Why The Rewired Soul’s popularity is not surprising (for me)

I first heard about The Rewired Soul, real name Chris Boutté, when Bobby Burns had become a persona non grata in Youtube community; I did not watch any of his videos as I thought he was just another commentator who was disappointed in the young and talented Youtuber’s demise.

I started to know about his true nature when Primink made a critical video about him. I do think Primink screwed up by citing Kati Morton as a good therapist just because she is licensed; her appearance in Shane Dawson’s Jake Paul series clearly shows how unethical she is. But, in general, he was right about how Boutté’s lack of integrity.

I tried to watch any of The Rewired Soul videos and I couldn’t finish a single one. He, a someone without the credentials, does try to represent himself as a therapist, albeit implicitly. He does disregard the importance of informed consent. He keeps diagnosing his fellow Youtubers despite their plea for him to stop; he is literally harassing them!

By the way, I am describing his actions in the present tense even though he is on a break. Why? Because his now-deleted apology video where he played the victim card and the fact that he started to take a break after his own fans turned against him show how he has yet to express genuine remorse. Also, the fact that there will always be people who love what he is doing means he has no incentives to change.

For me, his popularity is frustrating, disturbing yet not surprising.

For one, I also love to ‘diagnose’ complete strangers, like Youtubers. To this day, I still believe they possess certain traits they hide from the public, despite me not having solid evidences; because of that reason, I only talk about them in private chats with my friends.

You may think I am just projecting myself onto others and that is a valid thing to say. But, others are trying to do the same to me and, unlike me, they are actually proud of themselves for doing this.

People whom I have never opened to constantly try to convince me what they think of me is accurate when it is mostly not and, every time I try to rebuke them, they try to convince me I am in denial. Whether I interact with them in the physical or virtual worlds, the less they know me, the more aggressive they are.

Yes, they are just my anecdotes. Unlike a certain political figure, I don’t think data is the plural of anecdotes. But, I can point out to cases where we harass public figures by forcing them to ‘corroborate’ falsehood about their personal lives.

Shawn Mendes has been forced to admit his homosexuality by people who lack any evidences. If we go to the world of Youtube, many fans insist that certain Youtubers, like Dan and Phil, are indeed gay and in same-sex relations with each other, again, by people who lack evidences. And those are just two examples.

On what can we blame this blatant breach of personal boundaries? I believe the problem lies on the delusion of bonding.

I was raised in a society where relationships were judged solely by quantities, not by the qualities and I have no doubt many societies are also guilty of the same sin. Apart from the demonisation of introversion -which is a completely valid personality trait-, one side effect of such societal ‘quirk’ is many people I have met pitifully believe more interactions equals greater intimacy; they cannot comprehend how idiotic they sound.

Of course, that is how relationships are in the physical world, where the delusion can easily take shapes due to the direct contacts. But, I also believe this can also occur even when no interactions ever occur.

Just admit it: you feel connected to certain public figures because you read their books, you listen to their songs or you are ideologically in tune with them; I am still guilty of such sin. But, the thing is I actually acknowledge it is just a feeling!

Many still believe feelings are facts. We feel we are a part of our idols’ private lives; not only we feel entitled to be included in them, we also feel entitled to our own so-called ‘facts’ about them. And it is not just fans. Even haters and ‘neutral observers’ also have such sense of entitlement’, just because they watch, listen to and read about those public figures.

When I watched Primink’s scathing video for the second time, I finally took heed of this screenshot he took when he argued with Boutté:

“So if you had a depressed friend, you wouldn’t recommend they try therapy?”

Friend. Boutté tried to present himself as a ‘concerned’ friend to Trisha Paytas, Bobby Burns and any Youtubers whom not only he has never interacted with, but also has publicly bullied. He is either delusional or pandering to his delusional fan base; in the light of the recent exposés where he is exposed as a scammer, I am more inclined to believe the latter.

But, whether he is genuinely delusional or not, it does not matter. His online persona condones the delusion of bonding which makes him alluring to ones who clearly suffer from it. Based on what I said earlier, I believe those individuals will always exist.

