Being a child of a single mother

Indonesia is like most places on earth. It is considered preferable for children to have both mom and dad. In fact, unlike in America and much of the west, almost every person here is conservative; truly liberal-minded people are a rarity here.

And yet, the vitriol against single mothers in America is extreme, something which I don’t see in Indonesia. Maybe single motherhood isn’t as common or talked about as much. But, I never heard about a huge number of Indonesians demonising single mothers, blaming them for every existing social ill.

Worse, those people even use scientific papers – which supposedly claim that children of single mothers are more likely to be worse off – as their evidences. They feel more empowered and, among the gullible ones, they seem to be an ideologically sound bunch.

I have never read those papers. Knowing how zealous ideologues can be, they may either oversimplify the content or straight up lie about it. But, even if the papers truly make such claim, they are peer-reviewed and their results can be replicated by other peer-reviewed researches, I still don’t see how it proves the dangers of single motherhood.

For misogynists, those studies affirm their preconceived beliefs about women, especially their supposed inherent incompetence in anything. For gullible people, they start thinking that the misogynists are on something.

But, for sceptical people who try their best embracing the complexity of reality, they won’t take the studies for granted and they acknowledge that no one and nothing lives in a vacuum.

They realise we are shaped not just by our homes, but also by our racial and ethnic backgrounds, our schools, work places, the media we consume, the dominant political and religious beliefs in our area, the political and religious beliefs we embrace, any places sociologists refer to as the “third places”, any thoughts we are exposed to, any interactions we immerse ourselves in.

If you are truly open-minded, you would not be too quick to blame something on only one factor, you would consider multiple of them.

You would not blame it entirely on single mothers, you would also hold other aspects of the society accountable for severely failing those fatherless children.

Yes, I know there are bloated elephants in the room: the absent fathers.

Unless the mothers slander the fathers and undeservingly end up with full custody of the children, we can definitely say the absent fathers are also a factor to consider. It is not the mothers’ faults that their partners died or were lost on the way to buy cigarettes.

I initially wanted to omit this, as it was too obvious and easy. But then, I remember the people who love demonising single motherhood never talk about negligent fathers and refuse to hold men accountable to anything. In the end, I have to state the obvious.

Now, for my anecdote as a son of a single mother.

I was very young when my father died, I don’t have a single memory of him. I started to long for a father figure when I was a teenager. Inexplicably, that longing feeling died out after I graduated high school.

Now, as a thirty-year-old man, I am glad I was raised by one parent. It is emotionally burdensome to face the demands from one parent. I cannot imagine facing demands from two!

I don’t know what kind of person he was. He might be able to balance my mom’s burdensome bearing. But, it is also possible he was either equally burdensome or my mom’s biggest apologist. Considering what kind of person my mom is, you have to be either toxic or permissive with toxicity in order to enjoy her presence, let alone marrying her.

Oh, and so-called manliness is not a concern. For one, I don’t give a fuck about conforming to an arbitrary and ever-changing gender role. But, even if I do, my conservative mom loves upholding gender roles anyway. She loves shaming me every time I show lack of interest in anything automotive and outdoor-related… or, more frequently, show my fear of height.

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The insensibility of sensibilities

Yes, sensibilities can be insensible.

My dictionary has two definitions of sensibilities; 1. our responsiveness to anything emotional; 2. our delicate sensitivity. Either way, they are not based on reasons, they are based on our emotions… and our emotions can suck.

With that in mind, it is reasonable to believe our sensibilities can be insensible.

How do you know yours are sensible or not? Just take a look at the things you are emotionally reacting to.

Do they offend you because they are actually harmful to you and your fellow human beings? Or do they offend you simply because you personally don’t like them?

Hate speech, incitement of violence, conspiracies about specific individuals or groups, corporal punishments on children, LGBT+ conversion therapy, anti-vaxxer beliefs, platforming bigots and conspiracy “theorists” without holding them accountable, toxic masculinity and femininity, religious fundamentalism. Those things are harmful because they either directly inflict physical and/or psychological harms upon others, empower others to do the same or compel them to inflict harms upon themselves. If you are a truly decent human being, they should offend you greatly.

