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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    Feminists and anti-feminists: a common ground

    *puts on a mask*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Together, you can oppress women to the fullest.

    *takes off the mask*

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    “Youtube’s not good enough!”

    Disregard of privacy. Hatred of change. Entitled attitude. Immaturity.

    Those are the dark traits that people familiar with Youtube cultures associate with Youtube fandoms. They are common knowledges.

    But, I am surprised most people (seemingly) have yet to notice another frustrating trait about the fandoms: obsession with giant corporate media networks.

    On some occasions, you can see fans wondering why their beloved idols are not signing up to those corporations.

    And that irks me every time.

    One thing for sure is they don’t know how the media works. They probably think those giant entities provide creators with not only big platforms and big funding, but also complete creative freedom.

    You know, a make-believe.

    They don’t know how creators are also responsible to the network executives. If they deem the creations unprofitable or ideologically “deviant”, those creations would not even survive the pre-production stage.

    As bad as Youtube can be, its content creators have freedom that many of theirs counterparts in other platforms can only dream of.

    Your videos can be taken down for violating guidelines (or falsely and/or unfairly accused of doing so). But, they can never be taken down solely for low viewerships or ideological deviance.

    In fact, Youtube is full of creators who espouse controversial opinions regarding humanity and who scathingly condemn the establishments. Not to mention there is an abundance of creators like Filthy Frank whose style described by Nerd City as “post-ironic” (Click and go straight to 16:45).

    But, this is not even the most frustrating about the fandoms’ wish. Their elitist attitude is.

    Why is Youtube not good enough?

    Of course, if a more stable source of income is the argument, then I am all for it. Youtubers have been struggling gaining profits from their videos in recent years.

    But, that’s not what fans want; from all of the ones who have expressed such desire, I only encountered one that mentioned income. One.

    In fact, not only it is the only clearly-elucidated reason that I encountered, fans also know Youtubers can either get direct sponsorships, donations through Patreon, or both. Seemingly, they don’t have any reasons to make such demand.

    While I cannot have make any concrete (and objective) conclusions, I can tell you about the mentality of Youtube fandoms.

    They suffer from inferiority complex.

    I am not talking about how their idols are talentless or something; just like fans of traditional idols, many Youtube fans certainly see theirs as talented. I am talking about how they see Youtube as a career: for them, it is not a real job.

    Admittedly, it is extremely rare for me to see those comments. But, I do have encountered fans who genuinely believe the jobs of their idols are not “real jobs”. In fact, they seem happy if their idols have jobs other than making Youtube videos.

    What are “real jobs”, anyway?

  • If a job gives us complete or near independence, is considered a novelty and disregarded by the establishment, and/or does not offer a stable source of income, then it would not be considered as “real”.
  • I reach to such conclusion because, from what I observe, the jobs labelled as “not real” often possess some or all of those characteristics. I have never heard people calling blue collar jobs and most white ones as “not real”.

    From this observation, I already have a clear imagination of what some Youtube fans are thinking:

    Yes, we know our favourite Youtubers are creators who rise to the top despite the independence from the old-age establishment. And that what makes them unique.

    But, because of that same reason, we fans feel insecure about ourselves because there is no prestige in admiring those who are not parts of the establishment.

    Therefore, it would be selfish of our idols to stay independent and refuse to become corporate slaves.

    Yes, I know my assumption is plagued with meanness and exaggeration… and also dishonesty considering how Youtube also has its own (younger and less powerful) establishments which are divided into different linguistic and/or national categories.

    But, whether those fans are aware of how the media works or not, you have to admit the feeling of inferiority is there.

    If it isn’t, why would they be aroused by the prospect of their favourite Youtubers branching out to the more conventional yet not-always-rewarding realms?

    If it isn’t, why aren’t they content about idolising those who make a living solely out of Youtube?

    I am on the opinion that believes Youtubers need to mature in order to bring their communities forward.

    But, I believe the fandoms’ lack of self-assurance is also a major hindrance to the progress as they refuse to uncover the platform’s fullest potentials.

    It is not far-fetched to say the collective feeling of insecurity is one of Youtube’s biggest enemies.

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    My favourite sarcastic Youtubers

    They are Boyoung AKA Bubbly, Chris Broad AKA Abroad in Japan, Felix Kjellberg AKA Pewdiepie, Joey Bizinger AKA The Anime Man, and Terry Song AKA TerryTV.

    Unsurprisingly, their sarcasm often go over people’s heads and it leads to some viewers -especially the new ones- to take their words seriously. With Joey, he loves being sarcastic in his QnA video, consequentially frustrating even his long-time viewers who wish their questions are answered properly.

