The overtly-polished Casey Neistat style

I call it the Casey Neistat style because that’s how others call it (even though some people think the style predated him) and I don’t have an alternative name for it.

From the title, you can easily tell I am not a fan.

Okay, I am not saying I hate the aesthetic. I actually think it looks beautiful and proves every image can look pretty when captured by the right person. But, that’s also my problem with it: it looks TOO beautiful.

Before I was immersed in Youtube cultures, I had already watched arthouse films like Andrei Tarkovsky’s and Ingmar Bergman’s. They are visually stunning and narratively compelling (for me), exposing me to cinematic art works.

Also resulting in my high expectations of vloggers like Neistat.

It is already ingrained in my mind that good cinematography HAS to be accompanied by compelling stories. But, vlogs don’t tell ‘profound’ stories (mind the quotation marks), even when they showcase out of the ordinary events or the lives of perpetual travellers.

If anything, those vlogs feel pretentious. The polished cinematography seems to do nothing but overcompensating the passable narratives.

Oh, and when I said that vlogs are not narratively profound, I meant it as a compliment. Because they are supposed to narrate Youtubers’ semi-personal lives, I always expect raw and mundane storytellings; that is what I find attractive about vlogs in the first place!

I actually do enjoy some Neistat-esque vlogs, like the ones of Evan Edinger, Terry Song and Adam Neely. The difference is theirs are more stylistically restrained, allowing a greater presence of rawness and mundanity.

Thanks to its participatory nature, Youtube has opposites for almost everything. For Casey Neistat style and the likes, there are content described by Nerd City as post-ironic.

I cannot make myself enjoy the works of Youtubers like Filthy Frank, MaxMoeFoe and IDubbz (his Content Cop videos are an exception). Apart from the crassness which I find extreme (even for a relatively crass person like me), I am also anxious about the blurred lines between irony and sincerity.

But still, despite my inability to relish such content, I cannot help but respecting those creators for their unsuppressed mockery of the insincere and synthetic charm endorsed by the establishment. While I admittedly do embrace some of the establishment’s ideals, I also despise the idea of venerating them.

Thankfully, despite the increasing pressure of uniformity, the platform still has a sizeable freedom to dissent, something those employed in the ‘traditional’ media can only dream of. Therefore, almost every imaginable type of content has a place on Youtube*.

Whether it is aesthetically and thematically extreme** or middle-of-the-road, you will definitely find it.

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*Obviously, there are restrictions to what can and cannot be uploaded. But, it is no secret Youtube content policing is both ineffective and misguided. ‘Lawful’ videos can get taken down and ‘unlawful’ ones stay. Supposedly, people have found porn on the site; while I do have found softcore films, I have yet found hardcore ones.

**Post-irony is extreme due to its depictions of life as an inherently ugly entity. But, I would argue overtly-polished aesthetic is also extreme for its overtly beautiful depictions of life; once one is accustomed to it, acknowledgement of the ugly reality feels taboo.

A bit of tangent here:

Andrei Tarkovsky said he utilised both colour and monochrome scenes in his films because those shot entirely in colour felt like animated paintings for him and therefore, felt ‘too beautiful’ to be realistic.

I never thought that I would reference Tarkovsky’s philosophy while discussing Youtube.

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Living the life… like an idiot

A friend of mine constantly criticises me for being ignorant in certain topics. But, instead of giving me evidences that prove my ignorance, he simply advises me to ‘live the life’.

Of course, there are two problems with that.

First, the phrase ‘live the life’ is obnoxious. When my friend says that, I know he means I should leave the house more often and do things other than staying at home, watching Youtube videos. But, technically, me enjoying online entertainment means I am living the life. Saying that I am not is as self-righteous as saying Marvel films are not cinema.

Second, what he is basically saying is I need to have more anecdotes. Unless you are a Lauren Southern wannabe (which many humans are), you know damn well that understanding the world  requires something more concrete than our personal experiences. I use a lot of anecdotes in my blogs and I admit that they make my writings argumentatively weaker.

Virtually every person I have interacted with has implemented my friend’s advice… and I can certainly say many of them are more ignorant and immature than I am.

