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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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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I support colonialism…..

*puts on mask*

… because I am insecure little bitch of a citizen who needs extreme empowerment.

There is nothing more gratifying than the country I unwillingly was born into invade foreign territories and pretend they are destined by the universe to be ours.

It is even more gratifying that colonialism can also destroy the cultures and economies of the colonies. That way, they can suffer from extreme cultural and economic dependence on the motherlands, giving them even greater power projection on the world stage.

And I hate how my beloved country of Indonesia is not harsh enough in its colonisation of the Papuans.

The problem is Indonesia’s official motto is Bhinneka Tunggal Ika. Unity in diversity. It forces us to wear a pluralistic mask, hiding the real face of our country.

Why can’t we be just like the Americans, the English, the French and the Japanese in the old days? If they keep doing what they were doing, so-called “languages” like Hawaiian, Gaelic, Basque and Ainu would cease to exist and the world would be a better place.

If it were my call, I would do my best to annihilate those savage Papuan “cultures” by punishing anyone who dare to embrace them and force the embrace of Javanese culture, which is inherently noble, wonderfully anti-egalitarian and is definitely a real, proper culture.

Not only that, I would also encourage skin bleaching and plastic surgery to the Papuans who have the dignity of not wanting to be monkeys.

Seriously, if people call you monkeys, it’s your fault for looking like ones.

I also hate how the Papuan provinces are given political autonomy. Literally the only provinces that deserve it are the ones who embrace Javanese supremacy!

If anything, not only I oppose the transfer of power, I also believe the Papuans should be stripped of their power to vote!

As they are subhumans, they are unable to make any good decisions. Therefore, they should not be allowed to vote for the presidents and MPs!

Heck, I even believe they should not choose their own mayors! Everything has to be entirely up to Jakarta!

Of course, I have to be fair as well.

Despite my criticism, I also have to praise my country for making Papuans too economically dependent on western Indonesia, to the point they have to survive the high living cost with their pathetically meagre incomes.

Finally and most importantly, I also love how the government has successfully bred a morally-corrupt, violent and historically-illiterate citizenry.

When Papuans committed riots after a racist incident, it did not take much time for many Indonesians to condemned them for rioting and not spending a single second on condemning the racists.

Basically, they thought the Papuans were rioting for no good reasons. Hopefully, many probably still do.

If I think about it, the pluralistic official motto is a great tool for Indonesia’s colonialism of western Papua.

Most of us believe the official motto is the reflection of reality instead of a mere guidance. As a result, we see our country as the most tolerant and peaceful in the world despite its glaring bouts of sectarian violence.

Not only that, we also fool ourselves into believing the falsehood about how Papuans prayed to be rescued by the peaceful and tolerant Indonesians from the colonialist and racist Dutch monsters, even though annexation can be executed without the people’s consent and is a common method used by colonial and imperial powers.

We greatly mistreat the Papuans and then we gaslight them into believing that the mistreatments are societal well-being. Well-being they supposedly would have never enjoyed if they remain as Dutch subjects.

While I hate how we are too soft on them, I have to acknowledge that we have been giving them the deserving fingers for decades.

Now, it is time for us to give even more fingers.

*takes off the mask*

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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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Religious clothing and secularism

I’ll be straight forward: I disagree with the ban of religious attire in certain public areas and I disagree for two reasons.

Reason one: the blurred boundary between cultures and religion.

Take holidays for example. Christmas is a Christian (originally Pagan) festival celebrated by staunch atheists in the western world and the Laïcité-embracing French government, despite its prevailing spiritual significance among devoted Christians. Halloween, another holiday of Pagan/Christian origin, is also celebrated by secular and religious westerners alike. Nowruz is a Zoroastrian holiday celebrated by Persians all over the world, including the ones living in Afghanistan and Iran, despite its prevailing spiritual significance among Zoroastrians.