But, things like disobeying dress codes, dressing like a slob, speaking with crude accents or dialects, having different tastes, diets and religions, not masculine or feminine enough, too masculine or feminine, being physically unattractive? How are any of those harmful in any ways?

If they do not inflict any physical and psychological traumas upon anyone, if being offended is the only thing you and others experience, then they are definitely harmless and your sensibilities are definitely insensible.

Obviously, we are human beings. No one has the right to tell us how and what to feel. No one has the right to prohibit us from establishing our own standards, no matter how arbitrary they are.

But, it becomes a problem when you mistake your emotions as objective measurement tools, when you are unable to distinguish your biases from the objective reality.

In this case, you and your sensibilities can go fuck yourselves.

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Imperial system: visualisation, heat and us

In one of my blogposts, I asserted that my problem with imperial system was not the system itself, it was the people who insist it is more sensical and systematic than metric.

Some time after I published it, I found two more pro-imperial arguments.

One is about visualisation. Some believe imperial units are better because they are easier to visualise than the extra-detailed metric ones, especially regarding height. When I asserted that it was a matter of upbringing, one of them claimed to be a non-American and, despite growing metric, they still preferred imperial for the easier visualisation.

But, the more I read their arguments words per words, the more unconvinced I become. Everything they said was not even remotely tangible and objective. All they did was describing how their own mind works; they might as well retell their imaginations. While I acknowledge the validity of their anecdotes, they are not scientific evidences.

Then, there is also the Fahrenheit and the human bodies argument.

Some argue Fahrenheit makes more sense because it measures how our corporeal bodies react to different levels of heat and cold. Even if what they say is true (I never bother to fact check), it further proves the inferiority of Fahrenheit.

In case they forget, the universe does not revolve around us and human body temperature is certainly not the only thing science cares about. While the human-centrism isn’t necessarily conceited, it certainly makes the approach far from unbiased.

Listening to pro-imperial arguments makes me even more pro-metric.

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Being civil

No, it is not as good as some people think they are.

People -me included- often have positive receptions of old footage of debates, especially when they involve bigots and their opponents.

I love watching the footage because the anti-bigots -who tended to be from marginalised groups- were able to intellectually eviscerate their opponents calmly; not once they raised their voices and resorted to personal attacks. I wish I am someone who is capable of calmly roasting my opponents.

But, it seems many other people are inspired by the old footage for the wrong reasons.

Very frequently, they would praise people in the olden days for their ability to stay civil, regardless of their opponents’ views. If the debates involve trivial topics like our tastes in foods and entertainment, then I am all for the civility.

But, if they involve topics like “should we treat our fellow human beings like actual human beings?”, then why should we celebrate the civility? What’s so wholesome about being nice towards those who dehumanise their fellow human beings?

Call me radical. But, we have no obligations to be nice to bigots. In fact, I have no moral qualms about being uncivil against them. It will be a set back for causes, that’s for sure. But, there is nothing immoral about giving them less than stellar treatments.

The root of the bothsideism is very telling. It is either an extreme case of moral relativism OR they realise how horrible their opinions are and they want to persuade the world that no one should face social consequences for their horrible opinions.

From my experiences, it is often the latter.

Personally, I believe the problem is many think civility is the only bare minimum out there. Somehow, morality is optional.

If morality is also the bare minimum of most people, what we debate about would be a lot different. Instead of the justifiability of bigotry, we would have debates on how to fight it.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see anything wrong about debating bigots. But, there should be no pretence that the debates are about accepting the possibility of them being right.

If we embrace the pretence, the debates will give an illusion of equal validity of all opinions. Whether you like it or not, there are such thing as wrong opinions and it dishonest to believe otherwise.

You cannot expect me to believe that dehumanising hatred of inconsequential human differences is on equal ground with understanding and coexistence. The former actually breeds prejudice and violence. The latter? They create peace and harmony.

I do realise my argument also applies to science vs pseudoscience debates. But, I focus on bigotry instead because it riles me up even more.

