Being basic: not a sin, not something to be proud of

Basic is a pejorative slang word which means preference to anything that is mainstream and inability to enjoy anything niche and are of acquired tastes.

I think it is appropriate to extend the definition to one’s lack of interest in any highbrow and heavy topics. You prefer to keep the conversations simple and light.

Obviously, there is nothing inherently wrong about any of those. Being basic does not harm anyone. Being the opposite does not help anyone either.

Besides, ‘basic’ is relative. In the US, you would stand out if you love spices and fermented seafood. But, if you live among Indonesians who love both, you are basic.

Your ‘sophistication’ may be unimpressive in some places. It may also be something you involuntarily grew up with, instead of something you voluntarily and diligently learned to love; if you did learn to love it, it is possible you had the means to do so.

You cannot be too proud of it when the opportunities were handed to you.

But, I also hate how some people are proud of being basic; they even have the gall to look down on anyone who aren’t. Seriously, what is something to be proud about that?

If you love only purely escapist entertainment, it means you cannot enjoy anything which has the slightest negative emotions as they are enough to remind you of reality.

If you enjoy only chicken nuggets, vanilla ice creams and the likes, it means your tastebuds are limited to salt, sugar and grease.

If you enjoy only the latest pop songs, it means you cannot enjoy unpredictable melodies, more complex music arrangement and/or you are not open to different or new sounds.

If you enjoy only Hollywood blockbusters, it means you cannot enjoy motion picture works with more slow-paced, more complex and/or more offbeat storytellings.

If you enjoy only light conversations and small talks, it means you refuse or are unable to contemplate about the convoluted nature of the world you live in.

To sum them up, you refuse or are unable to comprehend complexities, be reminded of reality while being entertained, take new tastes into consideration and appreciate the beauty of silence and calmness.

Again, there is nothing immoral about the things I mentioned above. You shouldn’t be condemned for having traits that harm no one.

But, those traits reveal your incapabilities, not your capabilities. They are not strengths, they are weaknesses. Celebrating ‘basicness’ is the celebration of ineptitude.

Maybe you are thinking of contentment. You love yourself despite your inoffensive weaknesses. If that’s what you mean, then I am on your side (and I can definitely relate).

But, if you insist it is not contentment and you genuinely love yourself because of those weaknesses, then you can go fuck yourself.

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No, Ayam Geprek is not the ultimate Indonesian dish (not yet)

Yes, I have to commend Indonesians who actively promote our cultures to foreigners. I also have to appreciate foreigners who genuinely love our cuisines without any desire to pander to validation-hungry Indonesians.

But, I also need to criticise them for overselling ayam geprek.

In a previous blog, I talk about how Indonesians are clumsy in translating certain words and act like Indomie is the only existing instant noodle brand. But, I find theayam geprek problem to be more infuriating.

While the origin is unclear, it is believed to be created in the early 2000’s. It started gaining national popularity in the mid 2010’s. Basically, it is so recent, I would be surprised if there are younger Millennials and older Zoomers who consider it a comfort food.

Nasi goreng, mie goreng, bakmi, soto, bubur ayam, sate, those are dishes which evoke strong nostalgia among many Indonesians. Personally, I would also add ayam goreng lengkuas, ayam pop and ayam penyet – three other variants of fried chickens (yes, there are others) – to the list.

I am not a hater. I actually love the dish. The texture of crispy batter and succulent meat mushed together, the heat level customisation, the additional salted egg sauce or melted cheese, I love them all. If I am okay with having my stomach scorched, I would definitely eat it.

My problem is that people – both Indonesians and foreigners – use it as the introduction to Indonesian cuisine. It gives an impression of deep-rootedness, like tempura and sushi are in Japan, even though it is an ongoing new trend.

Yes, I know we are talking about food here. Such misperception, as annoying as it is, won’t cause harm to anyone. But, misleading nonetheless.

Talking about religion and politics, however, would actually be consequential. Misperception would cause certain phenomena to appear more or less entrenched than they really are, giving societies undeservingly negative or positive reputations.

People – again, both Indonesians and foreigners – have also screwed up when talking about politics and religion in Indonesia; as a nation, we seem either more progressive or more backward than we really are.

