Are stereotypes useful?

No, they are not.

I have had many arguments with bigots. But, one interaction gave me this realisation: stereotype is different from generalisation. I hate myself for being this late.

This person constantly made sweeping statements about Muslims. After receiving pushbacks, he defended himself by saying that if we want to talk about a collective, generalisation is inevitable.

What he said made sense here. How can we talk about human collectives when we are prohibited from generalising? The thing is I would be on his side… if he was being honest with himself.

A generalisation is meant to represent the entirety and it requires as many data as possible; mind you, it has the word “general” in it. If he truly wanted to have an honest discussion, he would have acknowledged that a group embodies different individuals and each of them almost certainly identifies with more than one labels. He would have been mindful of the diversity and the rigidness of pigeonholes.

Instead, he chose to paint a group of one billion believers as a hoard of centrally-controlled androids.

If you still prefer stereotype because it is the easier route, be my guest. But, you clearly don’t care about the truth.

If you do care…

You would try your best to drop all of your preconceived notions, unearth what is beneath the deceptive surface and learn as many intricate details as possible, especially ones that seemingly contradict each other.

You would try your best to embrace the complexities of life instead of settling for fact-distorting oversimplifications.

You would acknowledge that the “others” are your fellow human beings who just happen to be influenced by different life experiences and/or sets of rules.

You would have realised that just because you feel your beliefs are true, that does not mean they are.

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“There is no bigotry here!“

Some nationalistically zealous westerners I have encountered love to claim that their countries are bigotry-free.

Their evidences? People of religious and racial minority backgrounds not being hunted down like animals, having high-ranking jobs both in public and private sectors and even becoming celebrities. How can there be bigotry when minorities can achieve high status in their own countries?

I notice that those people often harbour anti-Muslim sentiment as well. With that in mind, I want to do the same thing with my country.

I declare that Indonesia, world’s biggest Muslim-majority country, is free from any bigotry, both religious and racial!

Indonesians Christian thrive in every field imaginable; from national government to corporate business, they can ace everything! There are also Hindus thriving in national governmental institutions; some have also become high-ranking government officials!

Our state broadcaster broadcast not just Islamic sermons, but also Protestant, Catholic, Buddhist, Hindu and, recently, Confucian ones. From all of those religions, only Confucianism does not have dedicated state-funded universities.

In the 50’s, while western Protestants and Catholics were too busy hating each other, Indonesia already had non-Muslims working as high-ranking government officials. Not to mention that from all historical figures who are appointed as national heroes, at least forty of them are non-Muslims.

Chinese-Indonesians are among the most well-off and educated demographics in the country. They also thrive in almost every field imaginable. In fact, one of the most beloved politicians in the country is of Chinese descent… and also a Christian.

Apart from paragraph four, those are indeed facts. I have used them to rebuke foreigners who think Indonesia is the same as Saudi Arabia and ISIS territory. But, I will never use them to sweep the dark side under the rug.

Indonesia only officially recognises those six aforementioned religions, none are indigenous. Those who identify with none of them have to choose one in official documents. Students cannot opt out of religious classes at schools, including the public ones. While there are non-Muslim high-ranking government officials, Indonesian presidents have always been Muslims.

It is also much easier for non-Muslims to be charged with blasphemy than Muslims are; that Christian Chinese-Indonesian politician was convicted while his detractors – many of whom are Muslim extremists – have yet to be. While rare, violent religious clashes have definitely occurred. Not to mention Islamic extremism is getting more and more common and the government barely do anything about it.

And race relations are even worse.

For more than thirty years, Chinese-Indonesians were banned from publicly expressing their ancestral heritage and running for office. They were disproportionately blamed for supporting communism, even though non-Chinese-Indonesians were just as active as communists. In the late 90’s riots, they were brutalised, raped and had their houses and livelihoods burned down; they have yet to get justice. While the far richer ones were safe, their socioeconomic status made them an even bigger scapegoat.