In much of the world, we name the planets (and one former planet) in our solar system based on Roman Gods; NASA even has the Project Apollo, which is named after the Roman God. Garuda is a creature in Hindu mythology and yet it is one of the national symbols of Indonesia, a predominantly-Muslim country; in fact, none of of the country’s national symbols are of Islamic origin.

When it comes to headcovering, many people associate it with Islamic dress. But, everyone with basic religious literacy knows it is NOT an exclusively Islamic thing; it has been used for non-Islamic religious rituals and even for entirely cultural reasons! That’s what both Islamophobes and zealous Muslims refuse to acknowledge.

Reason two: it is just fucking clothes, for fuck’s sake!

Okay, I don’t actually believe that.

I do think what we wear matters depending on the occasions as we can emit impressions, both accurate and inaccurate, to others without uttering a single word. For example: one would never visit a funeral while adorned in party costumes; if one wants to be perceived positively, wear the proper outfit. One must always be mindful of one’s own image. While I try not to judge how people dress, I cannot expect them to do the same.

But, some people don’t share my mindset. Instead, they genuinely believe our outfits are literally everything and therefore, it is acceptable for them to judge a person’s dignity and even morality solely based on how he/she dresses. I disagree with it because I have an approach called ‘living in reality’.

Suits and ties are often associated with dignity, despite the fact that sleazy TV journalists, politicians, lawyers and businessmen are almost always seen wearing them. If I have to bring up Muslims, I have met ones who genuinely believe their adherence to strict supposedly religiously-obligated dress codes make them morally superior than me, despite the fact that they are anything but moral as shown by their supports of discrimination and their support of/unwillingness to condemn extremism.

In the context of state secularism, it is often believed that donning religious attire is an indication of one’s commitment to put one’s religion above everything else. I have met hijabi Muslim women who think Islam should be their countries’ only state religion and their fellow Muslims should be given more rights than the non-Muslims.

But, I also have met hijabi women who are either apathetic about the topic of state secularism OR are in favour of governance that respect the society’s plurality. I also have met non-hijabi women who are apathetic about this issue and do not see anything wrong with the presence of religions in public schools. In fact, I know one Indonesian Muslim woman who hates hijab and supports the policy of banning hijab… who also refuse to vote for non-Muslim candidates in the recent Indonesian parliamentary election.

Admittedly, this argument of mine won’t convince many people. Not only it is very anecdotal (and we live in a world where we even don’t take peer-reviewed researchers seriously), it is also challenges the prevailing idea of state secularism.

It challenges the notion that appearing secular is the same as actually being secular. It challenges the notion that secularism can be achieved simply by removing religiosity out of sight. It challenges the idea that appearances can or should be taken at face value.

France, a place where religious attires are banned from public schools and government buildings, is arguably the most (in)famous secular state and often hailed as a model of state secularism. Yet, it also gives exemptions to the Alsace region, which funds religious activities of Calvinists, Lutherans, Catholics and religious Jews and makes religious classes compulsory.

Pre-Erdogan Turkey officially banned hijab in certain places… and yet it already had Religious Affairs Directorate which controlled mosques and appointed Imams, who were officially recognised as civil servants. Iran under the so-called extremely-secular anti-hijab Pahlavi dynasty also had similar approaches regarding religious affairs.

So much for Laïcité, eh?

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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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How to ‘feel’ powerful?

*puts on a mask*

Yes, I said ‘feel’. Let’s face it, you know you are not powerful and will never be so! You will always be a pathetic bottom dweller that the upper dwellers will feast on! That’s a sad fact you have to accept!

But, that doesn’t mean you cannot ‘feel’ powerful. You can induce the feeling by fooling others and yourself about your make-believe power. Of course, I am talking about being a bully.

Before becoming one, you have to choose your victims. It always depend on where you are.

When at schools, you can pick on students who are poor, physically unfit or just plain different. When you see yourself as a member of society at large, you can pick on the ones who belong to marginalised groups like women, the poor, racial minorities, religious minorities, gender and sexual minorities and refugees. Basically, choose ones who most likely will not be protected by the authorities.

