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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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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How to make arguments

*Puts on a mask*

It is simple: all you need is your feelings.

You don’t need sound logic and evidences to back your arguments. As long as they feel right for you, that’s more than enough. In fact, they should be based on your feelings.

If you argue using reason and evidences, you have already lost. You have succumbed to the demands of reality. If you want to showcase strength, your arguments must defy those demands!

You can argue that we should never cut off our biological family and our adopted family isn’t our true family because “blood is thicker than water”. You can argue that sex for pleasure is sinful because it hinders procreation. You can also argue that religious neutrality is harmful because it discriminates against your religion.

Do any of them make sense? No, they don’t. The first uses nothing but a medieval proverb to justifies itself. Each of the other two simply connects two irrelevant things and expects us to see the connections. They are based on nothing but feelings.

And, for that reason, we should praise people who make such arguments. They are so strong, they refuse to let reality dictates their worldviews. They only answer to their feelings. Their feelings are their authority figures.

But, if you don’t want to be honest with yourselves and acknowledge you are slaves to your own feelings, you can choose any authorities you desire. All you need is to say “because BLANK says so!”.

It can be a clergyman, a religion, a politician, a media outlet, a fictional character and even your own parents, anyone and anything which you grew up and still obsessively attached to all the way to your adulthood.

Yes, this is also fallacious and using your parents and favourite characters as references is childish. But, again, this is also the way to show reality that it is not your boss.

*takes off the mask*

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Dealing with conspiracy “theorists” is hard

Of course, it is! Everyone knows how exhausting it is to drag them back to earth. When I say “hard”, I am referring to something else.

Studies show we can change their minds by being empathetic. While I don’t have the means to question their validity, my own anecdotes have said something similar: even if you fail to change minds, your diplomacy can encourage people to consider your viewpoints and reconsider their own.

If the “theorists” simply believe in wacky beliefs, then I am willing to be kind towards them. I would not pander to their irrationality. But, I would try to not be a dick.

If the “theorists” believe in debunked medical misinformation and extremely bigoted conspiracies about the “others”, then I have a problem.

Those people are dangerous not because of their beliefs, but because they feel obliged to do something about them. They don’t see themselves as dangerous, they see themselves as truth-exposing heroes. Worse, they believe it is our moral obligations to incite violent against our fellow human beings and let them infected with preventable diseases because suffering from permanent bodily damages is better than being vaccinated.

And you expect us to believe we owe them compassion?

Until they have proven themselves to be decent human beings, the only thing they are worthy of is to be put in their places. Considering how horrible of human beings they are, I believe it is acceptable if the scolding turns verbally abusive. If ugliness is the only thing you can offer, then ugliness is the only thing you deserve.

Yes, I am willing to accept that niceness is the most effective way to go. But, its proponents should realise it is fucking easier said than done.

Oh, and I used to be one of those conspiracy “theorists”. While I certainly was not on a Qanon level, I was also on my way to religious zealotry, a destination which I never arrived at. If I did, I would definitely be on that level.

If I have the chance to go back in time, I would beat the shit out of my past self for many reasons and believing conspiracies is one. I would not empathise with him. It is humiliating to even reminisce that aspect of my past.

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‘Practical’ education, still misguidedly elitist

I think many of you -my non-existing readers- agree schools need to teach practical skills. Even if there are no specialised vocational trainings, at least there should be introductory classes for high schoolers.

But, it seems others take a much more extreme approach to the suggestion.

My idea of ideal education compels students to study both the theoretical disciplines and the practical ones. Liberal arts and vocational education all in one.

I don’t know how much people out there who share my idea. But, I do know some people want to go as far as eliminating theories from the curricula altogether. Replace algebra with finance, they say. Things like algebra are only suitable for universities, they say.

Basically, they want literally every high school to be a vocational high school. Their reasoning? They want to get rid of elitism and they want to improve socio-economic mobility of lower-income youths; studying ‘useless knowledge’ would hinder them from achieving the goals, they believe.

Yeah, that’s a load of shit.

Yes, practical disciplines do teach us about what is and isn’t feasible. But, it does not encourage us to question our worldview. Do you know what can encourage us to be sceptical? The so-called ‘useless’ disciplines!

They teach us about how the world works socially, politically, economically, biologically, physically, chemically, philosophically, you name it! The more you learn about those different perspectives, the easier it is for you to widen your horizon, to think more critically and creatively.

With better critical and creative thinking, it would be much easier for you to move upward. Well, ideally.

But, even if critical and creative thinking does not guarantee social mobility, I still think only teaching students practical disciplines is detrimental to our society in the long run..

The thing about the so-called ‘useless’ disciplines is they encourage us to learn for the sake of knowledge, to learn without expecting any rewards. If pre-university education teaches nothing but practical disciplines, people will perceive learning for the sake of knowledge as an elite endeavour.