Don’t forget the Indonesian Papuans. While they don’t suffer from pogroms (that I know of), they are certainly among the most neglected demographics. The national government started building highways in the region only a few years ago. The poorest and second poorest provinces in the country are the Papuan ones and, at the same time, one of the most expensive cities in the country is also Papuan; I doubt the government can afford to pay the subsidies forever.

I should also mention Western New Guinea – now called Indonesian Papua – was annexed from the Dutch. While there were Papuan individuals involved, there are no evidences that the annexation had widespread support among the Papuans.

Their homeland was annexed, they have been neglected from the very beginning, they get called monkeys… and the flag-wavers have the gall to accuse them of acting like thin-skinned and ungrateful brats.

I believe that even if Chinese-Indonesians and Papuan-Indonesians are predominantly-Muslim, they would still get severely discriminated against. Their races and/or non-Austronesian lineage make them easy targets.

Oh and that beloved Christian Chinese-Indonesian politician? He is also one of the most hated public figures.

Now, what’s the point of my rambling?

If an Indonesian of minority backgrounds has criticisms about Indonesia, especially ones based on their personal experiences, and I respond by spewing paragraphs four to seven, you would be justifiably angry at me.

Instead of acknowledging the reality, I choose to whitewash it by claiming the good side is the only existing side. Not only I choose to be intellectually dishonest, I also give my fellow human beings the finger by dismissing their grievances. My mind fails to realise that one can praise and condemn a country at the same time.

Now, what if I am not an Indonesian Muslim of Austronesian descent? What if I am a Christian westerner of white European descent….

… And I screech about how my western homeland is the epitome of multiculturalism because non-whites and non-Christians can achieve high statuses and be free from lynching, even though stereotypes, hate speech, discriminations and history denialism are rampant?

Some of you would still be angry at me. Some.

The rest of you would actually agree with me. You see the west as literally the only beacon of civility and morality in existence, where literally every good thing in life comes from. You cannot comprehend the world outside the west has anything good to offer without western influences.

No, don’t deny it. You know damn well those people exist. In fact, you may be one of them.

If you perceive any criticisms of your beloved western homeland as slanderous and bigoted, you are one of those people.

If you perceive any acknowledgement of the positive aspects of the Muslim and/or non-western world as whitewashing, you are one of those people.

If you condemn the Muslim and/or non-western world for doing something and yet praising the west doing the exact same thing, you are one of those people.

If you believe Muslims and/or non-westerners are obligated to be grateful of westerners for every good thing in life, you are one of those people.

if you have believe minorities not getting mass murdered is enough to make the west the bastion of multiculturalism, you are one of those people.

If you feel personally attacked by this blogpost, you are definitely one of those people.

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When the ‘useless’ knowledge is proven right

I have a bachelor’s degree in media and communication from Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. Before that, I got a diploma in the same disciplines from Melbourne Institute of Technology (now called Deakin college).

I don’t know how other educational institutions teach media and communication. But, in those particular places, it was quite all over the place. Interdisciplinary, if I want to sound fancy.

They made sure students studied as many aspects of media and communication as possible. On the practical side, I learned the basics of PR, marketing, journalism, advertising and press release writing.

On the “useless” side, I learned about the cultural aspects of cinema, masculinity and race in cinema, philosophical aspects of globalised media, interpreting imagery, digital media theories and basics of animation and digital photography.

Obviously, we can all agree the practical skills are useful. The validity of “useless” ones, however, is so hard to defend.

The “useless” classes helped me perceiving the world through different lenses and taught me how to read between the lines. But, the abstract nature of the subject matters make them hard to comprehend; some people may consider them results of delusional and paranoid thinking.

It has been years since I graduated. But, it was only recently I realised the “useful” knowledge validates the “useless” one.