Almost all of them believe in pseudosciences and easily fall for conspiracies and hoaxes.

Lots of them believe popularity defines quality. Therefore, they believe popular people and things should and always be respected.

Many of them do not know how to handle contentions. They, even older people, will resort to childish attacks against me and they always fail to provide refuting evidences; for them, their old ages prove that they are right and I am wrong.

One Muslim activist, who has supposedly dealt with a wide range of nasty people and learned how to deal with fellow human beings, thought the proper way to silence my harsh criticism against her was to criticise my profile picture.

Not only teachers gave me wrong information, some of them even inserted their literally-interpreted religious beliefs into the lessons.

People who have travelled all over the world and have interacted with people of highly contrasting backgrounds can still end up as identity-politics-loving bigots.

And I haven’t taken a shot at complete strangers yet.

In Indonesia, our current coordinating minister of human development and culture suggests that wealthy people marrying the poor will eliminate poverty.

A nutritionist working for the Indonesian Child Protection Commission introduced the Indonesian public to the urban legend of getting impregnated while swimming.

The mayor of Indonesian city of Tangerang, who has a master’s degree in healthcare administration, once claimed that instant noodles and babies formula milk turned babies gay.

The current Indonesian health minister says prayer is the be-all and end-all protection against the COVID-19 viruses.

When campaigning for the gubernatorial election, the incumbent governor of Jakarta once said a city would still beautiful even with the presence of slums.

The current minister of education had to teach the MPs what competence assessment was.

In America, there are medical professionals who openly oppose compulsory vaccinations, despite the scientifically-proven importance of herd immunity.

Despite his years of experiences as a science communicator, Neil deGrasse Tyson still tactlessly tweeted about how Americans should not be emotionally-invested in mass shootings because of the relatively low death rate.

A University of Oklahoma journalism professor, someone who is supposedly competent in words usage, thoughtlessly compared the word ‘Boomer’ to the N-word.

Donald Trump, a supposedly successful businessman who graduated from an Ivy League university, does not know how tariffs work, does not know how to create deals without pissing off the other parties and does not know how to speak like an educated adult.

Marketing and PR professionals, who supposedly know how to read the fucking rooms, still end up with insensitive and tactless ideas.

I can do this all day.

What makes this even more frustrating is that my friend and I LOVE to bash those idiots. In fact, much of our interactions revolve around that activity!

If he simply told me to ‘live the life’ because I need to fulfil my basic human needs, I would be okay with it. Instead, he had to embellish the advice with this pseudo-philosophy.

I have done things outside my house… and frankly, they teach me nothing.

I used to take various extracurricular activities like Bridge and basketball (the latter was forced by mom). I used to attend more family gatherings and I actually tried hanging out with other students in my senior high school.

And I learned nothing from those activities.

The extracurricular activities taught me nothing. Bridge taught me nothing about the importance of competitions, cooperations and strategy. Basketball taught me nothing about the importance of physical fitness and the joy of exercising. My interactions with relatives and school mates did not teach me social skills and did not teach me the joy of human interactions.

In fact, my interactions with fellow human beings fed me pseudoscientific and problematic views, which I gobbled up easily. All of my moments of realisation occurred when I was alone.

If it wasn’t for my solitary reflections and my time spent online and writing, I would have never realised how piece of shit I was (still am).

I would never knew how gullible, immature, pretentious and self-righteous I was. I would never knew how pseudoscientific and problematic most of my views were.

Thanks for my ‘not-living-the-life’ lifestyle, I have learned to accept that life is inherently grey and will always be, regardless of my attempt to pigeonhole it.

I have learned to accept that my words, including the ones in this ranty essay, will definitely bite my ass in the future.

If I do the so-called ‘live the life’ lifestyle, I am certain that not only I would never improve as a person, I would probably end up becoming an even more horrible individual.

It is not far-fetched to say that my old self had the chance of becoming a religious extremist or someone who spreads harmful pseudoscientific beliefs.

 

 

 

 

I don’t know exactly why they exist. But, they intrigue me

 

I am talking about the opening ceremonies of multi-sports events. Considering I am too lazy to do some research, I will make my own obviously-invalid conjecture about how they came into being.

