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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My initial thoughts about Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery

I am not a gamer. Nowadays, I almost never play any video games; when I was younger, I only played racing games, not ones akin to Zelda and Final Fantasy. So, it is bold and stupid of me to review something which belongs to a realm I have almost zero experience with. But, I cannot help myself from doing it.

I mean, this is a Harry Potter game, after all. As a pothead who has relatively good understanding of the HP universe, I am credible enough to review it, even if I know next to nothing about the medium. But, in this case, I am confident with my game design critique.

Even from the first seconds I played the game, its flaws were immediately obvious: this supposedly interactive media work is anything but. Instead of allowing players to explore the settings in great details, it only allows us to stare at our avatars doing nothing but standing; they move only for doing tasks.

At first, I loved the energy points. The fact that it took four minutes to restore only one encouraged me to drop my phone more often. But, the more I play it, the more I am agitated by it. They force me to undergo choppy and ungratifying pacing, which leave a bad taste in my mouth; if I want a more seamless experience, I have to spend actual money.

God, I hate how on-the-nose the microtransactions are!

If we want to gain energy quicker, we must spend our gems. Sometimes, we need to wait hours for the next task and the only way to speed up the time is to spend some gems. While they are obtainable by attending classes, doing the extra tasks and reaching a new XP level, we never get them in bulks; therefore, spending money is the easiest way out.

One can argue this is how the developers of this free game get their cash; in other situations, I would agree with that sentiment. But, the problem is they also sell galleons which, unlike the gems, are extremely easy to obtain; if you want more cash, just attend more classes.

Thanks to my obsessive tendency to attend the virtual classes (can’t say the same thing about the real ones), even when I don’t have to, my galleons are almost always 50k, the maximum limit; they almost never go below 49k. That’s how easy it is to obtain them. While I can see the validity in the ‘income’ defence, the fact that they sell easily obtainable items show how greedy the people behind-the-scenes are.

If I want to implement a Marxist lens here, the feature is a reflection of real-life economic inequality; if one wants less discomfort, one has to spend more money. Obviously, this implementation does not hold strong ground; surely, the accessibility of education, healthcare and legal defence is more consequential than the ability to experience good gaming immersion. But still, the shameless display of greed is too grotesque to ignore.

The way the classes are designed also does not make much sense. While teachers mostly ask topically relevant questions, they also occasionally ask about irrelevant topics, like the colour of Madam Hooch’s eyes or the name of Dumbledore’s predecessor. To make it even stupider, we also have to answer our classmates’ questions, none of which are relevant to the lessons! But, there are also other features that I love.

You will also require to complete these three tasks: 1. trace your fingers along shaped lines; 2. tap an ever-expanding and shrinking circle and make sure it stops within the given outlines; 3. tap an icon in a vertical bar, make sure it stays within the marked area until it becomes fully green and you have only thirty seconds to do it; the only way to move the icon is to tap (going up) and untap it (going down).

What I like about those three tasks is they require our concentration; I still have problems with the first and it took me a long time to fully master the third. While I doubt they are the most difficult things video games have to offer, they are undoubtedly more superior the topically-relevant questions which enforce the traditional and often-worthless rote-learning. And that’s not the only good aspect of the game’s design.

The characters’ movements are often repetitive and when they assemble in large together (especially when they attend the Weird Sisters concert), each individual has the exact same movement, resulting creepily robotic-looking crowd of androids. When I mention bodily movements, I exclude facial expressions.

The characters are able to exude subtle, expressive and relatively true-to-life faces while still looking very cartoonish. Again, while there is nothing ingenious about it, I am impressed by the animators’ ability to avoid the uncanny valley which many in the industry still fall for.

Now, about the world-building aspect…

There is one Extra Credits video that discusses about kindness in video gaming. They cite NieR: Automata, a game where it encourages players to risk losing their save files just for the sake of helping their fellows, most of whom they will never meet. It is a contrast with other video games where helping others will give us more rewards, where the kindness is phony and insincere.

That video influences how I view Hogwarts Mystery, where we also get rewards for helping the main character’s friends. While getting more knowledge, empathy and courage points does make sense, why the hell would we get more galleons and gems for doing so? I cannot say if this can negatively affect the psyche of young players. But, it sure reminds me of the real life, where kindness is often phony and insincere.

Obviously, helping my avatar’s friends require interactions and they reveal how dreadful the game’s writing is. The dialogues are so cheesy, cliched and unrealistic, they make Rowling’s uninspiring writing style looks masterful in comparison. Frankly, in this case, I hate it because they distract us from how deep the characters are.

Okay, the characters do have problems. Barnaby Lee, for example, is a brawny and kindhearted airhead; he is two stereotypes combined into one. Ben Copper is fearful of literally everything. Merula Snyde, the main character’s enemy, is a Slytherin known for her constant gush of conceit and condescension. Madam Pince is an even bigger scowling guardian of the books. Rowan Khanna is a bookworm who enjoys studying. They seem like one-dimensional characters. Seemingly.

In general, it is impressive how the main character befriends Slytherins like Liz Tuttle and aforementioned Barnaby, despite not coming from the same house; it is a contrast with the canon where the characters have almost entirely volatile relationships with the Slytherins, who are seen as moral lepers. Even Merula will extend some goodwill gestures (albeit insults-laden) from time to time by helping the main character in a handful of quests.

