The real American power…

… Is actually soft.

I am referring to the concept of “soft power”, by the way. And no, I am not sorry for that shitty introduction.

I keep seeing and hearing comments made by zealously patriotic Americans about how their beloved country is respected by the world because of its hard power.

It is true to a certain extent. If you are one of those non-Americans who easily fall for American exceptionalism and who love jerking off to images of real life violence which America is responsible for while simultaneously getting unprotected, rough butt sex from America, you would drool over its hard power.

But, most non-Americans aren’t like that. When their governments do bow down to the US, they do so out of not wanting to get screwed on the world stage and NOT out of genuine respect.

Basically, projections of hard power, more of than not, are a form of bullying. Bullying with dire global consequences.

But, do you know what people all over the world love? American culture.

Experts of international relations have been arguing how affinity to foreign cultures will lead us to have more positive views of their countries of origin.

And because of my own life experiences (which I have to assert as entirely mine), this is something I am not surprised about.

Despite their constant criticism (bashing) of the USA, many of my fellow non-Americans (in this case, they are mostly Indonesians) can’t get themselves to wish literal death upon the country.

And they all have one thing in common: they openly enjoy American culture.

Apart from buying foods from American fast food restaurants and cafes, they go to cinemas mostly for Hollywood flicks, pay for cable TV to Hollywood TV shows and pay to attend concerts of American musicians.

How about the propaganda present in Hollywood films?

From what I notice, even some of the most dimwitted folks I know can easily acknowledge the propagandistic content of their sources of entertainment.

They know that they don’t easily fall for the infamously shameless American propaganda and they also feel Americans can entertain the world like no others. That’s why they are relatively unperturbed about it.

Me personally? A bulk of my favourite entertainers and artists are Americans; without them, I would have nothing but contempt for the United States of America.

Oh, and I should say ordinary Americans also contribute to their country’s positive image.

The last time I was surrounded by Americans, it was almost two decades ago when I visited the US as a young boy. I don’t remember interacting much with the locals.

But, if one sees the anecdotes posted by many non-Americans online, they frequently perceive the Americans as friendly, easy-going, open-minded, educated and charitable people and often seen as the antitheses of the US government (somewhat debatable).

The more negative anecdotes are often the results of interacting with the stereotypically jingoistic, war-mongering, fear-mongering, bubble-dwelling and proudly anti-intellectual Americans.

You know, Americans like Donald “Make America Great Again” Trump.

Americans who think their Godawful, alpha-wannabe attitudes will gain them genuine respect from the world.

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Feminists and anti-feminists: a common ground

*puts on a mask*

Some people support feminism because they believe it is the most effective way to coerce women into embracing western liberal values.

They shame women who willingly embrace modest fashion, who willingly choose to become stay-at-home moms, who willingly choose to become abstinent and who willingly choose to become/stay religious.

Their reasoning? They want to liberate women from the oppressive and medieval eastern values, especially the Islamic ones.

Some people oppose feminism because they want to protect women from western values and coerce them to keep embracing eastern values, particularly the Islamic ones.

They shame women who willingly show the slightest appearances of their skin, hair and bodily curves, who willingly choose to be unmarried and childless and who willingly choose to have active sex lives.

Their reasoning? They want to liberate women from the oppressive and overtly-sexualised western liberal values.

I have to a suggestion for both feminists and anti-feminists:

Why don’t you just make peace with each other?

I mean, it is quite obvious how you actually have something in common with each other: you are advocating to take women’s right to think and act for themselves under the pretense of liberating them.

Wouldn’t your goals become easier to achieve when you find a common ground with the “others” and form a gigantic and influential alliance?

Together, you can oppress women to the fullest.

*takes off the mask*

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I support colonialism…..

*puts on mask*

… because I am insecure little bitch of a citizen who needs extreme empowerment.

There is nothing more gratifying than the country I unwillingly was born into invade foreign territories and pretend they are destined by the universe to be ours.

It is even more gratifying that colonialism can also destroy the cultures and economies of the colonies. That way, they can suffer from extreme cultural and economic dependence on the motherlands, giving them even greater power projection on the world stage.

And I hate how my beloved country of Indonesia is not harsh enough in its colonisation of the Papuans.

The problem is Indonesia’s official motto is Bhinneka Tunggal Ika. Unity in diversity. It forces us to wear a pluralistic mask, hiding the real face of our country.

Why can’t we be just like the Americans, the English, the French and the Japanese in the old days? If they keep doing what they were doing, so-called “languages” like Hawaiian, Gaelic, Basque and Ainu would cease to exist and the world would be a better place.

If it were my call, I would do my best to annihilate those savage Papuan “cultures” by punishing anyone who dare to embrace them and force the embrace of Javanese culture, which is inherently noble, wonderfully anti-egalitarian and is definitely a real, proper culture.

Not only that, I would also encourage skin bleaching and plastic surgery to the Papuans who have the dignity of not wanting to be monkeys.

Seriously, if people call you monkeys, it’s your fault for looking like ones.

I also hate how the Papuan provinces are given political autonomy. Literally the only provinces that deserve it are the ones who embrace Javanese supremacy!

If anything, not only I oppose the transfer of power, I also believe the Papuans should be stripped of their power to vote!

As they are subhumans, they are unable to make any good decisions. Therefore, they should not be allowed to vote for the presidents and MPs!

Heck, I even believe they should not choose their own mayors! Everything has to be entirely up to Jakarta!

Of course, I have to be fair as well.

Despite my criticism, I also have to praise my country for making Papuans too economically dependent on western Indonesia, to the point they have to survive the high living cost with their pathetically meagre incomes.