If you cannot be trusted to represent trivial facts, you cannot be trusted with the more consequential ones. I don’t care if I sound petty.

Just wait for the next few decades. If ayam geprek is still popular, then it has achieved traditional status.*

But, even if it already is, it makes a bad gateway dish.

It is unbelievably spicy, even for the spice-loving locals. Unless you are a hardcore chili lover or an adventurous foodie, the extremeness of the introduction will put you off.

Just stick with nasi goreng, mie goreng, bakmi and bakso; they are easy for foreigners to enjoy or, at least, tolerate. Imagine being introduced to Japanese foods and, instead of starting with tonkatsu, gyoza, ramen and tempura, they want you to go straight to natto and anything involving raw fish.

You will find the entire cuisine off-putting.

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*Note: decades may sound like a relatively short time for something to become traditional. But, the longer something stays popular, the more deep-rooted it will become.

Besides, tinutuan – also known as bubur manado – is considered a traditional dish, despite being created (allegedly) in the 70’s or 80’s.

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Cooking at home: an anecdotal (and possibly unhelpful) guide

If you work for a hundred hours per week, you live in a place where fresh ingredients are prohibitively expensive or you are physically unable to use cooking utensil, then I cannot persuade you to cook at home.

If you don’t experience any of those, let’s get started.

I don’t know why. But, it seems some of you are under the impression that all recipes take hours of preparation and cooking. If you are talking about pies, lasagna, gulai or briyani, then they are obviously laborious. But, stir fries also exist.

They definitely do not have to be Asian; I say that as an Asian. All you need is seasoning (which can be either chopped fresh spices, spice powder or even bouillon cubes), a small amount of cooking fat or oil and the two or more main ingredients.

My personal favourite: minced beef and spinach stir fried with small amount of margarine, chopped garlic, chopped shallots, chopped chillies, salt and pepper; so simple yet so tasty (for me) and so filling.

Oh, and fried rice and noodles technically count as stir fries. Technically.

Now, it is not to say stir fries are effortless. It can be exhausting to wash and chop the ingredients, cook them and wash the utensils. But, the more you do them, the easier they get; even the more elaborate recipes will get easier eventually.

Cooking also teaches me to be more time-efficient. If I know I would have limited time to cook my lunch and dinner, I would prepare some or all of my ingredients hours prior. The cooking process would not be as hectic.

Now, what if the grocery stores force you to buy ingredients in bulk, but you still want to cook? I have two suggestions: 1. you create one dish in a bulk and consume it over a few meals; 2. you use the ingredients for different dishes.

Of course, if you are not into eating leftovers or you are easily bored by the same ingredients, the suggestions won’t do. But, even if you don’t have to buy in bulks, you still need to learn appreciating leftovers and not being bored by the back-to-back use of the same ingredients; I find it tasteless to waste food because of one’s pickiness.

Oh, and you need to learn how to cook, anyway. It is one of the most basic human survival skills. It doesn’t feel important because we have easy access to takeouts and instant foods. Take them away and we will sing a different tune.

Lastly, there is one obvious aspect homemade cooking which should be talked about more: the “customisation”.

If you cook, you are in charge. Not only you decide the amount of ingredients, you also decide whether to use the alternatives or even exclude them altogether.

You are in charge of how healthy your foods are and how they taste like. Personally, as much as I enjoy takeouts, some of them can definitely be less salty and greasy and contain more fresh vegetables.

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“Everything is political!”

I first encountered that remark in a video by Extra Credit, a Youtube channel partially dedicated to video games.

At first, I found it off-putting. I thought it was pretentious and sanctimonious. I thought they were trying too hard to sound socially-conscious. I remember that people in the comment section also shared my discontent.

But then, years later, I changed my mind. Admittedly, as off-putting as it sounds, that remark has some truths. But, I prefer to phrase it differently: everything -literally everything – is affected by politics.

What kinds of entertainment we consume and enjoy are affected by politics. The governments set rules about which works are allowed and prohibited, which require age restrictions, which require “alteration”; in some cases, there may be endorsement of certain works and/or styles.

