Dystopia is here: A portrayal of communication technology usage

A revised version of a university assignment I made in 2014. We were assigned to analyse a work of art and entertainment that includes new media as its main focus:

Because of its increasing importance in society, cultural representations of the new media has been getting more prominent recently. What Have We Done? is a good example. It is a 2014 short film directed by Sammy Paul and Tim Hautekiet. It is interesting to point out that both people are Youtubers and the film was uploaded to Hautekiet’s Youtube channel. Basically, the directors and the film are parts of the new media themselves. This essay will discuss how the film portrays it. But first, I will have to summarise the plot (to watch the film, click here):

The film is a musical and most of the dialogues are singing. It tells the story about a 19th century Englishman named William Sturgeon, who travelled to the future with his own time machine. The reason why he visited the future is he was disillusioned by the human society and he believed in the existence utopia. In the 21st century, he met a character portrayed by Tim Hautekiet himself Sturgeon asked Hautekiet to introduce him to the achievements of mankind in which the latter eagerly did. But soon, the 19th century man was even more disillusioned; he realised that humans have regressed. Instead of being used for the greater good, technology is used for the complete opposite. Humans are getting less intellectual, more detached from each other and worse, more dehumanised. Sturgeon decided to go back to his time and destroyed the time machine.

The most obvious aspect of the film is its music; it is banal and mostly lighthearted. The banality represents how humans never learn from our mistakes. Ignorance is caused by the lack of knowledge and lack of interaction with people from different backgrounds. The film strongly implies that every single generation in human history is guilty of it. The same thing keeps repeating itself. The lightheartedness represents how humans, including Hautekiet’s character, are apathetic to human regression; sometimes we even cherish it. That is represented by his cheerfulness.

But, the film’s lighthearted music can be perceived as sarcastic and it is possible that Hautekiet’s character is acting so the whole time. According to Miranda Bruce-Mitford (1996, p. 80), “music represents the ordered pattern of the universe”. The music successfully represents the universe portrayed by the film. Musical films often include dance numbers and What Have We Done? (2014) is no exception.

Bruce-Mitford (1996, p. 76) describes dancing as ritualistic movements that emit energies. The film has two dance numbers. The first one features banal and light-hearted dancing; music and dancing have to compliment each other in a musical. Like the music, the dancing represents how humans keep repeating the same mistakes and how we deal with regression; again, the lightheartedness can be interpreted as either cherishing the regression or being sarcastic to it. These actions can be seen as quite ritualistic.

The second dance number is less unoriginal and less cheerful. Every single dancer is shown with a mobile device in his/her hand. Most of them dance with stilted movements and expressionless faces. Four of them dance in couples and their eyes are glued to their mobile devices instead of their partners. They represent humans who are enslaved by technology; they seem not to have lives of their own and when they do, their lives are dedicated solely to the technology instead to their loved ones.

It should be noted the colour red is prominent in the second dance scene. Red represents danger (Bruce-Mitford 1996, p. 106). The film is warning us that if we are not careful, we would be enslaved by technology. From the surface, the visual and musical aspects may be very important to viewers. But, if one digs deeper, one would encounter strong ontological elements.

In the second dance number, Hautekiet sings these lines:

It’s a pretty sweet deal But your soul is the price!

These lines refer to human habits of buying stuff we do not need and misusing the internet. At the exact moment he sings ‘but your soul is the price’, Hautekiet’s face changes its appearance: his skin turns greenish and his eyes become larger and blacker. He also sings that line with demonic voice. Green represents decay and black represents destruction (Bruce-Mitford 1996, pp. 106-107). Our bodies are decaying in a figurative sense because we are not using them and our minds are always somewhere else. We are destroying our souls because we are detaching ourselves from the physical reality. I refrain myself from using the word “destructing” because it implies that the act is deliberate. It is debatable whether we are deliberately destroying our souls or not. But, it raises another question: what is a “soul”?

Soul” is a very abstract concept and there is no universally-accepted definition of it. I define it as a concept of “self” and that is definition I am going to use. There are four different ideas of “self”: dualism, materialism, monistic pantheism and no-self (Meister 2009, pp. 190-196). Dualism is the idea of mind and body as two separate entities. Materialism states that nothing exists beyond the material world. Monistic pantheism is a combination of two ideas: monism, in which everything is one and inseparable from each other, and pantheism, in which everything is divine. No-self believes that “the individual self does not exist”. In some ways, those four ideas are represented in the film.

Dualism is represented by the way people dance. Their bodies are shown to be dancing. But judging from their faces, their minds are somewhere else; their bodies and minds do not influence each other. But then, the dualist nature can also be easily refuted by materialism because how a human brain works also influence the mind (Kim 1996, p. 47). Most of the dancers may have their minds somewhere else. But, their minds become static because their brains are controlled by their mobile devices and their dance movements can be described as static as well; they seem to be directly controlled by the brains.

Materialism can also be used to partially support monistic pantheism. I said partially because monism is shown by the fact that mind and body are inseparable and the film’s materialist idea does not support pantheism because technology is shown as the one and only divine object; pantheism believes everything is equally divine. It is also can be said that materialism also supports the No-Self idea in a way; our minds are influenced by our bodies, which are also influenced by the environments. In a way, those dancers can also be described as not having independent selves. The film has strong elements of dualism, but they can be easily refuted by the other three ideas. I have discussed about the artistic and ontological elements. The last thing I am going to discuss about is how the film portrays human communication.

John Hartley (2002, p. 32) defines communication as “interaction by means of mutually recognised signals.” Interactions can be done directly or with a medium. One may think the interactions as with the help of internet as being portrayed are not true communications. But, I have repeatedly mentioned how the characters seem to have their minds somewhere else. They are not evading human communications, they are communicating with other humans somewhere else! The film does not portray the internet as communication destroyer but as a changer of communication; we communicate more with people from faraway than the people physically close to us. The film excellently, but not perfectly, portrays how we use communication technology.

In the film, humans are described as not unwilling to learn from their ancestors’ mistakes, even with more than adequate technology. Human minds are portrayed as slaves to the new technology instead of the opposite. From the surface, the film seems to portray human communications being destroyed by technology. But, it is not destroying communications, it is changing them.

Bruce-Mitford, M 1996, The illustrated books of signs and symbols, DK Publishing, London.

