Friday, October 06, 2006

Destructive Conduct of Youths in Indonesia

By : Monty P. Satiadarma
Department of Psychology Tarumanegara University Jakarta

Detrimental conduct of youths in Indonesia has been one of the largest concerns of the Indonesian society in facing future generation. Physical injurious behavior in gang fights such as school fights and the elevation of drug and alcohol use by students in various areas in Indonesia have become the largest concern over the implementation of moral education in the society. Besides perception, social legitimization over the behavior has apparently been the significant factors that support moral disengagement of the Indonesian youths. This current paper is aimed to discuss about the Indonesian youth destructive conduct, particularly school fights. Data collection is based on various reports from primary mass media in the country as well as more than 150 respondents of high-school youths who ever engaged in school fights. Personal interviews were conducted by more than 70 students of clinical psychology class utilizing tape recorder and recorded verbatim. Solidarity and group identity were the most mentioned reasons for the school-students to get engaged in the fights, and legitimization of destructive conduct by moral agencies in the society could be the source of such acts. Discussion is included concerning a larger dimension of youths’ problems in the country.

The massive threats to human welfare stem mainly from deliberate acts of principle rather than from unrestrained acts of impulse (Bandura, Barbaranelli, Caprara, & Pastorelli, 1996). Detrimental conduct of youths in Indonesia, has been one of the largest concerns of the Indonesian society in facing the future generation ("Perkelahian Pelajar," 1999). Myers (1993) stated, " …evil acts not only reflect the self, they shape the self" (p.127). When the exercise of moral control is weakened by sanitized label of violations in the society, the future generation will be in serious threats. When moral disengagement is "approved " by legitimizing inhumane social practices by utilizing such as euphemism, in the name of moral justification, we may expect to see more inhumane social practices in the near future.
Physical injurious behavior in gang fights such as school fights and the elevation of drug and alcohol use by students in various areas in Indonesia (Prambadi, 1996, April 27; Alwie, Anam, Tantan, & Hidayat, 1996, April 27) have become the largest concern over the implementation of moral education in the society ("Tawuran,"1999; Prambadi, 1996, April 27). School fights have become so common, and they happen almost every day in Jakarta ("Jadi Pelajar,"1997; "209 titik," 1999; TVRI, 1999, April 4), and there are 209 pocket areas of school fights in Jakarta in the recent six years ("209 titik, 1999, TVRI, 1999, April 4), including 11 large bus terminals and 21 bus routes (Achmad & Nababan 1999, April 11).
Perhaps there is no other country in this world that has so many and so frequent school fights as in Indonesia, particularly in Jakarta, and these school fights caused various problems such as traffic congestions ("Perkelahian Pelajar, 1998), public transport drivers strike ("Akibat Tawuran," 1998; "Mikrobus Bogor Mogok Lagi," 1998) up to serious injuries ("Jadi Pelajar", 1997), and death ("Usai Tawuran," 1997, "Pelajar STM," 1997, "Tawuran sesama pelajar," 1997, "Terus Berjatuhan," 1999; "Pelajar Tewas Tertembak," 1998; "Andri Tewas," 1998). Data from 1991 to 1995 from the Jakarta Police Department is shown as such:

Total Case
No data
(Prambadi, Kelana, Waluyo, Gunadi, & Ndraha, 1996, April 27)
In these recent two years, the numbers of cases and death casualties may have increased due to the high frequency of school fights since there is not even a day without school fights ("Jadi Pelajar," 1997).
Research on school fights in 1991 (Prambadi, et. al, 1996, April 27) reported that the respondents in general were having low motivation to get involved in school fights, yet they considered the acts as positive experiences in order to explore and to test self capacity. Collective moral disengagement can have widespread societal and political ramifications by supporting, justifying, and legitimizing inhumane social practices and policies. Group decision making enables people to behave inhumanely since as everyone is responsible, no one really feels responsible. Thus, group action weakens moral control (Bandura et al, 1996). People may behave more cruelly under group responsibility than when they hold themselves personally accountable for their actions (Bandura, Underwood, & Fromson, 1975; Diener, 1977; Zimbardo, 1969, 1995). In support to these concepts, social identity theory for example, explained that group members exhibited in-group bias since they were motivated to seek or maintain a positive identity and group distinctiveness (Tajfel, 1978; Tajfel & Turner, 1986) Also, they did not consider the act as negative that may give problems to others. This research (conducted by the University of Indonesia) was based on questionnaires given to 315 students who were classified into four groups. 1) 44,67% students were not aggressive and basically did not like to fight. 2) 22,8% students were slightly aggressive ("aggressive 1"), often times they got involved in fights and sometimes lead the fights. 3) 22,22% were they who had motivation to fight ("aggressive 2"). 4) 8,25 % were they who were in detention due to the fights.
Various reasons such as poverty ("Tawuran," 1999), social gap, immature personality of the youths, influence of films and other mass media, "looking for challenge attitude" of the youths, urbanization, and self defense (Prambadi, Kelana, Waluyo, & Anwar, 1996, April 27), or other forms of rationalization have been considered to be the sources for the students to conduct such acts. Prambadi (1996, April 27) quoted an explanation from Professor Yaumil Achir of the University of Indonesia explained that the increase numbers of students along with inappropriate systems in the society could be the complicated sources of school fights. These sources included social gap, unstable emotional development, inappropriate educational system, inappropriate parent-child relationships, and the inconsistencies of laws and rules execution in the society. Yet, in many occasions, parents showed models of destructive behaviors to be imitated by their children when they had to deal with frustrating situations. For example in a national newspaper report ("Anak tak lulus seleksi," 1998), it was explained how parents in a village in West Java, burned a school since their children were unable to be accepted by the institution. Much reprehensible and destructive conduct has been perpetrated by ordinary, otherwise considerate people in the name of religious principles, righteous ideologies, nationalistic imperatives, and ruthless social policies (Bandura, 1986; Rapoport & Alexander, 1982; Sanford & Comstock, 1971).
In everyday life transactions, a lot of aggressive behavior gets justified in the name of protecting honor and reputation (Cohen & Nisbett, 1994). Similar reasons were reported to be the reasons for many students to get involved in school fights (Alwie, & Anam, 1996, April 1996). Moreover, punishment upon the students who get involved in school fights often increases their pride and status symbol as courageous or heroes (Prambadi et. al, 1996, April 27). Some subcultures in The United States of America for example, have acknowledge what anthropologist call ‘culture of honor’, in which small disputes becomes contest for reputation and social status (Fischer, 1989; McWhiney, 1988; Peristiani, 1965).
Based on various reports above, there are various reasons for students to get engaged in school fights. The reasons being mentioned above were (1) poverty, (2) mass media influence, (3) self defense, (4) social gap, (5) inappropriate education, (6) inappropriate parent-child relationships, (7) law inconsistencies, (8) role models, (9) protecting honor, and (10) pride. Each of these reasons can be classified into more details. However, this study merely exploring (1) how do the school children perceive their involvement in school fights, (2) whether their moral standards are in support to their involvement in the fights, (3) What factors to be influencing their moral standards (if any) to get involve in the fights.
People basically regulate their actions by the consequences they apply to themselves. People do things that satisfy them and give them self-worth. On the contrary, people refrain from behaving in ways that violate their moral standards since the behavior will bring self–censure. Anticipatory self-sanctions keep conduct in line with internal standards (Bandura et al, 1996), but there are many psychosocial processes by which self-sanctions can be disengaged from inhumane conduct (Bandura, 1990, 1991). These psychosocial processes consist of moral justification (Kelman & Hamilton, 1989; Kramer, 1990; Sanford & Comstock, 1971), euphemistic language (Bolinger, 1982; Lutz, 1987), displacement of responsibility (Andrus, 1969), diffusion of responsibility (Bandura, Underwood, & Fromson, 1975; Diener, 1977; Kelman, 1973; Zimbardo, 1969, 1995), dehumanization (Haritos-Fatouros, 1988; Keen, 1986; Kelman, 1973).

