“You should ‘go out’ more”…

… is what people usually say to me in arguments. When they say ‘go out’, they mean leaving my safe space and exposing myself to different worldview.

Obviously, that’s a sound advice. We should thrive to avoid any echo chambers if we truly have the desire to grow and discern our reality. But, I do know those people don’t care about my well-being; they just hate it that I refuse to appease to them.

People who love exaggerating the flaws of Marvel films think I need to watch anything other than Hollywood blockbusters, not realising that my favourite film directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman and Stanley Kubrick, arguably giants of arthouse cinema, and some of my favourite films are not even American, let alone Hollywood.

Some people think I will grow out of my “extremely woke” politics and suggest leaving my echo chamber. It is interesting because not only there is nothing radical about centre-left politics, I used to be a lot more conservative. I also live in a country where even self-proclaimed moderates are very socially conservative. Not to mention the many conservatives, libertarians, liberals and centrists I constantly run into online.

Pro and anti-multiculturalism and anti-Muslim westerners have something in common: they genuinely believe that the west is the only diverse place on earth. The differences? The pro wants to feel superior about their own countries, thinking simply seeing minorities on the streets and having foreign ancestors boost their multicultural cred. The other camps think other places aren’t being forced to be diverse. When I refute their factually incorrect claims, they condescendingly suggest me to interact with people of differing cultural and religious backgrounds.

What they don’t know is I am from Indonesia, a country with six officially recognised religions and literally hundreds of ethnic groups; my hometown specifically has five dominant ethnic groups, which is unusual even for an Indonesian city, and has visible Christian and Buddhist minorities. I attended a middle school where I was one of the few non-Chinese-Indonesian and non-Buddhist students and I got my degree from an Australian university. Oh, and virtually all of my online friends are foreigners and much of them are non-Muslims.

My exposure to different cultures and religions is so mundane. If it wasn’t for my interactions with dumb westerners, I would have kept taking my diverse upbringing for granted.

“The more you know, the more you don’t know”

The older I get, the more I can relate to the quote. As much as I want to see myself as extremely knowledgeable, I have to acknowledge the horizon’s infinite vastness.

I haven’t tasted every film style of imaginable. I haven’t matured politically. And I have only been exposed to a tiny chunk of the world’s cultures and religions. I need to keep learning.

But, as one can tell, my aforementioned opponents clearly don’t care. They all share something in common: the belief that some or all of their opinions are absolutely correct. My mere disagreement is more than enough for them to make a baseless assumption about my personal life, which they make even before I say anything about it.

One may argue I am a hypocrite because I also make assumptions about others when I disagree with them. But, there is a difference.

My aforementioned opponents make assumptions simply because I disagree, that’s literally the sole reason. Meanwhile, I make assumptions based not only on how (un)reasonable and factually (in)accurate their opinions are, but also the anecdotes which they willingly share.

If you say enjoyment of pop culture is a sign of immaturity, I can assume you are a self-righteous bitch who want to feel undeservingly high and mighty about your tastes.

If you say centre-left politics – which is closer to the centre than it is to the far end – is too “woke”, I can assume you are swinging too far to the right end. I can also assume you are unable to perceive life’s many many shades of grey.

If you say multiculturalism can only be found in the west, I can assume you are jingostic westerners who think your countries are more special than they really are and/or you know nothing about lives beyond your borders.

If you admit that you intentionally avoid interactions with the “others” and avoid visiting other countries because you “know” how bad they are, I can definitely say you don’t care about the truth, you just want to affirm your preconceived beliefs.

Again, I refuse to say I have fully escaped all kinds of bubbles. But, I am confident I have escaped more bubbles than my opponents do.

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You should hate multiculturalism!

*puts on a mask*

Why? Because it deceives you!

It deceives by promising you more tasty foods, more exotic people to masturbate to and fornicate with, and generally more good feelings about yourselves.

