Do I regret my ‘useless’ degree?

The answer is no.

Yes, it does not help me in my job search. It barely teaches me any practical skills. It is not rigorous with its theoretical education. I wish it is both a vocational and liberal arts degree.

But, thanks to my media studies major, I now possess a relatively high level media literacy. While it is too low for my liking, it dramatically increases after I started my media studies education. As a result, in my personal life, I am the least gullible person around.

Admittedly, I still fall for fake news on some occasions. But, to my defence, I fall for fake news reported by the mainstream media which have sleak and professional presentations. The people I know, on the other hand, will easily fall for articles which utilise clickbaits as headlines and over-dramatic language in the content, lack any proper citations and, in some cases, include blatantly-photoshopped images.

Those same people also easily fall for those arbitrarily-sad, tear-jerking and pseudo-inspirational content, whether on the internet or on TV. Also thanks to my education, I now take heed of the sappy or ‘uplifting’ background music, the unnecessarily lavish visuals and the flowery language. If those sad stories and inspirational words are given raw and unpolished presentation, they would not have the same emotional potency. In fact, their lack of depth would immediately expose itself. Nowadays, such content no longer moves me. It only nauseates me.

I also no longer easily fall for any rhetoric (well, most of the time). Acknowledging that people lie to and deceive each other seems to be a common sense. But, in reality, we still take other people’s words for granted, especially when they are public figures. We often vote for politician NOT because the actual substances of their words and NOT because their track records, but because they keep appealing to our emotions.

I also have another reason, a strange reason, why I don’t regret my university education: learning.

It is strange because I am someone known for his poor academic performances. I always have a hard time finishing assignments and I often get low grades; high ones are anomalies. Overall, it is a miracle that I finished primary education on-time.

But, I had so much fun absorbing every bit of information. I sincerely enjoyed reading the pages of the library books and academic papers I managed to get my hands on. I sincerely enjoyed immersing myself in research findings and complex theories. I never had any academia-related enjoyment prior to my university years.

I blame the lack of enjoyment on the over-emphasise of rote-learning, the lack of encouragement to read and do my own researches, the fact that I have to take classes I have no interest in and my teachers made no effort to make them seem worthy to learn about.

It is a contrast to my higher education in which reading and researching were compulsory, rote-learning was virtually non-existent (at least, in my chosen discipline) and, because I chose my own major, I did not have to take many classes I had no interest partaking. I enjoyed learning when I was a university student because that is how learning should be!

The purpose of learning is not about receiving information for granted. It should be about the adeptness to gather new information and determine its validity by scrutinising the sources, the reasoning and evidences. It should be for the sake of being enlightened and not expecting any tangible or shallow rewards.

It is not to say higher education is not susceptible to indoctrination. It is, especially when religion and politics are involved. But, considering how the learning process is executed, gullibility and irrationality are inexcusable. I am thoroughly disappointed by the severe intellectual dishonesty of some of my fellow university graduates.

I also have to credit my university education for increasing my nerdiness.. After reading quite a handful of genuinely interesting papers and library books, I end up even more interested in the liberal arts.

I never knew that one could observe human beings through abstract lenses, beyond the surface of their observable behaviours; it gives me an entirely fresh approach to how I tackle my surrounding.

Are those lenses practical? No, they are not necessarily so. But, they do turn me into a more contemplative person; with the risk of being seen as ostentatious, I even dare to say they make more spiritual.

Consequentially, I also end up searching for more academic papers, despite the fact that it has been a while since the graduation day. I used to hate reading them. But now, I read them NOT because I want to be a researcher and am intending to publish my findings, I read them simply because I want to!

Overall, I become a significantly better individual.

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Religious clothing and secularism

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

Reason one: the blurred boundary between cultures and religion.

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

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

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

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

Okay, I don’t actually believe that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So much for Laïcité, eh?

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How NOT to introduce people to new cultures

No, I am not basing it on my real life experiences. I am too much of a hermit to directly immerse myself in different cultures, too much of a hermit to even bother interacting with fellow human beings.

And yes, instead of writing about how to introduce people to new cultures, I prefer to write about how NOT to. I am so easily drawn to negativity.

