Feeling persecuted by foreign tongues

Are you someone who can only speak English and nothing else?

Do you always feel uncomfortable when people near you speak in another language to each other?

Why is that? Is it because you believe they are talking crap about you behind your back? Is it because you find it rude because you feel excluded?

There is only one effective method to deal with this: stop making everything about yourself, you conceited fuck!

If those people insist on speaking to you in a language you don’t understand, then you should be mad. But, we know damn well that is not the case.

What happens is they are speaking to each other – minding their fucking businesses – and then, you intrude their conversations, insisting they have to speak in English even when talking to each other. You believe you have to know what they are talking about, even when what they are talking about does not fucking concern your soiled ass.

You are the one being inconsiderate, not them.

I also notice that the likes of you love using this particular justification: those people may be talking about y0u behind your backs. Well, there is the keyword: MAY.

Unless they are talking to each other while staring at you mockingly, how do you – a worthless monolingual who doesn’t know the difference between there and their – know they are talking about you? No, probability is not an evidence.

Le me give you a tangential anecdote.

As you can tell, I am not a pleasant person to interact with. I can be aloof, rude and mean. I would be surprised if people don’t talk shit about me behind my back.

I am also from Indonesia, a culturally-diverse country with lots of languages. Relatives, classmates, teachers, shopkeepers, repairmen, mom’s acquaintances, clergymen, I grew up hearing them speaking Sundanese, Javanese, Batak, Minang, Dutch, Arabic and various Chinese languages like Teochew, Hokkien and Mandarin. I am only fluent in English and the national language, I understand none of the others.

But, despite all of those facts combined, I am never paranoid.

How am I not paranoid? Well, not only because I literally don’t have evidences of their badmouthing, I am also not conceited enough to believe others are thinking about me 24/7.

Basically, if the mere sounds of other languages unnerves you, it is not the speakers’ problem. It is yours.

Either you are narcissist who thinks the world revolves around you… or just a bigot desperate for excuses.






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BS people believe about urbanists

Originally, an urbanist means an expert in urban planning, someone who asserts that an ideal city prioritises walkability and transit-oriented and mixed-use developments, provides extensive and safe bike infrastructures and decreases use of air-polluting, noise-polluting, space-consuming, traffic-congesting, wallet-draining and live-taking cars.

They believe such approach maximises financial health, social cohesion, liveliness, environmental sustainability, physical health and connectivity.

Anyway, in recent years on the internet (in communities which I encounter, at least), the definition has evolved to someone who actively advocates for what the urban planning experts propose. An urbanist can be an online content creator who makes urban planning content that is accessible to the wider audience; even though not all of them have the credentials, they often cite studies.

In this blogpost, I am going to focus on the latter definition of urbanists. And when I use the word “you”, I am referring to car and suburbia nuts.

So, let’s talk about your accusations of us… and how they are actually projections.

First projection: anti-progress

You believe we have unreasonable hatred for technology and wish humanity retreat back to cavemen lifestyle.


We believe true futurism requires consideration of long-term sustainability of anything we do in our lives. In urban planning context, we want cities to be sustainable to our physical health, mental health, finance, social cohesion and natural environment in the long run.

Basically, when making decision about adopting new methods and tools, we have to consider not only their benefits, but also their drawbacks. If there are more drawbacks than benefits, then we shouldn’t adopt them, regardless of how old or new they are.

Meanwhile, your idea of futurism is all about unquestioningly adopting and celebrating new technologies. You cannot comprehend that new does not always mean better, that the old ways can be better sometimes.

Electric cars – a favourite of fake futurists – are still space-consuming cars. They will still congest traffic and they will still cause cities to sprawl. And we can see how bulky those Teslas are.

And they still cause air pollution anyway. Those batteries require rare minerals which can only be obtained through mining. Don’t forget asphalt also has emission, which may be higher than ones of fossil fuels.

You are the kind of person who want your world to resemble a sci-fi one, not realising what the fi stands for, not realising sci-fi works are often cautionary tales against tactless use of technologies. There is a reason why sci-fi is only taught in arts and humanities classes.

Oh, and green tech won’t save the planet either. But, do you know what does? Decreasing your consumption.

You embrace green tech because you want to justify your wasteful lifestyle and put some or most of the blame on poorer and less developed countries, even though they emit less emission despite being far more populous.

And yes, even American-style suburbias are far from green. In the US, most cities emit far less CO2 than the suburbs. It makes sense when you realise suburban dwellers use cars more than their urban counterparts and suburban yards and sidewalks aren’t always lush with trees. Don’t forget that they are often devoid of native plants and biodiversity.