It has been mentioned above that various moral justifications may give direct impact to students to get engaged in school fights. In the name of and for the sake of self- defense, social respect and self worth for example, people tend to regulate violent behaviors up to dehumanizing others and even sacrificing other people’s lives. Several experts have discussed various conditions as below of the possible reasons of why people manifested aggressive behaviors.
The strength of moral self-sanctions depends partly on how perpetrators view the people they mistreat. Bandura (1992) explained that to perceive another as human activated empathetic and vicarious emotional reactions through perceived similarities. When people are dehumanized, they are no longer viewed as persons with feelings, hopes, and concerns, but more as subhuman objects (Haritos-Fatouros, 1988; Keen, 1986; Kelman, 1973). Perry, Williard and Perry (1990) reported that some aggressive children exhibited little sympathetic concern over inflicting devalued peers. In educating children, corporal punishment practices are considered (in some cultures) as the way to teach children about "appropriate way" to handle conflict (Cohen, 1996). Thus, when violence is used to discipline and control (Trelease, 1989) is introduced to children to teach them in handling conflicts, this collective legitimized aggression will bring feedback and affect the children’s behaviors in their later development.
Some anthropologists noted that cultures having herding as the basis of their economy tend to be more approving of certain forms of violence (Campbell, 1965; Edgerton, 1971, Peristiany, 1965). Some studies also reported that collective violence for social control and for maintaining "moral" regulations among subcultures (such as Black Americans, Poor Whites), has long history in the south part of The United States (Brown, 1969; Cash, 1941; Ingalls, 1989). Gelles and Cornell (1990) stated that the old southern statutes and case law even give instructions allowing violence as an appropriate correction for a slave, a child or a wife.

Seventy students of Intro to Clinical Psychology Class interviewed at least two high school students who ever got involved in school fights. The interview was conducted in a form of free and open-ended interview since using questionnaires tended to be threatening for the interviewee. Preliminary field study reported that most of the interviewee rejected to cooperate when they saw the interviewers carried questionnaires to fill in.
There are some disadvantages in utilizing open questions since answers will be more difficult to classify. However since for the sake of a preliminary study it is considered that they permit unlimited number of responses, there may be some unanticipated findings, and that the answers may reveal subject’s frame of reference (Neuman, 1997). Neuman (1997) also mentioned that open-ended questions were especially valuable in early or exploratory stages of research
Approaches were conducted in a rather informal atmosphere, and interview recordings were taken by utilizing tape recorder. Most interviews were taken around 30 to 45 minutes since interviewee tended to be hostile when being asked too personal questions and they wanted to cooperate within a very limited time space. After the interviews were being recorded, the interviewers put the interview process into verbatim form. Control of the interview process and verbatim notes was conducted by comparing what were written on papers and what were mentioned in the tape.
The responses of the interview subjects were being classified into groups based on the basic questions such as: (1) how many times have you got involved in school fights, (2) what was the reason for you to get involved in the fights, (3) how did the fight start (4) have you ever been caught due to the fight? (5) what did you experience when being caught, (6) how was your feelings to that, (7) did you ever use any specific weapons?

More than 150 subjects were interviewed at random. One hundred twenty five (125) subjects were considered as ever being involved in school fights, and the rest of the interviewees were passive participants or merely bystanders. Seventeen subjects had involved in one to two school fights, 16 subjects had involved in 3 to 4 fights, and 102 subjects had involved in 5 or more fights. Students who reported fighting 5 or more were not necessarily stated the numbers of fighting. Some students mentioned 8, 10, but most of them said "I could not count, since that happened almost every day". Even some other students reported that they were involved in the fights more than once a day.

Number of Fights
5 & more
Number of Subjects

Among 125 subjects, 3 subjects were female. They were involved once for specific reasons. One girl reported she was asked for money by a group of schoolboys, and she reported the case to her friends, which finally caused school fights where she were involved. Another subject reported that she was suspected by others as "stealing" someone’s boy friend from another school. The result was the school students were fighting and she was in the fight as well. The third female subject reported that she was just joining the fights together with her friends.