And yes, even the foods we eat are affected by politics. The openness and closeness of trades affect the variety. Political stances, especially of the ruling classes, may also affect what styles of foods considered acceptable to eat; cultural cringe compels people to look down on their ancestral/local cuisines while pride compels them to be proud of the ancestral/local ones.

In more extreme cases, ultra-nationalists want everyone to eat ONLY ancestral/local foods and some revolutionaries (e.g. Italian Futurists) want everyone to break up with the past by stop eating ancestral foods.

My problem with that Extra Credit quote is the phrasing. It sounds like we have to make be political every second of our lives! I don’t think so and I would be disappointed if that was what they meant.

We have the choice to be tactful and tactless about our political opinions. We have the choice to take heed or be dismissive of politics. But, we don’t have the choice to be free from politics because it is very much interested in you (I am sure some of you have heard of this before).

One can also the same thing about cultures, religions and the economies. On one way or another, our lives are affected by all of them and they are unavoidable.

This is a reminder that humans don’t live in vacuums. We live in a world where everything is inevitably interconnected. In fact, I can also argue not only politics influences entertainment and foods, it can also be the other way around!

But, I am not going there now. I am not into the mood of plunging myself into the rabbit hole.

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Cooking them yourself shouldn’t be a big deal

Recently, I have been hooked on the Trash Taste podcast, hosted by Youtubers Gigguk, CdawgVA and the Anime Man. Maybe it is my limited experiences with podcasts in general. But, TT is one of the few which truly intrigues me. I am interested to hear them talking about literally anything.

Their food episode is the most provocative for me (as the time of writing), as I have rebuttals or responses for every opinion expressed in it. But, one opinion in particular bugs me.

Connor -CdawgVA’s real first name- said he did not enjoy restaurants which made us cook the foods ourselves. For him, not only it was too expensive, it was anxiety-inducing as he had to share the grill with others and he worried about overcooking the food.

While I am annoyed by the opinion, it does not infuriate me; I have encountered opinions which I find more infuriating than this. The annoyance actually came from the comment section.

The commenters were overwhelmingly in support of Connor, agreeing with his every single point. That irked me because an opinion which I consider ignorant freely echoes in a chamber, drowning any reasonable rebuttals.

Seriously, I wonder if any of those dumb motherfuckers ever fucking cook before.

They seem to think cooking is all about putting shits onto heated cookware and stir and flipping them, not realising ingredient preparation is as crucial…. and it is certainly no fun.

Despite their appearances, some vegs and meat can be quite tough to chop if your knives are not sharp enough. Peeling certain ingredients like shallots can be a bitch. If you are not careful, you can cut yourself. I find preparing ingredients more laborious than stirring and flipping them.

Because I know how it feels to cook from scratch, it makes perfect sense why such restaurants -which tend to be the all you can eat type, mind you- are expensive to dine in.

Oh, and cooking yourselves shouldn’t be a big deal. Literally all you have to do is flip or dip! It is literally as easy as frying or boiling an egg!

It is a basic survival skill, arguably more important than literacy. If it makes you anxious, I am genuinely worried for you.

About social anxiety disorder, I am not diagnosed with it, thankfully. So, if you suffer from it, I cannot judge you if this kind of eating experience overwhelms you.

But, I am socially awkward myself and I occasionally can get so nervous about meeting people, to the point where I sometimes either cancel or delay appointments… and yet, sharing foods never stresses me out. My fellow diners, even the annoying and judgemental ones, are too busy cooking and eating.

Unless you suffer from an actual anxiety disorder, I don’t see any good reasons for you to be a nervous wreck.

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And the world slurps… Indonesian noodles

That one bloody brand

As an Indonesian, I am very much aware of how ‘invisible’ my country is. But, it took me some time to be fully conscious of our instant noodles’ global appeal.

When I say instant noodles, I mean Indomie. Not only it is sold in many countries, many Youtubers have made many videos about it and they include Josh Carrott and Ollie Kendal, who seem ecstatic every time they eat Indomie Goreng.

Obviously, if you are used to with how under-the-radar your country is, foreigners liking anything from your country feels weird. With the Indomie hype specifically, I am weirded out… and annoyed.