Your idea of futurism does not put humanity a few steps forward. It brings us a few steps backward.

Second projection: Anti-efficiency

You believe we hate cars so much, we would rather deprive everyone of efficient transportation.


Cars are the least efficient mode of transport. Cars have maximum passenger capacity of five and, often times, there is only one in each. There is a significant amount of space taken for five people or less; God forbids if your car is American-sized.

Meanwhile, even though most bikes can only carry one person each, they take very little space. Twenty bikes take less space than ten cars.

Buses and rail transports are indeed bigger than cars. But, they can hold far more passengers. A bus (that is not fully seated) can hold around fifty people. A metro train can hold around a thousand passengers maximum.

And you expect me to believe that making most people drive is the most efficient way?

I don’t know how you can see those wide, congested roads and still believe that. Houston’s Katy Freeway has 26 lanes and it has one of the worst congestions in Texas.

Yeah, I know pedestrian spaces, bike lanes and public transports with right-of-way can be jam-packed. But, their flow of traffics are constantly moving, unlike car roads which can come to a standstill for minutes or even hours at a time.

Oh, and considering most of us never advocate for complete ban of cars, we still allow cargo vehicles to roam. In fact, if most people don’t drive, those cargo vehicles are far less likely to stuck in traffic.

Even then, cargo versions of bikes also exist, believe it or not. No, I am not talking about ones with small woven baskets on the frontside. I am talking about ones with cargo containers as big as the bikes themselves.

I have had many repairmen coming in and out of my house. I have seen the size of materials and tools they bring. Most of the time, if they live in a place where cargo bikes are in abundance and it is safe to cycle on the streets, they could have definitely used them to do their jobs.

Third projection: Financially and economically irresponsible

You believe that we hate cars and sprawling suburbia so much, we would rather destroy the city’s finance by having expensive transit systems and destroy the economies by shutting car factories down.


I am not going to pretend transit systems are cheap to construct and maintain. But, do you know what else isn’t cheap? Car infrastructures.

Believe it or not, roads also require lots of money to build and maintain. The more they are used by motored vehicles, the quicker they deteriorate and the quicker they deteriorate, the more they need resurfacing.

Unless car users pay their fair share of road tax (corresponding to the weight of their vehicles, as heavier ones cause even more damage), car infrastructures are expensive and unprofitable things which are heavily subsidised by the states.

Sprawling, car-centric urban developments in general are also financially draining. They have low population density while having facilities comparable to ones in dense urban environments. Expensive to maintain while generating little tax revenue.

Don’t forget that city highways cannot be constructed without the destruction of neighbourhoods, which would definitely ruin livelihoods. With fewer lands available, their prices would increase; if you live in a place where people from all over migrate to, the living cost would be suffocating.

If car factories are closed, those workers will still have jobs, anyway. I mean, how do you think bicycles, buses and trains exist? Appear out of thin air?

Public transit tickets are definitely far cheaper than the prices of car fuel, maintenance, insurance and tax. Therefore, car-dependency also punish people for being poor.

Fourth projection: hating just for the sake of hating

You believe we are just haters who hate car-dependency and sprawling suburbia for no reasons. You believe that if we have experienced the joy of owning cars and living in a sprawling suburbia, we wouldn’t be haters.


We hate car-dependency and sprawling suburbia because we have experienced them.

We have experienced living and commuting in places where cars are king. We know how it feels to walk and bike with high chance of getting hit by cars. We know how it feels to use unreliable and uncomfortable public transit. We know how it feels when those fucktarded motored vehicles are the only viable options.

You remind me of religious zealots who think religion detractors have zero experiences with religions, refusing to acknowledge that many of them grew up in religiously oppressive environments.

Oh, and despite your inexperience living and/or visiting places with good walkability and public transit, you love looking down on walking and public transit.

You don’t know how nice it is to not be financially burdened by cars and not dealing with incompetent and angry drivers. You don’t know how liberating it is to live a very mobile life while car-free. You think walking and transit experiences in your car-centric hometowns are universal.

Fifth projection: unnaturalness

You believe what we are advocating is “unnatural”. You believe humans aren’t meant to live in concrete jungles and stacked atop of each other (in the form of apartments), where cables used by trolley buses and trams are lingering above us.


Give me scientific evidences that humans are innately not meant to live in dense cities. If there is one paper that shows the negative effects of city living, how do you know the results are applicable every person? Have you considered the individuals’ medical and cultural backgrounds? Have you considered…. the urban design?

