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.

.

.

.

.

.

Donate to this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.

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.

.

.

.

.

.

Donate to this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.

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.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Donate to this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.

The unimagined perspective of my ‘heritage’

I love (some of) the works of Bjork, George Gershwin, John Coolidge Adams, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Andrei Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman, Kurzgesagt, Jacksepticeye, Enya, Jostein Gaarder, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Phil Collins, just to name a few.

You probably haven’t heard many of them, let alone knowing what their jobs are. The ones you have, there’s a chance you aren’t familiar with their works. That gives me mixed feelings.

On one hand, it is isolating. I am very conscious about how my distinct taste is from other people’s. If I am a more social and talkative person offline, the isolation would be more intense as I would probably tell more people about my idols and hence stressing the differences between me and the others.

But, on the other hand, I feel like I am possessing an exclusive knowledge that not everyone knows about! I mean, even the most popular creators in history are not beloved by or familiar to every person in existence! Just imagine being a fan of creators of significantly more niche audience.

Call me pretentious. But, I feel special because I am intimate with the bohemian and unrivalled beauty of Bjork’s alien-sounding music, Andrei Tarkovsky’s incredibly unearthly films, John Coolidge Adams’ simultaneously surrealist and realist music, Ingmar Bergman’s unabashedly psychological films and Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s politically cynical literary works.

I should mention that Pramoedya Ananta Toer was a critically acclaimed Indonesian novelist whose works had been translated into dozens of foreign languages; This Earth of Mankind (Bumi Manusia) is one of my favourite books ever. While he was infamous back then for being an alleged Communist, a result of the then-regime’s slander who was too fragile to deal with his criticisms, I doubt most Indonesians nowadays know who he is.

Oh, and speaking about Indonesians…

I also have the same feeling about mainstream Indonesian entertainment which I find insufferable with its shameless lack of originality and veneration of mediocrity. But, there are occasions where I still love it (and hence why the word ‘heritage’ in the title has quotation marks on it).

At one point, there were two Indonesian TV shows I used to love: Opera van Java (or OVJ for short) and Kick Andy. I no longer love watching them because of the repetitiveness and the realisation of their poor quality. But, admittedly, I have some fond memories watching them.

The premise of OVJ was comedians making sketches which were chronologically linear and interconnected with each other. From that description alone, the show did not sound special. But, it still had its charm.

For one, while being told to enact or reenact certain scenes, the performers were not given any scripts. They had to improvise. As they were humans with their own minds (and they were Indonesians who love to take advantage of the slightest laxing of rules), the end results were always chaotic!

The last time I watched, there was a large amount slapstick (and sometimes, the performers slapped each other) which was encouraged by the mostly styrofoam-based props, a heavy use of drag (even though last time I heard, cross-dressing was no longer legal on TV broadcasting), extremely politically incorrect jokes that would not go well in the west, the performers’ rebellious tendency who had no interest in enacting the desired stories and the absurd, nonsensical nature of the humour. Even though OVJ was not funny all the time and some of the performers weren’t just that funny, I often found myself laughing out loud while watching the show.

Kick Andy was a talk show who often invited guests for their guilt-tripping inspirational and/or sob stories; to think that I used to love such monstrosity. But, what I love the most about the show was its occasional bouts of humour.

The host himself was one cheeky fellow. From time to time, he loved to make fun of Central Javanese accents. When interviewing the oldest Indonesian to ever get a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and a doctorate (yes, really), he asked if her typewriter was older than her. When interviewing a man whose job to eradicate corruption, he cheekily said many people would love to see him dead; in this particular context, it sounds like the host jokingly wish for his interviewee’s death. I love this kind of cheekiness. It feels like a slap to the face of double-dealing politeness which one is expected to conform to when living in Java.

I haven’t mentioned about the guests themselves. Some loved to troll the hosts by intentionally giving ridiculous answers. They also loved to make fun of his curly hair; after he shaved his head, the bald jokes were easily born.

Okay, I have lingered too much on just two TV shows. I should transition to two of my favourite Indonesian pop musicians before I state the point of this article.

Even though I love many Indonesian pop songs, there are two Indonesians musicians of such genre that I admire the most: Chrisye and Guruh Soekarno Putra.

Obviously, both have their own flaws. Guruh can be quite pretentious every time he expresses his nationalistic pride. Whether knowingly or not, Chrisye occasionally let some of his collaborators to plagiarise Western pop songs. But, from my perspective, their strengths stick out more.

Chrisye was a pop singer who did a relatively good job balancing his idealism and his realistic need of money. He occasionally composed songs for other musicians as well. Despite what I said in the previous paragraphs, he was very particular about choosing his collaborators. For some reasons, every time he did covers, they ended up as good as or even better than the originals.

Guruh Soekarno Putra is a songwriter notable for the traditional influences in his melodies and some of his most well-known works were originally sung by Chrisye. He sincerely appreciates both traditional Indonesian cultures and western ones equally and that’s a rarity considering many snobby Indonesians often choose one over the other.

Their first collaboration was Guruh Gipsy, an influential and ambitious one-time project where traditional Balinese music is fused together with prog rock and Western classical. Their experiences with fusion music make them stand out among Indonesian pop musicians. Not only they exude humble sophistication, their subsequent works also end up feeling distinctively Indonesia in spite of the western influences and the lack of traditional instruments in the arrangements.

Every time I listen to their songs, I always feel a strange sense of nostalgia, even though many of them were released years before I was born. On rarer occasions, the feeling is a weird concoction of nostalgia and contentment; maybe, the fact that a shithole country like Indonesia can still create beautiful melodies make living here significantly more bearable (and makes me realise Indonesia has strengths that other countries lack and it is not as bad as it seems).

Now, to why I write this article in the first place…

I tried my best to describe why I love certain features of Indonesian pop culture. Even if I try to be more descriptive, I doubt any foreigners reading this would relate to what I am saying. Why? Because it is Indonesian.

Even though Indonesian traditional performance arts are being taught all over the world, Indonesian culture in general is still poorly promoted abroad. Our national language is still not a popular language for foreigners to study. Our sensibility is still a mostly undisclosed entity on the world’s stage (no wonder some people think the we are entirely governed by Sharia!). The popularity of Indonesian pop culture only extends to our neighbours, whose national languages are intelligible to ours and members of the diaspora who are still Indonesian citizens.