My thoughts are based on what I have observed on Youtube videos and their comment sections. Buzzfeed videos produced years ago still linger in my mind because they featured American reactors of foreign dishes who were often lambasted by the comment sections not only for their ‘disrespectful’ reactions, but also for their limited tastebuds. But, I was more annoyed by the commenters than I was by the American reactors. Still am.

Years after discovering Buzzfeed, I found Simon and Martina who made videos about their life in South Korea before moving to Japan. They often took a very contentious tone when speaking about South Korea which angered many Koreans and Koreaboos, ignoring how the couple still emotionally-attachment to the country even after leaving it.

Right around the same time, I also discovered Englishman Chris Broad who initially made sarcasm-laced videos about some basic information about Japan. Then, as his career progresses, he makes more travelling content. Despite being grumpier and more sarcastic than Simon and Martina, his honest assertions about the country he lives in somehow feel less contentious than the couple’s regarding Korea. But, he is not without controversy, which I will discuss it later.

Through Simon and Martina, I was introduced to Josh Carrott AKA the Korean Englishman; took me a year to check out his videos. Unlike them, he almost has entirely positive view of South Korea. I am usually suspicious of anyone who have utterly positive opinions about anything; it often comes off as insincere. But, with Josh, I don’t have that problem at all and I will also explain why later.

I also have to mention Life Where I’m From, a Youtube channel run by Canadian Greg Lam who documents the life in Japan. While the Chris Broad and Simon and Martina occasionally make videos that can count as documentaries, Greg is the biggest documentarian among them.

Not only he interviews significantly more individuals, he is also a lot more methodical on which information he wants to display, on how he obtains it and on how he presents them; he also sees entertainment values as supplementaries. As a result, he does a great job in destroying negative stereotypes about Japan while simultaneously putting more attention on the downsides of life in Japan. He does a better job in portraying the country with nuances than many of those so-called journalists.

Now, to the reason why you clicked in the first place.

For me, before you even consider introducing people to new cultures, you should NEVER do the following:

Use stereotypes

We all know bigots love to use stereotypes. But, the thing is even people who claim to be ‘tolerant’ and interested in other cultures fall for them as well; instead of using negative stereotypes, they use the positive or neutral ones.

Yes, they are not negative. But, they are still stereotypes. They still see their fellow human beings as the ‘others’ who are devoid of human intricacies. It is still dehumanising.

Excluding Josh Carrott and Buzzfeed hosts, the aforementioned Youtubers frequently described how Koreans and/or Japanese people behave and, on a surface level, the descriptions do sound stereotypical.

But, if you listen closely, they actually debunk some of the stereotypes and reveal things we never expect from either nation. That’s because the descriptions are NOT based on hearsay, they are based on said Youtubers’ personal experiences interacting with the actual people!

Unlike stereotypes which are entirely simplistic and rigid, human beings are complex and unpredictable creatures who will never fit into any preconceived moulds, no matter how much you force them. The more you know them, the more you feel guilty about ever forcing them in the first place.

While he describes Japanese people as generally unassertive and shy, Chris Broad also had an easy time making his Japanese friends and colleagues -some of whom were older than him- eagerly learn English profanities; he knows that Japanese people are human beings, NOT ‘cute, cuddly anime characters’ as he put it in a subsequent video. In fact, his friend Natsuki has no qualm about doing antics publicly (e.g. dressing and acting like Zorro) and approaching a complete stranger just to befriend him/her, which was how the two met.

One of my favourite Greg Lam’s video is The Rules That Rule Japan, which title is self-explanatory. To summarise it, Japan is ruled by written and unwritten rules that seemingly contradict each other and, depending on which rules, the breaching is not always considered a faux pas. Basically, if you want to know how it is like living in Japan, you’ve got to live in Japan.

And it is not just Japan. Virtually every country on earth also shares similar situations regarding rules. Mind you, Japan is a very homogenous country and yet it is a very complex society to break down effortlessly. Now, just imagine breaking down more populated and more diverse countries like my home country Indonesia. If a country’s description feels so simple, then it is very likely infiltrated with inaccuracies.

