Morality Lessons from Tricksters and Cheats

One of the many lessons we have learnt from blogging about corruption in the TEFL industry is the facility that liars and scammers have in wiggling out of responsibility. But perhaps this ought not to have surprised us at all. After all, imagine you are a dishonest person who doesn’t want to play by the rules of society. Imagine you are some kind of grifter- perhaps even a TEFL grifter called Binsar or Luke- and your whole thing in life is lying to people to get something off them. To a con-man of this type, what skill could be more useful than a knack for wiggling out of responsibility for your deeds?

In the responses sent to us from Rumah Bahasa, a school which has been accused of lying to staff and teachers about promised pay and conditions, I am reminded of the same facility for wiggling out of responsibility. Here is an extract from a recent post sent to us from Rumah Bullshit, presumably by the owner, Frendy Horas:

Intinya, saya hanya saling mengingatkan kepada diri saya sendiri dan terutama Anda. Kalau memang Anda melakukan ini demi kebaikan semua orang, kenapa tidak dengan cara yang baik juga?

Toh cabang Rumah Bahasa masih ada kan? So…Get A life…

There is a bit of circumlocution in the language here (from an English speaker perspective) but that is common in Indonesian of a more formal register. The key concept is the idea that if we have “good intentions, why don’t we do it the right way?”

Presumably what Pak Horas, TEFL grifter, is saying is that if our intentions are good, we should go to the “authorities”. Unfortunately, our informants have mentioned that they already went to Immigration authorities in North Jakarta and they confirmed that because Rumah Bullshit is not registered as a PT. (basically a company) it has no ability apply for KITASES (work visas). End of matter. Case closed.

This confirms what other teacher informants have said: all of the teachers there are working on tourist visas. Indonesian tourist visas even have the words WORK PROHIBITED written on them! Case closed. The whole show is illegal. What we are getting here is a moral lesson about “the right way” from a serial offender in terms of breaking immigration laws in Indonesia.

So why would he tell us to go to authorities. Because the authorities are corrupt of course. This school has a high-profile location near Lotte Mart. An immigration officer already told one teacher he can’t legally work there. But as Horas says, or rather taunts, “Rumah Bahasa masih ada kan?”  Here all pretence of formality is gone and we are back to the swaggering preman (gangster) boasting that Rumah Bahasa hasn’t been shut down (because he has greased some palms, of course). The morality lesson was always just a mask. What it hides is his knowledge that he has brought some “protection”, like any Mafia racket, by paying off a few people. If the crooks in the Indonesian government have turned a blind eye to his scams, why don’t we?

Well, it’s simple, Pak. It’s because the people you bought off might have no compunction letting Indonesian students pay for completely unqualified teachers on tourist visas, but we don’t like the smell of it, or your second-rate, grifting school. We think that teachers and students ought to know what they are buying, and it ain’t high-quality produce.

Which brings us to “Get a life”, the three words of English which this “language school owner” seems to have mastered. As Wikipedia rightly notes, “This is an American idiom and catch phrase usually intended as a taunt, to indicate that the person being so addressed is devoting an inordinate amount of time to trivial or hopeless matters.” 

The word taunt is interesting here. Several of Horas’s throwaway lines are taunts- in which he resembles many of the worst TBI “defenders”. This reveals the true motivation of his posts to us. They are just intended as a kind of blustering, chest-beating intimidation, but it is indeed Pak Horas who is wasting his time- and everybody else’s- with his half-baked school. The posts aren’t coming down. Whether RB stays in business or not, people have a right to this information.

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