Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan:
Rural Southeast Asia, in its intense tropicality, bore a superficial resemblance to rural Polynesia. But the differences between the two regions were far more pronounced. Vast civilizations had risen here on the surplus created by rice-based agriculture. Hundreds of millions of people lived and jostled here, in incomprehensibly complex caste societies. I took to interviewing people, semiformally—it was an odd thing to do, with no particular project in mind, but I was curious and they often seemed pleased to be asked—about their family histories, income, prospects, hopes. A rice farmer near Jogjakarta, who was a retired army captain, gave me a detailed account of his career, his farm’s operating expenses, his oldest son’s progress at university. Across nearly every story I heard, however, a thick veil fell around the period of 1965-55, when more than half a million Indonesians were killed in massacres led by the military and Islamic clerics. The main targets had been communists and alleged communists, but ethnic Chinese and Christians had also died or been dispossessed en masse. The Suharto dictatorship that emerged from the bloodbath was still in power, and the massacres were suppressed history, not taught in schools or publicly discussed. A pedal-taxi driver in Padang, a port city in western Sumatra, told me quietly about spending years in prison as a suspected leftist. He had been a professor before the great purge. He liked Americans, but the American government, he said, had aided and applauded the killing.