When interacting with foreigners, I often feel isolated because I cannot share them some of the things I am passionate about. I did share them some Indonesian songs which they considered catchy or artistic. But, they (understandably) don’t get why those songs are culturally significant to Indonesians.

But, because of the isolation, I also feel special.

Yes, I know I am talking about Indonesian pop culture, which is mainstream in one of the most populous countries on earth. But, I have to remind you that its popularity is still geographically limited…

… And because of that geographical limitation, it feels like I am enjoying very exclusive cultural entities that not everyone will appreciate! I feel like I belong to an exclusive club which membership is notoriously difficult to acquire!

This begs the questions: do citizens of countries with globally influential cultures possess such sense of exclusivity?

When it comes to countries like Japan, South Korea and India, I am not sure whether their citizens possess such feeling or not.

Japan and South Korea obviously use Japanese and Korean respectively to convey their cultures. While English is widely spoken prestige language in India, the (bountiful) native languages like Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Telugu and Tamil are still the preferred choices for songs and films.

But, at the same time, Japanese and Korean are widely taught as foreign languages overseas. Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Telugu, Tamil and many other Indian languages are still widely spoken by members of the diaspora who are no longer citizens of India. So, I have to assume the sense of exclusivity does exist, albeit less intense than the one I am personally experiencing.

So, how about the Americans and Brits?

Their entertainment is still distinctively theirs. But, not only it has a very strong global marketability, it also expresses itself using English which, while not the most spoken language in the world, is arguably the most widely taught foreign tongue.

With those facts in mind, it is extremely easy for British and American pop cultures, especially the latter, to penetrate (I am so sorry) every present-day cultural sphere. While American and British sensibilities are not universally embraced, there is no doubt many citizens all over the world are heavily exposed to at least either one!

There is no doubt some citizens of the US and the UK develop pride (and arrogance) seeing the muscularity of their ‘heritages’ on the world stage… and for that reason alone, they surely believe their cultures can be enjoyed and understood by everyone! Surely they don’t experience that sense of exclusivity!

Did I just use conjectures to assume what other people are thinking and feeling? Yes, I just did.

Obviously, I am projecting my own bias. I judge the exclusivity (or the seclusion) of pop cultures based on the territorial span of their popularity, NOT on how distinctive they are.

There are probably Indonesians who don’t see anything exclusive (even I get tired of this word) about our pop culture. They may cite its popularity in our neighbours, they may cite its inherently pop nature or they may cite reasons that I don’t have the mental faculty to anticipate.

Citizens of culturally powerful countries like the US probably see their pop cultures as exclusive entities. They may assess the exclusivity based on peculiarity, NOT on geographical limitation. From their perspectives, my shamelessly unoriginal pop ‘heritage’ may not be deserving of such characterisation!

Objectively, I also agree with said frame of mind. I believe unfeigned and harmless uniqueness is something we should celebrate or, at least, should not be judgemental about (easier said than done, I know).

But, even though I can be uncompromising and odd in social settings, loneliness and solitude are the more conspicuous parts of my social life and, for reasons I have yet to grasp, I let it affects how I perceive pop cultures.

As bizarre as it is, I am glad that is the case. It gives me a perspective that I didn’t know I could have… or need.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Support this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.

 

2018 Asian Games opening ceremony… a big pile of meh and WTF

Yup, among the bedazzled Indonesians, I am of the ones who is not entirely impressed by it. Let’s be real here: it still has glaring problems here and there. Now, where should I start?

Ah yes, the mediocre artistic merit.

The fake mountains that almost subjugated the rest of the stage obviously copied the turfed hills of the London Olympics ceremony.

The Ratoh Jaroe dancing (often mistaken as Saman) obviously copied the Beijing Olympics drummers. The dancers were in a rectangular formation, just like drummers were. They wore colour-changing costumes which allowed them to create coloured patterns without moving places, just like the drummers with their illuminated individual drums, which allowed them to form giant Chinese numerals and perform the countdown.

The anthology of folk songs and traditional dances, while successfully depicted Indonesian diversity, is something that has been done many times before! It has become a go-to method of introducing the country’s cultural richness to the world.

While the cauldron looked nothing like the one in London, the general atmosphere when it was set on fire was similar. The fireworks, the lighting, the song. Even though it may be coincidental, I cannot help thinking this was also a copy.

I am not sure what is wrong with most of the dancing. They felt lackluster. Maybe it was the choreography. Maybe it was the dancers who didn’t spend much time practicing. Either way, the dancing failed to emanate the intended moods.

The event’s original songs are not impressive. Unlike many old-school Indonesian pop songs, they do not have an impact on my soul (pardon my pretentiousness). Heck, even the one composed and written by Guruh Soekarno Putra, one of my most favourite songwriters ever, felt like just another of those mawkishly-written ‘inspirational’ pop songs that will bring nausea to every single Indonesian who are not brainless enough to easily fall for immodest sentimentality.

Because of the ordinariness, the ceremony does not have the thought-provoking disposition of the Athen Olympics nor does it possess the emotional climaxes of the London and Rio ones. It does not have a lasting impact on me.

Okay, okay! I know how unfair it is to compare an opening ceremony of a continental multi-sporting event to ones of global calibre. It would be fair to compare it with the other Asian Games ceremonies. But, I am too lazy to watch them. So, I am resorting to an uneven comparison which is a lot easier. But, I do have more easily vindicated criticisms about the event’s ideological substance, which I find detrimental for our own good.

It openly promoted patriotism through the pretentious voice-over narration, which no one bothered to translate to English, despite its original purpose is to promote cosmopolitanism and the opening ceremony is meant to be an introduction to the host country and making guests feel at home! But, believing in one’s country’s non-existing perfection is more important, it seems.

Speaking about that…

I hate the speeches of Sheikh Ahmed Al-Fahad Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah (or 4As for short), the president of Olympic Council of Asia, and Erick Thohir, the organising committee chairman. Al-Sabah pandered to the Indonesian audience by praising about their so-called suaveness and saying how much he loved them… repeatedly… in Indonesian. It was cringeworthy to hear. But, it was relatively harmless. Thohir’s, on the other hand, was quite dangerous.