After you have determined your potential victims, you can start bullying them. Immediately, you will feel like a much more powerful! And trust me, you would not be the only one who senses your actually-non-existing power.

Indifferent bystanders, bullying apologists and even your victims will acknowledge its existence. In fact, the more your victims’ powerlessness intensifies, the more they will acknowledge it!

Oh, and apologists are your best friends! Not only they will defend your right to bully because they don’t see anything wrong with the bullying, they will also condemn or even punish your victims for having the dignity to fight back! Trust me, those apologists tend to be influential wherever they are. Their words are often taken for granted.

But, even if you don’t have apologists to back you up, rhetoric can be your weapon. You can defend yourself by slandering your victims.

Tell everyone that the weird kids in school will grow up as serial killers!

Tell everyone that the gender and sexual minorities are perverts who want to molest our children and/ recruit them to their perverted lifestyles!

Tell everyone that the poor are the ones who hold the economies down because they are greedy animals who oppress the rich!

Tell everyone that empowering women and members of the minorities will lead to men and members of the majority becoming second-class citizens!

Tell everyone that refugees are nothing but a bunch of cowardly rapists and ISIS, MS13 Trojan horses!

Tell everyone that your victims, NOT you, are the ones who commit atrocious acts of inhumanity against their fellow human beings!

Trust me, there will be people who take your words for granted.

And yes, it is that easy to feel powerful.

*takes off the mask*

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My thoughts about Trevor Noah

Okay, I should mention the controversy regarding his anti-Semitic jokes. While I do agree jokes don’t always represent a person’s true character, those Jewish jokes are particularly hard for me to handle.

My problem with them is not because they were crude, but because they were not expressed in any appropriate contexts; I have no problem if they are done while playing Cards Against Humanity or the joker mockingly portrays an anti-Semite. So, even though I don’t think Noah is an anti-Semite, I also cannot defend his jokes. I am also not surprised Comedy Central defended him. But, he did have an unlikely defender.

The chairperson of South African Jewish Board Of Deputies.

I can’t say if other South African Jews shared her sentiment. But, she did defend him by saying it was his style of humour and he was just being playful. The fact that a Jewish individual who led a Jewish organisation defended crude Jewish jokes seems mind-boggling to me.

This case convinces me that while there is nothing inherently wrong about getting offended by jokes, we should never do so on the behalf of others; our feelings are ours. Let the actual targets of the jokes decide whether they are offended or not.

The criticism against his past jokes is valid. But, there are other criticism that, to this day, I still find stupid.

First and foremost, some fans of the old Daily Show find Noah not funny. Obviously, not finding someone funny is not a bad thing; humour is subjective after all. But, instead of trying to be actual critics by pointing out the actual flaws in his humour, many prefer to use the ‘my-taste-is-better-than-yours’ argument.

Well, those particular people also have this way of discrediting Noah: just point out that he does not write his own materials! Of course, the method is stupid in so many ways. Not only it inherently does not prove his unfunniness, it shows how they know nothing about him and the entertainment industry.

Trevor Noah is not just a random South African dude Jon Stewart randomly picked. Before The Daily Show, not only he already had an established career, TDS was not even the first American show he had appeared on; prior to his ‘tenure’, he already had years of experience creating his own jokes. When he becomes the host, he is indeed assisted by a team of writers. But, he still writes his own jokes, nonetheless.

Those detractors also don’t realise virtually every scripted entertainment TV show in the US has a team of writers. So, if they really believe what they are saying, that means they believe every late night TV host in the country, including the beloved Jon fucking Stewart, is a talentless hack. Do they seriously think those TV hosts can long monologues almost daily… just by themselves? They are not Gods, they are human beings. If they try to do that, I am sure they would rage quit in less than a month.