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Being Indonesian 2

 

This is a somewhat loose English translation of this essay.

On Facebook, there are lots of Indonesians who say we should appreciate our government’s efforts in handling the ongoing pandemic; for them, the government has done their best and there is no country that competently handles this crisis.

Of course, only fucktards believe that.

First of all, instead of being alert and doing any preventative measures, the government chose to be cocky.

We are told our country can competently handle the plague, even though our healthcare is abysmal and has been since the dawn of time. Since when our country is a healthcare champion?

We are also told our country is divinely blessed by the Almighty, as if we are the only country that deserves the blessing. How can we say that we, a country of savages, deserve it?

Don’t forget that last February, the government prepared 72 billion Rupiahs fund for foreign influences so they could improve our country’s image, as if the government already gave up even before the plague came approaching.

Second, there are obviously countries that skilfully handle this pandemic.

In South Korea, the virus has been plaguing since late January and their death toll is 211. In Malaysia, outbreak started in late January, their death toll is 70. In New Zealand, outbreak started in late February, their death toll is 4. In Singapore, outbreak started in late January, their death toll is 7.*

Taiwan is geographically close to China and has lots of flights from and to China. But, their death toll is 6. Taiwan has been implementing preventative measures since December; they acted so fast, they didn’t need a lockdown! If they were slow, the outbreak would have started and claimed victims before New Year.*

Indonesia? The outbreak started in early March, our death toll is 306, higher than the number of people who have recovered.*

Someone ‘refuted’ my statement by reminding me that we live in Indonesia and the foreign methods may not work here.

Even though there is a truth in that, the problem is our method of handling the outbreak is to be conceited and the foreign method is to be vigilant! The ‘refutation’ is nothing but a rambling of pea-brained reactionary and it lacks any common sense.


We frequently condemn our government which we perceive as corrupt. But, every time they receive foreign condemnation, we defend them! We want to be proud of our country so much, we are willing to defend our country on the world stage, even though we are obviously the wrong one!

If we want to be proud of our own country, shouldn’t we be strongly-principled and sternly hold our government and fellow citizens accountable?

Every time we are suggested to use new methods, we always say they are only suitable for other countries and think ours perfectly suit our country, even though many of our methods are clearly defective and aggravating the problems!

We also the foreign methods will erode our national identity.

If we are really worried about the uniqueness of our nation, why don’t we preserve our cultural heritages more diligently? Why do have to maintain lifestyles that clearly handicap the growth of our nation?

Idiocy, degeneracy and close-mindedness have been so deeply ingrained in our country, we think those are the requirements we need to fulfil if we want to be Indonesians.


There is one governmental effort worthy of praise: legally pursuing those who evict medical workers from their rented houses and reject the burials of victims in their villages.

If the legal actions are executed, I doubt all of those people will end up remorseful. But, I hope they are branded as ungodly beings, albeit temporarily.

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*As of the time when I wrote the original Indonesian essay.

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Pop science, we will always need it

When I say ‘we’, I actually mean ‘I’.

Is pop science guilty of oversimplification and sometimes misinformation? Absolutely yes.

Should we get rid of it? Over my rotting, maggot-infested, bloated dead body.

Because I grew up watching Bill Nye and reading those Indonesian-translations of foreign science books (encyclopaedias included), I ended up loving natural sciences. I was mesmerised by how they guided me to unearth and cherish the allure of the universe. Together with my favourite films, they made my childhood magical.

My love of them started diminishing when I started studying them in schools. There was no more sense of awe and inquisitiveness, there was only obligation to memorise things for the grades; many others studied them because they wanted to look smart. For me, natural sciences had mutated into lifeless entities programmed to make robots out of us.

If it wasn’t for access to cable TV and the internet, my relationships with them would end like mine with math: dead with zero change of resurrection. The documentaries on Discovery, NatGeo and the BBC persistently illuminated the dying flame in me throughout my school years.

Of course, as I said in the beginning, pop science is guilty of oversimplification and misinformation and one may argue my understanding of science is deeply-flawed.

