Casualties of feel-goodism

I have my share of experiences dealing with creatures whose only objectives in life is to feel good and feel good only. You know, the ones who refuse to have a grip on reality, the victims of ‘positivity’. Now, I am going to waste my days by writing shits about them!

Victim number one

January 6, 2017. Pewdiepie, AKA the Swedish kazoo kid, uploaded a video that tackles the infestation of ‘forced positivity’ on Youtube. He admitted how he manufactured ‘happiness’ for image sake and he regretted such sinfulness. He also expressed frustration with how his fellow Youtubers exploit ‘happiness’ as a part of their brands.

He claimed ‘forced positivity’ made him feel worse as it did not allow him to comprehend his negative emotions; he stated the only way to solve a problem is to deal with it, NOT to run away from it!

(Side note: ‘forced positivity’ is a redundant term as I believe ‘positivity’ itself is an entity born out of force. But, I will retain the redundancy for this segment as it is the exact term Pewds used.)

The reception was universally positive. For some time, he provided the community a thought-provoking topic of discussion. Judging from the positive comments in the comment section, it seems this video is a reason why Pewds turned into a much more respectable content creator.

Then, there is that one commenter.

Despite my insistence how ‘forced positivity’ sounds conspicuously dishonest, he/she was firm with his/her belief that it is beneficial to our psyche! Then, she/he gave me multiple links which he/she claimed supported his/her argument. I clicked them and they lead me to actual academic papers!

At that moment, I was ready to be proven wrong! I was ready to have my firm, strongly-ground belief to get debunked by peer-reviewed researches! It also didn’t help Pewds only cited one article which itself was just an interview piece! I read the papers carefully….

… And quickly realised how fucking dumb I was for letting him/her tricked me! From all the papers he/she showed to me, none of them mentioned ‘forced positivity’!

The research regarding how optimism can benefit patients’ health said nothing about ‘forced positivity’! It said nothing about hospitals forcing their patients to be ‘happy’! In fact, it is very obvious how they already had a jolly disposition prior their sickness!

The research regarding helping students with their emotional problems also did not mention ‘forced positivity’! In fact, its proposed solution was to help them confront their negative emotions and understand why they experienced them in the first place! That’s literally what I said! That’s literally what Pewds fucking said!

This commenter was either a delusional doormat or an arrogant shrimp brain who thought he/she could make me tremble in fear by simply sharing academic papers, too arrogant to realise some of us are willing to read them thoroughly!

Of course, realising his/her bullshit was exposed, he/she retaliated brutally… by simply accusing me of being in denial and that was it. He/she said words no more and deleted the entire thread!

I am confident to say I won the debate. Not only I had proven how my opponent’s evidences did not back him/her up, I also showed how they gave him/her the finger and backed my argument and Felix’s instead!

In my life, I never expected I would humiliate someone like that.

Victim number two

Now, moving on from an honest content creator to the dishonest ones.

I would not single Prince Ea out as the only internet personality who love to exude feelgoodism. But, he is undoubtedly one of the biggest sinners.

Besides making his fans feel good about themselves for simply listening to his sugary, meaningless words, he also loves being a hypocrite who preaches about not having fragile ego and then proceed to get butthurt when fellow content creators called him out and spewing harm by telling depressed people all they have to do to force happiness onto themselves! Yes, he is one of those arseholes!

And yes, I have interacted with a fan of his. But, the interaction was too short and insignificant; so, I am not going to focus on him/her. Instead, I am going to focus on an apologist of Instagram travelers.

I never paid attention closely to any of them until Cody Ko made a video in which he criticised them for deceiving the public regarding the true nature of travelling… and life in general. He was put off by the mawkishness and the deceitfully ‘beautiful’ imagery. While they are clearly not Prince Ea, they sure are in the same league as he is!

Then, there came a commenter I would name as Mr. Apologist from now on.

He condemned Cody for being a cynical hater who unfairly accused all travelers of deceit and who just wanted to squeeze the happiness out of everyone by dismissing the ‘soul-stirring’ messages. He accused Cody of hypocrisy because Cody himself is a regular traveller who uploads travelling content to his own Insta account. He thought demanding those content creators to reveal their sources of income is unreasonably invasive. Heck, he even thought Cody was mean-spirited for mocking others who were different from him!

Now, I will disjointedly dissect his statements.

I believe it is unethical of public figures to not disclose their finances. I actually used the word ‘transparency’… which admittedly sounds lame; unless your opponents are as pretentious as you, citing big words will never get you anywhere in a debate. But, thankfully, another commenter made a more sharp-witted argument.

He/she asserted how mentally-exploitable fans will be swayed to do anything to fund their trips, even if they have to sell their cars and houses, not knowing anything how their idols make a living for themselves! For some us, it is too plain obvious (I hate myself for not making that argument)!

But then, your beloved idols are always right; if they tell you travelling is the only way to enjoy life, you better fucking believe them! This problem is exacerbated by the syrupy messages, which a lot of us still fall for.

‘Chase your dream!’. ‘Live your life!’. I don’t know what wisdom people like Mr. Apologist saw in those inherently-meaningless words.

Everyone has a dream! But, like it or not, real life is a bitch and most of our dreams will never come true! Like it or not, doing routines is also living the life; routines can help us to reach destination success… or, at least, avert us from reaching destination failure!

It seems my mere mentioning of the word ‘routines’ triggered him badly. He started to claim Cody’s refusal to not talk about the downsides of routines was a sign of bias. I mean, seriously?

Considering how modern humans constantly complain about how life-sucking routines are, that would be idiotically redundant! In fact, the banality of routines is the reason why people like Insta celebs are famous in the first place; their lives are presented as anti-routines! Mr. Apologist might as well demand people to talk about how salty salt is! Oh, and he also accuses me of bias.

What kind of bias do I have? He never answered, despite my persistent questioning. He believed my so-called bias prevents me from seeing how horrible Cody Ko really was, how he was the person he condemned, how he was the real bad guy here!

Well, let me see…

While Cody is indeed a frequent traveller, he never uploads any deceptively beautiful photos and videos, he never insinuates travelling as the only way to appreciate life, he never preys on the emotional fragility of his fans, he is transparent about his source of income, he never spews meaningless ‘inspirational’ words and he certainly never scams his fans like Crea Tyler did! Oh, and about his bullying of others…

There is a difference between bullying and poking fun of others. It is evident by how some of his so-called ‘bullying victims’, including Jay Alvarez himself – one of those Insta travelers – , reacted positively to his videos! Every time Cody makes fun of someone, he always does it humorously and he always has good reasons to do so!

I am all for being one’s self as I have been personally benefited by it. But, at the same time, Cody’s so-called ‘victims’ produce cringeworthy content; they are either different just for the sake of it or they make sincerely harmful contents which any impressionable human beings should never watch!