Finally and most importantly, I also love how the government has successfully bred a morally-corrupt, violent and historically-illiterate citizenry.

When Papuans committed riots after a racist incident, it did not take much time for many Indonesians to condemned them for rioting and not spending a single second on condemning the racists.

Basically, they thought the Papuans were rioting for no good reasons. Hopefully, many probably still do.

If I think about it, the pluralistic official motto is a great tool for Indonesia’s colonialism of western Papua.

Most of us believe the official motto is the reflection of reality instead of a mere guidance. As a result, we see our country as the most tolerant and peaceful in the world despite its glaring bouts of sectarian violence.

Not only that, we also fool ourselves into believing the falsehood about how Papuans prayed to be rescued by the peaceful and tolerant Indonesians from the colonialist and racist Dutch monsters, even though annexation can be executed without the people’s consent and is a common method used by colonial and imperial powers.

We greatly mistreat the Papuans and then we gaslight them into believing that the mistreatments are societal well-being. Well-being they supposedly would have never enjoyed if they remain as Dutch subjects.

While I hate how we are too soft on them, I have to acknowledge that we have been giving them the deserving fingers for decades.

Now, it is time for us to give even more fingers.

*takes off the mask*

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The problem with forgiveness

We think we have the right to forgive every person who have committed wrongdoings.

But, we don’t.

The prerogative to forgive does not immediately apply to every person in existence. It only immediately so to those who are directly affected by the wrongdoings.

If you are directly affected by one of those wrongdoings, you are literally the only person who has the right to forgive those who have harmed you.

Your loved ones have the right to forgive once you have manifested WHOLEHEARTED forgiveness. After they have expressed THE EXACT SAME THING or AFTER THEY ARE DECEASED, the right now transfers to your acquaintances and also to complete strangers who have heard about your suffering.

But, what if you are deceased?

Obviously, that right immediately goes to your loved ones. Oh, and when I said “loved ones”, I meant it. Your immediate family members do not immediately count ones.

Just because you are related to someone, that does not mean you love one another. If anything, it is no secret that family members have not only trivialised the sufferings of their so-called loved ones, but also have intentionally inflicted pain on them.

If your best friends have shown how much they care about you more than your immediate family have, then they are your true “loved ones” and your family can fuck themselves!

I believe this problem exists because we communalise sufferings.

We believe in the idea that if one person suffers, every other person definitely feels the exact same pain. We believe that there is nothing wrong about pretending to feel the exact same pain.

Even if someone experiences the exact same affliction that you have or had, it does not mean you fully understand his/her suffering. Literally everybody is different; how you live your life won’t always work on other people. Forgiveness is not a universally effective antidote.

Those who suffer do not need our pretense. They need our empathy.

Empathy does not require us to pretend. Empathy requires us to simply acknowledge that what they are experiencing is painful to them, even though we don’t feel the pain ourselves.

—-

This anger of mine has been slowly brewing for years and the brewing started to intensify when I saw internet users who believed the Nazi war criminals should be forgiven and we should just drop the idea of prosecuting them just because they are old.

It deeply disturbs me because not only they trivialised the severity of human atrocity committed by the Nazis, they don’t even have any family members who endured the concentration camps.

Well, I am inclined to believe so because they didn’t mention having victims and survivors of the holocaust as family members. If they want their pleas to be more emotionally impactful, shouldn’t they mention about having those relatives?

Either they suck in persuasion or they are assholes.

My anger peaked when one of those plea makers cited the post-genocide Rwanda as a stellar example of forgiveness.

Except, it is a dreadful example.

When interviewed by Humans of New York, Rwandan president Paul Kagame said the country decided to not punish those who partook in the genocide.

Why? Because he said it was impossible to imprison almost the entire country.

Essentially, what Rwanda did was not forgiveness. What they did was absolution, a state-sanctioned formality, which itself driven by admittedly much needed yet still callous sense of pragmatism.

It is just dishonest to call this “forgiveness”, isn’t it?

Forgiveness is supposed to benefit humanity. Instead, it is being used to undermine it.

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Religious clothing and secularism

I’ll be straight forward: I disagree with the ban of religious attire in certain public areas and I disagree for two reasons.

Reason one: the blurred boundary between cultures and religion.

Take holidays for example. Christmas is a Christian (originally Pagan) festival celebrated by staunch atheists in the western world and the Laïcité-embracing French government, despite its prevailing spiritual significance among devoted Christians. Halloween, another holiday of Pagan/Christian origin, is also celebrated by secular and religious westerners alike. Nowruz is a Zoroastrian holiday celebrated by Persians all over the world, including the ones living in Afghanistan and Iran, despite its prevailing spiritual significance among Zoroastrians.

In much of the world, we name the planets (and one former planet) in our solar system based on Roman Gods; NASA even has the Project Apollo, which is named after the Roman God. Garuda is a creature in Hindu mythology and yet it is one of the national symbols of Indonesia, a predominantly-Muslim country; in fact, none of of the country’s national symbols are of Islamic origin.

When it comes to headcovering, many people associate it with Islamic dress. But, everyone with basic religious literacy knows it is NOT an exclusively Islamic thing; it has been used for non-Islamic religious rituals and even for entirely cultural reasons! That’s what both Islamophobes and zealous Muslims refuse to acknowledge.

Reason two: it is just fucking clothes, for fuck’s sake!

Okay, I don’t actually believe that.