Hartley, J 2002, Communication, cultural and media studies: the key concepts, 3rd edn, Routledge, New York.

Meister, C 2009, Introducing philosophy of religion, Routledge, London.

Kim, J 1996, Philosophy of mind, Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado.

Lowbrow elitism

I still refuse to call myself a big fan of Progressive Rock. I have yet to listen to the works of every legendary Prog Rock band. My knowledge of the genre is still minuscule. But, I know that I am overwhelmed by it. I know about how robust intellectualism and virtuoso mastery of instruments are the non-negotiable prerequisites for its musicians. That’s why I was thrilled to find a BBC documentary titled ‘Prog Rock Britannia’.

For me, it was deeply compact. It concisely retold the chronicle of the wonderfully bizarre genre from start to finish. From the startling emergence to its disgraceful downfall. Oh and about the downfall…

According to the documentary, the cause of its demise was related to the public perception. Prog Rock had been regarded as another form of elitism that dismiss the everyday life of common people. When financial crisis struck Britain in the 1970’s, the distaste finally climaxed. It was no longer socially acceptable to love Prog Rock. It was finally proven how the genre did not represent the people while the more pop ones did.

Yeah, about that…

Prog Rock disgusted them because it encouraged intellectualism and higher artistic appreciation, not because of its supposed elitism. If elitism was indeed the reason, they would not have chosen pop music, an inherently escapist genre that discourages any forms of contemplation, as the music of the people.

In his article Popular culture: a useful notion?, Willem Frijhoff laid out six dimensions of pop culture, one of them is it being everyday culture. Even before I read the article, I already had that thought in mind. Pop culture is what the common people instinctively embrace… and that is it.

We often do not realise how culture is something that we preach and does not always practice. In many cases, a culture represents a society’s loudly-expressed ideals approved by the Establishment, not the actual day-to-day practice of the ordinary people.

If a culture is always the photographic representation of a society, sexually conservative societies would not have high rates of teenage pregnancies, sexual assaults and STDs. Self-proclaimed free societies would not have politicians that advocate violation of freedom. I’d love to call out specific countries. But, I am already going too far on a tangent.

Anyway, I don’t mind pop culture. I genuinely understand why it is loved by many. In fact, I find it to be mentally relieving at times. But, pretending that it represents who we are is extremely dishonest. We should always remember pop culture’s main purpose: pushing escapism.

Pop culture’s idea of entertainment involves abducting us from our loathsome earthly existence to a world of bewitching illusions. That’s nice, isn’t it? If we want a culture to represent us, pick one that can’t even be bothered to allude to reality. Never pick ones that encourage contemplation. Ever.

A disclaimer: when I said pop culture, I was referring to the low-quality kind. There are times when pop culture works successfully combine both escapism and contemplative depth. The Golden Girls is one good example, with frequent social commentaries and occasional emotional moments. Anyway…

If you hate the highbrow because you hate intellectualism and artistry, just say it! Don’t say that your hatred is motivated by genuine anti-elitism when it isn’t. Using such pretext makes you a fraud. Nobody with sane state of mind would want to be one…

Wait, maybe you want to be one. Maybe you are one of those pathetic nobodies who believe life is all about others’ superficial recognition. You will do anything to be the so-called voice of the common people. Fondling your fragile ego is more important than being truthful.

Either that or you just from cognitive dissonance. Maybe you genuinely believe pop culture is not escapist, never was and never will be. You believe intellectualism and artistry are escapism in its purest, unadulterated form. You’re unable to acknowledge your defective mental clarity.

This anti-highbrow sentiment is hypocritical and self-defeating. You exclude anything that you consider highbrow and anyone who embrace it. But then, you exclude. You are committing exclusion. Your efforts to combat elitism ends up creating another form of elitism, where the lowbrow is the only acceptable norms. As I said, hypocritical and self-defeating.

What’s the point of this article? Well, first of all, writing insults is fun for me. Second, I believe our expressions of distaste for certain things should be properly constructed. Our attempts to appeal to the masses should be based on sincerity, not pandering and deceit. Our reasoning should also be sound and coherent; always reconsider every single one of our thoughts. Critical thinking is undeniably arduous. But, it is possible to do and worth the efforts.

Note about the referenced article:

I initially wanted to make a complete citation of Willem Frijhoff’s article. The problem is I forget where I got the article from. I did find a Dutch academic also named Willem Frijhoff. But, his area of specialisation is history and there was no indication that he ever dealt with pop culture studies. Academic studies can be interdisciplinary in nature which still makes me wonder if he is the Willem Frijhoff I am looking for.

I hate the highbrow

*puts on a mask*

No, not because of the snobbery we tend to identify with it. Believe me, arrogance should be the least of our problems. In fact, I don’t get why people hate any expressions of self-confidence. I hate the highbrow because… well… it is highbrow.

I hate how intellectualism is even a thing. Life is and will always be black and white. I know because my eyesight says so! If we think deeper, the reputation of my colourless vision would be damaged! That’s not acceptable! My vision is and the only correct one. I know because I am always right! Believing otherwise is literally more sinful than murder. Literally!

I hate how artistry is also a thing. Purely escapist entertainment is the real deal. Artistry encourages depth. It turns entertainment to a more profound experience. Blech! It makes me want to puke. The only true purpose of entertainment is to instill mindlessness to our lives so that anyone will keep submitting their bodies and souls to my black and white perception.

That is humans’ main purpose in life: to love my superficial, empty-headed mind more than anything else, not even themselves. Especially themselves. Artistry and intellectualism are obstacles to humanity’s path towards intellectual and artistic decline. Ultimately, few will become my retarded bitches.

The world without humans becoming my retarded bitches is not worth fighting for.

*takes off the mask*

NALM-OWCD

*puts on a mask*

I know this is a bit late.

I support Blue Lives Matter. No, not because I believe police forces are crucial to societal safety or respect for the officers who risk their lives everyday. I support the movement because I love abuse of power and violence. For me, they make the most enticing forms of sexual pleasure. There is no day when I don’t spend time jerking or fucking off to compilation videos of blood-lust officers in action.

Then, something happened.

An Australian white woman was shot dead by a black Muslim officer. A white person brutalised by a Muslim of colour. That gives my cock a severe case of impotence! Worse, that also makes my blood literally boils!