If anything, I believe Noah performs much better without the writers. His scripted TDS performances often feel stilted and fail to encompass his trademark intercultural dynamism. The scripts fail to embody his personality. For me, his best performances are his solo stand-ups and his Between-the-scenes videos.

In the latter, not only he has proven himself as skillful in making jokes on the spot, he is able to engage with members of the audience and answer their impromptu questions intelligently and articulately. As much as I love Jon Stewart, I think Noah beats him in those departments.

Now about Noah being a foreigner…

His critics believe his status as a foreigner supposedly can make him emotionally detached from issues affecting Americans. On the surface, the concern seems valid; it is indeed very hard to get passionate about the plights of places you were not born and raised in.

Hard, but not impossible.

Just like Americans who have become invested in other countries’ problems (to the point of being proud interventionists), non-Americans like myself are also preoccupied by America’s internal issues. While the sympathy can be misguided or provoked by gross misinformation, its ability to transcend borders has been proven from time to time.

Americans should also be aware of their status as the world power (never mind Beijing catching up quickly). Like it or not, the world stage constantly focuses its many spotlights on America’s best… and worst. Like it or not, the world knows more about America than America knows about the world. If America can destroy other countries by installing dictators that serve its own national interests, foreigners have the right to join its domestic conversations.

I also believe Noah’s status as a foreigner can be a plus point. Many citizens all over the world, not just Americans, feel invaded when foreigners trespass the conversations. The feeling of being intruded is understandable. But, if we want the conversations to move forward and possibly reaching substantial solutions, we must be perceptive. We must lend our ears to dissenting yet reasonable voices.

And, like it or not, they include ones of well-informed foreigners.

If their words anger us, we should ask ourselves: are we angered by their falsehood or are we angered by their truthfulness? That depends on what kind of citizens we are. If we are ones who believe in our countries’ so-called flawless and inherently moral foundations, then it is obviously the latter.

Speaking for myself, I am strongly benefited by the consideration of foreign perspectives. They gave me lenses that I never knew existed, let alone I could utilise. Thanks to them, I learned something negative and positive about my home country that I had never realised before: while Indonesia is way more tolerant of bigotry than the US is, its embrace of diversity (when occurs) is also more sincere and less likely to be inflicted by feelgood tokenism.

And, if they are willing to listen, Americans can also learn a lot from well-informed foreigners like Trevor Noah.

In one Between-the-scene video, he noticed how South African police officers were more likely to see themselves as citizens with higher civic responsibilities than their American counterparts, who tended to see their badges as tickets to infinite amount of unaccountability.

In another Between-the-scenes video where he got a scathing letter from the French ambassador (who had so much time on his hand, it seemed) for declaring Africa the winner of the world cup, he observed how the US gives rooms to hyphenated identities while France only tolerates ones entirely derived from the la Métropole.

(I also have to add that France looks down on its own regional accents and is very eager to bring its own regional languages, which are not intelligible to French, to extinction; if anything, France seems to derive its identity almost entirely on the Parisian one. Correct me if I am wrong).

His words functioned as reminders to his American audience. They must remember that the police’s job is to protect us, NOT to oppress us. They must acknowledge that inclusiveness, NOT enforced homogeneity, is what makes America admirable on the world stage, it is what makes America great in the first place.

Okay, one may argue hiring him in order to add foreign perspectives is unnecessary; they could have chosen Canadians Jason Jones and Samantha Bee and Brit John Oliver as they also have the ability to add some. But, their backgrounds would not make much difference.

While Canada is an Anglo-Franco country, both Jones and Bee are Anglo-Canadians and they are very much almost indistinguishable from their cousins down south. Oliver is from the UK, which is another Anglo-western country that has been maintaining a strong alliance with the US for many years and sharing similar stances regarding international affairs.

Compared them to South Africa, a country which heritage is not only influenced by the diverse Bantu cultures, but also British, Dutch and Asian ones. Not to mention Noah is a biracial man who grew up under Apartheid and, apart from English, is able to speak Afrikaans -the descendant of Dutch-, German -the native tongue of his Swiss father-, and five Bantu languages.