It is indeed a reasonable counter-argument. But, after becoming an internet addict, my favourite pop science works are now on Youtube; despite their imperfections, channels like Kurzgesagt, ASAPScience, Aspect Science, MinuteEarth, It’s Okay To Be Smart, PBS Eons and SciShow have upped my appreciation of science.

They have shown me how science is never about knowing absolute facts; instead, science is all about constantly enhancing our prevailing knowledge and acknowledges that even our physical world is full of greyness. Combined with their willingness to rectifying their own past content, they have also shown how science is all about embracing healthy scepticism (not to be confused with accusing everything of being a conspiracy).

As wonderful as they are, the books and documentaries I grew up with failed to show the wonderful nuances. While this can be attributed to my then-undeveloped brain, they do mostly focus on absolute facts and very little on the intricacies.

If you ask me ‘should we get rid of pop science?’ again, my answer would still be ‘over my rotting, maggot-infested, bloated dead body’. But, I would also say we need media watchdogs.

Yes, we have been having them since forever. But, even though I can’t say if there is a shortage of them, I can definitely say we need lots of them and we need them to distribute their findings to the masses rather than being content about having niche ‘audiences’.

Correlating to the topic in question, I believe every media watchdog must have at least two teams dedicated to scrutinise works of science journalism and pop science: one specialises in medicine and one for the other disciplines.

I want to emphasise on medicine because medical quackery is arguably the most dangerous form of pseudoscience. No matter how frustrating creationism or flat earth myth can be, I have never heard anyone getting physical harmed because of them. But, I do have heard of people getting physically harmed by scientifically unproven or debunked treatments.

I believe getting rid of pop science is a bad idea. There will always be shitty teachers who fail to show the beauty of natural sciences and their roles in profoundly shaping humanity. As flawed as pop science can be, it knows how to make science captivating for the laypeople to learn about.

If there is no pop science, they would definitely be more people who see their favourite preachers, conspiracists and snake oil salespeople as their ‘science teachers’.

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The problem with imperial system…

… Is not on the system itself. It is on the people who use it.

As a non-American who definitely uses the metric system, I genuinely don’t mind if people use the imperial one. If Americans want to preserve it for cultural reasons and for its perceived playfulness, I don’t mind it at all.

What I do mind is them insisting that imperial system is the best system.

Let’s see…

1 mile is equal to 8 furlongs, is equal to 1760 yards, is equal to 5280 feet, is equal to 63.360 inches. Compare that to their metric counterparts in which 0.001 kilometre is equal to 0.01 hectometre, is equal to 0.1 decametre, is equal to 1 metre, is equal to 10 decimetres, is equal to 100 centimetres, is equal to 1000 millimetres.

From that one paragraph alone, you can see how metric system is a base 10 measurement system in which conversion from one unit to another can be done by simply moving the decimal point; the existence of the metric staircase eases the learning process. Heck, throughout my school life as a math-hating student, metric system was one of the very few things I had no problems learning about in math classes!

The values of imperial units, on the other hand, do not form a consistent pattern and it forbids us from having an all-inclusive conversion method; we are forced to memorise one conversion method for each pair of units. I don’t know how people who struggle with math survive in America.

If anything, the name ‘imperial system’ feels like a misnomer because the word ‘system’ means a group of interconnected things…and imperial units do not naturally interconnect with each other; we have to manufacture the connections ourselves!

Okay, that’s a bit misleading.

Back in the day, most people (presumably) wouldn’t find any of the existing measurement systems unsystematic as every single one of them was unsystematic; comparing defective things with each other would not reveal their own defects.

But, nowadays, the metric system has entered the stage and the comparison reveals a juxtaposition for everyone to behold! Believing in imperial’s non-existing superiority is no longer excusable!

And no, it is not a matter of differing opinions. My argument is based on the numbers themselves and they clearly show how orderly and precise the metric system is!

The imperial worshippers either have not learned the metric system but they are arrogant enough to have strong opinions about it*… or they have learned it but their attachment to traditions clouds their judgement.

Don’t know which one’s worse.

And no, imperial does not contribute to America’s scientific triumph.