I do think what we wear matters depending on the occasions as we can emit impressions, both accurate and inaccurate, to others without uttering a single word. For example: one would never visit a funeral while adorned in party costumes; if one wants to be perceived positively, wear the proper outfit. One must always be mindful of one’s own image. While I try not to judge how people dress, I cannot expect them to do the same.

But, some people don’t share my mindset. Instead, they genuinely believe our outfits are literally everything and therefore, it is acceptable for them to judge a person’s dignity and even morality solely based on how he/she dresses. I disagree with it because I have an approach called ‘living in reality’.

Suits and ties are often associated with dignity, despite the fact that sleazy TV journalists, politicians, lawyers and businessmen are almost always seen wearing them. If I have to bring up Muslims, I have met ones who genuinely believe their adherence to strict supposedly religiously-obligated dress codes make them morally superior than me, despite the fact that they are anything but moral as shown by their supports of discrimination and their support of/unwillingness to condemn extremism.

In the context of state secularism, it is often believed that donning religious attire is an indication of one’s commitment to put one’s religion above everything else. I have met hijabi Muslim women who think Islam should be their countries’ only state religion and their fellow Muslims should be given more rights than the non-Muslims.

But, I also have met hijabi women who are either apathetic about the topic of state secularism OR are in favour of governance that respect the society’s plurality. I also have met non-hijabi women who are apathetic about this issue and do not see anything wrong with the presence of religions in public schools. In fact, I know one Indonesian Muslim woman who hates hijab and supports the policy of banning hijab… who also refuse to vote for non-Muslim candidates in the recent Indonesian parliamentary election.

Admittedly, this argument of mine won’t convince many people. Not only it is very anecdotal (and we live in a world where we even don’t take peer-reviewed researchers seriously), it is also challenges the prevailing idea of state secularism.

It challenges the notion that appearing secular is the same as actually being secular. It challenges the notion that secularism can be achieved simply by removing religiosity out of sight. It challenges the idea that appearances can or should be taken at face value.

France, a place where religious attires are banned from public schools and government buildings, is arguably the most (in)famous secular state and often hailed as a model of state secularism. Yet, it also gives exemptions to the Alsace region, which funds religious activities of Calvinists, Lutherans, Catholics and religious Jews and makes religious classes compulsory.

Pre-Erdogan Turkey officially banned hijab in certain places… and yet it already had Religious Affairs Directorate which controlled mosques and appointed Imams, who were officially recognised as civil servants. Iran under the so-called extremely-secular anti-hijab Pahlavi dynasty also had similar approaches regarding religious affairs.

So much for Laïcité, eh?

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How NOT to introduce people to new cultures

No, I am not basing it on my real life experiences. I am too much of a hermit to directly immerse myself in different cultures, too much of a hermit to even bother interacting with fellow human beings.

And yes, instead of writing about how to introduce people to new cultures, I prefer to write about how NOT to. I am so easily drawn to negativity.

My thoughts are based on what I have observed on Youtube videos and their comment sections. Buzzfeed videos produced years ago still linger in my mind because they featured American reactors of foreign dishes who were often lambasted by the comment sections not only for their ‘disrespectful’ reactions, but also for their limited tastebuds. But, I was more annoyed by the commenters than I was by the American reactors. Still am.

Years after discovering Buzzfeed, I found Simon and Martina who made videos about their life in South Korea before moving to Japan. They often took a very contentious tone when speaking about South Korea which angered many Koreans and Koreaboos, ignoring how the couple still emotionally-attachment to the country even after leaving it.

Right around the same time, I also discovered Englishman Chris Broad who initially made sarcasm-laced videos about some basic information about Japan. Then, as his career progresses, he makes more travelling content. Despite being grumpier and more sarcastic than Simon and Martina, his honest assertions about the country he lives in somehow feel less contentious than the couple’s regarding Korea. But, he is not without controversy, which I will discuss it later.

Through Simon and Martina, I was introduced to Josh Carrott AKA the Korean Englishman; took me a year to check out his videos. Unlike them, he almost has entirely positive view of South Korea. I am usually suspicious of anyone who have utterly positive opinions about anything; it often comes off as insincere. But, with Josh, I don’t have that problem at all and I will also explain why later.

I also have to mention Life Where I’m From, a Youtube channel run by Canadian Greg Lam who documents the life in Japan. While the Chris Broad and Simon and Martina occasionally make videos that can count as documentaries, Greg is the biggest documentarian among them.

Not only he interviews significantly more individuals, he is also a lot more methodical on which information he wants to display, on how he obtains it and on how he presents them; he also sees entertainment values as supplementaries. As a result, he does a great job in destroying negative stereotypes about Japan while simultaneously putting more attention on the downsides of life in Japan. He does a better job in portraying the country with nuances than many of those so-called journalists.

Now, to the reason why you clicked in the first place.

For me, before you even consider introducing people to new cultures, you should NEVER do the following:

Use stereotypes

We all know bigots love to use stereotypes. But, the thing is even people who claim to be ‘tolerant’ and interested in other cultures fall for them as well; instead of using negative stereotypes, they use the positive or neutral ones.

Yes, they are not negative. But, they are still stereotypes. They still see their fellow human beings as the ‘others’ who are devoid of human intricacies. It is still dehumanising.

Excluding Josh Carrott and Buzzfeed hosts, the aforementioned Youtubers frequently described how Koreans and/or Japanese people behave and, on a surface level, the descriptions do sound stereotypical.

But, if you listen closely, they actually debunk some of the stereotypes and reveal things we never expect from either nation. That’s because the descriptions are NOT based on hearsay, they are based on said Youtubers’ personal experiences interacting with the actual people!