If either Jones, Bee or Oliver was promoted instead, the shift in the show’s angle would not be as global. It would still be America-centric.

Almost every time I encounter criticism of him, the so-called critics love to make a big deal out of his nationality and act like their taste of humour is objectively the best in the universe. Almost every time, the criticism is far from actually constructive.

I consider myself a fan of his… and yet, I am able to bring myself to criticise him. I have a distaste for his past, edgy jokes and I think him labelling Antifa as ‘vegan ISIS’ shows how he still falls for false equivalences; I am open to being exposed to more of his flaws. But, the ‘haters’ did a horrible job of critiquing him.

If anything, they make me love him even more. If they never pointed out about him having a team of writers behind his back, I would never realised how good of a showman he is. If they never made a big deal out his nationality, I would never see it as an advantage his colleagues lack.

Okay, I make it sounds like all of his critics are just haters; I have no doubt reasonable ones who can provide constructive criticism also exist. But, somehow, the ones I encountered online were indeed just mere haters. If I explore more internet trenches, I am sure I would actually find good reasons to dislike him as a comedian, reasons why he is a horrible successor of The Daily Show.

Hours after I finished the previous paragraph, I just realised I did have encountered a good critique regarding the appointment of Trevor Noah, in which he is compared with Bassem Youssef. Some people may call the comparison unfair. But, I have to acknowledge it has some validity to it.

While Noah’s humour was already laced with cultural commentaries prior to TDS, I would not call him a political comedian; Bassem Youssef, on the other hand, started his entertainment career as one and he had to flee his homeland because of it. Unlike Noah, who was mostly a stand-up comedian, Youssef had made two political comedy shows when he was still in Egypt. While both have cited Jon Stewart as an influence, the latter would have a much easier time being his successor.

Oh, and Youssef is also a foreigner. He would also be able to bring a much more global outlook to TDS.

I do think Noah does a great job hosting. But, I also understand why some people think Youssef is a better choice.

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Is Pewdiepie a member of the alt-right?

The answer is a definite no. If you actually watch his videos that are used as evidences by the media against him, you would know he was (and still is) being smeared.

Felix ‘Certainly-Not-Hitler’ Kjellberg

The video Fiverr video was never meant to be hateful. He found the idea of paying people to do anything for five dollars was ridiculous; when he paid the men to hold the ‘Death To All Jews’ sign, he did not expect them to actually do it.

In fact, he was horrified when they actually did. I know because I actually watched his reaction; contrary to popular belief, he was certainly not delighted and he was certainly not bursting into a laughter. He realised that he had just committed a horrible recklessness.

I also don’t get why people think making Nazi jokes makes one an actual Nazi. It is not. Call me heretical, but I believe jokes can be just… you know… jokes; they are not always representatives of the jokers’ actual viewpoints. If that’s the case, then Ben Fritz, the Wall Street Journal reporter who smeared him, is also an anti-Semite for making Jewish jokes as well.

Oh, and the allegedly anti-Semitic channel he was giving shout-out to, I cannot say if it really was considering I have not watched a single video. But, if the Youtuber behind it is indeed just a giant edgelord who love making edgy jokes, then it is not a channel that promotes anti-Semitism.

The ‘Bros’

Regarding the mosque shooter who said ‘subscribe to Pewdiepie’ before committing his horrible acts, many argued he mentioned the meme (as the Pewdiepie vs T-Series ‘rivalry’ was and still is raging) just to bring more infamy to himself. But, even if he was a sincere fan, I still don’t believe Felix is at fault here.

Not only he was quick to condemn the violence, he also has a history with condemning the irrational branch of his own fandom and that makes him hated by his ex-fans; he is one of those Youtubers who no longer appeases to fans. He is certainly different from Trump, who is not only willing to condemn violence done in his name, but also has called his Neo-Nazi supporters ‘fine people’.

