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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Casualties of feel-goodism

I have my share of experiences dealing with creatures whose only objectives in life is to feel good and feel good only. You know, the ones who refuse to have a grip on reality, the victims of ‘positivity’. Now, I am going to waste my days by writing shits about them!

Victim number one

January 6, 2017. Pewdiepie, AKA the Swedish kazoo kid, uploaded a video that tackles the infestation of ‘forced positivity’ on Youtube. He admitted how he manufactured ‘happiness’ for image sake and he regretted such sinfulness. He also expressed frustration with how his fellow Youtubers exploit ‘happiness’ as a part of their brands.

He claimed ‘forced positivity’ made him feel worse as it did not allow him to comprehend his negative emotions; he stated the only way to solve a problem is to deal with it, NOT to run away from it!

(Side note: ‘forced positivity’ is a redundant term as I believe ‘positivity’ itself is an entity born out of force. But, I will retain the redundancy for this segment as it is the exact term Pewds used.)

The reception was universally positive. For some time, he provided the community a thought-provoking topic of discussion. Judging from the positive comments in the comment section, it seems this video is a reason why Pewds turned into a much more respectable content creator.

Then, there is that one commenter.

Despite my insistence how ‘forced positivity’ sounds conspicuously dishonest, he/she was firm with his/her belief that it is beneficial to our psyche! Then, she/he gave me multiple links which he/she claimed supported his/her argument. I clicked them and they lead me to actual academic papers!

At that moment, I was ready to be proven wrong! I was ready to have my firm, strongly-ground belief to get debunked by peer-reviewed researches! It also didn’t help Pewds only cited one article which itself was just an interview piece! I read the papers carefully….

… And quickly realised how fucking dumb I was for letting him/her tricked me! From all the papers he/she showed to me, none of them mentioned ‘forced positivity’!

The research regarding how optimism can benefit patients’ health said nothing about ‘forced positivity’! It said nothing about hospitals forcing their patients to be ‘happy’! In fact, it is very obvious how they already had a jolly disposition prior their sickness!

The research regarding helping students with their emotional problems also did not mention ‘forced positivity’! In fact, its proposed solution was to help them confront their negative emotions and understand why they experienced them in the first place! That’s literally what I said! That’s literally what Pewds fucking said!

This commenter was either a delusional doormat or an arrogant shrimp brain who thought he/she could make me tremble in fear by simply sharing academic papers, too arrogant to realise some of us are willing to read them thoroughly!

Of course, realising his/her bullshit was exposed, he/she retaliated brutally… by simply accusing me of being in denial and that was it. He/she said words no more and deleted the entire thread!

I am confident to say I won the debate. Not only I had proven how my opponent’s evidences did not back him/her up, I also showed how they gave him/her the finger and backed my argument and Felix’s instead!

In my life, I never expected I would humiliate someone like that.

Victim number two

Now, moving on from an honest content creator to the dishonest ones.

I would not single Prince Ea out as the only internet personality who love to exude feelgoodism. But, he is undoubtedly one of the biggest sinners.

Besides making his fans feel good about themselves for simply listening to his sugary, meaningless words, he also loves being a hypocrite who preaches about not having fragile ego and then proceed to get butthurt when fellow content creators called him out and spewing harm by telling depressed people all they have to do to force happiness onto themselves! Yes, he is one of those arseholes!

And yes, I have interacted with a fan of his. But, the interaction was too short and insignificant; so, I am not going to focus on him/her. Instead, I am going to focus on an apologist of Instagram travelers.

I never paid attention closely to any of them until Cody Ko made a video in which he criticised them for deceiving the public regarding the true nature of travelling… and life in general. He was put off by the mawkishness and the deceitfully ‘beautiful’ imagery. While they are clearly not Prince Ea, they sure are in the same league as he is!

Then, there came a commenter I would name as Mr. Apologist from now on.

He condemned Cody for being a cynical hater who unfairly accused all travelers of deceit and who just wanted to squeeze the happiness out of everyone by dismissing the ‘soul-stirring’ messages. He accused Cody of hypocrisy because Cody himself is a regular traveller who uploads travelling content to his own Insta account. He thought demanding those content creators to reveal their sources of income is unreasonably invasive. Heck, he even thought Cody was mean-spirited for mocking others who were different from him!