Unlike stereotypes which are entirely simplistic and rigid, human beings are complex and unpredictable creatures who will never fit into any preconceived moulds, no matter how much you force them. The more you know them, the more you feel guilty about ever forcing them in the first place.

While he describes Japanese people as generally unassertive and shy, Chris Broad also had an easy time making his Japanese friends and colleagues -some of whom were older than him- eagerly learn English profanities; he knows that Japanese people are human beings, NOT ‘cute, cuddly anime characters’ as he put it in a subsequent video. In fact, his friend Natsuki has no qualm about doing antics publicly (e.g. dressing and acting like Zorro) and approaching a complete stranger just to befriend him/her, which was how the two met.

One of my favourite Greg Lam’s video is The Rules That Rule Japan, which title is self-explanatory. To summarise it, Japan is ruled by written and unwritten rules that seemingly contradict each other and, depending on which rules, the breaching is not always considered a faux pas. Basically, if you want to know how it is like living in Japan, you’ve got to live in Japan.

And it is not just Japan. Virtually every country on earth also shares similar situations regarding rules. Mind you, Japan is a very homogenous country and yet it is a very complex society to break down effortlessly. Now, just imagine breaking down more populated and more diverse countries like my home country Indonesia. If a country’s description feels so simple, then it is very likely infiltrated with inaccuracies.

A year after leaving South Korea for Japan, Simon and Martina made a video titled Japan or Korea: Did We Make The Right Choice? in which they expressed their preference towards Japan as a place to live. They were honest and uninhibited with their criticism about the living conditions in South Korea. But, it seems people don’t even bother to watch until the end.

The couple also explicitly made a disclaimer about how they were speaking from their own personal experiences and acknowledged that others might have diverging impressions about either country. Many in the comment sections, presumably both Koreaphobes and zealous Korean nationalists, ignore the disclaimer and thoughtlessly spew their dogmatic vitriol.

They intentionally ignore the video’s nuances just for the sake of affirming their versions of ‘reality’. They also ignore that Simon and Martina still see South Korea as their second home; even Simon said randomly meeting a Korean person in Japan made him feel at home.

Thanks to Chris Broad and Greg Lam, my interest in Japan actually increases and thanks to Simon and Martina, I have actually become interested in South Korea. My interest increases and emerges NOT despite of the scores of scathing tones, but because of it.

The imperfection makes both countries feel more real and human. The older I get, the more I actually find absolute positivity nauseating.

Be extreme

… And my hatred of absolute positivity is the reason why, as I mentioned before, I hate those who made negative comments on Buzzfeed’s food reaction videos more than their trashy American reactions.

For those commenters, NOT liking the dishes was not an option. They believe the reactors HAD to like them! For them, not liking those dishes was akin to spitting on their faces. They genuinely remind me of over-zealous fandoms.

Correct me if I am wrong. But, those reactors volunteered to be in the videos; basically, no matter how unrefined their behaviours were, they were willing to try to new things and that is something we must appreciate! To this day, my willingness to try new things is still too minimal.

I previously mentioned Josh the Korean Englishman whose (seemingly) absolutely positive view about South Korea does not put me off; nowadays, anything that seems will immediately put off. I believe it has something to do with how he expresses his love of Korea.

Some of his videos can be summarised as ‘foreigners (mostly English) trying Korean foods’ and those foreigners are not only honest about whether they like the foods or not, they sometimes make jokes about them… and you know what? Josh was not offended at all!

He does not care whether they love the food or not, he just wants to share an aspect of one of his beloved cultures. If anything, his passionate yet civilised tactic actually works! His friends end up appreciating Korean culture. Even his mom and his best friend’s father, whom have been repeatedly described as ‘very English’, also end up appreciating Korean culture!

But, even if you are not a hostile, you should be methodical in how you introduce a certain culture. Don’t go straight to the ‘weird’ stuffs.

If you want to introduce someone to Japanese cuisine, don’t go straight to sushi, sashimi or natto. Not every country in the world eats raw meat and foul-smelling, fermented soybeans. Take it easy and go with tempura and ramen first, which I know will make easy starts as fried foods and noodle soups are common all over the world.

If I were tasked to introduce Indonesian cuisine to foreigners, I would consider their backgrounds. If they are of East Asian descent, I would start with Chinese-Indonesian dishes. If they are of South Asian descent, I would start with gulai dishes which are considered as ‘Indonesian curries’. Unless the foreigners are from other Southeast Asian countries, I would think twice about starting with Sundanese and Javanese cuisine due to them being almost entirely indigenous.

If you go extreme -whether in how you behave or how you determine the starting points-, you would deter others from being adventurous.

Be arrogant

I do believe the ability to appreciate different cultures is a sign of sophistication. But, I still think there is no excuse for self-conceit. Our relatively broad cultural palates exist because the cultural exposures we have experienced…

…And those exposures exist because of our fellow human beings. You would not be as sophisticated if it wasn’t for them.

I used to be smug about my cultural sophistication. I was able (and still am) to appreciate the both foreign cultures and the distinct regional Indonesian ones, particularly in the forms of foods and music. But then, I realised that my tastes in both have something to do with me being a citizen of Indonesia, a culturally diverse country that also willingly accepts foreign cultures; I have lived in the Greater Jakarta area, which is unsurprisingly diverse, and my hometown Batam has not one but five dominant ethnic groups and is located near Singapore and Malaysia.

When it comes to my music taste, I also have to credit one of my music teachers and my mom. My teacher introduced me to Mahavishnu Orchestra, which was my gateway to more complicated music and my mom had the 1999 version of Badai Pasti Berlalu CD, which was my gateway to quality Indonesian pop.