It seems the elaborateness started on the 1980 Summer Olympics held in Moscow. I assume the USSR tried to compensate for its human rights violations and impoverished populace by bringing out the ‘positivity’ that was the opening ceremony.

I have that assumption because it is no secret countries all over the world, even ones more well-off than the USSR, actively bearing deceptively friendly and warm facades on the international stage. No matter how free and peaceful their countries are, they all need propaganda… and opening ceremonies of multi-sports events make a really good one.

They are the only propaganda I willingly fall for. They are the only reason why I care for some sporting events and they also successfully instil suspension of disbelief into my mind; every time I watch the ceremonies, I am willing to pretend that the host countries are all-perfect, albeit temporarily.

I have made reviews for the opening ceremonies of Asian Games and Para Games 2018 (simply because I am an Indonesian, obviously). Don’t know why it took me a long to review the summer olympics ones.

I will focus on the ones held in Sydney, Athens, Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro, in that order. They are the summer olympics openings I have watched in their entirety.

I know I could have waited for the Tokyo one. But, I want to write this down now.

2000 Sydney

There are three things that I love about this edition: Deep Sea Dreaming segment, Nature segment and James Morrison’s Jazzy fanfare.

I love the two segments because the combination of playful and colourful visuals with soothing orchestral soundtracks result in an ethereal spectatorship. I love the fanfare because of how its energetic sounds compliment the atmosphere of a sporting event.

But, the rest of the ceremony is tacky and problematic.

In contrast to those two specific segments, the others seem to be designed solely to hype up the audience. The segment titled Arrivals even goes so far to exhibit extremely sparse visual and prefers to give spotlight to the kitsch upbeat techno music!

One of my media studies lecturers also pointed out the whitewashing in the Tin Symphony segment. Instead of showcasing the hardship of the British convicts sent to Australia, it only depicts happy early European settlers.

I also pointed to her that throughout the ceremony, one can see the Aboriginal performers observing the performances from afar. It can be interpreted either as a commentary of how Australian Aboriginals are excluded from their country’s festivities OR as a subtle middle finger to them.

It might not be ill-intentioned. But, combined with the historical whitewashing, it can send a wrong message.

2004 Athens

The conclusion unfortunately feels cold and I think the use of trance music during the parade of nations emits an off-putting vibe of self-indulgence. But, at the same time, it is the most artistic and thought-provoking opening ceremony ever… and I said that without any sense of exaggeration.

The Allegory segment really does live up to its name. It is a dream sequence (and I am a sucker for dream-like atmospheres) which features a giant, floating Cycladic head sculpture breathtakingly arising from the body of water with geometric imagery projected onto it. Then, the sculpture breaks into pieces, revealing a more sophisticated sculpture of a human torso inside… which breaks again, revealing another human torso sculpture. A white cube also arises from the water with a man tries to balance himself on it, all while images of human beings and humanity’s achievements projected onto the sculpture’s broken pieces. The segment ends with the pieces land on the water, representing the Greek islands.

Basically, it is an allegory about the evolution of human civilisations and present-day Greece is one of the starting points. I adore this segment for its skilful storytelling with no expositions needed. Anyone with basic knowledge in history will easily get it.

The Clepsydra segment is also a unique segment. It depicts Greek history and mythology. But, how they are depicted struck me. It took me some time to realise the moving things on those carts were not animatronics, they were actual people with painted bodies who deliberately moved like animated sculptures!

It is refreshing from the usual routine of performers wandering all over the venue. It feels less like watching an entertainment show and more like visiting a museum; for someone who loves visiting museums, it is certainly a strength.

I always wonder about the performers: were they dancers, actors or models? I thought about those three professions because they clearly require mastery of our body languages.

The presence of Björk, a musician known for her intense musical exploration, surely bolsters the event’s overall artistry as well.

2008 Beijing

I know people will rip me for this (as if my essay will ever blow up): this edition is too overrated.

The more mature I get, the more I see how tacky it is. In fact, it is as tacky as the Sydney one. No regard for aesthetic, only for the audience’s desire for eye candy.