Now, I will disjointedly dissect his statements.

I believe it is unethical of public figures to not disclose their finances. I actually used the word ‘transparency’… which admittedly sounds lame; unless your opponents are as pretentious as you, citing big words will never get you anywhere in a debate. But, thankfully, another commenter made a more sharp-witted argument.

He/she asserted how mentally-exploitable fans will be swayed to do anything to fund their trips, even if they have to sell their cars and houses, not knowing anything how their idols make a living for themselves! For some us, it is too plain obvious (I hate myself for not making that argument)!

But then, your beloved idols are always right; if they tell you travelling is the only way to enjoy life, you better fucking believe them! This problem is exacerbated by the syrupy messages, which a lot of us still fall for.

‘Chase your dream!’. ‘Live your life!’. I don’t know what wisdom people like Mr. Apologist saw in those inherently-meaningless words.

Everyone has a dream! But, like it or not, real life is a bitch and most of our dreams will never come true! Like it or not, doing routines is also living the life; routines can help us to reach destination success… or, at least, avert us from reaching destination failure!

It seems my mere mentioning of the word ‘routines’ triggered him badly. He started to claim Cody’s refusal to not talk about the downsides of routines was a sign of bias. I mean, seriously?

Considering how modern humans constantly complain about how life-sucking routines are, that would be idiotically redundant! In fact, the banality of routines is the reason why people like Insta celebs are famous in the first place; their lives are presented as anti-routines! Mr. Apologist might as well demand people to talk about how salty salt is! Oh, and he also accuses me of bias.

What kind of bias do I have? He never answered, despite my persistent questioning. He believed my so-called bias prevents me from seeing how horrible Cody Ko really was, how he was the person he condemned, how he was the real bad guy here!

Well, let me see…

While Cody is indeed a frequent traveller, he never uploads any deceptively beautiful photos and videos, he never insinuates travelling as the only way to appreciate life, he never preys on the emotional fragility of his fans, he is transparent about his source of income, he never spews meaningless ‘inspirational’ words and he certainly never scams his fans like Crea Tyler did! Oh, and about his bullying of others…

There is a difference between bullying and poking fun of others. It is evident by how some of his so-called ‘bullying victims’, including Jay Alvarez himself – one of those Insta travelers – , reacted positively to his videos! Every time Cody makes fun of someone, he always does it humorously and he always has good reasons to do so!

I am all for being one’s self as I have been personally benefited by it. But, at the same time, Cody’s so-called ‘victims’ produce cringeworthy content; they are either different just for the sake of it or they make sincerely harmful contents which any impressionable human beings should never watch!

People who belong to the first two categories cannot expect others to not laugh at them. The ones who belong to the third should be harshly condemned for their toxicity! So, not only Cody is not a bad guy, he is actually one of the good guys the world needs!

Mr. Apologist also knew Jay Alvarez responded positively to the mockery. But then, he proceeded to baselessly speculate that Cody would make a second video about his target and continue the non-existing drama. I said ‘baselessly speculate’ because the speculation was indeed baseless!

In the Tiny Meat Gang podcast, he mentioned Jay’s positive reaction… and that was it. He never made a second video about him; there was no drama between the two! But, Cody did make two more videos about Crea Tyler. Why? Because, unlike Jay, Tyler literally scams his own fans!

To make my conversations with Mr. Apologist even weirder, he also claimed to be a regular traveller as well. The fact that he was one is odd. Even travelling with the help of travel agencies still has many downsides, let alone one where we have to do everything by ourselves! It is either he lied about being one or he was just a fanatic member of the cult of ‘positivity’.

His devotion to ‘positivity’ not only encourages him to be delusional about the activity he supposedly had immersed himself in, but also to slander every single person who dares to snap him back to reality!

I initially wanted to suggest you to watch Cody Ko’s videos and see for yourself. But, if you already possess a mentality similar to Mr. Apologist’s, you would instantly side with him and condemn Cody and any other well-meaning commentators for being hateful individuals.