Those “useful” classes taught me how to influence the masses to my own benefits; with the right languages, imagery and angles, I can do so without technically lying and spreading misinformation. With journalism specifically, I was taught how to factually report a story by not only employing a neutral language, but also being tactful with the angles; no matter how factual and neutral the report is, its angle still affects how the public perceives it.

They compel me to not take the surface for granted… the exact thing media and communication theories have been telling me all along!

I hate myself for this late realisation. For years, I was frustrated that I couldn’t convince others to acknowledge the validity of those abstract theories, not realising the practical skills I learned validate them and have always been!

I don’t think this easily applies to other social science and humanities disciplines. While they certainly have their practical sides, the ones of media and communication are far more clear-cut and tangible.

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Imperial system: visualisation, heat and us

In one of my blogposts, I asserted that my problem with imperial system was not the system itself, it was the people who insist it is more sensical and systematic than metric.

Some time after I published it, I found two more pro-imperial arguments.

One is about visualisation. Some believe imperial units are better because they are easier to visualise than the extra-detailed metric ones, especially regarding height. When I asserted that it was a matter of upbringing, one of them claimed to be a non-American and, despite growing metric, they still preferred imperial for the easier visualisation.

But, the more I read their arguments words per words, the more unconvinced I become. Everything they said was not even remotely tangible and objective. All they did was describing how their own mind works; they might as well retell their imaginations. While I acknowledge the validity of their anecdotes, they are not scientific evidences.

Then, there is also the Fahrenheit and the human bodies argument.

Some argue Fahrenheit makes more sense because it measures how our corporeal bodies react to different levels of heat and cold. Even if what they say is true (I never bother to fact check), it further proves the inferiority of Fahrenheit.

In case they forget, the universe does not revolve around us and human body temperature is certainly not the only thing science cares about. While the human-centrism isn’t necessarily conceited, it certainly makes the approach far from unbiased.

Listening to pro-imperial arguments makes me even more pro-metric.

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They are not stupid, they are worse

As a Muslim, I have had many online arguments with anti-Muslim bigots. But, a handful of them stick out.

In one, someone babbled about how literally every Muslim in the world was morally obligated to fight ISIS directly, as in we have to go to the Middle East – – even though many of us are not from the region, let alone being directly complicit – and sacrifice ourselves fighting those extremists. While this is not my first time encountering association fallacy arguments, this one is the most extreme examples.

But, that’s not even the most memorable thing about the encounter. He also said ISIS soldiers were idiotic.

That surprised me. He could have used other words like barbaric, monstrous, animals, savages or even assholes. But, he chose idiotic.

In this case, I consider it a lightweight insult because – thanks to its mundanity and borderline childishness – it fails to convey sincere, impassioned and righteous anger. But, this is not even the main problem.

Idiocy means you fail to utilise your common sense; when your nonsensical actions do harm others, you never intended to and you may feel guilty about it. Meanwhile, immorality means you have little or no regard about your fellow humans’ well-being: either you don’t care about the impacts of your actions or you purposefully inflict harm upon others.

If you are a full grown adult who are smitten by blatant propaganda, then you are unequivocally a fucking idiot. If you are a teenager, I would still call you one, albeit with a gentler tone.

But, we know damn well ISIS is more than just that.

ISIS soldiers beheaded people, pushed queer men off the top of buildings and sexually enslaved women and girls. ISIS sympathisers either wholeheartedly support the atrocities or tolerate them.

If you commit, support or tolerate the unspeakable, you are not an idiot. You are someone which even the worst expletives cannot adequate describe you. Yes, you are worse than a cunt.

I don’t know why that person chose to call ISIS members idiotic. He might think morality and intelligence were interchangeable. He might think the lack of intelligence was the worst sin of all. I can only assume.

But, one thing for certain: he trivialised the victims’ sufferings.

They suffer because of others’ ungodly actions. But, by claiming that idiocy was the worst sin committed by ISIS, he made it sounded like the victims’ trauma was caused by the routine stupidity we encounter in our daily lives AKA they were snowflakes. While he didn’t intend it that way, the unintentional insinuation is there.