People who belong to the first two categories cannot expect others to not laugh at them. The ones who belong to the third should be harshly condemned for their toxicity! So, not only Cody is not a bad guy, he is actually one of the good guys the world needs!

Mr. Apologist also knew Jay Alvarez responded positively to the mockery. But then, he proceeded to baselessly speculate that Cody would make a second video about his target and continue the non-existing drama. I said ‘baselessly speculate’ because the speculation was indeed baseless!

In the Tiny Meat Gang podcast, he mentioned Jay’s positive reaction… and that was it. He never made a second video about him; there was no drama between the two! But, Cody did make two more videos about Crea Tyler. Why? Because, unlike Jay, Tyler literally scams his own fans!

To make my conversations with Mr. Apologist even weirder, he also claimed to be a regular traveller as well. The fact that he was one is odd. Even travelling with the help of travel agencies still has many downsides, let alone one where we have to do everything by ourselves! It is either he lied about being one or he was just a fanatic member of the cult of ‘positivity’.

His devotion to ‘positivity’ not only encourages him to be delusional about the activity he supposedly had immersed himself in, but also to slander every single person who dares to snap him back to reality!

I initially wanted to suggest you to watch Cody Ko’s videos and see for yourself. But, if you already possess a mentality similar to Mr. Apologist’s, you would instantly side with him and condemn Cody and any other well-meaning commentators for being hateful individuals.

Casualties number mycountryreligionperfectifyoudontlikeitleavediehurrdurr

Unlike the previous casualties, these ones are a lot easier to identify. All you have to do is to point out the deep-rooted flaws of their respective – and beloved – groups. The sight of foam forming on their mouths is 100% guaranteed!

Defensiveness is the most common reaction. They always feel personally abused by any condemnations targeted specifically at the extremists! They will try to downplay the threat, accuse the ones who fear extremism of being alarmists and proceed to accuse the ‘others’ AKA marginalised groups as the dangerous ones! And their delusion does not stop there!

They also love attacking the mainstream media for spreading lacking journalistic integrity. I do agree media outlets constantly spread fake or sensationalised stories and hire personalities who constantly blur the lines between journalism and commentaries. But, we know damn well those are not the reasons why they hate the media!

They hate how the media constantly report stories of real widespread violence committed by their fellow ideologues, instead of focusing more time on exposing numerically-less significant violence committed by the ‘others’!* They hate how the media refuses to affirm their delusional worldviews!

They are so fucking delusional, they think the only fundamental goal of media outlets is to be their personal propagandists, to make them feel good about themselves and world they live in!

(*Side note: All acts of violence are bad, no matter how widespread or isolated they are! But, if one wishes to determine which pose the biggest threat and which are signs of deep-rooted societal problems, one must choose the ones that occur on an almost regular basis!)

From my personal experiences, those piles of pig dung often include nationalists, believers and even religious nationalists. Because of their abundance, I constantly encounter them both online and offline. But, I won’t discuss individual confrontations in details; I am already on page four and I am itching to finish this essay soon!

Oh, and some of you, my non-existent readers, may wonder why I consider those people as ‘positivity enthusiasts’ instead of fanatics. On the surface, claiming it is all about feelgoodism does sound too far-fetched. But, dig deeper and it would make more sense.

When one (accurately) labels someone as a fanatic, it means he/she has an absolutely unquestioning love for certain things by believing in their non-existing perfection and by always feeling good about them!

If one dares to point out the glaring imperfection, he/she would be infuriated by one’s refusal to let him/her feel good about the things he/she loves! He/she believes depriving him/her of ‘good feelings‘ is one of the greatest sins ever committed by mankind! Literally worse than any murders!

I don’t believe positivity is the root of fanaticism, which surely is a tangle of abstract intricacies. But, I believe it is a symptom everyone must be alert of.

How I deal with feelgoodism

Admittedly, I was also a victim of it and I always thrived to feel good about everything. Then, surprisingly, I grew up! I still don’t know how I escaped the fool’s paradise. But now, I have set up some preventive measures.

If certain messages bring me a mystifying surge of high spirits, I should never let my guard down; they may contain beliefs which equate happiness with delusions. But, at the same time, I should refrain myself from cynicism (easier said than done); the wholesomeness may also be genuine.

If the messages not only make me excessively feel good about myself, but also compel me to look down on others whom I impulsively perceive as ‘unenlightened’, red fucking alert!

I should avoid those messages at all cost and I should be wary of individuals who vomit and cuddle them! I sound like I am overreacting. But, I am sure you agree sitting high and mighty among the clouds is a vice anyone should never fall for.

Oh, and instead of ‘positivity’, I prefer to use these alternatives: hope and contentment. The former believes the storms will surely pass. The latter believes we can enjoy life despite the storms. Both believe happiness does not mean disregarding the dark clouds lingering above us.

While far from perfect, the methods I use have brought me a greater sense of self-awareness. They compel me to acknowledge how much of a delusional, self-righteous dickhead my younger self was.

Even though I still tumble to the realm of chimeras and piety from time to time, I become better at fleeing it thanks to those methods.

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My thoughts about Geography Now

As I am an Indonesian, it is not a surprise the first video I watch from this geography education channel is the one that encapsulates my home country; it was suggested to me probably because I searched for videos of foreigners trying Indonesian food. But, thanks to that one video, I ended up on a Geo Now binge and I almost watched every video on the channel in less than 48 hours.

As you can immediately tell, I am deeply impressed by the channel!

Okay, admittedly, there is one potential flaw: I have mixed feelings about how it depicts conflicts. Paul and his friends will take the roles of individual countries or sectarian groups and they will start ‘bickering’… which look very childish and comical.

Of course, it can be problematic as it seems to belittle the actual resulting deaths of said conflicts. But, at the same time, the petulant depiction is also fitting considering how clashes often occur simply because of ridiculous reasons, like our inability to deal with inconsenquential human distinction. I know I am reading too much into this as I am sure Paul also cares about the entertainment values. But then, I believe authorial intentionalism can be dismissed when a work has unintended effects on the audience.

Some viewers are starting to feel the channel has become more cringeworthy to watch due to its jokes. I am not on board with this criticism because I think the older videos are even more so with their poorly-delivered jokes. Nowadays, not only the performances have greatly improved, the humour has also become more self-aware; it depicts Paul as a shamelessly ‘punny’ person and, to a lesser extent, a big fat know-it-all.

I am also not on board with the criticism regarding the involvement of his friends; they believe having another on-screen personalities really ruin the channel. For me, their presence increases the dynamism. Besides, literally since the first episode, Paul has been receiving help in the post-production process! While the channel is indeed his brainchild, we must also acknowledge its collaborative nature. It is literally called Geography Now, NOT The Paul Barbato Show!