Instead, it forces you to learn how to journey across human differences, learn to endure the trivial ones and learn to have honest and open conversations about the consequential ones.

You should hate it because, rather than effortlessly giving you the perks, it encourages you to learn about the complicated thing that is human nature. It encourages you to understand your fellow human beings.

Everyone knows the greatest human right violations are when someone or something does not feel obligated to satisfy your earthly desires and, worse, encourages you to be more thoughtful and compassionate as human beings.

*takes off the mask*

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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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  • My own museum ideas

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

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

    Museums of hot sauces and fermented seafood.

    That’s my Indonesian tastebud talking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And because I personally love to eat.

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

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

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

    Museums of Hollywood propaganda

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

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

    Very risky. But, worth the shot.

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

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

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

    Museums of human rights violations

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

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

    You know, topics of light conversations.

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

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

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

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

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

    Yadda yadda yadda

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

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

    It is fun to write down my fantastical ideas.

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    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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    Redesigning a museum (by a non-expert who will never be a curator)

    The Youtube channel Art Assignment hosted by Sarah Urist Green made a video titled Remake The Met. The host, a former museum curator who has a master’s degree in art history, encourages us the viewers to rethink how we curate museum collections. She said that instead of categorising them based on their geographical origins or time periods, why don’t we use other kinds of categorisations?

    Personally, I prefer themes and emotions. I love it when we can see beyond the tangibility. I find it more fun and more rewarding.

    Even though I didn’t bother to check, I already knew my idea was not original. There is no way I was the first person to conceive something that basic!

    Note: After watching the video again, which I did after I almost finished this article, I noticed that Sarah suggested categorising items thematically. Basically, not only my idea is unoriginal, I unconsciously stole hers. Oops!

    But, despise the things I said above, I can credit myself for one thing: I also propose that every section of the museum to be ‘unlabelled’; therefore, visitors have to fathom what every item object in a certain section has in common.

    Sarah made the video because she wanted museum experiences to be divorced from the long-established rigidity. Unless you are an ultra-traditionalist, it is undeniably a good motivation. But, I also have another one: fostering human connections.

    Yes, I know, Even I find my own writing nauseating.

    Categorisation based on cultures of origins means we subconsciously encourage visitors to keep focusing on how different we are from each other. If it is based on intangible entities like themes and emotions, we are encouraged to see beyond the tangible and focus on what we profoundly have in common.

    Obviously, direct contacts are way more effective in encouraging people to pop their sectarian bubbles; even then, they can also results in increasing sectarianism when the participant have no desire to open up in the first place.

    So, it is naive to think that my proposal, which does not require any human contacts, will fight prejudice. I even don’t have any anecdotes to back me up, let alone studies done by actual researchers.

    But still, I would be thrilled if my idea somehow gets implemented.

    I believe encouraging others to reconsider their life perspectives is always worth it, even if many do not end up doing so and will never do…

    … And I genuinely think my idea sounds a lot more fun and compelling than using the usual approach.

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

     

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

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

    Yes, it is “days”. Plural.

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

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

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

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

    Five reasons why it is a bullshit argument.

    Reason one:

    Awards are not always what we think they are.

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

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

    Reason two:

    It advocates status-worshipping.

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

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

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

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

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

    Speaking about pretentiousness…

    Reason three:

    Those two snobs don’t know what pretension is.

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

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

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

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

    In short, they are fucking pretentious.

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

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

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

    Reason four:

    They insist on thinking in boxes.

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

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

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

    Well, not to my detractors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Reason five:

    Where is the fucking humble pie?

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Except, it does happen all the time.

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

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

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

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

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

    Their arrogance begets my arrogance.

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

    —-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Bizarrely mournful

    Many years ago, me, my family and a friend of my sister were vacationing in Singapore (as my Indonesian hometown is just an hour of ferry ride away).