A year after leaving South Korea for Japan, Simon and Martina made a video titled Japan or Korea: Did We Make The Right Choice? in which they expressed their preference towards Japan as a place to live. They were honest and uninhibited with their criticism about the living conditions in South Korea. But, it seems people don’t even bother to watch until the end.

The couple also explicitly made a disclaimer about how they were speaking from their own personal experiences and acknowledged that others might have diverging impressions about either country. Many in the comment sections, presumably both Koreaphobes and zealous Korean nationalists, ignore the disclaimer and thoughtlessly spew their dogmatic vitriol.

They intentionally ignore the video’s nuances just for the sake of affirming their versions of ‘reality’. They also ignore that Simon and Martina still see South Korea as their second home; even Simon said randomly meeting a Korean person in Japan made him feel at home.

Thanks to Chris Broad and Greg Lam, my interest in Japan actually increases and thanks to Simon and Martina, I have actually become interested in South Korea. My interest increases and emerges NOT despite of the scores of scathing tones, but because of it.

The imperfection makes both countries feel more real and human. The older I get, the more I actually find absolute positivity nauseating.

Be extreme

… And my hatred of absolute positivity is the reason why, as I mentioned before, I hate those who made negative comments on Buzzfeed’s food reaction videos more than their trashy American reactions.

For those commenters, NOT liking the dishes was not an option. They believe the reactors HAD to like them! For them, not liking those dishes was akin to spitting on their faces. They genuinely remind me of over-zealous fandoms.

Correct me if I am wrong. But, those reactors volunteered to be in the videos; basically, no matter how unrefined their behaviours were, they were willing to try to new things and that is something we must appreciate! To this day, my willingness to try new things is still too minimal.

I previously mentioned Josh the Korean Englishman whose (seemingly) absolutely positive view about South Korea does not put me off; nowadays, anything that seems will immediately put off. I believe it has something to do with how he expresses his love of Korea.

Some of his videos can be summarised as ‘foreigners (mostly English) trying Korean foods’ and those foreigners are not only honest about whether they like the foods or not, they sometimes make jokes about them… and you know what? Josh was not offended at all!

He does not care whether they love the food or not, he just wants to share an aspect of one of his beloved cultures. If anything, his passionate yet civilised tactic actually works! His friends end up appreciating Korean culture. Even his mom and his best friend’s father, whom have been repeatedly described as ‘very English’, also end up appreciating Korean culture!

But, even if you are not a hostile, you should be methodical in how you introduce a certain culture. Don’t go straight to the ‘weird’ stuffs.

If you want to introduce someone to Japanese cuisine, don’t go straight to sushi, sashimi or natto. Not every country in the world eats raw meat and foul-smelling, fermented soybeans. Take it easy and go with tempura and ramen first, which I know will make easy starts as fried foods and noodle soups are common all over the world.

If I were tasked to introduce Indonesian cuisine to foreigners, I would consider their backgrounds. If they are of East Asian descent, I would start with Chinese-Indonesian dishes. If they are of South Asian descent, I would start with gulai dishes which are considered as ‘Indonesian curries’. Unless the foreigners are from other Southeast Asian countries, I would think twice about starting with Sundanese and Javanese cuisine due to them being almost entirely indigenous.

If you go extreme -whether in how you behave or how you determine the starting points-, you would deter others from being adventurous.

Be arrogant

I do believe the ability to appreciate different cultures is a sign of sophistication. But, I still think there is no excuse for self-conceit. Our relatively broad cultural palates exist because the cultural exposures we have experienced…

…And those exposures exist because of our fellow human beings. You would not be as sophisticated if it wasn’t for them.

I used to be smug about my cultural sophistication. I was able (and still am) to appreciate the both foreign cultures and the distinct regional Indonesian ones, particularly in the forms of foods and music. But then, I realised that my tastes in both have something to do with me being a citizen of Indonesia, a culturally diverse country that also willingly accepts foreign cultures; I have lived in the Greater Jakarta area, which is unsurprisingly diverse, and my hometown Batam has not one but five dominant ethnic groups and is located near Singapore and Malaysia.

When it comes to my music taste, I also have to credit one of my music teachers and my mom. My teacher introduced me to Mahavishnu Orchestra, which was my gateway to more complicated music and my mom had the 1999 version of Badai Pasti Berlalu CD, which was my gateway to quality Indonesian pop.