He prided himself as a citizen of a country with the largest Muslim population that still manages to retain its interreligious peace. Yes, religiously, Indonesia fares way better than countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Bangladesh and Maldives. But, only toads living under coconut shells believe our interreligious life is in pristine condition.

Literally days after the ceremony, a Buddhist woman was sentenced to one and a half years in prison for complaining about loud calls to prayer (which, believe it or not, many Indonesian Muslims also complain about) while Buddhist temple vandalisers were sentenced for three months! We let Aceh implement its own provincial Sharia! We only officially recognise six religions, none of them indigenous! Ahmadi Muslims are treated worst than adherents of indigenous beliefs! Oh, and Ahok is still in jail for non-existing blasphemy!

Peace, my ass! The ceremony’s poor aesthetics may be tolerable. But, his speech really ruins the event’s moral integrity for me.

Of course, I should not be surprised by this. Preceding the traditional cultures anthology was a so-called re-enactment of Indonesia’s early history. Accompanied by that tastelessly nationalistic narration, it showcased how Indonesia is a peaceful and pluralistic nation and has always been since the dawn of time. It is pretty much historical negationism.

Now, going back to how unfair I am for comparing it with ones of bigger calibres. If I can completely ignore the denialism, I would see the show as a big pile of guilty pleasure!

Those cheesy pop songs have appropriately upbeat arrangement and cheerful lyrics. Even the introverted and cynical creature in me was invigorated by their sounds and I actually wished I was there!

As much as I find the anthology a major cliche, I also can’t help myself from loving it! There is something about the parade of my country’s diversity that makes the Indonesian in me warm and fuzzy inside. Besides, it is indeed the easiest way to showcase our cultures; I can’t think of any other effective approaches.

I also love how they booked Joey Alexander! It was a short performance. But, his sublimity as a Jazz pianist bestows the spectacle with a dash of elegance! I believe Jazz can be as exquisite as classical music… or even more so. The Jazzy rendition of Angin Mamiri and Gending Sriwijaya, two folk songs from two culturally distinct provinces, is a refreshing deviation from the usual utilisation of classical-sounding, pop-ish and/or ethnic music.

Actually, it was not the only display of elegance. I almost forgot to mention the moonlight dance (I name it myself, don’t remember its actual name), which preceded Joey’s appearance. While a foreign friend of mine rightly said it looked picturesque, I would love to add another adjective: ethereal.

The fake full moon made the segment feels unworldly. It was supposed to symbolise worldliness, but it didn’t. It made the overall show slightly more extramundane. If they substitute the conventional orchestral soundtrack with something more ambient like New Age music or something more daringly postmodern like Minimal music, I can guarantee the immersion would intensify. Of course, it would be too creative for the viewers; we Indonesians hate anything too creative.

In spite of my criticism, I also have to commend the Ratoh Jaroe dancing. Not only it was the only dance number that I enjoyed, it also fired up the audience’s spirit just like those pop songs did. The colour-changing costumes, which impressively did not involve any electronics, also contributed to the liveliness.

Right from the beginning, the show made great and triumphant efforts to protect itself from the lethargic virus, unlike those shitty ceremonies of the 2012 National Sports Week and the 2013 Islamic Solidarity Games. While not as dull as the two, the 2011 Southeast Asian games one also failed to stir up my spirit.

While I can be pretentious, I am not pretentious enough to completely hate escapist fun. Sometimes, entertainment is just all about entertainment. Sometimes, the absence of artistry is tolerable.

But, again, the immorality of Thohir’s speech still bugs me. I don’t think there is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying anything that comes from a human rights-violating nation. But, if that something tries to legitimise the violation or, in this case, denies its existence, every well-informed person with a functioning moral compass would have a hard time enjoying it.

I am disappointed how I haven’t found a single article or video that condemns Thohir’s speech. Maybe, I just haven’t found one yet. Maybe, as a nation, we are seriously in denial about our past and our current state of being.

Knowing my people, it is probably the latter.

Correction: I stated that Joey Alexander performed his rendition of Angin Mamiri and Gending Sriwijaya. It is incorrect. He only performed Gending Sriwijaya. Angin Mamiri was, in fact, the soundtrack for the preceding moonlight dance.

I don’t know why I bothered making this correction, considering my lack of significant readership.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Support this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.

Ringkasan sudut pandang umat Muslim Indonesia

Berdasarkan tugas kuliah saya. Versi Bahasa Inggris dapat dibaca di tautan ini. Entah kenapa, saya lupa menerbitkan artikel Bahasa Indonesia.

Ahok dituntut dua tahun penjara karena melakukan penistaan agama yang tidak pernah beliau lakukan. Habib Rizieq, yang dengan lantang dan jelas menghina agama Kristen dan menginginkan semua warga Indonesia untuk tunduk kepada hukum Syariah, masih belum tersentuh UU penistaan agama. Bahkan, Ahok dianggap sebagai pemecah kesatuan bangsa dan Rizieq sebagai pemersatu oleh sebagian umat Muslim.

Sayangnya, ketidakadilan ini bukanlah hal yang mengejutkan. Pertama, Islam adalah agama yang besar di Indonesia, dianut oleh 87.18% penduduk; mudah bagi kelompok mayoritas untuk berkuasa. Saya mendapatkan data tersebut dari sensus penduduk yang diterbikan oleh Badan Pusat Statistik (BPS) pada tahun 2010. agama-agama minoritas juga disebutkan. Tetapi, keseimbangan dalam pengkajian agama tidak selalu dipegang.

Kajian statistik menyeluruh Indonesia yang diterbitkan BPS pada tahun 2016 menyebutkan jumlah sekolah, guru dan murid Madrasah yang dikelola pemerintah dan juga jumlah warga yang melaksanakan ibadah Haji. Begitu juga dengan kajian terbitan tahun 2015 dan 2014. Kajian-kajian tersebut dilaksanakan untuk memahami berbagai segi kehidupan negara, termasuk ‘perkembangan sosial-demografi’, seperti tertera pada halaman pendahuluan setiap kajian tersebut.