How dare an ISIS n****r killed an inherently innocent white person? I am fuckin’ angry that white Christians’ prerogative right for violence is getting raped! That literally violates every single human rights declaration in existence! Heck, even those primitive and ungrateful n****r countries in Africa legally acknowledge that privilege! My feewings! My fragile feewings! MOOOOMMYYYYY!!!!

Sorry. But, that really hurts me. I needed to calm myself with my whitewashed teddy and drink hot white cocoa from a baby bottle. Oh and I took three bottles of Viagra, watched hours of neo-Nazi snuff films and raped every non-white living creature I encountered just to get my cock rose again.

Besides the torment that fragile me had to endure, I also had deep thoughts about Blue Lives Matter. I believe, as movement, it should be merged with All Lives Matter (cognitive dissonance is the prerogative of right-wingers, by the way). Then, the resulting coalition should be named Not All Lives Matter, Only White and Christian Ones Do… or NALM-OWCD for short.

For me, this name is more appropriate. Only white and Christian lives matter. If we are being honest with ourselves, that is literally the reason why people worship Blue Lives Matter and All Lives Matter. Both groups are dishonestly named. NALM-OWCD conveys honesty. I believe every single one of us must show our true colours to the world! That way, it would be easier to spot your friends and foes.

*takes off the mask*

My identity

(Based on my New Media class assignment. It was made in 2014. Three years ago. In this new version, I will also compare my 2014 view with the current one.)

The pictures above are screenshots of the pages I like on Facebook. The shrinks among you will try to ‘psychoanalyse’ me based on that alone. I am sure you will get your ‘analyses’ wrong. Yes, what I like reveals my true self. But, I have only shown you eighteen pages. You should also consider the groups I join, my taste, my backgrounds, what I share online and how I interact with fellow human beings online and offline. Here, I will discuss how I form my online identity and its legitimacy as a form of legitimacy. First, we need to define what identity is.

2017 update:

Some of the Youtubers featured in the screenshot… well… I have stopped watching them almost completely since 2015, a year after I made this assignment. I also liked a page called ‘Positive Outlooks’. Yeah, I don’t remember how I ended up liking a page with such revoltingly-syrupy name.

R. Atchley (cited in Kelly 2010) defines identity as a group of traits that distinguish a self from the others; it is the only thing that can represent a self. I personally see myself having more than one; my online behaviour is different from the offline one. Stard and Prusak (cited in Kelly 2010) believed that to be true; they stated a self can have more than one depending on how it represents itself. An online identity is different from its offline counterpart because the former tends to be more mindfully presented, considering how social media gives users more time (Champagne cited in Bouvier 2012, p. 40). Every identity is legitimate despite contradicting each other. Online, I have two: humanist and spiritual.

2017 updates:

It is anecdotal, but I believe online identities are not always sensible; they can be a lot nastier than the offline ones. New media seem to be good at breaking down our metaphysical guard.

I still believe one can embrace two seemingly clashing identities; humans are complex creatures. But, I also admit the syncretic identification can appear as cognitive dissonances to most people, especially when said individuals refuse to acknowledge the contradictions’ existence.

My humanist identity is an identity I embrace when dealing with fellow human beings. It covers my social, political and cultural identity. When online, it is mostly liberal and internationalist in nature. I constantly clash with conservatives, I prefer English over Indonesian and most online articles I read are about international issues instead of local ones. When I first joined Facebook, I was far less international but was already liberal. Then, I started to meet people from all over the world and had good relationships with them. Offline, it is a different case.

I still have shreds of conservatism and nationalism inside my offline self. My lifestyle is neither too liberal nor too conservative. I live in Australia at the moment, studying in an international university and have no problem respecting local customs. But, I spend most of social life interacting with fellow Indonesians and acting like a stereotypical Indonesian inside my house. Even though both are different, my online and offline identities greatly influence each other. I would be completely completely liberal and international online if my offline self is not more moderate and more nationalistic. Unlike my humanist identity, my spiritual identity took longer to form itself.

2017 updates:

I am not sure about my usage of the word ‘humanist’. Humanism is often defined as a divine-less and human-centred form of spirituality. It is obvious how my so-called humanist identity has nothing to do with spirituality. Back then, I did not bother to open my thesaurus. Now, I think ‘temporal’ or ‘profane’ are the more appropriate choices.

I was fooling myself when I said I had good relationships with everyone on Facebook. I did end up being close to some users. But, at the same time, I also had many clashes caused by various reasons. Sooo easy to interact with me.

Now, I am back to Indonesia, even though I am still studying off-campus mode on the same university. The reason I mostly interacted with Indonesians while living abroad is I lived with my sister, who had many Indonesian friends and acquaintances in Australia. If my sister was not with me, I would have more interactions with Aussies. If you barely socialise and you live in Australia, your interactions would mostly consist of Aussies. Duh!

Spirituality does not have a universally-accepted definition. I personally define it as a way to embrace one’s true self; it is not necessarily about connecting with the divine as agnostics and atheists may also describe themselves as ‘spiritual’. My online spiritual identity is a reformed/progressive one. I believe there must be a reform in the way believers interpret religious teachings. On Facebook, I join groups and like pages dedicated to progressive/reformed/ Muslims; I also like pages dedicated to progressive Christians. If online users ask what my religion is, I would immediately answer progressive/reformed Islam. Offline, once again, it is a different case.

I am closeted with my belief in order to avoid any conflicts. There are not many openly progressive Muslims. The internet is our safe haven, the only place where we are able to congregate peacefully (most of the time); the online congregation is more spiritually satisfying than the ones I encounter in mosques. But, there is a problem with my spiritual identity: it is insecure and fragile.

I am doubtful that I perfectly represent my identity. I tend to have low tolerance of conservative and moderate Muslims, even the non-violent ones, seemingly contradicting my so-called progressive nature. Technically, I am a progressive/reformist-wannabe militant liberal. It will actually help if I interact with more people, not just the ones who claim to be progressive.

Piotr Bobkowski (2008) believed young people are not enlightened enough to properly express their faith (p. 3) and yet they can be too showy (p. 21). Literally me. I am very quick to announce my religiosity while still not being learned enough. Compared that to my fellow self-identified progressive/reformist Muslims who are both well-read and reserved.

2017 updates:

I still embrace that definition of spirituality. But, nowadays, it has become more layered and slightly more complex (only slightly). I realised how I defined it in 2014 was too simplistic and superficial.

