This Earth of Mankind: How it took me to a bumpy journey

This Earth of Mankind -or Bumi Manusia, as it is known in the original Indonesian title- is a novel written by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, an Indonesian author who was so politically rebellious, he was hated both by the Old Order and New Order regimes.

In fact, the latter even went on accusing the Buru Quartet -a tetralogy of novels which includes the aforementioned one- of being communist propaganda.

This novel is set in 19th century Indonesian -then-known as the Dutch Indies- and it centres on the life of Minke, a young blue-blooded Javanese man who was educated among the Dutch.

He is opinionated, critical-minded and not afraid to debate the so-called superior white people. He also falls for a young biracial woman, a daughter of a lunatic Dutch businessman and his well-educated Javanese concubine.

Basically, it is a historical/political/romance/philosophical novel.

Anyway, this novel has brought me to both ends of an ideological spectrum: a zealous nationalist and an anti-nationalist… well, sort of.

It turned me into a nationalist because, after just one reading, it convinced me that Indonesians had the potential to be more cultured and civilised than we were.

To this day, I still think we do have the potential. But, I was about twelve or thirteen when I first read the book. I was a fucking idiot.

I did not see the big picture and I couldn’t comprehend intricacies. I preferred to focus on the main character’s intelligence and sophistication and some of the Dutch characters’ lack of thereof.

As a result, I ended up believing that a true Indonesian should only embrace Indonesian things. I did not care about what it meant to be one, I only cared about the label.

Of course, I was a hypocrite. Despite my outward nationalism, I still loved anything foreign; in some cases, I preferred them over the local ones. In fact, instead of reading the original Indonesian copy, I read the English translation due to my lack of interest in reading anything written in my mother tongue.

When I read the novel again as an adult, I realised how nuanced the story was.

While the story clearly depicts the discrimination faced by the indigenous population, it is anything but black and white. Not all of the Dutch characters are bad and almost every native character seems unwilling or intellectually incapable of politically empowering themselves and fellow natives.

After realising the existence of the shades of grey, I gradually lose my nationalism and end up as an anti-nationalist.

Okay, calling me an anti-nationalist is inaccurate. Me before reading this novel was an anti-nationalist. I hated everything about Indonesia and I wished I was a citizen of a foreign country.

I don’t know which label that perfectly describes me now. But, one thing for sure: I don’t see anything wrong about avowing love for one’s country… as long as one acknowledges it is entirely based on emotional attachments.

Yes, emotional. You love a country simply because it is your home sweet home, NOT because of its so-called absolute and divine perfection… which existence defies common sense, unless you live in the land of make-believe.

Believe it or not, you can praise and condemn your country at the same time. Millions of people have done it millions of times. It is literally that easy.

Oh, and I can relate to the character on a personal level. He is Javanese yet educated among the Dutch (back then, indigenous identities were mostly regional and ethnic). I am Indonesian who grew up almost entirely on western entertainment. He is too indigenous for the Dutch and too Dutch for his Javanese family, I am too Indonesian for westerners and too western for my fellow Indonesians. We are stuck between both worlds.

The more I see the complexities of my self-identifications, the more I find labels grossly superficial. The more I think so, the more I despise any forms of identity politics, nationalism included.

I don’t think this novel is the sole reason why I reject nationalism. My interactions with foreigners online and my curiosity about history and culture are also instrumental in my personal growth.

But, as it successfully makes me contemplate about my Indonesianness, This Earth of Mankind is a big deal in my life and I would be surprised if it does not have the same effect on my fellow countrymen.

No wonder the Soeharto regime banned its publication. Tyrants love their sheep.

Riots: my Indonesian perspective

Martin Luther King said it is the language of the unheard. I am not 100% on board with it.

In the case of the still on-going Black Lives Matter riot (as of at the time of writing), I do think it is the language of the unheard. It is undeniable black Americans are disproportionately targeted by the justice system. Considering how every single one of their peaceful protests is condemned as ‘inappropriate’ by the establishment, it is no surprise race riot is still a semi-regular feature of the American life to this day.

