I support monarchism because…

*puts on a mask*

Being a monarch is a hard-earned job!

If you have to compare between a person who gets his/her high-earning and high-ranking job by working all the way from the bottom and a person who gets her/his because of his/her lineage, it is obvious the latter is hardworking one!

It is just common sense that the former is a sign of laziness and the latter is extremely hard to achieve! Most of us have never made any efforts to be born into the right families and monarchs are the only ones who have achieved such high accomplishment!

It is frustrating how this thing needs to be said in the first place!

The monarchs make me feel happy!

Who cares about the education, healthcare, economy and political stability?

The only things that matter are my feelings! The purpose of human existence is to make ME happy!

And the only ones who can make ME happy are the monarchs!

They make ME feel extremely good about the world we live in, making ME forget about how fucking shitty the world we live in!

They are literally Gods!

Nepotism is everywhere!

It has been established that the ethical and moral legitimacy of an action is determined by its popularity among the masses. Appeal to popularity is literally a principal accepted in logic and ethics!

That’s the reason why logicians and ethicists support monarchism: because it is based on nepotism and nepotism is literally everywhere!

I mean, literally every person has settled that murder and rape are ethically and morally-acceptable because of how their societal prevalence!

If we have settled that, why can’t we listen to the experts and settle that monarchism is not only acceptable but also good for our political establishments?

*takes off the mask*

 

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I don’t know exactly why they exist. But, they intrigue me

 

I am talking about the opening ceremonies of multi-sports events. Considering I am too lazy to do some research, I will make my own obviously-invalid conjecture about how they came into being.

It seems the elaborateness started on the 1980 Summer Olympics held in Moscow. I assume the USSR tried to compensate for its human rights violations and impoverished populace by bringing out the ‘positivity’ that was the opening ceremony.

I have that assumption because it is no secret countries all over the world, even ones more well-off than the USSR, actively bearing deceptively friendly and warm facades on the international stage. No matter how free and peaceful their countries are, they all need propaganda… and opening ceremonies of multi-sports events make a really good one.

They are the only propaganda I willingly fall for. They are the only reason why I care for some sporting events and they also successfully instil suspension of disbelief into my mind; every time I watch the ceremonies, I am willing to pretend that the host countries are all-perfect, albeit temporarily.

I have made reviews for the opening ceremonies of Asian Games and Para Games 2018 (simply because I am an Indonesian, obviously). Don’t know why it took me a long to review the summer olympics ones.

I will focus on the ones held in Sydney, Athens, Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro, in that order. They are the summer olympics openings I have watched in their entirety.

I know I could have waited for the Tokyo one. But, I want to write this down now.

2000 Sydney

There are three things that I love about this edition: Deep Sea Dreaming segment, Nature segment and James Morrison’s Jazzy fanfare.

I love the two segments because the combination of playful and colourful visuals with soothing orchestral soundtracks result in an ethereal spectatorship. I love the fanfare because of how its energetic sounds compliment the atmosphere of a sporting event.

But, the rest of the ceremony is tacky and problematic.

In contrast to those two specific segments, the others seem to be designed solely to hype up the audience. The segment titled Arrivals even goes so far to exhibit extremely sparse visual and prefers to give spotlight to the kitsch upbeat techno music!

One of my media studies lecturers also pointed out the whitewashing in the Tin Symphony segment. Instead of showcasing the hardship of the British convicts sent to Australia, it only depicts happy early European settlers.

I also pointed to her that throughout the ceremony, one can see the Aboriginal performers observing the performances from afar. It can be interpreted either as a commentary of how Australian Aboriginals are excluded from their country’s festivities OR as a subtle middle finger to them.

It might not be ill-intentioned. But, combined with the historical whitewashing, it can send a wrong message.

2004 Athens

The conclusion unfortunately feels cold and I think the use of trance music during the parade of nations emits an off-putting vibe of self-indulgence. But, at the same time, it is the most artistic and thought-provoking opening ceremony ever… and I said that without any sense of exaggeration.

The Allegory segment really does live up to its name. It is a dream sequence (and I am a sucker for dream-like atmospheres) which features a giant, floating Cycladic head sculpture breathtakingly arising from the body of water with geometric imagery projected onto it. Then, the sculpture breaks into pieces, revealing a more sophisticated sculpture of a human torso inside… which breaks again, revealing another human torso sculpture. A white cube also arises from the water with a man tries to balance himself on it, all while images of human beings and humanity’s achievements projected onto the sculpture’s broken pieces. The segment ends with the pieces land on the water, representing the Greek islands.

Basically, it is an allegory about the evolution of human civilisations and present-day Greece is one of the starting points. I adore this segment for its skilful storytelling with no expositions needed. Anyone with basic knowledge in history will easily get it.

The Clepsydra segment is also a unique segment. It depicts Greek history and mythology. But, how they are depicted struck me. It took me some time to realise the moving things on those carts were not animatronics, they were actual people with painted bodies who deliberately moved like animated sculptures!

It is refreshing from the usual routine of performers wandering all over the venue. It feels less like watching an entertainment show and more like visiting a museum; for someone who loves visiting museums, it is certainly a strength.

I always wonder about the performers: were they dancers, actors or models? I thought about those three professions because they clearly require mastery of our body languages.

