Born to Fight

On Monday, September 24th, another brawl between the students of SMAN (public high school) 70 and SMAN 6 of Blok M imploded -again. And what we have always feared of the worst thing that could possibly happen, has happened: a student killed after being stabbed on the chest. His name was Alawy Yusianto Putra, a sophomore science student at SMAN 6, and only 15 years old. Not any older than when I was a student of the opposing school, when I joined my first street brawl.

I don’t know about the boys at 6, because of course all schools in Jakarta mostly has their own orientation and introduction to the school’s tradition and cultures. But being a boy accepted in 70, you are bound to join the most dangerous and -in a way- manly tradition of all: a 70 boy is a soldier for his class, seniors, and school.

From the minute we walked our mid teenage step into the gates of the school, we are bound with this tradition. The next minute, you have your seniors yelling on your ears and slapping your faces, ordering and demanding you with threats and doctrines.

“You are a part of the school build on a battleground. Every afternoon, there are hundreds of boys from another school who passes our ground and would like to take shot at our name. If we don’t defend the school, we are practically sitting ducks, and we lose our ground.”

That last sentence got you. It hit you on your teenage angst at the very right spot. Yet the idea of running around on the streets, throwing rocks and facing a bunch of punks with homemade weapons seems still a bit too scary for you. And then there’s the proud man inside you, telling you brawls are for chickens, and real men fights one on one, even though the only man to man fight that you’ve ever been was with your brother, where you’ve lost most of them and ended up in tears.

Then it was time for the class initiation. A fraction of the male freshmen were gathered one afternoon, hazed continuously, and officially declared as brothers under one name and one banner. These boys were reborn as the elite pack of the class. The tough boys. The boys everybody look up to. You were not part of them. You did not have the guts to face the seemingly never ending torment and abuse. You, chickened out. And your guilt for your comrades made your decision to avoid the brawls and hazings even stronger. Suddenly, your angst got wiser. You don’t want to fight anymore. And you believe that you could pass the next three years without the need to engage anything violent.

Until one day, the school was under attack. You were already on the streets. The natural reflex of those who have done this many times are to run towards the clash. You froze. The minute after that, comes the real picture: you’re on the street, rocks flying, running in a pack towards another pack, the boys in the front line brought weapons to go face to face with our enemies’ front line, and those behind them -including yourself- are throwing rocks as high and as far as possible to push their supporting line, or maybe just lucky enough to hit someone. The next few seconds were more intense. A rock just fell and shattered right next to your foot, it’s debris flew bits of sand and pebbles to your ankle. It stings a little, but you can’t lose focus. The next stone could get you in the head. Another rock flew mid-level, hits your comrade right next to you on the chest. A rock the size of your two fists combined. And so close, you could hear the thump. Man down. That afternoon, you and the rest of the company lost the battle. You were chased off the street like the ducks we are forbidden to be, with rusty blades and large buckles and long bamboo canes whizzing just a few inches behind your back. And a lost soldier has consequences. And you know exactly what it was. The seniors does not like it when we lost.

But the point of all the fights, the clarity, happened about an hour before that. On the streets. With a rock on your hand, ducking and watching your head from direct hits, waiting for your moment to take your shot. At that moment, the rocks slowed down and stopped mid-air, the noise muted, the belts and daggers and sickles and katanas swung and stopped. And you just realised that you are in a battlefield. A war for the namesake of your school. Suddenly the man inside you, who was moved by your seniors’ speech on your first day wearing white and gray struck you again. The school is your ground. The class is your company. You are a soldier. And you are born to fight.