People will believe this endeavour is only suitable for anyone who can afford university tuition fees AKA the wealthy. Even if the tuition fees are affordable for everyone, the misguidedly elitism would still be there.

Why? Because -while no longer reserved for the wealthy- learning for the sake of knowledge is still reserved for a handful of people: anyone who can handle university settings.

The already-existing ivory towers will become more towering and more indestructible.

Seriously, why is the idea of teaching both theories and practical skills so alien for many people? Why can’t we learn both pure mathematics and finance at the same time? Physics and engineering? Chemistry and medicine? Sociology and marketing? Literature and business communication? Studio art and carpentry?

Why can’t we learn both? Porque no los dos?

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Defending Fantastic Beasts…

… Is something that I cannot do. I just cannot simply find any good reasons to justify the direction Fantastic Beasts is going to.

And it does not help the justifications I have encountered do not make any sense. Some are even outright stupid.

The seemingly most reasonable defence is the expansion of the worldbuilding. Taking Rowling’s poor and insufferable worldbuilding skill aside, it does sound like a compelling argument.

But, here’s the thing:  Rowling could have written stories about anything; as long as they are set within the HP universe, they still would have continued the worldbuilding. She could have written a short story about a Slytherin incel who spends his time masturbating in  Knockturn Alley or a witch who fell from grace after exposing her own transphobia and it would still do the exact same job.

And the defences are going downhill even further.

One defence claims the second film is more exciting than the first one because it is less dialogue-driven and more action-packed. For god’s sake, when will people realise our inability to appreciate something is not an evidence of its lack of merit? By the way, many of the films considered as among the greatest in history are actually dialogue-driven. Just sayin’.

While I am still reluctant to diminish the importance of action scenes, I should remind you that characters communicate with each other through dialogues. Not taking experimental/avant-garde films into account, dialogues are crucial to narratives.

Well, fucking duh.

Oh, and how pathetically short is your attention span that you find the first film too boring despite the abundance of actions and special effects? I don’t see anything wrong about enjoying action films. But, for fuck’s sake, expand your horizon a little bit. Don’t be proud of your intellectual limitations.

And I still haven’t talked about the most idiotic defence yet.

Some believe the the series’ change of direction is a good thing. Why? Because they think the story of Newt Scamander, a kind-hearted and soft-spoken male magizoologist whose quest is to study and protect every single magical beast he encounters, is not compelling, One person I encountered even compared this to Pokemon Go.

A non-stereotypical male character as the leading hero. A departure from the usual good vs evil theme in fantasy adventures stories. The tale of Newt Scamander easily stands out in pop culture! How is this not compelling?

The fact that they don’t find a refreshing story compelling indicates their reactionary inclinations. They don’t want creativity, they just want the same thing repeated over and over again. For them, the upholding of the status quo is worth the deceitful title.

I am not saying every new thing is good. But, dismissing them simply because they are unconventional exposes close-mindedness on your part.

Oh, and Pokemon Fucking Go? Seriously?

A Pokemon trainer is someone who captures creatures called Pokemon, train them to fight and send them to battle other trainers’ Pokemon; the more battles you win, the higher your social status will be.

Newt Scamander, on the other hand, is someone who not only studies the creatures but also protect them from human threats.

The former? An exploitative social climber. The latter? A scholar and a protector.

A slight tangent:

An admin (or a former admin) of this Harry Potter fan group had an argument with me about the merit of Fantastic Beasts.

Actually, calling it an argument is too generous. She said I was being disrespectful NOT because I was calling her name, but simply because I kept challenging her views! So, she suspended me, prohibiting me to post anything for a few days.

Oh, did I tell you she was the one who made that Pokemon comparison?

Her sense of entitlement already showed me how limited her intellectual capability was. So, when she said she didn’t see any differences between a wildlife exploiter and a wildlife protector, I shouldn’t be surprised.

But, I still was, anyway.

For some reasons, there is a part of me who is still naive enough to believe people who are dumber than me don’t exist.

‘The Democratic party is the racist party’…

… Is what dumbfuck reactionary Americans will say.

I am not going to talk about the southern strategy as I cannot cite evidences other than an excerpt of Lee Atwater’s interview  and the fact that GOP apologised in 2005 for committing it.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think the Democratic party is as inclusive as many think it is. While not all of them, many Dems -both the voters and voted ones- are pseudo-progressives who believe the upholding of the status quo is worth the broken promises and tokenism. Biden is basically a conservative and if Buttigieg is not a young, gay military veteran, he would not be as popular.

But, under a  two-party system, the absence of hateful rhetoric can be appealing to not only young, aspiring progressive politicians, but also members of marginalised communities.