Believe it or not, just because a statement feels right to you, that does not mean it actually is.

Every single man-made thing is unnatural. Your beloved cars, single-detached houses, malls and wide roads are unnatural. If you truly care about living “natural”, then you should also denounce those things as well.

Don’t forget that your beloved, sprawling and American-style suburbs are even more destructive to the natural environment. Not only they take a lot of natural spaces, they also have yards which mostly consist of chemically-maintained grasses and, as mentioned before, lack any native plants and biodiversity.

Sixth projection: unrealistic expectations

You believe that we are being unrealistic with our expectations. You believe the car-centrism and sprawling nature of cities are innate and therefore, there are limits to turning car-centric cities to be more walkable, more bike-friendly, more transit-oriented and more compact.


If you take a look at old photos of American cities, you would see they were almost as compact as their European counterparts; they were walkable, bike-friendly, compact and equipped with trams.

Basically, they were never intended to be car-centric and sprawling; I mean, this makes sense when you remember America has existed long before the automobiles. As Jason Slaughter from Not Just Bikes loves to say: American cities weren’t build for the cars, they were bulldozed for the cars.

If it is possible for us to spend lots of time, money and energy turning walkable and compact cities into the exact opposite, I don’t see anything unrealistic about the vice versa.

But, do you know what is realistic? Believing that your wasteful lifestyle is sustainable in the long run.

Seventh projection: tyranny

You believe we want to ban cars entirely, force everyone to ride bikes for everything and ban single-family houses with huge yards.


When we say car-dependency, we are not referring to the mere existence of cars, we are referring to a situation in which everyone uses car to do literally almost anything, from shopping groceries to going to work and school. We want everyone to have alternative options. Very few urbanists actually support complete ban of cars. Some of us – excluding me – actually love cars.

In fact, car lovers should oppose car-dependency. Not only you are far less likely to get stuck in traffic, you are far less likely to encounter grumpy drivers who always hate driving.

And eliminating single-family home zone with mandatory minimum size requirements is not the same banning big single-family homes with big yards. You still can have them. But, others are allowed to have different kinds of housing and to run businesses within their premises.

We actually want freedom. But, do you know who don’t? You do.

You are the one who want your cities to stay car-centric. You are the one who love dismissing complains about poor pedestrian, biking and mass transit infrastructures and think the complainers should grow up by buying their own cars.

You are the one who want to keep the single-family house zone. You insist residential neigbourhoods must be exclusively reserved for big single-family housing with big yards, with no room for smaller and more affordable housing and small businesses.

You are comparable to religious zealots who think shoving their beliefs down everyone’s throat is a form of religious freedom that benefit everyone. Having only one option is not freedom.

In fact, you love mocking cyclists who got killed by entitled drivers, whom you always let off the hook. You do more than just normalising deaths by cars, you also celebrate “executions” of anyone who are unwilling or unable to drive.






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You still need the human aspect

I used to feel inexplicably uneasy every time I watched videos by Wendover Productions. It is one of the channels which topics genuinely intrigue me. But, something always felt off.

Thanks to Alan Fisher, now I know why.

Fisher is another Youtuber whose content shares thematic similarities with Wendover, albeit his is more niche. He criticises Wendover’s videos for being hollow shells. Lots of technical information on the surface, no humanness underneath. That critique explains my uneasiness.

While there aren’t that many, I found comments critical of Fisher’s take, saying they would love science and tech videos free from personal opinions.

I do understand their frustration; they are coming only for the technical information. But, we should not forget one thing about STEM: they were created to benefit mankind. Sooner or later, we have to have discussions about how they affect us.

(Note: the following topics are not something Wendover has discussed in its videos. They are just something I have talked about with other people)

You can explain the differences between metric and imperial measurement systems. But, you also have to acknowledge that a system which conversion simply requires moving the decimal point is significantly more dependable and less likely to cause accidents than a system which requires one conversion formula for every pair of unit. Not to mention that metric is much easier to people who suck in math.

You can explain the technical details of man-made physical environments (e.g. buildings and urban planning) and machinery of different modes of transportation. But, you should also talk about how they affect our physical, financial, social and psychological well-being, both on collective and individual levels.

You can explain the technical details of information technology. But, you should also talk about how to ethically and cautiously utilising it, making sure it improves interconnectivity instead of stoking divisions, spreading misinformation and violating privacy.

