bint battuta

I’ve just watched Joshua Oppenheimer’s incredible The Act of Killing (the director’s cut).

In the course of the film various people state that “gangster” comes from the English “free man” – which means gangsters are a good thing. In one scene Jusuf Kalla, vice president of Indonesia, goes as far to claim that Indonesia needs gangsters, because they get things done:

In an interview with Joshua Oppenheimer, Matt Goldberg asked him about “preman”, the word translated as “gangster”:

MG: One of the things I wanted to talk to you about is in the film they repeatedly say that “gangster” comes from the word “freeman,” and in English it doesn’t.

JO: No.

MG: So I was curious about the etymology of the English word versus the Indonesian etymology of the word “gangster.”

JO: I’m not exactly sure what the English etymology is.

MG: It really…

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