Diversity: from pro to anti

I used to be very conservative; it is not unexpected when one grew up as an Indonesian Muslim. I don’t have labels to describe my current social stances; leftists may find me too liberal and liberals may find me too left-wing. But, I can definitely say I am no longer conservative in that department.

Recently, I found myself baffled: why are there conservatives who used to be liberal or left-wing? Specifically, why do some pro-diversity people end up as anti-diversity?

I have my own hypothesis. I base it on observations of white westerners online – especially the so-called “progressives” – and moderate Indonesian Muslims, which include my former self.

Sidenote: Moderate Indonesian Muslims are not liberal or left-wing in the slightest; they are conservatives who fancy themselves as accepting and tolerant, even though they have badmouthed interfaith romance and are racist against Chinese-Indonesians. They appear “progressive” because they are romanticised by wide-eyed foreigners, they are often compared to Islamists and moderate religious tolerance is the tradition here.

Now, for my hypothesis.

Some people are pro-diversity because they want to feel good about themselves. They want to feel it so bad, they miss the point of it all. As a result, they face some snags in their embrace of diversity.

They learn that embracing it requires more than just eating exotic foods, supporting more diverse fictional characters, sleeping with people of different skin colours and not committing pogroms. They realise they also have to learn traversing human differences; never mind the consequential ones, they even don’t know how to deal with the trivial ones.

Not only they don’t understand the values and worldview of the “others”, they also have bad experiences interacting with them. For them, if something is indecipherable, it deserves to be hated. If they have bad experiences with people of certain backgrounds, they think it is acceptable or even a must to demonise the entire groups. They just can’t help themselves from doing those.

They love othering the “others”, whom they perceive as nothing but giant monoliths. They think Asian-Americans are not divided to different subgroups and are the same as Asians in Asia. They think every true queer person was born with rainbow imagery planted in their minds. They stereotype their fellow human beings… just like the bigots do.

They also don’t care about how the “others” think and feel. They only care about pushing their thoughts and feelings onto the narratives. They hate how they are not worshipped for doing the bare minimum. They hate how they cannot make everything about themselves.

Sooner or later, they will have the realisation: not only pro-diversity belief cannot be exploited for their own benefits, it is also against the actual worldview they have been clinging onto and were in denial about. As a result, the “woke” – who was never “woke” in the first place – becomes “anti-woke”.

Hypothesis ends.

Obviously, like any hypotheses, mine must be “tested” before it becomes a theory. I am also too lazy to find out if someone else has thought about it (someone probably has).

But, one thing I am very certain of: I have met people who claim to be progressive and yet, they are guilty of the sins I describe above.

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No, homogeneity is not a strength

When people argue against multiculturalism, they often project themselves. They think their inability to handle human differences is universal and sectarian conflicts are mundane in diverse places.

Another one of their favourite argument is citing the success of South Korea and Japan. They argue the countries’ near 100% homogeneity is the reason why they are globally successful.

Of course, there are multiple issues with that assertion.

Issue number one: success is relative. While South Korea and Japan have wealth and greater soft power than my country Indonesia does, I will never be envious of their high suicide rates, drinking cultures, stressful student life, severe school bullying and, in this case of Japan, strong history of fascism and historical denialism.

Issue number two: correlation does not equal causation. Those people never provide evidences. They simply connect two things and expect others to believe it at face value. Life is also complicatedly interconnected; even if homogeneity is a factor, it is definitely not the only factor.

Issue number three: even if I accept that shallow definition of success and correlation equals causation, I still don’t see how it proves the inherent superiority of South Korea and Japan.

If homogeneity brings prosperity as they claim it does, then it is comparable to wealth we are born into.

Both give us unbelievably massive leverages. Children born into wealth have better access to education and they can pursue their passions without financial worry. Due to the stricter conformity, homogenous societies have an easier time achieving their collective goals.

Neither wealth nor homogeneity is inherently bad. But, praising a country’s homogeneity is like praising someone for coming from a wealthy family.