Don’t get me wrong: Indomie is indeed tasty. But, for God’s sake, other brands exist! Sarimi, Supermi (both share the same parent company with Indomie), ABC, Gaga and Mie Sedap, the last is arguably Indomie’s strongest rival. Their products can be just as tasty, if not more.

While Indonesia did used to have even greater variety of instant noodles, it is still not an excuse to divert our attention to a single brand.

If I were a more dilligent fan of food Youtubers, I would have definitely send them Indonesian instant noodles of various brands. If the Youtubers have made Indomie videos before, I would exclude the brand from my packages and force them to acknowledge other brands as well.

A genuine source of national pride

In another blog post, I mentioned how Indonesia’s lack of international culinary success can be blamed on our lack of pride. This may also explain Indomie’s success.

Obviously, I have to credit the company’s marketing team. But, I also think our sincere pride contributes to the brand’s popularity. The sincerity makes the hype sounds more convincing. Unless our target audiences are gullible, believing in our own words is crucial.

We do import foreign brands. Nissin, Nongshim, Ichiban and even the (in)famous Samyang. In fact, the global popularity of Samyang’s fire noodles compels Indonesian manufacturers to create their own versions.

Considering how Indonesian cuisines are way hotter than the Korean one, it is odd that Koreans made super spicy flavours before we did. Somehow, for many years, we weren’t interested in having our mouths and digestive tracts burned by instant noodles.

But, despite the popularity of Korean brands, we still prefer our own. Apart from the significantly higher prices of the imported products, we also think ours are more flavourful.

And I rarely agree with my fellow countrymen on anything.

‘Weird’ taste buds 

In the year 2000, my eight-year-old self was excited. There was a new kid in town: Mie & Me!

It offered flavours that were considered ‘unusual’ at that time: pizza, burger and spaghetti; can’t remember if there were other flavours. I don’t know if it was the first brand to do so. But, it did make me realise instant noodle flavours should not be limited to what we consider ‘normal’.

Not long after Mie & Me was launched, I remember Indomie launching Chatz, which also offered ‘weird’ flavours like chicken lemon and BBQ sausage… literally the only ones I remember (and the latter tasted like shit). Basically, Mie & Me almost started a new trend.

Yes, almost.

In my memories, I didn’t know anyone other than myself who ate those ‘weird’ products. It seems they were not that popular. Unsurprisingly, they were short-lived, much to my dismay.

A handful of people do still remember the brands. But, they are so obscure, it is hard to find their visual evidences online. With Chatz, I only found just one photo. With Mie & Me, no photos at all!

I don’t know why they were commercial failures. I assume it has something to do with us seeing instant noodles as proper meals… and associating pizza, burger and spaghetti flavours with children’s snacks.

But then, it just an assumption.

‘Traditional’ taste buds

Traditional dishes flavours are not exactly innovative; brands have been selling soto flavour since forever. But, I don’t know they didn’t think of having more varieties from early on.

Nowadays, major brands do produce those flavours with Indomie being the most prolific among them (unsurprisingly). Interestingly, I notice they were first released around the same time as the rise of Batik’s popularity among the masses.

I don’t think Indonesia has experienced a renaissance akin to the Hawaiian one. But, there has been a slow rise of interests in traditional cultures among us. Apart from the aforementioned Batik’s popularity, eating traditional Indonesian dishes is now considered cool once again.

And Indomie aggressively follows the trend. In fact, thanks to this, I would have never heard of a dish called Mie Celor. To this day, I have to yet to try the real thing.

Going glocal

Indomie has (or had, don’t bother to check) Taste of Asia flavours: Singaporean laksa, Korean bulgogi and Thai Tom Yum. Mie Sedap has at least two spicy ‘Korean-style’ flavours. Gaga has jalapeno flavour.

I cannot be certain if they can impress foreigners or not (probably not). But, the variety of flavours being offered is intriguing: it reminds me of the glocal (global and local) nature of Indonesia’s instant noodles lovers.

Unlike with our heritages, we don’t love our instant noodles simply for the sake of loving anything Indonesian. As mentioned before, we are wholeheartedly proud of them. Our pride compels us to promote the noodles to foreigners, consequently taking us out of our cultural bubbles.

