The unworthy finale of Harry Potter

No, neither Fantastic Beasts nor The Cursed Child are HP stories. One is a spin-off and the other is a Rowling-approved fan fiction. The Deathly Hallows (TDH) is and will always be the last HP story (not counting that one short and untitled prequel).

Just like with Half-Blood Prince, I also believe that the problem with The Deathly Hallows is it being a poorly-executed great idea! In this story, most of the characters endure their greatest adversity to date. Throughout their journey, they sacrifice their physical and emotional well-being and they have lost loved ones to Grim Reaper’s embrace. But, the eventual defeat of evil is worth the suffering. The ending should be overwhelming by stirring you with a myriad of emotions all at once. Ideally, we should feel what the characters feel. Ideally.

Instead, I feel nothing but disappointment. One cause for this is unfortunately not preventable.

The thing about Harry Potter series is each story’s plotline, excluding the prologue in Philosopher’s Stone and the epilogue in TDH, always occur within one calendar year. Almost every problem is solved within each fixed time period! Rowling seems to let her imagination limited by her characters’ strictly-scheduled school calendars, despite TDH being set mostly outside Hogwarts. That particular flaw is a sizeable contribution to the series’ unbelievability; counter-intuitively, the magical elements are more believable in comparison. As a result, the concluding work feels too rushed.

Someone (I forgot who) told me it would be better if TDH was divided to three novels… and I agree with him/her.

Prior to TDH, despite having moles working in the government, Voldemort and his followers were seen as criminals by the authorities. But, even then, they were already powerful enough to instill fear in the magical world, constantly breaking the collective morale; they were akin to real life terrorists. Now, imagine them taking over the ministry of magic. Oh, the power they would get. That’s what happen in the last installment.

Yes, they only took over one magical government. But, that was enough to give them dominance they had never had before! They had the legal legitimacy to reign a country’s entire magical community; they could easily instill their extremist ideology to its youths and legally justify their acts of violence and prejudice, both to the Muggles and their fellow magical beings!

And TDH asserts how such regime can be defeated within one school year.

I don’t know any totalitarian regimes that were toppled within such a short period of time. The Khmer Rouge were in power for four years. Afghanistan was entirely governed by the Taliban for five years. Nazi Germany lasted for twelve years. Fascist Italy lasted eight years longer. USSR lasted for sixty-nine years. And those are just the most notable examples! I haven’t mentioned the others who are not less notable globally and the ones that still prevail.

I would love it if the one-year-one-book rule is ditched at this point and Voldemort’s regime lasted for ten years! But, HP is an escapist entertainment; I would compromise by perpetuating the rule and I would agree that a decade can be a bit too long. But, the fact that our heroes’ last and most consequential adventure is only twelve months long and only covered in one book (which is not even the longest HP novel) is too farcical for me to swallow.

This is why I agree with my friend’s/acquaintance’s three-book proposal. Taking three years to defeat a regime is more believable than doing so in one! As much as I love submerging myself in escapism, my tolerance for shameless improbability is not infinite. No, being a fantasy work is not an excuse.

Oh, and this hastiness sabotages HP’s emotional immersion.

Throughout the series, the emotions refuse to take back seats; they proudly assert themselves as major performers. And yet, the ones in TDH don’t have any personal impacts on me as a fan. Despite the strong emotional content, there is a barrier that prevents me from relating to the earthly characters… and I blame it on the epilogue.

The epilogue should be the emotional closure. Rowling could have detailed about the characters’ post-Voldemort life; they would definitely have a problem returning to normal life, suffer from PTSD, mourn the dead, be disheartened by the many families torn apart and jubilantly rejoice Voldemort eternal defeat. For fans, the end of the series is the end of an epic they have been emotionally invested in; the ending should feel like the last farewell to our loved ones. Weariness, sorrow, joy and nostalgia. All distinct emotions which we could have felt simultaneously.

But, instead of treating it as a crucial integrant, Rowling saw it merely as tacky memorabilia sold at the exit of a tourist trap.

One chapter! Never mind that she didn’t divulge the entire Post-Deathly Hallows circumstances of the fictional universe. She didn’t even bother to include any emotions in it. Well, she did include one: happiness. A hollow and insincere happiness. There is nothing about the segment that signifies the existence of harsh reality. It disregards all of the hardships our characters have endured this whole time. It is one of those sentimentally pathetic happy endings.

I believe that you can fix the epilogue without altering the existing last chapter. All you have to do is to add more preceding ones. Personally, I want the entire segment to contain ten in total, each representing a different individual period. I want them to unveil how our characters are gradually leaving their turbulent past behind. If Rowling uses the multi-chapters formula to conclude the epic narrative, I can ensure the happiness would possess sincere wholeheartedness and actual artistic merit.

Once again, I don’t know how to end an article. So, let me write an analogy.

I loved to play Pokemon Ruby. It was one of the very games I had ever fully been immersed in. It was the only game I ever played on Game Boy SP. I would spend many hours daily on it.

I often viewed catching and training Pokemons as my life goals. I felt triumphant every time I fulfilled them, felt like a failure every time I didn’t. I took the game very personally. It is obvious how playing it was more than just escapism for me.

Then, one day, two certain individuals decided to help after seeing my constant struggles. When I said ‘help’, I meant playing the game without my knowledge, handed it back to me AFTER the defeat of all Gym Leaders and Team Magma and expected me to be wonderfully grateful!

Well, wonderfully furious I was! Somehow, they thought I would be happy by being denied the satisfaction of doing most of the work! Maybe they didn’t realise that I was the player, NOT the spectator! Or maybe they are the kind of people who can get satisfaction from passing exams through cheating. Well, knowing my fellow Indonesians, that is very likely the case.

Yes, it is a rather off analogy. Pokemon Ruby is interactive and TDH (the one I have in mind) is literary. One is mostly a fun, lighthearted adventure and one heavily involves evil and death. Two different storytelling mechanism, two different emotional weights. But, there are undeniable similarities between them.

Both cases denied me to experience emotional sensations. I was denied the triumphant feeling for successfully battling the final bosses. Me and my fellow Potheads were denied the opportunity to experience the amalgamation of contrasting emotions for accompanying our beloved characters throughout their entire odyssey.

Obviously, this is not a form of psychological abuse. Our lives are not and will never be haunted by traumas because of it. But, it is still infuriating to come up against. Not only that, considering how we only had ONE chance to experience the pleasure, the denial is a fucking dick move! Admittedly, this sounds a bit too whiny. For some time, I considered the possibility that I complained a bit too much.

Then, I had the realisation: both cases are rooted in intellectual shallowness. In my world, that’s not and should never be tolerated.

The two people who ‘helped’ my Pokemon gameplay seemed content with the idea of ‘achievements’ handed to them on silver platters. The close-mindedness came into play when they never bother to ask if I wanted their so-called ‘help’. They assumed their pitiful mindset was shared by every single grateful human being in existence and refusing such ‘help’ is a sign of ungratefulness. I still regularly see one of the ‘helpers’ to this day and, despite his/her age and university education, she/he is still an intellectual simpleton. Profundity is not his/her strongest suit.

For some reasons, Rowling implemented the one-year-one-book rule all the way through. She had broken a few rules before and one of them she established herself. As a result, Harry Potter became a much more dynamic series.

The Order of Phoenix is packed with conspicuous political critique, inevitably elevating the series’ already-loaded thematics; for a supposedly escapist novel, it loves to remind the readers of their own harsh reality. Even TDH managed to break one rule: unlike its predecessors, it is set mostly outside Hogwarts; of course, because the school is utilised as the climax’s backdrop, its significance is still potent. With the dynamism brought by the deviance, why stop there?