And Merula is not mean just for the sake of it. She suffers from insecurity due to being a child of imprisoned Death Eaters; it also does not help she got backstabbed by fellow student, Tulip Karasu. No matter how mean and arrogant she is, I cannot help feeling sincerely sorry for her at times.

Barnaby Lee, another Slytherin who stopped befriending her for her nasty personality, is also a child of imprisoned Death Eaters, who were abusive to him. So, beneath that stereotypical kindhearted yet dumb facade lies a child who knows how it feels to be hurt and who presumably refuses to make others experience what he experienced.

The aforementioned Tulip Karasu is an eccentric and seemingly happy-go-lucky prankster. But, she sincerely regretted how she backstabbed Merula and she often convinces the main character how his/her nemesis isn’t as bad as she appears to be. And Merula is not the only one who is kinder than she appears to be.

I never remember Madam Pince showing a soft side in any of the books. But, unexpectedly, she gives the game’s main character and his friends house points for making her recall affectionate memories of James Potter and Lily Evans. Despite still being a stereotypical obsessive librarian, she has a soft spot for the students.

I think Severus Snape in this version also has a soft spot for the students. Well, not really. But, despite the aloofness, he is not a teacher who unfairly favours Slytherins and who bullies every student he deems weak. Basically, this version of the character deviates the canon. And I don’t mind it at all.

Snape grew up in a volatile household and was bullied by the Marauders (a fact many potheads love to sweep under the rug). Such individual would grow up either as an individual whose desire for vengeance turns him into a bully (and I wish some in the pro-Snape faction stop romanticising him)… or as an aloof one who detest bonding but still refuse to inflict pain on others, having first-hand experiences with it. While the latter is clearly not canon, the resulting alteration is not contrived.

I should also mention Rita Skeeter, whose depiction is a lot more nuanced. In the novels, she does nothing other than ruining the characters’ lives. But, in the game, the sleazy reporter encourages the main character to open his/her eyes to the ugly side of humanity.

While some may perceive this as cynicism, I consider this is as a dose of realism. She is right to assert that humanity is not all flowers and rainbows and perceiving it through a sugary lens will detach us from the reality. Well, she only lightly slaps us back to reality. But, it is still a slap, regardless.

Oh, I almost forgot about Ben Copper. So far, I see nothing deep about the character. But, what I love about him is how his existence gives the fixation with Hogwarts Houses a giant finger.

Yes, Ben Copper is not canon. But, in an article I made where I chastised the obsession with the school houses, I pointed out that not only the characters betray the values of their respective houses, the values themselves can be destructive in the context of education. In the end, substance is more crucial than labels.

Now, about the story…

So far, despite the poorly-written dialogues and the sometimes-superficial characters, I love it. I am personally intrigued by the never-ending stream of mysteries and I love how we often doubt certain characters’ motives, encouraging us to not fall for their potentially-deceptive veneer. But, as this game is still unfinished, I don’t know if the conclusion will be profound or disappointing.

In fact, there is a chance I will change my mind about this game once it is completed; I may end up hating the potentially-overdone revelations and I may end up finding certain characters deeper or more shallow than I previously thought.

As I am writing this, I am still on the 22nd chapter of year five, waiting for the next quests. I don’t know how long the devs will take to finish the game. But, I do know it will be long enough for me to change my mind eventually.  

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Two steps to recognise ‘fake news’

*puts on a mask*

Step 1: You have to be a member of a cult.

This step will be easy to overcome if one is either a deeply-bigoted individual who is desperate to find a leader to worship OR a deeply-impressionable individual who will easily fall for the rhetorics of dishonest and manipulative public figures. If you are both, it would be even easier for you!

If you are neither extremely prejudiced nor excessively impressionable, you will never be a cult member and you will never be enlightened enough to go to the next step.

Step 2: Just simply find, read and watch the news.

Once you have become a cult member, your mind will do the work for you.

Any news reports that intertwine with your and your cult leader’s beliefs will elicit strong emotions. If they bring you joy, the stories are real. If they bring you anger, they are false!

Yes, I believe the only way to determine a story’s accuracy is how positive or negative our emotions are!

Facts aren’t real because you cannot feel them. But, do you what is real? Emotions! Why? Because you can feel them! Determining what is real and what isn’t through the act feeling is common sense!

Don’t let those intellectuals poison your innocent minds with facts! Only privileged, ivory tower retards think facts are the truths! Humans who live in the real world know damn well emotions are the truths! They know emotions are their Gods!

Okay, I did say that you have to finish step one if you want to go to step two. Well, it is not entirely true.

Being bigoted and/or impressionable is enough to make you worship emotions. Obviously, you don’t need to be a cult member to accomplish step two. But, being one sure helps.

*takes off the mask*

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My thoughts about Geography Now

As I am an Indonesian, it is not a surprise the first video I watch from this geography education channel is the one that encapsulates my home country; it was suggested to me probably because I searched for videos of foreigners trying Indonesian food. But, thanks to that one video, I ended up on a Geo Now binge and I almost watched every video on the channel in less than 48 hours.

As you can immediately tell, I am deeply impressed by the channel!

Okay, admittedly, there is one potential flaw: I have mixed feelings about how it depicts conflicts. Paul and his friends will take the roles of individual countries or sectarian groups and they will start ‘bickering’… which look very childish and comical.