If he continues to defecate the same toxicity as before, his videos would still be watched by said individuals. If his career ends forever, others would be readily available to take over his place. So, not only I am not shocked by his popularity, I also would not be surprised if he can successfully pass his psychologically-hazardous baton to other content creators.

My belief in the existence of such delusion grows slowly over many years. The more I interact with my fellow human beings and the more I delve into the world of Youtubers, the more I believe in its existence. The screenshot taken by Primink really cements it.

Oh, and I have to say I am disappointed with PsychIRL regarding this. I respected her as an intelligent and level-headed commentator and I still do. But, instead of grilling him, she just let him used her channel as his additional platform; she let him use her video as a free advertisement of his channel.

Anyone who were not stupid enough to fall for his ‘compassion’ rhetoric would immediately see how toxic he was and Donna of PsychIRL is clearly far from stupid. It seems her embrace of civility can also be a weakness, as shown in this case.

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My thought about Shane Dawson’s Jeffree Star series

Yes, I know I am a bit too late. Yes, I know I should have written this before I wrote about Shane’s Jake Paul one. But, after reading the comments that equate Jeffree Star with the youngest of the Paul Brothers, I have the urge to make this essay, arguing how both individuals are different from one another.

And yes, the title is misleading. Instead of only focusing on Jeffree’s, I will compare both. Does that count as a clickbait?

Now, first of all, I have to point out the intentions of both series, which are indeed entirely different one another.

When it comes to Jake Paul, Shane never intended to befriend him in the first place. Throughout the production, he acted more like a sometimes-unethical documentarian/investigator who would do anything to know about his (seemingly) monstrous subject. There are eight videos in total and Jake appears only in three of them; the other five are all about Shane digging some info about him, sternly reminding us of the horrible things he has done.

Also, thanks to the much-criticised ‘manipulative’ editing (even though ‘manipulative editing’ is such a redundant term), the entire series feels like a psychological thriller; it feels like Jake will ambush Shane without warning and kill him. With Jeffree, it is the complete opposite.

Shane did not treat him like a mere subject. In fact, probably because they had had interactions prior, Shane genuinely wanted to befriend the personality behind the controversial beauty guru persona, bonded with him on an intimate level. Jeffree appears in all five videos and Shane did not spend a single second digging info about him behind his back. Apart from a handful of serious and emotionally-heavy scenes, this series shares goofy (and bizarre) light-heartedness of Shane’s other recent videos.

While we are also exposed his ugly side, the videos are not over-saturated with such details. Instead, we are encouraged to swallow our judgement temporarily and let him do the storytelling himself. We are encouraged to believe that we know nothing about him. In the end, both series possess two entirely different lenses.

Jake does appear as a normal human being with feelings. But, after being constantly reminded of his ugly side, his seeming niceness fails to gain my sympathy. In fact, months after the series’ conclusion, I end up viewing him as a frail and pathetic human being who uses his shitty familial background to excuse his horrible behaviours. Again, that’s not the case with Jeffree.

Unlike Jake, he does not seem to care about how he is perceived. For one, he swanks his pricy personal possessions, a gesture known in the Youtube community as ‘flexing’ (assuming you are not a part of); it is deeply frowned upon and is seen as a sign of insecurity.

And yet, I am not disgusted by Jeffree’s action at all! Maybe it is something to do with the intention: while others just want to show rich and successful they are, he seems to care more about boasting his taste in fashion, something he seems to be genuinely passionate about. Maybe it is just me.

While Shane may claim he can feel for Jake regarding the relationships with their respective fathers and regarding their status as personae non gratae, the bonding between the two seems superficial. I will never know if there is a genuine emotional connection or not when the camera is off. But, I can confidently say the on-camera relationship is purely akin to one between an interviewer and an interviewee. Again, not with Jeffree.

I (and possibly other viewers as well) notice how Jeffree and Shane are sincerely amused by each other’s antics, bonding through a kindred sense of playfulness. It is evident how there is a bona fide connection between the two contentious personalities and the effortlessness is what makes it wonderful! To make it even more so, Jeffree is seen interacting with other members of the squad, like Andrew the cameraman, Garrett and Ryland, with relative ease. In spite of his air of mystery and aloofness, he seems pleasant to interact with.