But, at the same time, we are not snobby about it… not to my knowledge, at least. There is no shame in enjoying the foreign ones.

Usually, we are either too xenophobic or too xenophiliac. But, in this case, appreciation of both local and foreign things is well-balanced.

 

Eating like an Indonesian 1: feeling (in)validated

There is no such thing as Indonesian cuisine. There are Indonesian cuisines. Plural.

This country, an archipelago sandwiched by two continents, literally has hundreds of ethnic groups. The government officially recognise six religions and there are more unrecognised ones. Our traditions are also laced with Arab, Indian, Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese influences. Diversity means there are lots of cultures and lots of cultures means lots of ways of cooking.

Javanese and Sundanese cuisines are mostly indigenous in style with minimal foreign influences, even though Javanese and Sundanese arts are heavy with Indian influences. The former is (in)famous for its sweetness due to the heavy use of palm sugar and sweet soy sauce. The latter is known for its earthy taste due to the heavy presence of raw vegetables.

As a Sumatran city, Palembang  is unusual for the Javanese influences in its dishes and their restrained use of spices. They also heavily utilise both freshwater and saltwater fish; in major Indonesian cuisines, it is usually either or.

Minangkabau and Malay cuisines are known for their rich, cholesterol-inducing and spice-heavy coconut milk gravies. Both are heavily influenced by India and the Middle East. The latter is also influenced by China and it is related to Peranakan cuisine, a Chinese fusion cuisine also existing in Singapore and Malaysia.

While there are Peranakan dishes in Indonesia, non-spicy Chinese-influenced dishes are more popular here. They share more resemblances to the ‘original’ Chinese ones.

Batak cuisine is notable for its use of the tongue-numbing andaliman, a relative of Sichuan pepper, and there is one dish that use cow’s cud as an ingredient. Christian Batak people -well, some of them- are also infamous for their consumption of dog meat.

Minahasan cuisine is more infamous because, apart from being one of the spiciest cuisines in the country, it uses way more ‘exotic’ meat from animals like bats, jungle rats, snakes, macaques and yes, even dogs.

Betawi cuisine is the most fusional of them all. It is heavily influenced not only by other regional cultures, but also foreign ones. Remember the foreign cultures I listed earlier? Betawi covers all of them! Due to the high eclecticism, I still don’t know what makes Betawi dishes uniquely Betawi. For some reason, I associate them with the smell of lemongrass, even though not all of them use it.

I have tried only a handful of Indonesian dishes. Yet, my limited experience already reveals how diverse Indonesian cuisines are and how I have only scratched the surface. Heck, I am sure people who haven’t eaten a single Indonesian dish in their lives would acknowledge the diversity just by reading online sources that get the basic facts right.

The variety means one crucial thing: Indonesia could have catered to a wide range of taste buds. Regarding popularity, our foods could have beaten the ones from Japan and South Korea, two highly homogenous countries. We could have been a global culinary powerhouse!

Sadly, reality says otherwise.

Popularity is achieved through confident self-promotion. The promotion must be consistently done and the promoters must believe their own words. Even I know that and I am awkward as fuck!

Our self-promotion is pathetically lethargic. We are lazy and we even don’t believe our own words. We are ashamed of our own cultural existence. We only feel validated when foreigners openly commend our cultures.

There is a reason why you can find lots of foreign Youtubers who make videos eating Indonesian foods.*

I do know Indonesians who are proud of their foods. But, more of than not, they can only enjoy Indonesian foods; in some cases, they can only enjoy ones from their ethnic homelands.

Basically, they are bubble dwellers who have yet to live a truly cosmopolitan life.

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*I make it sound like the presence of foreign Youtubers (many of whom are Koreans, for some reasons) who make a living eating Indonesian foods is an inherently bad thing.

I don’t think it is. In fact, I genuinely adore some of them. I just want to make a point that Indonesians still crave outside validation like insecure teenagers.

While we are it, there is a concern about foreigners exploiting our insecurity. I personally believe the concern is legitimate. But, just because it is legitimate, that does NOT mean all of them are guilty!

