For what it’s worth, Indonesia is a culinary arcadia. From the humblest warung on the corner of a busy junction to the trendiest restaurant in a five star hotel overlooking a white sandy beach, Indonesians are spoilt when it comes to grabbing a bite to eat.
The country, specifically its larger cities, also offers modern lifestyle choices that seem too appealing to miss especially if you are in your late teens or twenties. If you live in the metropolis, hedonism and indulgence may even feel like a survival mechanism. This is perhaps why, for some, it may seem contrarian not to indulge in all Indonesia has to offer youth hood — but a new generation of kids are saying “no” to all of it.
For all its meat and flesh temptations, the city has seen a rising number of young vegans and more specifically, Straight Edge devotees – a music-related subculture that embraces the vegan lifestyle with added principles attached to it. Amongst other things, they abstain from alcohol-related beverages, smoking, and promiscuous sex.
Though their ability to sidestep the allure of conventional dining is applaudable, the increasing prominence of vegetarian restaurants has made it feasible for vegetarians to enjoy a variety of dining without breaking their lifestyle, more than ever before.
Of course for a vegan it’s not only about abstaining from meat; they also live by the code of “anti animal product” — meaning everything they wear and use daily, such as wallets or shoes, contain no animal-related materials.
Straight Edge itself began almost accidentally, and was initially a song title by influential ‘80s hardcore group Minor Threat, whose similarly titled song celebrated strength-of-will and railed against inebriation and promiscuous sex. Though the group, and specifically its lyricist and leader Ian McKaye, would later decry the song’s call-to-arms influence amongst the increasing number of straight-edgers, its legacy lives on even outside the United States and long after the band’s demise.
Countless Indonesian bands’ members, from as early as the ‘90s were living by its values, though — perhaps unsurprisingly — many have fallen by the wayside.
Marendra Selo runs a Twitter account called @vegetarian_ind as an extension of his vegan lifestyle. For him, it is the only lifestyle that has made sense since he began fully embracing its values two years ago.
“The only reason I lead the lifestyle I lead is because it’s healthy for both body and soul, pure and simple,” the 18-year old flight school student said matter-of-factly.
Yogi Yudoasmoro is another teen that plans on leading his life through vegan values. With his band Son of Sundance, Yogi spreads the message of veganism, though he is careful not to do so in a manner that avoids the sometimes-militant ways of old school straight edgers.
“When I was younger, I had learned about vegetarianism from watching TV and reading books and magazines about it. I’d thought it was a strictly religious thing among Hindus and Buddhist. But then — and perhaps because I inherited this from my mother, who loves animals — I thought about how animals deserve to live as long as they are naturally able to, and not only to exist for a few years before we cut them for our meat.”
For the young man, the thought was a revelation, and he decided to become a vegan a few years ago. Yogi pushes forth the idea of animal cruelty above how his vegetarianism will positively affect his own health.
Januar Kristianto, on the other hand, is a hardcore Straight Edge devotee. For the twenty-something, the idea stretches far beyond vegetarianism.
A musician himself, Januar has been straight edge and vegan for 8 years and had gotten into it through his love for music and Minor Threat.
“For me what really hit home was how straight edge was a form of rebellion in itself. Hardcore and [its close cousin] Punk music was always seen in a negative light, but straight edge was counter culture that spoke against drug culture. That really got to me — I mean, for me it has always been ‘why take drugs to listen or enjoy music?’ ” Januar explained.
Having spent his younger years studying in Melbourne Januar says that he was sometimes on the receiving end of some friendly and not-so-friendly taunts by the “weed smoking” crowd, but being straight edge “was the only way of reaching the goals I’ve set.”
For Januar, it was how straight edge devotees held their ideals closely to their heart and had no qualms about expressing them which continually reassured him of his chosen path.
“I still get goose bumps when I think of how certain straight edge bands are so vocal about their ideas. It reminds me about why I chose to be like this.”
For these young vegans and Straight Edgers, their beliefs are a personal choice, and they care little about how peer or familial pressure or how unorthodox some may find it. Instead, they try to influence others in subtle ways.
“I founded the Vegetarian IND community with the goals of initiating an idea among Indonesians to undertake this change in their lives to make it better,” Marendra said.
Yogi, on the other hand, chooses to keep his ideas mostly to himself.
“I’m not really one to confront people about my ideas [except subtly through music]. I’d rather only give them information when they become curious and start asking me questions out of interest,” he said.
Januar is outspoken and has no apprehensiveness in suggesting ideas to acquaintances.
“I believe in straight edge’s capability in advocating an alternative way of life, especially in the music scene, that is too dominated by drug culture.
“I wouldn’t want to act like a teacher to someone, but when somebody comes up to me and starts showing their interest in the ideas, that makes me really happy.”