You basically praise someone for being born with cheat codes.

Personally, I don’t believe we must commend people who can find common grounds despite their stark differences. Not only I consider that to be a bare minimum, I also don’t want them to pat themselves on the back.

But, I would rather reserve my praise for them. Considering they are the ones who do extra efforts, it is just sensical.

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“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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“Differences” is not just a bigoted excuse to deny refugees, it is also idiotic

First thing first, your projection is not the reflection of reality. Just because you are shamefully unable to deal with human differences, that does not mean the rest of us share that defect of yours.

If anything, you can find places all over the world in which people get along with each other despite their racial, cultural and religious differences; there are also places that used to be pluralistic but ended up sectarian thanks to European colonialism. The Partition, anyone?

Second, it is idiotic because Europeans have so many things in common with each other and yet, they have an extremely long history with wars; mind you, the second world war ended less than a hundred years ago. The EU was created as a war prevention effort!

We don’t even have to go back in time. Just take a look at present Europe!

Never mind the non-white, non-Christian and non-European immigrants, many Europeans still have a problem accepting white, Christian immigrants from other European countries! Are we going to pretend there is no widespread anti-Polish and anti-Romanian sentiment? Are we going to pretend there are no far-right people inciting hatred against other European nationals? Are we going to pretend there is no far-right resurgence in Europe?

Heck, no need to talk about immigrants. Even Europeans hate their fellow white Christian countrymen!

Even though The Troubles have ended in Northern Ireland, there is still hostility between Protestants and Catholics. The conflict between Dutch and French-speaking Belgians shut their federal government down for a month. The UK, France, Spain and Scandinavian countries have a track record of erasing regional languages; France is still reluctant to revive them (surprise surprise). Norwegian language has two officially recognised standardised spellings and that also has caused tensions among the Norwegians.

While Switzerland is not ravaged by sectarianism, the Swiss are also infamous for their unwillingness to learn the other national languages, unless there are direct practical benefits; it is reported that they prefer to speak English with the other language communities rather than learning their tongues.

My point is if cultural clashes are the reasons why you reject SOME refugees, why don’t you reject all of them?

Why worried about clashing with those desert people when you are still unable to unite with your fellow white, Christian and European countrymen?

As I have said too many times before, the problem is not the existence of differences, the problem is your pathetic inability to handle even the most trivial ones.

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So, you have visited other countries and think you know the world?

If you visit other countries as a tourist, do you go to the tourist traps or do you go to where the locals at and interact with them?

If you can speak a foreign language, is your fluency high or is it only enough to order foods at restaurants?

If it is high, are you fluent only in the standard dialect which you can learn entirely in classes? Or are you also fluent in at least one vernacular speech which you can only learn from the streets?

If you live in other countries, do you live among your fellow immigrants or do you live among the locals?

If you live among the locals, are they fluent in foreign languages and very comfortable with anything foreign? Or are they those who can barely speak one and unfamiliar with anything foreign?

What are you trying to gain by interacting with foreigners? Do you want your validation for your beliefs? Or do you actually want to learn?

If you want to gain new knowledge, how do you gain it? Do you interact only with specific groups of a country’s population? Or do you interact with as many citizens as possible?

If you have gained it, how is the quality? Is it very black-and-white and easily digestible? Or is it too nuanced and intricate to be explained simplistically?

Yes, there are such thing wrong answers.

If you cannot speak the people’s everyday languages…

If you don’t go to where the locals at…

If you live only among the fellow immigrants or locals who are familiar with anything foreign…

If you interact only with a small number of locals instead of interacting with as many as possible….

If your interactions with them give you black-and-white and/or belief-affirming “knowledge”…

Then, I can definitely say you still know little about the world beyond your country’s borders. It is apparent you still haven’t fully left the bubbles you grew up in.

Not everyone will fall for your international relations “credentials”.

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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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Canadian bilingualism: my definitely non-Canadian perspective

The problem with French language in Canada: it is both unique and not unique at the same time.