Even if I dismiss the reports of white instigators (I don’t), I still cannot blame the rioters for being violently angry… while also acknowledging that small business owners also have the right to be bitter when their properties are burned down. Yes, you can do both.

Regarding the Hong Kong riots, I also think they are languages of the unheard. Contrary to popular belief (and I notice its prevalence among online Singaporeans), the Hong Kongers don’t rebel against the authorities just for the sake of it. They rebel because they truly appreciate the liberty they have enjoyed for decades, the liberty that citizens of mainland China (and Singapore) have never experienced.

The citywide legislative council has functional constituencies which allow special interest groups like corporations (many of which are Pro-Beijing) to vote and their votes have more weight than the ones of geographical constituencies. The city’s chief executive is directly appointed by Beijing. Pro-democracy camp is only dominant in the district councils.*

In Indonesia, it is a different case.

There are the infamous ‘wrapped rice’ protesters, those who join protest rallies simply because they want the free lunch and cash. The presence of organised and extensive logistical support, akin to a meticulously-planned event, is a dead giveaway.

Even though many of them are working-class people, their acts are not languages of the unheard. They do not represent their own causes, they represent the determination of certain parties to keep destabilising the public life.

Then, there are the Islamist protesters, who may or may not overlap with the aforementioned people.

They protest because they claim to be against the second-class status of Indonesian Muslims… even though we are a predominantly-Muslim nation that have never embraced state secularism, let alone the laïcité type; we were never banned from openly expressing our Islamic identity.

If anything, Islam is the golden child in Indonesia and has always been. Muslims do have privileges that non-Muslims lack.

Basically, the Islamist riots -which there are quite a lot of them- are not languages of the unheard. They are languages of fucktards who demand even more rights to oppress the religious minorities, who think protecting them is the same as oppressing the majority.

If you want to find Indonesian riots who are legitimate languages of the unheard, I will refer to the ones committed by Indonesian Papuans.

They are a marginalised racial and cultural group who have never benefitted from “joining” Indonesia. Their heritage is nothing but a mere cultural prop, their existence is a mere tokenism to our national diversity.

When they aggressively protested against a racism case in which Papuan students were called ‘monkeys’, the majority of Indonesians condemned the Papuans for rioting and not once acknowledging the root of the problem. Sounds familiar?

I am writing this essay (and pretending to have lots of readers) because I don’t want well-intentioned yet gullible people to defend the wrong parties. I don’t want them mistaking the oppressors as the oppressed ones.

We already have assholes who intentionally flip the narrative. We don’t need people to do it accidentally.

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*Yes, under the British rule, the governor of Hong Kong was appointed by the Queen and not by the Hong Kong people and all of the governors were white. But, the legislature was already dominated by Hong Kongers and it had far less functional constituencies.

Oh, and the government did not actively try to stifle freedom of speech. Don’t forget that.

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Monarchists

Straight up, many know nothing about how government works.

For starter, most monarchies nowadays are constitutional. In those countries, monarchs are NOT the heads of governments, they are heads of states. Whether they are elected or they get the positions  because of their long-dead ancestors, their jobs are simply meant to be personifications of their respective states. Their duties are mostly entirely symbolic.

As a result, for every political progress and deterioration that occurs in a constitutional monarchy, it can only be credited and blamed on the judicial, legislative and executive branches of the government.

In the specific case of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, he was credited for being a unifying force for his ability to douse conflicts in his country. But, if he was indeed a unifying force, wouldn’t he successfully prevent any future conflicts from emerging ever again, even after his death? I mean, at this point, coup has become a Thai tradition.

While I am clearly annoyed by monarchists in general, the British ones are a ‘special’ breed: they believe once Great Britain becomes a republic, they will refer to the prime ministers as ‘presidents’ and it is too outrageous to imagine.

Two problems why it is a stupid sentiment.

First of all, why does the title fucking matter? Why is it so personally hard for them to refer to their leaders as ‘presidents’? It is extremely petty to make a big deal out of such an inherently inoffensive title. A president is literally someone who presides over things, for fuck’s sake!

Second, it is just another symptom of their political ignorance.

