Playboy sure is causing a stir in Indonesia.
Last week, the company published its first Indonesian edition — one that features no nudity — and possibly its last. That's because Indonesia's population, mostly Muslim, went nuts. Some folks whipped rocks at the Playboy building.
Indonesians fear that American values are being imported to their culture, and that their young woman may one day strut around in pumps and street-walker clothes, just as many of our young women are doing.
What's worse, they fear Hugh Hefner, now 80, might try to date them.
Well, my Indonesian friends, I don't blame you for your concern, but relax. Western ideas and values aren't so bad as they seem. Old Hef and his magazine offer a perfect example as to why.
As it goes, Hef was something of a loser when he was a teen. As kid of average looks, he was frustrated that girls ignored him. He decided to transform himself. He nicknamed himself — “Hef” — which is something normal men would never do. And he concocted a fantasy life in which he would be rich, worldly and the life of every party.
In 1953, Hef came out with the first issue of Playboy. It featured Marilynn Monroe and flew off the newsstands. Hef said America was repressed and his mission, which involved exploiting the male sex drive to make dough, was to set us free.
Over the next five decades, we really have been set free, too. Despite the fact that divorce, illegitimacy and single-parent households have soared over the years, old Hef says we're still repressed. He says he's still got lots of work to do.
He's doing his best, too. Though he's 80 years old, he's still living out the fantasy life he concocted when he was a teen. He shares a home with four bleach-blond women, his “girlfriends.” From what I've gathered in the few moments I spent watching their reality show, all four have a cumulative IQ of 100.
At this point you're probably wondering why I have cited Hef to explain why western values are not so bad. It's for this very simple reason. He represents our greatest value of all: freedom.
Look, only a culture that fully embraces freedom — real, genuine openness — can give life to a fellow such as Hef. In America, any man is free to be a fool. Any man is free to shun spirituality and inner beauty in exchange for worldliness and ego and babes and dough.
But our culture also allows a man to live a virtuous life, as my father has. My father married young and worked long and hard for his family. My father knows what it is like to love one woman, through good and bad, for nearly five decades — an experience Hef can never know.
I know some of you view America as the “Great Satan.” You do so because you judge us based on the worst of our movies and television shows and magazines. You judge us based on old fools like Hef, but you're not getting the full story.
Freedom opens the floodgates of everything that is bad in the human heart — greed and vanity and dishonesty — but it also opens the floodgates to everything that is good in the human heart, such as generosity and selflessness and integrity.
You can't restrict what you perceive to bad without restricting what is good.
That's the trick with freedom. It puts everything in the human heart out in the open on full display, and sometimes things can get pretty ugly.
Hey, many of us don't like Jerry Springer or Madonna or a host of other stupid and banal things our culture produces, so we simply turn them off. A lot of us have turned off old Hef, too. He's become a caricature of himself, an old goof.
Throwing rocks at his building in Jakarta isn't going to harm him. Besides, he's got bigger worries. He's an 80-year-old man with four young girlfriends to keep happy.
Isn't that punishment enough?