The presence of Björk, a musician known for her intense musical exploration, surely bolsters the event’s overall artistry as well.

2008 Beijing

I know people will rip me for this (as if my essay will ever blow up): this edition is too overrated.

The more mature I get, the more I see how tacky it is. In fact, it is as tacky as the Sydney one. No regard for aesthetic, only for the audience’s desire for eye candy.

Okay, it is a bit unfair. The Beijing edition is certainly more grandiose and therefore, requires more discipline from the performers. Disciplined enough to work as a large collective, but still manage to look like humans instead of robots.

2012 London

Aesthetic wise, I am not that impressed. Many of the choreographies (excluding the one in the 7/7 tribute) are either awkward or basic. The one in the children’s literature segment looks like it was created by an amateur.

The event is also another pander express. It chooses to showcase the United Kingdom’s most famous aspect of life: pop culture. Of course, I do understand why the focus is not on British heritage or history; the former may be boring to non-Brits and the latter is associated with colonialism and must be executed with great tact. Pop culture is a safe choice. But, it makes the entire ceremony feels like a commercially-produced British TV show.

Strangely, I also think it has emotional profundity lacking in the other editions. The joy, the grief, the sense of wonder, they don’t feel artificial. They feel sincere.

I wonder if it has something to do with the nature of British entertainment.

From what I observe, American and Indonesian ones (especially when one talks about ‘reality’ TV shows) can be forceful with the emotions; they love to dictate the audience on what to feel. British entertainment, on the other hand, prefers to let them speak for themselves and it is always transparent about their absence.

Obviously, my statement is too simplistic as exceptions does and will always exist. But, from my personal experiences, Indonesian and American entertainment constantly annoy me with their overt-sentimentality which always comes across as insincere; British one barely annoys me like that.

2016 Rio de Janeiro

I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with this edition.

It has eye-catching visuals, it has upbeat music… and yet, it feels anaemic. It reminds me of a person who tries to put a lively and energetic facade when deep down, he/she in favour of calmness and quietness. I have such observation because the calmer segments work rather well.

My God, the environmentalist message. Why does it have to be so on-the-nose? When will people realise that blatant messages in the arts and entertainment are fucking off-putting? How will this make people accept that humans are a a part of nature and not above it?

The only thing I like about the ceremony is the acknowledgement of Brazil’s history of slavery. I love it because such acknowledge is refreshing to any countries… and because it is actually goddamn subtle and not dependent on any fucking bullshit expositions!

Which editions are my favourites?

The Athens and London ones, if you can’t tell.

Instead of completely pandering to the masses as the creative director of the Athens edition, Dimitris Papaioannou maintained his identity as an artist. Creators must be commended for that because, whether we want to admit it or not, the members of the audience were benefited by non-escapist and artistic presentations and having their horizon widened even further. Considering the global significance of the olympics, Papaioannou did millions of people a favour by compelling them to stay ‘switched on’, albeit only for a while.

And yes, I am making a big deal out of the London edition’s emotional sincerity. It is just that I am deeply revolted by the synthetic emotionality which many creatures prefer over the organic one; they prefer the former because they think being obvious equals being sincere. Running into the latter is such a nice, rare treat.

But, do you what is nicer? Fusing both strengths into one.

Can you imagine watching an opening ceremony that makes you think and feel? Right now, I can only yearn for such gratification.

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Groundbreaking… yet unfeeling

I am sure many of you, my non-existing readers, have heard of the legendary band Queen and its magnum opus, Bohemian Rhapsody.

If one has a relatively sophisticated taste in music (shamelessly patting myself on the back), one would understand why it is such a great song. It refuses to have the typical song structure, it has a very dynamic music arrangement and it has such bizarre lyrics which demand the full attention of the listeners (who can speak English, of course)…

… And still manages to become a popular hit, despite or probably because of its eccentricity. Not to mention it makes an extremely fun sing-along.

It is both a critical and a commercial acclaim. It is indeed special.

But, it is not my favourite Queen’s song.

The combination of cyptic lyrics and unpredictable musical arrangement gives us a clear message: the song is open to infinite amount of interpretations and has the potential to be inherently meaningless.

I cannot speak for others. But, while I can intellectually attach myself to the song, its enigmatic nature prevents me from doing so emotionally. It feels like just another art work for me to be flatulently explicative about.

Personally, I prefer Somebody To Love.

While it is often described as a technically-challenging song to perform (I am not a musician so I cannot say), I can see why it is not that legendary outside the band’s fandom.

Compared to BR, STL sounds pathetically ‘normal’. The musical arrangement is not innovative, the song structure is very much pop and, of course, the lyrics are fathomable.

But, because of the fathomability, the song allows me to be emotionally-attached to it and because of the personal nature of the lyrics, the attachment forms almost effortlessly.

The song is about one’s spiritual frustration about the absence of a romantic partner. As a listener, I definitely don’t feel the narrator’s anguish myself; it is dishonest for me to say I do. But, I acknowledge how the experience can be overwhelming for him. My ability to empathise with him means the narrative being told is belieavably human. Well, for me, at least.

However, even though the explanation makes sense, it still feels insuffiencient for me.

BR was not the only baffling works I have ever encountered. I am also emotionally-attached to the short animated film Hedgehog in the Fog and the surrealist dramedy film Arizona Dream despite their mystifying nature.