The UK is one of the countries that embrace parliamentary system. In such set-up, the heads of government are elected by the parliament; with some exceptions, they and the heads of state are two separate positions, with the former having actual executive powers and the latter having almost entirely ceremonial roles. Hence, why constitutional monarchies are parliamentary; the presidential and semi-presidential ones have no rooms for centuries-long, so-called divinely-approved nepotism.

What’s the point of this article?

It is simple: I just wish monarchists admit their love of the monarchs is anything but rational. No, they cannot claim rationality when their arguments defy basic facts about politics and, most importantly, when they behave like cult members.

In the UK specifically, not only they take criticisms of the monarchs too personally, they also think Meghan Markle, whose so-called sin is defiance against the status quo, is a bigger monster than Prince Andrew, who cannot convince the world that he and Jeffrey Epstein did not share the same hobby.

Don’t forget there are countries where insulting the monarchs is literally illegal.

Many will laugh when someone admits that him/her approval of certain things (e.g. monarchism) is entirely emotional. But, I cannot laugh at that someone because it would be hypocritical of me

My embrace of theism and Islam are also entirely emotional and that acknowledgement is a sign of self-awareness and self-awareness kills the zealots, apologists and even potential-extremists inside us, including the ones inside me.

As a result, not only I have acknowledged other people’s inherent right to hate the things I love, I have also acknowledged the potential soundness of their hatred.

If monarchists accept their monarchist stances are emotionally-driven and accept their beloved monarchs are their ‘nationalised waifus’ (as Oliver Thorn of Philosophytube nicely put it), they would stop behaving like cult members.

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Jiří Trnka’s The Hand: not falling for the other side

If it wasn’t for my Intro to Animation class, I would have never heard of this stop-motion animated masterpiece.

To summarise the plot, it tells the story of a harlequin whose impoverished yet contented life of flower pot-making is disrupted by a literal and seemingly-omnipresent hand who demands him to make hand sculptures instead, compelling him to constantly fight for his freedom. Unfortunately, near the end of the story, he dies when one of his pots accidentally fell on his head (seemingly foreshadowed by the recurring accidental pot-breaking). He is given a lavish funeral by the hand.

One can guess why I love this short film.

It is an allegory of censorship enforced under authoritarianism. It sublimely evokes the terror of living as an artist and entertainer in such condition, amplified by the fantastical elements and the atmospheric percussion-oriented soundtracks. In fact, both Wikipedia and IMDB categorise this film as horror.

Unsurprisingly, I picked The Hand as one of the animated shorts I analysed for the final essay. My writings were even abysmal then. Thankfully, I lost it. But, I remember having a great time analysing every single one of them.

While analysing it, I found two peculiarities.

First thing first, the funeral. Why would the hand hold a state funeral to a rebel? Surely, shouldn’t he be demonised as an enemy of the state in the end?

Well, I found an article (forget which one, cannot find it again) about how the USSR and its satellite states honoured their artists posthumously, regardless of how obedient or disobedient they were; the writer said even Trnka himself was given a state funeral.

As I am too lazy to do more research, I cannot confirm or debunk the article’s factual validity. But, as the hand symbolises an authoritarian government (I cannot think of any other interpretations), what the article is saying makes too much sense for me to dismiss.

This reminds me of the legendary and ideologically-dissenting director Andrei Tarkovsky (can’t stop referencing him). After his death, the Soviet authorities regretted that he died in exile. Yes, linking Trnka, a Czechoslovakian puppeteer and animator with, to Tarkovsky, a live-action Russian director who loved exploring the metaphysical aspect of humanity, is far-fetched. But, I can’t help myself.

Oh, and the hand.

At first, I noticed the hand was a left one. I assumed it represented the far-left government of Czechoslovakia. But, when I took a greater look, the hand was not always left.

Sometimes, it appears as a right one. In fact, the first hand sculpture to appear in the video depicts a right hand.  So, I quickly dumped the interpretation, dismissed it as reading too much into things. But then, I remembered the funeral scene, where the hand can be seen making a salute eerily similar to the Nazi one; I could hear my classmates’ shock.

I was more baffled than shocked, as Czechoslovakia was a communist country, not a fascist one. Due to my slowness, it took me days to realise the film criticises authoritarianism in general, not just the communist Czechoslovakian government.