My relatively-sophisticated taste is a product of my socio-cultural environment and I can confidently say the same thing can be said about yours… and Josh Carrott’s.

His attachment to Korean culture was born out of his sense of isolation as the only British student in an international school in China. It was the Korean students, the school’s main demographic, who took care of him and consequentially exposing him to the culture. If they didn’t do so and/or he decided to transfer to an English boarding school, he would not have his dual Korean-English identity. There would be no Korean Englishman!

In the case of Simon and Martina, Chris Broad and Greg Lam, it is different from Josh’s and mine. Their appreciation of foreign cultures emerged or increased after they moved abroad; Greg moved because he is married to a Japanese citizen while the others decided to teach English as a foreign language. Without their decisions which require them to leave their national and cultural bubble, they would not have the cultural sophistication they have now.

And because our experiences have definitely happened to other human beings, it is very reasonable to assert that we are NOT the only ones who possess cultural sophistication.

…..

Once again, I have to remind you that I have never done anything that is remotely similar to what those Youtubers are doing. I am basing my words on my observation of Youtube’s content.

Yes, I do not have any peer-reviewed studies supporting what I am arguing above. But, let us use common sense here: do you seriously think hostility, conceit and the tendency to stereotype are desirable traits in an individual?

Whether you believe it or not, those traits are off-putting. Embracing even just one of them means you are repelling others from liking you; the only ones you attract are those who share your repellent quality and are also avoided by more well-refined personalities.

If people are disgusted by you, how do you expect them to love what you love? If anything, not only others won’t end up loving what you love, they will end up hating it. It does not matter whether it is of good quality or not.

You, the enthusiast, are seen as a representative of the thing you love. Because you are such an abhorrent individual, many will assume the thing you love is equally abhorrent. I mentioned ugly personalities attract each other and it seems some people believe the same principle applies to non-living entities as well; many people thought the extremist tendency of Steven Universe fandom manifested the show’s poor quality, despite having never watched a single episode.

Yes, it is fallacious to deem something solely based on the behaviours of its enthusiasts. But, it is also wrong to carry ourselves so dementedly, we present outsiders an extremely distorted view of our fellow enthusiasts and, most importantly, the thing we love.

We love it so much, we make others hate it.

……

Now, those of you who are not guilty of such abhorrence may think I am making a big deal out of nothing and I am like a cat fighting his own reflection in the mirror; admittedly, I can be that neurotic and I have lost count how many mirrors I have smashed. But, if you have ever interacted with your fellow human beings online and offline, you would acknowledge that common sense is not common.

If you watched Buzzfeed videos many years, you would remember how malicious the comment sections can be against the hosts simply for not liking certain dishes. Even if you were never interested in such content, I am sure you have interacted with fandoms who think they can abuse anyone into loving their beloved idols and works of entertainment.

The idea that common sense being common is an exaggeration.

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Tradition: a misguided argument against mandatory hijab

Yes, it is indeed a widely-used argument. But, believe it or not, popularity does not and will never determine rightness. A million people can be wrong. Well, ‘wrong’ is too broad of a word; ‘ignorant’ is more fitting accurate.

I hate it when ‘traditions’ are used as arguments against novelties. If I ask you to define the word, you would probably answer it as ‘old’ things; my dictionary defines it as things that have been around for many generations. The more I think about it, the more I don’t see how any of those definitions support the arguments.

Old things used to be young. Being passed from one generation to another means there was a starting point. Those definitions insinuate that traditions started as novelties which existence were initially opposed by the reactionary voices in their respective societies, insinuate that novelties will become traditions later in the future.

Of course, one may also argue novelties must be conceived within our own borders. We should never let foreign powers dictate our identities and we must always thrive to be ourselves. If you are an Indonesian Muslim, why become an Arab? But, too bad humans don’t live in vacuums.

Of all the things we consider as traditional to certain places, lots (and, depending on your backgrounds, probably the majority of them) are “foreign”. The traditional food we eat and the traditional arts we pretend to care about would probably would not exist without outside influences.

If you think your country is unique, just remember it is not the only one that has Mother Nature in its mythology, not the only one that has flutes and drums among its traditional music instruments and it is certainly not the only one where cheese, noodles and fried battered foods are traditionally eaten.

Of course, as an Indonesian, I can use my country as an example.

This land of Austronesians (and Melanesians as well) has been influenced by foreigners since forever. Mie ayam, nasi goreng and pangsit would not exist without the Chinese. Sindhens, gulais and Garuda would not exist without the South Asians. Keroncong, tanjidor and pastel would not exist without the Portuguese. Klappertart and kastengel would not exist without the Dutch. Nasi kebuli and martabak would not exist without the dreaded Arabs. Apart from the English loanwords, our national language is also laced with Indian, Chinese, Dutch, Portuguese and, yes, even Arabic ones.

Islamic extremism is indeed something to be fearful about. But, it is pointless to fear Arabisation when some of our supposedly beloved ancestors ‘endured’ it and, in fact, had their identities enriched thanks to it.

Okay, it is a very simplistic statement. Foreign influences can both enrich and devalue our heritage. It depends whether the existing traditions are ‘improved’ or wiped out entirely. But, in the context of the previous paragraph, I solely use the word ‘enrich’ because some Indonesians don’t realise that their so-called beloved heritage has Middle Eastern influences in it.