Of course, it can be problematic as it seems to belittle the actual resulting deaths of said conflicts. But, at the same time, the petulant depiction is also fitting considering how clashes often occur simply because of ridiculous reasons, like our inability to deal with inconsenquential human distinction. I know I am reading too much into this as I am sure Paul also cares about the entertainment values. But then, I believe authorial intentionalism can be dismissed when a work has unintended effects on the audience.

Some viewers are starting to feel the channel has become more cringeworthy to watch due to its jokes. I am not on board with this criticism because I think the older videos are even more so with their poorly-delivered jokes. Nowadays, not only the performances have greatly improved, the humour has also become more self-aware; it depicts Paul as a shamelessly ‘punny’ person and, to a lesser extent, a big fat know-it-all.

I am also not on board with the criticism regarding the involvement of his friends; they believe having another on-screen personalities really ruin the channel. For me, their presence increases the dynamism. Besides, literally since the first episode, Paul has been receiving help in the post-production process! While the channel is indeed his brainchild, we must also acknowledge its collaborative nature. It is literally called Geography Now, NOT The Paul Barbato Show!

Mispronunciation is also a recurring theme/joke in the channel; in some cases, he never bothers to even try pronouncing foreign words and opts to speak gibberish or call certain individuals as ‘this guy’ or ‘this *insert occupation here*’. While some may perceive it as disrespectful, I perceive it as refreshing honesty. He acknowledges his linguistic limitation and, whether we want to admit it or not, most of us are too lazy to pronounce foreign phonology accurately! As someone who calls himself The Stammering Dunce, I cannot fault Paul for this.

Also, when he knows how to pronounce certain foreign phonology, especially one from the languages he has limited proficiency in, he will try his best; some people still deliberately mispronounce foreign words and names despite knowing how to do so properly… probably because they are hypocritical pricks who can’t care less about embracing other cultures and yet they get mad when foreigners mispronounce their names and languages repeatedly.

Unsurprisingly, just like any media outlets in existence, the channel cannot escape the criticism regarding informational inaccuracy and omission. But, even then, Paul does not seem to receive a barrage of hate in the comment sections… and for good reasons.

When he omits certain information and/or gives the wrong one, it is because of honest mistakes. He tries his best to produce relatively short yet very concise videos to the point where he literally forgets to include common knowledge; even his China episode fails to mention the Great Wall! There are no indications of him having any political agendas. He fulfills his promise to be as objective as possible; his Rohingya crisis video is a great evidence of this. Oh, and he uses Flag/fan Friday and Filler Week videos as corrective and supplementary components. He is cognizant of his own oversights.

And that’s not his only ‘secret’ for success.

Another important factor is his love of travelling. You know, the real act of travelling! Instead of being content about ‘experiencing’ the foreign lands by falling for the plastic charms of tourist traps, he prefers to taste how the locals live! That, I assume, encourages him to drop his own preconceived notions when researching for new episodes.

He also has a diversity of sources. Besides the scholastic ones, he also takes input from his viewers whose home countries will be covered soon… and I really love this approach!

Whether we like it or not, even with academic rigorousness, those scholastic references can still be prone to informational deficiency and cultural propensity. While the words of his viewers are purely anecdotal, they can provide vantage points that are raw and unobstructed by any methodical filtration. Of course, thankfully, he also strictly distinguishes which info is academic and which isn’t; when he cites anecdotes, he will explicitly present them as such! I believe this route leads him to destination success!

The materials are relatively meticulous and compact while maintaining some level of relatability to the average people who lack any ‘scholarly’ disposition. It is scholastic enough that some teachers actually play his videos in their classes, scholastic enough to convey the defects of the enquired countries… while still ‘populist’ enough to please some flag-wavers and over-zealous foreign cultures enthusiasts.

Of course, as an Indonesian, I have to talk about the Indonesia episodes.

One criticism I have is how he described Indonesia as a marriage of the Middle East and Southeast Asia that results in many babies. While it is not inaccurate, it is far from complete.

Islam -the biggest religion in the country- is indeed from the Middle East, some regional cultures do have Arab influences and our national language does have Arab loanwords. But, some of those regional cultures also have South Asian, Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese influences, our national language also has Sanskrit, Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese loanwords, many government institutions use Sanskrit mottos and the Indonesia is a former Dutch, Portuguese and, to a lesser extent, British colony. But, because of our mostly Austronesian roots, we are still more similar to predominantly-Christian Filipinos than we are to the predominantly-Muslim Middle Easterners.

Paul mentions how most Indonesian mosques do not have the typical domes. In reality, most of them actually do. The ones who don’t were mostly constructed before the 21st century, designed with traditionally-influenced architectural styles. Back then, most Indonesian Muslims were less likely to equate Islamic identity with the Middle-Eastern one.

Paul also does mispronounce Indonesian pronounciation. But then, as I said before, learning foreign languages is difficult… and the majority of Indonesians, even ones who are not raised with ‘regional’ cultures, have a poor comprehension of our national language. So, him pronouncing ‘C’ as ‘K’ instead of ‘CH’ should not be a biggie.

And those are the only flaws I can think of in his Indonesia videos. I believe he does a great job in unveiling the intricate foundations of my motherland.

He showcases how the country is so diverse that the biggest and second biggest ethnic groups comprise about forty percent and fifteen percent of the country’s population -respectively-, that anti-Chinese sentiment exists here (albeit he said it briefly), how Islam is practiced differently in Indonesia from the one in the Arab world -especially regarding the rituals-, how Indonesian Papuans are extremely distinct in many ways from the rest of their fellow countrymen, how the government only recognises six religions and how our national symbol is of Hindu origin despite being a predominantly-Muslim nation! Oh, and I think his description of Aceh as the black sheep is very fitting!