The film also subtly warns us to not fall for any forms of extremism. Your suffering under a far-left government cannot morally justify your support of a far-right government… and vice versa. One form of  zealotry does not justify the other.

I write as if I grasped the thematic depth immediately. I didn’t. Back then, my mind only thought about the Far-Left vs Far-Right.  It took me years to realise how the message is also applicable to any kinds of extreme dichotomies.

Yes, I know I seem to be reading too much into things again. The nazi salute may not be one after all and I don’t know enough about different types of salutes. I also cannot prove that extreme dichotomies in general were what Trnka had in mind.

But, you have to admit: the film does not target a specific ideology. My interpretation fits really well into the narrative.

I support monarchism because…

*puts on a mask*

Being a monarch is a hard-earned job!

If you have to compare between a person who gets his/her high-earning and high-ranking job by working all the way from the bottom and a person who gets her/his because of his/her lineage, it is obvious the latter is hardworking one!

It is just common sense that the former is a sign of laziness and the latter is extremely hard to achieve! Most of us have never made any efforts to be born into the right families and monarchs are the only ones who have achieved such high accomplishment!

It is frustrating how this thing needs to be said in the first place!

The monarchs make me feel happy!

Who cares about the education, healthcare, economy and political stability?

The only things that matter are my feelings! The purpose of human existence is to make ME happy!

And the only ones who can make ME happy are the monarchs!

They make ME feel extremely good about the world we live in, making ME forget about how fucking shitty the world we live in!

They are literally Gods!

Nepotism is everywhere!

It has been established that the ethical and moral legitimacy of an action is determined by its popularity among the masses. Appeal to popularity is literally a principal accepted in logic and ethics!

That’s the reason why logicians and ethicists support monarchism: because it is based on nepotism and nepotism is literally everywhere!

I mean, literally every person has settled that murder and rape are ethically and morally-acceptable because of how their societal prevalence!

If we have settled that, why can’t we listen to the experts and settle that monarchism is not only acceptable but also good for our political establishments?

*takes off the mask*

 

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How to condemn the Hong Kong protesters?

*puts on a mask*

Instead of condemning them for violence and vandalism, condemn them for the followings:

Condemn them for hating prosperity

Hong Kongers would never know how it feels to be wealthy if it wasn’t for their generous and clearly-more civilised cousins from the mainland. I mean, literally every person in the world knows Hong Kong transformed into a rich city literally after the handover. Literally!

Literally the morning after the handover, money started literally raining on Hong Kong, high-rises literally started appearing out of nowhere and foreign investors started flocking in, seemingly for no reasons.

LOL! Seemingly! We all know China told them to!

The footage that supposedly shows olden days Hong Kong is literally fake. The cars and high-rises were not real, they were CGI created by the CIA!

How do I know? Uncle Xi and the internet said so!

Condemn them for disrespecting China’s sovereignty

Contrary to popular belief, sovereignty is not arbitrary. It is something that has been decided by the universe since long before earth’s creation!

It has been decided that the People’s Republic of China will always be the highest ruler of the people of Macau, Taiwan and yes, even Hong Kong! Hong Kongers don’t have the right to make decisions for themselves!

Condemn them for pissing on humanity

Seriously, do I even fucking need to explain this?

Do I really need to explain that only monsters love liberty? Do I really need to explain that real humans love it when any or all of their freedoms? Do I really need to explain that literally every human is destined to be slaves of the emotionally-fragile establishments?

If you really are a human being, you would love being abused 24/7.

Trust me. My methods are waaaay more effective!

*takes off the mask*

“You are not from here! Shut the f#@k up!”

Those are the words regurgitated by Americans and, to a lesser extent, Brits and Aussies every time I -an Indonesian- critically comment on their countries. They believe I don’t have the grounds to do so and should just focus on my shitty country.

Do they have a point? No, they don’t.

Yes, I have only visited the US and the UK once long ago and I only lived in Australia for around a year. But, at the same time, I am (relatively) proficient in the English language. It enables me to interact with Americans, Brits and Aussies and getting to know their worldviews, both the good and the ugly.

