Right on the day that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Kusno’s father bought him a pair of shorts. 1001 twill pants, Made in Italy.
Kusno’s father was politically illiterate. He didn’t know how important the attack was. He only knew that his son no longer had proper pants to wear. Everyone around the world who more or less knew about politics frowned, out of revenge, out of worry, out of anger. But Kusno’s father smiled happily that day. He had succeeded in doing something that at first he thought he wouldn’t be able to do. Buy Kusno a pair of shorts.
At the time Kusno was 14 years old. He had just finished elementary school. Now he wanted to apply for a job. And with the new pants it seemed to him that any job was open. He would prove to his father that he was a child who knew how to repay a kindness. In short the Kusno family that day rejoiced as never before. And the news of Pearl Harbor did not resonate in the slightest in the hearts of these simple people.
That’s telling the truth as it was only the big people who wanted war, the simple people only wanted peace!
But Kusno did not find a job as quickly as he thought he would. The offices knew what the attack on Pearl Harbor meant. They were not taking on any new workers either. Black clouds were gathering over the offices and through the gaps in the clouds peered the face of the angle of death.
Kusno was forced to lower his selling price, from clerk to porter, and from porter to postman. And after going up to ten offices he finally succeeded in obtaining a job, as a postman, with a salary of ten rupiahs per month.
Kusno’s father was worried. He himself was a postman. Did his son have to become a postman too? And were Kusno’s children to become postmen also? From generation to generation becoming postmen? He had never aspired to this, his family becoming a family of postmen. But like other villagers in difficult circumstances Kusno’s father remembered God: people strive but it is God who determines the outcome!
Kusno worked diligently but his 1001 twill pants were becoming faded because they were being washed so often. Every month he hoped he would be able to buy a new pair of pants, but his ten rupiahs was not even enough for food. So naturally the 1001 twill shorts had to be washed all the more often and every time they were washed, they looked all the more distressing.
All of Kusno’s thoughts were on those pants. What would happen to him if he couldn’t wear the pants anymore? Every day he prayed that God would not make it rain. And when it rained Kusno looked down at his pants as a mother looks at a child about to be sent onto the battlefield.
1001 twill. 1 multiplied by 1 is equal to 1. And what is 1 minus 1?
This is what went through Kusno’s mind as he thought about the 1001 pants. Especially as there was no money to buy soap. Even though the pants were dirty.
No, the simple people did not want war. They just wanted to live a simple life and live free from the fear that tomorrow they would not have any pants.
But the high and mighty people wanted war. One side wanted war for democracy and the other wanted it for the common prosperity of Greater East Asia.
Kusno did not know the meaning of democracy, and the expression prosperity was very interesting to him. He in fact remembered his pants. Prosperity for him was pants. And because of that he welcomed the Japanese soldiers with hugs, kisses and handshakes.
And as most of the Indonesian nation lived in the hope of independence, Kusno lived in the hope of new pants, hoped continually for three and a half years.
But like independence the pants too were unthinkable. And when Kusno gave up his hope, the 1001 pants were not like pants anymore. In places they were threadbare and what had once been white was now a blackish yellow. Because of that they were no longer fit to be worn by a postman. When Kusno summoned the courage to ask for a pair from the head of his office, he was yelled at so severely that he lost heart at once.
He arrived at the office a few days later but in the end the shame overcame the salary of ten rupiahs and he asked to resign.
Although the following days were dark for Kusno, he was now free of the shame that was etched on his face. He knew that a dark and dreadful day would befall him. But God was merciful and gracious. That was Kusno’s belief.
One day Kusno had a headache. He knew that the headache would soon go away if he could fill his stomach. For two days and two nights he ate nothing but tree leaves. It crossed his mind to sell the 1001 pants, to buy just food that was fit for humans to eat. But he quickly rejected the thought. If he sold the pants his stomach would be full for a few seconds, but after that what would he cover his nakedness with? Once also he thought about stealing someone else’s property but God said stay away from stealing. And Kusno’s family had for generations feared God, even though he had never seen him.
So that is how Kusno came to not sell the pants, to not steal, to often suffer from headaches, and to live from tree leaves. But he lived on, miserable indeed, but he lived with pride.
About the 1001 twill pants there is nothing more to say. At some point they must have disappeared from the face of the earth. And could they have disappeared from the face of this earth together with Kusno?
But be that as it may Kusno would not lose hope. He was born in misery, lived with misery. And even if his 1001 pants disappeared and became rags, Kusno would continue to fight against suffering even if only to obtain another pair of 1001 twill pants.