When it comes to international relations, he showcases how our relationship with Saudi Arabia is very horrible, how we and Malaysia are frenemies (due to our cultural similarities and differences) and how we have a surprisingly good relationship with Japan (despite the history)!

And those short descriptions alone easily defy how most of us perceive Indonesia!

On one hand, it is certainly not a peaceful and tolerant haven many people love to advertise. Indonesians are still very racist, especially against every person of Chinese descent. We are still religiously schismatic to the point we disenfranchise adherents of indigenous beliefs by not officially recognising them as legitimate religious groups!

But, on the other hand, Indonesia is certainly not a carbon copy of Saudi Arabia and many Indonesians detest the idea of becoming Saudis! Aceh, one of the thirty-four Indonesian provinces, certainly does not represent the entire country! The citizens, especially the Muslim ones, are extremely diverse and any generalisations about them (which I admittedly still make from time to time) can be easily and deservedly labeled as shallow or even outright dehumanising!*

(*Yes, I know one cannot generalise even the most homogenous collective in existence. But, I do believe generalising a very diverse society is considerably more intellectually dishonest than generalising one that is significantly less so.)

I should also commend him for his dissections of the bicolour flag and the coat of arms. While the Hotel Yamato story has become a legend here, I did not know red and white represent the duality of nature in Austronesian mythology, ancient Indonesian Hindus also used red-white flags and teaks leaves and mangosteen rind were used as red textile dye!

I also didn’t know the number of feathers in our version of Garuda represents the date of Indonesia’s independence day! He is one of the handful of foreigners that have educated me things I genuinely didn’t know about my own homeland!

Overall, I believe Paul Barbato is a successful educational Youtuber. He has a firm grasp on the (often-needlessly) complicated domestic and international borders, he has a firm grasp on the (often-preventable) sectarian conflicts, he can be more knowledgeable about the enquired countries than their citizens do…

And, most importantly, he unveils how each of the world’s sovereignty constantly defies our racial, cultural, political and religious preconceived notions of them.

In spite of his rapid-fire and comedic performances, he still manages to demonstrate how humanity is not what most of us think it is… and judging from his videos’ comment sections, there are others who agree with me.

My suggestion for him is to expand his scholastic references; maybe add peer-reviewed academic papers into the mix! Knowing the nature of academic journal, it can be more burdensome for the production. But, I am also confident it can also bring an even greater depth to the content!

Postscript:

There was a criticism of his Eritrea episode in which he supposedly ignores the country’s human rights violation. The thing is… he never does!

In his summary of individual countries’ history, he often mentions their authoritarian leaders and historical violent events. Again, as I said before, the unintentional omission of information regularly happens as he tries to create relatively-short yet concise videos!

Maybe the critics hated how Paul did not spend the entire episode talking about the country’s human rights violation. Why should he? His channel is called Geography Now, NOT Human Rights Now!! His job is literally to teach geography, to summarise individual territories of the world, not to be a white saviour!

Besides, he will not talk about human rights violations in great details unless he comprehends the intricacy of each individual case; again, I have to mention his Rohingya crisis video! He is not one of those pseudo-activists who think human rights can be discussed simplistically!

I was planning to put this section much earlier. But, I called it off because I take this a bit too personally. The first time I watched the video, there was literally only one comment that criticised Paul for supposedly ignoring Eritrea’s dark reality (albeit with many likes). When I watched it again, the comment was gone. And still, that comment bothers me to this day!

I don’t know why. But, I am annoyed every time someone says the only appropriate way to chronicle certain countries is to babble about their human rights issues! Maybe it has something to do with their insistence to demonise the places they hate and yet know little or nothing about!

I wonder if Paul is annoyed by this as well. In the first Iraq episode, his friend Keith portrays a character who is agitated that Paul does not go straight to babbling about terrorism. Even though I cannot be sure about his motivation to incorporate the character, I am glad he did. It feels like a not-so-subtle middle finger to those white saviours.

Once again, there are times when one can dismiss authorial intentionalism.

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How do you know if you live in a socialist dystopia?

*puts on a mask*

Well, all you have to do is to find these two symptoms:

1. See if there are any ‘socialists’.

They don’t have to be actual ‘socialists’. They can be ‘social democrats’ or even ‘neoliberals’ who misappropriate the label. They can be people who never label themselves as ‘socialists’, but accused as ones by their opponents (how people label us is literally more important than how we actually think and feel).

And those ‘socialists’ don’t have to be a part of the establishment. Even their mere existence is enough to indicate their power in your society!

2. See if there are any policies that benefit the poor and/or the labourers.

If your society has policies which ensure free or affordable education and healthcare for everyone, ensure the rights of labours are held with high regards, ensure the rights of labourers to not be trampled by big businesses and ensure the poor receive government benefits, then you already live under socialism!

Only socialists care about the so-called ‘suffering’ of the poor and exploitable labourers, who are undeniably some the biggest oppressors in history, and only socialists hate the rich and big businesses, who are undeniably some of the biggest victims in history! Only socialists, who are definitely NOT people like me, have the audacity to commit such atrocity!