Rowling failed to realise that by being clingy to the one-year rule, she unwittingly increased the unbelievability and churned out impotency. She failed to comprehend that, if you want the story to skillfully steer forward, alteration is a necessity. It is regrettable how she, an experienced writer and an educated person overall, tethers her own creative insight.

Either that or she was pressured to write ONLY seven HP books by her publisher. If that is the case, then it is equally unfortunate. While niche works are prone to pretension and self-righteousness, blockbuster ones are prone to the strong, heavy-handed desire to fill up the piggy banks.

I still don’t know why this massive pile of disappointment exists in the first place. I keep trying to find the rationales and I always end up rambling. Perhaps, I will never obtain any definite and satisfactory answers. Among fans, I also wonder if I am a minority regarding this.

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Ringkasan sudut pandang umat Muslim Indonesia

Berdasarkan tugas kuliah saya. Versi Bahasa Inggris dapat dibaca di tautan ini. Entah kenapa, saya lupa menerbitkan artikel Bahasa Indonesia.

Ahok dituntut dua tahun penjara karena melakukan penistaan agama yang tidak pernah beliau lakukan. Habib Rizieq, yang dengan lantang dan jelas menghina agama Kristen dan menginginkan semua warga Indonesia untuk tunduk kepada hukum Syariah, masih belum tersentuh UU penistaan agama. Bahkan, Ahok dianggap sebagai pemecah kesatuan bangsa dan Rizieq sebagai pemersatu oleh sebagian umat Muslim.

Sayangnya, ketidakadilan ini bukanlah hal yang mengejutkan. Pertama, Islam adalah agama yang besar di Indonesia, dianut oleh 87.18% penduduk; mudah bagi kelompok mayoritas untuk berkuasa. Saya mendapatkan data tersebut dari sensus penduduk yang diterbikan oleh Badan Pusat Statistik (BPS) pada tahun 2010. agama-agama minoritas juga disebutkan. Tetapi, keseimbangan dalam pengkajian agama tidak selalu dipegang.

Kajian statistik menyeluruh Indonesia yang diterbitkan BPS pada tahun 2016 menyebutkan jumlah sekolah, guru dan murid Madrasah yang dikelola pemerintah dan juga jumlah warga yang melaksanakan ibadah Haji. Begitu juga dengan kajian terbitan tahun 2015 dan 2014. Kajian-kajian tersebut dilaksanakan untuk memahami berbagai segi kehidupan negara, termasuk ‘perkembangan sosial-demografi’, seperti tertera pada halaman pendahuluan setiap kajian tersebut.

Kajian demografi seharusnya meliputi semua kelompok-kelompok, bukan hanya kelompok mayoritas. Umat beragama lain tidak disebut sama sekali sedang umat Islam dikaji lebih dalam. Pemerintah Indonesia terkesan menganaktirikan agama-agama minoritas. Mungkin saya picik karena memermasalahkan kajian statistik. Tetapi, sifat ketidakberimbangan tersebut juga ditunjukan dalam tata kerja pemerintahan.

Dari namanya saja, kementerian agama (kemenag) seharusnya mengayomi semua umat beragama. Tetapi, pada kenyataannya, hanya umat Islam yang dilayani. Kementerian masih dikuasai oleh orang-orang Muslim, termasuk jabatan menteri. Setidaknya, jika mereka hanya mengayomi umat Islam, nama kementerian agama seharusnya diubah menjadi kementerian agama Islam. Tidak perlu bermuslihat.

Tentu saja, saya tidak bisa menuduh pemerintah Indonesia terlalu menganakemaskan Islam. Selain Islam, agama Protestan, Katolik, Buda, Hindu dan Konghucu juga diakui secara resmi. Kemenag, walaupun dikuasai orang-orang Muslim, masih memiliki badan-badan yang mewakili umat beragama lain. Universitas-universitas negeri beragama non-Islam masih dapat ditemukan. Jabatan-jabatan menteri masih bisa dipegang oleh penganut agama-agama lain. Walaupun ada kecenderungan untuk tidak berimbang dan mencampur-aduk agama dengan politik, pemerintah Indonesia masih belum dicemari paham Islamisme.

Saya juga yakin bahwa permasalahan juga dapat ditemukan di masyarakat. Di masa pasca-Soeharto, Syahrin Harahap melihat bahwa rakyat Indonesia memiliki tiga citra yang berbeda: citra keterbukaan dan kerhamonisan, citra sekuler, liberal dan kebarat-baratan dan citra konflik umat beragama dan bersifat terror (2006, p. 32-43).

Pengamatan tersebut menunjukan bahwa suatu bangsa, terutama bangsa yang sangat beragam seperti Indonesia, selalu terdiri atas berbagai macam kelompok yang berbeda. Tetapi, pada saat yang bersamaan, citra-citra yang beragam tersebut juga bersifat hitam-putih.

Kalangan liberal dianggap sebagai kalangan yang tidak mengutamakan keharmonisan, walaupun tokoh-tokoh liberal seperti Ulil Abshar Abdalla mendukung kaum Ahmadiyah. Kita juga lupa menyebutkan bahwa, seperti yang saya sebutkan sebelumnya, Habieb Rizieq dipuja oleh para warga negara yang mengaku mencintai keharmonisan. Topeng yang kita gunakan hanyalah alat untuk bermuslihat.

Rasionalitas, seperti yang dipeluk oleh sebagian para pemikir Islam, dianggap sebagai hal yang cenderung kebarat-baratan. Anggapan itu membuat rasionalitas terkesan bertentangan dengan budaya timur yang dipeluk oleh sebagian besar umat Islam.

Rasionalitas juga tidak dianggap sebagai salah satu unsur citra keterbukaan. Pemikiran rasional hanya dianggap sebagai sesuatu yang menjauhkan kita dari agama, bukan sebagai faktor pendorong keterbukaan. Akibatnya, umat Islam akan melihat pemikiran rasional sebagai sesuatu yang tidak pantas dipeluk.

Kita juga lupa bahwa kebudayaan barat sangatlah digemari di Indonesia, bahkan di antara warga-warga yang menentang liberalisme. Budaya pop Islami Indonesia-pun sangat kebarat-baratan, dengan komersialisme dan hedonisme yang mengundang kritikan dari kalangan-kalangan konservatif (Saluz 2009).

Ditambah lagi, banyak para penceramah yang memiliki derajat sebagai selebritas. Setiap ceramah yang mereka berikan selalu menghasilkan uang yang berlimpah. Mereka juga sering muncul di berbagai macam iklan. Mereka sangat mirip dengan para televangelists yang banyak ditemukan di Amerika Serikat, sebuah negara barat.

Para pemikir liberal tersebut juga dianggap kebarat-baratan karena mereka belajar di universitas-universitas barat. Orang-orang yang memiliki anggapan tersebut tidak menyadari bahwa pendidikan Islam modern di negara-negara timur menggunakan model barat; universitas-universitas Islam di timur juga mau mengikuti hasil pertemuan-pertemuan Bologna Process. Gus Dur adalah lulusan Universitas Baghdad dan Quraish Shihab lulusan Universtas Al-Azhar di Kairo. Mereka belajar di perguruan tinggi Arab. Mengapa mereka tidak pernah dicap sebagai ke-Arab-Araban?