When subjects were asked what was the reason or were the reasons for them to get involved in the fights, some answered single particular reason and some answered various reasons and classified as below:
Solidarity is classified when students mentioned solidarity or wanting to be with the group, feeling together with the group, or did not feel separate with the group, as a part of the group.
Retaliation is classified when students mentioned that they were intimidated or being attacked thus they need to retaliate. Some students even dramatically mentioned: "It is better to kill rather than to be killed".
Self image has large connotations. This includes when students stated such as: "I am a man, it is normal for a man to be aggressive", "If I do not help my friends, who will", "I do it because I want to help and protect my friends".
Fear of Being Left Alone consists of statements such as: "If I do not help them now, later, when I am going home, I will be alone, no one will help me", "If I do not help them, later they may not be willing to help me", or "I don’t want to be left alone by my friends. It’s scary when we are being attacked. I need my friends. So, I should help them when they need me as well"
Self Defense includes statements such as: " I do need to protect my self". "What else must you do when you are attacked by a group of people. Would you rather remain passive? You are going to die soon"
Tradition is classified when students mentioned that the fight was tradition in the school. Some students mentioned that "It’s normal, it’s our school tradition, we, the male, must fight", or "Ever since I enter this school, it seems to be the tradition of the school"
Enforced is classified when the interviewee stated "I was enforced by my senior classmates", or "My friends enforce me to join them". Some of them mentioned "If I did not join them, I would be considered betraying my friends".

Number of Answers
Self Image
Fear of Being Left Alone
Self Defense

It is interesting to find that one student reported that the school principle asked him to defend the school and to fight for the sake of the school.

Triggering Factors:
When subjects were asked how the fight started, some of them stated unclear answers such as "I don’t know, I just joined my friends", or "I just want to be together with my friends". Some of the subjects mentioned various conditions that stimulated the incidents, and those conditions were classified as:
Being looked down is classified when they feel as being mocked, or humiliated, scoffed, without any physical threats.
Being intimidated is classified when they were approached physically, threatened directly, asked for money and such.
Old enemies is the concept which normally carried by their senior classmates, and they had label some specific schools as their enemies, toward whom they had been having unfinished business.
Vengeance is classified when they had been attacked previously, they did not retaliate directly but gathering more friends and using plans to attack the previous attacker.
Being looked at is classified when they feel humiliated, intimidated, or objectified by others by only looked at.

What Causes the Fights
Number of Answers
Being Looked Down
Being Intimidated
Old Enemies
Being Looked at

One respondent clearly stated that he sometimes initiated the fight. When he started entering the school, his senior classmates asked him and his colleagues to intimidate other school students as the initiation process. Moreover, his groups were also asked to attack other school students, and this has been a part of the tradition in his school.

Experiences in Detention
Most of the respondents they had never been caught. However, they who had ever been caught by police or army reported as below:

Number of Subjects reported
Corporal punishments
Administrative procedures

The form of punishment under the classification of "others" is stripping the students to only wear shorts, letting them standing in the sun for some time.
These students did not show any concern for being caught by the security, including those who experienced punishments. They mentioned it as normal as one of the students said "the police only slapped me on my cheeks several times, and that’s all". They did not show any concern for being intimidated, and they repeated their actions.
One student reported that in one of the fights he was involved, two friends of his were shot on the legs by the police. Many students reported the police and security in general did not do anything rather than only chasing here and there which did not work. For they kept coming back to the same place to fight.

Parental reactions:
Most subjects reported that their parents did not know about the fights. They either lied to their parents when being found dirty all over their clothes, their parents were not home when they returned from school, or their parents paid no attention on such matters. However, there were 6 subjects reported that their parents reacted specifically over their actions such as prevented them to go to school for a few days, and one student reported his father slapped his face, which did not bring any impact to him.

Weapon is any kind of tool the students used. Other than stones on the street, any form of weapon is any tool they have prepared at home to be carried out along with them while going to or going back from schools.
When subjects were asked whether they used any specific weapons, 54 subjects reported using sharp tools they normally prepared from home, and 29 subjects reported they use found objects on the streets, which primarily were stones. Interestingly, the people surrounded the students helped them to hide the weapons so that they were not found when being checked at schools. Subjects reported that The school gardener helped them to hide the weapons or they hid their weapons such as in school canteens or put in street vendors’ carts. Some subjects did not clearly explain where they hid the weapons.
The tools they were carrying were normally sharp objects such as knife, sword, sabre, katana (Japanese sword), sharp head belt, chain, and scythe. One person reported using crackling, and another person reported using broken glass bottle.