I keep typing ‘reformed/progressive’ regarding my Islamic identity. Many people use the two words interchangeably, sometimes along with the word ‘liberal’. From what I know, there are no established distinctions between reformist, progressive and liberal Muslims. But, I tend to identify with the first two as I do think liberalism is different from progressivism and reformism.

My militant liberal attitude was short-lived. I was very impressionable and let myself influenced by the nasty self-proclaimed reformed/progressive Muslims whose idea of progressive Islam includes selling their fellow believers to anti-Muslim bigots. That’s why I am often reluctant to join online communities dedicated to such well-intentioned movement. It is too bad because many self-proclaimed progressives out there still maintain their dignity.

I agree with Bobkowski to an extend. It is true youngsters are prone to irrationality and immaturity; unsurprising considering how young brains are not fully-developed. But, at the same time, adults can also be guilty of the same, especially when it comes to spirituality. Case in point, those sell-out so-called progressive Muslims.

Online identity is as legitimate as its offline counterpart. In the digital era, both are inevitable crucial parts in overall human identities. One can’t live without the other, despite seemingly different from the surface. It is not important if they are different from each other or not, it is more important if they are true to a person’s true self and they don’t make him or her an intolerant individual.

2017 update:

It should be like this: it is more important if they encourage our true selves to embrace reason and high moral standards.

 

Bobkowski, P 2008, ‘An Analysis of Religious Identity Presentation on Facebook’, International Communication Association 2008 Annual Meeting – Conference Paper, pp. 1-24.

 

Bourvier, G 2012, ‘How Facebook users select identity categories for self-presentation,’ Journal of Multicultural Discourses, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 37-53.

 

Kelly, L 2010, What is Identity?, Australian Museum, retrieved 19 May 2010, <http://australianmuseum.net.au/blogpost/Museullaneous/What-is-identity>.

Diversity and a shared identity

What is culture? Well, it is often seen as a tool to determine how one perceives life and seen as an inseparable part of our identity. For many, cultural identity is easy to pin down. But, for anyone of multiple backgrounds, it is quite problematic. It is even more problematic to pin down the identity of an entire country.

It is no secret that Australia is a multicultural country and has always been. Before the arrivals of Europeans, the continent was already diverse with hundreds of indigenous languages being spoken (assuming one language represents one culture). Under the White Australia policy, the country was still multicultural, albeit differently, with massive immigration from various European countries. Now, it can be argued that the country is even more multicultural considering there are less restrictions for non-European immigration. How about Indonesia?

Unlike Australia, Indonesia still retains its native population. But, like Australia, it is also multicultural and has always been. There are over 300 native ethnics groups in the country. Many regional cultures are strongly shaped by Indian, Chinese, Arab, Dutch and Portuguese influences. Overall, Chinese-Indonesians are the fifteenth biggest ethnic group (Badan Pusat Statistik 2010, p. 9). An assortment of indigenous and international flavours. How does one determine the overall cultural identities of each country? Well, almost a trick question. One cannot do that simply to a highly diverse country.

In the case of Australia, some may argue the country’s identity must be based on Anglo-Saxon culture as the white people of such heritage are the majority. But, it is discriminating against white people and racial minorities of other roots. Some may argue that Aussie identity must be of Aboriginal roots. But, most Aussies are not Aboriginals. Forcing non-Aboriginals to embrace Aboriginal culture, something they are not familiar with, is also discriminatory. Even if they settle on it, there is another problem: which indigenous culture should they choose?

As I said, there are lots of them to choose from. I am not familiar with a single one. But, I can safely assume some are very distinct from each other. If they prefer the easy way out by choosing only one, they would create needless conflicts by culturally alienating a chunk of the population. Even if the chosen culture is also the most numerically dominant, cultural well-being of the minorities should be something to be mindful of. Similar case with Indonesia.

Forming 40 per cent of the country’s total population, Javanese people are the biggest ethnic group. Unsurprisingly, they are among the most culturally influential ethnic groups in the country. Javanese words are widely-used in pop culture, Javanese foods are easily found everywhere, Javanese social hierarchies are used in the establishments and all Indonesian presidents, living or deceased, have Javanese blood running through their veins. But, when we look at other ethnicities, we will see lots of disparities.

Batak people, Madurese people, Bugis people and a group of smaller Sulawesi ethnicities are the third, fifth, eighth and fourth biggest groups, respectively (2010). Yet, apart from the shallow stereotyping of the first two, I know nothing about their heritages. Nothing. I know some singers of Batak descent; even then, they sing westernised pop songs. Foods of those cultures are unheard of on a national level. Compared that to other statistically smaller peoples.

Batak people, Madurese people, Bugis people and a group of smaller Sulawesi ethnicities are the third, fifth, eighth and fourth biggest groups, respectively (2010). Yet, apart from the shallow stereotyping of the first two, I know nothing about their heritages. Nothing. I know some singers of Batak descent; even then, they sing westernised pop songs. Foods of those cultures are unheard of on a national level. Compared that to other statistically smaller peoples.

To summarise, the national identities of both countries are relatively sound considering they are based on the ancestral heritage of each country’s masses. Relatively sound. The exclusion of other heritages also embraced by the people is, as I said, alienating. It is gross disunity. Yes, 100% inclusivity is impossible. But, when they entirely exclude even the numerically significant cultures, the unification effort is either half-arse or a sugarcoated form of sectarianism. If only there is no diversity…

What if there is none? Surely, homogeneity would make it easier to define a country’s national identity. There is literally just one available option. No minorities to be mindful of. Only one national collective, united under a definite cultural singularity. Except, that premise ignores who we really are: human beings.

We tend to see ourselves as mere collectives. But, we often forget that one human collective embodies distinct human individuals, each with their own biases. An utterly all-embracing agreement on anything can never be realised. Not one. Not even on matters like cultural identity. Especially on matters like cultural identity.

Culture is abstract and inherently intangible; it is unaffected by cold objectivity and it will always succumb to our biases. In the end, a culture is not defined by a joint agreement, but by the ones who speak the loudest, the ones who see themselves as worthy spokespersons. It does not matter if many disapprove. The conceited loudmouths win and we ought to listen to them.

In conclusion, there is no easy way to determine a country’s cultural identity; any of such efforts will forever be contentious. But, from my personal point of view, there is a way out.

