One of the great things about the world today is how so much of the world is catching up with quality of living, human rights, democratisation, and equality everywhere. The progress is so strong that it is now more accurate to use the expression “developing nations” rather than the more sanctimonious “undeveloped nations” of my youth.
It is unlikely that I am wrong when I suggest that most people in developing nations aspire to the life styles, liberty and wealth of those they see in the Western World. This is not to suggest for a moment that they aspire to the same mores, or morals, or manners, far from it. Most would aspire to their existing culture and lives, but in a richer and fairer world. Most Indonesians do not want to be Americans or Australians for example. But they would love some of the other bits, the lack of corruption, the separation of religion and law and government, an equal playing field for trade, better health and education systems. Better prospects for the future.
I have lived and worked and made life long friends in some 20 countries, so I know a bit about this.
Some countries try various tricks to present a rapidly developing world image. They invest huge amounts in infrastructure for example, like China or Dubai.
They establish relationships with the developed world, presumably for some osmosis, like Myanmar or Vietnam. Or they develop international trade with the West, like South Korea or India. These work to a limited extent. Everyone knows that not far away from the international luxury hotels probably persists squalor, or behind the corporate success may be corporate graft or political cronyism.
One thing that occurs to me as a key in how others see developing nations has nothing to do with the things I have just mentioned. It has to do with attitudes to people and lives.
Any country that has wonderful, pristine hotels, but staff who live in ghettoes, or manufactures the highest technology products using staff who may sleep on the factory floor for lack of a home, or where you can buy a boutique hamburger or latte but not a doctor’s appointment, does not fool anyone. Most westerners for example I am sure would see South Korea or Dubai as enigma’s and not much further along than Myanmar.
It is unfortunately a fact that most of those countries also still use state sponsored murder, called capital punishment or execution, as a futile punishment. No fully developed nation does this any more. It is seen as the last bastion of savagery and brutishness. A residual, medieval thinking process, that more than anything holds the development of those countries back and prevents them as being seen as equals by the developed world. Compare Japan or Brazil for counter examples and where there is no capital punishment.
Before you bring up the USA, let me clarify that. The first time I visited the USA, I accidentally took the Holland Tunnel from New Jersey and came out at Canal Street in the heart of New York’s Chinatown, and having just lived in Hong Kong, pre return to China days, the shock has stayed with me. I thought, and I still think, the USA is a not fully developed nation.
One definition of the difference between developed and undeveloped nations is the variance between the poor and the wealthy. While there are rich and poor in most developed nations, even very rich and very poor, the extreme difference between the wealthiest and poorest is not like it is in say India or China. Or the USA. On that definition alone the USA is undeveloped still. This is further evident in the lack of universal health and education in the USA that every European nation and Canada takes for granted. On my definition on capital punishment, the USA is undeveloped. No European country will extradite anyone to the USA, even if there is a treaty, if there is a potential for a capital punishment. Nowhere have I seen homeless people like I have seen them in the USA. So although I have high regard for most things about America, they fit the same mould as many developing nations and are seen and treated this way by much of the world.
But this letter is not about America. It is about Indonesia.
There is no evidence, in fact there is evidence to the contrary, that capital punishment is any deterrent to anything. Those stating otherwise are using their opinion as if their opinion is fact.
There is every logical argument that a nation should not impose any punishment it cannot reverse if it is seen to have been wrong. With all the people being released from “death row” in prisons in the USA, (more to my argument), I have nightmares about all those innocent people in the past who were murdered by the state and could do nothing to save themselves. And any person espousing that their judicial system is infallible is insane or uneducated or uncaring. An uncaring person in this list must be psychopathic.
Psychopathy is another factor. Most of the abominable leaders, in modern times, and who often come in normal business suits, have been psychopaths: Pol Pot, Hitler, Starlin, Mao Zedong. People completely and morally bankrupt. None of them had any respect for people or lives, never hesitated to murder someone.
There can arise a hubris and an egocentric trend in sentiment in nations as they develop and see themselves approaching that of their developed neighbours. This is seen as a rejection of approaches by developed nations for such things as flexibility or clemency, as if there is some medal of honour to execute a foreigner, almost in spite. This is of course not a sign of strength, but of weakness. The lack of respect for people and their lives lingers as a warning that this nation is still brutish and run by barbarians.
In the case of Indonesia, there are a small group of people, alive, and well, and reformed, who did nothing to damage Indonesia’s reputation, which was already dubious on the drug front, and who are going to be murdered in a horrific sense by anyone’s standards, after years of psychological torture, and which act alone will damage Indonesia’s reputation, will keep it in its own dark ages, and negate any other initiatives Indonesia does in say infrastructure, trade, or international relations.
The single most valuable thing that Indonesia can do for itself is to be lenient with the Bali Nine.
Allan Branch, PhD, MBA (CMU)