Abused cases:
There was assumption that parental abuse might be a contributing factor for school fights, but among the 125 subjects, there were only 4 subjects reported as being physically abused by parents. The 121 subjects mentioned that their relationships with their parents and other family members as normal, their parents supported their education very well and they got along with their parents very well.

81% of respondents have involved in more than 5 times, 12,8% involved in 3-4 times and 13 % are "beginners". This condition appears to be parallel with the fact that the frequency of school fights is considerably high. Students involved in the fights not only once but repetitiously. Qualitative data also supports the fact that they could not remember exactly how many times they were involved in the fights. All they remember was that they involved many times, and some involved almost every day.
40% of the answers being mentioned by the respondents considered that their involvement in the fights were based on solidarity, 16% for the sake of retaliation, 14% self image, and about 10% and below are based on other reasons. Thus solidarity becomes the most common themes the students mentioned in regard to their involvement in school fights. The sense of being part of the group appears to be the strongest factor influencing the students to get involved in the act of school fights.
In regard to the source of school fights, being looked down appears to be to most popular themes being mentioned by the students. The question may still remains why the students can easily feel being humiliated. It may be more understandable if they fight for self-defense or to retaliate due to their experience for being physically intimidated by others.
From 125 students reports, only a small numbers reported that they had ever been caught by security (police, army, and such). Surprisingly, from the limited number of students who reported, most of them reported of having corporal punishment. Others reported as being stripped off and instructed to stand in the heat of the day.
Meanwhile there were considerably lots of students reported carrying tools such as knife, sword, sabre, and such which potentially can cause injury to others. They were not easily found when being checked in the school since the gardener, the canteen keeper, or the street vendors protected them and helped them hiding the tools. This reflects that the society has been supportive to the students to get involved in school fights.
Finally, the data showed that only a small number of students who were involved in the fights were being abused by their parents.
Solidarity seems to be the main reason for the students to get involved in the fights. Yet, some students reported other reasons along with solidarity, and these reasons underneath solidarity seems to be more the basic reasons for them to get involved in the fights. Thus, solidarity is actually only being utilized as the mask for more basic reasons such as fear of being left alone by friends, wanting to have better self image, and self defense as a form of self preservation, the most basic reason for human to live. It appears that the word "solidarity" has been used in a form of euphemistic way so that the society will legitimize the destructive actions.
Another concern for us is that what makes the students become so sensitive toward being mocked. The fact that many of them had carried tools and weapons from home, they appeared to get ready to fight by using tools and weapons to create injury to others. Thus mockery itself may not be the triggering factor but fighting seems to be planned by the students. But, it is more concerning that these students seem to legitimize their actions in the name of self-image, self-defense, and school tradition, despite most of them realize that their actions were conducted in a destructive way.
The fact showed that only a small number of students ever got abused by their parents, thus abused experience seems not contributing factors to the students attitude toward fighting. But, numerous qualitative follow-up interview obtained data that they who were caught were punished physically, and it appears that the older generations such as teachers, school principles, parents, and security personnel have paid so little attention to their safety environment in pursuing their education. A rather surprising report was the one that stated that the school principal requested the students to fight in order to defend the schools and that there was a tradition where the juniors were asked by the seniors to intimidate other students during their orientation period. Thus violence behavior in school fights recently seem to be a legitimate action in Jakarta. The question remains: "Don’t they have self-regulations or self sanctions for their actions?" and "Have not they learned about it?"
The euphemism of solidarity and self-legitimization of destructive behavior in the name of self-image, self-defense, and school traditions appear to gain support from the society. Thus, numerous members in the society, which were educational agents such as parents, school teachers, and security members did not take specific actions to prevent the youngsters to get involved in the fights. Some people may complain about the fights, but they act more as bystanders. The question continues as what causes the society becomes helpless in preventing school fights.