Of course, I also have my own personal interpretations for those two motion pictures; therefore, watching them is an intimate experience for me. Compare that to BR for which I still don’t have any at my disposal.

After I thought about it, there is a more convincing and solid reason for my aloofness towards the song: the live performances.

Both it and STL use the vocal multi-tracking technique to induce the choral atmosphere. But, because BR employs the technique more ostentatiously, it couldn’t be performed entirely live. Every time the band performed the song on stage, the musicians had to go backstage when the pre-recorded opera segment was played. Watching the live performance and witnessing its artificiality would definitely leave a bad taste in my mouth.

STL, on other hand, could be performed entirely live. Despite omitting the gospel-like background vocals emulated by the technique, the live version does not feel incomplete. If anything, the lack of the ‘robotic’ adornment makes the song sounds more emotionally raw, more believably human. Watching its live performance and witnessing would be an ecstatic experience for me.

Of course, one may argue my reasoning is questionable. Why do I have to use STL as a comparison? Why don’t I use other songs? Love Of My Life is arguably also emotionally-charged.

Well, three reasons.

Reason one: It is my personal bias. As much as I admit its artistry, LOML simply does not do it for me. One can catch me listening to STL on repeat. But, one’s chance of catching me listening to LOML is almost zero percent.

Reason two: As I mentioned before, both BR and STL employ the same recording technique. Discussing about how it affects each song’s artistry seems reasonable for me. Comparing two things that still share things in common is an excellent way to perceptively grasp both.

Reason three: I fucking hate fake fans.

Seriously, since that deceitful biopic was released, I noticed an increase of people who claimed to be fans of Queen. I was suspicious the only song they knew and/or loved was BR. One person confirmed my suspicion.

On the music player, I played the band’s Greatest Hits II album which contains Radio Gaga, I Want To Break Free and Under Pressure, which are also well-known among non-fans. That so-called fan said he/she could not recognise any of them and still preferred BR in the end.

If he/she is really a fan, not only he/she would have heard of the band’s other hits, he/she would also have heard of their less well-known works and fucking love them as well!

Such behaviour annoys the shit out of me! I don’t know why some people cannot refrain from declaring themselves big fans of musicians they are clearly not big fans of. Even though I have my share of favourite Queen songs, I still refuse to declare myself a big fan due to my limited knowledge about their discography.

Is that so fucking hard to do?!

Well, it probably fucking is if you ‘like’ things simply because they are popular and you want to look cooler than you really are.

Was-was akan pariwisata Indonesia

Catatan:

Sebenarnya saya berencana untuk menyerahkan karangan ini untuk perlombaan menulis. Tetapi, karena permasalahan teknis, saya melewati tenggat waktu. Ya, sudahlah.

Jujur, saya was-was dengan industri pariwisata.

Pada satu sisi, saya ingin sekali pariwisata Indonesia maju. Saya ingin sekali setiap tempat-tempat yang memilik potensi dikunjungi oleh para wisatawan. Selain manfaat ekonomis yang sudah pasti akan berlimpah ruah, sebagai bangsa kita juga bisa berunjuk gigi kepada dunia dengan menampilkan keindahan alam dan kebudayaan bangsa yang berlimpah ruah. Kita akan memiliki rasa bangga yang jauh lebih tinggi.

Tetapi, seperti setiap hal dalam hidup, pariwisata juga ada sisi buruknya.

Pertama, sekalinya sukses berjalan di suatu daerah, warga-warga setempat menjadi sangat tergantung pada industri pariwisata di perekonomian mereka. Sebesar-besarnya suatu industri, cangkupannya akan selalu terbatas. Jika sebuah industri yang menonjol tiba tiba tumbang, perekonomian daerah tersebut juga akan terjun bebas; dampaknya tidak akan terlalu gawat jika perekonomiannya terdiri atas sektor-sektor yang jauh lebih beragam.

Tentu saja, kasus seperti itu cenderung terjadi di daerah-daerah di mana kondisi perekonomian sudah rentan sejak awal, entah karena angka penduduk yang sangat rendah, lokasi mereka yang sangat terpencil dan/atau kecilnya perhatian dari pemerintah setempat dan/atau pusat. Tetapi, setiap tujuan wisata terkemuka memiliki satu permasalahan yang sama: wisatawan-wisatawan itu sendiri.

Saking banyaknya mereka yang datang, para warga setempat sering merasa tidak nyaman di rumah sendiri, di mana mereka dipaksa beradaptasi untuk memuaskan kemauan-kemauan orang-orang luar. Jika hal itu tidak terkendali, xenophobia akan tumbuh di dalam hati warga-warga setempat dan menciptakan ketidakstabilan sosial.

Tentu saja, ketidakstabilan tersebut tidak selalu terjadi di setiap tujuan-tujuan wisata terkemuka. Ini adalah pengandaian yang seratus persen berasal dari pemikiran saya sendiri. Secara teoris, hal itu mungkin saja bisa terjadi. Tapi, belum tentu pernah atau akan terjadi. Walaupun saya yakin sebagian warga-warga setempat memiliki rasa tidak suka terhadap para pelancong, saya tidak tahu apakah ketidaksukaan tersebut pernah berujung kepada ketidakstabilan sosial yang berkepanjangan.