Now, I do have to say what I just described above are the things Shane and Andrew wanted to include in the final touch. Therefore, both series are shaped by their perspectives.

(Side note: I also did an essay about the Jake Paul series, in which I ignored Andrew Siwicki’s pronounced involvement even though I already knew about his existence. My mistake).

But, if you go back the very first paragraph of this essay, I said something about how people compare Jeffree and Jake not because of those series, but because who they are as individuals. Some people actually believe both are the same and should never be given heartfelt tributes.

Obviously, those people are idiots.

Jeffree is perceived as a toxic public figure for his shamelessly provocative tendency. But, even if everyone absolutely agrees he emits a large amount of toxicity online, he is still not Jake Paul!

In case you are one of those idiots, you should know Jake specifically targets his brands towards children! As exposed by countless Youtube commentators, he deploys manipulative marketing manoeuvres which ensure a large section of his impressionable young fans (presumably the majority of them) will definitely purchase his merchandise. Oh, and merch is not the only thing he is ‘selling’ to them: he also sells transgression.

His videos also showcase some of the most crass pranks one can think of and shameless display of eroticism. At one point, he also made videos about how he supposedly got tormented by a gang of evil clowns… and tried to present them as ‘real’. Just a reminder: many of his fans are young children!

Then, while being confronted by Shane, he asserted that many of his fans (whose brains are objectively not fully developed yet, mind you) are smart enough to identify native advertising and won’t be tricked into pressuring their parents to buy the merch for them, smart enough to distinguish what is real and what isn’t. He also asserted how the critics were being pedantic and were mad about nothing.

See what he did there? Instead of admitting and apologising for his sins, he insulted everybody’s intelligence by giving an assertion anyone with a strong footing in reality can easily refute. He was so arrogant, he thought he could ‘own’ his ‘haters’ by treating us like his juvenile fans. Even though Shane gave him the platform to humanise himself, the smugness makes me loathe him even more! Again (I am not sorry for this repetition), not the case with Jeffree.

No matter how toxic his online persona is, his behaviours are still bound by some degree of personal ethics. For one, he markets his brand towards cosmetics enthusiasts (did I use the correct term?) who can handle brutal honesty and sass. He never targets it towards young children, let alone manipulating them to do his bidding!

Jeffree also hates pretension. Since his MySpace days, he always wittingly introduces himself as an individual of poor and unrefined character. He deliberately makes it so easy for everyone to hate him! Even then, he still can feel guilty about his past actions.

After it was revealed he yelled the N-word in a video, he made a really good apology video in which he does not deflect the blame on others and does not try to make us feel sorry for him. While I find it a bit too long and not straightforward enough, it is as sincere as Pewdiepie’s after he was also caught yelling the same abusive word.

Despite my lack of familiarity with every single one of Jeffree’s dramas, I am very certain he is being mean towards people whom he considers are deserving, like his snakes of so-called friends. As mentioned before, he treated Shane and the squad with a pleasantness one would never expect from an individual of such reputation! Oh, and he also does consumer protection.

At least, that’s what a fellow Youtube commenter told me. He/she said, thanks to Jeffree’s reviews of certain cosmetics brands, he/she and his/her family were staved off from spending a fortune on useless products and they ended up saving lots of money. I don’t know if his/her case is an anomaly or not. But, my God, that was seriously unexpected!

I am certain my description of Jake is almost universally accepted; the ones who defend him are either his own juvenile fans or adults who are so tolerant of transgression, they should never be allowed to have children (but, I cannot force them to not breed because a part of me still loves liberty). In spite of the fame and fortune, he and his brother are popularly seen as the human incarnation of faeces that inexplicably grow its own tumour.

Jeffree, on the other hand, draws very divided public opinions. Some love him, some hate him and some don’t know what to think and feel; it may depend whether you have watched his content or not. But, despite the possible contention, I am confident my relatively-sympathetic description of him will gain some degree of collective acceptance.

And now, we go back to Shane.

If someone asks me who he is, I would answer he is an internet entertainer. Unless he has proven himself, I will never call him a journalist or researcher. None of his videos demonstrate his strong experience in objectivity and systematic analyses… and scientific methods, if I want to go further. I have to exclude Andrew from this as I don’t know the extent of his influence.