Mispronunciation is also a recurring theme/joke in the channel; in some cases, he never bothers to even try pronouncing foreign words and opts to speak gibberish or call certain individuals as ‘this guy’ or ‘this *insert occupation here*’. While some may perceive it as disrespectful, I perceive it as refreshing honesty. He acknowledges his linguistic limitation and, whether we want to admit it or not, most of us are too lazy to pronounce foreign phonology accurately! As someone who calls himself The Stammering Dunce, I cannot fault Paul for this.

Also, when he knows how to pronounce certain foreign phonology, especially one from the languages he has limited proficiency in, he will try his best; some people still deliberately mispronounce foreign words and names despite knowing how to do so properly… probably because they are hypocritical pricks who can’t care less about embracing other cultures and yet they get mad when foreigners mispronounce their names and languages repeatedly.

Unsurprisingly, just like any media outlets in existence, the channel cannot escape the criticism regarding informational inaccuracy and omission. But, even then, Paul does not seem to receive a barrage of hate in the comment sections… and for good reasons.

When he omits certain information and/or gives the wrong one, it is because of honest mistakes. He tries his best to produce relatively short yet very concise videos to the point where he literally forgets to include common knowledge; even his China episode fails to mention the Great Wall! There are no indications of him having any political agendas. He fulfills his promise to be as objective as possible; his Rohingya crisis video is a great evidence of this. Oh, and he uses Flag/fan Friday and Filler Week videos as corrective and supplementary components. He is cognizant of his own oversights.

And that’s not his only ‘secret’ for success.

Another important factor is his love of travelling. You know, the real act of travelling! Instead of being content about ‘experiencing’ the foreign lands by falling for the plastic charms of tourist traps, he prefers to taste how the locals live! That, I assume, encourages him to drop his own preconceived notions when researching for new episodes.

He also has a diversity of sources. Besides the scholastic ones, he also takes input from his viewers whose home countries will be covered soon… and I really love this approach!

Whether we like it or not, even with academic rigorousness, those scholastic references can still be prone to informational deficiency and cultural propensity. While the words of his viewers are purely anecdotal, they can provide vantage points that are raw and unobstructed by any methodical filtration. Of course, thankfully, he also strictly distinguishes which info is academic and which isn’t; when he cites anecdotes, he will explicitly present them as such! I believe this route leads him to destination success!

The materials are relatively meticulous and compact while maintaining some level of relatability to the average people who lack any ‘scholarly’ disposition. It is scholastic enough that some teachers actually play his videos in their classes, scholastic enough to convey the defects of the enquired countries… while still ‘populist’ enough to please some flag-wavers and over-zealous foreign cultures enthusiasts.

Of course, as an Indonesian, I have to talk about the Indonesia episodes.

One criticism I have is how he described Indonesia as a marriage of the Middle East and Southeast Asia that results in many babies. While it is not inaccurate, it is far from complete.

Islam -the biggest religion in the country- is indeed from the Middle East, some regional cultures do have Arab influences and our national language does have Arab loanwords. But, some of those regional cultures also have South Asian, Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese influences, our national language also has Sanskrit, Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese loanwords, many government institutions use Sanskrit mottos and the Indonesia is a former Dutch, Portuguese and, to a lesser extent, British colony. But, because of our mostly Austronesian roots, we are still more similar to predominantly-Christian Filipinos than we are to the predominantly-Muslim Middle Easterners.

Paul mentions how most Indonesian mosques do not have the typical domes. In reality, most of them actually do. The ones who don’t were mostly constructed before the 21st century, designed with traditionally-influenced architectural styles. Back then, most Indonesian Muslims were less likely to equate Islamic identity with the Middle-Eastern one.

Paul also does mispronounce Indonesian pronounciation. But then, as I said before, learning foreign languages is difficult… and the majority of Indonesians, even ones who are not raised with ‘regional’ cultures, have a poor comprehension of our national language. So, him pronouncing ‘C’ as ‘K’ instead of ‘CH’ should not be a biggie.

And those are the only flaws I can think of in his Indonesia videos. I believe he does a great job in unveiling the intricate foundations of my motherland.

He showcases how the country is so diverse that the biggest and second biggest ethnic groups comprise about forty percent and fifteen percent of the country’s population -respectively-, that anti-Chinese sentiment exists here (albeit he said it briefly), how Islam is practiced differently in Indonesia from the one in the Arab world -especially regarding the rituals-, how Indonesian Papuans are extremely distinct in many ways from the rest of their fellow countrymen, how the government only recognises six religions and how our national symbol is of Hindu origin despite being a predominantly-Muslim nation! Oh, and I think his description of Aceh as the black sheep is very fitting!

When it comes to international relations, he showcases how our relationship with Saudi Arabia is very horrible, how we and Malaysia are frenemies (due to our cultural similarities and differences) and how we have a surprisingly good relationship with Japan (despite the history)!

And those short descriptions alone easily defy how most of us perceive Indonesia!

On one hand, it is certainly not a peaceful and tolerant haven many people love to advertise. Indonesians are still very racist, especially against every person of Chinese descent. We are still religiously schismatic to the point we disenfranchise adherents of indigenous beliefs by not officially recognising them as legitimate religious groups!

But, on the other hand, Indonesia is certainly not a carbon copy of Saudi Arabia and many Indonesians detest the idea of becoming Saudis! Aceh, one of the thirty-four Indonesian provinces, certainly does not represent the entire country! The citizens, especially the Muslim ones, are extremely diverse and any generalisations about them (which I admittedly still make from time to time) can be easily and deservedly labeled as shallow or even outright dehumanising!*

(*Yes, I know one cannot generalise even the most homogenous collective in existence. But, I do believe generalising a very diverse society is considerably more intellectually dishonest than generalising one that is significantly less so.)

I should also commend him for his dissections of the bicolour flag and the coat of arms. While the Hotel Yamato story has become a legend here, I did not know red and white represent the duality of nature in Austronesian mythology, ancient Indonesian Hindus also used red-white flags and teaks leaves and mangosteen rind were used as red textile dye!

I also didn’t know the number of feathers in our version of Garuda represents the date of Indonesia’s independence day! He is one of the handful of foreigners that have educated me things I genuinely didn’t know about my own homeland!

Overall, I believe Paul Barbato is a successful educational Youtuber. He has a firm grasp on the (often-needlessly) complicated domestic and international borders, he has a firm grasp on the (often-preventable) sectarian conflicts, he can be more knowledgeable about the enquired countries than their citizens do…

And, most importantly, he unveils how each of the world’s sovereignty constantly defies our racial, cultural, political and religious preconceived notions of them.

In spite of his rapid-fire and comedic performances, he still manages to demonstrate how humanity is not what most of us think it is… and judging from his videos’ comment sections, there are others who agree with me.

My suggestion for him is to expand his scholastic references; maybe add peer-reviewed academic papers into the mix! Knowing the nature of academic journal, it can be more burdensome for the production. But, I am also confident it can also bring an even greater depth to the content!

Postscript:

There was a criticism of his Eritrea episode in which he supposedly ignores the country’s human rights violation. The thing is… he never does!