Selain dianggap kebarat-baratan, para pemikir liberal tersebut juga dianggap sekuler, walaupun mereka selalu menonjolkan identitas agama mereka, sering melakukan ceremah-ceramah yang sangat berbau agama dan mengajar di perguruan tinggi Islam. Lagi pula, apa kita bisa menjamin bahwa para penentang Islam liberal rajin shalat lima waktu, berzakat, berpuasa setiap Ramadhan, tidak meminum miras dan tidak melakukan hubungan seks di luar nikah?

Citra-citra yang dipaparkan Syahrin Harahap, walaupun mengacu pada orang-orang asing, juga sangatlah lumrah di masyarakat Indonesia. Kita masih suka memberikan cap-cap hitam-putih terhadap sesama, tanpa menyadari bahwa manusia jauh lebih rumit dari pada yang kita ingin bayangkan. Saya juga merasa bahwa Syahrin Harahap menggunakan pendekatan yang salah terhadap permasalahan ini.

Saya menghargai bahwa beliau mau mengakui bahwa umat Islam memiliki masalah dengan fundamentalisme. Tetapi, pada saat yang bersamaan, beliau juga terkesan menyalahkan munculnya fundamentalisme kepada kekuatan dari luar umat dengan mengatakan bahwa Islam adalah agama yang penuh kedamaian.

Sebagai seorang Muslim, saya juga ingin percaya itu. Tetapi, pada kenyataannya, orang-orang beraliran keras tersebut sepenuhnya yakin bahwa paham mereka sesuai dengan ajaran agama. Kita harus menerima kemungkinan bahwa agama yang kita cintai sangatlah jauh dari sempurna.

Saya setuju dengan usulan beliau bahwa penyelesaian masalah aliran garis keras ini dapat dihadapi dengan mengajari para siswa ilmu kajian globalisasi (p. 43). Memang betul bahwa aliran tersebut lahir di luar Indonesia dan menyebar dari satu negara ke negara lainnya. Tetapi, ilmu tersebut tidak mencakup tentang cara penyebarluasan aliran tersebut di satu tempat.

Saya mengusulkan agar umat Islam di Indonesia, termasuk kalangan moderat, untuk bermawas diri tentang cara kita menafsirkan ajaran-ajaran agama dan cara kita memerlakukan orang lain, terutama yang berbeda pandangan. Walaupun kalangan moderat memang tidak pernah menghasut kekerasan dan diskriminasi, kecenderungan mereka untuk mengkafirkan kalangan liberal dan tidak mengakui Islam sebagai ilham aliran keras sudah memberikan dampak buruk yang jelas-jelas sudah bermunculan dan mungkin akan berkepanjangan.

Suka atau tidak, kalangan moderat secara tidak langsung juga bertanggung jawab atas ketidakadilan yang dialami Ahok.

 

Badan Pusat Statistik 2010, Hasil sensus penduduk 2010: kewarganegaraan, suku bangsa, agama dan bahasa sehari-sehari penduduk Indonesia, BPS, Jakarta.

Badan Pusat Statistik 2014, Statistik Indonesia 2016, BPS, Jakarta.

Badan Pusat Statistik 2015, Statistik Indonesia 2015, BPS, Jakarta.

Badan Pusat Statistik 2016, Statistik Indonesia 2016, BPS, Jakarta.

Harahap, S 2016, ‘The image of Indonesia in the world: an interreligious perspective’, The IUP journal of international relations, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 30-44.

Saluz, CN 2009, ‘Youth and pop culture in Indonesian Islam’, Studia Islamika, vol. 16. no. 2, pp. 215-242.

Half-Blood Prince: when the film outperforms the novel

Well, for me, at least. Spoilers alert, obviously.

I doubt Half-Blood Prince (HBP) is the first of such case. But, the notion that ‘film adaptations will always suck’ has been deeply ingrained among different fandoms. Understandable considering film studios constantly betray our trust. Unfortunate because it drives us to close-mindedness.

Traumatised by Goblet of Fire and Order of Phoenix, I had a very low expectation of HBP the film. In fact, it is the only Harry Potter film that I watched years after its release, as in years after part one of The Deathly Hallows was released. I first watched it on DVD; obviously, I was blown away. I should have watched it in the theatre.

I will go into details of why I love the adaptation more than the source material. But, first, I am going to briefly explain why I love the film as an entity in its own right.

Unusual for today’s for-profit cinema, HBP embraces a calm-paced and dialogue-driven manifestation of storytelling; it shows how fast-pacing, exuberance and physicality are unessential for engaging the audience. The tinted cinematography perfectly evokes a combined ambience of mystery and serenity, darkness and lightness. The abundant special effects look wonderfully seamless and visually enhance the narrative instead of distracting us from it. Despite the long duration, I don’t feel exhausted watching it. The acting has greatly improved. I think it is the most artistic film in the entire franchise.

And the novel does not have the film’s level of thoughtfulness.

Yes, it also wholeheartedly embraces calmness and dialogue-driven storytelling. But, the blandness is just overwhelming. The mystery does not arouse the curiosity in me. The depiction of the dark side of humanity fails to unsettle me. It does not share the enthrallment of Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix. It feels like I am just reading meaningless stacks of letters.

Let me first go into details with the Pensieve scenes. If I remember correctly, the film Dumbledore only retrieved two memories; one shows Tom Riddle’s first meeting with Dumbledore in the orphanage and another shows teenaged Riddle asking Slughorn about Horcruxes. The novel Dumbledore retrieved a lot more, including ones that occurred after Riddle’s Hogwarts years and even one that occurred before his birth!

And yet, film Tom Riddle has been way more compelling to me! We all know that adaptations have been plagued with a disease called ‘shallowness’ because they cut out too many crucial elements! But, for some reasons, HBP is immune to it despite doing the same thing and that has been baffling me for years! Right now, I have one hypothesis for why this counter-intuitiveness came into being.

Maybe the cut is the secret. The film successfully insinuates Riddle’s true sociopathic nature through those two memories alone; with a combination of good acting, good dialogues and greenish colour tones (which may symbolises grotesque non-human quality), they are able to capture one of humanity’s darkest manifestations in which immortality is worth the immorality.

The book, on the other hand, fails to evoke the same sinister air. In those two particular memories, young Riddle is also strongly insinuated as a sociopath. But, the other memories overload us with ‘unnecessary’ information to the point of diluting the omniousness. Oh, and mind the air quote on the word ‘unnecessary’.

Judging from some comments I read online, other potheads take issue with how the film omits other memories which not only contain more information about Riddle’s life when he still had a nose, they also contain information regarding the origins of his Horcruxes. They want more exposition from the memories.

Obviously, this is a matter of preferences. As much as data are important for better understanding of the fictional universe, subtlety is the winner for me. I prefer to gain my knowledge of the worldbuilding through subtexts and ambience. The less tangible it is, the better. I love the challenge of exploring what is beneath the frequently void and deceptive surface.

I know this is subject to diverging interpretations. In fact, this makes a work of art and entertainment more captivating for me to study. Besides, it is not like hard data are convincing anyway. For example: many potheads still refuse to call the entire Marauders bullies despite the incriminating evidence in Order of Phoenix. Why? Because they cherry pick the data and refuse to accept that heroes like James Potter, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin are flawed human beings. They cannot accept that you can hate both Snape and the entire Marauders, that you can hate both the greater evil and the lesser evil! For fuck’s sake! Why can’t fans be more reasonable for once?

Now, back to the topic…

Feeling things

Not everyone will agree with the omission of memories. But, I am sure a large portion of the HP fandom would agree with this statement: the film adaptation has more emotional weight than the original source material, especially on two particular scenes. I think you can guess which ones.

One is where Harry encouraged Slughorn to relinquish his Tom Riddle memory. Just in case not everyone can guess.

