The Chief Editor of The Jakarta Post, Meidyatama Suryodiningrat, has an interesting op-ed on the role of the middle class in contemporary politics, titled “When the Middle Class Opts Out, The Poor Get Shut Out.” I would recommend the full article, but here is the conclusion, which captures the essence of the argument:
Indonesia’s middle class is the country’s most dynamic political and economic entity. But its members are increasingly indifferent to reform.
If this trend to “opt out” of basic services continues, reforms will stumble and Indonesia will experience even more disproportionate modernization and increased economic segregation.
The problem is that as the income of the nation’s middle class rises, its members become self assured, preferring to resolve societal and development problems alone through their increased purchasing power. While they have empathy for the poor, members of the middle class have a weaker sense of what it means to be a citizen, feeling no obligation to the state, which they see as inept or a hindrance.
The danger is that people in the middle class no longer see political activism and social reform as an ethical obligation, but as an intellectual hobby for the few.
If those who can propel change refuse to — and if the bureaucracy proves unwilling to — then what hope is there for the underclass, other than wallowing in decay as others grow wealthy?