Even without his backfiring moralistic anger, this person was already problematic (you have issues if you don’t see anything wrong about guilt by association). But, I think everyone can learn from him.

Even if your anger is sincerely righteous, you should think twice about how you express it. Make sure your choice of words and imagery do not infantilise the people you want to defend… or, like in this case, unwittingly make light out of their sufferings.

Like it or not, being moral also requires us to use our heads, which – I admit – is harder than it sounds. I am certain I have committed similar sins.

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The Americans who give their country too much credit

In one of my past blogposts, I ranted about certain jingoistic Americans who think they are the reason why the USA is respected globally, not realising they are one of the reasons why their country is constantly defecated on by the world. They also don’t realise how the world respects America often thanks to its pop culture and, most importantly, Americans who are chill, friendly and open-minded.

Recently, I found out there is another layer to the conceit.

Some Americans believe that US military protects every single country and funds and trains every single armed forces on earth. They are not being hyperbolic. They literally mean every single one.

What evidences do they have?

Well, the presence of US bases abroad, US military academies training foreign soldiers and the US funding NATO. Unless you are a jingoistic American or an undignified fanatical Americanophile, you can easily see what’s wrong with the evidences.

For one, the US establishes overseas bases to protect itself; in theory, it is much easier to protect one’s own country from foreign invaders when it arms itself in foreign lands.

Yes, the host countries may get protected as well. But, the protection is just a trickle and, in the end, those bases are intended to defend America and America only. Not to mention those countries – believe or not – have their own armed forces and have always been.

This argument is not stupid, I just think it is a testament of naivety and ignorance. Even if American armed forces do claim that they want to protect their host countries, America will still get benefitted in the end.

There is a thing called soft power, in which a country offers certain nice things to foreigners, who end up having more positive views of said country. Governments all over the world know this, hence the many offerings of scholarship to foreigners and the establishment of state-funded international broadcasting services. The more positive views a country receives on the international stage, the less likely it will be perceived as an enemy state.

People don’t realise that we can defend our country without any weapons.

But, the other arguments are undoubtedly idiotic.

The A in NATO stands for Alliance. Alliance. You know, a cooperation which benefits every single participant. Those jingoistic Americans are not used to the idea that other countries can also help America.

It does not matter if the US is biggest funder; it will still get benefitted anyway. In fact, considering many of the world’s existing security issues were caused or exacerbated by US foreign policy, it should pay the most money.

And I don’t see how US military academies training a handful of foreign soldiers is the same as training entire foreign armed forces.

Basically, this belief asserts that once the soldiers return to their homelands, literally every single one of their fellow soldiers will have the exact same skills and knowledge…. because American magic or something.

Either that or they greatly underestimate foreign armed forces’ sizes, thinking those handful of foreign soldiers are literally the only soldiers of their respective countries. Considering there are Americans who believe Europe does not have indoor plumbing simply because it looks old, this assumption of mine is not far-fetched.

At this point, I am convinced those jingoistic Americans are insecure about their country’s standing on the world stage.

If they aren’t, they wouldn’t exaggerate about their pee pee size, would they?

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Does mask policy help normalising face veil?

No, It doesn’t.

People of Chinese lineage and anyone perceived ones living in the west are turned into punching bags; they suffer from verbal abuse and violent acts, some of which are fatal. Considering where the virus is reportedly from, the history of anti-Chinese sentiment and the hostility towards Beijing, this phenomenon unfortunately does not surprise me.

What surprises me is the COVID-related anti-Muslim sentiment. It is not prevalent; I have only seen it among a handful of conservative Americans. But, its mere presence is not what attracts my attention.

For years, many rightwing westerners have spread the conspiracy “theory” about the Muslim takeover of the west. Among those who love virtue signalling about women’s rights, they believe every woman in the west will be forced to wear burqa. Literally, the only evidence they have is mere presence of Muslims.