Tetapi, saya yakin seratus persen banyaknya pengunjung memberikan dampak kerusakan fisik.

Wilayah-wilayah yang masih dapat dibilang alami dan memiliki nilai sejarah yang tinggi sudah pasti akan dirusak oleh kehadiran manusia. Idealnya, jika kita menginginkan pelestarian yang mutlak, kita harus sepenuhnya melarang pelaksanaan pariwisata.Tapi, jika kita masih ingin meraup keuntungan dari pariwisata (dan saya tidak bisa menghakimi orang-orang yang memiliki keinginan tersebut) dan sekaligus menjalankan pelestarian, kita harus membatasi jumlah pengunjung.

Keuntungan sudah pasti jauh lebih terbatas dengan adanya pembatasan itu. Ditambah lagi, walaupun risiko kerusakan menjadi sangat kecil dan pengurusan dijalankan oleh pihak berwenang dengan baik, risiko itu masih tetap ada selama manusia dibiarkan berkunjung. Kita tidak bisa menjamin setiap manusia yang berkunjung memiliki tindak-tanduk yang beradab.

Menurut saya, pariwisata negara masih tetap harus berjalan. Tapi, kegiatan pariwisata harus dibatasi dengan peraturan yang disusun dengan bijak agar kita tidak merubah berkah menjadi malapetaka.

Dan kita juga jangan terlalu tergantung pada industri tersebut.

Oh ya, saya juga punya komentar tentang pernyataan Peter F. Gontha tentang pariwisata Indonesia.

Beliau mengatakan bahwa kita harus menomorsatukan pantai-pantai sebagai atraksi wisata dan menomorduakan hal-hal yang berbau kebudayaan seperti gamelan. Alasannya? Orang-orang asing lebih suka ke pantai daripada main musik.

Ada tiga alasan kenapa saya kecewa dengan pernyataan beliau.

Pertama, Indonesia bukan satu-satunya negara dengan pantai-pantai yang indah; mereka juga berlimpah-ruah di wilayah-wilayah tropis dan subtropis lainnya. Sedangkan gamelan hanya bisa ditemukan di Indonesia dan hanya sedikit negara yang memiliki peralatan musik yang kurang lebih serupa. Menomorsatukan “tontonan” yang berlimpah di dunia akan membuat negara kita sulit bersaing.

Kedua, walaupun orang-orang asing memang jauh lebih tertarik dengan pantai, minat mereka akan gamelan juga tinggi. Percaya tidak percaya, banyak dari kita yang melancong ke luar negeri karena kita ingin “mencicipi” kebudayaan asing. Saya yakin sekali ada orang-orang asing selain para sarjana dan mahasiswa musik yang tertarik dengan gamelan.

Ketiga (dan menurut saya, alasan yang paling penting), menomorsatukan wisata pantai berarti kita mendorong masyarakat untuk mementingkan keuntungan semata dan menganggap warisan kebudayaan sebagai sekedar hiasan. Memberikan orang-orang asing kenikmatan duniawai jauh lebih penting daripada melestarikan jati diri bangsa.

Saya yakin itu bukan niat beliau. Tapi, jika saran tersebut kita laksanakan, kita akan mendorong anak-anak bangsa yang sudah tidak peduli dengan warisan leluhur untuk menjadi semakin tidak peduli.

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Creating brilliant and cultured human resources in Indonesia

Note:

I initially wanted to submit this essay, which was originally written in Indonesian, to a writing contest. But, because of technicalities, I missed the deadline. Oh, well.

When one talks about the quality of human resources, education is often the first thing that comes to our minds.

It is true that education is the biggest factor. Quality education equals quality human resources. But, what do we mean by quality education?

We all agree discipline is crucial in our learning experiences and, as a nation, we are from disciplined. It would be bizarre to dispute that.

But, what I am going to say will be contentious. I am not sure if many of you will agree with me.

If I say we need to respect those who are more knowledgeable and more experienced than us, you would nod in agreement. But, the problems is many still believe ‘respect’ and ‘worship’ are synonymous with each other.

We love to make Gods out of those people, forgetting they are also ordinary human beings who are prone to any faults. They can make mistakes in their ways of thinking. They may also have ulterior motives and intentionally deceive others for their own benefits.

But, at the same time, we also have the guts to accuse the experts of being know-it-alls. We look down on knowledge and critical thinking. We are proud of our own ignorance and stupidity.

To overcome this issue, we have to teach the incoming generations to think more critically and to be more analytical. Moreover, we have to instill the sense of curiosity, humility and courage to resist falsehood, especially the one regurgitated by people of higher social standings.

If this suggestion is implemented, I am willing to bet the incoming generations would not only possess brilliant minds, but also would not want to trample and be easily trampled on by other people.

I also have another suggestion, a more abstract one: teaching them about the nation’s traditional cultures.

Obviously, many will agree with me. I am definitely not the first Indonesian citizen who yearn about conserving our cultural heritages. But, you must be wondering: what does this have anything to do with human resources?

If a country preserves its traditional culture, it would have a unique identity. If it is blessed with rich cultural diversity, the distinctiveness would be even more striking. If a country has a unique identity, it would be able to create works which are very unlikely to be created elsewhere. In the end, it would stand out on the international stage.

Even if you are an Indonesian who has been culturally westernised and who perceives traditions as backward entities, you would still be benefited by knowing your ancestral heritage.