Some of them try to camouflage their rotten true selves by spraying fragrant rhetoric into the air, successfully fooling the fools. Some don’t even try to hide their rottenness. While it is indeed hard to smell beyond the perfume, the unconcealed rotten stench is hard to ignore.

My English fluency also enables me to consume Anglophone media (even though I have been consuming it long before I could properly understand the language). Yes, it does not represent the reality. But, it does represent the ideals approved by the establishment and/or the masses.

As the Queen’s accent has become less prevalent in British TV shows and films, we can confidently say its social prestige has dwindled in the UK. As American pop culture has romanticise depictions of America’s interventionist foreign policy and no one bats an eye, we can confidently say the American public and establishment tolerate or even embrace interventionism.

How we react to the news stories are also very revealing. As many Americans are aroused by reports of police brutality, we can confidently say violent authority figures are worshipped by a large chunk of the American public.

How about those foreigners who want me to shut the fuck up? How much do they know about Indonesia?

Unsurpisingly, almost nothing.

None of them have ever visited it; when they do, they have only visited Bali, an extremely touristy province with predominantly-Hindu locals. None of them can speak Indonesian or any Malay dialects, hindering them from exploring the Indonesian mass media and the people’s reactions to its content.

For many of them, I am their first contact with an Indonesian. Some of them claim to have Indonesian friends which they are deem more knowledgeable about the country than I am, probably because they affirm false preconceived notions.

Sometimes I wonder if their Indonesian friends actually spent much of their lives abroad and have spent little or no time living here. Sometimes I wonder if they even exist. Call me a denier. But, knowing how humans behave, my scepticism is justified.

Those foreigners are indeed right to say Indonesia is a predominantly-Muslim country with human rights violations. But, those are extremely broad remarks. Everyone knows Indonesia is predominantly-Muslim and saying that a country has human rights violations is as in-depth as saying it has foods. It means shit.

When they do detail the cases, they exaggerate virtually all of them to a thousandfold.

Aceh does enforce compulsory hijab. But, there is no national policy obliging women to wear it and they can been seen ‘uncovered’ in the public spaces.

There are indeed territories that shut down churches under the pretense of ‘permit issues’. But, outside those territories, there are tens of thousands of churches still standing with thriving congregations.

Aceh, an Indonesian province, does implement provincial Sharia and that empowers Islamists all over the country. But, we have thirty-four provinces and Aceh is literally the only one governed under religious legislation; our national government does not use Sharia as its guiding principles, never declares the country as ‘Islamic’ and, in fact, acknowledges five other religions. The reality contradicts that infamous Pew Report (which probably only surveyed ‘mosque dwellers’ instead of those who have lives outside mosques and idiots still believe in the inherent quantitative researches despite sampling bias being a fucking real problem).

If you ask those foreigners, they would probably get many basic facts of Indonesia wrong.

Ask them to find the country on the map and they would probably point to the wrong location.

Ask them about its number of population and they would be surprised the country is the fourth most populated in the world.

Ask them to name our official language and they would probably answer ‘Arabic’, thinking that all Muslims are Arabs and vice versa.

Ask them to name our ethnic groups and they would probably stutter and think there is only one, not expecting any forms of diversity (there are far-right westerners who falsely believe every non-western country is homogenous and they utilise the lie as an argument against multiculturalism in the west).

Ask them to name the country which Bali is a part of and many of them would be shocked it is not a country; they would also be shocked that a predominantly-Hindu territory and an extremely hedonistic tourist destination is a province of a predominantly-Muslim country (and it seems the misconception indirectly endorse the falsehood about Indonesia being a Saudi Arabia clone).

If you ask me any basic facts about Australia, the UK and the US, there is a chance I would fare better than many of the citizens. Many Americans still think English is the de jure official language of their country and many Aussies and Brits still don’t know the duties of most present-day monarchs, including the British ones, are entirely ceremonial. I can also name of said countries’ many territories, including their still-existing colonies; many Americans don’t know what DC stands for and that Puerto Rico is a US territory.