He also condemned his fans for being racist against Indians just because the T-Series channel is from India; he even countered the racism by having a charity livestream where he and his not-racist fans donated to Indian children. He has been making charity livestreams for years, which, of course, the media love to ignore and are more interested in his income.

Ben-Ben

People are also mad at Felix for featuring Ben Shapiro in one of his videos. Well, I am personally annoyed because I see him as an insufferable pundit who certainly does not care about facts despite claiming to do so; Felix certainly could have chosen a better public figure. But, does this count as a promotion of the far-right ideology? No, it doesn’t.

One thing for sure, while he is indeed very conservative, Shapiro is also a critic of Donald Trump -the alt-right’s favourite politician- and he, an actual Jew, has experience anti-Semitic abuse from actual members of the alt-right. He is certainly not one of them.

Also, Shapiro was not given a platform to spew his political beliefs; he was there just to review memes. Felix is not one of those Youtubers and journalists whose intention to expose far-right individuals is not accompanied by intellectual rigour and willingness to drop their own ideological propensity, resulting in recklessly giving the extremists unchallenged platforms. Never mind far-right politics, Felix never gives one to its more moderate counterparts.

The n-word ‘oopsie’

Well, he did use the N-word on a gaming livestream and I cannot defend that; it was wrong for him to do it. But, I disagree the usage of any slurs instantly makes one bigoted; it may also means one is a reckless edgelord and he is certainly one. Not to mention he used the N-word against a fellow player whose race was unknown; he dropped the word purely out of frustration.

And I think his apology video is excellent. While Felix said it was not that great, people praised him for not making the video unnecessarily long, going straight to the point, owning up to his mistake and acknowledging his inability to learn from past controversies. Even to this day, I am still unable to make such sincere apology.

Thot thot thot thot thot

Oh, and don’t forget the misogyny accusation because he called Alinity, a female Twitch streamer, a ‘thot’. While he indeed called her such, he did not do so simply because she showed her cleavage; he called her a ‘thot’ because she attracted viewership by using nothing but her sexual appeal. So, like it or not, she is a thot.

Her defenders also ignore this one fact: Alinity copyright struck Felix’s video, despite him not breaking any copyright rules, while she was on her livestream with a fucking smirk on her face. Basically, she was not psychologically hurt by being called a thot; she was just using the situation to steal another person’s income and she even openly admitted she had abused the system many times. To this day, it is sad she is still being defended by people whose only source of info is that slanderous Vice article.

Her defenders also ignore ItsSkyLol, another female Twitch streamer who not only defended Felix, but also vented about how Alinity and her likes provoke horny male viewers to watch female streamers and expecting them to be their personal sex toys. If anything, Felix respect women more than Alinity’s defenders do.

The missing data

There is one 2014 episode of his now-defunct podcast where he was horrified by the rise of a racist and homophobic party in his home country of Sweden. But, sadly, that particular episode has been made private on Youtube and the entire podcast series is missing from SoundCloud.

For some time, I thought the missing episode would be enough to convince the more reasonable branch of his detractors that he is not a racist. But, not only the episode was created five years ago, some of the criticism against him is unfortunately valid.

When the ‘haters’ are right

Like it or not, arts and entertainment do have real-life implications.

Both, especially the latter, either affirm already-established societal beliefs or tell us to embrace certain beliefs, especially regarding gender, race and religion. They can be a force of good. But, we know damn well they are a bad influence most of the time.

I am all for edgy jokes. But, I also believe there is a time and a place for everything. Felix is a white Youtuber of western-upbringing who lives in the west, a part of the world where far-right politics is on the rise. Is it really wise of him to make Nazi jokes for the sake of being edgy?

Apart from the Christchurch terrorist (whose status as an actual Pewdiepie fan is doubted by many), I have not found a single evidence where Felix is admired by Neo-Nazis (unlike Trump who is beloved by them). But, just because he is not their favourite Youtuber, that does not mean he can’t be.