First thing first, Franco-Canadian cultures are basically western cultures expressed in the French language. French is one of the world’s major languages and, as an umbrella word, western culture is arguably one of the most dominant on earth. In the context of the entire world, it is certainly not one of its kinds.

Their extinction would undoubtedly be a painful loss for anyone who treasure human cultures. But, the pain would be more unbearable if they have unique language-culture combo (e.g. French language and a South Asian culture) or when the language and/or culture involved is endangered… you know, like indigenous languages and cultures of the Americas.

If Franco-Canadian cultures are unique on a global scale, Quebec’s harsh language policy would be more understandable.

Focus on the word “global” because I am going to contradict myself.

Every knows damn well Canada is often mistaken as the US. Its accents, TV shows, music, films (if you ever encounter one) and celebrities are often mistaken as American. Countless of American TV shows and films were shot in Vancouver and Toronto and no one – apart from the cities’ residents – realises.

When I say Canada, I clearly mean English-speaking Canada.

Admittedly, not everyone cares enough to try distinguishing cultures from each other. But, some of us will always try our best. Personally, I know how to differentiate Metropolitan France and Franco-Canada from each other. Well, at least, when it comes to their TV news broadcast.

Franco-Canadian TV hosts speak with lighter-sounding accents and behave more exuberantly than their Metropolitan French counterparts, the graphic design looks similar to the one on American TV (albeit less garish-looking) and there are lots of shots of suburban areas.

Obviously, those are narrow and superficial observations. But, it proves that anyone who pay more attention can easily spot the differences between Franco-Canada and France, no matter how surface-level they are.

With Anglo-Canada, it is a different case. If a Canadian TV show or film does not showcase the Canadian flag or mention the words Canada, Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa, I would have mistaken it as American. I find standard Canadian English accent and Anglo-Canadian aesthetics to be indistinguishable from their American counterparts.

You can argue the official bilingualism is burdensome for the federal government and the Quebecois people are being a dick about their language. But, you also have to admit French makes Canada stand out in North America.

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Actually growing up multicultural

I have encountered so many westerners who either brag or complain about how their western countries are the world’s diversity hotspots, with MAGA Americans being the loudest.

I always counter them with the data which clearly indicates otherwise. In fact, because I have too much time on my hands, I wrote an entire blog about it.

Months laters and I still encounter those people to this day, making the same predictable talking points. The more I encounter them, the more I disappointed in myself, though.

Almost all of them act like they know how it feels to live a multicultural life. I am disappointed in myself because I have been noticing that for a while… and yet, I haven’t written about it.

Overall, it does not make any sense. How experienced you are with other cultures is not determined by their mere presence around you; it is determined by your interactions (or the lack thereof) with the people. You can live in one of the most diverse places on earth and still trapped inside a cultural bubble. For your information: New York City is (not was) infamous for its segregated schools.

In fact, not only they are too proud of themselves, they tried to discredit me as a bubble dweller who know nothing about the outside world.

Yeah, about that…

My Indonesian hometown Batam has not one but five dominant ethnic groups (due to it being a planned city) and, while being predominantly-Muslim, churches and Buddhist temples are easy to find; it is also very close to Singapore and Malaysia, making it one of Indonesia’s gateways to the outside world. I have lived in two cities in the Jakarta metro area, which many Indonesians migrate to and also one of the country’s gateways to the world. I also lived in Melbourne for about a year.

I, an indigenous Indonesian Muslim, attended a middle school where the student body was predominantly Chinese-Indonesian -whose religious affiliation was Buddhist (and possibly also Taoist and Confucian)- and many of the teachers were Filipinos, with one American and one Aussie. My high school also reflected my city’s demographics: visible Christian and Buddhist minorities and multiple dominant ethnic groups. I briefly attended an Indonesian university which attracted students from all over the country. I graduated from an Australian university with an international student body.