In the original book version, Slughorn was being his usual selfish self and the only emotion he felt was fear, the fear of being judged. And Harry was extremely odd here; he had a sinister, somewhat threatening vibe. He was not his usual self, acting like a predator drooling over the sight of a vulnerable prey. Maybe it was the liquid luck talking, acting like a mind-controlling parasite. Overall, it is a bizarre and displeasing scene.

Compared that to film version. Besides evoking the same fear, the potion master also felt guilt; he believed he contributed to the death of his beloved student, Harry’s own mother, by unintentionally feeding Riddle’s sociopathy. Beneath the self-serving mask, film Slughorn has a great sense of humanity, so great to the point of claiming responsibility for the murder he didn’t commit! And he was not the only sensitive soul in that scene.

Film Harry was also kinder. Instead of being a psychological predator, he encouraged the potion master to confront and overcome his own demons. It felt like he genuinely cared about Slughorn’s emotional well-being; every single one of his word is laced with heartfelt sincerity. In fact, at this point, it feels like the liquid luck has worn off completely; no longer Harry has his brain contaminated by the potion. Oh, and don’t forget about the emotionally-enhancing symbolism.

Slughorn recalled when Lily gifted him a lily petal that turned into a fish when it sank to the bottom of the fish bowl. On the day of her death, the fish disappeared without a trace. For me, it is a hurtful reminder of how death is the end of our earthly existence; no longer we sustain any forms of physical presence in this world. Eventually, we will exist entirely in fond yet painful memories. Without this symbolism, the expression of Slughorn’s personal pain would be stale in comparison.

Another heart-rendering scene I have in my head is, of course, Dumbledore’s death. Again, I don’t have the precise reason why the film version has the stronger emotional punch for me. But, again, I also have a hypothesis.

In the book, there is no doubt that the characters are struck with grief. But, the story seems to focus less on the emotion itself and more on the matter-of-fact consequences which, in this case, is the decreasing sense of stability and security. Less like the death of a loved one and more like the assassination of a public figure whose presence brings hope among socially-conscious individuals. It is almost like the readers are encouraged to sentimentally detached themselves from the scene.

The film version, on the other hand, does not care much about the event’s social and political impacts on the wizarding world. It believes grief is a very human reaction and it just appropriate to give it most of the spotlight after the earthly departure of a major and beloved character. And yes, the film version of this scene also contains powerful symbolism.

After seeing the sight of the headmaster’s lifeless body, almost every Hogwarts resident in the vicinity was unable to hold back their tears. McGonagall held her wand upward to the sky in respect and others follow suit, each tip of their wands illuminates mournfully. Then, those lights dispersed the menacingly-hovering dark mark. Slowly but surely, it disintegrated entirely, swallowed by the dark night sky. Even in our most harrowing moments in life, love and unity can still outshine hatred and evil. It does sound naive. But, the film makes it sound hopeful.

Unlike the Slughorn scene, I actually love Dumbledore’s farewell in both versions. I love the more emotional approach of the film and the more sociopolitical one of the novel. Ideally, it would be delightful to combine both (even though it is easier said than done). But, if I have to take a pick, it would be the emotional approach.

I am delighted every time a work of entertainment touches on real life social issues; if done right, it can be intellectually intriguing and won’t come off as pretentious. But, I crave the ‘human connection’ even more. I find the completely unemotional approaches to storytelling exceptionally cold and as a reader/an audience member, I feel detached from the characters. I want intimate immersion, I don’t want to be a mere observer.

No more glory

At first, I wanted to group the scene where Harry lets go the potion textbook along with Slughorn’s memory relinquishment and Dumbledore’s farewell. But, I realise that, unlike those two, this scene is more psychological than emotional*. Well, in the film version, at least.

After casting Sectumsempra, novel Harry scrambled to save his ass by hiding the textbook in the room of requirement; he was trying to avoid backlashes from the teachers (and he failed, of course. Seriously, he cast a potentially-fatal spell! What did he expect?). Just like Dumbledore’s farewell, it seems to be mostly motivated by pragmatism. The guilt is faintly present as we mostly see Harry’s frustration with his punishment.

The film does not imply any forms of penalties at all. In this scene, we only focus on Harry’s own psyche. Realising what he had done, he felt tremendous guilt for letting his lust of glory made him harm another human being. Ginny offered a hand by taking him to the room of requirement where they could hide the blasted book. He closed his eyes as told while she was searching for the hiding spot. Then, after storing it away forever, she calmly kissed him on the lips. He opened his eyes to find him alone. He smiled.

Besides guilt, romantic love seems to be one of the main subject matters here. But, from my point-of-view, contentment is the culmination. Contentment of how his loved ones will always help him in his lowest points in life, how they will always be on his side when others will eventually abandon him among the filth. The quietness of the room does not represent loneliness or solitude, it represents serenity that accentuates Harry’s personal contentment.

Once again, I prefer the film version over the novel one. I love the former for revealing how self-aware our hero is of his own vice. The latter’s mostly focus on him getting frustrated for being deservedly punished (and getting constantly pestered by Hermione). It is obvious which version displays maturity.

Oh, I almost forgot about the humour… which I have no problem with. In both versions, it is subtle in nature and modest in quantity. No stupid and forced jokes in sight.

‘It is not canon!’

(A disclaimer: the words below are based on the arguments that happened inside my head. I love having imaginary arguments with imaginary people)

One may argue that the adaptation is not a part of the canon. It does not matter if Rowling approved it herself; she did not write the script and therefore not representative of the official Harry Potter universe. I accept such statement because it is still within reason. But, in this particular discussion (as if this is a direct two-way communication), it is completely irrelevant.

Yes, Rowling established the story idea. But, that does not mean she will always act out the storytelling impeccably. Like it or not, the one who came up with it may make use of ill-suited approaches and may not realise of its full potential. Like it or not, being a part of the canon is not a benchmark of excellence, having a delightful presentation is.

We are dealing with fiction here. If artistic merit is your main concern, don’t focus on the storytellers and idea conceivers. Focus on the storytelling itself!

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*’Psychological’ is something related to human psyche in general and ’emotional’ is related to emotion, which is a part of the human psyche. In the context of my essay, ‘psychological’ means it strongly asserts itself through the writings and screen. ‘Emotional’ is similar to that, but you take it to the heart. I know it is confusing. But, that’s the best way I distinguish both from each other.

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What are real jobs? Why should you love them?

*puts on a mask*

Besides being a job where constant hard work are required (as some jobs don’t require any work at all), a real job is where profits are constant, something beloved by old-fashioned establishment, where creativity and individualism are discouraged or even branded as sins, where traditions restrain your every single move, where men of dignity thrive…

…and the last part reveals why we should love real jobs.

Men of dignity are not ones who have mind and sentiments of their own, assert their own individuality, crave freedom and open to changes. Men of dignity are ones who prioritise money over idealism, who let their thoughts and feelings entirely dictated by superiors and societies, who love any forms of hierarchies, who will die for the sake of keeping the status quo alive.

This is why I hate artists and entertainers! They are independent, open to new ideas and they always have it easy!

Like seriously, do you expect me to believe that Mona Lisa was difficult to create? Do you expect me to believe that I couldn’t have drawn the whole thing in a matter of minutes?

Sometimes, I cannot differentiate jokes and sincerity apart.

*takes off the mask*

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Defending my bias for English… walaupun masih hidup berdwibahasa

Not long ago, The Jakarta Globe published an article about Indonesian writers who publish their works in English. It asked its readers if English-language literature can still be considered as Indonesian. In the comment section, as an Indonesian who writes his blogs in English, I obviously answered yes. I believe the nationality of literary works should also depend on the heritage and the people they are depicting, not just on the languages being utilised.