Without dismissing Shane’s intelligence (which he clearly has if one has actually watched him), he seems to think the combination of public discourse and personal curiosity is a suitable paradigm for his ‘documentaries’. And, because of that, both series end up as two distinct entities.

I have mixed feelings about this approach. Its results include the pointless Tanacon videos and, of course, the half-intriguing half-problematic Jake Paul ones. But, at the same time, the results also include the Molly Burke, the Grav3yardgirl and, of course, the surprisingly-witty and surprisingly-profound Jeffree Star videos.

Unless one does not care about ethical implications, the Shane Dawson formula should never be used when one enquires into figuratively and literally detrimental phenomena and big names who receive near-universal condemnation. It can, however, be used to enquire into big names who receive a greater degree of admiration as the ethical implications are minimal. My suggestion is, if one cares about journalistic and scientific integrity, one must avoid it at all cost.

(Side note: yes, it is not easy to determine whether one is universally-hated or somewhat lovable; but, just entertain the thought that it is easy to do).

Oh, and I actually made an essay about the potential problems with Shane Dawson. I know some of the things I state here should belong there. But, I published it too soon and since then, I have had more ‘revelations’ about him. Oh well…

Just like with my Jake Paul series review, this one will also use Shane’s picture in the thumbnail. Again, his videos reveal more about him than they do about his subjects.

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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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Exploring cultures, Anthony Bourdain style

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I will only discuss three of his TV shows and none of the books as I haven’t read a single one. So, it takes a lot of cockiness to write about a person without full immersion in his works. Anyway…

I have been loving him since his A Cook’s Tour years. When I was younger, I watched him simply because of the food. A show was good enough if it involved lots of food, I believed.

Then, many years later, after watching his subsequent shows, this one seems juvenile and sterile in comparison. For me, it feels like it is less about the cultural experience and more about Tony being a cynical and cocky douche. It certainly did not and does not make me feel intrigued by other cultures. But, younger me said, ‘hey, food!’.

No Reservations is not an immediate stylistic departure. The earlier episodes are not that different from ones from A Cook’s Tour. But, they are indeed less rushed, more mature and more compelling. As the show progresses, it has become more profound.

He becomes more keen to point out the darker side of reality. Politics, discrimination, natural disasters, you name it. The Hokkaido episode, which mentions discrimination of the Ainus, is the first time I pay attention to the show’s depth. Before No Reservations, I had never encountered a single travelling show like this (that I know of)!

Not only it increases its thematic profundity, it also amplifies the visual artistry which, again, is a novelty to a show of such genre (again, that I know of). Watching the later seasons feels like watching a beautifully crafted yet underappreciated TV show. It also helps some episodes are tributes to certain films which Tony and/or the crew was/were (a) big fan(s) of. And then, came The Layover

…Which I skipped over and, to this day, I haven’t watched a single episode. I wasn’t aware of its existence until his fourth and unfortunately last show was announced. To this day, I am still uninterested about the premise. But, I will probably change my mind. Probably.

Parts Unknown exceeded my expectation. It seems unsatisfied with its predecessor’s artistry and believes radical enhancement is needed for itself. And radical it is.

In No Reservations, the audio and visuals are utilised to emphasise and accompany what is being portrayed on the screen. Some episodes of Parts Unknown were also crafted in a similar manner. Some.

In other episodes, they are utilised to encourage the audience to start seeing the world through a philosophical lens instead of just focusing on its physicality; combined with the lyrical narration, the show’s audiovisual ethereality really reminds me of magical realism, something that I never expected from unscripted motion picture works!

I know, I know. I sound like a pretentious prick who reads too much into things. But, I am a sucker for magical realism and any similar styles of arts. Considering how metaphysical some episodes feel, you cannot blame me for having such feeling. They do feel magical.

Oh, yeah. The cultures…

I used to depend on media personalities for cultural knowledge. I still do, but not entirely. Nowadays, I try to accept the possibility of them unintentionally spewing stereotypes and misinformation. Even Anthony Bourdain could not escape such criticisms.