Okay, it is a bit unfair. The Beijing edition is certainly more grandiose and therefore, requires more discipline from the performers. Disciplined enough to work as a large collective, but still manage to look like humans instead of robots.

2012 London

Aesthetic wise, I am not that impressed. Many of the choreographies (excluding the one in the 7/7 tribute) are either awkward or basic. The one in the children’s literature segment looks like it was created by an amateur.

The event is also another pander express. It chooses to showcase the United Kingdom’s most famous aspect of life: pop culture. Of course, I do understand why the focus is not on British heritage or history; the former may be boring to non-Brits and the latter is associated with colonialism and must be executed with great tact. Pop culture is a safe choice. But, it makes the entire ceremony feels like a commercially-produced British TV show.

Strangely, I also think it has emotional profundity lacking in the other editions. The joy, the grief, the sense of wonder, they don’t feel artificial. They feel sincere.

I wonder if it has something to do with the nature of British entertainment.

From what I observe, American and Indonesian ones (especially when one talks about ‘reality’ TV shows) can be forceful with the emotions; they love to dictate the audience on what to feel. British entertainment, on the other hand, prefers to let them speak for themselves and it is always transparent about their absence.

Obviously, my statement is too simplistic as exceptions does and will always exist. But, from my personal experiences, Indonesian and American entertainment constantly annoy me with their overt-sentimentality which always comes across as insincere; British one barely annoys me like that.

2016 Rio de Janeiro

I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with this edition.

It has eye-catching visuals, it has upbeat music… and yet, it feels anaemic. It reminds me of a person who tries to put a lively and energetic facade when deep down, he/she in favour of calmness and quietness. I have such observation because the calmer segments work rather well.

My God, the environmentalist message. Why does it have to be so on-the-nose? When will people realise that blatant messages in the arts and entertainment are fucking off-putting? How will this make people accept that humans are a a part of nature and not above it?

The only thing I like about the ceremony is the acknowledgement of Brazil’s history of slavery. I love it because such acknowledge is refreshing to any countries… and because it is actually goddamn subtle and not dependent on any fucking bullshit expositions!

Which editions are my favourites?

The Athens and London ones, if you can’t tell.

Instead of completely pandering to the masses as the creative director of the Athens edition, Dimitris Papaioannou maintained his identity as an artist. Creators must be commended for that because, whether we want to admit it or not, the members of the audience were benefited by non-escapist and artistic presentations and having their horizon widened even further. Considering the global significance of the olympics, Papaioannou did millions of people a favour by compelling them to stay ‘switched on’, albeit only for a while.

And yes, I am making a big deal out of the London edition’s emotional sincerity. It is just that I am deeply revolted by the synthetic emotionality which many creatures prefer over the organic one; they prefer the former because they think being obvious equals being sincere. Running into the latter is such a nice, rare treat.

But, do you what is nicer? Fusing both strengths into one.

Can you imagine watching an opening ceremony that makes you think and feel? Right now, I can only yearn for such gratification.

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“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.

Was-was akan pariwisata Indonesia

Catatan:

Sebenarnya saya berencana untuk menyerahkan karangan ini untuk perlombaan menulis. Tetapi, karena permasalahan teknis, saya melewati tenggat waktu. Ya, sudahlah.

Jujur, saya was-was dengan industri pariwisata.

Pada satu sisi, saya ingin sekali pariwisata Indonesia maju. Saya ingin sekali setiap tempat-tempat yang memilik potensi dikunjungi oleh para wisatawan. Selain manfaat ekonomis yang sudah pasti akan berlimpah ruah, sebagai bangsa kita juga bisa berunjuk gigi kepada dunia dengan menampilkan keindahan alam dan kebudayaan bangsa yang berlimpah ruah. Kita akan memiliki rasa bangga yang jauh lebih tinggi.

Tetapi, seperti setiap hal dalam hidup, pariwisata juga ada sisi buruknya.