Apart from Australia, Singapore and Malaysia, I have also visited other foreign countries like Thailand, New Zealand, China (Hong Kong included), Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, Palestina, the US, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Czechia, Austria, Hungary and Switzerland.

On Facebook, my social circle consists mostly of foreigners and there are lots of times when I get myself reprimanded for resorting to cultural stereotypes.

How is that for a bubble dweller?

After realising how culturally-rich my upbringing was and interacting with so many misguidedly proud westerners, I learn two lessons about what it means to be a multicultural individual.

Lesson one: being multicultural is not about simply enjoy cuisines and arts from other cultures. It is actually interacting with the people we divisively refer to as the “others”.

And I am not talking about professional situations; I am talking about ones where we interact because we sincerely enjoy each other’s presence. While intimacy is not required, informality certainly is. Those are the occasions when we can get to truly know the “others” beyond the labels.

I am not saying enjoyment of other cultures’ cuisines and arts is bad; in fact, we should always encourage ourselves to broaden our tastes. But, they are surface-level aspects of cultures; if we are too focused on the surface and disregard the more abstract things beneath, we may end up making caricatures out of the people. Weeaboos are a great example of how NOT to appreciate other cultures. Admittedly, stop stereotyping people after doing it your entire life is easier said than done.

I am also not saying interaction alone helps. If we only care about affirming our preconceived beliefs or having token minorities in our lives, no amount of interactions will ever enlighten you. But still, if you want to understand your fellow human beings, wouldn’t it make sense to… you know… actually interact with them?

Lesson two: being multicultural is not about tolerance, it is about resilience. It is less about accepting and liking the trivial differences (emphasise on the word trivial) and more about how well you are in dealing with them.

Someone may annoy you for being too polite or rude. But, instead of wasting your time whining, you should move on with your live and accept that none of your fellow human beings will be 100% likeable to you.

I have to say reactionary monolingual Anglophones score really low in the resilience department. For someone who love to call people snowflakes, they sure can’t handle the mere sounds of any other languages. Even Indonesians who are very racist against Chinese people are not that triggered by the mere sound of Chinese languages (as far as I am concerned); mind you, Indonesia used to banned any public of anything perceived as Chinese!

Humanising your fellow human beings and skilfully traversing trivial human differences. In my personal views, you need both in order to truly experience multiculturalism.

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Oh, and about the people I argued with…

Some did end up acknowledging that diversity does exist outside the western world and more prominently so. But, it was not an admission of error on their part.

After the acknowledgement, they proceeded to talk about how politically unstable those diverse African countries are, proving diversity is bad for unity.

Now, did you see what just happened there? In case you didn’t notice, there were goalposts moving and gaslighting happening.

They acted as if they already acknowledged the diversity of non-western countries from the very beginning, even though their refusal to do so was the reason why we argued in the first place.

They acted as if we were arguing the merit of diversity, even though we argued about its existence outside the western world.

And they also acted as if I defended diversity as an inherently beneficial thing, even though I never made the argument. Not even once.

I know some people are against this behaviour. But, I can’t help myself: my opponents clearly lost.

Well, they already lost when they made a claim proven false by data. They lost for the second time when they started moving the goalposts and attempting to gaslight me.

And one person lost for the third time when he said my refusal to vindicate his make-believe was a sign of autism.

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Something the English-only crowd need to know about

Nobody falls for your superiority complex.

You can argue that speaking any other languages is divisive. But, the fact that you berate others simply for being harmlessly different means you are the divisive one. In order to feel better, you project your own flaw onto others.

You can brag about being monolingual all you want. But, scientific studies have proven that multilingualism make us more perceptive, better learners and more cognitively resilient in our old age. Basically, monolingual pride is a celebration of weakness.

You can bash us foreigners for supposedly having shit English. But, you are obviously jealous when we speak and write English eloquently while you are still too dumb to understand they’re, their and there.

You can also bash our English when you don’t have any comebacks. But, deep down, we all know you are jealous that we can outsmart you using your native language, literally the only language you know.