Kajian demografi seharusnya meliputi semua kelompok-kelompok, bukan hanya kelompok mayoritas. Umat beragama lain tidak disebut sama sekali sedang umat Islam dikaji lebih dalam. Pemerintah Indonesia terkesan menganaktirikan agama-agama minoritas. Mungkin saya picik karena memermasalahkan kajian statistik. Tetapi, sifat ketidakberimbangan tersebut juga ditunjukan dalam tata kerja pemerintahan.

Dari namanya saja, kementerian agama (kemenag) seharusnya mengayomi semua umat beragama. Tetapi, pada kenyataannya, hanya umat Islam yang dilayani. Kementerian masih dikuasai oleh orang-orang Muslim, termasuk jabatan menteri. Setidaknya, jika mereka hanya mengayomi umat Islam, nama kementerian agama seharusnya diubah menjadi kementerian agama Islam. Tidak perlu bermuslihat.

Tentu saja, saya tidak bisa menuduh pemerintah Indonesia terlalu menganakemaskan Islam. Selain Islam, agama Protestan, Katolik, Buda, Hindu dan Konghucu juga diakui secara resmi. Kemenag, walaupun dikuasai orang-orang Muslim, masih memiliki badan-badan yang mewakili umat beragama lain. Universitas-universitas negeri beragama non-Islam masih dapat ditemukan. Jabatan-jabatan menteri masih bisa dipegang oleh penganut agama-agama lain. Walaupun ada kecenderungan untuk tidak berimbang dan mencampur-aduk agama dengan politik, pemerintah Indonesia masih belum dicemari paham Islamisme.

Saya juga yakin bahwa permasalahan juga dapat ditemukan di masyarakat. Di masa pasca-Soeharto, Syahrin Harahap melihat bahwa rakyat Indonesia memiliki tiga citra yang berbeda: citra keterbukaan dan kerhamonisan, citra sekuler, liberal dan kebarat-baratan dan citra konflik umat beragama dan bersifat terror (2006, p. 32-43).

Pengamatan tersebut menunjukan bahwa suatu bangsa, terutama bangsa yang sangat beragam seperti Indonesia, selalu terdiri atas berbagai macam kelompok yang berbeda. Tetapi, pada saat yang bersamaan, citra-citra yang beragam tersebut juga bersifat hitam-putih.

Kalangan liberal dianggap sebagai kalangan yang tidak mengutamakan keharmonisan, walaupun tokoh-tokoh liberal seperti Ulil Abshar Abdalla mendukung kaum Ahmadiyah. Kita juga lupa menyebutkan bahwa, seperti yang saya sebutkan sebelumnya, Habieb Rizieq dipuja oleh para warga negara yang mengaku mencintai keharmonisan. Topeng yang kita gunakan hanyalah alat untuk bermuslihat.

Rasionalitas, seperti yang dipeluk oleh sebagian para pemikir Islam, dianggap sebagai hal yang cenderung kebarat-baratan. Anggapan itu membuat rasionalitas terkesan bertentangan dengan budaya timur yang dipeluk oleh sebagian besar umat Islam.

Rasionalitas juga tidak dianggap sebagai salah satu unsur citra keterbukaan. Pemikiran rasional hanya dianggap sebagai sesuatu yang menjauhkan kita dari agama, bukan sebagai faktor pendorong keterbukaan. Akibatnya, umat Islam akan melihat pemikiran rasional sebagai sesuatu yang tidak pantas dipeluk.

Kita juga lupa bahwa kebudayaan barat sangatlah digemari di Indonesia, bahkan di antara warga-warga yang menentang liberalisme. Budaya pop Islami Indonesia-pun sangat kebarat-baratan, dengan komersialisme dan hedonisme yang mengundang kritikan dari kalangan-kalangan konservatif (Saluz 2009).

Ditambah lagi, banyak para penceramah yang memiliki derajat sebagai selebritas. Setiap ceramah yang mereka berikan selalu menghasilkan uang yang berlimpah. Mereka juga sering muncul di berbagai macam iklan. Mereka sangat mirip dengan para televangelists yang banyak ditemukan di Amerika Serikat, sebuah negara barat.

Para pemikir liberal tersebut juga dianggap kebarat-baratan karena mereka belajar di universitas-universitas barat. Orang-orang yang memiliki anggapan tersebut tidak menyadari bahwa pendidikan Islam modern di negara-negara timur menggunakan model barat; universitas-universitas Islam di timur juga mau mengikuti hasil pertemuan-pertemuan Bologna Process. Gus Dur adalah lulusan Universitas Baghdad dan Quraish Shihab lulusan Universtas Al-Azhar di Kairo. Mereka belajar di perguruan tinggi Arab. Mengapa mereka tidak pernah dicap sebagai ke-Arab-Araban?

Selain dianggap kebarat-baratan, para pemikir liberal tersebut juga dianggap sekuler, walaupun mereka selalu menonjolkan identitas agama mereka, sering melakukan ceremah-ceramah yang sangat berbau agama dan mengajar di perguruan tinggi Islam. Lagi pula, apa kita bisa menjamin bahwa para penentang Islam liberal rajin shalat lima waktu, berzakat, berpuasa setiap Ramadhan, tidak meminum miras dan tidak melakukan hubungan seks di luar nikah?

Citra-citra yang dipaparkan Syahrin Harahap, walaupun mengacu pada orang-orang asing, juga sangatlah lumrah di masyarakat Indonesia. Kita masih suka memberikan cap-cap hitam-putih terhadap sesama, tanpa menyadari bahwa manusia jauh lebih rumit dari pada yang kita ingin bayangkan. Saya juga merasa bahwa Syahrin Harahap menggunakan pendekatan yang salah terhadap permasalahan ini.

Saya menghargai bahwa beliau mau mengakui bahwa umat Islam memiliki masalah dengan fundamentalisme. Tetapi, pada saat yang bersamaan, beliau juga terkesan menyalahkan munculnya fundamentalisme kepada kekuatan dari luar umat dengan mengatakan bahwa Islam adalah agama yang penuh kedamaian.