And with that realisation, all those fears that clouded your judgment before, instantly disappeared. On the next brawl, you were ready.  You ran with the rest of the pack. Your moves were efficient. You positions were perfect. Then you had several firsts. The first time you were heavily outnumbered. The first time you saw blood. The first time you got hit. The first time you helped an injured friend. The first time you were chased by police. The first time you visit a friend being locked up. The first time you stopped a bus and forced the students in it to step out and fight. The first time the teachers called your parents. The first time half your class was empty because they were either suspended, fighting, or on a strike. The first time half the school was empty because the sophomores attempted a coup on you seniors. The whole negative things or the cons of being a boy in the school suddenly becomes pride, bravery, and affection. The teenage angst is now reasonable and being bad boys meant that you are loyal and accepted. You cannot deny the rush of adrenaline by participating in these brawls are somehow addictive and fulfilling. The cons are still there, but the excitement and the brotherhood made it feel so worth all the risk. Even when one of them are the worst that could happen: someone got hurt permanently, or even worse, dead.

Now, ten years after your graduation day, exactly 13 years after your class was initiated, that worst thing that could happen, happened. And while reality hits, you yourself still could not believe that a boy who were in the very same position and situation as you were back then could have the extra guts and balls to actually swung that sickle into another person, and took his life. Something that even in your angriest moment, nor your fiercest friends’, you and the rest of your comrades could never dare to do. But the question was not about bravery anymore. When you’re in a brawl, you must be ready to get hurt, and to avoid that, you must hurt your enemy. You knew this all along. But maybe, because of the rush, you never thought that it would ever occur. You could never imagine because it never happened during your days, you never knew how it felt, both as part of the victim’s party nor the offender’s. Right now, it just struck you. A kid died. Just 15 years old. And here comes the judgment. The media and public are condemning your alma mater, giving us mean and condescending names. The worst of all, even your friends are generalising the school and all its products as killers, and we all should be ashamed.

Ashamed of the incident, of course. But ashamed of graduating in one of the best school in the nation’s capital? Not. Becoming a graduate of SMAN 70 was a privilege that only a fraction of Jakarta’s high school students could achieve. And when you think being a teenager was hard, try going to my school. The competition, the academic demands, the neighborhood, the environment, all taught us to be strong and hard since day one. We were taught to be brave and fight back because when one day we go home alone and a bunch of other students blocked your bus, you know how to defend yourself. No white flag is gonna help you. As scary and idiotic as it sounds, we went through the hell of high school years by mastering these survival skills. Sure, some boys could have the easier way of looking peace loving. But again, the pride, the excitement, and the brotherhood were too priceless and irreplaceable. Long after those days went by, all the horror and fear becomes great stories to share.

Back to that bloody Monday, as a graduate of the condemned school, I do not mean to say that it was part of our pride to be proud of what happened. It was a tragedy and we all shared the deepest condolences as any other people out there. Even with all those prideful stories I told you, sometimes, the fear was so big, that we also wished that this tradition would end. During our freshmen year, we always wished that ther will be no hazing today. Just one weekend that we could just sit around a little longer around the school without the need to chase a bus packed with enemies. Just one afternoon that we could go home without the terror of being attacked on every corner.

And when the eventful afternoon broke down, we also felt, that how come that sick tradition did not end before the worst actually happened. Should it come to an end after someone died? Being on the opposition does not mean that we don’t feel the lost of Alawy. His death marked a big shame stamp on all our foreheads. His death marked the darkest moment in our school’s history, which, believe me, all of us as 70’s alumni, accepted unconditionally. None of us, those who’ve been in that situation though, ever had the intention to kill. To hurt, of course. It’s a fight. But when you are face to face with someone swinging a sharp object in front of you, it was you or him. We were part of that somewhat proud tradition, and by saying this, all I meant to say was, we could understand what was going through the boys’ (from both schools) minds during, and after the brawl. As simple as: do or die.

There are no justification of taking another person’s life. And so does a menacing tradition  of standing our ground by being forced to raise arms. We were teenagers, trained and brainwashed into hurting each other. Like the only way of  turning  boys into men was to let them go in the most dangerous crossroads of Blok M. Like it was nothing. And all that, for the pride of the school. So that we are feared. So that when people read our names on walls, they would remember us as the bravest boys in town. Something that should have ended a long time ago. We failed, the generations before us failed, and those after us apparently didn’t succeeded either.

