Thursday, October 7, 2010

"Sukarno" and "Suharto"

Suharto was the military president of Indonesi...Image via WikipediaLindsay Lohan recently filed a law suit against E-Trade, a company I know nothing about whatsoever, over allegations that their baby-featuring ads that made reference to a 'milkaholic' known as Lindsay, defamed her. She claimed that she had 'first-name recognition', like Cher or Madonna. Among other things, I'd consider those spectacularly poor examples since they intentionally use only their first names as stage names, something Ms. Lohan does not do. "Britney" or "Angelina" would have been much better examples, were the whole thing not a boat-load of nonsense. Which it, however, is.
Had Lindsay Lohan been an expert in Indonesian history (I do not claim that she is not an expert in Indonesian history, merely that I've never seen her discuss it), she might have focused on the Asian archipelago's first two presidents, Sukarno and Suharto.
Bad-ass these two are for undoubtedly different reasons - Suharto was bad-ass enough to be a dictator for over thirty years. The fact is that these two individuals are bad-ass enough not to have any surnames at all. Unlike, say, Madonna, who probably carries a passport with the name Ciccone on it, the first two presidents of the fourth-most-populous country weren't hiding their surnames. They merely didn't have any at all. This seems to be something endemic to Indonesian culture, and is inevitably way too confusing for my feeble mind to comprehend, as many other Indonesian politicians have more than one name, though several others also sport the mononym (I don't know if that's an actual word or not, but it ought to be). Sukarno's daughter Megawati Sukarnoputri, for example, appears to have a surname. Or perhaps not, actually, according to her page at Wikipedia, which calls her in full Diah Permata Megawati Setiawati Sukarnoputri. Although this litany of names apparently still does not include a surname, it is undoubtedly an awesome name in and of itself, one that overcompensates her father's relative namelessness. "Megawati", in other circumstances a measurement of power, is definitely a cool name. It apparently means "she who has a cloud" (n.b. awesome) and refers to the fact that it was raining when she was born.
The greatest find in the annals of stylishly-monikered Indonesian power, though, is this: Sukarno, who Wikipedia tells me Indonesians also remember as "Bung Karno" or "Pak Karno" (n.b. awesome), was born Kusno Sosrodihardjo, but was renamed after surviving a childhood illness. The extent to which, as a non-Indonesian, this makes no sense whatsoever to me is equalled only by the extent to which it is more awesome than chocolate pudding.
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