Sebagai seorang Muslim, saya juga ingin percaya itu. Tetapi, pada kenyataannya, orang-orang beraliran keras tersebut sepenuhnya yakin bahwa paham mereka sesuai dengan ajaran agama. Kita harus menerima kemungkinan bahwa agama yang kita cintai sangatlah jauh dari sempurna.

Saya setuju dengan usulan beliau bahwa penyelesaian masalah aliran garis keras ini dapat dihadapi dengan mengajari para siswa ilmu kajian globalisasi (p. 43). Memang betul bahwa aliran tersebut lahir di luar Indonesia dan menyebar dari satu negara ke negara lainnya. Tetapi, ilmu tersebut tidak mencakup tentang cara penyebarluasan aliran tersebut di satu tempat.

Saya mengusulkan agar umat Islam di Indonesia, termasuk kalangan moderat, untuk bermawas diri tentang cara kita menafsirkan ajaran-ajaran agama dan cara kita memerlakukan orang lain, terutama yang berbeda pandangan. Walaupun kalangan moderat memang tidak pernah menghasut kekerasan dan diskriminasi, kecenderungan mereka untuk mengkafirkan kalangan liberal dan tidak mengakui Islam sebagai ilham aliran keras sudah memberikan dampak buruk yang jelas-jelas sudah bermunculan dan mungkin akan berkepanjangan.

Suka atau tidak, kalangan moderat secara tidak langsung juga bertanggung jawab atas ketidakadilan yang dialami Ahok.

 

Badan Pusat Statistik 2010, Hasil sensus penduduk 2010: kewarganegaraan, suku bangsa, agama dan bahasa sehari-sehari penduduk Indonesia, BPS, Jakarta.

Badan Pusat Statistik 2014, Statistik Indonesia 2016, BPS, Jakarta.

Badan Pusat Statistik 2015, Statistik Indonesia 2015, BPS, Jakarta.

Badan Pusat Statistik 2016, Statistik Indonesia 2016, BPS, Jakarta.

Harahap, S 2016, ‘The image of Indonesia in the world: an interreligious perspective’, The IUP journal of international relations, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 30-44.

Saluz, CN 2009, ‘Youth and pop culture in Indonesian Islam’, Studia Islamika, vol. 16. no. 2, pp. 215-242.

Defending my bias for English… walaupun masih hidup berdwibahasa

Not long ago, The Jakarta Globe published an article about Indonesian writers who publish their works in English. It asked its readers if English-language literature can still be considered as Indonesian. In the comment section, as an Indonesian who writes his blogs in English, I obviously answered yes. I believe the nationality of literary works should also depend on the heritage and the people they are depicting, not just on the languages being utilised.

It seems like a relatively harmless statement, right? Well, me being me, I followed it with a more provocative one.

I also described the Indonesian language, describing it as a lifeless, unyielding language with overtly-simplistic grammar, skin-deep vocabulary and clinginess on loanwords whose only purpose is to express pretentiousness, vulgarity and anger, unlike English with its richness and versatility which eases people’s efforts to express themselves. That’s how much I love my mother tongue. Of course, people weren’t happy with me and typical internet squabbles ensued.

Days after the arguments ended, I realised that I made errors in my reasoning. First of all, I implied that language was inherently sterile and rigid; I was trying to represent my opinions as objective facts. I am constantly guilty of this sin.

Second, every language in the world, even ones that have endured strict purism, has loan words! As someone who spends his free time on Wikipedia reading articles about languages, I should have realised that my ‘loan words argument’ is indefensible! If I remember correctly, I think one commenter called out this ignorance of mine. But, this is where I stop with the self-criticisms.

I still stand with my hatred of the simplistic grammar. Yes, English grammar is erratic. But, it is still quite detailed with its grammatical tenses and cases, lowering the chances of unintentional ambiguity. In Indonesian, if you want to make your sentences to be more specific, you have to elongate them by adding more words… and I hate that! But, what infuriates me about the squabble is my opponents’ false assumptions about me.

They argued that my distaste of Indonesian was motivated by hatred my own heritage. Yeah, no.

The older I get, the more I actually appreciate it. I love the unique ingredient and flavour combinations of Indonesian dishes; even ones of foreign origins taste uniquely Indonesian. I love our rich history, showing the drastic human changes the archipelago has endured. I love how we still retain our Hindu heritage, despite being predominantly-Muslim. I love musicians who make actual efforts to fuse traditional Indonesian sounds with western ones. I love the ethnic and cultural diversities; growing up with them, I often feel sorry for every person who sees diversity as a disease. Heck, to make it random, I even find myself enjoying performances of traditional Indonesian dances, despite never having any inclinations to dance!

So, when someone says I am a self-hating Indonesian because I bitch on my mother tongue, I call bullshit on that. In fact, my ability to see flaws in something I love indicates how my appreciation is still within reason and not motivated by blind love.

Oh, and speaking about blind love, one of my opponents, who constantly insulted me, explicitly said that anyone who dared to bad mouth his beloved language deserve nothing but ridicule and harassment; he considered my condemnation of the language as a personal attack against him. Not only he never bothered to hide his irrationality, he was deeply proud of it! Mentally, he is not unlike those religious fundamentalists. I am glad that my love of heritage is not plagued by such mindlessness.

The second thing they assumed about me was my Indonesian comprehension, guessing that mine was poor, which explains my inability to see beauty in the language and express myself with it. Yeah, again, no.

Long before I found comfort in English, I used to have no problems writing in Indonesian. But, as I get older and actually become more fluent in my native tongue, I find myself feeling more restrained writing in it and feeling more at ease doing so in the foreign one, even though I still could barely understand its basic grammar.

In fact, to this day, my Indonesian is still better than my English! I am more likely to open up the dictionary when reading English texts than I am while reading Indonesian ones. I have written two Indonesian-language blogs and it took me only a day or two to finish each, compared that with my English-language ones which can take weeks to finish. Until last year, I didn’t know that ‘sheep’ was both singular and plural, didn’t know how to spell ‘privilege’ and I still don’t know how to spell ‘prostelize’! I use online bots to proofread my blogs!