It seems like a relatively harmless statement, right? Well, me being me, I followed it with a more provocative one.

I also described the Indonesian language, describing it as a lifeless, unyielding language with overtly-simplistic grammar, skin-deep vocabulary and clinginess on loanwords whose only purpose is to express pretentiousness, vulgarity and anger, unlike English with its richness and versatility which eases people’s efforts to express themselves. That’s how much I love my mother tongue. Of course, people weren’t happy with me and typical internet squabbles ensued.

Days after the arguments ended, I realised that I made errors in my reasoning. First of all, I implied that language was inherently sterile and rigid; I was trying to represent my opinions as objective facts. I am constantly guilty of this sin.

Second, every language in the world, even ones that have endured strict purism, has loan words! As someone who spends his free time on Wikipedia reading articles about languages, I should have realised that my ‘loan words argument’ is indefensible! If I remember correctly, I think one commenter called out this ignorance of mine. But, this is where I stop with the self-criticisms.

I still stand with my hatred of the simplistic grammar. Yes, English grammar is erratic. But, it is still quite detailed with its grammatical tenses and cases, lowering the chances of unintentional ambiguity. In Indonesian, if you want to make your sentences to be more specific, you have to elongate them by adding more words… and I hate that! But, what infuriates me about the squabble is my opponents’ false assumptions about me.

They argued that my distaste of Indonesian was motivated by hatred my own heritage. Yeah, no.

The older I get, the more I actually appreciate it. I love the unique ingredient and flavour combinations of Indonesian dishes; even ones of foreign origins taste uniquely Indonesian. I love our rich history, showing the drastic human changes the archipelago has endured. I love how we still retain our Hindu heritage, despite being predominantly-Muslim. I love musicians who make actual efforts to fuse traditional Indonesian sounds with western ones. I love the ethnic and cultural diversities; growing up with them, I often feel sorry for every person who sees diversity as a disease. Heck, to make it random, I even find myself enjoying performances of traditional Indonesian dances, despite never having any inclinations to dance!

So, when someone says I am a self-hating Indonesian because I bitch on my mother tongue, I call bullshit on that. In fact, my ability to see flaws in something I love indicates how my appreciation is still within reason and not motivated by blind love.

Oh, and speaking about blind love, one of my opponents, who constantly insulted me, explicitly said that anyone who dared to bad mouth his beloved language deserve nothing but ridicule and harassment; he considered my condemnation of the language as a personal attack against him. Not only he never bothered to hide his irrationality, he was deeply proud of it! Mentally, he is not unlike those religious fundamentalists. I am glad that my love of heritage is not plagued by such mindlessness.

The second thing they assumed about me was my Indonesian comprehension, guessing that mine was poor, which explains my inability to see beauty in the language and express myself with it. Yeah, again, no.

Long before I found comfort in English, I used to have no problems writing in Indonesian. But, as I get older and actually become more fluent in my native tongue, I find myself feeling more restrained writing in it and feeling more at ease doing so in the foreign one, even though I still could barely understand its basic grammar.

In fact, to this day, my Indonesian is still better than my English! I am more likely to open up the dictionary when reading English texts than I am while reading Indonesian ones. I have written two Indonesian-language blogs and it took me only a day or two to finish each, compared that with my English-language ones which can take weeks to finish. Until last year, I didn’t know that ‘sheep’ was both singular and plural, didn’t know how to spell ‘privilege’ and I still don’t know how to spell ‘prostelize’! I use online bots to proofread my blogs!

Also, unlike many Indonesians I have met, I know how to say words like ‘download’, ‘upload’, ‘online’, ‘offline’, ‘computer mouse’, ‘link’, ‘server’, ‘edit’ and ‘orange’ in Indonesian*. I prefer the word ‘penelitian’ over ‘riset’**. I also know how to use ‘di’ properly; as a suffix, it should never be separated from the root words while as a preposition, it should remain a separate word***! Even Indonesians with university education still get this basic grammar wrong!

So, the idea that my preference of English has anything to do my language comprehension is also bullshit. Also, unlike my opponents, I proved my fluency as I made one rather long reply in Indonesian! But, they are too blind to see it, too simple-minded to acknowledge that distaste does not always mean lack of fluency.

Let’s go back to my mistake I mentioned. Besides shamelessly presenting subjectivity as objectivity, I also forgot that I still can enjoy the beauty conveyed through my native tongue.

There are no shortages of time when I listen to Indonesian oldies and indie songs and think, ‘damn, those are beautiful lyrics!’. People like Guruh Soekarnoputra, Eros Djarot and Titiek Puspa made me realise that songwriters are also poets! As a student, I often had to analyse excerpts of literary works that, judging from the richness despite the small number of words, were clearly written by accomplished writers.

Besides foods and music, Indonesian language is one tool I utilise to get in touch with my roots. Using it makes me feel closer to them, unlike English which seems to widen the distance. This is why I refuse to let go of my native tongue…

And still, I cannot manifest my inner self through it.

No matter how hard I try, no matter how much I expand my vocabulary, my native tongue always fails to satisfy my intellectual and emotional needs; my Indonesian writings always end up rigid, sterile and skin-deep. In spite of the cultural detachment, English embodies my thoughts and feelings with greater perceptiveness by seizing their more abstract and indistinct peculiarities. It also allows me to be more playful and light-heartedly sarcastic (even though contemptuous sarcasms are more pleasing to spurt out) and minimises my likelihood of sounding pretentious.

How did this come into being? Well, I am confident it has something to do with my identity. I do have Indonesian citizenship. But, personally, I identify both as a highly westernised Indonesian and a global citizen. This weird concoction of selfhood requires a somewhat culturally inclusive language to manifest itself through letters. Between Bahasa Indonesia and English, guess who wins?

Adding to my already-unconvincing anecdote, I also happen to know Indonesians who speak English better than they speak Indonesian and yet they still find their own native tongue more pleasing to make use of. Knowing them, those people definitely don’t share my cultural identity crisis!

Someone (I forgot who) told me that a language is just a communication tool. Emphasise on the word ‘just’. Focus on what the tool can do, not on what category it belongs to. Yes, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. But, what we choose to convey our deepest thoughts and feelings is none of other people’s business! Unless we are dealing with snowflakes, our trivial personal choices do not and will never harmfully impact humans with whom we share the world!

My plan is to keep writing in English and, to lesser extent, Indonesian, to learn at least one regional Indonesian language and one more foreign language. But, if I am more idealistic, I would love to learn six regional languages and six foreign ones, not including classical languages like Kawi and Latin and more obscure ones like Gaelic and Ainu which have been intriguing me for years! Oh, and I would love to write children’s books in Indonesian under a pseudonym; seriously, I would love to write calm-paced and imaginative children’s stories that contain assertive yet non-preachy messages about the importance of curiosity, reason and tolerance.

But, realistically, I will probably stay bilingual, will never be fluent in any of those classical or obscure languages and probably will never write a single book.

Oh, well. One can dream!

 

 

 

*’Unduh’, ‘unggah’, ‘daring (dalam jaringan)’, ‘luring (luar jaringan)’, ‘tetikus’, ‘tautan’, ‘peladen’, ‘sunting’ and ‘jingga’, respectively.

**Both words mean ‘research’.

*** ‘Di Jakarta’ and ‘di rumah’ mean ‘at Jakarta’ and ‘at home’, respectively. ‘dibuka’ and ‘dimakan’ mean ‘(being) opened’ and ‘eaten’, respectively.