In conclusion, not only the foreigners who told me to shut up don’t have any credibility to comment on my country, I have more credibility to comment on their own countries than they do… and mind you, my credibility is still low considering I don’t live there.

To change the topic a bit…

I am also rather assertive with my opinions about East Asia. Not as much. But, it still manages to irk one of my friends.

He said I couldn’t speak any East Asian languages and I have never lived in the region. As a person of East Asian descent who can speak multiple East Asian languages and have lived in two East Asian countries, he was annoyed by me and reasonably so.

But, he was also fucking annoying.

Instead of giving me evidences that counter my remarks, he simply said I should simply try living in those countries. For him, it was more than enough to put me in my place.

Yeah, no.

When foreigners claim Indonesia is an Islamic theocracy, I can tell them that the country still has loads of active non-Islamic places of worships, hijab-less women outside Aceh and things that are considered ‘un-Islamic’… and I can support my claim by simply linking them to countless videos showcasing hijab-less Indonesian women, vibrant church worships and the secular, extremely hedonistic and highly-westernised Indonesian pop culture.

Whether they convince the fools or not, it does not matter. I know my country rather well (I love to think so, anyway) and I have a decent internet access. Therefore, I have the means to debunk the falsehood and I can do so almost instantly. I have no excuses to not do so.

My friend annoys me because he complains about my alleged ignorance… and yet he does not bother to counter despite having the means to do so.

I don’t know how a person can see ignorance right in front of him/her, get agitated by it and somehow too lazy to annihilate it.

How to report problem countries

Obviously, every country is a problem country. And yes, including the so-called number one country, the so-called United States of America.

In this context, I am referring to countries like Iran and North Korea which are known for their severe human rights violations and have been extensively and negatively covered by foreign (mostly western) media.

  • I hate sugar-coating. I believe exposing the factual negative aspects of certain countries is not inherently hateful; there is nothing wrong about sticking to the truth.
  • But, it can be hateful when we insist the coverage must be entirely negative and are offended by the idea of showcasing genuine positivity because we want to keep affirming any prevailing preconceived notions.
  • I first noticed this when I watched the North Korean episodes of Departure, a traveling TV show which focuses less on the destinations and more on the journeys; they received backlashes for allegedly spewing pro-North Korea propaganda.

    Correct me if I am wrong. But, from my knowledge, a country’s propaganda should brag about its non-existing divine perfection and work as the ruling government’s ideological mouthpiece.

    Departure does none of those things.

    While the hosts did not mention the human rights violations of the countries they visited, they also never tried to paint them in an entirely positive light.

    The show is entirely non-political. The hosts only care about exploring nature and interacting with the locals; the latter is the theme of the North Korean episodes.

    If anything, I believe the show does the ordinary and unprivileged ordinary North Koreans a great favour.

    Because of the lack of political agenda, the white Anglo-Canadian hosts had no problems interacting with a group of East Asians who grew up isolated from the rest of the world. The resulting interactions were wonderfully wholesome.

    The episodes do not depict cultural clashes, they depict people who enjoy each other’s presence despite the linguistic and cultural barriers.

    They depict humans who see each other as fellow human beings.

    But, some people didn’t like it. They believed the only way to give the North Koreans a favour was to focus entirely on the system that oppressed them.

    I disagree with that belief.

    North Korea is not just an obscure country that most people haven’t heard of; they have, albeit sometimes mistaking it for its sibling down south. Because of that, negative media coverage is not only common, it is over-saturated.

    The over-saturation results in the dehumanisation of the North Korean people. Let’s face it: most of us don’t see North Korea as a country where fellow humans live, they see it as a giant oppressive machine that must be destroyed at all cost.

    And, whether you believe or not, this kind of dehumanisation already has a negative effect on the state of humanity.

    It is not a secret that many people, especially neoconservative westerners, support invasions of repressive countries like North Korea without any regards of innocent casualties; I mean, if they really care, they would not get aroused by the idea of violent invasions and would not perceive any innocent casualties as mere “collateral damage”.

    While I don’t pay as much attention to it, I also notice the same thing with how western media treats Iran.

    The humanisation of the Iranian people is way more well-received. But, unfortunately, the demand for dehumanisation prevails among the politically-outspoken degenerates.