Pertama, sekalinya sukses berjalan di suatu daerah, warga-warga setempat menjadi sangat tergantung pada industri pariwisata di perekonomian mereka. Sebesar-besarnya suatu industri, cangkupannya akan selalu terbatas. Jika sebuah industri yang menonjol tiba tiba tumbang, perekonomian daerah tersebut juga akan terjun bebas; dampaknya tidak akan terlalu gawat jika perekonomiannya terdiri atas sektor-sektor yang jauh lebih beragam.

Tentu saja, kasus seperti itu cenderung terjadi di daerah-daerah di mana kondisi perekonomian sudah rentan sejak awal, entah karena angka penduduk yang sangat rendah, lokasi mereka yang sangat terpencil dan/atau kecilnya perhatian dari pemerintah setempat dan/atau pusat. Tetapi, setiap tujuan wisata terkemuka memiliki satu permasalahan yang sama: wisatawan-wisatawan itu sendiri.

Saking banyaknya mereka yang datang, para warga setempat sering merasa tidak nyaman di rumah sendiri, di mana mereka dipaksa beradaptasi untuk memuaskan kemauan-kemauan orang-orang luar. Jika hal itu tidak terkendali, xenophobia akan tumbuh di dalam hati warga-warga setempat dan menciptakan ketidakstabilan sosial.

Tentu saja, ketidakstabilan tersebut tidak selalu terjadi di setiap tujuan-tujuan wisata terkemuka. Ini adalah pengandaian yang seratus persen berasal dari pemikiran saya sendiri. Secara teoris, hal itu mungkin saja bisa terjadi. Tapi, belum tentu pernah atau akan terjadi. Walaupun saya yakin sebagian warga-warga setempat memiliki rasa tidak suka terhadap para pelancong, saya tidak tahu apakah ketidaksukaan tersebut pernah berujung kepada ketidakstabilan sosial yang berkepanjangan.

Tetapi, saya yakin seratus persen banyaknya pengunjung memberikan dampak kerusakan fisik.

Wilayah-wilayah yang masih dapat dibilang alami dan memiliki nilai sejarah yang tinggi sudah pasti akan dirusak oleh kehadiran manusia. Idealnya, jika kita menginginkan pelestarian yang mutlak, kita harus sepenuhnya melarang pelaksanaan pariwisata.Tapi, jika kita masih ingin meraup keuntungan dari pariwisata (dan saya tidak bisa menghakimi orang-orang yang memiliki keinginan tersebut) dan sekaligus menjalankan pelestarian, kita harus membatasi jumlah pengunjung.

Keuntungan sudah pasti jauh lebih terbatas dengan adanya pembatasan itu. Ditambah lagi, walaupun risiko kerusakan menjadi sangat kecil dan pengurusan dijalankan oleh pihak berwenang dengan baik, risiko itu masih tetap ada selama manusia dibiarkan berkunjung. Kita tidak bisa menjamin setiap manusia yang berkunjung memiliki tindak-tanduk yang beradab.

Menurut saya, pariwisata negara masih tetap harus berjalan. Tapi, kegiatan pariwisata harus dibatasi dengan peraturan yang disusun dengan bijak agar kita tidak merubah berkah menjadi malapetaka.

Dan kita juga jangan terlalu tergantung pada industri tersebut.

Oh ya, saya juga punya komentar tentang pernyataan Peter F. Gontha tentang pariwisata Indonesia.

Beliau mengatakan bahwa kita harus menomorsatukan pantai-pantai sebagai atraksi wisata dan menomorduakan hal-hal yang berbau kebudayaan seperti gamelan. Alasannya? Orang-orang asing lebih suka ke pantai daripada main musik.

Ada tiga alasan kenapa saya kecewa dengan pernyataan beliau.

Pertama, Indonesia bukan satu-satunya negara dengan pantai-pantai yang indah; mereka juga berlimpah-ruah di wilayah-wilayah tropis dan subtropis lainnya. Sedangkan gamelan hanya bisa ditemukan di Indonesia dan hanya sedikit negara yang memiliki peralatan musik yang kurang lebih serupa. Menomorsatukan “tontonan” yang berlimpah di dunia akan membuat negara kita sulit bersaing.