A study shows youths who have experienced racial and cultural education are less likely to show signs of racism (Mansouri 2009, p. 110). Frankly, I do not know if they are genuinely unprejudiced or just being politically correct. But, we still can learn something from this: cultural backgrounds do not matter. What matters is our sense of belonging in which we identify as Indonesians, Aussies or what have you and unite with fellow citizens. Never ever let others using our predestined familial circumstances to negate your self-proclaimed identification.

Badan Pusat Statistik 2010, Kewarganegaraan, suku bangsa, agama dan bahasa sehari-hari penduduk Indonesia, BPS, Jakarta.

Mansouri, F, Jenkins, L, Morgan, L & Taouk, M 2009, The impact of racism upon the health and wellbeing of young Australians, Foundations For Young Australians, Melbourne.

Syrian refugees: help them…and don’t

(An article based on my philosophy class essay)

Refugee crisis. It seems to be an everlastingly divisive facet of human life. To help or not to help, that is the question. Many are dangerously single-minded once they have taken a stance. Some wish to welcome refugees because of moral obligations. Others refuse to because of security and financial reasons. I am among those who are neither.

I believe literally everything in life has its strengths and weaknesses. In this case, I can spot them straight away. The welcomers may be motivated by a sense of humanity, or a lack of common sense. The refusers may be motivated by common sense, or a sense of inhumanity. Here, I will scrutinise the motives of both sides and try to present some possible solutions in the end. Oh and I will use the Syrian refugee crisis as a case study.

Don’t help them

Against:

For me, there are creatures worse than the openly immoral ones: the pretenders. In this case, they claim to be refusers because of security and financial concerns. But, in truth, the sense of practicality has been just a false face that unconvincingly hides bigotry, unmistakably visible for every living soul to witness. How they slander the refugees says a lot.

First, they love to accuse every single one as economic migrants, despite the fact that they are not. A refugee’s motive is to escape extreme harms at all cost. An economic migrant only needs a better job opportunity. Literally two different types of people! Never mind that such idiotic understanding of the vocabulary insults our intelligence. The accusers slander the refugees as money-hungry beings who were never in danger in the first place! Of course, they have to jack up the vilification by bringing Jihadism.

Some believe many refugees are Trojan horses for ISIS. Others believe all of them are! The refusers use a solid evidence that is paranoia and extreme fear of the ‘others’. They look different, their culture is different and their God is different; therefore, they are inherently evil and must be treated as such. This and the economic migrants accusation reduce the refugees as diverse and complex human beings to dehumanising stereotypes that exudes dangerous falsehood. This kind of refusers believe refugees should be left to die. Besides the shameless immorality, the refusers also have an unreasonable demand: gender and age quotas.

They are offended after finding out that (from a cherry-picked selection of photos) most refugees are supposedly young men; they believe young men must stay in war-ridden Syria and fight. Even in a matter of life and death, we must always uphold arbitrary and ever-changing gender roles; God forbids if we prioritise human well-being over cavemen customs.

For:

But, this side of the argument can also have a strength: the inclusion of rationality. Admittedly, it is can feel cruelly cold and seemingly defies our innate human nature. But, our contemptuous opinions still do not conceal the fact that we need rationality. It is one thing that elevates us to a status other earthly beings have yet to achieve. So what if it feels cold? That is something we have to deal with it. Besides, that coldness is useful in warding off a disease called sentimentality.

Sentimentality encourages us to execute decisions based on whether they feel right or not. Feelings matter, reason doesn’t. Sentimental people may think it is a moral and humane approach to life. But, in truth, it is nothing but selfishness. We do things because we want to please ourselves emotionally, not because we think hard about what is actually best for ourselves and others. We cannot remedy the world with sentimentality.

Help them

Against:

I am quick to berate anyone who demonise refugees with slanders. But, I also oppose the idea of unconditional acceptance. It’s financially reckless to the host countries’ finance. Assisting refugees is costly for everyone; even the wealthiest countries have limited savings. Refugees are not economic migrants whom we can ethically screen simply based on their skills. Either we limit their intake or not taking a single one of them. Unlimited intake should never be an option. Besides this, security is also an issue.

I believe most refugees are not security risks. But, there is no doubt that a handful possibly are; terrorists are often in disguise. As the atrocities of Jihadists are notorious, vigilance is essential. Unconditional acceptance means we endanger the lives of many innocent people. The same immorality we see on the dehumanisation of refugees. Besides security, integration is also a problem.

I love diversity and I am all for its existence. But, when sickly, it is prone to sectarianism. When we refuse to respect others’ identities and be reasonable about our own, conflicts are inevitable. The arrival of outsiders is a good example.

If you plan to stay permanently in your new home, integrate! Cultures are abstract entities. Trust me, you can embrace more than one of them! There is no excuse to not blend in. Heck, even if you don’t plan to stay permanently, never ever force the locals to embrace your culture. In the end, the locals will be antagonised at their own homes and outsiders will be even more marginalised. My fellow supporters of diversity barely talk against this.

For:

Abdusalam Guseinov expressed how rationality is not always the sensible approach to problems (2014). He believes morality is about our ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ choices and that is supposedly out of rationality’s scope. Just like emotions, rationality should also be tamed.

Sometimes, seemingly contradicting my previous statement, the best decisions we can make are based on whether they feel right or not. The ‘coldness’ of reason is not inherently bad. But, we should not let it take over us if we don’t want to see our fellow human beings as mere piles of flesh, blood and bones.

After visiting a refugee camp with her colleagues, sociologist Elizabeth Holzer saw how the refugees’ daily lives were still similar to our own (2014, p. 868). They are not that different from us, despite the differing religious and cultural backgrounds, despite them experiencing an extreme situation which we should be grateful for not enduring it ourselves. This is not a philosophical musing, this is a methodical sociological observation. It should be more than enough to prove their humanness.

Possible solutions

My proposed solution is obvious if one reads the previous paragraphs. We should consider the possible risks of welcoming refugees while, at the same time, confronting the bigotry against them. I also believe the inclusion of rationality and emotions should be strictly balanced.

Of course, my solution is too simplistic and it barely counts as one. I am also literally one person. I also spend. Social issues are very complex and require complex solutions constructed by people of various perspectives. This is why we need global ethics.