    Also unsurprisingly, they also make Youtube commentaries from time to time, but not too often to the point where their channels become commentary ones. Consequentially, their contents have satirical inclination at times.

    After watching them for years, I just realise another similarity between them that I didn’t notice before: I don’t find their annoying actions to be annoying.

    Let me explain that extremely vague statement.

    How they carry themselves on the platform is more or less similar to how their colleagues do it. When other Youtubers -including ones I am fans of- commit those certain actions, I am annoyed. But, when my favourite sarcastic Youtubers are the ones who commit them, I am strangely not.

    Yeah, still vague.

    Let me start straight away with the clickbaits.

    Apart from Chris, all of those Youtubers I mentioned have embraced clickbaits in their video titles and thumbnails, albeit with varying level of intensity.

    Boyoung and Terry prefer relatively subdued clickbaits (which suit their subdued sarcasm), Felix prefers to create bizarre ones (which suit his bizarre content) and Joey is the most shameless as he utilises nakedly clickbaity titles (which suit his snarky tendency); they remind me of the ones used by so-called “news” media outlets.

    With Chris, I notice he loves re-using the same saccharine stock background music over and over again. But, it is not unlike the one used by many Youtubers.

    It is more similar to the one used by American so-called “factual” TV programming; however, it still exude the same sugary, feel-good atmosphere. In his Journey Across Japan series, he used upbeat 80’s sounding theme song that -in my opinion- emits false optimism and pseudo-energy.

    I may be wrong. But, I do notice that -unlike the ones of Felix and many other Youtubers- the online personas of Boyoung and Terry are immensely similar to their true personalities.

    Their speaking intonations barely change and so do their body languages… apart from their eyes and mouths; as weird as it sounds, it’s the only way for me to determine whether they are in characters or not. Took me a long time to notice those details.

    When Youtubers (and humans in general) do those things, I often perceive them as attention-seeking and fake individuals whose purpose in life is to look good instead of embracing their authentic selves, just for the sake of instant fame and fortune.

    And yet, I am not annoyed when the Youtubers I am fans of commit those “sins”…. and the reason for that lies on the title.

    Sarcasm is something in which everything that is being expressed is the opposite of their literal meanings. Not the most articulate elucidation. But, you get the idea.

    Because of the constant stream of sarcasm, I am not predisposed to take those content creators too seriously, unless when morality is involved.

    It also helps that they love to sprinkle a dose of self-deprecation here and there; I personally interpret it as their turndown to stand on high pedestals.

    As a result, I don’t find their commentaries to be self-righteous and hypocritical whatsoever. The ones who think so are probably those who barely watch their videos.

    Even though they don’t make much of them, I believers their commentaries are more superior than the ones spewed by most commentary Youtubers, who mostly appeal to emotions instead of reasons and don’t always practice what they preach.

    Of course, I also have to admit I am being biased here. Not only I am a fan of those Youtubers, I am also a big fan of sarcasm; I regard it as one of the best tools to deal with those pesky humans and to express my anger. Way more satisfying than vandalising properties.

    Oh, and I initially wanted to include Duncan Pain AKA PDR-San to the list.

    Like them, he is also known for his sarcasm which does not always bode well to some people and and being self-deprecating.

    But, he is also different from them because not only he has made even more commentaries (making his content more satirical in comparison), I don’t believe he is “guilty” of the “sins” I mentioned above. As I have missed many of his videos recently, I may be wrong.

    I still mention him anyway because if he is indeed “guilty” of them, I would also not be annoyed.

    And because I am a fan, of course.

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    Are Marvel films “cinema”? (And a long rant about snobs)

     

    Yes, they are. And yes, I am late to the party.

    My short answer should be the end of the story. But, I can’t help myself from ranting and letting cretins ruining my days.

    Yes, it is “days”. Plural.

    On Facebook, a land where intelligent discourses thrive, I made posts on multiple pages and groups on why I disagree with Scorsese, Coppola and their defenders.

    Surprisingly, my comments were more well-received than I expected. It feels nice to know I am not alone with my frustration.

    Unsurprisingly, I also encountered detractors -two to be exact- and their overall counter argument is something I have seen read and heard before. Yet, it still manages to ruffle my feathers.

    Basically, they told me that instead of being “unfairly dismissive”, I should eat the “humble pie” (one of them said that exact term), acknowledge that my taste is shit, acknowledge that my opinions regarding cinema are and will always be inherently less worthy than the ones regurgitated by award-winning directors and acknowledge that I am being pretentious for thinking mine can be better than theirs.