Also, unlike many Indonesians I have met, I know how to say words like ‘download’, ‘upload’, ‘online’, ‘offline’, ‘computer mouse’, ‘link’, ‘server’, ‘edit’ and ‘orange’ in Indonesian*. I prefer the word ‘penelitian’ over ‘riset’**. I also know how to use ‘di’ properly; as a suffix, it should never be separated from the root words while as a preposition, it should remain a separate word***! Even Indonesians with university education still get this basic grammar wrong!

So, the idea that my preference of English has anything to do my language comprehension is also bullshit. Also, unlike my opponents, I proved my fluency as I made one rather long reply in Indonesian! But, they are too blind to see it, too simple-minded to acknowledge that distaste does not always mean lack of fluency.

Let’s go back to my mistake I mentioned. Besides shamelessly presenting subjectivity as objectivity, I also forgot that I still can enjoy the beauty conveyed through my native tongue.

There are no shortages of time when I listen to Indonesian oldies and indie songs and think, ‘damn, those are beautiful lyrics!’. People like Guruh Soekarnoputra, Eros Djarot and Titiek Puspa made me realise that songwriters are also poets! As a student, I often had to analyse excerpts of literary works that, judging from the richness despite the small number of words, were clearly written by accomplished writers.

Besides foods and music, Indonesian language is one tool I utilise to get in touch with my roots. Using it makes me feel closer to them, unlike English which seems to widen the distance. This is why I refuse to let go of my native tongue…

And still, I cannot manifest my inner self through it.

No matter how hard I try, no matter how much I expand my vocabulary, my native tongue always fails to satisfy my intellectual and emotional needs; my Indonesian writings always end up rigid, sterile and skin-deep. In spite of the cultural detachment, English embodies my thoughts and feelings with greater perceptiveness by seizing their more abstract and indistinct peculiarities. It also allows me to be more playful and light-heartedly sarcastic (even though contemptuous sarcasms are more pleasing to spurt out) and minimises my likelihood of sounding pretentious.

How did this come into being? Well, I am confident it has something to do with my identity. I do have Indonesian citizenship. But, personally, I identify both as a highly westernised Indonesian and a global citizen. This weird concoction of selfhood requires a somewhat culturally inclusive language to manifest itself through letters. Between Bahasa Indonesia and English, guess who wins?

Adding to my already-unconvincing anecdote, I also happen to know Indonesians who speak English better than they speak Indonesian and yet they still find their own native tongue more pleasing to make use of. Knowing them, those people definitely don’t share my cultural identity crisis!

Someone (I forgot who) told me that a language is just a communication tool. Emphasise on the word ‘just’. Focus on what the tool can do, not on what category it belongs to. Yes, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. But, what we choose to convey our deepest thoughts and feelings is none of other people’s business! Unless we are dealing with snowflakes, our trivial personal choices do not and will never harmfully impact humans with whom we share the world!

My plan is to keep writing in English and, to lesser extent, Indonesian, to learn at least one regional Indonesian language and one more foreign language. But, if I am more idealistic, I would love to learn six regional languages and six foreign ones, not including classical languages like Kawi and Latin and more obscure ones like Gaelic and Ainu which have been intriguing me for years! Oh, and I would love to write children’s books in Indonesian under a pseudonym; seriously, I would love to write calm-paced and imaginative children’s stories that contain assertive yet non-preachy messages about the importance of curiosity, reason and tolerance.

But, realistically, I will probably stay bilingual, will never be fluent in any of those classical or obscure languages and probably will never write a single book.

Oh, well. One can dream!

 

 

 

*’Unduh’, ‘unggah’, ‘daring (dalam jaringan)’, ‘luring (luar jaringan)’, ‘tetikus’, ‘tautan’, ‘peladen’, ‘sunting’ and ‘jingga’, respectively.

**Both words mean ‘research’.

*** ‘Di Jakarta’ and ‘di rumah’ mean ‘at Jakarta’ and ‘at home’, respectively. ‘dibuka’ and ‘dimakan’ mean ‘(being) opened’ and ‘eaten’, respectively.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Support this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.

Keterlenaan berlebihan akan sopan santun

Ahok adalah manusia yang penuh kontroversi. Seorang pemimpin politik beragama Nasrani keturunan Tionghoa di negara mayoritas Muslim dan non-Tionghoa yang sedang dilanda penyakit-penyakit SARA. Kehadirannya saja sudah cukup untuk menyulut masalah.

Seburuknya ketiadaan toleransi tersebut, itu bukan satu-satunya “kritikan” terhadap Ahok yang saya anggap “tidak berbobot”. Banyak orang merasa tersinggung dengan kekasaran dan ketidaksantunannya. Bagi mereka, itu sudah lebih dari cukup untuk mencoreng namanya.

Mereka tidak peduli jika seorang politikus korup, serakah atau gila kuasa. Mereka hanya peduli dengan kesopan-santunannya, betapa ia menganggap ketenaran di khayalak lebih penting dari pada kemampuan memimpin dan harga diri. Ahok adalah kebalikan dari semua itu.

Ahok lebih suka mencaci orang-orang yang memang pantas dicaci maki di muka umum. Baginya, keterbukaan akan diri yang sebenarnya, kemampuan memimpin dan harga diri jauh lebih penting dari pada ketenaran di antara orang-orang yang gampang tertipu dengan topeng-topeng kepalsuan.

Tentu saja, itu bukan berarti saya membenci tata krama. Bahkan, saya menganggap itu sebagai hal yang bernilai tinggi. Kita tidak bisa memerlakukan orang lain dengan seenaknya. Semua tindakan kita harus aturan mainnya. Tetapi, permasalahan muncul saat tata krama dijadikan sebagai pembenaran hal-hal yang buruk.

Sopan santun dan ketidakjujuran dianggap sebagai dua hal yang sama. Berterus terang dianggap kasar. Itu adalah pola pikir yang dangkal. Jika anda berpikir seperti itu, berarti yang sebenarnya anda inginkan adalah keserasian palsu.