It is the best solution we have so far because it fulfills the nationalistic needs of individual countries, while still taking ‘universal moral values’ into consideration (Wonicki 2014, p. 261). Ethics (and philosophy in general) still has objectivity, albeit different the one in science. Ethics sees validity in every viewpoint, as long as they are based on good reasoning and solid evidences. They can be rejected for their fallacies and saying they are just ‘opinions’ is a poor defense. Now that we have one proposed solution, how are we going to implement it?

Philosopher Keith Horton (2014) believed he and his colleagues must reach the masses if they desire to popularise ethics discussions. He proposed these steps (pp. 308-309): 1. do further research on relevant ‘strategic’ issues; 2. make them presentable to wider audiences; 3. join or establish networks; 4. establish relations with non-academic groups and/or individuals with similar goals.

Again, Horton is just one person. His proposals’ effectiveness has yet to be proven. But, unlike me, he was giving genuinely more empirical suggestions. If there are more ethicists who make similar endeavours, it would be easier to improve the relatively young and underdeveloped discipline (Dower 2014, p. 14). Besides that, we should also involve the media in this conversation.

Edward Girardet and Loretta Hieber stated how journalists refuse to advocate humanitarianism, citing objectivity as a pretext. But then, those same journalists are eager to promote their government’s patriotic endeavours or commercialism in general (2002, p. 166). Whether those actions are journalistic or not, that is an entirely different matter.

Those so-called journalists drop their objectivity only when it is personally beneficial for them to do so. The media should admit this deep-rooted hypocrisy and courageously confront it (Girardet & Hieber 2002, p. 166). Bear in mind that the media is greatly powerful.

Girardet and Hieber (p. 172) suggested that, in order to spread the words, humanitarian organisations need to study the societal roles of media and to join forces with independent media. They also argued that independent media should bring their ‘faith in quality reporting’ back to life instead of giving in. We cannot expect commercial media to be self-reflective any time soon, if ever.

Just like Horton’s, Girardet and Hieber’s proposal is far from perfect, albeit (again) better than mine. Once again, we need more individuals partaking in this conversation. More participation means more perspectives. More perspectives means the more we (ideally) would be mindful in the problem-solving.

Girardet, E & Hieber, L 2002, ‘The media and humanitarian values’, Refugee survey quarterly, vol. 21, no. 3, 166-172.

Guseinov, AE 2014, ‘Morality as the limit rationality’, Russian studies in philosophy, vol. 52, no. 3, pp. 18-38.

Holzer, E 2014, ‘Humanitarian crisis as everyday life’, Sociological forum, vol. 29, no. 4, pp. 851-872.

Horton, K 2014, ‘Global ethics: increasing our positive impact’, Journal of global ethics, vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 304-311.

Dower, N 2014, ‘Global ethics: dimensions and prospects’, Journal of global ethics, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 8-15.

Wonicki, R 2014, ‘Global ethics and human responsibility: challenges for the theory and discipline’, Journal of global ethics, vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 261-266.

Pewdiepie and Trump: literally not the same!

pewdiepie internet 2017 main

Not long ago, Felix Kjellberg AKA Pewdiepie was accused of anti-Semitism. Well, to this day, he is still accused of it. Admittedly, he is known for his humour which can be extremely obscene, even for fans like me. But, a racist he is not.

I understand that jokes like his can be unpalatable and can be abused by bigots. But, I am one of those who differentiate vulgarity from bigotry. Of course, mainstream media outlets rebuff that. Their disagreement with this view compel them to perform shameless dishonesty.

Instead of analysing his videos in their entirety, the media extracted some parts and reported them…without giving any contexts! Many in the Youtube community, including fellow content creators and even his detractors, came to defend him and called out the so-called journalists who thought slander was journalistic! Traditional media keep trying to besmirch their digital counterparts; this case wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last. The annoyance doesn’t stop there.

Some people who were on Pewds’ side compared him to Donald Trump. They believed both shared the same hardship in their public life. Admittedly, they also have to endure daily dose of dehumanising hatred. But, I still can’t see them equals.

First of all, Trump is not being slandered. The media simply report his words and actions that -in any given contexts- blatantly show rejection of the facts, childishness and inhumanity towards his fellow human beings. Admittedly, lies about him do spread around. But, they are minuscule in number compared to unsavoury yet truthful reports of him. That’s different case with Pewdiepie.

Even before the anti-Semitism accusation, people accused him of other horrendous things, like beating his girlfriend and stealing money from his numerous charity fundraising. The evidence? Well, their deep hatred of his videos. They couldn’t lay out circumstantial evidences, let alone the conclusive ones. But, despite all of the falsehood, his fans keep defending him, knowing how poisonous his haters can be.

About Trump’s fans, I notice a juxtaposition. While some do condemn the accusations as slanders, others hold unsettling stances. A portion of them are apathetic and that’s bad enough; apathy towards immorality, even when alleged, means one greenlights its existence. The others are far worse: his lack of morale exhilarates them.

They don’t see his childishness, sexual abuse of women, fear-mongering, rejection of facts, bullying and prejudice as sins. In fact, they believe a strong and powerful leader must possess those attributes. Level-headness, rationality and human decency are seen as sugary, vomit-inducing abnormalities that inherently weak humans crave for. Trump relishes on pandering.

He knows how much his fans fetishise over such sins. The more he boasts them, the more he empowers his fans. For him, popularity is far more important than the dignity of the masses he is sacrificing. As crass as Pewdiepie can be, he still believes in social responsibility.

In recent years, Pewdiepie lost a group of fans because he has stopped pandering to their immaturity, irrationality and lack of sophistication. As he matures, he realises how unprincipled his old self was for empowering his obnoxious fans. Nowadays, he is known for openly lambasting their behaviours. Having many admirers isn’t worth sacrificing the dignity of one’s self and the masses; thankfully, his self-improvement is accompanied by a counter-intuitively fattening fan base.

Many people still don’t realise that Pewdiepie is a satirical character created by Felix Kjellberg. Long time or observant viewers know how to distinguish them from each other. Entertainers aren’t obliged to confirm whether they are in characters or not. Yet Kjellberg has explicitly stated that Pewdiepie is fictional and doesn’t represent his true self. Predictably, not the case with Trump.