You can explain the technical details of GMOs, pharmaceutical products and nuclear energy. But, you should also mention their political and/or corporate misuse, which distract the masses from seeing the actual benefits.

You can elaborate on the latest technological breakthroughs. But, you should discuss whether they are actually beneficial and sustainable in the long run or they are just symptoms of fake futurism which may or may not exacerbate humanity’s existing problems.

You can elaborate on evolution theory. But, you should also talk about the taboo attached to it. Is it because of literal interpretations of the scriptures? Is it because of anthropocentrism? Is it both? Is it because of a reason I have never thought of before?

If we want to know which technical knowledge is the most beneficial, we must take a look at the data. If it is clear, then we must take a stance by choosing the empirically-proven approaches and ditching the ones that aren’t. If the data isn’t clear, then we must have discussions, which inevitably involve lots and lots opinions.

If we want to know how theoretical knowledge affects us, we must observe people’s responses to it. Do they embrace it to widen their horizon? Do they reject it for contradicting their personal beliefs? Do they believe certain knowledge is useless if it does not bring immediate practical benefits?

Why do humans have such varying responses? How can we spread science appreciation to the wider society? How can we convince people to change their beliefs when faced with refuting evidences? How can we convince them that expansing one’s horizon is also an actual benefit?

If you think science communication must convey nothing but technical information, why bother?

Why bother with science communication – which is meant to make the masses appreciate STEM even more – when you disregard its significance in our human lives? Why bother when you could have just written and read textbooks and scientific papers?

It sounds like I absolutely hate Wendover. While I do think most of his videos aren’t that great, there are two which I truly love: The World’s Most Useful Airport and The Final Years of Majuro.

The former is about an airport in an extremely isolated island called St. Helena. It covers the airport’s arduous technical aspects and its impacts on the islanders’ lives. He interviewed the locals, including a couple whose baby received urgent life-saving treatment thanks to the airport.

The latter is about how climate change is threatening to swallow the entirety of Marshall Islands, which means the Marshallese people will lose their ancestral homeland soon. He interviewed them as well, even ones who lived abroad.

They tackle issues which can be solved using STEM and warn us about the consequences of our refusal to solve them. Unless you are a robot or one of those Ayn Rand-esque selfish bastards, hearing the human side of the stories would make you more appreciative of STEM’s existence and more concerned about its use.

The thing is Wendover does not need to travel to a far flung place and interview its residents. If he compliments his STEM content with some dashes of social sciences and humanities and he acknowledges that it is okay to add personal opinions as long as they are well-reasoned and respectful of facts, his other videos would have been much more profound.






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Neutrality =/= Objectivity (we need to remind “smart” people about this)

Neutrality is all about not taking sides. Whether it is about the tastiness of pineapple pizza or the justifiability of the holocaust (do I need to explain why it is unjustified?), you don’t take sides regardless of the facts each side provides.

Objectivity is all about siding with facts. Whether you believe it or not, there is always chance that one party is more wrong than the other; it is hard to find a conflict in which both sides are equally wrong.

If both sides get many of their facts wrong and one is more guilty of it, you should frame it as wrong vs more wrong. If one gets most of its facts right and the other gets most of them wrong, frame it as mostly right vs mostly wrong.

Objectivity is all about siding with facts. If you get most of your facts wrong, you deserve objectivity’s middle finger.

Oh, and I believe objectivity can be used to determine our moral integrity, at least in the realm of bigotry.

A bigot reduces a particular group of human beings to mere stereotypes, which are over-simplified and preconceived beliefs desperately seeking validation. Basically, a bigot gets most (all) of their facts wrong.

Let’s face it: they get their so-called facts from hearsay, their feelings, other people’s feelings, media representations, studies with questionable samplings and methods, studies which results cannot be duplicated and, of course, hostile interactions which the bigots instigate. Here is a surprising fact: those are not great sources of reliable information about the “others”.

You don’t need to be a genius to intellectually defeat a bigot. As long as we cherish facts and we aren’t deranged animals with extremely insatiable lust for neutrality, everyone can do it.

But then, we are talking about humans after all. If the BBC cannot be factual regarding trans issues, it is naive to expect anything better from the average cretins.






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Those positive Muslim stories no longer entice me

In fact, as a Muslim, I find them nauseating nowadays.

I used to relish on them. I used to believe those feelgood stories would help tackling anti-Muslim bigotry; even if they didn’t, they would give the bigots the finger.

But, slowly, I started to feel uneasy about such stories. Then, I realise they can be problematic for two reasons.