In his summary of individual countries’ history, he often mentions their authoritarian leaders and historical violent events. Again, as I said before, the unintentional omission of information regularly happens as he tries to create relatively-short yet concise videos!

Maybe the critics hated how Paul did not spend the entire episode talking about the country’s human rights violation. Why should he? His channel is called Geography Now, NOT Human Rights Now!! His job is literally to teach geography, to summarise individual territories of the world, not to be a white saviour!

Besides, he will not talk about human rights violations in great details unless he comprehends the intricacy of each individual case; again, I have to mention his Rohingya crisis video! He is not one of those pseudo-activists who think human rights can be discussed simplistically!

I was planning to put this section much earlier. But, I called it off because I take this a bit too personally. The first time I watched the video, there was literally only one comment that criticised Paul for supposedly ignoring Eritrea’s dark reality (albeit with many likes). When I watched it again, the comment was gone. And still, that comment bothers me to this day!

I don’t know why. But, I am annoyed every time someone says the only appropriate way to chronicle certain countries is to babble about their human rights issues! Maybe it has something to do with their insistence to demonise the places they hate and yet know little or nothing about!

I wonder if Paul is annoyed by this as well. In the first Iraq episode, his friend Keith portrays a character who is agitated that Paul does not go straight to babbling about terrorism. Even though I cannot be sure about his motivation to incorporate the character, I am glad he did. It feels like a not-so-subtle middle finger to those white saviours.

Once again, there are times when one can dismiss authorial intentionalism.

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Once beautiful, now hideous words

Sceptic

I was in love with the word. I hated how accepting proclamations uncritically is considered acceptable or even obligatory by much of humanity. I hated how ‘he said, she said’ is our number one method of information gathering. I still do.

Even though I identified myself as a person of faith (still do), its association with fervent atheists did not deter me. As I got older, due to my scepticism, I became even less hostile towards atheism, accepting the possibility of my belief being the wrong one. Unlike my younger self, I make actual efforts to be more critical-minded.

An actual sceptic won’t instantly take sides in cases of rape allegations and won’t take the words of government officials and so-called experts for granted. He/she won’t until he/she has enough solid evidences and/or he/she has diagnosed the logic of the situations (or the lack of it). Of course, that’s not the case with many self-proclaimed sceptics nowadays.

They believe the existence of false allegations proves that every accuser is a liar and all of the accused ones are innocent! They believe every single statement made by governments are lies and choose to believe conspiracy-peddling public entities! They believe every scientist that debunks popular opinions is paid by greedy corporations, unlike the so-called ‘honest’ pseudoscientists!

You are not embracing the presumption of innocence, you are just a rape culture apologist who either sees nothing wrong with rape or believes rape is a myth!

You are not someone who refuses to bow down to the political establishment, either you are just paranoid (which means you need professional help, I am serious) or you arrogantly fancy yourself as the beholder of truths!

You are not analytical of experts’ words, either you are just scientifically illiterate and do not know what science actually is or you know what science is, but you hate how it destroys your unfounded world views!

Even though many of those individuals do not label themselves as ‘sceptics’, they love to blurt out words like ‘logic’, ‘facts’ and ‘reason’ over and over again, as if doing so instantly make them ‘sceptical’. The fact that far-right ideologues have a dominant presence among them really turn me off from the word.

I am not disgusted by the words ‘logic’, ‘facts’ and ‘reason’. Yet. But, I have become repulsed by the S-word to the point where I am wary of every person who try to represent themselves as ones.

Freedom

What I am going to say will be quite baffling: the older I get, the more I appreciate the idea of freedom while simultaneously the more I hate the word that represents it!

I love freedom because it is the reason why I am allowed to be myself. Online, I have the freedom to be outspoken about my opinions, many of which are deeply unpopular and may get me into legal problems in some countries. Offline, despite Indonesian society being repressive at times, I still have the freedom to express my discontent regarding the status quo. This is why my appreciation of the concept grows along with my age.

But, at the same time, I have also become more and more exposed to the raw, unromanticised depiction of the western ‘civilisation’ and I am frustrated by how deeply misguided many of its citizens are in their approach to freedom.

I hate how they believe in the absoluteness of freedom in which they can do anything they want without experiencing deserving consequences. Even the most level-headed constructive criticisms are too repressive for those privileged snowflakes who have never experienced a single day living under an actual authoritarian regime. In fact, I don’t think every single one of them believe in absolute freedom. They may claim they do. But, their actions say otherwise.

They accuse marginalised groups of being oppressive as their demand of humanisation rob bigots of their freedom to be bigoted. If that’s how you genuinely perceive life, you are just a bigot who exploits something you never believe in the first place.

If you are sincerely not bigoted, but you still take sides with bigots instead of their victims, you probably think freedom was fought for by unhinged individuals who wanted humans to be more arseholes towards each other. Basically, you are an edgelord who know nothing about the thing you supposedly believe in.

Besides empowering individuals who are afflicted with hatred, this mental retardation may have an effect outside the west. While I cannot speak for other countries, I can speak for Indonesia specifically.

Many Indonesians dream of the old days when free speech was a luxury. Why? Because we are tired of Islamists who constantly regurgitate infectious diarrhea out of their dirty mouths! We literally believe taking away freedom is the only cure!

Just imagine if those dictatorship-apologist Indonesians hear about westerners making a martyr out of Alex Jones (whose punishment I believe was not harsh enough). They would have a wrong idea of what freedom actually is: an entity in which unsavoury beings are perceived as the upsides, NOT the downsides.

That’s like promoting a pharmaceutical drug by citing cancer as its benefit, NOT as its side effect!

Tolerance

This used to be one of my favourite words ever! As an individual of a multicultural upbringing, who grew up in two very multicultural cities, who still have many foreign Facebook friends, who fortunately does not end up as an Indonesian Islamist, I love what the word ‘tolerance’ represents! Well, supposedly represent. Now, I hate it, possibly more than the two previous words.

As an Indonesian who is heavily exposed to the things going on in the US and, to a lesser extent, the UK and Australia, I constantly read and watch about individuals who preach about tolerance. Naive, younger me was easily dazzled by such positivity. Then, I experienced something called ‘growing up’.

Yes, I have encountered bigots, both Indonesians and westerners, who assert how their bigotry should also be tolerated. But, surprisingly, they are not the reason why I end up hating the word. I blame it on the so-called anti-bigotry warriors.

From my perspective as an Indonesian, the support for diversity in the west seems deceitful. Tokenism, feel-goodism and exoticisation are rampant in its practice of multiculturalism. So, every time I hear a westerner says he/she embraces tolerance, I am often suspicious he/she means he/she merely tolerates the existence of the ‘others’, whom he/she still refuses to perceive as fellow human beings.

Either that or he/she tolerates their existence simply because he/she likes their foods… or he/she wants to have sex with them. Just because you love Chinese foods or you fuck people with darker skins, that does not mean you are not a racist.