    We made an impromptu excursion to the then-ongoing Titanic exhibition because it genuinely sounded exciting, especially for me, who thinks museums are way cooler than shopping malls and theme parks… and I will fight those who think otherwise.

    After we bought the tickets, it didn’t take long for the strangeness to arose.

    At the entrance, a ticket-checking attendant greeted us and cheerfully said something along the line of, “find out if you survive until the end!”.

    Wait, what?

    I don’t remember if others were shocked or not. But, me? I was personally so weirded out! The sentence itself is dark on its own. But, to exclaim it with a cheerful tone to visitors who just want to have a playful visit is bizarrely dark.

    But, once we entered, I temporarily forgot my sense of bewilderment. I was too busy being enthralled by the content of the exhibition.

    I don’t remember every detail of it. But, I do remember they showcased the actual objects unearthed inside Titanic, which include the passengers’ personal belongings.

    I also remember a segment of the exhibition where they tried to emulate the feeling of being underwater; they did so by (if I remember correctly) installing clear glass floor tiles which revealed the bed of sand beneath, painting the wall black and designing the lighting so that it emits the underwater light effect. Probably the first time I realised curation was an art form.

    But, the climax of the tour was the part when we were shown a list of the actual passengers. Their names and their survival status were on display.

    At that moment, I realised every individual ticket tried to emulate one of an ocean liner by having each of them printed with one of the passengers’ names. Basically, showcasing the story of the Titanic also included making the visitors felt like we were also the passengers!

    I was excited when searching for the fate of my passenger. But, I quickly found out that he was among the casualties. His life ceased to exist on April 15, 1912.

    One or some of the people who visited the exhibition with me laughed at me for “being one of the casualties”. But then, I was too busy grieving to take heed of the mocking laugher.

    Yes, grieving!

    I was genuinely heartbroken the man whose name was printed on my perishable ticket died. It felt like he was someone I had known for many years and death took him away without warning.

    I tried to get rid of the sadness off me… and it literally took me hours to do so. I was and still am an emotional person. But, even at that moment, I felt irrational and extremely mushy for grieving his death.

    Every time I remembered that day, I was always baffled by the occurrence of this “phenomenon”. Basically, I overthought and not immediately realise the ticket was the answer.

    It was very blatant from the start that they printed the passengers’ names on the tickets to enhance the immersion. So, an emotional person like me would probably experience grief after the visit.

    But, that didn’t explain why the grief didn’t strike my mom and sister, especially that they are more likely to fall for sob stories than I am.

    Well, I presume it has something to do with our intentions. Me and my family did visit the exhibition because we wanted to have fun. But, we had different reasons why we considered the visit fun.

    My mom and sister were in it probably because Titanic is arguably the most popular ship in the world and its sinking the most well-known maritime accident. For them, it is pop culture.

    I, on the other hand, just wanted to learn. Yes, I am patting myself on the back. But, I have been curious about anything “useless” since forever.

    When I was young, I read encyclopedias as much as I read comic books. Nowadays, I browse the web to find out about information like the different systems of government and the different styles of postmodern architecture.

    I went to the exhibition because I wanted to know more about Titanic beyond what James Cameron’s film showed. I wanted to learn about what makes the ocean liner so iconic… and, most importantly, I wanted to learn about the untold human stories!

    The immersion made me emotional probably because my intention made me so.

    Now about the intentions of the organisers…

    I don’t know why they printed the passengers’ names on the tickets. Maybe they wanted to create a fun experiences for the masses. But, they might also crossed their fingers and hoped some visitors got emotional as a bonus culmination. I can only speculate.

    But, one thing for sure: I am glad they printed the names. Thanks to them, I realised that empathy is a part of learning experiences.

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    Do I regret my ‘useless’ degree?

    The answer is no.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Overall, I become a significantly better individual.

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    How NOT to introduce people to new cultures

    No, I am not basing it on my real life experiences. I am too much of a hermit to directly immerse myself in different cultures, too much of a hermit to even bother interacting with fellow human beings.