Reason one: they exacerbate some Muslims’ denialism

There are some Muslims (focus on the word SOME) who genuinely believe the Muslim world is inherently problem-free. Consequentially, those particular Muslims dismiss Islamic extremism a conspiracy by the CIA and/or Mossad. Either that or they see it as harmless expressions of faith, hated only by “fake Muslims” and “Islam-hating infidels”.

The more they encounter those saccharine stories, the more they feel entitled to praises just for doing the bare minimum.

Reason two: they are infantilising

Oh, a group of Muslims behave like decent human beings? So fucking what? How is people doing the fucking bare minimum worth the news?

If our decent behaviours are worth the news, it means you are still surprised by our ability to be virtuous. Therefore, regardless of how “woke” you claim to be, you still see us as mere stereotypes. You still expect the worst from us.

So, should we keep the negative media coverage, then?

Well, yes…. with a big but.

On one hand, we have to keep making a big deal out of Islamic extremism. We have to keep reminding everyone -especially Muslims- that it is not something to be tolerated, let alone embraced.

It is also something which does not feed on attention-seeking. Its growth will continue regardless of our (in)attention. Unless you are one of the Muslims who care more about our image than our moral integrity, you would want the negative coverage to continue.

But, on the other hand, many western media outlets (which are unfortunately globally influential) seem incapable of reporting extremism without pigeonholing the Muslim world. They don’t always interview Muslims. When they do, they interview extremists and present them as good representatives. When they do interview peaceful Muslims, they often treat the peacefulness as a bombshell; worse, they also accuse those peaceful Muslims of being complicit to extremism, simply for sharing a religious label with the extremists.

Obviously, journalists must suppress their preconceived beliefs. Unfortunately, we are talking about humans here; it is easy to succumb to prejudice. Even if they try their best, they have prejudiced higher-ups to bow down to.

But, regardless, those saccharine narratives are still the wrong way to go. As mentioned earlier, they belittle our ability to be dignified human beings and they encourage some Muslims to exaggerate the goodness of the Muslim world, discourage them from acknowledging the problems.

Whether we like it or not, the negative coverage must go on. Because feeling good all the time benefits no one.






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Dear fans of Cuties…

What the fuck is wrong with you?

I keep seeing comments by you accusing us, the film’s detractors, of being unable to accept the harshness of our reality.

Now, I am not going to deny that. I know for a fact that some humans think it is problematic to call out problems. My fellow Indonesian Muslims think I am being divisive simply because I call out the divisiveness of the Indonesian society.

But, that’s not the really the case with us, is it?

If you even bother to listen and read our words, you would know we hate the film NOT because it acknowledges the existence children’s exploitation, but because it perpetrates it! We hate the film NOT for exposing the problem. but for being the problem!

If anything, you are the ones who should be interrogated here.

How the fuck can you watch a film featuring actual pre-pubescent girls twerking on camera and don’t see anything wrong with it? How the fuck can you watch blatant children’s exploitation and think it is a great commentary against it?

I don’t know what kind of world you live in. But, in the real world, condemning something means you don’t do that something. I mean, it is just common sense; you can’t commit murder and expect us to believe you are against it.

And the worse part is, I know damn well that many of you are not fucktards.

I know Youtubers whose commentaries I consider to be thoughtful. So, it surprises me that some of them praise the film for supposedly being anti-child exploitation.

I don’t know why you are like that. Maybe I overestimated your thoughtfulness. Maybe I am being reminded about the fallibility of my fellow human beings: just because you have many thoughtful moments, that does not mean you are immune from idiotic ones.

Maybe you are easily smitten by good intentions. You don’t care about the methods and the results. It is the thought that counts, you naively believe.

Whatever causes it, it is genuinely unnerving. Not as much as people who are aroused by the content. But, unnerving nonetheless.






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Punching sideways

In general, I despise jokes and satires which punch down.

Punching down can give the impression that marginalised groups create the most number of problems in their societies, despite their lack of political power and smaller population sizes.

I have made a blog post about it. But, it seems I forgot to talk about punching sideways.

Another issue with punching down is the punchers are often ignorant about the problems within marginalised communities. The punches are either full of oversimplifications or inaccurate stereotypes. Do you know who can provide nuanced and accurate information about said communities? Their own members!

Admittedly, I don’t believe you understand a community just because you grew up in it. Fanaticism and cultural cringe can cloud your judgement, compelling you to whitewash and exaggerate the problems among your people, respectively.

But still, if you want to truly understand a community, wouldn’t it make sense to listen people who have lived the life?

