Let’s say no to malls

Posted on: September 22, 2008

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.


24 Responses to "Let’s say no to malls"

what’s wrong with malls?

trus kalo misalnya ente pulang ke Jakarta, ntar jumpa fans, minta tanda tangan n foto bareng gue nya di mana? pasti di mall kan? :mrgreen:

sad that one of Jakarta’s ambition is to beat Singapore as a mall city. In this view, I though it’s so selfish since only few percent Indonesian (or Jakartan) that have capability to buy expensive stuff. The excuses even laughable that people not have to go to overseas to shopping actually contribute domestic growth. I am strongly against that reason, specially when new mall build in the ruins of our heritage. salam, ambar.

Pembangunan mal sebenarnya bagus kalau ditujukan pada konteks yang sebenarnya. Mal yang pada awalnya ditujukan pada kenyamanan berbelanja untuk orang2 yang ga punya waktu belanja ke pasar tradisional, tetapi sekarang dengan pembangunan mal yang sedemikian ‘rapid’nya… penduduk dipaksa untuk ga punya waktu ke pasar tradisional. kenapa?? soalnya susah cari pasar tradisional, dan biasanya pasar tradisional jadi tergusur dan terletak di daerah yang susah dicari.
Tempat bermain tradisional seperti taman di tengah kota pun hanya berisikan para pengamen dan warung2…fiuh…
Sebaiknya pemerintah berkaca dari negara2 maju di Eropa yang masih mempertahankan esensi sosial dari pembangunan kotanya. Mal di jakarta sudah lebih dari cukup, hentikan pembangunan mal baru!!! 🙂

I think there is not something wrong with mall. mall can make more job opportunities for people to work in there. I think is better for government to build mall rather than they left unoccupied land without build anything, and someday poor people occupy that. For me, is better for us to rebuild Jakarta become real Metropolitan, which can attract people to invest in Jakarta.

Tasa, write again about the same topic after you arrive here in Jakarta.

I just landed exactly a week ago, already i learned that malls create employment, circulate money. malls are the oxygen of the stressful urban dwellers. i know..i know..i would prefer to have more parks in Jakarta too, instead of malls. But how many people can get direct benefit from parks?

i definitely agree about the environment thingie, same like my opinion on Indonesians that still keep their culture to choose to live in houses instead of apartements/rumah susun. the overpopulated Jakarta will keep construct new buildings and i am afraid, the only way to keep Jakarta as a beautiful city is to leave the city and just have it in the least, if u wana keep ur idealism.

i live in yogya where youngsters think that we are lack of malls :p we got recently only 4 malls that are probably not big enough to be compared with malls in other cities of indonesia. yet i personally agree that the establishment of malls should be limited in such conditions. malls symbolize such a consumerism lifestyle that our economic society is basically have not ready yet to face. incidentally, the intention to limit malls will eventually be a complex strategy for we know that the developing pattern of cities in indonesia meets so many challenges, we can simply ask this to our civil engineering partners

Tasa: Hear, hear. This is really a very good one, if I may say so.

Jakarta ( and most American cities btw) has (have) no real dynamic city-center where the economical, recreational and cultural life, clusters. It (they) lack(s) a heart. The impression of concrete, dusty, jungles prevails.

Of course malls are not at the root of all evil, but they ( their manifold at least) definitely are a symptom of the problems. They are huge temples of a claustrophobic capitalism ( The buildings of the major banks can be called the cathedrals of that ideology).

I think you point your finger correctly to some of the negative (unanticipated I assume) consequences of the phenomenon.

well, is it really that simple? I mean, can we really imagine what we would be without malls? but yes, I do agree to the environmental issues that malls may have brought. but how about the economical benefits? i mean, it’s HUGE.

just a thought.

sayah setujuh, kita gak butuh mall baru lagi dijakarta..
bener-bener udah gak imbang lagi, sudah terlalu banyak, dan selain isu lingkungan yang ditimbulkan, sayah bingung kenapa selalu menggunakan tema-tema dan istilah asing…entahlah mungkin berhasil bikin efek keren untuk target pasar mereka…sayah hanya merasa jauh, asing sendiri dikota tempat saya besar..

makanya sekarang sayah pindah kebandung, masih banyak hijaunya….tapi tetep masih cinta jakarta kok..

hmm..jakarta butuh revolusi budaya..

terimakasih sudah menyuarakan suara hati saya.


I miss Indonesian malls hehe.. They’re a lot better than American malls..

maaf, aku bukan ekstrimis ato antikapitalis, tapi aku pikir, banyaknya mal tuh salahnya para kapitalis. bukannya aku kapitalis juga, tapi emang menikmati keberadaan mal2 itu. mal memang tempat yang nyaman dan adem. kalo punya cukup uang, rasanya nikmat dan nyaman sekali berada di sana.
cuman, kalo mikirin mereka yang tergusur karena pembangunan mal, tumbuhan2 dan manusia2 yang tak punya cukup uang, saya jadi merasa bersalah juga.
terus, gara2 mal2 itu, penyerapan air di jakarta (yang posisinya ratusan meter) makin berkurang. akibatnya, banjir di jakarta makin parah dan dalem. padahal, aku juga kena susahnya.

Setuju dengan artikel di atas.
Stop pembangunan mall di Jakarta, sudah terlalu banyak.
Mari kunjungi Monas kembali.

seharusnya bs diimbangi dengan area hijau

yah, tapi area hijaunya udah terlanjur dibabat buat pembangunan gedung2. tak tersisa lagi. mosok mau gusur2 gubuk lagi buat bikin taman?
trus nanti rakyat jelata mau pada tinggal di mana? bikin rumah pohon?

eh, gimana kalo mal-nya hijo??

ga perlu digusur2, msh banyak lahan yg seharusnya bs dijadikan pemerintah buat area ini. area hijau kan ga harus luas2, bs dimulai dari pembatas jalan. dulu sewaktu SMA sepanjang jalan Let Jend Suprapto Cempaka putih itu penuh pohon, adem mba. skrg panasnya minta ampun. kl ga bs yg besar kan bs dimulai dari yg kecil2.

i hate malls…

hahaha walau suka kesana, itu juga karena pengen nonton saja, selain itu saya menghindari pergi ke mall…

kesian makin hari makin berkurang aja, ruang terbuka hijau di jakarta…

Wew, I’m 3 months late for this topic!

I have this love-hate relationship with mall ^^
But I agree, stop making more and more malls.
Sebaliknya, kembang dan lindungi traditional market.

Kasian generasi penerus cuma diajari belanja, belanja dan belanja. Jadi generasi hedon yang ngga punya empati ntar mereka…

BTW, I’m Jogjanesse. And No more Mall for Jogja! 😛

nina: you’re absolutely right. Let’s have more traditional markets instead. But, it’s important to note that traditional markets shouldn’t “too traditional” anymore. By this I mean, any traditional market should be as clean and comfortable as malls. Agree?

hemm… test test

why i can’t submit my comment?

These days the progress and development of the cities are miscalculated as the number of malls sprouting up in every locality. The prices of the real estate are determined by its distance from the nearest mall. As byproduct, there are traffic jams! There are hours of load sheddings in the neighborhood while the malls remain bright and cold with lights and air conditioners! And there are long lines of water at nearby chawl while the mall floors and glasses are washed everyday!

now i’m almost a year late 😀

gee…i forgot. it’s almost 2011. sorry.

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guebukanmonyet is Tasa Nugraza Barley. He's a free man with unique thoughts and dreams. He sees his life and this world differently from anyone else. That's because he knows what he wants; and for that reason he doesn't want to be the same. Read why he blogs, here.

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