Just like how making ‘racist’ jokes (mind the airquotes) does not make the jokers racist, I also don’t think loving the jokes make us racist as well (and I wish SJWs should learn nuanced thinking). But, it also does not mean actual racists won’t love the jokes.

Why wouldn’t they? The content of the jokes clearly indulges their racism. In fact, I am sure they are glad the certain public figures make ‘racist’ jokes, especially when they are made for the sake of being offensive and lack some satirical elements.

And, in this era, Neo-Nazis are already politically empowered by the likes of Trump holding government positions. The last thing we need is for them to be culturally empowered, for them to believe the entertainment establishment tolerate their ideology. Eventually, they will be even more immensely motivated to spread their extreme ideology to the numerically-abundant impressionable individuals.

That’s why I also don’t have any good rebuttals when Oliver Thorn of Philosophy Tube implicitly call him the most famous Swedish Youtuber who spreads anti-Semitic messages. Twice, if I remember correctly.

Oh, and as a non-Jew, I don’t have the right to decide whether Jewish jokes are offensive or not. The only ones who do are the Jews. They are the actual targets of the jokes. While non-Jews can voice their opinions as well, we certainly don’t know how it feels to be Jews and we certainly only speak for ourselves.

Replace ‘Jews’ with other groups of people and my statement still stands.

What IF he is a racist?

Well, just take a look at those far-right politicians. Trump’s minions deny he is anything but a petulant, Nazi-tolerating and misogynist bully, despite the abundance of incriminating evidences in the forms of videos and his own tweets. Jair Bolsonaro’s minions deny he is anything but a misogynist, racist and homophobic dictator-wannabe who wants to destroy the environment, despite the fact it is the reason why he was famous in the first place!

And the same thing can happen to Felix’s fandom.

While I admittedly still fall for fake or patchily-reported news, I have learned to accept my idols as flawed human beings by rejecting their divine status. So, despite my fervent defence of Felix, I believe he can be (can be, not is) a horrible person and I have to brace myself if (if) he is revealed as a horrible human being; the earnestness of his words can be corroborated on the way he speaks, another thing his detractors willfully ignore.

But then, I am speaking for myself. We all know how fandoms behave. In spite of Felix’s increasing maturity over the years, some of his fans still defend him with such zeal no matter what, even if he is a (hypothetical) Neo-Nazi. And the media are not helping either.

They have been either petty or slanderous against him (and Youtubers in general) for many years. When they are not busy spewing pseudo-progressivism, they are too busy focusing on his wealth and implicitly encouraging their undoubtedly more traditional viewers/readers to despise the man who makes a living out of a so-called ‘not-real’ job. The media seed contempt among the minds of many Youtube fans.

And the contempt provides fans ammunition to attack the media. Every single Youtube news reported by the media will be disregarded as ‘fake’, regardless of their accuracy. Not only the media’s endeavour to get rid of their biggest industry rivals includes shooting their own feet, they will sway Youtube fans away from acknowledging potentially harsh truths about their idols.

If (if) Felix Kjellberg AKA Pewdiepie explicitly and unambiguously expose himself as a white supremacist and the story is picked up by the media, many on Youtube will never believe it.

Why should they believe the same entity who is infamous for spreading falsehood?

Conclusion

We can learn two things from this:

First, when one is a public figure, be careful with one’s actions and words. Like it or not, one will be seen as a role model by some members of the masses. Individuals have definitely become better or worse, thanks to their role models.

Second, a journalist must take his/her title seriously by actually embracing objectivity and pursuing truth. He/she must learn that having agendas like ‘looking progressive’ and ‘getting rid of the competitors’ does not make one a journalist. It makes one a pundit. An insecure one of that.