My relatively-sophisticated taste is a product of my socio-cultural environment and I can confidently say the same thing can be said about yours… and Josh Carrott’s.

His attachment to Korean culture was born out of his sense of isolation as the only British student in an international school in China. It was the Korean students, the school’s main demographic, who took care of him and consequentially exposing him to the culture. If they didn’t do so and/or he decided to transfer to an English boarding school, he would not have his dual Korean-English identity. There would be no Korean Englishman!

In the case of Simon and Martina, Chris Broad and Greg Lam, it is different from Josh’s and mine. Their appreciation of foreign cultures emerged or increased after they moved abroad; Greg moved because he is married to a Japanese citizen while the others decided to teach English as a foreign language. Without their decisions which require them to leave their national and cultural bubble, they would not have the cultural sophistication they have now.

And because our experiences have definitely happened to other human beings, it is very reasonable to assert that we are NOT the only ones who possess cultural sophistication.

…..

Once again, I have to remind you that I have never done anything that is remotely similar to what those Youtubers are doing. I am basing my words on my observation of Youtube’s content.

Yes, I do not have any peer-reviewed studies supporting what I am arguing above. But, let us use common sense here: do you seriously think hostility, conceit and the tendency to stereotype are desirable traits in an individual?

Whether you believe it or not, those traits are off-putting. Embracing even just one of them means you are repelling others from liking you; the only ones you attract are those who share your repellent quality and are also avoided by more well-refined personalities.

If people are disgusted by you, how do you expect them to love what you love? If anything, not only others won’t end up loving what you love, they will end up hating it. It does not matter whether it is of good quality or not.

You, the enthusiast, are seen as a representative of the thing you love. Because you are such an abhorrent individual, many will assume the thing you love is equally abhorrent. I mentioned ugly personalities attract each other and it seems some people believe the same principle applies to non-living entities as well; many people thought the extremist tendency of Steven Universe fandom manifested the show’s poor quality, despite having never watched a single episode.

Yes, it is fallacious to deem something solely based on the behaviours of its enthusiasts. But, it is also wrong to carry ourselves so dementedly, we present outsiders an extremely distorted view of our fellow enthusiasts and, most importantly, the thing we love.

We love it so much, we make others hate it.

……

Now, those of you who are not guilty of such abhorrence may think I am making a big deal out of nothing and I am like a cat fighting his own reflection in the mirror; admittedly, I can be that neurotic and I have lost count how many mirrors I have smashed. But, if you have ever interacted with your fellow human beings online and offline, you would acknowledge that common sense is not common.

If you watched Buzzfeed videos many years, you would remember how malicious the comment sections can be against the hosts simply for not liking certain dishes. Even if you were never interested in such content, I am sure you have interacted with fandoms who think they can abuse anyone into loving their beloved idols and works of entertainment.

The idea that common sense being common is an exaggeration.

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A message to ex-fans of The Rewired Soul

Let me start with welcoming words:

Cut your fucking bullshit.

You may think by unsubscribing from Boutté’s channel, you have never validated his toxicity. Well, whether you believe it or not, you had done it.

Not only you enjoy watching him bullying other content creators, you even partook in the activity! You saw him as nothing but an angelic figure whose heart was entirely pure, whose actions were anything but wrong. You demonised his victims for having the guts to defend themselves from the malice and you demonised his critics for defending them. In fact, you were willing to send the SWAT teams to anyone who dared to speak against your prophet.

By partaking in the abuse, you felt like you were doing something for the greater good.

And that ‘nice’ feeling ended when commentary channels started ganging up on him; you were suddenly aware of the toxicity and regretting you were fans of his. But, because of what I just said in the previous paragraph, I don’t believe your realisation and remorse are thoroughly sincere.

How the fuck did you fail to see the bullying right in front of you? Were all of your senses impaired or something? Did you think bullying is an entirely physical act? Or maybe you were dupable enough to easily fall for his phony ‘mental health advocacy’ rhetoric and you thought intentions were everything? While they are in the realm of possibility, I also have a more contentious hypothesis: it is hard to hate the snake in front of you when you are also ones.