Should I also mention that Islam is a religion of fucking Middle Eastern origin? I mean, if they really fear Arabisation, why don’t they ditch a religion that uses Arabic as its fucking liturgical language and start practicing animism like their ancestors did?

In case you haven’t noticed, I draw a strict line between Arabophilia and Islamic extremism. The former is an entirely secular endeavour while the latter often goes along with the embrace of Arab culture… or to be precise, what they feel is Arab culture.

In reality, there is no such thing as Arab culture, only cultures. Plural. A country is considered ‘Arab’ because it uses literary Arabic as its national language, NOT because of its cuisine, clothing, arts and brand of Islam. The Maghreb, the Horn of Africa, the Arabian Gulf and the Levant are culturally and religiously distinct from one another.

If you actually learn the basics of Arab cultures, you would realise those Muslim extremists have little knowledge about the traditions; if they really are into them, they would wear agal, eat hummus, drink Arak, watch MTV Arabia, do belly dancing and, you know, actually speak Arabic as their fucking first language!

And, just like the Islamists, many moderate Muslims also know nothing about Arab cultures. They see long white garments and hear Arabic-sounding words and they think the Arabs are invading! While I am with their anti-extremist stances, I despise how they use this crisis to justify their anti-Arab prejudice.

Moderate Muslims constantly claim they are against prejudice despite their blatantly prejudiced attitudes.. How can you defend yourselves from your barbaric enemies when you keep pointing the guns towards your feet? How can you fight the epidemic when you falsely see yourself as immune?

Also, those people forget how Indonesia is being infiltrated by contemporary western cultures which have done a great job wiping out our traditions. While the west is indeed more free than the Arab world, the double standard is too infuriating for any reasonable humans to ignore.

And I haven’t talked about the misogyny yet.

The title of this article clearly says ‘mandatory hijab’. I believe the amount of exposed hair and skin is none of our business. It is entirely up to them if they want to wear shorts and show their cleavages. If the sight of skimpily-dressed women is too distracting for you, just simply avert your gaze! Your problem, not theirs!

And the same thing can be said about hijab.

Unless the women are involved in activities where covering up can possibly result in bodily injuries, the amount of covered hair and skin is also none of our business! It is up to them if they prefer to cover their hair and skin. If the sight of ‘modest’ fashion is too distracting for you, just simply avert your gaze! Once again, your problem, not theirs!

There is a frequently-touted rhetoric that hijab is inherently oppressive which means literally every hijabi is an oppressed, rescue-worthy woman and banning the garb is the only mean to do so. This so-called expression of feminism champion women’s rights to wear anything they want… by taking their right to wear anything they want.

Such rhetoric is often divulged either by westerners or Uncle Toms who romanticise the west. I have never heard it being embraced by my fellow Indonesians and, frankly, I am not surprised. Unlike westerners who champion oppression of women under the pretense of feminism, Indonesians never bother to do so.

Heck, they even never bother utilising the anti-extremism pretense. Indonesians, including the ones who identify as moderate Muslims, are very open about their misogyny. They are proud of their endeavours of championing subservience among housewives and holding women to higher standards of sexual mores than men… and they are certainly proud of their shaming of women who cover up and refuse to fulfil the ‘traditional’ dress codes.

No, I don’t think Indonesian moderate Muslims are as bad as the extremists; the former certainly have stricter morals than the latter. Between those two factions, taking sides would not be much of a dilemma. But, both still have some things in common with each other and anti-feminist approach to life is certainly one of them. They are holding the country back from becoming more civilised.

To summarise my rambling…

Using Arabisation to justify one’s anti-hijab sentiment is uneducated, prejudiced and misogynistic.

Uneducated because it falsely thinks humans live in vacuums and pretends that intercultural interactions is a recent human phenomenon.

Prejudiced because it is an excuse to dehumanise the ‘others’.

Misogynistic because it is used to shame women for refusing to dress ‘traditionally’ and preferring to dress like ‘foreigners’.

You geniuses will never be the ones who defeat extremism and you certainly will never be the ones who advance women’s rights.

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How to ‘feel’ powerful?

*puts on a mask*

Yes, I said ‘feel’. Let’s face it, you know you are not powerful and will never be so! You will always be a pathetic bottom dweller that the upper dwellers will feast on! That’s a sad fact you have to accept!

But, that doesn’t mean you cannot ‘feel’ powerful. You can induce the feeling by fooling others and yourself about your make-believe power. Of course, I am talking about being a bully.

Before becoming one, you have to choose your victims. It always depend on where you are.

When at schools, you can pick on students who are poor, physically unfit or just plain different. When you see yourself as a member of society at large, you can pick on the ones who belong to marginalised groups like women, the poor, racial minorities, religious minorities, gender and sexual minorities and refugees. Basically, choose ones who most likely will not be protected by the authorities.

After you have determined your potential victims, you can start bullying them. Immediately, you will feel like a much more powerful! And trust me, you would not be the only one who senses your actually-non-existing power.

Indifferent bystanders, bullying apologists and even your victims will acknowledge its existence. In fact, the more your victims’ powerlessness intensifies, the more they will acknowledge it!

Oh, and apologists are your best friends! Not only they will defend your right to bully because they don’t see anything wrong with the bullying, they will also condemn or even punish your victims for having the dignity to fight back! Trust me, those apologists tend to be influential wherever they are. Their words are often taken for granted.

But, even if you don’t have apologists to back you up, rhetoric can be your weapon. You can defend yourself by slandering your victims.

Tell everyone that the weird kids in school will grow up as serial killers!

Tell everyone that the gender and sexual minorities are perverts who want to molest our children and/ recruit them to their perverted lifestyles!