Besides learning about the history of your ancestors, you would also learn about the life philosophy they held on to. As a result, you would encounter perspectives that you have never considered before. Ideally, you would expand your horizon… and, when combined with good reasoning, you would have easier time generating groundbreaking ideas.

Of course, you could have refuted my suggestion by stating that my dream can be fulfilled without studying Indonesian cultures. But, as I stated before, uniqueness is key.

Western cultures are already emulated all over the world. If you fix your gaze solely towards the west, your ideas would not be different from the ones initiated by foreigners. If the works of Indonesians are similar to the foreign ones, why should other countries make use of Indonesian human resources?

Yes, Indonesians with sufficient skills can still get hired by foreigners. But, if we are only good in professions in which our duty is to simply obey our bosses and/our clients, we would only excel behind the scenes.

Obviously, those behind-the-scenes jobs are also crucial to our lives which we all reap benefits from. Maybe you are already satisfied by our fellow countrymen’s behind-the-scenes success. But, I am not.

As important as those professions are, they can be done by every country on earth. Meanwhile, the ones in which we become the stars on the international stages have been proven difficult to attain. Very few countries have achieved high level of innovation and creativity.

The more we raise Indonesians who are capable of producing ingenious ideas, the easier it would be for us to be take centre stage internationally…

…and, once that is achieved, we as a nation would have successfully used all of our might to achieve a level of triumph which most countries on earth have yet to obtain.

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Menciptakan SDM yang cemerlang dan berbudaya

Catatan:

Sebenarnya saya berencana untuk menyerahkan karangan ini untuk perlombaan menulis. Tetapi, karena permasalahan teknis, saya melewati tenggat waktu. Ya, sudahlah.

Jika kita membicarakan mutu SDM, satu hal yang sering terbesit di pikiran kita adalah pendidikan.

Memang betul pendidikan dapat dikatakan sebagai unsur terpenting dibalik SDM. Pendidikan bermutu, SDM juga akan bermutu. Tapi, apa yang kita maksud sebagai pendidikan bermutu?

Kita semua setuju bahwa disiplin sangatlah penting di pendidikan dan sebagai bangsa, kita jauh dari disiplin. Saya rasa akan aneh jika ada orang yang mau menyanggah pernyataan tersebut.

Tetapi, hal-hal yang akan saya bicarakan mungkin akan menyulut perdebatan. Saya tidak yakin bahwa anda semua akan setuju dengan saya.

Jika saya berkata kita perlu menghormati sosok-sosok yang jauh lebih berilmu dan berpengalaman, banyak dari anda yang akan mengangguk setuju. Tetapi, banyak manusia yang menganggap penghormatan dan penyembahan adalah dua hal yang sama.

Kita cenderung menuhankan sosok-sosok tersebut, lupa bahwa mereka juga manusia-manusia biasa yang juga rentan terhadap kelalaian dan kesesatan. Mereka bisa saja melakukan kesalahan dalam pemikiran mereka. Mereka bisa saja memiliki maksud-maksud tersembunyi dan dengan sengaja membohongi orang lain demi keuntungan sendiri.

Tetapi, pada saat yang bersamaan, kita juga berani-beraninya menuduh para pakar tersebut sebagai orang-orang yang sok tahu. Kita memandang rendah ilmu dan pemikiran kritis. Kita bangga akan ketidaktahuan dan kebodohan kita sendiri.

Untuk mengatasi ini, kita harus mengajari generasi yang mendatang cara-cara berpikir dengan kritis dan meneliti dengan seksama. Lebih penting lagi, kita harus menanamkan rasa keingintahuan, kerendahan diri dan keberanian untuk menentang kebohongan, terutama bila kebohongan tersebut keluar dari mulut sosok-sosok yang berderajat tinggi.

Jika usulan tersebut dilaksanakan, saya berani bertaruh generasi yang akan datang akan menghasilkan SDM yang tidah hanya berotak cemerlang, tapi juga tidak mau menginjak dan dinjak-injak orang lain.

Saya juga punya satu usulan lagi, usulan yang jauh lebih abstrak: mendidik mereka tentang kearifan budaya-budaya tradisional bangsa.

Tentu saja, banyak yang akan setuju dengan usulan saya. Saya sudah pasti bukan satu-satunya warga negara Indonesia yang ingin melestarikan warisan kebudayaan. Tapi, anda pasti bertanya apa hubungannya warisan budaya dengan SDM.

Jika sebuah negara giat melestarikan budaya tradisionalnya, berarti ia memiliki jati diri yang sangat khas; jika negara tersebut diberkahi keragaman budaya yang kaya, kekhasan tersebut akan semakin terasa. Jika negara memiliki jati diri kebangsaan yang khas, ia dapat mencetuskan karya-karya yang kemungkinan besar tidak bisa dihasilkan oleh negara-negara lain. Pada akhirnya, negara menjadi menonjol di pentas mancanegara.

Walaupun anda adalah warga negara Indonesia yang sudah sangat kebarat-baratan dan menganggap tradisi sebagai sesuatu yang terbelakang, mengenali kebudayaan nenek-moyang masih bisa bermanfaat.