I said two tips, but I meant three; the third one is to realise this: even the existence of one of those signs is enough to conclude you are already living in a socialist dystopia! If you see both signs, you are as good as someone who lived in Soviet Russia!

Literally the only way to topple a communist regime is to vote for a fascist! I don’t care if you are a fascist or not! ‘Better be Nazi than red’ was literally a well thought out slogan and certainly not motivated by ideological zealotry!

Trust me, living under fascism is literally worth not living under socialism!

*takes off the mask*

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Pros and cons of elitism

*puts on a mask*

Pros:

1. It may ensure power will always be bestowed to individuals who are old, wealthy, blue-blooded and alumni of schools famous for being famous.

2. It may encourage societies to worship individuals simply for possessing said useless qualities.

3. It may create a caste system in where having said qualities will immediately put us on the top.

Cons:

1. It may rob idiotic and ignorant individuals the opportunities to obtain power in their respective societies.

2. It may encourage societies to scorn individuals who possess those said qualities.

3. It may encourage a caste system where having said traits will immediately put us at the bottom.

*takes off the mask*

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I hate science…

*puts on a mask*

… because it debunks the innate superiority of humans!

I mean, seriously? We would be helpless under nature’s mercy without the help of science? We share the same ancestors with every organism on earth? Earth is not the centre of the universe? We belong to nature, not the other way around? Are you fucking kidding me?

I am religious because I want to feel I belong to the most superiorly divine species in existence! Who cares about spirituality? It is all about the bloating my fragile ego!

Yes, humans are indeed the most dominant earth species. We are the only one that have developed culture, science and technology. We are the only earthlings who have explored the world beyond our planet. But, those are not enough!

We have to believe we are God’s chosen creatures, that everything in the universe revolves around us, that life is conceived solely for our sake!

How can anyone feel dignified by the idea of actually belonging in this earthly realm? How can anyone feel dignified by the idea of being one with nature?

*takes off mask*

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How to review entertainment (and the arts)

*puts on a mask*

First thing first, be a simpleton! A good reviewer must be able to remove intricacy out of their ways of thinking. Embrace the glory of black-and-whiteness!

There are two ways to implement this superficiality: either become a snob or an uncultured swine.

In general, a snob hates entertainment. He/she thinks a good creation must be entirely artistic and meaningful. An uncultured swine is more or less the same, just replace ‘artistic’ and ‘meaningful’ with ‘entertaining’.

Let’s start how to be a snob first.

If you want to be a snob, you have to be watchful of any leisurely elements. I am speaking about traces of lightheartedness and escapism. Of course, some creators successfully meld low brow ingredients with high brow and that makes them a menace to your profound sensibility.

Visualise yourself immersing in an ostensibly artistic work. Suddenly, the thing you are profoundly appreciating makes you feel… amused… pleasured… entertained. Entertained? ENTERTAINED?!

HOLY SHIT #$@$#@$@@^@!! Drop everything you are doing and stay fucking calm!!!

Whew, you nearly cascaded into the escapist trap. After you have fully recuperated from such harrowing occurence, you have to immediately lambaste the work! Lambaste it for having the audacity to be whimisical, lambaste it for shrouding superficiality with wisdom! Flush its entire merit which it is worthy of anymore down the lavatory!

Just be heedful to not clog the pipes. You will do a lot of flushing in your lifespan.

Oh, and don’t forget to be a complacent prick. You must devote a large fragment of your time to disparage every single mortal who still can revel in entertainment! You may as well declare them guilty of egocentric detachment from the world we live in!

Whether your social awareness is whole-hearted or not, it does not matter. What matters is you seem to possess it in your heart. It is all about boasting a so-called higher moral ground!

How about being an uncultured swine? It is the opposite of a snob. Therefore, all we have to do is the complete opposite, right? Well, yes and no.

When it comes to dealing with purely artistic works, a swine must react the exact same a snob reacts to entertainment. If a creation seems boring or incomprehensible from the start, then it is artsy! Stop enjoying it immediately! Believe me, one near-depth experience is unpleasant enough, let alone hundreds of them!

After you recover from the shock, you should proceed to berate the creators and their admirers for being self-righteous, pretentious pricks! You don’t care about depth. Therefore, caring about it is a sign of deviance. Treat your personal interests as if they are the ideal criteria for ‘sanity’!

Now, what happen if the works blur the line between art and entertainment? Well, there is nothing to worry about. As the pleasure elements exist, you can only focus on them and disregard the profundity entirely. What you should be cautious of is the entertainment reviewers.

When you find ones who use their intellect, call them out! Employ the same method you use to put artists and art lovers to their places: by calling them self-righteous, pretentious pricks!

How dare they exploring the deepness that our favourite entertainment provides? How dare they resist against pure escapism? How dare they encourage us to contemplate about the world we live in? Fuck those bullshits!

Uncultured simpletons define what it means to be humans. Like it or not, they are humanity’s greatest assets! Sophistication literally kills humanity!

So, there you go! Those are the two ways to be entertainment reviewers! They all boil down to this:

Be a simpleton! Life is all about proselytising your absolute, black-and-white mentality! Life is all about establishing divisiveness among mankind!

And entertainment is the easiest way to achieve such state of being!

*takes off the mask*

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Ungracious citizenry of the (seemingly) enlightened realm

I am talking about the western world, by the way.

Warning: you will be frustrated by my repetitive use of the word ‘west’.