I have heard speculations about how Trump the politician is also a character. If that is true (if!), it’s problematic. He keeps convincing everyone, especially his fans, that the persona is a real person. He deliberately and dangerously block out the line between the real and the unreal. But then, what can one expect from a politician? A shred of decency?

Also, ‘normal people’ got consequences for their mistakes. When I said ‘normal people’, I meant people who don’t have extra privileges like fame, fortune or both. Pewdiepie has both and the consequences he got are quite severe.

Apart from the backlashes, he had his Disney contract eliminated, his costly and highly-anticipated web series cancelled and his videos temporarily demonetised. Not to mention mainstream media outlets are constantly thirsty of his blood, keep intentionally distorting his subsequent videos. Despite his fame and fortune, he’s still quite close to be one of the ‘normal ones’, unlike Trump.

From all the horrible things he has said and done, we punish Trump by creating meaningless backlashes…and making him one of the most powerful individuals on earth. If he is an ordinary person, he would have suffer greater consequences than Felix Kjellberg had. Heck, he would’ve suffered more than his detractors like Reza Aslan and Kathy Griffin had. What we’re doing to him are just a weak microscopic slap to the wrist.

He escapes all of the deserving punishments and still manages to act like the most prosecuted person in the world. Kjellberg suffers punishments harsher than he deserves. But, he acknowledges how undesirable he can be; he is a bigger man than Trump will ever be. Even professionally, he is of lower class than Pewdiepie is.

Trump is a so-called master for the dimwits. They believe him when he said a million dollar loan from daddy is small. They think him hiring multiple bankruptcies and conning people show money-savvy he is. Don’t start with his lack of political experience. Bring that up and they will call you petty for having a decent standard; don’t you know that making political tweets counts? But, there is one expertise he masters: showmanship.

Love or hate him, he is a fantastic reality show star. I even religiously watched The Apprentice at one point. If they want to brag a talent of his, why wouldn’t they bring up this fact? Oh, right. That would make him a politically-illiterate obnoxious celebrity. You know, what they have been accusing anti-Trump celebrities of. They would hate to see their orange calf as someone who doesn’t know his place. You know who does? Felix Kjellberg

You may abhor his aesthetics which, as I’ve said before, can be too jarring even for his fans. But, the man behind the character is skilled. The excessively unpalatable editing is actually time consuming. Some of his shorter videos (less than ten minutes long) are produced out of seamlessly-edited hours-long footage. Don’t forget his photo-shopping skills. Yes, every Youtuber needs it to create thumbnails. But, few expand theirs even further.

In some videos, he has fun with photoshopping; occasionally, his fans request him to photoshop their own photos. The results are usually either hilarious or freaky enough for you to scream ‘KILL IT WITH FIRE!’. When you look at them, you will think they are just results of high technical mastery of computer softwares. No aesthetic profoundness whatsoever. But, before his Youtube career took off, he already made lots of photoshopping works and boy, they are beautiful.

Just look at them. You would think they were created by an actual artist. Of course, you wouldn’t have guessed that artist is the same man who play video games, screams like a little bitch and make Nazi jokes for a living. With that fact, it’s surprising how his videos’ visuals lack any pleasing aesthetics. But, his artistry brings depth to another aspect of his Youtube works: his commentaries.

Every time he seriously remarks on a pop culture phenomenon or reviews a video game, his words always contain valuable insight that provoke level-headed and intelligent individuals to ponder about. He does those while still making self-deprecating jokes. The result? An unpretentious and down-to-earth intelligent Youtuber…who also knows his place.

As a content creator who craves variety, he has made commentaries with a wide range of subject matters. But, if you look closely, almost all of them are concerning pop culture and the media, digital one included. Unlike Trump, Kjellberg is aware what he is knowledgeable and ignorant about and he builds an indestructible (and actually beneficial) giant wall between them.

Even at many paragraphs ago, it was already obvious how different both men are. But, I will end this article by briefly talk about a slightly tangential and borderline ad hominem distinction: their true selves.

As celebrities, both have met many people in-person and each of them receives two contrasting receptions. One has people judging his appalling treatment of his fellow human beings since ever. Another has been complimented by others for his surprising good-natured bearing, juxtaposing his infamous public persona. Guess which one is which?

Yup.

Sorry, I forgot to include this.

I have seen Youtube comments that assert non-existing parallels between Pewdiepie and Trump. Each comment received dozens of likes. As irritating as it is, I sound like I am exaggerating its presence, making it sounds more widespread than it really is.

Yes, there are possibly hundreds or thousands of individuals who believe in such comparison. But, such belief is still a fringe. From my (admittedly limited) observation, the believers have yet to reigned over any comment sections of Facebook posts and Youtube videos that are tackling the Pewdiepie scandal. The reason why I accidentally inflated is how much I am personally annoyed by those people’s lack of wits. It’s simple as that.

I promise this article really ends here.

Or does it?

Those bad apples….

stock-photo-basket-of-apples-isolated-on-a-white-background-55809220

It seems everyone has an opinion about the Muslim world. Many believe that most Muslims are extremists. Some of them usually refer to stats based on a small sample of Muslims and snub other stats who show contradicting results. Either that or they use the fantabulously infallible evidences: the anecdotes; even evidences unearthed by thoroughly-executed scientific researches are nothing compared to personal experiences of individuals with filthy lenses.

Then, there’s another kind of bigots. They believe extremists are a tiny minority…which the peaceful majority are responsible for. They believe the entire Muslim world is a literal formal organisation, with subservient and well-connected members, complete with clear-cut ranks and lawful centralised authorities. What a wonderful smoking gun; now they have grounds to blame all Muslims. Conspiracies, always too good to be true, don’t they?

They refuse to admit that Muslims are, in fact, an actual religious group, consisting of distinct individual human beings that mostly aren’t affiliated with each other. We have an assortment of Islamic denominations, sub-denominations and movements which many of us refuse to join in.

We don’t acknowledge the same authorities. They can be celebrity clerics, organisations, ministers of religious affairs or even some obscure preachers who settle in some obscure mosques in obscure neighbourhoods or villages. Heck, many of us don’t even acknowledge any religious authorities at all; we are content with our private spirituality. Should I mention there are over a billion of us on earth? That would be a management catastrophe, wouldn’t it?

Those extremists are indeed venomous bad apples and ought to be taken care off. But, if you want to throw tantrums to Muslims, make sure they are actually guilty. Berate Muslims who are aware of extremism and yet do nothing about it. Berate Muslims who consciously empower its growth. There are lots of them to choose from.