Okay, I make it sound like Felix and the media are equally in the wrong here. While I do criticise him, the content of his videos has become less recklessly edgy and more well-thought-out. He actually has made efforts to become a better, more responsible public figure. Compared that to the media.

At first, they tried to discredit him by pettily focused on his wealth. When that did not destroy his career, they took advantage of the rise of far-right movements by slandering him as a fervent supporter. None of them have yet to apologise and, every time they make a slanderous report of him, they also make sure their viewers/readers remember his past controversies.

Basically, not only they don’t have any guilt, they will keep doing it until they have reached their end goal.

And yet, they have to gall to be angry when the public call them ‘fake journalists’.

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American Democrats and moderate Indonesian Muslims: kindred in their love of not-moving-forward

I can easily draw parallels between the western far-right and Muslim extremists and I have been doing so for years. But, it took me a long time to also notice the parallels between American Democrats and moderate Indonesian Muslims.

As an Indonesian, I definitely choose the moderates over the Islamists. If I were an American, I would also definitely vote blue over red. But, that does not mean I am ideologically in tune with them. I am siding with them simply because they are the most progressive members of the establishment.

But, they are certainly not the most progressive people in their respective countries.

Frankly, I see them as nothing but reactionaries who are delusional enough to believe in their values’ mightiness in countering extremism, not realising it arises despite theirs are still entrenched in the mainstream psyche. Instead of allowing themselves to think critically, they are too busy patting themselves on the back that they don’t realise how their values are also problematic.

In Indonesia, the still-powerful and Sunni-based local version of moderate Islam does not allow the country to give room for the sacrilege; basically, non-Sunni branches of Islam, atheism, liberal interpretations of Islam and scepticism regarding the necessity of religions are big no-nos.

It also motivates people to support governmental interferences of religious affairs, making the government the only entity that can ‘validate’ and ‘invalidate’ religions; as a result, Indonesia is and has always been a religiously discriminatory country where we only officially recognise six religions, none of which are indigenous, and every citizen is obligated to choose one in our official identification.

This version of Islam is also socially conservative. While Indonesian women are very empowered for the Muslim world standard, moderate Muslims still don’t believe in complete gender equality. It also fails to discourage racism among its adherents; that’s why our Malaysian cousins have better race relations. Oh, and it also cultivates cis-heteronormativity, successfully instilling and retaining homophobia and transphobia in our collective psyche.

From my perspective as a citizen of one of the most diverse countries in the world, American Democrats’ embrace of diversity is still plagued with insincerity; more of than not, their inclusiveness has been nothing but feelgood, piegon-holing tokenism. They emit the illusion of complete acceptance.

Don’t forget that, contrary to popular belief, most Dems are actually neo-liberals, just like the Republicans are; the self-proclaimed socialists (even though they are more accurately described as social democrats) are a minority among party members. Obama ruled for two terms and the Dems won the 2018 midterm election in sixteen US states and territories. If they are really socialists, shouldn’t the US become more hostile against corporatism by now?

Do I think moderate Indonesian Islam gives birth to Islamic extremism? No, I don’t. Do I think American liberalism triggers the existence of far-right extremism? The answer is also no. If you want people to blame, blame it on those ultra-orthodox Muslims and Republicans for constantly making excuses for the extremists. I have to acknowledge that moderate Indonesian Muslims and American liberals still have a shred of human decency in them.

But, we should also acknowledge that both beliefs do have things in common with the zealotry they are enemies with. Inevitably, their dominance won’t stop the harmful values to seep in to the mainstream psyche.

It also does not make sense to fight a toxic ideology with another ideology that also share some of its toxicity. That’s like believing eating deep fried vegetables instead of fried chicken and potatoes will greatly improve one’s health. More nutrients, but one’s arteries will still get clogged anyway.

If we want to fight Islamic extremism and the far-right, we should never put moderate Muslims and American liberals on the front lines. What we need is individuals who are not only willing to fight, but also willing to ditch the emotionally-comforting status quos which clearly set us back from moving forward.

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