Tell everyone that the poor are the ones who hold the economies down because they are greedy animals who oppress the rich!

Tell everyone that empowering women and members of the minorities will lead to men and members of the majority becoming second-class citizens!

Tell everyone that refugees are nothing but a bunch of cowardly rapists and ISIS, MS13 Trojan horses!

Tell everyone that your victims, NOT you, are the ones who commit atrocious acts of inhumanity against their fellow human beings!

Trust me, there will be people who take your words for granted.

And yes, it is that easy to feel powerful.

*takes off the mask*

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A message to ex-fans of The Rewired Soul

Let me start with welcoming words:

Cut your fucking bullshit.

You may think by unsubscribing from Boutté’s channel, you have never validated his toxicity. Well, whether you believe it or not, you had done it.

Not only you enjoy watching him bullying other content creators, you even partook in the activity! You saw him as nothing but an angelic figure whose heart was entirely pure, whose actions were anything but wrong. You demonised his victims for having the guts to defend themselves from the malice and you demonised his critics for defending them. In fact, you were willing to send the SWAT teams to anyone who dared to speak against your prophet.

By partaking in the abuse, you felt like you were doing something for the greater good.

And that ‘nice’ feeling ended when commentary channels started ganging up on him; you were suddenly aware of the toxicity and regretting you were fans of his. But, because of what I just said in the previous paragraph, I don’t believe your realisation and remorse are thoroughly sincere.

How the fuck did you fail to see the bullying right in front of you? Were all of your senses impaired or something? Did you think bullying is an entirely physical act? Or maybe you were dupable enough to easily fall for his phony ‘mental health advocacy’ rhetoric and you thought intentions were everything? While they are in the realm of possibility, I also have a more contentious hypothesis: it is hard to hate the snake in front of you when you are also ones.

Why would you hate it, anyway? Doing so yourselves means you have to hate the snakes in you. Deep down, you are probably glad commentary channels were the first to call him out; that way, you don’t have to embrace contemplation. You don’t have to condemn yourselves for the poisonous human beings you are.

Oh, and don’t forget some of you unsubscribed from him NOT because you were repulsed his abusiveness, but because he lied to YOU. Your standard of morality is so low, you determine a person’s moral integrity NOT by how he/she treats his/her fellow human beings in general, but only by how he/she treats YOU.

Someone or something is a problem only if he/she/it affects your negatively. If not, you wouldn’t see him/her/it as a problem and you would look down on or even berate anyone who does.

The only ex-fans of TRS I truly respect are the ones who are willing to admit their lapse of judgement and their participation in the maliciousness instead of claiming sinlessness, are ones who quickly took heed of his venom-spewing once it surfaced. I have never encountered the former. But, I have encountered the latter lots of times in Youtube videos’ comment sections.

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My thoughts about Trevor Noah

Okay, I should mention the controversy regarding his anti-Semitic jokes. While I do agree jokes don’t always represent a person’s true character, those Jewish jokes are particularly hard for me to handle.

My problem with them is not because they were crude, but because they were not expressed in any appropriate contexts; I have no problem if they are done while playing Cards Against Humanity or the joker mockingly portrays an anti-Semite. So, even though I don’t think Noah is an anti-Semite, I also cannot defend his jokes. I am also not surprised Comedy Central defended him. But, he did have an unlikely defender.

The chairperson of South African Jewish Board Of Deputies.

I can’t say if other South African Jews shared her sentiment. But, she did defend him by saying it was his style of humour and he was just being playful. The fact that a Jewish individual who led a Jewish organisation defended crude Jewish jokes seems mind-boggling to me.

This case convinces me that while there is nothing inherently wrong about getting offended by jokes, we should never do so on the behalf of others; our feelings are ours. Let the actual targets of the jokes decide whether they are offended or not.

The criticism against his past jokes is valid. But, there are other criticism that, to this day, I still find stupid.

First and foremost, some fans of the old Daily Show find Noah not funny. Obviously, not finding someone funny is not a bad thing; humour is subjective after all. But, instead of trying to be actual critics by pointing out the actual flaws in his humour, many prefer to use the ‘my-taste-is-better-than-yours’ argument.

Well, those particular people also have this way of discrediting Noah: just point out that he does not write his own materials! Of course, the method is stupid in so many ways. Not only it inherently does not prove his unfunniness, it shows how they know nothing about him and the entertainment industry.

Trevor Noah is not just a random South African dude Jon Stewart randomly picked. Before The Daily Show, not only he already had an established career, TDS was not even the first American show he had appeared on; prior to his ‘tenure’, he already had years of experience creating his own jokes. When he becomes the host, he is indeed assisted by a team of writers. But, he still writes his own jokes, nonetheless.

Those detractors also don’t realise virtually every scripted entertainment TV show in the US has a team of writers. So, if they really believe what they are saying, that means they believe every late night TV host in the country, including the beloved Jon fucking Stewart, is a talentless hack. Do they seriously think those TV hosts can long monologues almost daily… just by themselves? They are not Gods, they are human beings. If they try to do that, I am sure they would rage quit in less than a month.

If anything, I believe Noah performs much better without the writers. His scripted TDS performances often feel stilted and fail to encompass his trademark intercultural dynamism. The scripts fail to embody his personality. For me, his best performances are his solo stand-ups and his Between-the-scenes videos.

In the latter, not only he has proven himself as skillful in making jokes on the spot, he is able to engage with members of the audience and answer their impromptu questions intelligently and articulately. As much as I love Jon Stewart, I think Noah beats him in those departments.