Like the rest of the world, American scientists use metric because they are also aware of its efficiency. The triumph exists not because of imperial’s mass usage, but despite of it.

Just like how the world respects America not because of the existence of Americans like Donald Trump, but despite of it. The world respects America because of Americans who are the exact opposites of him!

 

*Admittedly, I can get too opinionated in topics I know little about. But, I am confident that’s not case regarding ‘metric vs imperial’ because I have studied both.

I attended one international school and my British math textbook used imperial units as Brits still use both systems. After I started becoming an internet addict, I used a chunk of my spare time studying imperial units as well.

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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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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*

Creating brilliant and cultured human resources in Indonesia

Note:

I initially wanted to submit this essay, which was originally written in Indonesian, to a writing contest. But, because of technicalities, I missed the deadline. Oh, well.

When one talks about the quality of human resources, education is often the first thing that comes to our minds.

It is true that education is the biggest factor. Quality education equals quality human resources. But, what do we mean by quality education?

We all agree discipline is crucial in our learning experiences and, as a nation, we are from disciplined. It would be bizarre to dispute that.

But, what I am going to say will be contentious. I am not sure if many of you will agree with me.

If I say we need to respect those who are more knowledgeable and more experienced than us, you would nod in agreement. But, the problems is many still believe ‘respect’ and ‘worship’ are synonymous with each other.

We love to make Gods out of those people, forgetting they are also ordinary human beings who are prone to any faults. They can make mistakes in their ways of thinking. They may also have ulterior motives and intentionally deceive others for their own benefits.

But, at the same time, we also have the guts to accuse the experts of being know-it-alls. We look down on knowledge and critical thinking. We are proud of our own ignorance and stupidity.

To overcome this issue, we have to teach the incoming generations to think more critically and to be more analytical. Moreover, we have to instill the sense of curiosity, humility and courage to resist falsehood, especially the one regurgitated by people of higher social standings.

If this suggestion is implemented, I am willing to bet the incoming generations would not only possess brilliant minds, but also would not want to trample and be easily trampled on by other people.

I also have another suggestion, a more abstract one: teaching them about the nation’s traditional cultures.

Obviously, many will agree with me. I am definitely not the first Indonesian citizen who yearn about conserving our cultural heritages. But, you must be wondering: what does this have anything to do with human resources?

If a country preserves its traditional culture, it would have a unique identity. If it is blessed with rich cultural diversity, the distinctiveness would be even more striking. If a country has a unique identity, it would be able to create works which are very unlikely to be created elsewhere. In the end, it would stand out on the international stage.

Even if you are an Indonesian who has been culturally westernised and who perceives traditions as backward entities, you would still be benefited by knowing your ancestral heritage.

Besides learning about the history of your ancestors, you would also learn about the life philosophy they held on to. As a result, you would encounter perspectives that you have never considered before. Ideally, you would expand your horizon… and, when combined with good reasoning, you would have easier time generating groundbreaking ideas.

Of course, you could have refuted my suggestion by stating that my dream can be fulfilled without studying Indonesian cultures. But, as I stated before, uniqueness is key.

Western cultures are already emulated all over the world. If you fix your gaze solely towards the west, your ideas would not be different from the ones initiated by foreigners. If the works of Indonesians are similar to the foreign ones, why should other countries make use of Indonesian human resources?

Yes, Indonesians with sufficient skills can still get hired by foreigners. But, if we are only good in professions in which our duty is to simply obey our bosses and/our clients, we would only excel behind the scenes.

Obviously, those behind-the-scenes jobs are also crucial to our lives which we all reap benefits from. Maybe you are already satisfied by our fellow countrymen’s behind-the-scenes success. But, I am not.

As important as those professions are, they can be done by every country on earth. Meanwhile, the ones in which we become the stars on the international stages have been proven difficult to attain. Very few countries have achieved high level of innovation and creativity.

The more we raise Indonesians who are capable of producing ingenious ideas, the easier it would be for us to be take centre stage internationally…

…and, once that is achieved, we as a nation would have successfully used all of our might to achieve a level of triumph which most countries on earth have yet to obtain.

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