If you want to publicly accuse them, make sure you are backed with solid evidences. And no, your feeling is not a fucking evidence!

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Being Indonesian

 

I was born in Indonesia. The first language I learned was Indonesian. Both of my parents are Indonesian citizens and my mom is a Sundanese speaker. Before university, I only attended one international school; even then, I was still surrounded by other Indonesian citizens and some classes still used Indonesian as a medium of instruction. In high school, I was surrounded by students who spoke with various regional accents. I started to form relationships with foreigners when I became active in social media, when I was eighteen.

But, somehow, my Indonesian-ness started emerging when I was an adult.

I grew up preferring foreign foods and looked  down on Indonesian ones which I dismissed as ‘traditional medicine but in food forms’. I preferred to appreciate western-influenced arts over ones with distinctively Indonesian characteristics. I also hoped to leave Indonesia for good. I felt like a westerner.

Of course, I have changed.

I am now able to eat Indonesian dishes and watch traditional art performances with sincerity. My desire to leave and my western inclination have also diminished.

I still don’t know why my old self was like that.

Maybe it has something to do with my childhood which lacks exposure to anything Indonesian. Maybe it is my mom who inexplicably did not teach her children a regional language. Maybe it is me constantly eating foreign foods.

But, after I thought about it, what I just said were also experienced by others; from my knowledge, they never feel alien in their home country. Their identity has always been Indonesian.

Of course, my horizon widens as I get older. I undoubtedly get exposed to more things western. But, at the same time, I am also exposed to more things Indonesian.

The more I taste different types of European cheese and bread, the more I taste different types of gulai and Indonesian ‘salads’ like gado-gado and urap. The more I listen to western music, the more I listen to Indonesian folk songs and works of musicians like Guruh Soekarno Putra and Kua Etnika. The more I listen to cases of sectarianism in western countries, the more I realise how our inter-ethnic relations are relatively peaceful and harmonious according to international standard.

I am finally able to compare Indonesia with the western world  more meticulously and the comparison shows how Indonesian-ness is a very unique and complex which is impossible to be summarised.

Some of our traditions are clearly results of different foreign influences, we boast cultural diversity which can only be rivalled by India, Papua New Guinea and certain African countries and Indonesia is a predominantly-Muslim country which national symbols are Hindu in origin. How can you summarise that?

Indonesia is a country that can easily shine. If its citizens sincerely embrace our Indonesian identity, we would be more accomplished in generating innovative ideas and hence, making us more contributive to world developments.

Obviously, I don’t praise things simply because they are Indonesian.

Our cooking is still too dependent on palm oil and white rice, our pop culture is unsophisticated in regards to its aesthetics and originality, we are too dependent on conservative mindsets which hinder us from being reasonable. Moreover, our inter-religious and inter-racial relations are not as good as advertised.

Counterintuitively, the more I know about the ugly side of my nation, the more I embrace my Indonesian identity.

Unlike my old self, I am no longer infatuated with absolute perfection, a thing that only exists in fairy tales; presenting it as the truth is deceitful. Imperfection is never compelled to be so; as a result, the authenticity of its good side is more guaranteed.

Blind nationalism comes into being because the citizens feel their country is entirely ‘attractive’. But, from my experiences, they don’t know how the ‘attractiveness’ looks like.

Because of their black-and-white perspectives, they don’t realise how life is full of grey haze which is almost impenetrable. They are certain stereotypes are a hundred percent valid. Unless you see prejudice as a virtuous trait, you surely realise stereotypes will always mislead you and drag you to a deadly dark realm which you will have a hard time escaping from.

I do sound over-the-top. But, that’s what I have experienced myself.

I should tell you that my biography is incomplete. My old self did dislike anything Indonesian. But, at the same time, I was also a blind nationalist.

I did not care what being Indonesian entailed. I only cared about the ‘Indonesian’ label. I looked down on anything that had foreign labels stamped on them, even though I secretly preferred them and I did not want to admit it. In fact, I used to believe we were obliged to defend our country all the time, even when it was in the wrong.

Nationalistic, but did not know anything about his own country and refused to respect his ancestral heritages.

