poverty from all around the world. How does it feel? Did you ever feel scared?
A: Yes of course, but especially I feel scared for other people because I do this for many years, I’m professional, I know how to survive. When I’m in a war zones or conflicts zone, the most terrible is that the victims are innocent people who have nothing to do; they don’t have basic survival skill, so I mainly feel scared for them, not so much for myself. I’m from media that basically in between the public and the conflicts so my obligation is to inform people and to analyze as a philosopher what is going to come. So it is my decision to be there. I can go home anytime but for the people in the conflict, they are forced to be there, they have no choice, so I feel very scared, but I feel scared for them, not for myself.
K: [Mr. Vltchek], I really want to be like you, as an author and journalist. But I have no idea where do I start and how much effort does it take. Would you give me any advice?
A: Well, it’s not very easy. If want to be like me, then you have to be very determined. I would say, there are much de-force from the mainstream. I’ve never been with the mainstream in the west or anywhere else, or I did for period of time, but I totally separated myself from the mainstream media, from the mainstream academy. It is very risky, there is no guarantee. I can do whatever I want now because I have 13 books and like 23 languages, but when I was younger it was very difficult and actually very often I didn’t know what will come next. In Indonesia, people always have been in security. They are quite selfish, I would say, so it will be difficult for yourself to face your friends, your environment, because they definitely will not encourage you to be brave and to do something for the humanity. Because here you always do things for yourself and your family, you know this unfortunately has in Indonesia. So I would say if you really want to do something for humanity, you have to be very determined and to be prepared to be alone very often, because you will not get much support.
K: What has been your personal key to success?
A: Well you have to work. First of all, success for me is not a personal issue. I’m a professional revolutionary. Success is survival of humanity improvement of the society. So it’s socialism definitely for me. For me success is not measured by amount of money that I make, not measured by my personal standing in society. We fight, we work for humanity. I was in Cuba for so many years; you know I am against colonialism which still prevails so the success is basically real freedom of people all over the world, not freedom that United States is talking about. Real freedom which means that people all over the world can rely on their culture, they can do what they want to do, the aim is egalitarian and justice. And the key is hard work and first we have to have a talent, and then do very hard work, and determination. And above all, if you want to be successful in this, you have to know how to listen to people. You have to listen the stories that people tell you. You have to try to understand people that you’re fighting for. That’s the key, I guess.
K: Alright, thank you for your time.
Then we discussed about a lot of things; Indonesia’s intellectual backwardness, the abandoned culture, social inequality (we definitely saw a shantytown right in front of the hotel when we talked about it), and the most intriguing thing is about one single issue that I have always been interested in: education.
What Andre told us made me think again of the purpose of education. In Indonesia, education has been a site of struggle. Teachers still stand in the front of classroom and deliver information, and the students are forced to learn something that they will never need or use it in the future. The purpose of education is no longer for educating human beings but is for creation of economically centered beings. I told Andre that I’m interested in philosophy. He said, more or less, I should use philosophy for developing humanity and consciousness of social justice. Or like Andre has been doing: analyzing various issues that need to be resolved so that our species doesn’t continue to perpetuate the vicious cycle of war, human rights abuses, and other cruel things that has caused pain and suffering from all around the world.
*this is the first time I wrote an article in English, so I’m sorry if it’s not good enough.