And COVID health protocols really trigger their paranoia. They see the mask policy as an attempt to normalise face veil and governments being complicit to the so-called Islamisation.

I am not going to argue in details why they are stupid. But, I can give my perspective as a Muslim living in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country.

In Indonesia, Aceh is the only province where hijab is mandatory and there is not a single province where face veil is. It is not to say veiled women don’t exist. But, they are extremely rare, even among the most religious Muslim women.

After the enforcement of face mask, you still can tell which women wear face veil.

For one, they always wear loose and long dress; they never wear shirts and pants. It is a contrast to some hijabis who are often seen wearing pants and shirts.

Secondly and most importantly, they never bother to wear the masks. Why should they do when they have their niqabs? While I doubt they are as medically effective, the supermarkets I go to don’t seem to mind.

If face mask policy fails to normalise niqab in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country, what makes you think it can do so in the predominantly-non-Muslim western countries?

You don’t need the pandemic to realise this. If something sticks out like a sore thumb, then it is definitely weird and definitely not seen as something that has been normalised.

Mind blowing, I know.

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Late to the Smosh fandom

When I was exposed to Youtube culture for the first time in 2014, I was not impressed with Smosh.

I found the humour too juvenile for my taste. It was baffling how its fans Anthony and Ian compared to Dan and Phil, who make entirely different content. To make it more baffling, some even said Anthony and Ian were the funnier version of Dan and Phil, even though latter made much wittier jokes.

Considering I only liked two of their older videos, I am surprised that I clicked on more of them.

Now, fast forward to 2022.

It has been six or seven years since my last Smosh videos. I don’t remember how I stumbled back to the franchise. But somehow, I clicked on their recent Smosh Pit and Smosh Game videos and I was surprised that I was laughing at the jokes!

The cast and even some crew members are able to create witty, bizarre and even dark off-the-cuff jokes. No scripts needed! I don’t remember encountering this kind of humour on Smosh videos years ago. I even never realised how dark and bizarre Ian Hecox’s humour can be.

But, I am not a big fan of the Try Not To laugh videos. While they do have some gems, the cast members often end up trying too hard to be funny; many of the jokes fall flat, feel like inside jokes or end up being too abstract.

I also tried watching their recent scripted sketches… and I was not disappointed.

The scripted humour is still over-reliant on exaggerations. But, I love how it has significantly matured. Nowadays, many of the sketches revolve around the frustrations of lives as adults and media consumers; they even spoof the daily life at Smosh office.

In fact, I notice that Smosh and Saturday Night Lives share something in common: their style of scripted humour works best when their sketches include blatant commentaries. It successfully highlights the human stupidity they critique.

But, despite the improvements, I think the sketches are not the best things about the main Smosh channel. I prefer the Funeral, Gives Relationship Advices and Interview Exes series.

Like the sketches, they involve scripted narratives. But, unlike the sketches, the jokes are made not only by a handful of selected writers, but by the cast members as well. Hence why those videos have the most dynamic and lively content in the main channel.

Of course, there is also this annoying nostalgia of the former fans.

I do have my own nostalgia. The original Scooby Doo TV show, the first two English-dubbed Pokemon films, S Club 7, 1990’s comedic supernatural-themed Indonesian TV shows, those are some of the things I feel nostalgic about. Seeing and hearing them always give me fuzzy feelings.

But, at the same time, I also acknowledge their undeniable mediocrity. No reasonable minds consider the things I mentioned above as masterpieces.

And those former Smosh fans fail to comprehend that. Not only they are unable to be critical of anything feelgood, they also refuse to grow up together with their idols.

They think their lack of growth is a badge of honour.

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How to make arguments 2

*puts on a mask*

Not long ago, I made a blog post about effectively making arguments. For the entirety, I advocate for using nothing but feelings, to show reality who is the boss.

To this day, I still stand by that statement. But, if you want to up your game, you can slander your opponents.

First, you can accuse them of lacking experiences with the things they hate.