Now about Noah being a foreigner…

His critics believe his status as a foreigner supposedly can make him emotionally detached from issues affecting Americans. On the surface, the concern seems valid; it is indeed very hard to get passionate about the plights of places you were not born and raised in.

Hard, but not impossible.

Just like Americans who have become invested in other countries’ problems (to the point of being proud interventionists), non-Americans like myself are also preoccupied by America’s internal issues. While the sympathy can be misguided or provoked by gross misinformation, its ability to transcend borders has been proven from time to time.

Americans should also be aware of their status as the world power (never mind Beijing catching up quickly). Like it or not, the world stage constantly focuses its many spotlights on America’s best… and worst. Like it or not, the world knows more about America than America knows about the world. If America can destroy other countries by installing dictators that serve its own national interests, foreigners have the right to join its domestic conversations.

I also believe Noah’s status as a foreigner can be a plus point. Many citizens all over the world, not just Americans, feel invaded when foreigners trespass the conversations. The feeling of being intruded is understandable. But, if we want the conversations to move forward and possibly reaching substantial solutions, we must be perceptive. We must lend our ears to dissenting yet reasonable voices.

And, like it or not, they include ones of well-informed foreigners.

If their words anger us, we should ask ourselves: are we angered by their falsehood or are we angered by their truthfulness? That depends on what kind of citizens we are. If we are ones who believe in our countries’ so-called flawless and inherently moral foundations, then it is obviously the latter.

Speaking for myself, I am strongly benefited by the consideration of foreign perspectives. They gave me lenses that I never knew existed, let alone I could utilise. Thanks to them, I learned something negative and positive about my home country that I had never realised before: while Indonesia is way more tolerant of bigotry than the US is, its embrace of diversity (when occurs) is also more sincere and less likely to be inflicted by feelgood tokenism.

And, if they are willing to listen, Americans can also learn a lot from well-informed foreigners like Trevor Noah.

In one Between-the-scene video, he noticed how South African police officers were more likely to see themselves as citizens with higher civic responsibilities than their American counterparts, who tended to see their badges as tickets to infinite amount of unaccountability.

In another Between-the-scenes video where he got a scathing letter from the French ambassador (who had so much time on his hand, it seemed) for declaring Africa the winner of the world cup, he observed how the US gives rooms to hyphenated identities while France only tolerates ones entirely derived from the la Métropole.

(I also have to add that France looks down on its own regional accents and is very eager to bring its own regional languages, which are not intelligible to French, to extinction; if anything, France seems to derive its identity almost entirely on the Parisian one. Correct me if I am wrong).

His words functioned as reminders to his American audience. They must remember that the police’s job is to protect us, NOT to oppress us. They must acknowledge that inclusiveness, NOT enforced homogeneity, is what makes America admirable on the world stage, it is what makes America great in the first place.

Okay, one may argue hiring him in order to add foreign perspectives is unnecessary; they could have chosen Canadians Jason Jones and Samantha Bee and Brit John Oliver as they also have the ability to add some. But, their backgrounds would not make much difference.

While Canada is an Anglo-Franco country, both Jones and Bee are Anglo-Canadians and they are very much almost indistinguishable from their cousins down south. Oliver is from the UK, which is another Anglo-western country that has been maintaining a strong alliance with the US for many years and sharing similar stances regarding international affairs.

Compared them to South Africa, a country which heritage is not only influenced by the diverse Bantu cultures, but also British, Dutch and Asian ones. Not to mention Noah is a biracial man who grew up under Apartheid and, apart from English, is able to speak Afrikaans -the descendant of Dutch-, German -the native tongue of his Swiss father-, and five Bantu languages.

If either Jones, Bee or Oliver was promoted instead, the shift in the show’s angle would not be as global. It would still be America-centric.

Almost every time I encounter criticism of him, the so-called critics love to make a big deal out of his nationality and act like their taste of humour is objectively the best in the universe. Almost every time, the criticism is far from actually constructive.

I consider myself a fan of his… and yet, I am able to bring myself to criticise him. I have a distaste for his past, edgy jokes and I think him labelling Antifa as ‘vegan ISIS’ shows how he still falls for false equivalences; I am open to being exposed to more of his flaws. But, the ‘haters’ did a horrible job of critiquing him.

If anything, they make me love him even more. If they never pointed out about him having a team of writers behind his back, I would never realised how good of a showman he is. If they never made a big deal out his nationality, I would never see it as an advantage his colleagues lack.

Okay, I make it sounds like all of his critics are just haters; I have no doubt reasonable ones who can provide constructive criticism also exist. But, somehow, the ones I encountered online were indeed just mere haters. If I explore more internet trenches, I am sure I would actually find good reasons to dislike him as a comedian, reasons why he is a horrible successor of The Daily Show.

Hours after I finished the previous paragraph, I just realised I did have encountered a good critique regarding the appointment of Trevor Noah, in which he is compared with Bassem Youssef. Some people may call the comparison unfair. But, I have to acknowledge it has some validity to it.

While Noah’s humour was already laced with cultural commentaries prior to TDS, I would not call him a political comedian; Bassem Youssef, on the other hand, started his entertainment career as one and he had to flee his homeland because of it. Unlike Noah, who was mostly a stand-up comedian, Youssef had made two political comedy shows when he was still in Egypt. While both have cited Jon Stewart as an influence, the latter would have a much easier time being his successor.

Oh, and Youssef is also a foreigner. He would also be able to bring a much more global outlook to TDS.

I do think Noah does a great job hosting. But, I also understand why some people think Youssef is a better choice.

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