To prevent myself from saying ‘west’ too loosely, I should limit the word to Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and much of Europe.

Okay, the last one still makes it a bit vague. But, it is more precise than saying it is where white people live. Unless you are a racist, one believes non-whites can be westerners. Being one is all about the heritage, after all.

Anyway…

It is no secret the most jingoistic westerners love to boast how their countries are the bastions of freedom on earth. They love to boast how humans from all over the globe flocking in to live in their safer, freer, more democratic and more progressive homelands. They actually have a point, though.

We have to acknowledge the west is indeed the most civilised realm at the present time! It is the most free regarding speech and religions, the most democratic, the most accepting of diversity, the most children-friendly, the most feminist and the most sexually liberated territory there is.*

Of course, there is no better way to celebrate what makes their homelands great by murdering them!

They believe immigrants are uneducated and unenlightened. This is why they want funding for schools, universities, the arts, science and public broadcasting to be slashed or, even better, defunded entirely! To be truly enlightened, one must give heed only to religious and political indoctrination, absorb their messages earnestly and execute them in one’s daily life!

They believe Muslin extremists are the greatest threats to global religious freedom. That’s the reason why they propose religiously discriminatory legislation. It literally makes sense to fight bigotry, which every Mohammedan is guilty of as confirmed by everyone’s favourite opinionated public figures and bigoted uncles, with bigotry. As we all know, the only way to kill fire is by adding more fire!

They believe ISIS-loving commie feminazi SJW libtard cucks hate democracy! Ultimately, they feel obliged to support a man who proudly undermines the sanctity of trias politica and they are openly grateful of the Kremlin for sabotaging the election!

They believe ISIS-loving commie feminazi SJW libtard cucks are the greatest menaces to freedom of speech! Of course, they have to make an exception. Restriction of speech is ungodly when it torments adherents of old-fashioned, Judeo-Christian family values. If it torments their enemies, then it is godly. There is no better way to protect freedom of speech than robbing it from the people they constantly accuse of threatening it!

They believe Muzzies are the biggest misogynists. Therefore, they must vote for politicians who dismiss gender pay gap as a myth, insist on upholding the innate moral superiority of patriarchy, slut shame ‘slutty’ women while glorifying ‘slutty’ men and oppose abortions because every birth, even ones resulted from rapes, is a divine gift and vaginas must be regulated by old men as women are too incapable to make decisions about their own bodies!

They believe we should execute harsh punishments to sexual predators. But, instead of doing libtard craps like implementing sex education, voting sexually abusive politicians out and condemning victim-blaming attitude, the only way to crush sexual predatoriness is to uphold heteronormativity and cisnormativity. The only way to accomplish that is to keep dehumanising the LGBT communities!

I can do this all day…

Back then, I used to deified westerners as illuminated demigods whose intimate lives intertwined with flawlessness. Slowly, I realised how they were also puny mortals like the rest of mankind. Nowadays, I see them as a swarm of some of the most ungracious organisms in existence!

I mean, some of them are too mentally deficient to appreciate their heritages’ finer attributes; when they are not suffocating themselves with propaganda, they senselessly enjoy unrefined entertainment which they fervently regard as sophisticated.

With that in mind, should we be surprised by their incapability to treasure their motherlands’ comparative modernity? You know, one of the things that makes them glorious in the first place?

Even though my family is not rich, my life is still very privileged compared to most Indonesians’. I didn’t need to have a part time job when I was young. I was able to study abroad. Food and housing were never an issue. Eventually, I become a spoiled, jobless twenty-something man…

…And, in a slightly off analogy, many westerners are just like that. Breathing among what can be described as liberalism drive them into the orifice of depreciation. They don’t know how it feels living in more oppressive lands. Ultimately, they have no hesitation to deny the ‘others’ the privilege they have been enjoying since birth.

Maybe, depreciation is the problem… or maybe, it is just sheer idiocy.

What those pitiful creatures deem as cultural brilliance definitely include anti-intellectualism, zealous traditionalism, religious fundamentalism and soppy jingoism. You know, the things enlightened individuals deem as cultural retardation. The things that hamper the growth of third world countries.

Admittedly, I do sound pontifical and I should refrain myself from declaring the conclusiveness of my sentiments. But, can you blame me for acting like this?

All the things I said above aren’t just a result of momentary sentiments. They are the results of observation that commenced long before the rise of the alt-right movements! I have watched countless videos, read countless articles and interacted with countless western individuals online. Those thoughts slowly materialised over the passing of many suns! The more I know, the more I am disenchanted.

Even so, I still view the west with a high regard. Despite everything, it is also the place where most of my cultural heroes are from, the place where I intend to reside in indefinitely. But, do you know who still have remarkably strong faith in the west? Refugees!

In spite of the hateful rhetoric of public figures, many refugees are still heading to the west to chase a safer life! Obviously, no matter how ignorant and hateful it can be, the west looks heavenly when juxtaposed with the tyrannical, bloodthirsty old countries. But, that’s just one reason.

Savages seem to make up the majority of westerners. They don’t. Their voices command the conversations because they have the loudest megaphones, in part thanks to their detractors’ recklessness. In fact, I am willing to bet they are outnumbered by kinder and more open-minded beings.

If the degenerates are indeed the majority, it would be a lot harder to legitimize any glorification of the west. It would be a lot harder to advertise the American and European dreams to citizens of the third world. The west would be where people are flocking out of, not flocking into.