This article is based on a preliminary study over the destructive conduct of Indonesian youths and specifically on school fights in Jakarta and vicinity. Further research must be conducted in order to obtain better picture about some psychological factors that cause the fights. Further interview will be needed in order to get better understanding about the basic reasons for youths to get involved in destructive actions and taking the risks of being injured. We may need to develop the questionnaires and the classification of the responses. We may also need to do comparative study with the similar conditions in different settings or in different cities.
Solidarity seems to be the "key word" for students to get involved in school fights. But, it appears that the connotation of solidarity has been utilized negatively by youths, particularly in Jakarta. There have been little data about school fights in other cities in Indonesia, but in Jakarta. Does Jakarta has changed the youths’ perception over moral education, or are there many other factors being involved in creating school fights.
Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia, the central government place, appears unable to handle this detrimental youth conduct for several years. It is quite reasonable that the population and density is very high in Jakarta, thus the government must have specific approach to handle this problem. However, we found that the subjects we interviewed reported that the security did not do much on handling school fights, teachers did not know what has been going on, and parents apparently did not really care about such matters. Did they? Has the security never been trained to handle riots, including gang fights? Were the school teachers so unobservant and unaware that their students were involved in school fights similar to gang fights. Were parents so unaware about their children, and thus what are they aware of?
These facts above are clearly in support of several concepts which mentioned that people behave much more aggressively when assaulting a person is given sanitized label than when it is called aggression (Bandura et al, 1996). Statecraft is soulcraft (Will, 1983). Euphemistic language provides a convenient tool for masking reprehensible activities or even conferring a respectable status upon people (Bolinger, 1982; Lutz, 1987). Thus, in the name of moral justification, detrimental conduct is made personally and socially acceptable by associating it in the service of valued social or moral purposes (Kelman & Hamilton, 1989; Kramer, 1990; Sanford & Comstock, 1971).
The fact that various social agents paid so little attention on school fights as if there is no specific effort to educate the younger generation to have self control or self regulation appear to be an important factor we need to consider in order to save our your generation to live in a safe environment in order to obtain safe educational atmosphere. The low self control and self regulation among the Indonesian youths in Jakarta is in support of some concepts that have already been mentioned above such as the one mentioned by Bandura et al. (1996). Sadly enough the problem does not stop there. On the contrary it even goes on larger dimension.
Youths’ fights have been going mostly around main roads, intersections and around public transport stops. They are not only threatening between one another but also threatening the public in general, primarily those who use the road access. The society has put so much concern over the problems for these recent years, but the government has not been able to solve the problem. Instead, various youths’ destructive conducts have been escalating, primarily at the very end of this century.
Various youths’ crimes have grown considerably fast in Jakarta. At various intersections, the government of Jakarta not only have to dealt with the illegal youth vendors who creates traffic congestion, but the government now must also deal with criminals who enforce people to give money otherwise the criminals will break the car windows, reflecting mirrors, or scratch the car bodies with sharp tools. At various intersections and u-turns, there are youths who act as "traffic controller". Some of them may only ask charity from people who use the road access, but some enforce people to give money, otherwise they will break or scratch the cars. Sadly, they do the crimes within a few yards away from the presence of the policemen, security persons. Yet, the policemen and the security persons do not consistently prevent them to do so.
There are indeed various interesting areas in Indonesia to be explored and researched. This particular paper is discussing only a small section of a very large problematic section in Indonesia. The development of the Indonesian youth may in general be the responsibility of the Indonesian government. But, the large youth population in Indonesia is one of the largest numbers in the world, and the entire population of Indonesia is rank four in the world after China, India, and The United States. This means a great numbers of people in the world are dealing with serious problems in facing the new millenium. It could only be a massive threat to Indonesia at this moment. But, if moral justification in one country is neglected, the threat to other countries may come in the near future.
These problems are not only the problems of one particular government, namely Indonesian government, but the problems of the world. Scientists and professionals, politicians and educators, parents and religious leaders must work hand in hand to help the world to solve these problems. We should not let the youths destroy one another, we should not let people destroy this planet, the home of many living beings. It is our duty to protect the next generation from destructiveness, it is our duty to show the next generation about what good morality is. It is our duty to justify our own morality, not to destroy one another, nor in war neither in politics. So that the new generations will see and model their good parents, not copying their amoral mommies and daddies, who may have not taught their children self regulations and self sanctions. Since, they may have not had it and have never been aware of it.

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