I wouldn’t think about this if it wasn’t for a video titled The Darkness by Youtuber Natalie Wynn AKA Contrapoints, in which she asserted that telling funny trans jokes requires knowledge to actual trans experiences. And yes, she has made lots of funny trans jokes.

Disclaimer: I am cis. I certainly don’t know what kind of trans jokes trans people like. But, I have yet to see her any significant backlashes from the trans community regarding her trans jokes.

This also reminds me of Muslim American webcomic artist Huda Fahmy, known for her work Yes, I am hot in this. While she does not create crude content, she constantly makes fun of her fellow American Muslims and, to a lesser extent, the entire Muslim world.

And the fact that she is a hijabi reveals a previously-hidden complexity about Muslims.

When you think of a hijabi, you think of someone who supports shaming of non-hijabis and takes hijab too seriously. That’s what anti-Muslim bigots, liberal Muslims, ex-Muslims and even some moderate Muslims (the old school Indonesian ones, at least) believe.

Huda Fahmy isn’t like that.

For one, she believes in giving women the freedom to wear anything they desire. She despises the idea of shaming them for dressing “immodestly”. In a satirical tone, she offers new dehumanising pro-hijab metaphors which do not involve ants and candies. She even acknowledges that modesty does not prevent sexual harassment.

She also makes jokes about hijabs, including one which she jokes how women become hijabis after bitten by hijampire, who has snaggle pins as fangs.

Never mind non-Muslims. As someone who grew up Muslim in the biggest Muslim-majority country and attended two Islamic schools, I have yet to met a hijabi who makes such jokes. She showcases an aspect of the Muslim world which is hidden even from many Muslims.

Basically, unless your intention is to dehumanise them even further and make them even more prone to discrimination, you have to learn about intricacies of the lives of marginalised peoples before you make fun of the them.

And no, stereotypes are not good enough. They are beliefs about our fellow human beings which are never 100% accurate, but shamelessly waiting to be affirmed.

Apart from the power imbalance, the absence of nuanced perspectives is another reason why punching down is problematic.

Yes, black and white thinking is problematic. It is just a few steps away from misinformation.






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From shallots to religious peace

I hate how my fellow Indonesians represent their country to foreigners. They don’t seem to understand it even on the most basic level.

I will start ranting from the most trivial thing and ends on the least trivial.

For many Indonesians, the English word onion refers to not only actual onions, but also shallots. It is understandable if the Indonesian language calls them by the same name.

But, it doesn’t!

Shallot is called bawang merah and onion is bawang bombay! Not only we have different names for them, we know how to distinguish them just by looking at them!

I don’t know how we continue making this error. But, I do know it creates a misconception among some foreigners.

One time, SortedFood -a British cooking Youtube channel- made a video about rendang… and instead of using shallots as the recipe calls, they use fucking red onion!

Of course, shallots might not be available in shops near them and they needed a substitute. But, in this case, it clearly wasn’t the case. If it was, they would have mentioned the word shallot and yet, they didn’t mention it, not even once!

That makes me wonder if there are many more foreigners have made the same mistake when cooking Indonesian dishes.

I notice some Indonesians try to translate soto as soup… and that is incorrect. Soto is a type of soup traditional to Indonesia; we have words for soup: it is either sup or sop.

Maybe they feel obligated to translate every single word. But, the thing is, if the words have no direct translations and they are names of foods, don’t translate them! Just keep using the original words! I mean, languages like English have lots of foreign words in them; using soto in an English sentence is not a sin!

Oh, and I hate how we mindlessly call many of our dishes “curry” when -with rare exceptions- we almost never refer to them as such, even the ones with obvious South Asian influences!

Yes, it is easier this way if we want to explain Indonesian cuisines to uninformed foreigners. But, we also have to be explicit about the fact we rarely call our foods “kari”.

Still on foods, I am also annoyed that we never showcase the diversity of our cuisines. We love presenting the dishes as if they are of the same cultural backgrounds, even though they clearly aren’t. We literally have hundreds of ethnic groups here and yet, we love to represent ourselves as one cultural monolith.

To this day, I still don’t know why many Indonesians -the ones I have encountered, at least- never brag about our cultural diversity to foreigners. They also never realise that we have a relatively wonderful inter-ethnic relations.

Ethnicity almost never determine whom we befriend or have romantic relations with. While there are indeed ethnic conflicts, they mostly occur among people of rural backgrounds who grew up unexposed to other groups; they almost never occur among most people who grew in diverse urban areas.