Selain memelajari sejarah kehidupan mereka, anda juga dapat memelajari filsafat hidup yang mereka pegang teguh. Alhasil, anda menemui sudut-sudut pandang yang belum pernah anda pertimbangkan. Idealnya, wawasan anda semakin luas…. dan, jika ditambah dengan penalaran yang tajam, semakin mudah bagi anda untuk meluncurkan gagasan-gagasan mutakhir.

Bisa saja anda menangkis usulan saya dengan mengatakan angan-angan saya bisa diraih tanpa memelajari kebudayaan Indonesia. Tetapi, seperti yang saya katakan sebelumnya, kekhasan adalah unsur penunjang.

Kebudayaan yang berbau kebarat-baratan sudah “diteladani” di seluruh dunia. Jika anda hanya berkiblat ke arah barat, gagasan anda tidak akan begitu berbeda dengan yang dicetuskan orang-orang asing. Jika karya-karya anak bangsa tidak begitu berbeda dengan karya-karya luar negeri, untuk apa bangsa-bangsa lain mendayagunakan SDM dari Indonesia?

Sebenarnya bisa saja warga-warga Indonesia diperkerjakan oleh orang-orang asing selama keterampilan kita memadai. Tetapi, jika kita hanya andal di bidang-bidang pekerjaan di mana tugas merek hanya sekedar melaksanakan perintah atasan dan/atau pelanggan, kita hanya akan berguna “di belakang layar”.

Tentu saja bidang-bidang pekerjaan tersebut sangatlah penting bagi kehidupan kita dan hasilnya selalu kita nikmati. Mungkin saja anda sudah cukup puas dengan keberhasilan orang-orang Indonesia di balik layar. Tapi, bagi saya, keadaan tersebut masih belum cukup memuaskan.

Sepenting-pentingnya mata pencaharian tersebut, semua itu dapat dilakukan oleh setiap negara di dunia. Sedangkan mata pencaharian di mana kita bisa menonjol di depan layar mancanegara sudah terbukti sulit dilaksanakan dengan sukses. Hanya segilitar negara yang telah sukses melakukan pembaruan dan daya cipta yang tinggi.

Semakin banyak kita menghasilkan anak-anak bangsa yang bisa mencetuskan gagasan-gagasan mutakhir, semakin mudah bagi kita untuk bisa tampil di depan layar mancanegara…

…Dan, setelah hal itu tercapai, kita telah berhasil mengerahkan ketangkasan bangsa kita ke jenjang kejayaan yang belum berhasil diraih oleh sebagian besar bangsa di dunia.

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How to report problem countries

Obviously, every country is a problem country. And yes, including the so-called number one country, the so-called United States of America.

In this context, I am referring to countries like Iran and North Korea which are known for their severe human rights violations and have been extensively and negatively covered by foreign (mostly western) media.

  • I hate sugar-coating. I believe exposing the factual negative aspects of certain countries is not inherently hateful; there is nothing wrong about sticking to the truth.
  • But, it can be hateful when we insist the coverage must be entirely negative and are offended by the idea of showcasing genuine positivity because we want to keep affirming any prevailing preconceived notions.
  • I first noticed this when I watched the North Korean episodes of Departure, a traveling TV show which focuses less on the destinations and more on the journeys; they received backlashes for allegedly spewing pro-North Korea propaganda.

    Correct me if I am wrong. But, from my knowledge, a country’s propaganda should brag about its non-existing divine perfection and work as the ruling government’s ideological mouthpiece.

    Departure does none of those things.

    While the hosts did not mention the human rights violations of the countries they visited, they also never tried to paint them in an entirely positive light.

    The show is entirely non-political. The hosts only care about exploring nature and interacting with the locals; the latter is the theme of the North Korean episodes.

    If anything, I believe the show does the ordinary and unprivileged ordinary North Koreans a great favour.

    Because of the lack of political agenda, the white Anglo-Canadian hosts had no problems interacting with a group of East Asians who grew up isolated from the rest of the world. The resulting interactions were wonderfully wholesome.

    The episodes do not depict cultural clashes, they depict people who enjoy each other’s presence despite the linguistic and cultural barriers.

    They depict humans who see each other as fellow human beings.

    But, some people didn’t like it. They believed the only way to give the North Koreans a favour was to focus entirely on the system that oppressed them.

    I disagree with that belief.

    North Korea is not just an obscure country that most people haven’t heard of; they have, albeit sometimes mistaking it for its sibling down south. Because of that, negative media coverage is not only common, it is over-saturated.

    The over-saturation results in the dehumanisation of the North Korean people. Let’s face it: most of us don’t see North Korea as a country where fellow humans live, they see it as a giant oppressive machine that must be destroyed at all cost.

    And, whether you believe or not, this kind of dehumanisation already has a negative effect on the state of humanity.

    It is not a secret that many people, especially neoconservative westerners, support invasions of repressive countries like North Korea without any regards of innocent casualties; I mean, if they really care, they would not get aroused by the idea of violent invasions and would not perceive any innocent casualties as mere “collateral damage”.

    While I don’t pay as much attention to it, I also notice the same thing with how western media treats Iran.

    The humanisation of the Iranian people is way more well-received. But, unfortunately, the demand for dehumanisation prevails among the politically-outspoken degenerates.

    Many still refuse to see Iran as a place where humans live… which is why, just like in the case of North Korea, they are not hesitant to support violent military interventions against it.