    And yes, instead of writing about how to introduce people to new cultures, I prefer to write about how NOT to. I am so easily drawn to negativity.

    My thoughts are based on what I have observed on Youtube videos and their comment sections. Buzzfeed videos produced years ago still linger in my mind because they featured American reactors of foreign dishes who were often lambasted by the comment sections not only for their ‘disrespectful’ reactions, but also for their limited tastebuds. But, I was more annoyed by the commenters than I was by the American reactors. Still am.

    Years after discovering Buzzfeed, I found Simon and Martina who made videos about their life in South Korea before moving to Japan. They often took a very contentious tone when speaking about South Korea which angered many Koreans and Koreaboos, ignoring how the couple still emotionally-attachment to the country even after leaving it.

    Right around the same time, I also discovered Englishman Chris Broad who initially made sarcasm-laced videos about some basic information about Japan. Then, as his career progresses, he makes more travelling content. Despite being grumpier and more sarcastic than Simon and Martina, his honest assertions about the country he lives in somehow feel less contentious than the couple’s regarding Korea. But, he is not without controversy, which I will discuss it later.

    Through Simon and Martina, I was introduced to Josh Carrott AKA the Korean Englishman; took me a year to check out his videos. Unlike them, he almost has entirely positive view of South Korea. I am usually suspicious of anyone who have utterly positive opinions about anything; it often comes off as insincere. But, with Josh, I don’t have that problem at all and I will also explain why later.

    I also have to mention Life Where I’m From, a Youtube channel run by Canadian Greg Lam who documents the life in Japan. While the Chris Broad and Simon and Martina occasionally make videos that can count as documentaries, Greg is the biggest documentarian among them.

    Not only he interviews significantly more individuals, he is also a lot more methodical on which information he wants to display, on how he obtains it and on how he presents them; he also sees entertainment values as supplementaries. As a result, he does a great job in destroying negative stereotypes about Japan while simultaneously putting more attention on the downsides of life in Japan. He does a better job in portraying the country with nuances than many of those so-called journalists.

    Now, to the reason why you clicked in the first place.

    For me, before you even consider introducing people to new cultures, you should NEVER do the following:

    Use stereotypes

    We all know bigots love to use stereotypes. But, the thing is even people who claim to be ‘tolerant’ and interested in other cultures fall for them as well; instead of using negative stereotypes, they use the positive or neutral ones.

    Yes, they are not negative. But, they are still stereotypes. They still see their fellow human beings as the ‘others’ who are devoid of human intricacies. It is still dehumanising.

    Excluding Josh Carrott and Buzzfeed hosts, the aforementioned Youtubers frequently described how Koreans and/or Japanese people behave and, on a surface level, the descriptions do sound stereotypical.

    But, if you listen closely, they actually debunk some of the stereotypes and reveal things we never expect from either nation. That’s because the descriptions are NOT based on hearsay, they are based on said Youtubers’ personal experiences interacting with the actual people!

    Unlike stereotypes which are entirely simplistic and rigid, human beings are complex and unpredictable creatures who will never fit into any preconceived moulds, no matter how much you force them. The more you know them, the more you feel guilty about ever forcing them in the first place.

    While he describes Japanese people as generally unassertive and shy, Chris Broad also had an easy time making his Japanese friends and colleagues -some of whom were older than him- eagerly learn English profanities; he knows that Japanese people are human beings, NOT ‘cute, cuddly anime characters’ as he put it in a subsequent video. In fact, his friend Natsuki has no qualm about doing antics publicly (e.g. dressing and acting like Zorro) and approaching a complete stranger just to befriend him/her, which was how the two met.

    One of my favourite Greg Lam’s video is The Rules That Rule Japan, which title is self-explanatory. To summarise it, Japan is ruled by written and unwritten rules that seemingly contradict each other and, depending on which rules, the breaching is not always considered a faux pas. Basically, if you want to know how it is like living in Japan, you’ve got to live in Japan.