I admit that my story is confusing and unbelievable. Moreover, I don’t know how to persuade others to believe me. So, all I can do is to ask these questions:

Why do you consider yourself Indonesian? Don’t answer ‘citizenship’ and/or ‘was born and raised here’. It is too easy.

What are the things you love and hate about Indonesia? Have you experienced or observed them in person? Or are they things you only have heard and read about AKA rumours?

I consider myself Indonesian because I am already emotionally attached to the country, no matter how ugly it is. Even if I end up living overseas for good, I am sure my Indonesian-ness will never go away.

You already know what I love and hate about Indonesia and they are the things I have experienced and observed in person. Most of the feel-good stories disseminated by parents, schools and the media turn out to be balderdash; the splendour is either exaggerated or never exists in the first place.

Indeed, public figures constantly call us to collectively contemplate about our national identity. But, I don’t know if I miss the memo, I have never heard them make any calls to contemplate individually.

A group definitely consists of ‘members’ who are distinct from one another. Therefore, I find it strange if a contemplation that involves many is not implemented on an individual level.

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Not being vegan

Even if I agree that every animal-based product stands on animal sufferings (still not convinced about sheep wool), I still don’t buy the belief that veganism makes one moral.

Treating fellow human beings like shits makes you a scumbag, regardless whether you are vegan or not; no need to be a genius to grasp that. If anything, focusing solely on the products you are consuming means you are missing the bigger picture.

Not to mention that many animal-free products are also produced by the means of suffering. Unless you spent your living under a diamond-crusted, golden boulder (and many of you clearly did), you would have heard about human exploitations committed by agribusinesses. Once every vegetable and fruit farm treats its labourers like human beings, I will concede and acknowledge the moral legitimacy of veganism.

But, that’s very utopian. There is an extremely low possibility of me becoming vegan for that reason.

There are two factors that will compel me to consumer fewer animal products: health and emotional attachment. Mind the word fewer; I will not exclude them from my consumptions entirely.

I am open to the possibility that science will declare vegan diet as the healthiest one of all; it makes sense because we get our nutrients from food. But, I don’t see how using leather and wool is detrimental to our health.

I can also see myself stop consuming certain animal products because I get emotionally-attached to the animals they are derived from; I am sure I can get attached to animals like cows and goats. But, I cannot see myself attached to any seafood; I never feel guilty for eating them. I wonder if humans have ever bonded with tunas and shrimps before.

But, despite everything I just said, I am not siding with some fellow non-vegans either.

Some non-vegans like me question veganism for its scientific and moral validity, both of which have been claimed by vegans. But, some are just pure loonies.

They love meat so much, they see meat-eating as a some sort of moral duty. They feel that vegans spit on their faces with their meatless diet. They feel their right to eat meat is trampled by the mere existence of vegans. As a result, some people genuinely wanted to boycott a British bakery chain for selling vegan sausage rolls!

Basically, just like some zealous vegans, those meat eaters are extremists.

A tangent:

If I am in charge of a school or a group of schools, I would provide vegan school lunches. Unless you forget about what I just said paragraphs ago, you know I don’t care about evangelising veganism.

One thing for sure: providing vegan meals means I have to deal with waaaaay less dietary restrictions. While people can be allergic to certain plants and a handful of religious laws prohibit the consumption of certain plants, cutting animal-based ingredients altogether will reduce the hassles by a wide margin.

But, even if it is not true, wouldn’t it be beneficial for the students to familiarise themselves with the tastes of fruits and vegetables? While I doubt many end up as vegans, I am certain they would not end up as adults who can only get culinary pleasures from meat and dairy.

And I am also certain it would boost the creativity of the cooks. Their thinking organs must work harder in order to create healthy but tasty dishes with strict limitations imposed upon them.

When I said ‘cooks’, I meant people who actually cook dishes from scratch. Heating up frozen pizza and tater tots does not count as cooking.

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My own museum ideas

  • I hate how I grew up in a country where we have an extremely weak museum culture. Most of the museums I have visited are abroad.
  • As an adult, I am no longer into having shopping malls and theme parks as my sources of leisure. If there are no cultural attractions that intrigue in the slightest, I would rather stay at home and watch Youtube videos…
  • ….And browse Wikipedia in where I have spent a significant amount time searching for every article about any museums.