You can think highly of yourselves. But, nobody -apart from your fellow sufferers- fall for your Anglo superiority complex.

We are literally laughing at you! Even your fellow Anglophones laugh at you!

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Your unique country isn’t

For non-Americans, it can be a bit weird how Americans identify themselves with their home states when introducing themselves. It does not matter if they interact with foreigners, who may not have heard of the more ‘obscure’ states.

In a Youtube comment section (forget which one), a commenter pointed out that weirdness. Then, among the repliers, there had to be that one annoying person.

He/she could have said this was just an American quirk or had something to do with strong sense of regionalism.

Nope. For him/her, it proves America is literally the only diverse country on earth.

Others, me included, were quick to point out the US of fucking A is NOT the only one. There are countries like Canada, Australia and Brazil where the indigenous populations are brutally sidelined by Europeans of various nationalities and also ones like China, South Africa, Malaysia, India, China and Indonesia. Yet, when introducing themselves to foreigners, people of those countries always refer to their countries instead of their home provinces, states or what have you.

After me and others kept pestering him/her, she/he relented. But then, she/he proceeded to claim that the cultural differences are more pronounced in the US than they are in other countries.

Again, not true. In Indonesia alone, you can easily see how different the ethnic groups are just by looking at their traditional attires or by eating their dishes; I don’t remember what other commenters said about this. He/she did relent for the second time.

But then, she/he claimed that unlike the other countries, USA consists of people who don’t share the same roots.

He/she was right to say the people in those countries share the same roots. The majority of Chinese mainlanders are Hans, most languages in India are either Indo-Aryan or Dravidian, the majority of people in South Africa are of Bantu roots and most Indonesians are of Austronesian roots.

But then, the majority of Americans are descended of Europeans who mostly spoke Indo-European languages. Besides, nowadays, most of them are monolingual Anglophones; their surnames are the only remnants of their non-Anglo heritage, assuming they haven’t been Anglicised.

To make this more frustrating, that person was not the first person I encountered who exaggerated America’s uniqueness, particularly regarding diversity. It shows how ignorance about the world can mislead us into embracing exceptionalism.

I have also encountered people who make this argument about the west as a whole. They use this argument not because they believe in exceptionalism, but because they hate how the west is the only place where multiculturalism is supposedly ‘enforced’…

… Which is, of course, bullshit. Not only diversity exists elsewhere, there are African and Asian countries significantly more diverse than the European ones.

According to Alesina et al and Fearon’s ethnic and cultural diversity indexes, African, Asian and Latin American countries -especially the African ones- easily outrank the west. In fact, the indigenous populations of many non-western countries are already diverse without immigrants.

Iran’s biggest ethnic group forms 50-60% of the population. Afghanistan’s two biggest ethnic ones comprise 40-50% and 25% of the population. Indonesia’s? 40% and 18%. Kenya’s biggest is 17%. Papua New Guinea’s population is almost nine million and it has over eight hundred indigenous languages. Vanuatu? Three hundred thousand people, over a hundred and ten languages.

And we haven’t talked about religions, yet… which in this case, I have to refer to Singapore: biggest religion 33%, second biggest 18%. Unusual, even for many diverse countries.

Those countries are effortlessly multicultural without boasting how multicultural they are. Heck, some even never utter the word.

My point is multiculturalism is not an exclusively western thing. The more you know about the world, the more stupid it is to believe otherwise.

Oh, and if you want to insist on your country’s uniqueness and/or victim status, make sure to mention things that do not happen fucking elsewhere!

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Forgot to mention this: diversity also applies to non-white indigenous people of western countries.

In the US, there are five hundred and seventy four federally recognised tribes. In Australia, four hundred. In Brazil, at least two thousand, not accounting undiscovered ones. Mind you, those are the numbers AFTER they have experienced centuries of genocide by the Europeans.

Can you imagine if the genocides never happened? The Americas and Australasia would be even more diverse than they are now. They would easily rival Africa and Asia.