I seriously cannot blame him and his peers for making that mistake. They cannot fully escape the cultural outlooks they grew up with and they are dependent on their local contacts who probably possess very narrow frames of mind regarding their homelands. This is what I still can tolerate to some extent.

What I cannot tolerate is phoniness. I hate it when TV hosts pretend to be curious about the ‘exotic’. Sometimes, you can see their oily faces sticking to the masks, revealing their true appearances. As flawed as he could be, Anthony Bourdain was still very honest with what he liked and disliked. Oh, and the way he approached cultural exploration also made him stand out from his contemporaries.

Besides local cultures experts, who may or may not have academic backgrounds, he also had chefs, sailors, farmers and hunters as guests. Of course, having guests of relevant expertise is not unusual. Andrew Zimmern also has people of similar occupations as guests. Rick Steves often has fellow travel guides as guests. But, Tony wanted more than just interacting with ‘food’ and ‘culture’ people.

He also had fellow media personalities, writers (especially crime fiction ones), musicians (especially Rock ones), politicians and members of (relatively) fringe groups in his shows. I don’t think I need to explain why it made sense to invite media personalities, considering he was one.

I am not surprised about him inviting writers as he was a one who also had published both non-fiction and crime fiction books; he would not have a hard time bonding with them and scooping their perspectives on the local cultures.

I am also not surprised he invited politicians. Like it or not, politics can affect every single aspect of our lives, whether directly or not, and that includes foods. Of course, this is purely my thought. Tony invited politicians probably because he was interested in politics in general (he really, really hated Henry Kissinger, by the way).

I am not sure about the musicians, though. While he did have high appreciation of music, particularly Rock, I am still unsure of why he invited them. He probably wanted to know more about the local cultures. Or he probably just wanted to hang out with them. Even though I can’t say for sure, the former is something that I would do if I were him.

I am also not sure about the culturally fringe individuals (again, relatively fringe), like the residents of Christiania in Copenhagen and Molokai in Hawaii state. Maybe, as a former dweller of Provincetown, he felt he would not have much trouble bonding with them. Maybe he believed understanding a mainstream society would feel inadequate and too sugary without the alternative perspectives, a sentiment that I happen to possess.

Whatever the reasons, whether he did it on purpose or not, I have to give Anthony Bourdain credit for giving me new perspectives on how to explore cultures, whether they are ‘foreign’ or my own. Our understanding of a society will be more well-rounded once we utilise different and distinct paradigms.

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

I hate the one from No Reservations. It uses the same ‘Indonesia-is-all-about-Jakarta-and-Bali’ cliche. It does cover West Java, a territory that many foreigners haven’t heard and don’t care about. But, it has to compete for attention with the more internationally-known ones. That’s like making a US episode in which lesser known places like Savannah or Austin have to compete for attention with New York City and Los Angeles.

The only thing I love about the episode is the scene where cameraman Todd Liebler accidentally crashed the piling plates of foods in a Padang restaurant (there is a reason why those areas are off-limit to customers, for God’s sake). The farce is the only reason why I still keep re-watching it.

Even though I think Andrew Zimmern is an inferior host in comparison with his sometimes cringeworthy behaviours and conventional style of communication, his short-lived and little-known show Bizarre World does a better job in portraying Indonesia.

It dedicates two episodes on my country, each focusing on one specific region: Bali and Sulawesi. While No Reservations gives the impression that Jakarta, West Java and Bali are all the country about, Bizarre World sternly communicates the audience how everything depicted on the screen, including the elaborate Torajan funeral ceremony (which I always want to attend once in my life), is confined to certain localities and does not fully represent the entire country! For me, that’s how one should do a foreign travelling piece!

The Indonesian episode of Parts Unknown exceeds my expectation… in spite of the Jakarta-Bali cliche!

The beginning of the episode features having a sumptuous Minangkabau lunch with Desi Anwar, a CNN Indonesia host, and a Dalang (wayang puppeteer). Desi asserted that tasting every Indonesian dish will take us forty years to achieve!

Obviously, such claim is conjectural. But, I cannot blame every individual who knows Indonesia really well for believing that. The country is indeed really diverse and it is often something I bring up when discussing multiculturalism and Indonesian stereotypes with foreigners. The acknowledgement of its diversity really kicks the No Reservations episode in the nut!