    Being a major time-waster that I am, I now have a few ideas for museums which are not even original. But, if I have the financial means (and the skill and will), I would definitely establish them.

    Museums of hot sauces and fermented seafood.

    That’s my Indonesian tastebud talking.

    I grew up eating dishes which use fermented seafood as ingredients and were often accompanied by chili sauces, or sambal as we call them.

    I have always loved the taste of dried and salted fish. I used to hate hot foods. But now, even though my heat tolerance is still low for Indonesian standard, I am addicted to the hot flavours.

    It would not be a problem if the museums are Indonesia-centric. As the country is gifted with biological and cultural diversity, the museums’ collections would always be huge, assuming they are well-funded and well-managed.

    I am also open to the ideas of making the museums more international either by making a section dedicated to foreign content or making the entire collection international.

    But, my goals for each version differ from one another.

    If the collection is entirely Indonesian, I would want to remind Indonesians about the biological and cultural richness of their country and how the richness should be appreciated and NOT taken for granted.

    If the collection is international, I would want to remind everyone that despite our differences, we still have many things in common and our cuisines are not that different once we take a deeper look.

    I choose foods because every human eats. We can survive without the ability to play music, to dance or to show any forms of craftsmanship. But, we can’t survive without foods. Eating is universal.

    And because I personally love to eat.

    I don’t know where I should locate the museums, though. If they are Indonesia-centric, should I locate them in Jakarta, university cities like Bandung or Jogjakarta, or places with low cultural appreciations like my hometown?

    If they are international, I would definitely locate them in various countries. But, which countries I also don’t know.

    And no, I am not going to think about “maintaining” the perishable collections.

    Museums of Hollywood propaganda

    I think the name explains it and I don’t have to elaborate on why it is needed in the first place and I am focusing on propaganda in American entertainment.

    When it comes to locations, I would definitely establish one in Los Angeles, the headquarters of the industry. Of course, as it is the lions’ den, there will be lots of backlashes. Not to mention that studio executives might have connections in the government.

    Very risky. But, worth the shot.

    But, I am not satisfied about LA is its only location. The question is where else should we locate them?

    Should we choose other major, big cities like NYC, Chicago and Houston? Should we choose the nation’s capital? Should we choose certain university towns where anti-establishment attitude are rampant? Or should we choose urban areas known for unquestioning and zealous patriotism?

    If we want to branch out to other countries, which ones should we choose? Should they be America’s closest allies like Canada and the UK? Do the international locations even matter?

    Museums of human rights violations

    I am not talking about any human rights violations. I am talking about ones that are still controversial due to the persisting historical denialism and whitewashing.

    I am talking about cases like Armenian genocide, the Jewish Holocaust, the expulsion of Palestinians from their own lands, the atrocities committed by Japan in WWII, the 1965 violent anti-Communist purge in Indonesia, history of racism in Australia and the Americas and the coups committed by the US against democratically-elected governments in Iran and Latin America which were replaced with dictatorships.

    You know, topics of light conversations.

    When it comes to locations, I have to make sure they are not in countries where such museums can get shut down by the authorities.

    But, even if censorship is not a problem, I have to make sure at least one case from the host country is included in the exhibition. I want to give the impression to visitors that there is no such thing as angelic countries.

    It is also the reason why I want the museum to be dedicated to many cases instead of just one. It is a lot harder than dedicating to a single case. But, it is worth it.

    I also have to make sure it is located in localities which have lots of foreign tourists and residents. Those localities may include cities like NYC, Sydney, London and even world-famous university towns like Oxford, Cambridge, Stanford and Grenoble.

    I don’t want the learning immersion being mostly exclusive to citizens of one country. Every person, regardless of their national backgrounds, must have the opportunity to experience it.

    Yadda yadda yadda

    It is obvious that my ideas are not only unoriginal, they are also fantastical. I will never create a small museum, let alone a few big ones.

    But, I just can’t help churning my own ideas, even in fields where I don’t have any expertise in. Basically, every field in existence.

    It is fun to write down my fantastical ideas.

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