    Many still refuse to see Iran as a place where humans live… which is why, just like in the case of North Korea, they are not hesitant to support violent military interventions against it.

    I do have my own solution to deal with this problem. But, not only it is made by a non-expert, it is also rather tricky to implement.

    If a country has been almost entirely negatively reported by foreign media and you want to make a documentary (or something similar) about it instead of a normal news report, there are two things you can do.

    The first thing you can do is to cover positive things about said country and tell the world its previously unknown faces.

    And when I say “positive”, I mean genuinely so. They should be based on facts instead of the political establishments’ rhetorics. You have to make sure the presentation of positivity does not paint the country in an entirely positive light.

    Youtuber Louis Cole AKA FunForLouis made a series of vlogs of him and his friends visiting North Korea. Even though I was never subscriber, I was intrigued…. and was quickly disappointed.

    Obviously, I should watch the sequels as well. But, in the end of the first video, he said North Korea was not as bad as people claimed simply because he and his friends were greeted with a touristy welcome; at that moment, he seemed to perceive a choreographed performance as an excellent representation of the reality.

    I was already repulsed about those overtly-polished Youtube vlogs. Cole’s ignorant comment only intensified my repulsion.

    Departures has proven that, if you use your brain a bit more and don’t easily fall for deceptive veneers, you can shed a positive light on an oppressive country without becoming its government’s propaganda tool.

    But, if you are reasonable iffy about making positive coverage and still prefer to do a negative one, I have a second tip: find a fresh angle.

    If you keep repeating the same real life horror stories, the only thing you would be good at is affirming simplistic prejudgements about North Korea and discouraging outsiders from humanising the victims due to the lack of nuances.

    I think the Youtube channel Asian Boss does a great job in getting the fresh angles. Instead of treating their North Korean interviewees as propaganda tools to exploit, they treat them as individuals with human stories to tell.

    As a result, not only it results in ethically-dignified documentaries, it also unearths surprising facts about the country they are defecting from.

    For instance, even though the consumption of foreign media is prohibited in general, I did not know that consumption of South Korean media will result in more severe punishments than the consumption of western one. It confirms one of our preconceived notions…. but, in a rather complex way.

    I specifically said this tip is only for those who make documentaries and the likes and NOT for journalists who solely make daily and relatively short reports.

    Why? Because it is obvious that my tips, especially the second one, require in-depth analyses and cannot be simply done in less than a day or even a week.

    Well, they can. But, the results would be sloppy.

    Okay, I am aware of how horrible my suggestions are; not only I have zero experiences in the media industry, my words are not precise and technical enough to be practically useful. Heck, even if I am a highly-experienced professional, my suggestions would not be the be-all and end-all.

    But, even then, the unreliability of my tips does not mean the media industry is perfect as it is. Every person with functioning brain cells knows mediocrity and lacking integrity are embraced as virtues.

    Public discourses about the ethics of depicting authoritarian countries are almost non-existent and, for reasons I have mentioned in this essay, it is something to be reasonably angry about.

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  • Strongman

    … Is a stupid synonym for the word “dictator”.

    People use that because dictators are credited for their countries developments and/or stability. Let’s assume they have indeed contributed positively to their countries (even though it is highly debatable at times).

    But, I don’t believe any of them deserved to be called “strong”.

    Why can’t the so-called strongmen efficiently lead without silencing constructive criticism and non-violent opposing views?

    Why can’t the so-called strongmen persuade the majority of the citizens and their oppositions to like them and support their policies?

    Why can’t the so-called strongmen punish violent extremists without brutally oppressing innocent people?

    If they are really strong, wouldn’t they be able to reach goals despite the recurring resistance? Why do they need authoritarianism to fulfill them?

    If anything, their inability to handle disagreements show how weak they are.

    We call dictators “strongmen” probably because we still associate “strength” with the willingness to brutalise every person who stand on our ways, even when they are barely blocking them.

    We rarely associate “strength” with “resilience”.

    I am willing admit that dictators (some, at least) have given bountiful positive contributions to their respective countries and their methods are the easiest way out. It is dishonest for me to say otherwise.