Desi also claimed that Indonesians enjoy dishes from other ethnicities, even ones they have grudges against. I am so fucking happy she said that! For years, I have been noticing how we love eating foods of the people we constantly demonise! In the US, it is mostly the Mexicans, Mexican-Americans and African-Americans. In Indonesia, it is mostly the Chinese-Indonesians.

Not only it exposes more about the insufferableness of humanity, it also exposes human prejudice’s inability to dictate what our taste buds should like or dislike. It sheds light on the deep-rooted universality of food! It probably has something to do with food being one of our basic human needs and our survival instinct compels us to have a taste palate as wide-ranging as possible. But, that’s just my conjecture as someone who never attended a single proper science in his lifetime. Anyway, back to the show.

I am also happy the episode features a historian with whom Anthony briefly talks the 1960’s anti-communist massacre. It is treated by nationalistic Indonesians just like how the crusades being treated by Christian fundamentalists: glorifyingly!

I am not a communist and the idea of living under the rule of communism is as terrifying as living under fascism. But, even if the Indonesian communist party (or PKI as popularly known) was indeed involved in the September 30 movement (or G30S as popularly known), I still cannot find any moral justification for the mass killings!

For one, how do you know every single human casualty involves actual communists? How do you know they were not targeted simply for their Chinese ancestry, their religious beliefs or lack thereof? How do you know the murderers were not purely motivated by bloodlust or the desire to play fucking ‘superheroes’?

Even if every single victim was indeed a commie, how do you know the entire PKI was involved in G30S? In 1965, the party had over three million members. :iterally millions of them! You cannot expect reasonable minds to believe every single one was directly responsible for the violence! But, most importantly, what makes you think you are the ones with higher moral grounds? What makes you believe you, the apologists of the murders, are the good guys here?

Why do I act like I can reason with those people? Years after the fall of the Order Baru regime, Indonesians are still willingly getting deep-throated by its propaganda and we love wearing intellectual dishonesty as a fucking badge of honour! Okay, I need to stop with the historical revisionism tangent.

This is the second reason why I am so happy with the episode. Even though the historical ‘event’ was only being alluded to, the sense of inhumanity is strongly conveyed. I hope this has an effect on the viewers.

A handful of foreigners among them will probably be intrigued by and start researching about it; they will probably realise how supportive western governments and how apathetic most of the eastern bloc ones about the massacre. The Indonesian viewers, the ones with bloodlust at least, will realise how their beloved foreign idol viewed the historical ‘event’ as an example of humanity at one of its worst , NOT one of its best.

I never expected that I would discuss such topic in an article about a TV chef. The fact that I can do so emphasises what I said earlier about his political consciousness. But still, I haven’t got to the best part of the episode: the conversations about death.

Since I was young, I have been told by some fellow Indonesians that ‘death is just the beginning’, which is also how the narrator (who speaks with a ‘sophisticated’ Indonesian accent) puts it. I really doubt it is an exclusively Indonesian belief. But, I like the off-centre approach to cultural exploration.

Instead of focusing on earthly entities, this episode prefer to zoom in on a metaphysical realm which existence is not believed by every earthly being (this goes back to what I said earlier). The theme is fitting as there are scenes depicting Ngaben, the elaborate Balinese funeral ceremony (which I also have the desire to attend). Typically, documentaries include the thematic conversation to compliment the rituals being depicted. But, in this episode, the roles are reversed!

The death conversations take around half of the episode’s duration and the Ngaben scenes appear later on. The thematics is the main dish and its tangible representation is the optional condiment. This role reversal strongly argues how cultural heritage goes beyond its tangibility. We strive to protect it for the sake of its souls, NOT merely for its physicality.

In the light of Anthony’s death, which happened before the post-production process was finalised, this episode may feel eerie for some people. For others like me, it feels deeply poignant. This makes me wonder if he had been thinking about his own death for some times and the conversations was meant to help him contemplating about it.

Okay, I know I am crossing the boundary here. But, I have to be frank about it: that’s what I am feeling and I am confident some people are feeling the same! The fact that the last season of Parts Unknown is considered ‘unfinished’ intensifies the poignancy.