I initially thought we were like fish who don’t realise they are in water. Probably because many of us had multicultural upbringings, we may be unaware of the existence of cultural diversity. But, I doubt that is the case.

In celebrations like the independence day, we love showcasing the contrasting styles of our traditional attires. We love making fun of other regional accents. We can be picky with certain cuisines because other regions’ taste buds may not suit ours. We even love stereotyping each other.

Basically, we do know how culturally diverse our country is. But, inexplicably, we never use that fact to positively boost our image on the world stage.

To make it even more confusing, we prefer to brag about our supposed religious peace instead.

One thing for sure, Indonesia is indeed way better than Iran and Saudi Arabia. We are not a theocracy which commands every citizen to live a strictly Islamic lifestyle.

But, at the same time, Muslims are clearly the most privileged religious group in the country and non-Muslims in predominantly-Muslim provinces have to adjust to life which benefits Muslims the most. Religious conflicts also happen far from rarely; while their occurrence is not regular, it is frequent enough to worry anyone whose heads are not on cloud nine.

And we are not even that religiously diverse.

With ethnicity, the biggest and second biggest groups comprise about forty and twenty percent of the population, respectively. With religion, the biggest one -obviously, Islam- comprises eighty percent.

Christians are the most visible religious minority and, for many Indonesian Muslims, they are the only non-Muslims we have interacted with. We are also exposed to Buddhism and Chinese religions, but only if we live in places with visible population of Chinese-Indonesians who still embrace their ancestral heritage (the ones who don’t are Christians). Hinduism is extremely rare outside Bali. Animism is rare in urban areas and it is not even seen as a religion. Judaism and anything Jewish are seen as bad as atheism; Indonesian Jews are practically non-existent. Oh and, it is much easier to find Hindus than it is to find non-Sunni Muslims.

Basically, many Indonesian Muslims still live a religious bubble. With that in mind, the existence of religious tensions -especially when Muslims are the bigoted ones- in Indonesia is anything but unexpected.

I don’t know exactly why we always brag about our religious pluralism instead of the ethnic one. Maybe it is our inferiority complex; we are seen as a model country in the Muslim world (for some goddamn reasons) and we rarely get any ego boosts on the world stage.

My point is we should be careful on how we present our country to foreigners.

If you improperly translate the words you use, you may end up giving them misinformation which is trivial but infuriating nonetheless.

If you are driven by feelgood, blinding nationalistic sentiment, you may end up sugarcoating your country’s image and burying the actual dirt underneath.

If the foreigners are gullible, they would be fed with factual inaccuracies and end up perceiving the world inaccurately, thanks to you. If they already have negative preconceived beliefs, they would accuse you and your fellow countrymen of whitewashing the problems in our country, inadvertently exacerbating its already-negative image.

Oh, and it can be a missed opportunity. Because you are too focused on exaggerating the positivity of some aspects of your country, you end up ignoring ones which are genuinely good.

Yes, I am also far from perfect. I still have surface-level knowledge about my own home country and I may have unknowingly given wrong info.

But, I am confident about something: I am not stupid enough to translate bawang merah as onion and soto as soup….. and I am certainly not dishonest enough to think Indonesia is an entirely heavenly place for non-Sunni Muslims.






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Religions are not that scary

Yes, I do believe that, even if I agree all religions are inherently violent.

Religious extremists are indeed people we should be fearful of. But, we keep forgetting they are human beings who can pose actual threats to us, while the religions they adhere to… you know… are not human beings.

Everyone knows this as a fact… and yet, many are still unable to think clearly.

The thing about dangerous humans is they will always pose threats against us. It does not matter if they are wiped out of our memories and their existence is not documented anywhere. Their existence is unaffected by our obliviousness.

Religions, on the other hand, are sets of spiritual ideas which guide or dictate their adherents in how they live their lives, especially in searching for the meanings of life. Basically, religions are intangible non-living entities which entire existence is reliant on our memories and our records of them.

Once all of its records are lost, once it disappears from our memories, it will cease to exist.

Fear of extremism is a good thing; it shows that you still possess common sense and basic human decency. But, spending so much time fearing abstract entities is just too unreasonable for me to tolerate.

It may seem like I am making an apologetic to potentially dangerous religions (or ideas in general). Don’t get me wrong, I do think we should fear them. But, if we focus too much on them, we would ignore the actual root of the problem: humans.

From my limited observations, there are three types of people who will likely end up as extremists: those with no sense of directions, those who are unbelievably gullible and those who were already degenerate in the first place.