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The missed opportunities of Harry Potter films

Obviously, spoiler alert. Also, I have to make this disclaimer: I have not read the first three books. So, the only thing I can criticise about the first three films is their cinematic quality, not their faithfulness (or the lack thereof) to the source materials. But, I am more confident regarding the other adaptations.

Here, I will solely talk about Goblet of Fire (GoF) and Order of the Phoenix (OP). So far, they are my favourite books in the series and I love them for distinct reasons.

In spite of dark and intense moments here and there (especially during the climax, falling action and resolution), GoF is still a generally cheerful book. To this day, I am still gravely excited about the Quidditch World Cup, the Triwizard Tournament and the Yule Ball, even though the real me is far from a sports spectator and a party animal. I also adore the expansion of the magical universe where it is portrayed as a global community in which our hero’s home country is a tiny part of it, not its entirety; I am a sucker for such theme. It is mostly a festive of jolliness that makes the child in me rejoice… unlike its direct successor.

OP is gritty AF. In contrast to its more colourful predecessor, the fifth book is nothing but a barrage of grey and ferocious socio-political disheartenment. Dangerous misinformation. Political restrictions of the academia. Institutionally-sanctioned prejudice. The establishment embracing unsavoury individuals, opting to make enemies with ones who are innocent and/or more tolerant. Those are real life issues. To top it all, our hero has to deal with them while suffering from PTSD, adding the emotional severity. For the standard of escapist literature, this novel is a tough read; a reflection of the reality is inescapable.

I have high praises for both and I also had HIGH expectations of their screen adaptations. GoF was literally the first film I watched whose original source material I read beforehand. I was deeply disappointed because, back then, I expected any good adaptations to be literally exact copies of the source materials, albeit in different formats. Took me some time to recognise my own stupidity.

But, even after the slap on the face, I am still disappointed. The feeling of excitement is the only thing it got right. Well, not entirely. It explicitly depicts the Triwizard Tournament and the Yule Ball, two of the three main sources. But, it does not show a single second of the Quidditch World Cup match!

Like, why? No, time constraint is not an excuse! Even when shown in snippets, it still could exude the feeling! Exclusion of the entire match means the audience members who have not read the book cannot experience the excitement in its totality. Therefore, they don’t know the whole story and I am still scratching on the surface here.

I mentioned that GoF is a cheerful book with dark moments. Well, those moments give the story more layers of depth. Ludo Bagman, Bertha Jorkins, Dobby and Winky! They are characters with secrets and their erasure from the film is regrettable, considering they have the potentials to expose the tangling webs of secrets and deceit that grip the novel. I find it intriguing when lightness and darkness balance each other out in a work of fiction. As a result, the film’s darkness is still very lightweight in comparison. But, at least, it is still partially faithful to its source material, unlike its successor.

The novel’s embodiment of desolation mostly did not make it to the screen. Instead, the film is more of an adventure-comedy. Yes, I said comedy. Admittedly, I love its youthful sense of humour and I believe, when done correctly, it would blend well with the bleak storyline. But, the filmmakers preferred to drench the story in sickly sweet syrup, removing the acquired tastes for the sake of palatability.

Where’s the socio-political grittiness? Where’s the mental anguish? Never mind that they are the driving forces. They are the reasons why Order of Phoenix possesses such outstanding profundity! They are the reasons why the novel stands out! They are the soul of the story! The film may call itself Order of Phoenix and some moviegoers believe that. But, deep down, it has an entirely unrecognisable heart. It is a fraud who is beloved by the ignorant and most gullible among us.

Also, the climax of OP the novel is not the fight at the Ministry building; it is, in fact, Harry’s outburst at Dumbledore’s office. It is an accumulation of the suffering he has been experiencing for the past twelve months (and possibly his entire life) and Sirius’ death triggers the cascade of negative emotions. Its climax centres on raw emotions rather than superficial physicality. It can only be achieved by the embrace of emotional depth. You know, something that the adaptation refuses to do.

God, I sound like a total fanboy. I even haven’t reached to another problem present in both adaptations: how they conclude the plot lines.

The novels’ endings are rather bleak. GoF’s marks the beginning of the sufferings our protagonist will endure in the next volume. OP’s shows that, even after everyone believes and starts revering him, he still cannot feel joy because of his godfather’s death. Oh, and I said rather bleak, not completely so. For me, there are still shreds of warm yet unsentimental hope in them. How about the films’ endings? Horrible, of course.

GoF the film ends with a cheerful farewell for the foreign students and Cedric’s death as the only moment of sorrow; there is no foreshadowing of Harry’s own incoming misery. OP the film ends with a sentimental monologue by Harry; his own grief is given a half-hearted presentation. They are all about cloying sweetness. Again, no depth.

Okay, this is the part where I pretend to know what my readers are thinking (LOL! Who reads my blogs, anyway?).

You may argue I am being too harsh against OP and I sincerely acknowledge the possibility. You may also argue that not everything has to be profound which I wholeheartedly agree. In fact, I feel sorry for those proudly flatulent dweebs who think having fun is beneath them. But, after much contemplation, I can say I am fair with my judgement.

People will hate me for saying this: I believe that an adaptation can still be faithful even with significant alteration to the characters and the storyline, as long it cherishes the source material’s deep-rooted spirit. In spite of being a fantasy novel, OP’s spirit is neither escapist nor fun; the narrative commands us to acknowledge our own wretched earthbound existence. Based on what I illustrated before, it is clear how the film refuses to share such burden.

Also, it feels like its script was written by an elitist Pothead with no experience in filmmaking who thinks Harry Potter films must be exclusively made for anyone who have read the books and inclusivity besmirches the prestige of his/her beloved series. To simplify my words: the film’s confusing AF.

Yes, exposition makes a horrible storytelling. But, the audience deserves any implicit hints about why and how the story came into being! Also, Tonks is not properly introduced, Lupin is not properly re-introduced and Percy suddenly appears out of nowhere, inexplicably working for the corrupt ministry! If an adaptation cannot stand on its own and still needs the source material for intelligibility, why bother making one in the first place? Oh, wait. Never mind! Of course, it is all about money…

Now, I am going to be slightly SJW-ish here.

In GoF the film, the Beauxbaton and Durmstrang students make a hell of an entrance. Of course, I am referring to the gender stereotypes-affirming scene that portrays women as unnaturally tender and men as laughably brute. Disappointing, but expected from a Hollywood film. But, in this case, I am infuriated because the original scene is actually very gender-less (I made up that word).

When the visitors enter the school ground, they just walk straight in! No spectacles whatsoever! There is nothing about it that makes us think about genders! If I have to make an assumption, it feels like someone involved in the filmmaking read the books, became infuriated with their debatably feminist nature, decided to transform the co-ed schools into single-sex ones and shoved outdated gender stereotypes to one gender-less scene. It is too PC! Too liberal! We must protect our traditions of lumping complex human beings to superficial and repressive boxes!

See? I told you I would sound SJW-ish.

Now, to finish up my winding rant:

If only GoF the film also has the same complimenting and intricate subplots as the novel does and refrains itself from unabashedly committing gender pigeonholing…

If only OP the film opens itself to non-HP fans and embraces the novel’s dark and fierce spirit that makes it great in the first place…

If only both films do not conclude on such unrealistically positive notes…

I can confidently say that not only they would be of outstanding quality, they surely would elevate the merit of Harry Potter films or even the entire franchise! Even if they fail to elevate the artistic prestige of fantastical and commercial cinema, they surely would have special places in it.