The only thing Kusno was not yet able to understand was why there were still always wars. Kusno felt like someone who had been sacrificed.
Featured image credit: From Historia.id, Celana Pendek Pendiri Bangsa – Menteri Penerangan Amir Sjarifuddin, memakai jas kedodoran, celana pendek, sambil merokok, berpose bersama presiden Sukarno, wakil presiden Mohammad Hatta, dan para menteri kabinet pertama Republik Indonesia di halaman rumah Sukarno, di Jalan Pegangsaan Timur No. 56 Jakarta, pada 4 Oktober 1945.
Decolonization, violence and war in Indonesia, 1945-1950
KITLV / Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies Project
Decolonisation, violence and war in Indonesia, 1945-1950 is a large-scale, joint inquiry carried out by KITLV, the Netherlands Institute for Military History (NIMH) and the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies. The project has been made financially possible by the Dutch government, due to its decision on 2 December 2016 to lend its support to a broad inquiry into the events of this period.
The programme comprises nine subprojects and aims to answer questions regarding the nature, extent and causes of structural transborder violence in Indonesia, considered in a broader political, social and international context. In this context, detailed attention will be paid to the chaotic period spanning from August 1945 to early 1945 – often referred to as the Bersiap – and the political and social aftermath in the Netherlands, Indonesia and elsewhere.
It is expected that KITLV will be responsible for the synthesis and will carry out the subprojects Regional Studies and Bersiap. For these projects the group, together with Indonesian colleagues, will carry out research in several Indonesian regions. These subprojects will be the continuation of the KITLV-project Dutch military operations in Indonesia 1945-1950 that has run since 2012.
The programme has a strong international character. There will be cooperation with researchers from Indonesia and other countries involved and sources originating from Indonesia, Australia, United Kingdom and the United States (United Nations) will be used more than previously was the case. Furthermore, the programme explicitly includes the opportunity for witness accounts from the Netherlands and Indonesia to be presented. Witnesses can come forward themselves or will be traced by researchers, in order to allow them to document their personal accounts for future generations.
The three institutes stress the importance of broad national and international support for the programme. In order to achieve this, the institutes have appointed an international scientific advisory board and a Netherlands societal focus group (Maatschappelijk Klankbordgroep Nederland).
For the purpose of this inquiry, it is important that those involved are seen and heard. If you have material or more information about Indonesia in the 1945-1950 time period and are willing to contribute to our research, please contact: email@example.com
Do not just grab me any way you feel like it.
It’s pretty clear to me where this is going.
I am no seer,
but I can obviously already see
what this hug means…
Fuck the education I got.
I was taught maths, typing, foreign language, deportment, and administration,
But they forgot to teach me:
If I’m grabbed from behind by the boss,
how should I react then!
Do not grab me any way you feel like it.
Not even my boyfriend dares to be as bold as that.
I can pretty clearly see what your goal is, mister.
When you elbow my tits,
I know what that means……
They taught me to hate sin
but they forgot to teach me
how to find work.
They taught me a lifestyle
whose products do not come from nature.
Taught me to need things that are produced by the bosses,
and controlled by the bosses.
Make-up accessories, air conditioners, synthetic vitamins, tonics, every kind of soda, and school certificates.
Education tided me to their markets, and to their capital.
And now, now that I’m an adult,
where else am I going to run to,
if not to the world of the bosses?
Do not grab me, mister, any way you feel like it.
I’m no academic
but I pretty much know
that all the work on my desk
is going to head in that direction.
Don’t, mister, don’t!
Do not grab me any way you feel like it.
Ah. Oh no.
The money you’re sliding inside my bra, mister,
is my education certificate.
That’s how it is.
You grab me so confidently, mister.
Your fat belly
is pressing against my stomach.
Your fowl mouth
is kissing my mouth.
You do all of this
like it’s all normal, mister.
Every person in the community is helping you.
They grab both my legs.
And they force my thighs open
as you climb on top of my body, mister.
Yogya, 10 July 1975
Poem of a Young Woman and Her Boss (Sajak Gadis dan Majikan), State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 30.
A novelist, in Europe paid a political group in an African country to stage a coup d’état. The novelist carefully noted every aspect of the process of replacing those in power and wrote about it in a famous novel which was marketed and produced more than the cost of the coup. And you, sipping on your coffee in some little food stall after witnessing a fight between pedicab drivers and minivan drivers say bluntly: Ah, why isn’t the novelist interested in countries in Asia! Then you laugh to yourself, and grumble Why have we come to the point where a nightmare about blood has become the only dream that feels beautiful?