    But, I still refuse to call them “strong”.

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    The Swede’s rhetoric

    I have made a few articles about Felix Kjellberg AKA Pewdiepie and one contains my arguments about how he is actually a reckless edgelord instead of an actual far-right ideologue.

    I mention how he never makes excuses for the bigotry of some of his fans, how he was (and still is) slandered by the media and how he only invited one right-wing pundit just to review memes instead of letting him spill verbal diarrhea.

    But, for some reasons, I forgot to talk about his own rhetoric.

    Below, I am going to list the common talking points of contemporary western conservatives:

    1. Equal rights are the same as special rights for women and the minorities

    2. Women are happier when they are treated as the “lesser sex”.

    3. The Southern Strategy never happened and American Democratic party is still the racist party.

    4. Taking down Confederate statues equals erasure of history.

    5. The Bell Curve is scientifically legitimate.

    6. Any violence committed by Christians of European descent, including the Holocaust, the Trail of Tears, and the Crusades, were either justified, exaggerated or fictional.

    7. All Muslims are sleeper cells.

    8. The world is controlled by globalist Jewish elites.

    9. Sexual violence is a trivial matter, unless they are committed by brown Muslims.

    I am sure there are more recurring talking points than I mentioned above. But, those will do.

    Disturbingly, I have seen how they often they are “discussed” by conservatives, especially by those who make Youtube videos,some of whom prefer to call themselves classical liberals.

    But, from all online personalities who have been perceived as far-right, Pewdiepie is the only one who has never talked about those things.

    Seriously, I have never heard him openly or discreetly espousing any of those lies. In fact, he barely touches politics and he never talks about history; his commentaries mostly revolve around the non-political aspects of Youtube culture.

    The thing about our bigotry is it cannot be hidden completely, no matter how hard we try, no matter how hard we deny its existence. Even if we are not prone to Freudian slips, our bigotry will appear subtextually in our messages.

    I have encountered so many people online who claim to not be bigoted… and yet, if you read their words between the lines, you will notice how hateful they are.

    You cannot say you are not a racist when you believe the mere presence of non-whites is the evidence of white genocide. You cannot say you are not a homophobe or a transphobe when you believe LGBT rights discriminate against cisgender and heterosexual people.

    But, with Felix, I haven’t seen any far-right subtexts from his online content.

    His commentaries are indeed laced with subtexts… classical liberal subtexts; he is all about freeing humans from any excessive constraints, both in social and legal forms. He disapproved of the “policing” of any kind of activities, as long as they are not violent.

    Basically, he is the complete opposite of those far-right individuals who are supposedly all about liberty while advocating for taking it away from those who are different from them.

    He, the person who never calls himself a classical liberal, is way more classical liberal than the reactionaries who claim to be ones.

    About the Christchurch mosque massacre…

    Both his name and Candace Owens’s were implicated because they were mentioned by the shooter. The shooter said “subscribe to Pewdiepie”, a meme created by Felix himself, during the live streamed violence while she was cited as his number one ideological inspiration.

    And both public figures reacted differently.

    Felix was never cited as an inspiration; the shooter mentioned the name of the most popular Youtuber because he wanted more attention.

    But, not only Felix immediately condemned the massacre, he pleaded to his fans to end the meme. After his many controversies, after years of being a reckless edgelord, he has realised he has a responsibility as a public figure for every single one of his public actions… and that includes his inherently harmless meme which he created as a tongue-in-cheek response to his rivalry with T-Series.

    Owens, on other hand, responded immediately by laughing it off in her dismissive tweet, despite the fact that she is the shooter’s number one inspiration!

    I don’t know about her now. But, at that time, it was obvious she did not have any sense of responsibility as a public figure, even though she was famous in the first place because of her politically charged and definitely-not-trivial messages.

    She was not that different from Trump who took days to condemn the Charlottesville Neo-Nazi rally attended by his own supporters.

    She was not that different from other right-wing public figures who constantly incite bigotry and yet refusing to acknowledge they might have inspired atrocities like the Christchurch massacre.

    But, she and her peers are definitely different from Felix Kjellberg.

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