GoF the film would probably not be hailed as groundbreaking regarding this. But, surely, it would not elongate the already-long list of motion pictures that unintelligently depict genders!

If the existing OP film balances its childlike humour with the novel’s sense of desolation, it could result in a high-quality drama-comedy. Who knows? Maybe the film’s merit could surpass the novel’s! Such a rare phenomenon would historical, convincing fans of certain works of fiction that film adaptations have the potential of reaching excellence!

After watching those wonderful adaptations, some Potheads would probably end up being blessed with higher sense of cultural sophistication, enriching their lives through inquisitive musing and love of cinematic beauty.

But, none of those matters, of course! The only noble goal in life to earn profit! Who cares if you have to exploit the feelings of devoted fans?

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Sentenced to stupidity

I graduated from senior high school almost eight years ago. At that time (assuming nothing’s changed much), senior high schools in Indonesia were given two pathways by their second year: social sciences (IPS) path and natural sciences (IPA) one. Social sciences students could only study social students at university level. The same applied to natural sciences students, right? Nope.

After high school, IPA students could choose any disciplines they wanted. They were always higher on the formal strata than their social sciences counterparts. The former were always seen as rugged intellectuals who love and were capable of learning everything. The latter were always seen as imbeciles with non-existent ability and love of learning. People had their academic standing degradingly died down and choices unjustly limited, all because what they preferred to study in senior high.

Never mind the pro-caste mentality. This tendency also reinforces falsehood among ourselves. There is no evidence that formally studying natural sciences instantly make us smarter. If truth be told, I have encountered many IPA graduates who are nothing but imbeciles who suffer from severe cases of scientific illiteracy.

There is no shortage of cases where those geniuses make horrendous fallacies. They are proud of their intellectual defect; the zealous protection of beliefs and traditions is worth the annihilation of reason and rejection of knowledge. Biology, physics and chemistry could not save them from such idiocy.

Oh, and they are not even scholarly in the disciplines they always brag about! Instead of being scientifically profound, they wholeheartedly embrace long-disproven pseudosciences. They also think natural sciences are absolutely precise with its wisdom, stagnant and ever-conclusive. The more I properly study them, the more I realise that they can be very intricate and even grey at times. They are not something to be taught solely through soundbites.

I should also tell you that I am an IPS graduate. I chose this path solely because I used to hate natural sciences… or so I thought. Years after graduating, I realised I hated the educational system, not the disciplines. I am an internet addict and a large chunk of my time online is spent on reading online articles and watching documentaries about natural sciences. I study them because I want to learn. Some people study because they want to be ‘smarter’.

Of course, when they think about being ‘smart’, they think of obtainment of high grades, memorisation of formulas and extremely categorical information and absolute obedience of authority figures, including teachers. Never mind lateral thinking. Even the more ‘traditional’ critical thinking is not seen as essential for intelligence. This is what you get when your education is all about rote learning and worshipping the establishment. But, not everyone has the desire to be smarter. Some only fancy the appearance of it.

For them, image is everything and substance is nothing. Any efforts to gain pristine image are halal, no matter how dishonest they are. In this case, that effort is choosing the IPA pathway. Add that with high grades, the most gullible creatures would never know about your true anti-intellectual selves. A splendid persona is worth the deceit. This is what you get when your education is all about embracing undeserved prestige.

Admittedly, I am a horrible student. Even saying that I am average is an overstatement. Laziness, low grades, constant clashes with teachers (even when they were right) and the fact that it took me eight years to get a bachelor’s degree. Only idiots think I am worthy of a scholarship.

But, at the same time, I also love ‘learning’. Not to be confused with ‘studying’, though. The latter is what one does in formal education while the former can be done everywhere at any time. For me, both are mutually exclusive and are not related to each other in any way.

In spite of my hatred of studying, I still find myself morbidly curious. Not only I constantly ponder about how life works, I also read a lot about it; I even read papers published by actual peer-reviewed journals (assuming I can get hold of them without draining my pocket). Then, not satisfied with rote learning alone, I also make my own half-baked conclusions using the knowledge I have.

They are half-baked because, with the arrival of more knowledge, they will be replaced with better ones. I encourage myself to be open to the prospect of being proven wrong, no matter how ‘hurtful’ it can be. I have experienced that many times in the past and I will certainly experience it again in the future.

When it comes my interests, they are quite extensive. Primarily, I am into languages, foods, culture, arts, politics, history and media. In spite of their mostly intangible nature, we owe ourselves to them. Alongside their practical benefits, they are also affirmers of our identities as human beings. Our relationships with them show our human essence, both on individual and societal levels. But, as luring as they get, I am not drawn only to the intangible.

Even though they are not as strong, my interests also extend to natural sciences, particularly evolutionary biology, geography and astronomy, and applied sciences like medicine (can’t explain this). I am intrigued by the workings of our tangible world, how it can be utilised for our survival as a species and how our understanding of it affects the way we see ourselves as earthlings. With the right outlooks, one can gain wisdom from the tangible and the intangible.

As you can read from my writing, I am still heavily flawed. I am pretentious, self-righteous and I also cannot help myself from rushing to conclusions. But, every time I encounter any of those Indonesians who ‘love’ natural sciences for shamelessly superficial reasons, I always feel better about myself. At least I am actually learning. At least my sense of wonder is sincere.

No, I am not saying there are no intelligent IPA graduates with heartfelt inquisitiveness. They do exist. But, they find learning more appealing than boasting. Boasting is a sign of insecurity, not self-assurance. Besides, how can you learn anything if you spend too much embracing vanity?

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I love dark and crude humour

I initially wanted to say something like ‘it is the best tool to deal with the horrendousness that is humans’. But, I withdraw the decision. Not only I would repeat my ‘I love sarcasm and/or satire’ article, it would also not be entirely accurate.

The statement is true in some situations. But, in others, it is simply about being humorously dark. There are times when, with the ‘right’ slants, I can see the jokes in dark matters. No, I don’t believe that instantly makes me immoral. There is a difference between possessing morbid comedic aesthetics and celebrating the morbidity itself. I don’t mind if people cannot enjoy black comedy. But, I do mind when people make this about morality.

Why? Because they love to scream about one thing that they never care about. They constantly screech about their professedly higher yet actually non-existing moral standing. Public image is a number one priority. That’s one big accusation, I know. But, by observing people for years (I love pretending to be an accomplished researcher), this accusation seems on point.

Those pretend saints love to rail against entertainment entities for poisoning the masses on purpose. They believe the entertainment industry forces offhandedness down on everyone’s throat, deceiving us by promoting crude comedies as ‘wholesome’ and ‘family-friendly’. Yeah, no.

No one forces anyone to enjoy certain forms of entertainment. We are talking about risque comedies, not religious and political propaganda which we coerce on children both at homes and schools! In fact, those holy men wannabes want to stop others from enjoying off-colour fun, they want others to have the same taste as theirs. Typical freedom fighters.

Also, I have never encountered any risque comedies marketed as ‘family-friendly’. None! The film adaptation of Deadpool, which outraged helicopter parents, was crystal clear about its R rating! Cards Against Humanity’s official slogan is ‘a party game for horrible people’; even the name alone clearly signals its ‘horrid’ nature! They are always truthfully advertised. Once again, we are not talking about religious and political propaganda we love to coerce on children. Love it when people are being truthful.

Oh, I forgot to flesh out more juicy details about their ‘morals’.