Why would you hate it, anyway? Doing so yourselves means you have to hate the snakes in you. Deep down, you are probably glad commentary channels were the first to call him out; that way, you don’t have to embrace contemplation. You don’t have to condemn yourselves for the poisonous human beings you are.

Oh, and don’t forget some of you unsubscribed from him NOT because you were repulsed his abusiveness, but because he lied to YOU. Your standard of morality is so low, you determine a person’s moral integrity NOT by how he/she treats his/her fellow human beings in general, but only by how he/she treats YOU.

Someone or something is a problem only if he/she/it affects your negatively. If not, you wouldn’t see him/her/it as a problem and you would look down on or even berate anyone who does.

The only ex-fans of TRS I truly respect are the ones who are willing to admit their lapse of judgement and their participation in the maliciousness instead of claiming sinlessness, are ones who quickly took heed of his venom-spewing once it surfaced. I have never encountered the former. But, I have encountered the latter lots of times in Youtube videos’ comment sections.

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Is Pewdiepie a member of the alt-right?

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

Felix ‘Certainly-Not-Hitler’ Kjellberg

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

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

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

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

The ‘Bros’

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

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

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

Ben-Ben

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

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

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

The n-word ‘oopsie’

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

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

Thot thot thot thot thot

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

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

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

The missing data

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

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

When the ‘haters’ are right

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What IF he is a racist?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

We can learn two things from this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Casualties of feel-goodism

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

Victim number one

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

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

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

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

Then, there is that one commenter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Victim number two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, I will disjointedly dissect his statements.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, let me see…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Casualties number mycountryreligionperfectifyoudontlikeitleavediehurrdurr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How I deal with feelgoodism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My thoughts about Geography Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Postscript:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How do you know if you live in a socialist dystopia?

*puts on a mask*

Well, all you have to do is to find these two symptoms:

1. See if there are any ‘socialists’.

They don’t have to be actual ‘socialists’. They can be ‘social democrats’ or even ‘neoliberals’ who misappropriate the label. They can be people who never label themselves as ‘socialists’, but accused as ones by their opponents (how people label us is literally more important than how we actually think and feel).

And those ‘socialists’ don’t have to be a part of the establishment. Even their mere existence is enough to indicate their power in your society!

2. See if there are any policies that benefit the poor and/or the labourers.

If your society has policies which ensure free or affordable education and healthcare for everyone, ensure the rights of labours are held with high regards, ensure the rights of labourers to not be trampled by big businesses and ensure the poor receive government benefits, then you already live under socialism!

Only socialists care about the so-called ‘suffering’ of the poor and exploitable labourers, who are undeniably some the biggest oppressors in history, and only socialists hate the rich and big businesses, who are undeniably some of the biggest victims in history! Only socialists, who are definitely NOT people like me, have the audacity to commit such atrocity!

I said two tips, but I meant three; the third one is to realise this: even the existence of one of those signs is enough to conclude you are already living in a socialist dystopia! If you see both signs, you are as good as someone who lived in Soviet Russia!

Literally the only way to topple a communist regime is to vote for a fascist! I don’t care if you are a fascist or not! ‘Better be Nazi than red’ was literally a well thought out slogan and certainly not motivated by ideological zealotry!

Trust me, living under fascism is literally worth not living under socialism!

*takes off the mask*

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What can we learn from the ‘tragedies’ of H3H3 and Bobby Burns?

It is simple: if you are not careful, your words will become your deadly boomerangs. Learn it from this Captain Obvious who is still getting haunted from his words.

While the disgrace of our idols is hard to deal with, why are we even surprised by it? Why do we constantly forget they are human beings just like us, who can commit mistakes and hypocrisy just like us?

Oh, and we also seem to forget both Bobby and Ethan are not just mere Youtubers, they are also Youtube commentators! They make a living out of critiquing anything Youtube-related: Youtube the corporation, Youtube communities and especially fellow Youtubers! Being perceived as the voice of reason and virtue means one is on a high pedestal; therefore, the fall from grace will be significantly harder and more violent.

I believe our disappointment is less about them letting us down and more about us having extremely high expectations of them. Admittedly, to this day, I am still guilty of venerating my own idols. But, even then, there are some occasions when a small voice in my head saying, ‘they are flawed, just like you’; slowly, I learned to take heed of it. Subconsciously, I anticipated the day my heroes become public (or, in this case, Youtube) enemies number one. Their fall from grace, while regrettable, is somewhat foreseeable for me.