    I do have my own solution to deal with this problem. But, not only it is made by a non-expert, it is also rather tricky to implement.

    If a country has been almost entirely negatively reported by foreign media and you want to make a documentary (or something similar) about it instead of a normal news report, there are two things you can do.

    The first thing you can do is to cover positive things about said country and tell the world its previously unknown faces.

    And when I say “positive”, I mean genuinely so. They should be based on facts instead of the political establishments’ rhetorics. You have to make sure the presentation of positivity does not paint the country in an entirely positive light.

    Youtuber Louis Cole AKA FunForLouis made a series of vlogs of him and his friends visiting North Korea. Even though I was never subscriber, I was intrigued…. and was quickly disappointed.

    Obviously, I should watch the sequels as well. But, in the end of the first video, he said North Korea was not as bad as people claimed simply because he and his friends were greeted with a touristy welcome; at that moment, he seemed to perceive a choreographed performance as an excellent representation of the reality.

    I was already repulsed about those overtly-polished Youtube vlogs. Cole’s ignorant comment only intensified my repulsion.

    Departures has proven that, if you use your brain a bit more and don’t easily fall for deceptive veneers, you can shed a positive light on an oppressive country without becoming its government’s propaganda tool.

    But, if you are reasonable iffy about making positive coverage and still prefer to do a negative one, I have a second tip: find a fresh angle.

    If you keep repeating the same real life horror stories, the only thing you would be good at is affirming simplistic prejudgements about North Korea and discouraging outsiders from humanising the victims due to the lack of nuances.

    I think the Youtube channel Asian Boss does a great job in getting the fresh angles. Instead of treating their North Korean interviewees as propaganda tools to exploit, they treat them as individuals with human stories to tell.

    As a result, not only it results in ethically-dignified documentaries, it also unearths surprising facts about the country they are defecting from.

    For instance, even though the consumption of foreign media is prohibited in general, I did not know that consumption of South Korean media will result in more severe punishments than the consumption of western one. It confirms one of our preconceived notions…. but, in a rather complex way.

    I specifically said this tip is only for those who make documentaries and the likes and NOT for journalists who solely make daily and relatively short reports.

    Why? Because it is obvious that my tips, especially the second one, require in-depth analyses and cannot be simply done in less than a day or even a week.

    Well, they can. But, the results would be sloppy.

    Okay, I am aware of how horrible my suggestions are; not only I have zero experiences in the media industry, my words are not precise and technical enough to be practically useful. Heck, even if I am a highly-experienced professional, my suggestions would not be the be-all and end-all.

    But, even then, the unreliability of my tips does not mean the media industry is perfect as it is. Every person with functioning brain cells knows mediocrity and lacking integrity are embraced as virtues.

    Public discourses about the ethics of depicting authoritarian countries are almost non-existent and, for reasons I have mentioned in this essay, it is something to be reasonably angry about.

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  • Strongman

    … Is a stupid synonym for the word “dictator”.

    People use that because dictators are credited for their countries developments and/or stability. Let’s assume they have indeed contributed positively to their countries (even though it is highly debatable at times).

    But, I don’t believe any of them deserved to be called “strong”.

    Why can’t the so-called strongmen efficiently lead without silencing constructive criticism and non-violent opposing views?

    Why can’t the so-called strongmen persuade the majority of the citizens and their oppositions to like them and support their policies?

    Why can’t the so-called strongmen punish violent extremists without brutally oppressing innocent people?

    If they are really strong, wouldn’t they be able to reach goals despite the recurring resistance? Why do they need authoritarianism to fulfill them?

    If anything, their inability to handle disagreements show how weak they are.

    We call dictators “strongmen” probably because we still associate “strength” with the willingness to brutalise every person who stand on our ways, even when they are barely blocking them.

    We rarely associate “strength” with “resilience”.

    I am willing admit that dictators (some, at least) have given bountiful positive contributions to their respective countries and their methods are the easiest way out. It is dishonest for me to say otherwise.

    But, I still refuse to call them “strong”.

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    The Swede’s rhetoric

    I have made a few articles about Felix Kjellberg AKA Pewdiepie and one contains my arguments about how he is actually a reckless edgelord instead of an actual far-right ideologue.

    I mention how he never makes excuses for the bigotry of some of his fans, how he was (and still is) slandered by the media and how he only invited one right-wing pundit just to review memes instead of letting him spill verbal diarrhea.

    But, for some reasons, I forgot to talk about his own rhetoric.

    Below, I am going to list the common talking points of contemporary western conservatives:

    1. Equal rights are the same as special rights for women and the minorities

    2. Women are happier when they are treated as the “lesser sex”.

    3. The Southern Strategy never happened and American Democratic party is still the racist party.

    4. Taking down Confederate statues equals erasure of history.

    5. The Bell Curve is scientifically legitimate.

    6. Any violence committed by Christians of European descent, including the Holocaust, the Trail of Tears, and the Crusades, were either justified, exaggerated or fictional.

    7. All Muslims are sleeper cells.

    8. The world is controlled by globalist Jewish elites.

    9. Sexual violence is a trivial matter, unless they are committed by brown Muslims.

    I am sure there are more recurring talking points than I mentioned above. But, those will do.

    Disturbingly, I have seen how they often they are “discussed” by conservatives, especially by those who make Youtube videos,some of whom prefer to call themselves classical liberals.