Casualties number mycountryreligionperfectifyoudontlikeitleavediehurrdurr

Unlike the previous casualties, these ones are a lot easier to identify. All you have to do is to point out the deep-rooted flaws of their respective – and beloved – groups. The sight of foam forming on their mouths is 100% guaranteed!

Defensiveness is the most common reaction. They always feel personally abused by any condemnations targeted specifically at the extremists! They will try to downplay the threat, accuse the ones who fear extremism of being alarmists and proceed to accuse the ‘others’ AKA marginalised groups as the dangerous ones! And their delusion does not stop there!

They also love attacking the mainstream media for spreading lacking journalistic integrity. I do agree media outlets constantly spread fake or sensationalised stories and hire personalities who constantly blur the lines between journalism and commentaries. But, we know damn well those are not the reasons why they hate the media!

They hate how the media constantly report stories of real widespread violence committed by their fellow ideologues, instead of focusing more time on exposing numerically-less significant violence committed by the ‘others’!* They hate how the media refuses to affirm their delusional worldviews!

They are so fucking delusional, they think the only fundamental goal of media outlets is to be their personal propagandists, to make them feel good about themselves and world they live in!

(*Side note: All acts of violence are bad, no matter how widespread or isolated they are! But, if one wishes to determine which pose the biggest threat and which are signs of deep-rooted societal problems, one must choose the ones that occur on an almost regular basis!)

From my personal experiences, those piles of pig dung often include nationalists, believers and even religious nationalists. Because of their abundance, I constantly encounter them both online and offline. But, I won’t discuss individual confrontations in details; I am already on page four and I am itching to finish this essay soon!

Oh, and some of you, my non-existent readers, may wonder why I consider those people as ‘positivity enthusiasts’ instead of fanatics. On the surface, claiming it is all about feelgoodism does sound too far-fetched. But, dig deeper and it would make more sense.

When one (accurately) labels someone as a fanatic, it means he/she has an absolutely unquestioning love for certain things by believing in their non-existing perfection and by always feeling good about them!

If one dares to point out the glaring imperfection, he/she would be infuriated by one’s refusal to let him/her feel good about the things he/she loves! He/she believes depriving him/her of ‘good feelings‘ is one of the greatest sins ever committed by mankind! Literally worse than any murders!

I don’t believe positivity is the root of fanaticism, which surely is a tangle of abstract intricacies. But, I believe it is a symptom everyone must be alert of.

How I deal with feelgoodism

Admittedly, I was also a victim of it and I always thrived to feel good about everything. Then, surprisingly, I grew up! I still don’t know how I escaped the fool’s paradise. But now, I have set up some preventive measures.

If certain messages bring me a mystifying surge of high spirits, I should never let my guard down; they may contain beliefs which equate happiness with delusions. But, at the same time, I should refrain myself from cynicism (easier said than done); the wholesomeness may also be genuine.

If the messages not only make me excessively feel good about myself, but also compel me to look down on others whom I impulsively perceive as ‘unenlightened’, red fucking alert!

I should avoid those messages at all cost and I should be wary of individuals who vomit and cuddle them! I sound like I am overreacting. But, I am sure you agree sitting high and mighty among the clouds is a vice anyone should never fall for.

Oh, and instead of ‘positivity’, I prefer to use these alternatives: hope and contentment. The former believes the storms will surely pass. The latter believes we can enjoy life despite the storms. Both believe happiness does not mean disregarding the dark clouds lingering above us.

While far from perfect, the methods I use have brought me a greater sense of self-awareness. They compel me to acknowledge how much of a delusional, self-righteous dickhead my younger self was.

Even though I still tumble to the realm of chimeras and piety from time to time, I become better at fleeing it thanks to those methods.

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My thoughts about Geography Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Postscript:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*puts on a mask*

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

1. See if there are any ‘socialists’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*takes off the mask*

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My thought about Shane Dawson’s Jeffree Star series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obviously, those people are idiots.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now, we go back to Shane.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What can we learn from the ‘tragedies’ of H3H3 and Bobby Burns?