    Five reasons why it is a bullshit argument.

    Reason one:

    Awards are not always what we think they are.

    They do not always indicate appreciation of merits. They can also be used as indicators of how much certain individuals and their creations are beloved by the establishment.

    You cannot expect me to believe they are always about merits when James Cameron’s Avatar, a film which success was entirely dependent on special effects and 3D theatre presentations, was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.

    Reason two:

    It advocates status-worshipping.

    Surely, if one wants to determine the merit of an opinion, the most important thing is to analyse the reasoning and evidences being used instead getting fixated on how much the establishment loves the opinion maker.

    It is not anti-intellectual to simply question the so-called experts. If anything, it ensures they are being held to the highest standard.

    Oh, and if you encounter the “Marvel films are not cinema” remark online and you don’t know who said it, you would not assume it was made by intellectual adults hardened by life experiences.

    No, you would assume it was made by immature and pretentious snot-nosed teenagers who think their tastes are the most sophisticated ones.

    In fact, it is way less understandable when a adult does that. You would think life experiences will make her/him more mature and reasonable.

    Speaking about pretentiousness…

    Reason three:

    Those two snobs don’t know what pretension is.

    I don’t have my own personal definition of what cinema is as I choose to stick with the most objective one available: the production and distribution of films.

    As much as I despise films like Michael Bay’s and Batman vs Superman, I have to acknowledge them as parts of the cinema, just like my favourite films are.

    It is arrogant for anyone -Scorsese and Coppola included- to think their subjective definitions of certain words are the only right ones.

    They are trying to convince us that their unsound and petulant remarks are more profound than they really are. They are trying to convince us that among billions of human beings living right now, people like them are the only ones who “get” cinema.

    In short, they are fucking pretentious.

    I, on other hand, try my best to be as objective as possible by not letting my hatred of certain works hinder my judgement and by not pretending my taste is best.

    One of my detractors also nitpicked about my wording. He said it was pretentious of me to use the word “one” as a pronoun.

    When one realises one does not have any good comebacks, one can simply retaliated by splitting hair in front of one’s opponent.

    Reason four:

    They insist on thinking in boxes.

    It has been ingrained in their minds that loving films like Marvel’s is an absolute sign of mediocre taste. As I can enjoy them, they perceive me as thoroughly unsophisticated.

    But, I also told them about my love of Andrei Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman and Stanley Kubrick, three directors who are frequently considered as among the best by film snobs.

    So, if one takes their words as the truth, it means I have a really good taste in cinema.

    Well, not to my detractors.

    Even with my repeated claims that I love those directors, my detractors kept pretending I could only love Marvel and Marvel only.

    Their black and white mindset cannot comprehend how one’s taste in anything can be difficult or even impossible to pigeonhole.

    If they immediately acknowledged my love of those directors, they would have to accept that tastes can be complex. But, as they insisted on thinking in boxes, they ignored my statement and kept claiming their non-existing aesthetic superiority.

    One of them eventually did acknowledge that I am a fan of those directors. But, even then, it did not stop him from using the condescending tone.

    For him, it does not matter if most of my favourite films are arthouse. Love just one Marvel film and I will ruin the whole batch.

    He probably thinks taste is literally measurable… like a literal, physically-embodied chemical which can literally be poisonous.

    They actually make me proud of myself for having unpredictable and relatively complex taste.

    Yes, I used the word “complex” to describe myself.

    Reason five:

    Where is the fucking humble pie?

    If they wanted me to eat the bad-tasting yet nutritious humble pies, they had to painstakingly make one for me.

    Instead, they took a huge dump on the dining table and claimed their faeces is the humble pie; the refusal to consume is a sign of one’s infantility.

    When I kept refusing to do, they started shoving their faeces into my mouth. Unsurprisingly (and ideally), I retaliated by throwing their shit back to their faces.

    When they showed no signs of stopping, I started to take a dump myself and do the same thing.

    Interestingly, when I said the arrogance of snobs put off others from even considering to try something highbrow, my detractors dismissed it.

    They said it never happens and I am just making excuses for people to be comfortable with their aesthetic mediocrity.

    Except, it does happen all the time.

    I have seen people defecating on certain works even though they have yet to experience them. The behaviours of the fans are considered more than enough to determine the quality of those works.

    I have seen people hating on Harry Potter, Steven Universe and anime solely because of their toxic fandoms. And yes, I have seen people hating on fine arts and quality entertainment because of the exact same reason.