As much as I despise Eurocentrism and Americentrism, the abundance of enlightened souls in the west is something every gracious individual must cherish…

…and it is pathetic how they are the ones being condemned as degenerates by their degenerate fellow countrymen.

*Obviously, those claims are debatable. In the west, it is easy to find someone getting triggered every time he/she hears a foreign language. In non-western countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, such person would be considered pussies, too weak to handle petty differences. But, in the contemporary west, when sectarianism arises, it won’t be as easily widespread and violent.

While feminism has a stronger footing in the west, it is also the place where right-wing figures still openly believe women are destined to stay in the kitchen and to use their vaginas only for child bearing. Can’t say anything about other countries. But, in Indonesia, such misogynistic rhetoric are almost unheard off. At least, not in the mass media.

Compared to the other regions, the west seems to have best sex education, where sex shaming is not as strong. Well, I should allude to Japan, a paradoxical land where poor sex education and extremely sexual cartoons exist alongside each other. Admittedly, some depictions of sexual acts are morally questionable (and it deserves an essay of its own, assuming I want to do some research). But, others also depict extremely kinky yet consensual sex acts; if it is enough to conclude using just one fact ( it is not), then it seems Japan is a place where kink shaming does not exist.

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Why I’m all for social democracy: an unconvincing, unoriginal and rambling argumentation

Okay, the title is a lie. There are some practices of social democracy which I am not a big fan of.

The Nordic Model, for an instance. The idea of high, flat rate income tax and extremely generous handouts are jarring to me; the former seems to discourage everyone from having savings and the latter is prone to abuse. But, I am not entirely opposed to the system.

I love the idea of providing free-of-charge education and healthcare, I am all for giving handouts to people who are unemployed because of reasons other than simply not having jobs (e.g. poor health), I am all for unionising the workers and I am open to the idea of implementing high income taxes for the super rich (not the middle class) and all while still embracing free market capitalism.

People complain such policies will cost taxpayers lots of money. But, isn’t that the point of taxation? To improve a country’s state of being? If that’s the argument, why bother paying taxes at all? Also, why are beneficial policies seen as financial burdens while increasing the budget for the most funded armed forces in the world isn’t?

I have made this rant many times before. One person gave me nonsensical replies.

First, he accused me of being arrogant; he said I acted like I knew more about how to make use of taxpayers’ money more than the government itself, as if ranks and power instantaneously guarantee you reason, knowledge and expertise. Well, that belief rings true to you if you are a feudal meritocrat who live among maggot-infested cadavers and hellfire.

I am not being arrogant, I am just embracing common sense. Education, health and good finance benefit a society just like balanced diets benefit our bodies. Because of them, we are able to live wholesomely and collectively move forward with our lives.

Second, he also said it makes sense for the US government to cut education funding considering the increasing ineptitude of American students in the recent years. In what infernal maggot-infested universe does that make any sense?

It is obvious the problem lies in how the education system runs itself. If I have a poor eating habit and your solution is to take away my food money, you are going to worsen my well-being as I would eat less altogether! Instead, you should encourage me (or force me) to change my life style. Cutting fund for education does not explain why the ineptitude exists in the first place. In fact, I am sure it will worsen the disease. You know, that one thing those fiscal conservatives supposedly hate!

Regulations. Oh, I almost forgot about them.

Why do some oppose them in general? What’s wrong with preventing exploitation of labours? Fatal accidents? Environmental disasters?

One common ‘rebuttal’ to those questions is another question, an egocentric one: what about freedom?

Goddammit…

If regulations that are meant to curb sordidness threaten your sense of freedom, what does that say about your character as human beings? I can’t help but thinking you embrace freedom not because you love righteousness, but because you want the free rein to abuse anyone as you desire! Did I just commit an ad hominem? Yes, I did. But, can you blame me or anyone for bearing such sentiment? No, you can’t.

Then, there is the ‘ineffectiveness’ argument.

They assert how regulations are inherently impotent in tackling human vileness. Why do they believe that? Is it because they have actual data to back those claims up? If they have, I want to read them. No, seriously. Prove me wrong that they are impotent in doing so.

Do they believe so simply because their beliefs say so? Well, if that is the case, why bother criminalising murder and rape when murderers and rapists still exist? Why bother having laws at all? They may as well embrace anarchism… which I am sure many in the right edge of the political spectrum find off-putting.

Then, there is also the ‘bad-for-business’ argument.

If your business cannot thrive without your corruptness, then you are not a good businessperson in the first place! In fact, if that’s the only viable way for you to make cash, you don’t deserve to be called a ‘businessperson’! The only title you deserve is ‘villain’!

Besides having actual business skills, what else do you need to have a thriving business? Well, living in a social democratic country sure helps in the long term.

You have to acknowledge the success of your business also depends on the public’s state of being. The more prosperous the people are, the more likely they are able to pay for your products and services. The more skilled the people are, the more likely you can hire good workers.

If you are well-educated, not only you would be skilled, you would also be adept at learning new skills which means you would have a relatively good chance in the job market and therefore, you would have some level of ease in grasping financial stability.

If you have access to good and free healthcare (assuming you have a healthy lifestyle yourself), you would have more time to work, to find work or to learn new skills and therefore, you would not have medical debt and, once again, have a better chance in the job market.