After his death, the Indonesian episode is the only ‘unfinished’ one that I have currently watched. As an Indonesian who has been interacting with foreigners regularly for years, I felt obligated to watch and critique every piece about Indonesia that foreigners assemble. Emotionally, I don’t have the gut to watch the other episodes.

The Indonesian episode is already hard to watch. Never mind the emotionally-fitting theme. The absence of his witty and poetic voice-over asserts there will be no more Anthony Bourdain to tell us stories.

Watching the other ‘unfinished’ pieces means I will have to listen to the harrowing truth over and over again.

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Confidence and arrogance, what are the differences?

*puts on a mask*

To define the two, let me tell my life stories:

As obligated by law, Indonesian students had to pass the government-issued national exams if they want to obtain middle and high school diplomas. Fail just one test and you would enjoy the privilege of graduating a year later. It did not matter if you pass the other government-issued tests or the ones made by your school (which were also compulsory). Fail one and you repeat.

Unsurprisingly, my classmates in middle and high school planned to cheat, encouraged by their teachers and possibly parents. I was academically poor and I was also one of those who chose the honest path. As a result, I was accused of being sanctimonious and arrogant. I successfully passed them without cheating. While the insults stopped, there were no praises for me.

Because of a glitch in the matrix, I was successfully accepted to one of the top universities in the country. To my disappointment, the seniors seemed insecure about their own intelligence. Instead of actually showcasing it, they chose to boast about how smart they were by irrelevantly invoking the high status of their destined alma mater. I complained about it to my family and they said those seniors were being confident, not arrogant. Eventually, I dropped out and the glitch was fixed.

Initially, I was opposed to such mentality because I thought it mistook confidence and arrogance for each other. Then, years later, I experienced something we call ‘growing up’.

I realised I was indeed arrogant for thinking I could pass the tests honestly. My mistake was using logical probability to determine my chance of succeeding. I should had listened to the populist consensus: no students, especially the low-achieving ones, will never able to pass the exams honestly!

I was also wrong to say those seniors were not confident. If one actually thinks about it, them seeing themselves as high and mighty despite the lack of evidences requires confidence! It is no longer a secret that our intelligence is not defined by the universities we attend. Yet, those seniors had their sense of self-worth easily spiked up by their mere attendance! There is something special about people who take pride in a figment of their imagination!

Arrogance is not defined by how unrealistic one’s expectation of oneself is; it is defined by the shared opinion of the collective one is a part of. One’s actual capability will always be irrelevant in the discourse. The collectively-held dogma is and will always be more important the truths!

Me passing the exams was a major faux pas because I successfully shattered the high standing of a collective conviction and therefore violating the delicate collective ego! Humans are social animals. It is literally our destiny to strip ourselves of individuality, it is literally our destiny to embrace the bandwagon fallacy in our everyday lives! I was arrogant to think I could escape such fate.

Arrogance is also defined by one’s acknowledgement of one’s own strengths. Even the most implicit acknowledgement is of poor taste. It strongly insinuates how one sees oneself as higher than the rest of humanity! It is literally a misguided form of elitism!

Confidence is not about saluting one’s existing strengths; it is all about doing so for the ones that never exist! Besides being arrogant, celebration of the tangibles is also redundant; why would anyone make a big deal out of things we have been surrounded by throughout our entire lives?

The celebration of the imaginary, on the other hand, is goddamn impressive! It cannot be fulfilled without the presence of our own delusions and delusions are hard to obtain! Just imagine the efforts we need in order to sincerely believe things that contradict reality! Reach that state and we are literally on a mental level unachievable by most of mankind! So, my desire to destroy my seniors’ self-worth was mean-spirited.

So, please! Don’t mix up arrogance and confidence with each other! You will cause a lot of harm by doing so!

*takes off the mask*

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How to be inspirational: the Indonesian way

*puts on a mask*

Well, it is a lot easier than it sounds.

The easiest way to be inspirational is to express how much you treasure old school values. Act like they are already forgotten, even though they are not. You don’t even have to practice what you preach. Just preach and people will listen to you fervently. Everybody can do this.

What if you want to elevate it to a higher level?