I have found some internet comments which condemn Youtube commentators as nothing but mean-spirited and hypocritical hate-mongers who will never stop what they are doing until the entire world is drenched in their negativity. Admittedly, some are indeed guilty of such sin. Some.

Youtube commentators are the Youtube watchdogs. Like it or not, while they don’t have the power to maintain order, they are the ones who put the scorching spotlight to the sins committed in the platform. They are the ones who make sure those sinners, while admittedly often let unpunished, have their dirts unearthed. They are the ones who make sure the truths are ingrained in the collective consciousness.

Yes, virtually everyone, especially Youtube commentators, can end up as Bobby and Ethan. But then, everything in life has risks! For me, the potentially brutal dishonour is worth the intellectual and moral contribution to the shared life we belong to (ostentatious, I know)! Love it or not, constructive criticism can help us move onward!

Even though I am not a popular and respected content creator, I am certain there is not a single advice that can entirely avert this ‘tragedy’ (if you can call it that). ‘Be self-aware!’ seems like a good advice. But, Bobby and Ethan already possessed some level of self-awareness… and yet here they are (even though one can argue they didn’t embrace it strong enough)!

As I am one who constantly resigns himself to the ever-powerful force that is reality, let me repeat a cliche saying: nothing, including the good ones, lasts forever. The fall from grace will always be an inevitable prospect.

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Before I conclude this, I need to talk about Bobby specifically.

I used to watch him. I loved his film analysis and Youtube commentary videos and I still do. Just like my fellow fans, I hate how he has changed as a content creator. Well, hate and love.

I wish he was more transparent, more measured and more tactful with his transformation, preventing his fanbase from enduring the ‘shock’. I wish he still make those intelligent cultural dissection.

But, at the same time, I also cannot help myself from admiring him. I believe changes can be beneficial by liberating us from the moulds and he keeps changing despite the backlashes. While tactless changes can destroy one’s career, invariability will surely increases one’s possibility of enduring irrelevance and the mass’s fatigue of one’s creations. So, even if Bobby does refrain himself from revamping his channel, he would experience a decline in his career sooner or later.

I notice some people blame Shane Dawson for this ‘tragedy’. They believe, if the meeting never happened, Bobby would still be a good Youtuber. They believe the fact that Shane hired him to take the Sunday slot compels Bobby to pander to his then-employer’s fanbase. While it sounds like a valid conjecture, I also have mine… which I personally prefer more.

He changes after meeting Shane, a Youtuber he had criticised previously, probably because he realises how the target of his criticism was also a human being. In fact, while collaborating with PsychIRL, he admitted how he felt bad about harshly criticising certain individuals after meeting them in person, realising (again) how they were also human beings.

(Side note: in his H3 podcast appearance, iDubbz also shared the same sentiment as he also met the individuals he criticised in person. In another episode of the podcast, Ethan believed his channel encouraged the growth of mean-spirited commentaries on the website).

While pandering to Shane’s fanbase seems like the probable cause, I personally believe Bobby transforms himself because he no longer wants to be a hypocritical and mean-spirited Youtuber. Yes, I don’t have a solid evidence to support that. But, this assumption of mine is based on the words he actually had said.

Also, even though his content does become far more inferior, at least the new one is not harmful. Pointless and boring, perhaps. But, it is harmless. I mean, at least, he is not like those Youtube sceptics end up as alt-right mouthpieces (and I end up feeling wary of every individual who label themselves as ‘sceptics’).

We should also remember he is still twenty-one years old (almost twenty-two). Already an adult, he is. But, a middle-aged individual can still run into obstacles when pursuing his/her individuality, let alone a college-aged youth. I believe demanding any content creators, regardless of their age, to nail their feet to certain niches is cruel and will needlessly burden their sense of self.

I don’t know what will the future hold for him. He may return to commentaries and film reviews… or he may not. He may retain a long-lasting career… or he may bust it soon. But, I am certain, if his career is sturdier than expected, he will revamp his channel again. At least once more.

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