Strong environmental protection means one cannot exploit natural resources recklessly to satisfy one’s greed. It means we would still have them in large supplies for future use and we would not pollute the nature, preventing any public health problems. Focus on the emphasised word. Remember what I said earlier.

If you think that would increase the prices of products, then we should do more scientific researchers to discover greener alternatives. In the long-term, that’s the wise choice considering how limited natural resources are. What would we do when they cease to exist and there is no available replacement? Cry?

God, this is getting long…

Another anti-regulation argument I encounter is this: the free market regulates itself! Well, if you believe that corporations are inherently ethical and moral entities, that would sound believable.

In theory, a for-profit entity would try to win its customers’ heart by providing them satisfactory products and services at reasonable prices and a sleazy one would not survive a day in the market.

In theory. In practice, it is an entirely different reality.

First of all, not everyone becomes upstanding on their own initiatives. When driven by the desire to gain profit, the more corrupt among us would do anything to satisfy it. Who cares about fucking up the people around you? All is good when profit is gained.

Second, many customers don’t give a fuck about moral integrity. Who cares about suicidal overseas labourers? Who cares about homophobia? Just let me have that smart phone and chicken sandwich!

Third, the customers don’t always have the options. When corporations are aware about their monopoly in certain regions, more of than not they will drop the pretense and show their true faces! Oh, you hate our low-quality, expensive, yet essential services? What are you going to do? Move on to our non-existing rivals?

Remember the man who called me ‘arrogant’? I want to pick on him behind his back one more time.

He said it was unfair of me to bash the big businesses as evil. He pointed how a corporation is a collective that embodies a horde of distinct human individuals. Therefore, a corporation cannot be evil. On the surface, his argument seems well-rounded. But, that actually makes me despise him even more.

For one thing, a corporation is indeed a collective… a formal collective with actual ranks, voluntary membership and which members share the same common objectives. Its mechanism is different from the one in a religious or ethnic group. Such lack of nuances in his thinking does irk me. But, this is actually the least anger-inducing thing about his argument.

While he declares the ‘humanness’ of corporations, he also actively denounces governments as evil entities who should always be shackled from interfering with the people’s life, brainlessly not realising each government also consists of different human individuals!

His belief about big businesses’ sainthood convinces me that his outcry against authoritarianism and police brutality is solely motivated by his anti-big government libertarianism, not by his sense of humanity. When it is purely ideological, your moral outrage is insincere. Does that also count as an ad hominem? Yes, it does. Can you blame for reacting negatively to such hypocrisy? No, you cannot.

When it comes to deciding which groups knows what’s best for our countries, we cannot reach a consensus. Some of us may say the people should decide everything, as they are the majority. Some of us may say it should be the government, as we all need strong authority figures. Some of us may say it should be the corporations because they bring wealth. Obviously, I disagree with all three.

While I believe in democracy, I also cannot stand with the ‘people-are-always-right’ belief. It is literally the bandwagon fallacy! If you decide the rightness or wrongness of something should be based on popularity, then you unwittingly let the tyranny of the majority come into being.

While I believe in the effectiveness of strong authoritative figures, I also believe they should possess actual competence, intellect and moral compasses. The belief that ranks and powers instantly guarantee rightness is literally the appeal to authority fallacy! If you give authorities unrestrained power, they would violate your human dignity every time opportunity arises; the prosperity they prosperity is nothing but bribery.

I acknowledge big businesses for their contributions to the societies. Besides providing jobs, they also encourage the growth of innovations which are beneficial for the people in the long-term. But, you should not let them be the ones who control our lives.

The idea that a government should be run like a business infuriates me! It implies every single deed we perform must have direct monetary returns! People who adhere to such doctrine barely try to conceal their money-worshipping tendency.

I am also cynical about corporate philanthropy. If corporations actual care about generosity, they would not stamp their logos at every facility they build, they would not brag about it in their ads. Nowadays, indirect marketing is good marketing; they successfully blur the line between marketing and PR. In the end, what is good for the corporations is mostly good for the executives.

I am glad I took that basic PR course.

In an ideal world, a near-perfect society is the one where the voters are well-informed and civil, where the authorities are not only driven by the desires to benefit the people, but also take scientific and ethical consideration in their decision-making, where the businesses restrain themselves from exploiting the masses. As I said, in an ideal world.

No wonder escapism is popular. The real world sucks.

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In case you didn’t know, I am an Indonesian. Every time I make comments about other and more developed countries online, I often got these responses:

‘Why do you make a fuss about other countries’ domestic issues?’ ‘

Shouldn’t you just stick talking about your shithole third world country?’

Well, I make a fuss because I can. If foreigners can make false assumptions about my country and invade other countries to satisfy their white saviour complex, why can’t I make relatively more sound observations about their beloved and so-called perfect countries?

Also, I actually envy countries where social democracy is a widespread ideology. I wish it has a bigger presence in Indonesia. I wish more Indonesian voters vote for social democrats. I wish more Indonesian politicians embrace social democracy. But, considering how even publicly-funded primary schools charge tuition fees, the idea of social democracy is too alien for the masses.

The US is indeed not a social democracy. In fact, in many ways, the system seems to treat social democrats as parasites. Not to mention the so-called ‘left-wing’ party in the US Congress is behaving like a centrist one, often shares the neoconservatism and neoliberalism of the right-wing party. But, despite everything, I envy how the ideology is openly and proudly embraced by a large chunk of the American population.

I envy how aware they are of how the system they live under is in an ill state of being.

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