In the wake of last week’s terrorist attacks in Jakarta, Indonesian twitter exploded with the hashtag #KamiTidakTakut, meaning “We Are Not Afraid.” Indonesia’s very middle-class, internet-savvy mass public followed with a bunch of picture memes mocking ISIS and Jakartans alike, especially the apparent unflappability of Indonesian food vendors, and the crowds who showed up to watch the showdown as if it were a movie.
My favorite is this one.
ISIS GUY: “Go to Syria, you idiot. Sy-ri-a.”
TERRORIST: “You mean Sarinah?”
Lost in this discussion of silly Jakartans and the shallowness of internet activism is something subtle about that hashtag that started it all. Indonesian has a grammatical feature called clusivity, which means that there are different words for we meaning you-and-I-and-maybe-someone-else and we meaning me-and-someone-else-but-not-you. Kami tidak takut means “we are not afraid,” but “we” excludes the interlocutor. We, not you, are not afraid.
So who is the audience, the interlocutor who is excluded when saying “we are not afraid”? It could be anyone, people who are not Jakartans, or foreigners more generally. But I think it’s more direct: the audience is ISIS itself. #KamiTidakTakut is not directed towards Jakartans as a kind of reassurance, in Indonesian version of the “Hokies Together” slogan that followed the Virginia Tech tragedy. It is directed to someone else, a way of saying you do not scare us.