In fact, not only there is a recent increase of actual young progressive Dems who make centrists nervous (yes, I am thinking of the squad), the data also shows Hispanics (of any race), blacks and Jews are more likely to vote blue than red.

Okay, I am one of those people who can feel wary about social statistics; poor samplings can result in extremely misleading results. But, I still have yet to find any counter-evidences, both quantitative and qualitative.

Oh, and there are documented cases of bigots voting for Republicans or running for office as ones. There are lots of Republican voters, Trump ones in particular, caught on camera racially abusing any non-whites and/or any non-English speakers they run into. Arthur J. Jones is not only white supremacist  member of the Republican party. David Duke is not the only white supremacist who openly support Trump. Supporters of the confederacy and whitewashers of slavery are mostly Republicans.

I refuse to say all Republicans are racist. But, I can definitely say the genuinely non-racist ones are so mindless with their rhetoric, they have inadvertently give the racists a comfortable home within the party.

What I am saying if you want discredit the Democratic party as the racist party, you have to expose what both parties are, not what they were in the fucking bygone era.

Studying the past is not the same as living in it.

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For kids

Every time there is a discourse about a low quality film, TV show, song, book or a Youtube channel that is perceived as low quality, there has to be one mucky gaping hole that screeches, ‘they are made for kids!‘.

It makes sense if you are a brain-damaged ape.

For one, children are not the only ones who can enjoy pitiful entertainment. I have met adults who enjoy films by the likes of Michael Bay and the Jason Friedberg/Aaron Seltzer duo. I have met adults who can enjoy Adam Sandler and Rob Schneider’s comedies. I know adults other than myself who enjoy Marvel films and old Pewdiepie videos.

Said creators are also known for their violent, sexual and/or obscenely ‘humorous’ content. I don’t know how anyone can earnestly and un-ironically think they  deliberately target children despite their age-inappropriate content.

If that was the case, why won’t the critics condemn the depravation? Why do they have to focus on the lack of artistry? Personally, I find moral integrity more important than artistic one.

Shocking, I know. Who would have thought that not everyone shares the moral compass of Polanski’s defenders?

Well, we do condemn children-exploiting entertainers; on Youtube, they are individuals like the Paul brothers and Ricegum. But, here is the thing: they are on Youtube.

Despite the flaws, the Youtube community (the Anglo-western one, specifically) is more morally progressive than any ‘traditional’ creative industries I can think of. Youtubers have been condemning sexual predators years before Hollywood started condemning Harvey Weinstein and the French film industry still fawns over Polanski.

Now, what if those inept creators really do target children, but they are not being depraved about their practices? Well, let me answer the question with another question: so fucking what?

The fact that some people think being liked by children is a sign of defect implies they see children as subhumans and entertaining them is sinful.

No, my assertion is not a contrived slippery slope; I am just carrying out the so-called ‘logic’. Surely, if you don’t see children as subhumans who don’t deserve their own entertainment, why the flying fuck would you consider being children-friendly a weakness?

Oh, and if I want to go further with the so-called ‘logic’, TV shows like Mister Roger’s Neighborhood and Sesame Streets should be considered as blights to the American TV industry because they are intentionally made for and are beloved by children.

It is obvious the so-called ‘criticism’ is born out of desperation instead of good judgement. The desperation to make said creators look as bad as possible compels the so-called ‘critics’ to throw reason out of the window, dehumanise children and throw them under the bus.

There is an irony in this:

I am not great with children and I am certain many of the so-called ‘critics’ are the exact opposite. Yet, I am not the one who demonises children.

But then, being socially adept is not the same as being genuinely nice. If anything, your social adeptness can be used to hide the snake in you.

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The problem with imperial system…

… Is not on the system itself. It is on the people who use it.

As a non-American who definitely uses the metric system, I genuinely don’t mind if people use the imperial one. If Americans want to preserve it for cultural reasons and for its perceived playfulness, I don’t mind it at all.

What I do mind is them insisting that imperial system is the best system.

Let’s see…

1 mile is equal to 8 furlongs, is equal to 1760 yards, is equal to 5280 feet, is equal to 63.360 inches. Compare that to their metric counterparts in which 0.001 kilometre is equal to 0.01 hectometre, is equal to 0.1 decametre, is equal to 1 metre, is equal to 10 decimetres, is equal to 100 centimetres, is equal to 1000 millimetres.

From that one paragraph alone, you can see how metric system is a base 10 measurement system in which conversion from one unit to another can be done by simply moving the decimal point; the existence of the metric staircase eases the learning process. Heck, throughout my school life as a math-hating student, metric system was one of the very few things I had no problems learning about in math classes!