In Indonesia, the support for diversity seems far more sincere. Unlike westerners, our history allows us to embrace multiculturalism more organically. Our inter-ethnic relations are very good. Even though we may openly dislike the other cultures, ethnic differences barely define whom we befriend and marry.

Yes, we do have cases of extremely violent ethnic tensions. But, if you take a close look, they occur among rural citizens who had very homogenous upbringing and suffered cultural shock when they had to interact with the ‘others’. For cosmopolitan urban dwellers, this is almost never an issue. But, this is the extent of Indonesians’ so-called tolerance.

Whether contemporary or historical, the state of religions in Indonesia is not as good as advertised. While we are indeed different from Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, we are still far from a multi-religious haven. Of course, we can go straight to talk about the rise of Islamism. But, I believe also lies in the establishment.

Indonesian government only recognises six religions; compulsory ID cards have religious columns in which we must fill with one of the officially-recognised ones. To make it even more infuriating, indigenous beliefs aren’t included! Oh, and while I praise moderate Muslims for their opposition of violence, they still can be quite hostile to relatively more liberal and more reasonable interpretations of Islamic teachings and the lack of religiosity in general. How can you say we have religious tolerance when we embrace a caste of religious beliefs and try to silence reasonable dissenting voices?

Oh, and I should also mention the racism!

Many of us are still staunchly anti-Chinese. We are still suckers to the fear-mongering (not unlike how reactionary white Americans view Hispanic immigrants) and conspiracies (not unlike how anti-Semites view the Jews). We also love to neglect the Indonesian Papuans to the point where their region is arguably the most underdeveloped in the country while simultaneously suffering from very high living cost; we only care about the ‘exotic’ Papuan cultures and the Papuan gold mines.

Okay, I admit that my claim about anti-Papuans racism seems baseless as it is not a public discourse (I think). But, I base it on three observable facts about the Indonesian life: 1. Papuans are culturally and biologically distinct from Austronesians who form the majority of Indonesians; 2. Our beauty standards only include light skin colours, Austronesian and/or Eurasian facial features; 3. Jokes about dark skin colours are too rampant to the point where being born with them is seen as a personal defect. Those evidences are indeed circumstantial. But, can you blame me for having such thought?

Oh, and of course, don’t forget the classic homophobia. Even back when we were a so-called moderate Muslim nation, LGBT rights were not a thing. In fact, we have become more and more homophobic as years pass by.

Of course, despite everything, we still have the gall to get outraged by Chinese-Indonesians’ (allegedly) lack of nationalistic pride, to get outraged by the Papuan separatist movement, to get hostile every time someone refuses to romanticise the Indonesian life!

We still have the gall to call ourselves a bastion of tolerance! You cannot call yourself tolerant when your tolerance is selective!

Yes, there are some things we should never tolerate (e.g. Wahhabism). But, Indonesians also harbour intolerance towards anyone that are trivially different from them, like the aforementioned Chinese-Indonesians and Papuans, social and cultural liberals, sexual minorities, socialists, Jews, atheists and adherents of indigenous or new religious beliefs.

Yes, their differences are trivial. Their existence can be hurtful, but only to retards whose undeservingly high social status is being challenged.

So, every time I hear an Indonesian says he/she embraces tolerance, it is most likely he/she is a bootlicker who is only tolerant of anything approved by their beloved establishment.

For some of you, it seems I am being misguided by attacking individuals who fight prejudice. No, I am not attacking them. I am actually attacking people who claim to fight prejudice when their words and actions clearly reveal the complete opposite.

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How to report Youtube culture as a ‘journalist’?

*puts on a mask*

The first thing you do is to embrace a reactionary mindset. Youtube culture is very young and new; therefore, anything that possess at least one of those adjectives must be dealt with utmost disrespect and dishonesty. Obviously, those two sentences should be enough to be your starting points. But, I need to be more detailed with this.

If you are being entirely truthful, you would make Youtubers in a very good light. Why? Because, unlike most traditional media people, they have to work harder. When they started doing Youtube, their careers didn’t immediately take off; on average, it takes five years for them to finally make a living out of the website. Not to mention they also had to learn how to be the host, director, cinematographer, editor, scriptwriter and graphic designer all at the same time and they can delegate those roles only after they can afford to do so!

So, you have to ignore all of those aspects and focus entirely on their supposedly ‘incomprehensible’ and ‘nonsensical’ popularity. That way, those Youtubers will appear like kids who achieve easy fame and fortune by simply making pointless videos from their bedrooms.

When talking about their videos, emphasise on the ones that showcase nothing but simple and escapist fun. Never mention the more heartfelt videos that even many mainstream Youtubers have made. Never mention that some Youtubers solely make educational videos! In the end, ‘traditional’ entertainment will look like the one with high quality when everyone knows it is far from the truth.

Oh, and don’t forget to take everything out of context. You have to portray every joke, including the dark ones (especially the dark ones) as expressions of seriousness. When they make serious statements that are laced with reason and morality, you should chop some of their words to make them sound like the villains and their actually villainous opponents look like the victims!

But, you are a journalist. In the end, you should be objective. What should you do if you don’t want to appear entirely antagonistic? Well, you have to remember what your parents told you: money is everything!

Focus on how much money they make. Even if you don’t know the exact number as Youtubers aren’t allowed to disclose their earnings, act like you know the exact number! Every time you don’t have anything good to say about them, just be obsessive about their wealth to the point where you act like you deserve the money more than those Youtubers do!

Oh, and never ever talk about the amount of money they have raised for charity. Your audience is mostly a bunch of selfish, money-obsessed individuals. They will never be interested in wealthy and charitable public figures. They are only interested in the ones who wear greed and selfishness as their badges of pride!

I hope you understand the basics of Youtube culture journalism. If you want to see great examples of it, you can watch and read media outlets’ reportage of Pewdiepie.

I know people have said this before: I believe Wall Street Journal is the best when it comes to reporting the biggest name on Youtube.

*takes off the mask*

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How to survive Facebook as a hateful monster?

*puts on the mask*

Obviously, don’t use slurs. Facebook will immediately block your account for that. Heck, even users who use them in the context of vehemently opposing hatred will have their accounts blocked. Why? Because Facebook does not hire humans to be its watchdogs.

The company believes the human mind is not black-and-white enough as it is still able to the nuances of words and detect the subtexts. They prefer to employ androids which are not only encased in actual human flesh stolen from war casualties, but also adorned with extremely unsophisticated artificial intelligence that only detect words individually and literally. This is why it feels like Facebook is managed by retarded human beings who don’t know what is right or wrong, just like what the Winklevoss twi… I meant, Mark Zuckerberg intended!

So, if you want to express your dehumanising hatred against your fellow human beings, be as vague and mundane-sounding as possible to the point where your opponents who criticise your prejudiced remarks will look like crazy libtards who see non-existing bigotry in everything.