It is simple: if you are not careful, your words will become your deadly boomerangs. Learn it from this Captain Obvious who is still getting haunted from his words.

While the disgrace of our idols is hard to deal with, why are we even surprised by it? Why do we constantly forget they are human beings just like us, who can commit mistakes and hypocrisy just like us?

Oh, and we also seem to forget both Bobby and Ethan are not just mere Youtubers, they are also Youtube commentators! They make a living out of critiquing anything Youtube-related: Youtube the corporation, Youtube communities and especially fellow Youtubers! Being perceived as the voice of reason and virtue means one is on a high pedestal; therefore, the fall from grace will be significantly harder and more violent.

I believe our disappointment is less about them letting us down and more about us having extremely high expectations of them. Admittedly, to this day, I am still guilty of venerating my own idols. But, even then, there are some occasions when a small voice in my head saying, ‘they are flawed, just like you’; slowly, I learned to take heed of it. Subconsciously, I anticipated the day my heroes become public (or, in this case, Youtube) enemies number one. Their fall from grace, while regrettable, is somewhat foreseeable for me.

I have found some internet comments which condemn Youtube commentators as nothing but mean-spirited and hypocritical hate-mongers who will never stop what they are doing until the entire world is drenched in their negativity. Admittedly, some are indeed guilty of such sin. Some.

Youtube commentators are the Youtube watchdogs. Like it or not, while they don’t have the power to maintain order, they are the ones who put the scorching spotlight to the sins committed in the platform. They are the ones who make sure those sinners, while admittedly often let unpunished, have their dirts unearthed. They are the ones who make sure the truths are ingrained in the collective consciousness.

Yes, virtually everyone, especially Youtube commentators, can end up as Bobby and Ethan. But then, everything in life has risks! For me, the potentially brutal dishonour is worth the intellectual and moral contribution to the shared life we belong to (ostentatious, I know)! Love it or not, constructive criticism can help us move onward!

Even though I am not a popular and respected content creator, I am certain there is not a single advice that can entirely avert this ‘tragedy’ (if you can call it that). ‘Be self-aware!’ seems like a good advice. But, Bobby and Ethan already possessed some level of self-awareness… and yet here they are (even though one can argue they didn’t embrace it strong enough)!

As I am one who constantly resigns himself to the ever-powerful force that is reality, let me repeat a cliche saying: nothing, including the good ones, lasts forever. The fall from grace will always be an inevitable prospect.

…..

Before I conclude this, I need to talk about Bobby specifically.

I used to watch him. I loved his film analysis and Youtube commentary videos and I still do. Just like my fellow fans, I hate how he has changed as a content creator. Well, hate and love.

I wish he was more transparent, more measured and more tactful with his transformation, preventing his fanbase from enduring the ‘shock’. I wish he still make those intelligent cultural dissection.

But, at the same time, I also cannot help myself from admiring him. I believe changes can be beneficial by liberating us from the moulds and he keeps changing despite the backlashes. While tactless changes can destroy one’s career, invariability will surely increases one’s possibility of enduring irrelevance and the mass’s fatigue of one’s creations. So, even if Bobby does refrain himself from revamping his channel, he would experience a decline in his career sooner or later.

I notice some people blame Shane Dawson for this ‘tragedy’. They believe, if the meeting never happened, Bobby would still be a good Youtuber. They believe the fact that Shane hired him to take the Sunday slot compels Bobby to pander to his then-employer’s fanbase. While it sounds like a valid conjecture, I also have mine… which I personally prefer more.

He changes after meeting Shane, a Youtuber he had criticised previously, probably because he realises how the target of his criticism was also a human being. In fact, while collaborating with PsychIRL, he admitted how he felt bad about harshly criticising certain individuals after meeting them in person, realising (again) how they were also human beings.

(Side note: in his H3 podcast appearance, iDubbz also shared the same sentiment as he also met the individuals he criticised in person. In another episode of the podcast, Ethan believed his channel encouraged the growth of mean-spirited commentaries on the website).