But, it’s glaringly idiotic to think you can berate any random Muslims. Guilt by association is a real fallacy. If you don’t know how stupid that is, just imagine a person who blame every ingredient in the kitchen, including the sugar, for salting his food. For me, it’s less about stupidity and more about prejudice. But, that’s a topic for another time.

At this point, you probably think this article is all about Muslims. Well, to an extend, it is. But, my main concern here is more about the so-called collective guilt. For next example, I will discuss about the police. American police forces to be exact.

American right wingers are notorious for being liable of such fallacy. I do admit they are not the only culprits; even western leftists can succumb to idiocy (or prejudice). The reason why the Right infuriates me in this matter is their hypocrisy.

In the US in recent years, there is an increase in public awareness about police corruptness and brutality. Outrage is loudly expressed. Demands for accountability also increases. People don’t want legal immunity for anyone with uniforms. Then, the Right chime in to defend.

They dismiss the concern as nothing but paranoia, the dignified outrage as nothing but tantrum. They believe there’s nothing wrong with the police forces; cases of corrupt and violent officers are isolated incidents. Just a few bad apples, they say…

No, they are not just a few bad apples. Police forces are actual formal organisations with obedient members, clear-cut ranks and centralised authorities; you know, attributes that the Right unfoundedly think the entire Muslim world has. With such characteristic in place, it’s very definite that a few cases of immorality can be blamed on the entire collectives.

For every few sinful officers, there are approving colleagues, indulgent or sinful superiors, slacking internal affairs officers, inept trainers and recruiters, or a combination of any of them. They all have the legal power and duty to thwart the diseases’ growth. But then, how can function when they’re already infected? They would rather quarantine the healthy ones instead.

I know some of you (if people read my works at all) will start accusing Muslims of silence. Usually, I’d tell you lot to google first before vomiting oral excrement. But, in the end, when you do admit our lack of silence, you will always say we aren’t doing enough. How can our efforts pay off when we’re not supported?

In predominantly-Muslim countries, the authorities love to dismiss the concern of pluralist Muslims while being too lenient towards the extremist ones. Worse, they may even prosecute those pluralist Muslims instead. In the case of Central Asia, the authorities implement anti-extremism legislation so discriminatory, it would potentially affect the innocents. In the west, it is not any better.

Western Muslims are frequently ordered to report extremist individuals. When they do (and many of them will without being ordered to), their words of concern are dismissed as something of no importance. Therefore, the empowerment of extremists is also the fault of non-Muslim westerners.

I explicitly stated that Guilty by Association is a fallacy. Well, that applies to every group on earth, including the police. Unlike the entire Muslim world, it’s logically sound to condemn entire police forces. But, like individual Muslims, it’s logically unsound to berate any random police officers you encounter; their innocence and guilt cannot be assumed.

An individual is literally one person who has his/her own thoughts and feelings. A collective consists of different and contrasting individuals; in some cases, one or a few individuals may completely reign over the other members, influencing the group mentality. Individuals are not collectives and collectives are not individuals.

Frankly, I’m not surprised the American Right embrace this double standard. I mean, they are conservatives. Fearing and demonising the ‘others’ is literally one of their hobbies. They also have a fetish for people in uniforms; they commit a fallacy called Honour by Association, which is also a good topic for another time.

Yes, I just stereotyped other American conservatives. Well, fair is fair. If Muslims can be stereotyped, why can’t we stereotyped them?

Oh and before I end this article, I have to defend Roman Catholics as well.

When anti-Muslim bigots think the Muslim world is a strict formal organisation, anti-religious bigots have the same in mind about every religious group! They literally believe that every single one has deacons, bishops, priests with worshippers on the lowest rank. They seriously base their judgment on skewed understanding of Roman Catholic Church hierarchy.

First of all, Roman Catholics are literally ONE religious group; them alone cannot be used to understand the entire global religious scenes.

Second, ordinary worshippers are indeed members of the church. But, they are not included in the church’s official strata.

Third, even if you include the priests, bishops and deacons to the entire Roman Catholics collective, it would still be an informal group of people. Contrary to popular belief, religious people -including Roman Catholics- can be rebellious. There are ordinary Roman Catholics who openly detest the church’s views; even high-ranking church officials can be deemed heretical by fellow believers. From my personal lens as a Muslim, some contemporary Roman Catholics seem to have mutual and very lax relationships with their priests; I wish Muslims share the same thing with our clerics.

Oh and anti-religious sentiment is also a good topic for another time.

Believers as queer allies

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Believers can be ones. Yes, you read that right. In fact, you need them. As homophobia is often religious, it makes perfect sense.

Non-believers may understand the soul of religious communities. But, believers can reach out to it. They can transform it to a kinder one and hence, kinder believers. Self-accepting LGBT believers in particular can aid closeted fellow believers and encourage religious homophobes to humanise their fellow human beings.

Of course, you may think religiosity is inherently homophobic and I’m just an apologist. Of course, everyone has their own thoughts. But, I want you to admit three things:

First, you’re already lost. You fight for LGBT rights against religious bigots. Then, you find believers who share your cause! They can help encouraging change in the bigots’ hearts. But, you blow it by refusing their alliance. You cripple your own activism.

Second, you support the bigots. You’re theologically in tune with them. In fact, you also support the notion that they are the truest of all believers. The strengthening of their existence isn’t the fault of progressive believers. It’s yours.

Third, you were never a right activist in the first place. You only care about non-religious queers. More anti-religious, the better. No matter how much they are hated by the religious communities, they will always have strong supports. Lucky them.

The religious ones? After the hatred from their fellow believers, a support would be more than morally delightful. Theological agreement optional. But, being heartless you are, you regurgitate almost equally inhumane animosity to their faces. Upgrading their misery and isolation with such innate virtuosity. You must be so proud.

My advise? Stop calling yourself an LGBT right activist. Instead, call yourself a loving person for some …and a heartless enemy for the rest. Unleash your true gangrene self. Don’t be shy! Honesty and self-acceptance, they are good for your soul.

Well, I’m not sure if they are. It takes a lot more to heal yours, if you actually have one. But, at least, you’re no longer a fraudulent angel. You won’t double-cross anyone with that deceitfully sweet mask of yours.