    But, from all online personalities who have been perceived as far-right, Pewdiepie is the only one who has never talked about those things.

    Seriously, I have never heard him openly or discreetly espousing any of those lies. In fact, he barely touches politics and he never talks about history; his commentaries mostly revolve around the non-political aspects of Youtube culture.

    The thing about our bigotry is it cannot be hidden completely, no matter how hard we try, no matter how hard we deny its existence. Even if we are not prone to Freudian slips, our bigotry will appear subtextually in our messages.

    I have encountered so many people online who claim to not be bigoted… and yet, if you read their words between the lines, you will notice how hateful they are.

    You cannot say you are not a racist when you believe the mere presence of non-whites is the evidence of white genocide. You cannot say you are not a homophobe or a transphobe when you believe LGBT rights discriminate against cisgender and heterosexual people.

    But, with Felix, I haven’t seen any far-right subtexts from his online content.

    His commentaries are indeed laced with subtexts… classical liberal subtexts; he is all about freeing humans from any excessive constraints, both in social and legal forms. He disapproved of the “policing” of any kind of activities, as long as they are not violent.

    Basically, he is the complete opposite of those far-right individuals who are supposedly all about liberty while advocating for taking it away from those who are different from them.

    He, the person who never calls himself a classical liberal, is way more classical liberal than the reactionaries who claim to be ones.

    About the Christchurch mosque massacre…

    Both his name and Candace Owens’s were implicated because they were mentioned by the shooter. The shooter said “subscribe to Pewdiepie”, a meme created by Felix himself, during the live streamed violence while she was cited as his number one ideological inspiration.

    And both public figures reacted differently.

    Felix was never cited as an inspiration; the shooter mentioned the name of the most popular Youtuber because he wanted more attention.

    But, not only Felix immediately condemned the massacre, he pleaded to his fans to end the meme. After his many controversies, after years of being a reckless edgelord, he has realised he has a responsibility as a public figure for every single one of his public actions… and that includes his inherently harmless meme which he created as a tongue-in-cheek response to his rivalry with T-Series.

    Owens, on other hand, responded immediately by laughing it off in her dismissive tweet, despite the fact that she is the shooter’s number one inspiration!

    I don’t know about her now. But, at that time, it was obvious she did not have any sense of responsibility as a public figure, even though she was famous in the first place because of her politically charged and definitely-not-trivial messages.

    She was not that different from Trump who took days to condemn the Charlottesville Neo-Nazi rally attended by his own supporters.

    She was not that different from other right-wing public figures who constantly incite bigotry and yet refusing to acknowledge they might have inspired atrocities like the Christchurch massacre.

    But, she and her peers are definitely different from Felix Kjellberg.

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    The real American power…

    … Is actually soft.

    I am referring to the concept of “soft power”, by the way. And no, I am not sorry for that shitty introduction.

    I keep seeing and hearing comments made by zealously patriotic Americans about how their beloved country is respected by the world because of its hard power.

    It is true to a certain extent. If you are one of those non-Americans who easily fall for American exceptionalism and who love jerking off to images of real life violence which America is responsible for while simultaneously getting unprotected, rough butt sex from America, you would drool over its hard power.

    But, most non-Americans aren’t like that. When their governments do bow down to the US, they do so out of not wanting to get screwed on the world stage and NOT out of genuine respect.

    Basically, projections of hard power, more of than not, are a form of bullying. Bullying with dire global consequences.

    But, do you know what people all over the world love? American culture.

    Experts of international relations have been arguing how affinity to foreign cultures will lead us to have more positive views of their countries of origin.

    And because of my own life experiences (which I have to assert as entirely mine), this is something I am not surprised about.

    Despite their constant criticism (bashing) of the USA, many of my fellow non-Americans (in this case, they are mostly Indonesians) can’t get themselves to wish literal death upon the country.

    And they all have one thing in common: they openly enjoy American culture.

    Apart from buying foods from American fast food restaurants and cafes, they go to cinemas mostly for Hollywood flicks, pay for cable TV to Hollywood TV shows and pay to attend concerts of American musicians.

    How about the propaganda present in Hollywood films?

    From what I notice, even some of the most dimwitted folks I know can easily acknowledge the propagandistic content of their sources of entertainment.

    They know that they don’t easily fall for the infamously shameless American propaganda and they also feel Americans can entertain the world like no others. That’s why they are relatively unperturbed about it.

    Me personally? A bulk of my favourite entertainers and artists are Americans; without them, I would have nothing but contempt for the United States of America.

    Oh, and I should say ordinary Americans also contribute to their country’s positive image.

    The last time I was surrounded by Americans, it was almost two decades ago when I visited the US as a young boy. I don’t remember interacting much with the locals.

    But, if one sees the anecdotes posted by many non-Americans online, they frequently perceive the Americans as friendly, easy-going, open-minded, educated and charitable people and often seen as the antitheses of the US government (somewhat debatable).

    The more negative anecdotes are often the results of interacting with the stereotypically jingoistic, war-mongering, fear-mongering, bubble-dwelling and proudly anti-intellectual Americans.

    You know, Americans like Donald “Make America Great Again” Trump.

    Americans who think their Godawful, alpha-wannabe attitudes will gain them genuine respect from the world.

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