While pandering to Shane’s fanbase seems like the probable cause, I personally believe Bobby transforms himself because he no longer wants to be a hypocritical and mean-spirited Youtuber. Yes, I don’t have a solid evidence to support that. But, this assumption of mine is based on the words he actually had said.

Also, even though his content does become far more inferior, at least the new one is not harmful. Pointless and boring, perhaps. But, it is harmless. I mean, at least, he is not like those Youtube sceptics end up as alt-right mouthpieces (and I end up feeling wary of every individual who label themselves as ‘sceptics’).

We should also remember he is still twenty-one years old (almost twenty-two). Already an adult, he is. But, a middle-aged individual can still run into obstacles when pursuing his/her individuality, let alone a college-aged youth. I believe demanding any content creators, regardless of their age, to nail their feet to certain niches is cruel and will needlessly burden their sense of self.

I don’t know what will the future hold for him. He may return to commentaries and film reviews… or he may not. He may retain a long-lasting career… or he may bust it soon. But, I am certain, if his career is sturdier than expected, he will revamp his channel again. At least once more.

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Once beautiful, now hideous words

Sceptic

I was in love with the word. I hated how accepting proclamations uncritically is considered acceptable or even obligatory by much of humanity. I hated how ‘he said, she said’ is our number one method of information gathering. I still do.

Even though I identified myself as a person of faith (still do), its association with fervent atheists did not deter me. As I got older, due to my scepticism, I became even less hostile towards atheism, accepting the possibility of my belief being the wrong one. Unlike my younger self, I make actual efforts to be more critical-minded.

An actual sceptic won’t instantly take sides in cases of rape allegations and won’t take the words of government officials and so-called experts for granted. He/she won’t until he/she has enough solid evidences and/or he/she has diagnosed the logic of the situations (or the lack of it). Of course, that’s not the case with many self-proclaimed sceptics nowadays.

They believe the existence of false allegations proves that every accuser is a liar and all of the accused ones are innocent! They believe every single statement made by governments are lies and choose to believe conspiracy-peddling public entities! They believe every scientist that debunks popular opinions is paid by greedy corporations, unlike the so-called ‘honest’ pseudoscientists!

You are not embracing the presumption of innocence, you are just a rape culture apologist who either sees nothing wrong with rape or believes rape is a myth!

You are not someone who refuses to bow down to the political establishment, either you are just paranoid (which means you need professional help, I am serious) or you arrogantly fancy yourself as the beholder of truths!

You are not analytical of experts’ words, either you are just scientifically illiterate and do not know what science actually is or you know what science is, but you hate how it destroys your unfounded world views!

Even though many of those individuals do not label themselves as ‘sceptics’, they love to blurt out words like ‘logic’, ‘facts’ and ‘reason’ over and over again, as if doing so instantly make them ‘sceptical’. The fact that far-right ideologues have a dominant presence among them really turn me off from the word.

I am not disgusted by the words ‘logic’, ‘facts’ and ‘reason’. Yet. But, I have become repulsed by the S-word to the point where I am wary of every person who try to represent themselves as ones.

Freedom

What I am going to say will be quite baffling: the older I get, the more I appreciate the idea of freedom while simultaneously the more I hate the word that represents it!

I love freedom because it is the reason why I am allowed to be myself. Online, I have the freedom to be outspoken about my opinions, many of which are deeply unpopular and may get me into legal problems in some countries. Offline, despite Indonesian society being repressive at times, I still have the freedom to express my discontent regarding the status quo. This is why my appreciation of the concept grows along with my age.

But, at the same time, I have also become more and more exposed to the raw, unromanticised depiction of the western ‘civilisation’ and I am frustrated by how deeply misguided many of its citizens are in their approach to freedom.

I hate how they believe in the absoluteness of freedom in which they can do anything they want without experiencing deserving consequences. Even the most level-headed constructive criticisms are too repressive for those privileged snowflakes who have never experienced a single day living under an actual authoritarian regime. In fact, I don’t think every single one of them believe in absolute freedom. They may claim they do. But, their actions say otherwise.

They accuse marginalised groups of being oppressive as their demand of humanisation rob bigots of their freedom to be bigoted. If that’s how you genuinely perceive life, you are just a bigot who exploits something you never believe in the first place.