You don’t have to think anything new! All you have to do is to repackage those obsolete wisdom with a new lexicon and metaphors. Nobody will even bother to read between the lines. The surface is everything for them.

To intensify your messages, exploit your audience’s religiosity. If you involve their Gods and use a more scriptural language, they would feel more compelled to take you seriously as it has become a matter of heaven and hell!

Oh, and keep nuances out of your messages. Humans prefer to believe everything in life can be easily put into boxes. They hate to think life as an intricate and vague entity. Be a simpleton and treat your audience as simpletons as well!

Once you have a decently-sized devotees, you will have enough apprentices in your grasp. This is the time when you organise seminars…. and set the prices.

Making your devotees and potential-devotees pay for your services is good for you; it gives them the impression you are a teacher who is willing to teach! Offering free services insinuates you don’t care about quality. Keep that in mind: money equals quality!

In your paid services, there are two things you must include: anecdotes and emotional manipulations.

I initially wanted to say you must treat your anecdotes as absolute truths, more reliable than scientific data. But, subsequently, I was aware of its redundancy. Anyone who cares enough to listen the first place will devour anything you say. They will revere your words as ones of truth, more truthful than the ones of actual scientists and intellectuals.

Make them emotional. Play soppy music, show soppy imagery on the projection screen, dim the lighting, anything to enhance the manipulation. But, the most important thing is to make them see themselves as pieces of shit!

You can do so by making them recall their own past ‘sins’. What counts as sins? Disobedience against conceited authority figures, refusal to do religious rituals which you never found rewarding, having the humane desire of touching another human’s tinky-winky with your own. You know, outdated moral problems. Once the tears start gushing like water out of the poorly-maintained Situ Gintung dam, you have conquered your audience.

Does it matter if they have sincerely changed for the better after leaving your seminars? No, it doesn’t. What matters is they act like they have changed for the better. How much boasting they have made determines the level of your success. The higher, the better.

Obviously, you will get your own haters. But, worry not. Launching scathing attacks against them is unnecessary. Your followers will do the job for you.

They will condemn your haters for being too unenlightened to cherish the transcedental heart of your sermons. Too hedonistic, too materialistic, too atheistic, too selfish, any empty insults imaginable.

Oh, and even though I doubt you can use them to create your own cult, I am sure they can make great stepping stones.

*takes off the mask*

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How to vote

*puts on the mask*

It is easy. All we have to do is to follow these two simple steps:

  1. Choose politicians who repeat words.

Not just any words. The right words. Ones that represent your main grievances. For example, if you care about issues like Islamic extremism or economic growth, you should vote for politicians who say the relevant words like ‘Islam’, ‘Jihadism’, ‘economy’ or ‘jobs’ the most. There is a physics-proven phenomenon called semantic satiation in which words become more meaningful after constant repetition. This is the same reason why our parents’ self-righteous naggings and worthless advices increase in their profundity after constant repetition, especially after the millionth time.

If you think that approach encourages voters to vote for the most inept candidates, you are absolutely right! Expertise and knowledge should never be a priority for any of us. In fact, upholding either one means we fall for tactless elitism. We should embrace tactful one instead, which coercencourage us to love individuals simply for their wealth, lineage and popularity.

  1. Prioritise your grievances.

Let’s face it. Some grievances are not real grievances. Protesting the oppression committed by your ingroups is not one. In fact, it is an incitement of hatred against your own kins! It is sacrilegious to not blindly love the kinship! That’s literally more sinful than murder! Literally!

The only oppression we are obligated to fight against is the one committed by outsiders. It is our duty to make our collectives look better in comparison, to make them look better than they really are, to make oppression our prerogative. Prohibiting us from oppressing others is literally oppressive! Literally!

There is also another grievance we must prioritise: wealth. I don’t care how much you are demonised as a minority. Widespread wealth is literally more important than your humanisation (as if that’s even possible)! A wealthy yet bigoted society is and will always more dignified than an enlightened yet poor one! Don’t believe me? Just ask God! Be fucking happy with your status as subhumans!

Vote for politicians who incite hatred! Vote for politicians who worship greed! They are the ones who get their priorities straight!

*takes off the mask*

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Support this deadbeat blogger on Patreon.