You can accuse detractors of religions of religious inexperience, despite the fact that many grew up in strict religious environments. You can accuse car-free urban design proponents of inexperience with driving and car ownership, despite the fact that many grew up dependent on cars and some still are.

This method insinuates that your opponents don’t have good reasons hating the things they hate. They hate just for the sake of hating.

You can also enforce an extremely black-and-white view of the world to your opponents, in which everything is strictly an ‘either or’ situation.

If a Muslim acknowledges that Islamic extremism exists and yet he refuses to label all Muslims as extremists, then you must accuse him as an apologist.

If someone criticises both the US and its enemies, then you must accuse him of supporting US hegemony.

If someone supports legalisation of abortion, prostitution and recreational drug use while also expressing his dislike of said activities, then you must accuse him enjoying those activities.

You have to assert that fighting Islamic extremism is impossible without demonising Muslims. You have to assert that the lesser evil is automatically not evil. You have to assert that harm reduction is a non-existing concept.

You have to assert that a nuanced perspective and approach is the same as fence sitting and complicity.

You can also project yourself onto others.

You can accuse marginalised minorities of forcing their identities upon everyone, even though you are the one who wants to impose yours upon them.

You can accuse queer people of perversion, even though you are the one who are obsessed with trans people’s genitalia and what same-sex couples do in their bedroom, even though you are the ones who think pronouns are sexual.

You can accuse women and minorities’ rights activists of wanting to give women and minorities extra privileges, even though you support upholding extra privileges for men and the majority.

You can accuse those liberal commies of disregarding the rights of women, Jews and LGBT people because of their defence of Muslims, even though people like you have a long track records of opposing them.

You can accuse war opponents of trivialising human sufferings by not wanting to fight tyrants, even though your war-mongering ass never considers the long-term human effects of military invasions.

Those tactics work not because they persuade your opponents, but because they persuade your audience… and you better hope they are full of intellectually basic minds.

You need that kind of people because they are brainless sponges who can easily soak any skin-deep, cerebrally undemanding statements.

Apart from deviance against reality (which I have asserted in a previous blogpost), there is nothing which can empower your arguments better than popularity.

The more popular something is, the more people will defend it. The more defenders it has, the more credible it appears to be.

*takes off the mask*

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No, homogeneity is not a strength

When people argue against multiculturalism, they often project themselves. They think their inability to handle human differences is universal and sectarian conflicts are mundane in diverse places.

Another one of their favourite argument is citing the success of South Korea and Japan. They argue the countries’ near 100% homogeneity is the reason why they are globally successful.

Of course, there are multiple issues with that assertion.

Issue number one: success is relative. While South Korea and Japan have wealth and greater soft power than my country Indonesia does, I will never be envious of their high suicide rates, drinking cultures, stressful student life, severe school bullying and, in this case of Japan, strong history of fascism and historical denialism.

Issue number two: correlation does not equal causation. Those people never provide evidences. They simply connect two things and expect others to believe it at face value. Life is also complicatedly interconnected; even if homogeneity is a factor, it is definitely not the only factor.

Issue number three: even if I accept that shallow definition of success and correlation equals causation, I still don’t see how it proves the inherent superiority of South Korea and Japan.

If homogeneity brings prosperity as they claim it does, then it is comparable to wealth we are born into.

Both give us unbelievably massive leverages. Children born into wealth have better access to education and they can pursue their passions without financial worry. Due to the stricter conformity, homogenous societies have an easier time achieving their collective goals.

Neither wealth nor homogeneity is inherently bad. But, praising a country’s homogeneity is like praising someone for coming from a wealthy family.

You basically praise someone for being born with cheat codes.

Personally, I don’t believe we must commend people who can find common grounds despite their stark differences. Not only I consider that to be a bare minimum, I also don’t want them to pat themselves on the back.

But, I would rather reserve my praise for them. Considering they are the ones who do extra efforts, it is just sensical.

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