If you are sincerely not bigoted, but you still take sides with bigots instead of their victims, you probably think freedom was fought for by unhinged individuals who wanted humans to be more arseholes towards each other. Basically, you are an edgelord who know nothing about the thing you supposedly believe in.

Besides empowering individuals who are afflicted with hatred, this mental retardation may have an effect outside the west. While I cannot speak for other countries, I can speak for Indonesia specifically.

Many Indonesians dream of the old days when free speech was a luxury. Why? Because we are tired of Islamists who constantly regurgitate infectious diarrhea out of their dirty mouths! We literally believe taking away freedom is the only cure!

Just imagine if those dictatorship-apologist Indonesians hear about westerners making a martyr out of Alex Jones (whose punishment I believe was not harsh enough). They would have a wrong idea of what freedom actually is: an entity in which unsavoury beings are perceived as the upsides, NOT the downsides.

That’s like promoting a pharmaceutical drug by citing cancer as its benefit, NOT as its side effect!

Tolerance

This used to be one of my favourite words ever! As an individual of a multicultural upbringing, who grew up in two very multicultural cities, who still have many foreign Facebook friends, who fortunately does not end up as an Indonesian Islamist, I love what the word ‘tolerance’ represents! Well, supposedly represent. Now, I hate it, possibly more than the two previous words.

As an Indonesian who is heavily exposed to the things going on in the US and, to a lesser extent, the UK and Australia, I constantly read and watch about individuals who preach about tolerance. Naive, younger me was easily dazzled by such positivity. Then, I experienced something called ‘growing up’.

Yes, I have encountered bigots, both Indonesians and westerners, who assert how their bigotry should also be tolerated. But, surprisingly, they are not the reason why I end up hating the word. I blame it on the so-called anti-bigotry warriors.

From my perspective as an Indonesian, the support for diversity in the west seems deceitful. Tokenism, feel-goodism and exoticisation are rampant in its practice of multiculturalism. So, every time I hear a westerner says he/she embraces tolerance, I am often suspicious he/she means he/she merely tolerates the existence of the ‘others’, whom he/she still refuses to perceive as fellow human beings.

Either that or he/she tolerates their existence simply because he/she likes their foods… or he/she wants to have sex with them. Just because you love Chinese foods or you fuck people with darker skins, that does not mean you are not a racist.

In Indonesia, the support for diversity seems far more sincere. Unlike westerners, our history allows us to embrace multiculturalism more organically. Our inter-ethnic relations are very good. Even though we may openly dislike the other cultures, ethnic differences barely define whom we befriend and marry.

Yes, we do have cases of extremely violent ethnic tensions. But, if you take a close look, they occur among rural citizens who had very homogenous upbringing and suffered cultural shock when they had to interact with the ‘others’. For cosmopolitan urban dwellers, this is almost never an issue. But, this is the extent of Indonesians’ so-called tolerance.

Whether contemporary or historical, the state of religions in Indonesia is not as good as advertised. While we are indeed different from Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, we are still far from a multi-religious haven. Of course, we can go straight to talk about the rise of Islamism. But, I believe also lies in the establishment.

Indonesian government only recognises six religions; compulsory ID cards have religious columns in which we must fill with one of the officially-recognised ones. To make it even more infuriating, indigenous beliefs aren’t included! Oh, and while I praise moderate Muslims for their opposition of violence, they still can be quite hostile to relatively more liberal and more reasonable interpretations of Islamic teachings and the lack of religiosity in general. How can you say we have religious tolerance when we embrace a caste of religious beliefs and try to silence reasonable dissenting voices?

Oh, and I should also mention the racism!

Many of us are still staunchly anti-Chinese. We are still suckers to the fear-mongering (not unlike how reactionary white Americans view Hispanic immigrants) and conspiracies (not unlike how anti-Semites view the Jews). We also love to neglect the Indonesian Papuans to the point where their region is arguably the most underdeveloped in the country while simultaneously suffering from very high living cost; we only care about the ‘exotic’ Papuan cultures and the Papuan gold mines.