Those with no sense of directions are desperate to belong somewhere. They will join any communities which offer open arms, willingly overlook even the most blatant acts of immorality.

The gullible ones will take every word coming from supposedly authoritative sources for granted. Any sources can be authoritative for them; they can be clerics, politicians, fringe academics, entertainers…. and even anyone who constantly share conspiracy videos on WhatsApp groups.

The genuinely degenerate ones can be divided to two subgroups: those who feel empowered by extremist ideas and those who want to justify their degeneracy by making twisted interpretations of any beliefs they can get their hands on.

Even if you think my categorisation is too simplistic (and I agree with you), it is very hard for you to deny that humans are the roots of the problem.

We should help people overcoming their gullibility by teaching them critical thinking and making sure they are well-informed. We should help people -especially the young ones- feeling at home in the places they live in. We should encourage -and NOT forcing- people to be more moral if we want them to be genuinely moral; if that is hard to enact, the least we can do is making sure we are not empowering immoral people.

I acknowledge that my solutions are either vague or non-existent. But, at least, I also acknowledge that if we want to tackle extremism, we should also focus on preventing it from taking roots in the first place.

Getting too obsessed with the religions won’t tackle it, considering you are just waiting for the problems to start happening. Banning the religions also won’t cut it, considering those problematic people are ticking time bombs and anything –literally anything– can ignite them; the ban will only lead to a false sense of security.

I just realised this may also apply to violent entertainment. If someone becomes violent after enjoying certain works, that means they already had problems in the first place.

But, I choose to focus on religions because I am one of those people who can get heated when discussing them.






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Shopping while crammed

On Google, I love searching for differences between countries and regions within a country. Obviously, I have to be careful possibly stereotyping. But, in some articles, I found something interesting about a supposed major difference between the US Midwest and New York city: their supermarkets.

Due to the availability of spaces, Midwestern supermarkets are ridiculously spacious and New York ones are ridiculously crammed. The former have ridiculously wide aisles and offer a ridiculously wide range of products. The latter have limited products to offer and, not only the aisles are much smaller, some of the products are placed on the floor.

I cannot confirm the validity of the claims as I have never been to either place. But, one thing for sure, I don’t find Midwestern supermarkets appealing in any ways, especially after seeing the (supposed) photos.

I do love my space spacious, where I can move easily and any news items won’t immediately cram the space. But, I also believe in necessity. I don’t see why we need aisles which can we can drive cars through. It is shamelessly wasteful.

The abundance of options can be burdensome and futile, depending on the situations.

If l have tried most of the options and I like most of them, the abundance will lead to indecisiveness on my part, making me wasting precious time. I certainly cannot buy every item I like because of health and financial reasons. Yes, even citizens of third world countries can experience first world problems.

If I haven’t tried most of the options, I will play safe by picking the ones I have tried before and I actually like. On some occasions, I will try picking the cheaper options and see if they are as good as the pricier ones; most of the time, they aren’t and that compels me to stay playing safe in the future.

But, I do have a weird reason to not prefer overtly-spacious shops: they don’t have the homely feel.

No, I didn’t grow up literally living in a crammed shop. It just happened that I grew up buying my favourite treats in such establishments. Even the local supermarket chain in my Indonesian hometown of Batam still retain its crammed branches, despite already building newer and more spacious ones.

Regardless of inconvenient they can be to navigate, there is something oddly nice about crammed shops. While they don’t give me any fuzzy feelings, their vanishing would certainly leave a void in my life. They have become a part of my cultural identity.

Obviously, Indonesia and my hometown specifically do have spacious supermarkets, loads of them. But, none of the ones I have been to leave lots of empty spaces. They always make sure extra floor space is utilised. Most of the time, they simply add more stuffs to sell. In some cases, they also put promotional stands.

That’s why I associate unused extra space as a waste of space.

Oh, and crammed shops -the ones I visit regularly, specifically- are not a problem during this pandemic. I was initially concerned about entering one as physical distancing would be impossible. But, I was wrong.

The thing about them is most were never that crowded in the first place, which means pandemic changes little or nothing at all. Fear of the virus may also discourage people from visiting anywhere crammed. Not to mention that establishments in Indonesia -the ones I have been to, at least- always limit the number of people entering their premises. Mom and pop shops which do not sell food end up embracing full counter service.

If I didn’t grow with those crammed shops, my opinion of them would definitely be less stellar. But, I wonder if my opinion of those Midwestern-style supermarkets would be any different.






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