But, at the same time, don’t be too vague. Make sure the messages are still comprehensible to yourself; I mean, they are yours after all. Of course, it would be better if you up your game by elevating their comprehensibility to your ideological allies. So, not only your remarks allow you to express your thoughts and feelings, they will also empower others who share yours and hence making your ideology even more politically powerful. I believe it is called a dog-whistling.

Follow my tips and I can guarantee the utopia where the people we rightly vilify are legally prescribed as subhumans will be more and more true to life.

*takes off the mask*

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Exploring cultures, Anthony Bourdain style

image

I will only discuss three of his TV shows and none of the books as I haven’t read a single one. So, it takes a lot of cockiness to write about a person without full immersion in his works. Anyway…

I have been loving him since his A Cook’s Tour years. When I was younger, I watched him simply because of the food. A show was good enough if it involved lots of food, I believed.

Then, many years later, after watching his subsequent shows, this one seems juvenile and sterile in comparison. For me, it feels like it is less about the cultural experience and more about Tony being a cynical and cocky douche. It certainly did not and does not make me feel intrigued by other cultures. But, younger me said, ‘hey, food!’.

No Reservations is not an immediate stylistic departure. The earlier episodes are not that different from ones from A Cook’s Tour. But, they are indeed less rushed, more mature and more compelling. As the show progresses, it has become more profound.

He becomes more keen to point out the darker side of reality. Politics, discrimination, natural disasters, you name it. The Hokkaido episode, which mentions discrimination of the Ainus, is the first time I pay attention to the show’s depth. Before No Reservations, I had never encountered a single travelling show like this (that I know of)!

Not only it increases its thematic profundity, it also amplifies the visual artistry which, again, is a novelty to a show of such genre (again, that I know of). Watching the later seasons feels like watching a beautifully crafted yet underappreciated TV show. It also helps some episodes are tributes to certain films which Tony and/or the crew was/were (a) big fan(s) of. And then, came The Layover

…Which I skipped over and, to this day, I haven’t watched a single episode. I wasn’t aware of its existence until his fourth and unfortunately last show was announced. To this day, I am still uninterested about the premise. But, I will probably change my mind. Probably.

Parts Unknown exceeded my expectation. It seems unsatisfied with its predecessor’s artistry and believes radical enhancement is needed for itself. And radical it is.

In No Reservations, the audio and visuals are utilised to emphasise and accompany what is being portrayed on the screen. Some episodes of Parts Unknown were also crafted in a similar manner. Some.

In other episodes, they are utilised to encourage the audience to start seeing the world through a philosophical lens instead of just focusing on its physicality; combined with the lyrical narration, the show’s audiovisual ethereality really reminds me of magical realism, something that I never expected from unscripted motion picture works!

I know, I know. I sound like a pretentious prick who reads too much into things. But, I am a sucker for magical realism and any similar styles of arts. Considering how metaphysical some episodes feel, you cannot blame me for having such feeling. They do feel magical.

Oh, yeah. The cultures…

I used to depend on media personalities for cultural knowledge. I still do, but not entirely. Nowadays, I try to accept the possibility of them unintentionally spewing stereotypes and misinformation. Even Anthony Bourdain could not escape such criticisms.

I seriously cannot blame him and his peers for making that mistake. They cannot fully escape the cultural outlooks they grew up with and they are dependent on their local contacts who probably possess very narrow frames of mind regarding their homelands. This is what I still can tolerate to some extent.

What I cannot tolerate is phoniness. I hate it when TV hosts pretend to be curious about the ‘exotic’. Sometimes, you can see their oily faces sticking to the masks, revealing their true appearances. As flawed as he could be, Anthony Bourdain was still very honest with what he liked and disliked. Oh, and the way he approached cultural exploration also made him stand out from his contemporaries.

Besides local cultures experts, who may or may not have academic backgrounds, he also had chefs, sailors, farmers and hunters as guests. Of course, having guests of relevant expertise is not unusual. Andrew Zimmern also has people of similar occupations as guests. Rick Steves often has fellow travel guides as guests. But, Tony wanted more than just interacting with ‘food’ and ‘culture’ people.

He also had fellow media personalities, writers (especially crime fiction ones), musicians (especially Rock ones), politicians and members of (relatively) fringe groups in his shows. I don’t think I need to explain why it made sense to invite media personalities, considering he was one.

I am not surprised about him inviting writers as he was a one who also had published both non-fiction and crime fiction books; he would not have a hard time bonding with them and scooping their perspectives on the local cultures.

I am also not surprised he invited politicians. Like it or not, politics can affect every single aspect of our lives, whether directly or not, and that includes foods. Of course, this is purely my thought. Tony invited politicians probably because he was interested in politics in general (he really, really hated Henry Kissinger, by the way).

I am not sure about the musicians, though. While he did have high appreciation of music, particularly Rock, I am still unsure of why he invited them. He probably wanted to know more about the local cultures. Or he probably just wanted to hang out with them. Even though I can’t say for sure, the former is something that I would do if I were him.

I am also not sure about the culturally fringe individuals (again, relatively fringe), like the residents of Christiania in Copenhagen and Molokai in Hawaii state. Maybe, as a former dweller of Provincetown, he felt he would not have much trouble bonding with them. Maybe he believed understanding a mainstream society would feel inadequate and too sugary without the alternative perspectives, a sentiment that I happen to possess.

Whatever the reasons, whether he did it on purpose or not, I have to give Anthony Bourdain credit for giving me new perspectives on how to explore cultures, whether they are ‘foreign’ or my own. Our understanding of a society will be more well-rounded once we utilise different and distinct paradigms.

Of course, as an Indonesian, I have to talk about his Indonesian episodes.

I hate the one from No Reservations. It uses the same ‘Indonesia-is-all-about-Jakarta-and-Bali’ cliche. It does cover West Java, a territory that many foreigners haven’t heard and don’t care about. But, it has to compete for attention with the more internationally-known ones. That’s like making a US episode in which lesser known places like Savannah or Austin have to compete for attention with New York City and Los Angeles.

The only thing I love about the episode is the scene where cameraman Todd Liebler accidentally crashed the piling plates of foods in a Padang restaurant (there is a reason why those areas are off-limit to customers, for God’s sake). The farce is the only reason why I still keep re-watching it.

Even though I think Andrew Zimmern is an inferior host in comparison with his sometimes cringeworthy behaviours and conventional style of communication, his short-lived and little-known show Bizarre World does a better job in portraying Indonesia.

It dedicates two episodes on my country, each focusing on one specific region: Bali and Sulawesi. While No Reservations gives the impression that Jakarta, West Java and Bali are all the country about, Bizarre World sternly communicates the audience how everything depicted on the screen, including the elaborate Torajan funeral ceremony (which I always want to attend once in my life), is confined to certain localities and does not fully represent the entire country! For me, that’s how one should do a foreign travelling piece!