The values of imperial units, on the other hand, do not form a consistent pattern and it forbids us from having an all-inclusive conversion method; we are forced to memorise one conversion method for each pair of units. I don’t know how people who struggle with math survive in America.

If anything, the name ‘imperial system’ feels like a misnomer because the word ‘system’ means a group of interconnected things…and imperial units do not naturally interconnect with each other; we have to manufacture the connections ourselves!

Okay, that’s a bit misleading.

Back in the day, most people (presumably) wouldn’t find any of the existing measurement systems unsystematic as every single one of them was unsystematic; comparing defective things with each other would not reveal their own defects.

But, nowadays, the metric system has entered the stage and the comparison reveals a juxtaposition for everyone to behold! Believing in imperial’s non-existing superiority is no longer excusable!

And no, it is not a matter of differing opinions. My argument is based on the numbers themselves and they clearly show how orderly and precise the metric system is!

The imperial worshippers either have not learned the metric system but they are arrogant enough to have strong opinions about it*… or they have learned it but their attachment to traditions clouds their judgement.

Don’t know which one’s worse.

And no, imperial does not contribute to America’s scientific triumph.

Like the rest of the world, American scientists use metric because they are also aware of its efficiency. The triumph exists not because of imperial’s mass usage, but despite of it.

Just like how the world respects America not because of the existence of Americans like Donald Trump, but despite of it. The world respects America because of Americans who are the exact opposites of him!

 

*Admittedly, I can get too opinionated in topics I know little about. But, I am confident that’s not case regarding ‘metric vs imperial’ because I have studied both.

I attended one international school and my British math textbook used imperial units as Brits still use both systems. After I started becoming an internet addict, I used a chunk of my spare time studying imperial units as well.

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What a fugly piece of work

 

In a busy part of Jakarta, there used to be a rather infamous art installation called Getah Getih, created by artist Joko Avianto. This is the picture:

Getah Getih.jpg

Every time I look at it, I can’t help by thinking how fugly it was. It looked like carrots that were so deformed, they almost looked like a reclining nude body. Half a billion Rupiah was spent on that monstrosity. As the governor claimed it was meant to be a temporary installation, it was eventually disassembled… thankfully.

In a comment section of a newspaper’s Facebook page, me and other readers bashed the artwork for its ugliness. Unsurprisingly, there was that one person who thought the installation was beautiful and the haters were uncultured peasants.

He praised the installation because it was made out of bamboo, which he said was traditionally Indonesian, and it supposedly signified the battlefield flag of the soldiers of an ancient kingdom; I did find out Getah Getih was the flag of the Majapahit kingdom.

The more I think about those arguments, the more I find them idiotic.

The installation was an abstractly-shapedbamboo-based public art work that supposedly depicted a historical event, located in an arguably westernised Indonesian big city dominated by concrete-dependent international style architecture, asphalt roads, machinery and strong disregard of the country’s own heritages.

As it was meant to be public, it had to blend in with the surrounding; but, instead of doing so and -as it was meant to be artistic- enthralling the urban inhabitants with visual beauty, the ill-conceived contrast made itself a giant eyesore. Being different just for the sake of it is a good advice… if you don’t care about contributing anything.

If Getah Getih was a stand-alone installation in an art exhibition or used as a decoration of an indoor place with ‘traditional’ or ‘natural’ aesthetics,  it would be a lot more beautiful!

And surely, if you want to teach the historically-illiterate masses about history, shouldn’t you be careful when utilising abstract shapes and make sure they cannot be interpreted too loosely? Even after knowing what the title means, I still cannot unsee the deformed carrots. At least, make the shapes more clear-cut!

I know I sound like bashing the artist. But, I have seen photos of his other works and they actually look beautiful! Even without any thematic contexts being presented, their abstract bamboo aesthetics harmonise really well with their surroundings; I love The Continuous Stage way more! The problem seems to lie on the poorly-thought-out commission.

Oh, and about that pretentious snob (no, I am not talking about myself)…

He said his museum visits made him an art expert. When I said I also had visited museums, he chastised me for being conceited. So, you know, he was hypocrite…

… And too delighted of himself.

He patted himself on the back simply for calling an art work ‘beautiful’ and ‘meaningful’. While this sounds like an angry and far-fetched conjecture (which it is), I would not be surprised  if he call a literal pile of shit ‘beautiful’ and ‘meaningful’ if it was presented as an art work that represents human shittiness. As much as I love the arts, I would never praise any art works willy-nilly, regardless of their styles and themes.

I also don’t know why he was so obsessed with bamboo; Indonesia is not the only place where it is a traditional material. But, even if it is exclusively ours, I don’t see how it makes an art work more profound. If there is a bamboo art work that glorifies our colonial past, I doubt that person would see anything profound about it (or maybe, he would).