    And it is not just Japan. Virtually every country on earth also shares similar situations regarding rules. Mind you, Japan is a very homogenous country and yet it is a very complex society to break down effortlessly. Now, just imagine breaking down more populated and more diverse countries like my home country Indonesia. If a country’s description feels so simple, then it is very likely infiltrated with inaccuracies.

    A year after leaving South Korea for Japan, Simon and Martina made a video titled Japan or Korea: Did We Make The Right Choice? in which they expressed their preference towards Japan as a place to live. They were honest and uninhibited with their criticism about the living conditions in South Korea. But, it seems people don’t even bother to watch until the end.

    The couple also explicitly made a disclaimer about how they were speaking from their own personal experiences and acknowledged that others might have diverging impressions about either country. Many in the comment sections, presumably both Koreaphobes and zealous Korean nationalists, ignore the disclaimer and thoughtlessly spew their dogmatic vitriol.

    They intentionally ignore the video’s nuances just for the sake of affirming their versions of ‘reality’. They also ignore that Simon and Martina still see South Korea as their second home; even Simon said randomly meeting a Korean person in Japan made him feel at home.

    Thanks to Chris Broad and Greg Lam, my interest in Japan actually increases and thanks to Simon and Martina, I have actually become interested in South Korea. My interest increases and emerges NOT despite of the scores of scathing tones, but because of it.

    The imperfection makes both countries feel more real and human. The older I get, the more I actually find absolute positivity nauseating.

    Be extreme

    … And my hatred of absolute positivity is the reason why, as I mentioned before, I hate those who made negative comments on Buzzfeed’s food reaction videos more than their trashy American reactions.

    For those commenters, NOT liking the dishes was not an option. They believe the reactors HAD to like them! For them, not liking those dishes was akin to spitting on their faces. They genuinely remind me of over-zealous fandoms.

    Correct me if I am wrong. But, those reactors volunteered to be in the videos; basically, no matter how unrefined their behaviours were, they were willing to try to new things and that is something we must appreciate! To this day, my willingness to try new things is still too minimal.

    I previously mentioned Josh the Korean Englishman whose (seemingly) absolutely positive view about South Korea does not put me off; nowadays, anything that seems will immediately put off. I believe it has something to do with how he expresses his love of Korea.

    Some of his videos can be summarised as ‘foreigners (mostly English) trying Korean foods’ and those foreigners are not only honest about whether they like the foods or not, they sometimes make jokes about them… and you know what? Josh was not offended at all!

    He does not care whether they love the food or not, he just wants to share an aspect of one of his beloved cultures. If anything, his passionate yet civilised tactic actually works! His friends end up appreciating Korean culture. Even his mom and his best friend’s father, whom have been repeatedly described as ‘very English’, also end up appreciating Korean culture!

    But, even if you are not a hostile, you should be methodical in how you introduce a certain culture. Don’t go straight to the ‘weird’ stuffs.

    If you want to introduce someone to Japanese cuisine, don’t go straight to sushi, sashimi or natto. Not every country in the world eats raw meat and foul-smelling, fermented soybeans. Take it easy and go with tempura and ramen first, which I know will make easy starts as fried foods and noodle soups are common all over the world.

    If I were tasked to introduce Indonesian cuisine to foreigners, I would consider their backgrounds. If they are of East Asian descent, I would start with Chinese-Indonesian dishes. If they are of South Asian descent, I would start with gulai dishes which are considered as ‘Indonesian curries’. Unless the foreigners are from other Southeast Asian countries, I would think twice about starting with Sundanese and Javanese cuisine due to them being almost entirely indigenous.

    If you go extreme -whether in how you behave or how you determine the starting points-, you would deter others from being adventurous.