The Indonesian episode of Parts Unknown exceeds my expectation… in spite of the Jakarta-Bali cliche!

The beginning of the episode features having a sumptuous Minangkabau lunch with Desi Anwar, a CNN Indonesia host, and a Dalang (wayang puppeteer). Desi asserted that tasting every Indonesian dish will take us forty years to achieve!

Obviously, such claim is conjectural. But, I cannot blame every individual who knows Indonesia really well for believing that. The country is indeed really diverse and it is often something I bring up when discussing multiculturalism and Indonesian stereotypes with foreigners. The acknowledgement of its diversity really kicks the No Reservations episode in the nut!

Desi also claimed that Indonesians enjoy dishes from other ethnicities, even ones they have grudges against. I am so fucking happy she said that! For years, I have been noticing how we love eating foods of the people we constantly demonise! In the US, it is mostly the Mexicans, Mexican-Americans and African-Americans. In Indonesia, it is mostly the Chinese-Indonesians.

Not only it exposes more about the insufferableness of humanity, it also exposes human prejudice’s inability to dictate what our taste buds should like or dislike. It sheds light on the deep-rooted universality of food! It probably has something to do with food being one of our basic human needs and our survival instinct compels us to have a taste palate as wide-ranging as possible. But, that’s just my conjecture as someone who never attended a single proper science in his lifetime. Anyway, back to the show.

I am also happy the episode features a historian with whom Anthony briefly talks the 1960’s anti-communist massacre. It is treated by nationalistic Indonesians just like how the crusades being treated by Christian fundamentalists: glorifyingly!

I am not a communist and the idea of living under the rule of communism is as terrifying as living under fascism. But, even if the Indonesian communist party (or PKI as popularly known) was indeed involved in the September 30 movement (or G30S as popularly known), I still cannot find any moral justification for the mass killings!

For one, how do you know every single human casualty involves actual communists? How do you know they were not targeted simply for their Chinese ancestry, their religious beliefs or lack thereof? How do you know the murderers were not purely motivated by bloodlust or the desire to play fucking ‘superheroes’?

Even if every single victim was indeed a commie, how do you know the entire PKI was involved in G30S? In 1965, the party had over three million members. :iterally millions of them! You cannot expect reasonable minds to believe every single one was directly responsible for the violence! But, most importantly, what makes you think you are the ones with higher moral grounds? What makes you believe you, the apologists of the murders, are the good guys here?

Why do I act like I can reason with those people? Years after the fall of the Order Baru regime, Indonesians are still willingly getting deep-throated by its propaganda and we love wearing intellectual dishonesty as a fucking badge of honour! Okay, I need to stop with the historical revisionism tangent.

This is the second reason why I am so happy with the episode. Even though the historical ‘event’ was only being alluded to, the sense of inhumanity is strongly conveyed. I hope this has an effect on the viewers.

A handful of foreigners among them will probably be intrigued by and start researching about it; they will probably realise how supportive western governments and how apathetic most of the eastern bloc ones about the massacre. The Indonesian viewers, the ones with bloodlust at least, will realise how their beloved foreign idol viewed the historical ‘event’ as an example of humanity at one of its worst , NOT one of its best.

I never expected that I would discuss such topic in an article about a TV chef. The fact that I can do so emphasises what I said earlier about his political consciousness. But still, I haven’t got to the best part of the episode: the conversations about death.

Since I was young, I have been told by some fellow Indonesians that ‘death is just the beginning’, which is also how the narrator (who speaks with a ‘sophisticated’ Indonesian accent) puts it. I really doubt it is an exclusively Indonesian belief. But, I like the off-centre approach to cultural exploration.

Instead of focusing on earthly entities, this episode prefer to zoom in on a metaphysical realm which existence is not believed by every earthly being (this goes back to what I said earlier). The theme is fitting as there are scenes depicting Ngaben, the elaborate Balinese funeral ceremony (which I also have the desire to attend). Typically, documentaries include the thematic conversation to compliment the rituals being depicted. But, in this episode, the roles are reversed!

The death conversations take around half of the episode’s duration and the Ngaben scenes appear later on. The thematics is the main dish and its tangible representation is the optional condiment. This role reversal strongly argues how cultural heritage goes beyond its tangibility. We strive to protect it for the sake of its souls, NOT merely for its physicality.

In the light of Anthony’s death, which happened before the post-production process was finalised, this episode may feel eerie for some people. For others like me, it feels deeply poignant. This makes me wonder if he had been thinking about his own death for some times and the conversations was meant to help him contemplating about it.

Okay, I know I am crossing the boundary here. But, I have to be frank about it: that’s what I am feeling and I am confident some people are feeling the same! The fact that the last season of Parts Unknown is considered ‘unfinished’ intensifies the poignancy.

After his death, the Indonesian episode is the only ‘unfinished’ one that I have currently watched. As an Indonesian who has been interacting with foreigners regularly for years, I felt obligated to watch and critique every piece about Indonesia that foreigners assemble. Emotionally, I don’t have the gut to watch the other episodes.

The Indonesian episode is already hard to watch. Never mind the emotionally-fitting theme. The absence of his witty and poetic voice-over asserts there will be no more Anthony Bourdain to tell us stories.

Watching the other ‘unfinished’ pieces means I will have to listen to the harrowing truth over and over again.

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The easiest way to achieve a peaceful world…

*puts on a mask*

… is to only talk about the good and act like the bad don’t exist. Pretend that the world we live in has already possessed a flawless state of humanity.

Some of you may say, while (probably) beneficial in the short-term, this practice would definitely be harmful in the long run and we would probably worse off than we were before. Well, yeah. I already knew that.

Contrary to popular belief, ‘peace’ has nothing to do with sincerity. In fact, it is simply all about maintaining sugarcoated semblance that masks the truthfulness of our shared life. ‘Peace’ literally means free from the discomfort of confronting worldly harshness. Regrettably, some people denounce those definitions.

Instead of focusing on the present by thoroughly dousing it in sickly sweet syrup, they prefer to be engrossed in retardedly future-oriented goals which shrug off others’ desire to live restfully free from any disturbances of open and honest conversations about how we treat our fellow human beings and deny others’ right to experience feel-goodism concerning their non-existent ‘goodness’.

Basically, they are selfish assholes who are willing to sacrifice others’ feelings for the sake of fulfilling their childish make-believe!

Yes, make-believe! We live in the now. Therefore, our lives inherently revolve around it! The future, on the other hand, is something that only exists in our heads. Therefore, every person who spends even a sliver of their time on thinking about the future is delusional and the more time they spend doing so means the more hopelessly detached they are from the reality and even the best psychiatrists in history won’t be able to relieve them from their pitiful mental state!

Don’t do future-thinking, kids! If you really care about a bright future, whether for yourself or everyone else, you should avoid thinking about the future at all cost!

*takes off the mask*

 

 

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

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

Ah yes, the mediocre artistic merit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking about that…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knowing my people, it is probably the latter.