One of my favourite Youtube videos is Jon Cozart’s After Ever After 2. A parody of Disney’s love of happy endings, it contains jokes about transsexuality, mental illness, hurricane Katrina and the brutality of authoritarian regimes. Very taboo stuffs. Unsurprisingly, it caused outrage. But, surprisingly, the outrage was selective.

Laughing at one crude joke, offended by another. At one point, the video was bombarded with such comments. Yes, we are always dainty about choosing our objects of laughter; even the biggest fans of obscenity still draw the lines somewhere. Hell, even jokes that make us laugh can still pain us to some extend. Some of us excuse this selectiveness by citing personal reasons (e.g. horrible past experiences or personal grievances). Inconsistent, but justifiable. Others excuse their selectiveness by citing morality. Not justifiable.

You cannot laugh at one obscene joke and proceed to declare another one as immoral. If morality is indeed your rationale, you would not be picky about it. You would be offended by every single obscene joke, be inclusive with your so-called love of human dignity and acknowledge that every single adversity deserves our sympathy!

Let me ask you some questions: do you think female rape is more noteworthy than the male one? Violent western interventionism more noteworthy than jihadism? Gang violence more noteworthy than police brutality? If you answer ‘yes’ at least once, congratulations! You may look like a fresh apple. But, you are already rotten to the core.

No, I am not talking about all activists. Some do think their causes are the only ones worthy of sympathy. But, others focus on certain causes for personal reasons (I think I have said this before) and they never condemn others to hell for simply having ‘incompatible’ grievances. Mind the air quote.

Now, back to humour….

Arts and entertainment, especially comedy, are constantly sneered at for seemingly not having any purposes whatsoever. Well, purposeful only when profitable. Fortune is and will always be the only merit. Yeah, no.

Beauty and amusement, unquestionably two things we can benefit from both; seriously, not everything valuable in life is material! But, I am also aware that many individuals, the ones I have interacted at least (and there aren’t many of them), seem oblivious to this one benefit: unfolding human nature.

Our reactions to arts and entertainment works expose our stances on social issues, cultures, politics and, as I have been typing about for weeks (I am slow), morality. They greatly reveal the sincerity and deceitfulness of our declaration of righteousness. They can do so through an individual’s psychological state (ethical consideration needed, something that I often ignore) or a society’s sociological circumstances. No need to elaborate on this again.

Oh, another thing I forgot to mention earlier. This may make me look hypocritical. Well, my writing is preachy anyway. Me being a hypocrite is always a strong possibility. So, here I go…

The jokers’ attentions matter. If their dark and crude humour is a literal reflection of their true selves, they are undoubtedly problematic individuals. But, how do you determine if that is the case with certain people?

Well, don’t pay attention to their jokes; do so to their matter-of-fact remarks. Do their sincere opinions share ideological resemblances with their tasteless jokes? If the answer is yes, then they are problematic. You cannot make a racial joke, make a sincere racist statement afterwards and proceed to defend your joke as ‘just a joke’. You have outed yourself as a racist. You have proven yourself to be deserving of hate. Of course, this method’s flaw surfaces straight away.

It only works when the jokers doctrinally complemented their humour with their own straightforwardness. If their indecency is only expressed through comical manners, then tastelessness is the only thing to be worthy of criticism. The existence of ignorance and immorality is not attested by any solid evidences. I’ll get back to it in a moment.

Then, there is another problem: what does ‘funny’ mean? Of course, every knows what it means: a quality that brings out laughter. But, even the most wholesome jokes are not universally loved. There are different factors to consider: unheard of cultural references, alien styles of humour or, as I have discussed before, audience’s sensitivity.

We have talked about offense caused by taboo humour; again, no repetition is needed. But, what if the humour itself is docile and child-friendly? We should remember that they still can be controversial because either the audience is sensitive to the jokes’ subtextual nature or they take things too personally.

The former may or may not be justified. The thing is subtexts can look very vague and heavily reliant on seemingly conjectural reading. Unless we have tangible evidences, good luck convincing people about the ‘harmless’ jokes’ harmfulness. Besides, how do we know that we are not the problematic ones? How do we know that we are not thin-skinned creatures who see non-existent patterns?

Well, if that’s the case, I even cannot propose a single unproven method to deal with such nuisance. Why? Because I am also guilty of it. As much as I have enjoyed many offhanded jokes, I am still catching myself getting offended by the milder ones. Sometimes, I am 100% convinced that the subtexts I see are real as I am terribly familiar with the jokers involved. But, other times, I am just being emotionally delicate, unable to acknowledge my own irrationality.

I have yet to escape self-contradiction.

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How to vote

*puts on the mask*

It is easy. All we have to do is to follow these two simple steps:

  1. Choose politicians who repeat words.

Not just any words. The right words. Ones that represent your main grievances. For example, if you care about issues like Islamic extremism or economic growth, you should vote for politicians who say the relevant words like ‘Islam’, ‘Jihadism’, ‘economy’ or ‘jobs’ the most. There is a physics-proven phenomenon called semantic satiation in which words become more meaningful after constant repetition. This is the same reason why our parents’ self-righteous naggings and worthless advices increase in their profundity after constant repetition, especially after the millionth time.

If you think that approach encourages voters to vote for the most inept candidates, you are absolutely right! Expertise and knowledge should never be a priority for any of us. In fact, upholding either one means we fall for tactless elitism. We should embrace tactful one instead, which coercencourage us to love individuals simply for their wealth, lineage and popularity.

  1. Prioritise your grievances.

Let’s face it. Some grievances are not real grievances. Protesting the oppression committed by your ingroups is not one. In fact, it is an incitement of hatred against your own kins! It is sacrilegious to not blindly love the kinship! That’s literally more sinful than murder! Literally!

The only oppression we are obligated to fight against is the one committed by outsiders. It is our duty to make our collectives look better in comparison, to make them look better than they really are, to make oppression our prerogative. Prohibiting us from oppressing others is literally oppressive! Literally!

There is also another grievance we must prioritise: wealth. I don’t care how much you are demonised as a minority. Widespread wealth is literally more important than your humanisation (as if that’s even possible)! A wealthy yet bigoted society is and will always more dignified than an enlightened yet poor one! Don’t believe me? Just ask God! Be fucking happy with your status as subhumans!

Vote for politicians who incite hatred! Vote for politicians who worship greed! They are the ones who get their priorities straight!

*takes off the mask*

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A case against swearing

*dons the veneer*

Or, as a sage would utter, a postulation for counterpoising malodorous confabulation.

Equitably, it bespeaks a meagreness of erudition. We blaspheme owing to the verity that our cerebrums are destitute of immaculated and unblemished lexicon. Blasphemers anathematise the supposition of being transmuted to personages of letters.

If they are veritably lingually chivalrous, then why wouldn’t they ply more opulent locution? ‘F*** you’ can be transposed with ‘fornicate thee’. ‘Motherf*****’ with ‘lady-parent copulator’. ‘Son of a b****’ with ‘descendant of a feminine canine’. One can be edified by the opuses of synonyms.

Barring my articulation above, there are no assurances for any personage to raise our modulation and unhand our decolum, let alone blaspheme. Not even in the middle of parlous quandary. Instead of declaring curses or having recourse to nefarious somatic undertakings, one could have said something like, ‘Dear, fine sirs. I am privy to the certitude that each and every one of you is sexually titil;ated by the visibility of my ménage. But, would you be so forbearing to not ravish them? Prithee, cogitate about my solicitation. Thank you’. I am 100% assured that they would not acquit themselves of anything peccable. Who knows? Mayhap there could be a concordantly- espoused coital soirée thereupon.

Sinfulness is not caused by sinful intentions. It is caused by rudeness.

*disengage from the veneer*

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