Okay, I admit that my claim about anti-Papuans racism seems baseless as it is not a public discourse (I think). But, I base it on three observable facts about the Indonesian life: 1. Papuans are culturally and biologically distinct from Austronesians who form the majority of Indonesians; 2. Our beauty standards only include light skin colours, Austronesian and/or Eurasian facial features; 3. Jokes about dark skin colours are too rampant to the point where being born with them is seen as a personal defect. Those evidences are indeed circumstantial. But, can you blame me for having such thought?

Oh, and of course, don’t forget the classic homophobia. Even back when we were a so-called moderate Muslim nation, LGBT rights were not a thing. In fact, we have become more and more homophobic as years pass by.

Of course, despite everything, we still have the gall to get outraged by Chinese-Indonesians’ (allegedly) lack of nationalistic pride, to get outraged by the Papuan separatist movement, to get hostile every time someone refuses to romanticise the Indonesian life!

We still have the gall to call ourselves a bastion of tolerance! You cannot call yourself tolerant when your tolerance is selective!

Yes, there are some things we should never tolerate (e.g. Wahhabism). But, Indonesians also harbour intolerance towards anyone that are trivially different from them, like the aforementioned Chinese-Indonesians and Papuans, social and cultural liberals, sexual minorities, socialists, Jews, atheists and adherents of indigenous or new religious beliefs.

Yes, their differences are trivial. Their existence can be hurtful, but only to retards whose undeservingly high social status is being challenged.

So, every time I hear an Indonesian says he/she embraces tolerance, it is most likely he/she is a bootlicker who is only tolerant of anything approved by their beloved establishment.

For some of you, it seems I am being misguided by attacking individuals who fight prejudice. No, I am not attacking them. I am actually attacking people who claim to fight prejudice when their words and actions clearly reveal the complete opposite.

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Your Name (and the true human bonding)

Just another of my very late film ‘review’.

Warning: while I won’t give details about the plot, this essay may still be a spoiler for you.

I don’t know how I ended up watching one of Makoto Shinkai’s works. I am not an avid fan of Japanese animation; most of the ones I have watched, like Doraemon and Ninja Hattori, were unavoidable in the first place as they were staples of Indonesia’s Sunday morning broadcast.

In fact, I don’t remember how I first heard about Your Name. Maybe it was the film poster in a cinema near my house and I was intrigued by its simplistic title and visually-conveyed ethereality. Maybe I was introduced to it by The Anime Man, whom I watch solely for his sarcasm and his ways of breaking down storytelling. Either way, it lingered in my mind for some time before I decided to watch it… and I am glad I did!

Visually, it is a very pretty animation! The animators made sure that even the backdrops are being held to a high aesthetic standard. But then, this is my first Makoto Shinkai’s work; I don’t know if this is a trademark of his. The beauty, while deeply appreciated, is not unforeseeable. The poster easily gave it away.

The story’s complexity, on the other hand, was surprising to me. The fairly intricate metaphysicas is not something one expects from one of the most highest-grossing traditionally-animated films, Japanese animated films and non-Anglophone films of all time. Maybe it’s like Life of Pi all over again, where the audience was too fixated on the visuals and ignoring the subject matters altogether.

Or maybe, they are smitten by how the film conveys emotions to the point where they become personally affected themselves. At least, that’s the case with me.

Because of it, I became an emotional wreck for days; one of the other times I fell into such bad shape was the first time I watched Jacksepticeye’s A Beginner’s Guide playthrough. I have had my share of emotional arts and entertainment works and yet not even the masterly creations of the likes of Bergman and Tarkovsky trigger a surge of neurochemicals in me.

One may go to a conclusion that Makoto Shinkai is an EQ genius who experience feelings like no other! Bergman, Tarkovsky and the rest of mankind should learn from him if they want to become more emotionally-intelligent human beings!

Obviously, what I just said was stupid. He may possess a high EQ. But, I doubt his is the highest ever. One thing I am certain about is his masterfully immersive storytelling, seamlessly taking us the characters’ extramundane world. But still, that explanation feels unsatisfactory for me.