Today we also shed a tear and dunk our heads lowly upon this incident. But not even once I lost faith and pride for my school. And I, have never regretted one day that I went to that school. I am proud to be graduated from one of the best school in the country. And for you condemners, none of my friends who were the heavy hitters back then turned out into criminals. Most of them have excellent careers, families of their own, and graduated from the country’s top universities. I might have said that I never regretted a single thing from my high school years. Maybe because the worst never happened during those time. A finger nearly cut off, a lung got stabbed, some heads needed stitches, and some ribcages cracked along the way. But that school taught me how to be a man more than my father taught me all my life. That school taught me to be a fighter –figuratively.

I feel deeply sorry, ashamed, and supporting all attempts of stopping the brawls. But my school shall never be taken down. We are not killers. We were just brought up in a very hard way, and we learned a harsh way to survive and dominate. My school will prevail and my school will still be one of the best school in the country. All we need to do is just stop fighting.

4 Responses to “Born to Fight”
  1. I believe the news said that Alawy was not even in a fighting position. FR came out of nowhere and suddenly stabbed him while he was doing a normal activity.

    Is this true? If it is, then there is a fine line between bravery and irresponsible and downright stupid.


    • rizkichoki says:

      Just like you, I heard the same news without knowing whether it’s true or not. I also heard some conspiracies behind the brawls. Maybe we’ll never gonna know what’s the truth.

      But if it was true, then I rest my case.

      • endru aditya says:

        hmm… semua korban tawuran selalu bilangnya begitu, “mereka ga tau apa2”..
        tapi kalo mau dipikir secara logis, masa sih, belajar di sekolah yang notabene sering berantem ga tau atau ga ngerasa kalau udah ada suasana yg berujung ke tawuran?
        kalau emang dia ga ikutan, pastinya pas lagi mau rame2nya dia udah masuk sekolah. menurut gw, itu murni tawuran seperti yang penulis jabarkan diatas. the problem is, memang jadi suatu tanda tanya kenapa sekarang anak 70 berantemnya jadi kriminal gitu? dulu emang udah sering ngeliat senjata tajam buat tawuran, bahkan temen seangkatan ada yg bawa, tapi setau gw itu buat jaga2 atau bahkan buat nakut2in musuh aja biar mereka mundur, tanpa ada unsur untuk ngelukain dengan sengaja. lain soal kalau emang ketemu musuh yg emang udah ngebawa sajam dan dia berniat ngelukain.
        tapi emang bener kok, terlepas dari apapun masalah yang sekarang sudah terjadi, tetep kok sekolah di 70 itu jadi suatu kebanggan tersendiri. dan terlepas dari masa kelam jaman sekolah dulu, buat gw itu jadi suatu momen yang ga terlupakan buat semua yg terlibat, seperti tercipta suatu bond antara teman2 seangkatan, setongkrongan bahkan teman satu arena tawuran. sampe sekarang kalo ketemuan masi jadi bahan cerita yang menyenangkan buat kita semua.
        well, seperti kata nyokap dan kakak2 gw yg cw, anak laki wajar kalo berantem, buat ngelatih mental juga. tapi kalau udah sampe menjurus ke kriminalitas.. well, itu beda soal.
        eniwei, ulasan yang bagus dibaca.. two thumbs up for it, really..

  2. Jeff says:

    What a shame!
    It’s so awful to figure out our young generation has been born to fight. What kind of fight? If it’s about fighting on the street or wherever by hurting somebody, then it’s nothing and useless. Don’t tell everybody about fighting if you cannot fight your self. Your life is more precious than hurting somebody or keeping your pride.
    Show to the world you can be something for peace and humankind! Don’t be glad to show your pride to your school mate. Pride is nothing compares to good contribution to society and humankind. Imagine how if this world is created for fighting. How if everybody thinks about how to defeat each other? There is no peace.

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