“Keserasian” terjadi bukan karena rasa hormat yang tulus, melainkan karena ketidakberanian untuk berterus terang. Kejujuran dapat menyingkap wabah kepalsuan di kehidupan kita. Kita yang mencintai status quo menganggap kejujuran sebagai ketidaksantunan dan sumber “perpecahan”. Kehinaan pikiran tersebut tidak berhenti di situ.

Ada anggapan bahwa kesantunan juga berarti tidak mengungkapan kata-kata miring terhadap pihak yang berkuasa. Sekali lagi, jika anda berpikir seperti itu, anda tidak menginginkan kesantunan. Anda menginginkan penyembahan massal terhadap orang-orang yang berpangkat lebih tinggi.

Anda menuhankan mereka, lebih dari anda menuhankan tuhan anda sendiri. Anda tidak rela jika mereka ”tersakiti” oleh kritikan yang paling membangun sekalipun. Apapun akan anda lakukan untuk melindungi sembahan anda. Bahkan, anda mendukung pemberian sanksi kepada para kritikus. Pada akhirnya, anda adalah kaki tangan penindasan.

Mungkin anda berpikir saya terlalu mengada-ada. Saya akui hal ini sulit dipercaya bagi anda yang sudah terbiasa menyembah sesama manusia. Mungkin anda setuju dengan pernyataan saya, tanpa sadar anda mungkin juga melakukan hal yang sama. Sekali lagi, kehinaan ini belum berhenti di situ.

Anda juga berpikir kesantunan adalah segala-segalanya. Itu adalah satu-satunya yang pantas dipuji dari seseorang. Anda tidak mau bersusah payah untuk menilai seseorang lebih dalam. Anda dengan mudahnya tertipu oleh topeng yang menutupi sisi buruk seseorang.

Anda tidak percaya bahwa seseorang dapat menyandang kesantunan dan ketidakmampuan secara bersamaan. Bahkan, anda tidak percaya bahwa seorang yang santun bisa dipenuhi dengan kenistaan moral. Kecintaan terhadap kesantunan membuat anda buta.

Itu adalah pola pikir yang berbahaya. Jika anda memiliki hak untuk mencoblos, anda akan mengisi jabatan-jabatan penting dengan makhluk-makhluk yang hanya bermodal santun. Keahlian nol. Kebajikan nol. Demi melindungi perasaan-perasaan anda yang mudah tersinggung, anda rela mengorbankan masyarakat yang harus dipimpin oleh kebrobrokan.

Seperti yang saya katakan sebelumnya, saya menjunjung tinggi kesantunan. Saya beranggap bahwa interaksi kita dengan sesama manusia harus ada aturan mainnya. Tetapi, sekali lagi, anda harus memiliki patokan yang tinggi. Anda harus menuntut agar kesantunan diiringi dengan kemahiran dalam bekerja, kejujuran dan ketulusan hati. Janganlah menjadi manusia yang dangkal.

Sebelum saya mengakhiri omelan, sebagian dari anda pasti berpikir bahwa artikel ini adalah propaganda kampanye Ahok; pokok pembicaraan di sini hanyalah kedok. Anda setengah benar.

Saya tidak dibayar oleh tim kampanye Ahok. Saya dengan rela menulis artikel ini, dibayar ataupun tidak. Saya memang adalah pendukung Ahok, walaupun saya tidak tinggal di Jakarta.

Menurut saya, beliau memang memiliki perangai yang kasar…dan juga kemampuan memimpin yang terbukti kokoh. Kecaman-kecaman tentang Ahok (kecuali tentang ketidaksantunannya) terbukti penuh omong kosong. Mereka semua hanyalah berdasarkan keculasan.

Seperti Ahok, saya juga menghabiskan sebagian besar hidup saya di Sumatra. Orang-orang Sumatra memang terkenal akan perangai kita yang buruk (ibu saya yang besar di Jawa sangat mementingkan sopan santun). Tetapi saya juga belajar bahwa penilaian orang harus ditekankan pada “isi” mereka. Bentuk luar mereka lebih sering menipu.

Lagi pula, Ahok juga sadar akan kekasarannya dan dia berusaha untuk lebih baik.

Mayoritas yang Manja di Indonesia

MUI membuat fatwa yang melarang tempat-tempat kerja mengharuskan karyawan-karyawan Muslim untuk mengenakan atribut-atribut Natal. Fatwa tersebut banyak mendapatkan tantangan dari masyarakat, terutama kalangan non-Muslim.

Banyak dari kita yang Muslim kesal dengan keluhan mereka. Kita menganggap mereka tidak menghormati kehidupan umat Muslim. Kita menganggap mereka memaksakan kehendak. Kita menganggap fatwa tersebut hanya memengaruhi kita sendiri.

Jika anda percaya itu, berarti anda bebal terhadap kenyataan kehidupan beragama di Indonesia.

FPI, mengikuti fatwa yang dibuat dengan ceroboh, melakukan razia hiasan natal di berbagai pusat-pusat perbelanjaan di Surabaya. Persetan dengan umat Nasrani! Tidak boleh ada perayaan natal! Itupun hanya satu contoh. Tanpa FPI pun, umat Muslim di Indonesia akan tetap “dihormati”.

Jangan salah. Saya juga percaya bahwa kalangan mayoritas dapat didiskriminasi, seperti orang-orang berkulit hitam di Afrika Selatan pada zaman Apartheid dan umat Syiah di Irak yang pemerintahnya dikuasai umat Sunni. Tetapi, hal itu tidak terjadi terhadap umat Muslim Indonesia.

Doa-doa Islami selalu dilakukan di acara-acara yang dihadiri umat non-Muslim. Kementerian agama dikuasai oleh umat Muslim. Banyak perguruan tinggi yang didanai langsung oleh pemerintah. Jadwal berbagai saluran TV dirubah setiap bulan puasa. Kita bukan hanya mayoritas yang dihormati, kita juga adalah mayoritas yang terlalu dimanja.

Selama bertahun-tahun lamanya, kita memiliki status yang lebih tinggi dibandingkan kelompok-kelompok agama lain di negeri ini. Akibatnya, kita menjadi sangat manja. Kemanjaan itu membuat kita membalikan badan terhadap diskriminasi yang dialami kalangan minoritas. Kemanjaan itu membuat kita merasa ditindas jika mereka meminta hak-hak lebih yang sewajarnya.