    Yes, what I just said are anecdotes. But, at least, I tried to make my claims sound more believable.

    My detractors, on the other hand, didn’t make the efforts. Instead of trying to give me evidences to counter my claim, they simply dismissed it.

    If anything, the (thankfully not literal) excrement fight I just described above actually supports my claim. The evidence that is against them was displayed right on their screens.

    Their arrogance begets my arrogance.

    How can they expect me to eat humble pie when they have never eaten one themselves?

    —-

    Yes, I know I should not let their snobbery ruined my days. I also hate that I ended up resorting to arrogance as well. Even though I am way more reasonable than those two, I believe there is no winner in this fight.

    But, cultural snobbery has been frustrating me for years because of the disservice they have committed against the masses.

    I would love for films like Andrei Tarkovsky and Ingmar Bergman’s to be even more popular. I would love them to greatly influence film industries in the incoming years.

    I would love if the creative industries of the incoming years allow idealism, artistry and experimentation to thrive more.

    I would love if the masses are starting to think more critically about the entertainment they enjoy and stop associating popularity with quality.

    But, thanks to those snobs, my desires will always be make-believes.

    Thanks to them, the masses will keep on associating mindless escapism with “humility of the ordinary people” and intellectually-inclined admiration with “vanity of the elites”.

    Those beliefs are obviously not true. The presence of humility and vanity does not correlate with one’s standing in a society. But, as those snobs prioritise their egos over actually enlightening others, they unwittingly perpetuate those falsehoods.

    They shoot my feet, accuse me of committing self-harm, shoot their own feet and accuse others of violence.

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    Do I regret my ‘useless’ degree?

    The answer is no.

    Yes, it does not help me in my job search. It barely teaches me any practical skills. It is not rigorous with its theoretical education. I wish it is both a vocational and liberal arts degree.

    But, thanks to my media studies major, I now possess a relatively high level media literacy. While it is too low for my liking, it dramatically increases after I started my media studies education. As a result, in my personal life, I am the least gullible person around.

    Admittedly, I still fall for fake news on some occasions. But, to my defence, I fall for fake news reported by the mainstream media which have sleak and professional presentations. The people I know, on the other hand, will easily fall for articles which utilise clickbaits as headlines and over-dramatic language in the content, lack any proper citations and, in some cases, include blatantly-photoshopped images.

    Those same people also easily fall for those arbitrarily-sad, tear-jerking and pseudo-inspirational content, whether on the internet or on TV. Also thanks to my education, I now take heed of the sappy or ‘uplifting’ background music, the unnecessarily lavish visuals and the flowery language. If those sad stories and inspirational words are given raw and unpolished presentation, they would not have the same emotional potency. In fact, their lack of depth would immediately expose itself. Nowadays, such content no longer moves me. It only nauseates me.

    I also no longer easily fall for any rhetoric (well, most of the time). Acknowledging that people lie to and deceive each other seems to be a common sense. But, in reality, we still take other people’s words for granted, especially when they are public figures. We often vote for politician NOT because the actual substances of their words and NOT because their track records, but because they keep appealing to our emotions.

    I also have another reason, a strange reason, why I don’t regret my university education: learning.

    It is strange because I am someone known for his poor academic performances. I always have a hard time finishing assignments and I often get low grades; high ones are anomalies. Overall, it is a miracle that I finished primary education on-time.

    But, I had so much fun absorbing every bit of information. I sincerely enjoyed reading the pages of the library books and academic papers I managed to get my hands on. I sincerely enjoyed immersing myself in research findings and complex theories. I never had any academia-related enjoyment prior to my university years.

    I blame the lack of enjoyment on the over-emphasise of rote-learning, the lack of encouragement to read and do my own researches, the fact that I have to take classes I have no interest in and my teachers made no effort to make them seem worthy to learn about.

    It is a contrast to my higher education in which reading and researching were compulsory, rote-learning was virtually non-existent (at least, in my chosen discipline) and, because I chose my own major, I did not have to take many classes I had no interest partaking. I enjoyed learning when I was a university student because that is how learning should be!

    The purpose of learning is not about receiving information for granted. It should be about the adeptness to gather new information and determine its validity by scrutinising the sources, the reasoning and evidences. It should be for the sake of being enlightened and not expecting any tangible or shallow rewards.

    It is not to say higher education is not susceptible to indoctrination. It is, especially when religion and politics are involved. But, considering how the learning process is executed, gullibility and irrationality are inexcusable. I am thoroughly disappointed by the severe intellectual dishonesty of some of my fellow university graduates.