Kedua, walaupun orang-orang asing memang jauh lebih tertarik dengan pantai, minat mereka akan gamelan juga tinggi. Percaya tidak percaya, banyak dari kita yang melancong ke luar negeri karena kita ingin “mencicipi” kebudayaan asing. Saya yakin sekali ada orang-orang asing selain para sarjana dan mahasiswa musik yang tertarik dengan gamelan.

Ketiga (dan menurut saya, alasan yang paling penting), menomorsatukan wisata pantai berarti kita mendorong masyarakat untuk mementingkan keuntungan semata dan menganggap warisan kebudayaan sebagai sekedar hiasan. Memberikan orang-orang asing kenikmatan duniawai jauh lebih penting daripada melestarikan jati diri bangsa.

Saya yakin itu bukan niat beliau. Tapi, jika saran tersebut kita laksanakan, kita akan mendorong anak-anak bangsa yang sudah tidak peduli dengan warisan leluhur untuk menjadi semakin tidak peduli.

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How to report problem countries

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

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

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

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

    Departure does none of those things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I disagree with that belief.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • 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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    My own museum ideas

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

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

    Museums of hot sauces and fermented seafood.

    That’s my Indonesian tastebud talking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And because I personally love to eat.

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

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

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

    Museums of Hollywood propaganda

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

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

    Very risky. But, worth the shot.

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

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

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

    Museums of human rights violations

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

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

    You know, topics of light conversations.

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

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

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

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

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

    Yadda yadda yadda

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

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

    It is fun to write down my fantastical ideas.

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    The real American power…

    … Is actually soft.

    I am referring to the concept of “soft power”, by the way. And no, I am not sorry for that shitty introduction.

    I keep seeing and hearing comments made by zealously patriotic Americans about how their beloved country is respected by the world because of its hard power.

    It is true to a certain extent. If you are one of those non-Americans who easily fall for American exceptionalism and who love jerking off to images of real life violence which America is responsible for while simultaneously getting unprotected, rough butt sex from America, you would drool over its hard power.

    But, most non-Americans aren’t like that. When their governments do bow down to the US, they do so out of not wanting to get screwed on the world stage and NOT out of genuine respect.

    Basically, projections of hard power, more of than not, are a form of bullying. Bullying with dire global consequences.

    But, do you know what people all over the world love? American culture.

    Experts of international relations have been arguing how affinity to foreign cultures will lead us to have more positive views of their countries of origin.

    And because of my own life experiences (which I have to assert as entirely mine), this is something I am not surprised about.

    Despite their constant criticism (bashing) of the USA, many of my fellow non-Americans (in this case, they are mostly Indonesians) can’t get themselves to wish literal death upon the country.

    And they all have one thing in common: they openly enjoy American culture.

    Apart from buying foods from American fast food restaurants and cafes, they go to cinemas mostly for Hollywood flicks, pay for cable TV to Hollywood TV shows and pay to attend concerts of American musicians.

    How about the propaganda present in Hollywood films?

    From what I notice, even some of the most dimwitted folks I know can easily acknowledge the propagandistic content of their sources of entertainment.

    They know that they don’t easily fall for the infamously shameless American propaganda and they also feel Americans can entertain the world like no others. That’s why they are relatively unperturbed about it.

    Me personally? A bulk of my favourite entertainers and artists are Americans; without them, I would have nothing but contempt for the United States of America.

    Oh, and I should say ordinary Americans also contribute to their country’s positive image.

    The last time I was surrounded by Americans, it was almost two decades ago when I visited the US as a young boy. I don’t remember interacting much with the locals.

    But, if one sees the anecdotes posted by many non-Americans online, they frequently perceive the Americans as friendly, easy-going, open-minded, educated and charitable people and often seen as the antitheses of the US government (somewhat debatable).

    The more negative anecdotes are often the results of interacting with the stereotypically jingoistic, war-mongering, fear-mongering, bubble-dwelling and proudly anti-intellectual Americans.

    You know, Americans like Donald “Make America Great Again” Trump.

    Americans who think their Godawful, alpha-wannabe attitudes will gain them genuine respect from the world.

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