Let’s say no to malls
Posted September 22, 2008on:
This article is proudly supported by Jakarta Butuh Revolusi Budaya.
This article was published by The Jakarta Post on September 29, 2008. Read the article on The Jakarta Post, here.
I was having a conversation with a friend from Jakarta over the Internet several days ago. When I asked her if there are some new places in Jakarta that young people go to, she said, “What kind of places do you mean? One thing for sure we have lots of new malls.”
She explained there are some new malls in the city. Some of them are Senayan City, Grand Indonesia, and Pacific Place.
She suddenly reminded me of how Jakartans are so much in love with malls and shopping centers. What is a mall, anyway? A mall is simply a big modern building where people can go to shop. Unlike any traditional market, a mall is very convenient; it is an air-conditioned building and it is clean and safe.
Having lived for 6 years in Jakarta I know how much people in Jakarta love their malls. I was one of them. While I never visited Monas, not even once, my friends and I would go to malls at least once a week for various purposes.
I went to malls for shopping. I went to malls for eating with friends on special occasions. I went to malls to watch movies. I went to malls to have a business meeting. I even went to malls just to use their bathroom.
And just like other people of Jakarta I was proud of having those big malls in my city. I remember a friend of mine from the Netherlands was so amazed to see how malls in Jakarta could be so big and beautiful. He said, “This city has the greatest malls.”
But now I know I’m not a big fan of malls anymore.
How many malls do you think are enough for a city like Jakarta? Is 1 mall enough for us? Maybe not. What about 5 malls? What about 10 malls? Or perhaps 20 malls are enough for a city with a population of more than 8 millions of people? What if I tell you that Jakarta has more than 30 malls and shopping centers? That number doesn’t include the ones in cities like Depok, Tangerang, and Bekasi.
At first I thought people of Jakarta really love their malls so bad. But when I look at this phenomenon closely I find out that is not really the case. I find out that people of this city are actually forced to love.
For people with money, by this I don’t mean only the rich people, malls and other kinds of big buildings have become the only places where they can feel secure and comfortable. Only within those big and strong walls they can breath fresh air; although it’s not that fresh after all.
The condition outside is just chaotic. Some people call it crazy, some call it a heartless place, and some call it a big mess. Bottom line, it’s a jungle out there.
Everyday we keep hearing the same complaints over and over again about the condition in Jakarta. Yes, the traffic is just getting worse. The fact that the gasoline prices have gone up doesn’t stop people from driving their cars. Yes, the air is so much polluted. Some people already started to wear pollution masks while riding their motorcycles.
Yes, the crime rate is still and probably will always be high. Your parents’ advice is still valid: Never show your precious belongings while your car has to stop at the traffic light or when you walk outside in public areas.
When someone is waiting outside for her bus to come, while covering her nose from the pollution and ensuring that there is no danger around, the only thing running through her mind is how soon she can finally arrive at her house, her school building, or her office. No one feels comfortable being outside on the streets.
And that is the kind of mindset that almost all people in Jakarta have. No wonder we keep having new malls.
Here’s our mistake. Instead of fixing all those problems that Jakarta has been having for so many years, we just keep building more malls and shopping centers so that we can always avoid those problems quickly.
One may ask what’s wrong with having so many malls. Well, there are so many things that can go wrong if we keep building more malls.
In general I think there are two kinds of problems that we will have by building more malls: environmental and social problems.
Environmentally, having more malls means we have less green areas. It simply means there are more trees sacrificed for the sake of people’s greed. We all know how insufficient green areas have led us into a fragile city with no capacity to absorb rain showers.
It is an irony that People of Jakarta are not smart enough to realize that they who are among the lower and middle income families are actually the ones giving the most profits to the mall owners. But when the flood comes during the rainy season they are the ones who suffer the most; while the rich, people who get the most advantage from the malls including people who actually build them, can easily evacuate themselves to five-star hotels or even other countries.
Socially, having more malls means that our children are victimized by the arrogance of commercialization. As we all know malls have become the only places of entertainment for people in Jakarta, including the young Indonesians.
There is no such thing as window shopping; that is a misleading jargon created by mall owners. The fact is when you go to a mall you will always have to pay for something. It could be the parking ticket, some drinks or food, or else.
Another social problem caused by having too many malls in Jakarta is a wide social gap between people of Jakarta. By having more malls this gap is getting wider and wider, creating an unfriendly society for all of us.
Today, malls represent your social status. People with more money will go to fancy malls like Senayan City, Pondok Indah Mall, or Grand Indonesia. People with less money will go to smaller malls in outer-city areas. And people with no money, sadly, can’t go anywhere.
The solution for this whole problem is simple.
One, the local government has to stop the development of modern shopping centers. We know there are several malls that sit on locations that are supposed to be green areas. Closing them down wouldn’t be that complicated if only our local government had the willingness to support people’s interest.
Second, the local government has to start creating more outdoor attractions like Taman Menteng. Our officials should learn how other big cities are trying to provide their residents with free outdoor attractions where people from different social classes can have a good time together. But making them free is not enough, making them safe and clean is another crucial part.
It’s really time for us to unite and say that we don’t need more malls. I have heard a lot of complaints from so many friends who feel depressed to see how the development in Jakarta is going on the wrong track. They say our city is becoming so arrogant. I think they are right and I think it’s time for us to change that.
Let’s do this together. Let’s say no to malls. Relax, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to malls at all!
Picture is taken from here.