    I also have to credit my university education for increasing my nerdiness.. After reading quite a handful of genuinely interesting papers and library books, I end up even more interested in the liberal arts.

    I never knew that one could observe human beings through abstract lenses, beyond the surface of their observable behaviours; it gives me an entirely fresh approach to how I tackle my surrounding.

    Are those lenses practical? No, they are not necessarily so. But, they do turn me into a more contemplative person; with the risk of being seen as ostentatious, I even dare to say they make more spiritual.

    Consequentially, I also end up searching for more academic papers, despite the fact that it has been a while since the graduation day. I used to hate reading them. But now, I read them NOT because I want to be a researcher and am intending to publish my findings, I read them simply because I want to!

    Overall, I become a significantly better individual.

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    Religious clothing and secularism

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

    Reason one: the blurred boundary between cultures and religion.

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

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

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

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

    Okay, I don’t actually believe that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    So much for Laïcité, eh?

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    A message to ex-fans of The Rewired Soul

    Let me start with welcoming words:

    Cut your fucking bullshit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    My thoughts about Trevor Noah

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

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

    The chairperson of South African Jewish Board Of Deputies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Now about Noah being a foreigner…

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

    Hard, but not impossible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    American Democrats and moderate Indonesian Muslims: kindred in their love of not-moving-forward

    I can easily draw parallels between the western far-right and Muslim extremists and I have been doing so for years. But, it took me a long time to also notice the parallels between American Democrats and moderate Indonesian Muslims.

    As an Indonesian, I definitely choose the moderates over the Islamists. If I were an American, I would also definitely vote blue over red. But, that does not mean I am ideologically in tune with them. I am siding with them simply because they are the most progressive members of the establishment.

    But, they are certainly not the most progressive people in their respective countries.

    Frankly, I see them as nothing but reactionaries who are delusional enough to believe in their values’ mightiness in countering extremism, not realising it arises despite theirs are still entrenched in the mainstream psyche. Instead of allowing themselves to think critically, they are too busy patting themselves on the back that they don’t realise how their values are also problematic.

    In Indonesia, the still-powerful and Sunni-based local version of moderate Islam does not allow the country to give room for the sacrilege; basically, non-Sunni branches of Islam, atheism, liberal interpretations of Islam and scepticism regarding the necessity of religions are big no-nos.

    It also motivates people to support governmental interferences of religious affairs, making the government the only entity that can ‘validate’ and ‘invalidate’ religions; as a result, Indonesia is and has always been a religiously discriminatory country where we only officially recognise six religions, none of which are indigenous, and every citizen is obligated to choose one in our official identification.

    This version of Islam is also socially conservative. While Indonesian women are very empowered for the Muslim world standard, moderate Muslims still don’t believe in complete gender equality. It also fails to discourage racism among its adherents; that’s why our Malaysian cousins have better race relations. Oh, and it also cultivates cis-heteronormativity, successfully instilling and retaining homophobia and transphobia in our collective psyche.

    From my perspective as a citizen of one of the most diverse countries in the world, American Democrats’ embrace of diversity is still plagued with insincerity; more of than not, their inclusiveness has been nothing but feelgood, piegon-holing tokenism. They emit the illusion of complete acceptance.

    Don’t forget that, contrary to popular belief, most Dems are actually neo-liberals, just like the Republicans are; the self-proclaimed socialists (even though they are more accurately described as social democrats) are a minority among party members. Obama ruled for two terms and the Dems won the 2018 midterm election in sixteen US states and territories. If they are really socialists, shouldn’t the US become more hostile against corporatism by now?

    Do I think moderate Indonesian Islam gives birth to Islamic extremism? No, I don’t. Do I think American liberalism triggers the existence of far-right extremism? The answer is also no. If you want people to blame, blame it on those ultra-orthodox Muslims and Republicans for constantly making excuses for the extremists. I have to acknowledge that moderate Indonesian Muslims and American liberals still have a shred of human decency in them.

    But, we should also acknowledge that both beliefs do have things in common with the zealotry they are enemies with. Inevitably, their dominance won’t stop the harmful values to seep in to the mainstream psyche.

    It also does not make sense to fight a toxic ideology with another ideology that also share some of its toxicity. That’s like believing eating deep fried vegetables instead of fried chicken and potatoes will greatly improve one’s health. More nutrients, but one’s arteries will still get clogged anyway.

    If we want to fight Islamic extremism and the far-right, we should never put moderate Muslims and American liberals on the front lines. What we need is individuals who are not only willing to fight, but also willing to ditch the emotionally-comforting status quos which clearly set us back from moving forward.

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