For me (and presumably some people), the answer is a lot simpler. While immersiveness is indeed a factor for the sense of intimacy, it is not the be-all and end-all. Ultimately, the characters must be relatable to you.

Your Name chronicles the lives of two teenagers living in two different places and time who switch bodies. While the relationship was initially hostile, they end up seeing each other as their other halves whom they cannot imagine live without. Their bond is so strong, they still possess a sense of inexplicable longing after losing any pertinent memories. Years later, when they finally meet face-to-face, they quickly form a bond without remembering each other’s names. That facet of the characters’ life is very relatable to me.

Unless you – a nasty person that only exist in my head – are dumb enough to take the story literally and are accusing me of living a fantasy life or you are unaware of the age we are living in, there is a (small) chance you will understand why the film is personal to me: the internet.

Since I became active on Facebook, I started to have lots deep interactions with my fellow human beings. In fact, I met my first real best friends on the site! I can interact with them for hours and hours and I will never get bored by the wonderfully genuine human connections!

To make it even more delightful, almost all of my interactions involve internet users whose homelands are distinct from mine. I can form bonds with human beings in spite of their distinct environments, in spite of the terrestrially great distances, in spite of them living in very different time zones!

Of course, the reactionaries will fiercely disagree with me. They believe social interactions inherently require corporeal presence. For them, the lack of corporeal presence instantly invalidates every single reciprocity that has occured, no matter how genuine they are. Any person who possesses an open-mind will easily recognise how retarded such mentality is.

Let’s dissect the term ‘social interaction’. ‘Social’ means anything related to ‘society’, it is derived from the Latin word ‘socius’ which means ‘allied’ (I think). ‘Interaction’ is derived from ‘inter’ and ‘action’; basically, it is an action that directly influences every party involved.

If one lives in a mostly analogue world, one could be forgiven for still retaining such mentality. Of course, that world has become the past! Our lives have been heavily influenced by digitalisation. The gravity of social media today is comparable to the gravity of sexual repression in Indonesia.

Surely, after witnessing one of the great alteration of human foundations, the long-established meanings of ‘social’, society’, ‘interaction’ and ‘friends’ have inevitably become obsolete. So, sooner or later, we have to rethink the way we decipher them. For me, it sounds more reasonable than acting like grumpy, soon-to-die dinosaurs who hate how prejudice is no longer cool.

No, I am not dismissing the importance of offline relationships. Humans (still) live in an earthly realm. I (grudgingly) acknowledge that humanity cannot exist without physical contacts. Even if we don’t care about having friends and partners, we still need to buy groceries, to study, to work. Internet hermits like me need to go offline from time to time if we want to sustain ourselves.

But, traditionalists also have to acknowledge the strengths of online interaction. The cyber space gives us the freedom to be free from intrusiveness and toxicity, eases our efforts to search for like-minded individuals and, in spite of our current circumstances, still provides us the platform to meet anyone, no matter what their upbringings are and no matter where they live! Like it or not, ‘traditional’ interactions lack any of those advantages!

Now, about the quality of relationships: how does one determine it? Well, I believe emotional mutualism (I don’t know if it’s a real term) and sincerity are crucial determinants (people-pleasers will disapprove of the latter). While they are obviously my personal touchstones, I am confident some will agree with mine. And yes, I can say my Facebook friendships fulfill the requirements!

My interaction with fellow homo sapiens is frequently laced with deceit, vanity and unyielding distaste of liberty. But, thanks to the benefits I mentioned two paragraphs ago, they occur significantly far less in my internet social circle. Based on my anecdotes (as that’s the only thing I can provide), not only online relationships can be as good as the offline ones, they have the prospect to be even better!

I believe that’s the reason why I find Your Name very personal. No, I don’t think the story is a deliberate allegory of our digitalised world. But, the tale of a human bonding that transcends space and time will surely have an impact on someone whose personal relationships are almost entirely established in the cyber world.

I can’t say anything about other people who have watched it. How many of them were emotionally affected by the watching experience? For those who were, why? If the reason had nothing to do with human bonding, I genuinely would like to know what that reason is.

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