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

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

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Ungracious citizenry of the (seemingly) enlightened realm

I am talking about the western world, by the way.

Warning: you will be frustrated by my repetitive use of the word ‘west’.

To prevent myself from saying ‘west’ too loosely, I should limit the word to Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and much of Europe.

Okay, the last one still makes it a bit vague. But, it is more precise than saying it is where white people live. Unless you are a racist, one believes non-whites can be westerners. Being one is all about the heritage, after all.

Anyway…

It is no secret the most jingoistic westerners love to boast how their countries are the bastions of freedom on earth. They love to boast how humans from all over the globe flocking in to live in their safer, freer, more democratic and more progressive homelands. They actually have a point, though.

We have to acknowledge the west is indeed the most civilised realm at the present time! It is the most free regarding speech and religions, the most democratic, the most accepting of diversity, the most children-friendly, the most feminist and the most sexually liberated territory there is.*

Of course, there is no better way to celebrate what makes their homelands great by murdering them!

They believe immigrants are uneducated and unenlightened. This is why they want funding for schools, universities, the arts, science and public broadcasting to be slashed or, even better, defunded entirely! To be truly enlightened, one must give heed only to religious and political indoctrination, absorb their messages earnestly and execute them in one’s daily life!

They believe Muslin extremists are the greatest threats to global religious freedom. That’s the reason why they propose religiously discriminatory legislation. It literally makes sense to fight bigotry, which every Mohammedan is guilty of as confirmed by everyone’s favourite opinionated public figures and bigoted uncles, with bigotry. As we all know, the only way to kill fire is by adding more fire!

They believe ISIS-loving commie feminazi SJW libtard cucks hate democracy! Ultimately, they feel obliged to support a man who proudly undermines the sanctity of trias politica and they are openly grateful of the Kremlin for sabotaging the election!

They believe ISIS-loving commie feminazi SJW libtard cucks are the greatest menaces to freedom of speech! Of course, they have to make an exception. Restriction of speech is ungodly when it torments adherents of old-fashioned, Judeo-Christian family values. If it torments their enemies, then it is godly. There is no better way to protect freedom of speech than robbing it from the people they constantly accuse of threatening it!

They believe Muzzies are the biggest misogynists. Therefore, they must vote for politicians who dismiss gender pay gap as a myth, insist on upholding the innate moral superiority of patriarchy, slut shame ‘slutty’ women while glorifying ‘slutty’ men and oppose abortions because every birth, even ones resulted from rapes, is a divine gift and vaginas must be regulated by old men as women are too incapable to make decisions about their own bodies!

They believe we should execute harsh punishments to sexual predators. But, instead of doing libtard craps like implementing sex education, voting sexually abusive politicians out and condemning victim-blaming attitude, the only way to crush sexual predatoriness is to uphold heteronormativity and cisnormativity. The only way to accomplish that is to keep dehumanising the LGBT communities!

I can do this all day…

Back then, I used to deified westerners as illuminated demigods whose intimate lives intertwined with flawlessness. Slowly, I realised how they were also puny mortals like the rest of mankind. Nowadays, I see them as a swarm of some of the most ungracious organisms in existence!

I mean, some of them are too mentally deficient to appreciate their heritages’ finer attributes; when they are not suffocating themselves with propaganda, they senselessly enjoy unrefined entertainment which they fervently regard as sophisticated.

With that in mind, should we be surprised by their incapability to treasure their motherlands’ comparative modernity? You know, one of the things that makes them glorious in the first place?

Even though my family is not rich, my life is still very privileged compared to most Indonesians’. I didn’t need to have a part time job when I was young. I was able to study abroad. Food and housing were never an issue. Eventually, I become a spoiled, jobless twenty-something man…

…And, in a slightly off analogy, many westerners are just like that. Breathing among what can be described as liberalism drive them into the orifice of depreciation. They don’t know how it feels living in more oppressive lands. Ultimately, they have no hesitation to deny the ‘others’ the privilege they have been enjoying since birth.

Maybe, depreciation is the problem… or maybe, it is just sheer idiocy.

What those pitiful creatures deem as cultural brilliance definitely include anti-intellectualism, zealous traditionalism, religious fundamentalism and soppy jingoism. You know, the things enlightened individuals deem as cultural retardation. The things that hamper the growth of third world countries.

Admittedly, I do sound pontifical and I should refrain myself from declaring the conclusiveness of my sentiments. But, can you blame me for acting like this?

All the things I said above aren’t just a result of momentary sentiments. They are the results of observation that commenced long before the rise of the alt-right movements! I have watched countless videos, read countless articles and interacted with countless western individuals online. Those thoughts slowly materialised over the passing of many suns! The more I know, the more I am disenchanted.

Even so, I still view the west with a high regard. Despite everything, it is also the place where most of my cultural heroes are from, the place where I intend to reside in indefinitely. But, do you know who still have remarkably strong faith in the west? Refugees!

In spite of the hateful rhetoric of public figures, many refugees are still heading to the west to chase a safer life! Obviously, no matter how ignorant and hateful it can be, the west looks heavenly when juxtaposed with the tyrannical, bloodthirsty old countries. But, that’s just one reason.

Savages seem to make up the majority of westerners. They don’t. Their voices command the conversations because they have the loudest megaphones, in part thanks to their detractors’ recklessness. In fact, I am willing to bet they are outnumbered by kinder and more open-minded beings.

If the degenerates are indeed the majority, it would be a lot harder to legitimize any glorification of the west. It would be a lot harder to advertise the American and European dreams to citizens of the third world. The west would be where people are flocking out of, not flocking into.

As much as I despise Eurocentrism and Americentrism, the abundance of enlightened souls in the west is something every gracious individual must cherish…

…and it is pathetic how they are the ones being condemned as degenerates by their degenerate fellow countrymen.

*Obviously, those claims are debatable. In the west, it is easy to find someone getting triggered every time he/she hears a foreign language. In non-western countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, such person would be considered pussies, too weak to handle petty differences. But, in the contemporary west, when sectarianism arises, it won’t be as easily widespread and violent.

While feminism has a stronger footing in the west, it is also the place where right-wing figures still openly believe women are destined to stay in the kitchen and to use their vaginas only for child bearing. Can’t say anything about other countries. But, in Indonesia, such misogynistic rhetoric are almost unheard off. At least, not in the mass media.

Compared to the other regions, the west seems to have best sex education, where sex shaming is not as strong. Well, I should allude to Japan, a paradoxical land where poor sex education and extremely sexual cartoons exist alongside each other. Admittedly, some depictions of sexual acts are morally questionable (and it deserves an essay of its own, assuming I want to do some research). But, others also depict extremely kinky yet consensual sex acts; if it is enough to conclude using just one fact ( it is not), then it seems Japan is a place where kink shaming does not exist.

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Ringkasan sudut pandang umat Muslim Indonesia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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