Kemanjaan itu membuat kita sebagai gerombolan yang tidak tahu diri.

Permasalahan Seputar Unjuk Rasa Anti-Ahok

Umat Muslim yang tidak menggunakan otak

Penistaan agama yang dimaksud sebenarnya tidak ada wujudnya. Sudah jelas video yang memberatkan Ahok itu disunting oleh Buni Yani, manusia yang bangga dengan ketiadaan rasa tanggung jawab di dalam dirinya dan sok menjadi korban.

Suntingan di video tersebut sangatlah jelas. Anda tidak perlu menjadi seorang pakar untuk melihatnya. Anda hanya perlu menggunakan otak. Jika anda punya, tentunya.

Umat Muslim yang gampang tersinggung

Apakah Ahok benar-benar melakukan penistaaan atau tidak, itu tidak penting. Jika penistaannya memang ada, terus kenapa?

Apakah kita sangat lemah terhadap kritikan terhadap agama kita? Apakah kita benar-benar berpikir bahwa semua orang harus menyukai Islam?

Jika Islam memang agama yang kuat dan paling benar, apa perlu kita bela dengan begitu agresif sehingga menimbulkan kesan yang sebaliknya?

Saya yakin bahwa orang-orang yang tersinggung dengan dugaan penistaan Ahok sering menyinggung perasaan umat beragama yang lain. Tetapi, hanya mereka yang boleh marah.

Menamakan unjuk rasa 212 sebagai “aksi damai”

Unjuk rasa dilakukan karena kebencian sebagian orang-orang terhadap seseorang yang dianggap meyinggung perasaaan mereka.

Para pengunjuk rasa tertangkap basah mengusik beberapa wartawan yang meliput mereka.

FPI, yang terkenal dengan konflik umat beragama ciptaan mereka dan penyebaran ajaran-ajaran ekstrem, terlibat dalam unjuk rasa ini.

Mereka melakukan Shalat Jumat di jalan raya, mengganggu kenyamanan pengguna jalan yang lain, walaupun itu bisa mereka lakukan di berbagai mesjid.

Mereka juga berjanji tidak akan berhenti berunjuk rasa sampai Ahok ditahan karena melakukan sesuatu yang dia tidak pernah lakukan.

Unjuk rasa yang mengikis kesatuan bangsa, itu yang pantas dianggap “damai”?

Pasukan nasi bungkus

Ini bukanlah suatu rahasia di Indonesia. Banyak dari kita bersedia berunjuk rasa hanya demi sebungkus nasi dan uang jajan. Apakah mereka paham dengan masalah yang diunjukrasakan, itu tidak penting. Yang penting adalah mereka dapat imbalan.

Itu tentu saja menggiurkan bagi banyak warga negara Indonesia yang hidup di bawah garis kemiskinan. Tetapi, saya juga tahu bahwa banyak dari kita yang bersedia menjual diri demi imbalan sekecil apapun.

Liputan berita yang mementingkan keuntungan

Saya senang bahwa dua unjuk rasa balasan telah dilakukan. Apakah mereka berbobot atau tidak, itu tidak masalah. Mungkin mereka ditunggangi oleh partai-partai politik. Tetapi, yang penting pesan mereka berpaku pada indahnya Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, apalagi kita hidup di zaman yang semakin berbau SARA.

Tetapi saya kecewa dengan liputan media, baik dari dalam dan luar negeri, yang terlalu terpaku pada unjuk rasa menentang Ahok dan jarang pada unjuk rasa balasan. Berita buruk mempertebal kantong, berita baik tidak.

Liputan yang cenderung terpaku pada manusia-manusia penuh kebencian seolah menggambarkan bahwa mereka mewakili kita semua, seolah-olah hanya sudut pandang merekalah yang pantas didengar. Pada akhirnya, mereka diberi kekuatan lebih daripada manusia-manusia yang cinta damai dan keragaman.

Karena pengaruh mereka yang besar, media seharusnya bertanggung jawab terhadap masyarakat. Tetapi, bagi mereka, kantong tebal jauh lebih penting.

Undang-undang penistaan agama

Saya adalah salah satu dari banyak orang yang menentang UU tersebut.

Walaupun saya benci dengan apa yang dikatakan banyak orang tentang agama saya, saya juga percaya dengan kebebasan individu. Saya tidak bisa memaksakan semua orang untuk menyukai agama saya. Saya juga harus belajar untuk tidak gampang tersinggung.

Sering kali, suatu pernyataan dianggap sebagai penistaan agama…hanya karena bertentangan dengan sudut pandang khayalak. Tokoh-tokoh seperti Quraish Shihab dan Ulil Abshar Abdallah mengeluarkan pernyataan-pernyataan yang dapat dianggap sebagai penistaan.

Mereka tidak pernah berniat melakukan itu. Yang mereka lakukan adalah mengkaji kitab suci Al-Quran dan membuat penafsiran mereka sendiri. Permasalahan muncul karena penafsiran mereka ditentang banyak orang.

UU ini sangatlah berbahaya karena orang-orang dapat dihukum hanya karena pola pikir yang berbeda.

Menamakan unjuk rasa sebagai “aksi bela Islam”

Mau mengharumkan nama umat? Buktikan bahwa kita pantas dihormati.

Tunjukkan bahwa kita adalah umat beradab yang cinta damai.

Tunjukkan bahwa kita adalah umat yang cerdas dan mau melakukan silang pendapat dengan terhormat.

Tunjukkan bahwa kita memerlakukan siapapun dengan cara manusia, apapun latar belakang mereka.

Tetapi, bukan itulah yang dilakukan. Sebagian dari kita terangsang untuk melakukan yang sebaliknya: memancing perpecahan, menolak silang pendapat dan bahkan menganjurkan kekerasan terhadap sesama manusia…

…dan itu semua dilakukan atas nama Islam dan Umat Muslim.

Jika itu adalah cara anda hidup, janganlah anda memanggil diri anda pembela Islam. Justru, anda terkesan berusaha keras untuk menjelek-jelekkan nama agama dan umat kita.

Andalah yang pantas dituntut atas penistaan agama, bukan Ahok.