    Be arrogant

    I do believe the ability to appreciate different cultures is a sign of sophistication. But, I still think there is no excuse for self-conceit. Our relatively broad cultural palates exist because the cultural exposures we have experienced…

    …And those exposures exist because of our fellow human beings. You would not be as sophisticated if it wasn’t for them.

    I used to be smug about my cultural sophistication. I was able (and still am) to appreciate the both foreign cultures and the distinct regional Indonesian ones, particularly in the forms of foods and music. But then, I realised that my tastes in both have something to do with me being a citizen of Indonesia, a culturally diverse country that also willingly accepts foreign cultures; I have lived in the Greater Jakarta area, which is unsurprisingly diverse, and my hometown Batam has not one but five dominant ethnic groups and is located near Singapore and Malaysia.

    When it comes to my music taste, I also have to credit one of my music teachers and my mom. My teacher introduced me to Mahavishnu Orchestra, which was my gateway to more complicated music and my mom had the 1999 version of Badai Pasti Berlalu CD, which was my gateway to quality Indonesian pop.

    My relatively-sophisticated taste is a product of my socio-cultural environment and I can confidently say the same thing can be said about yours… and Josh Carrott’s.

    His attachment to Korean culture was born out of his sense of isolation as the only British student in an international school in China. It was the Korean students, the school’s main demographic, who took care of him and consequentially exposing him to the culture. If they didn’t do so and/or he decided to transfer to an English boarding school, he would not have his dual Korean-English identity. There would be no Korean Englishman!

    In the case of Simon and Martina, Chris Broad and Greg Lam, it is different from Josh’s and mine. Their appreciation of foreign cultures emerged or increased after they moved abroad; Greg moved because he is married to a Japanese citizen while the others decided to teach English as a foreign language. Without their decisions which require them to leave their national and cultural bubble, they would not have the cultural sophistication they have now.

    And because our experiences have definitely happened to other human beings, it is very reasonable to assert that we are NOT the only ones who possess cultural sophistication.

    …..

    Once again, I have to remind you that I have never done anything that is remotely similar to what those Youtubers are doing. I am basing my words on my observation of Youtube’s content.

    Yes, I do not have any peer-reviewed studies supporting what I am arguing above. But, let us use common sense here: do you seriously think hostility, conceit and the tendency to stereotype are desirable traits in an individual?

    Whether you believe it or not, those traits are off-putting. Embracing even just one of them means you are repelling others from liking you; the only ones you attract are those who share your repellent quality and are also avoided by more well-refined personalities.

    If people are disgusted by you, how do you expect them to love what you love? If anything, not only others won’t end up loving what you love, they will end up hating it. It does not matter whether it is of good quality or not.

    You, the enthusiast, are seen as a representative of the thing you love. Because you are such an abhorrent individual, many will assume the thing you love is equally abhorrent. I mentioned ugly personalities attract each other and it seems some people believe the same principle applies to non-living entities as well; many people thought the extremist tendency of Steven Universe fandom manifested the show’s poor quality, despite having never watched a single episode.

    Yes, it is fallacious to deem something solely based on the behaviours of its enthusiasts. But, it is also wrong to carry ourselves so dementedly, we present outsiders an extremely distorted view of our fellow enthusiasts and, most importantly, the thing we love.

    We love it so much, we make others hate it.

    ……

    Now, those of you who are not guilty of such abhorrence may think I am making a big deal out of nothing and I am like a cat fighting his own reflection in the mirror; admittedly, I can be that neurotic and I have lost count how many mirrors I have smashed. But, if you have ever interacted with your fellow human beings online and offline, you would acknowledge that common sense is not common.

    If you watched Buzzfeed videos many years, you would remember how malicious the comment sections can be against the hosts simply for not liking certain dishes. Even if you were never interested in such content, I am sure you have interacted with fandoms who think they can abuse anyone into loving their beloved idols and works of entertainment.

    The idea that common sense being common is an exaggeration.

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