Just a Normal Session with Socrates’s Descendant

One day he came into the class and mysteriously wrote on the whiteboard:

“Does a gate function without a wall?”

Which left the class–at least me–fallen into a minute of silence. And, as he assembled his lecture tools (i.e. a Mac and its projecting LCD), his eyes swept the entire room, searching for answers.

(Disclaimer: some parts of this dialogue might be overmade to get the dramatic impression.)

PM: “Anyone?”
FU: “It doesn’t. A wall is required to protect what’s inside it.”
DK: “I think it still does, because people get in and out from the gate anyway.”
PM: “Well, a realist would say it doesn’t, a liberalist would say it definitely does, and a constructivist would rather say that it might function without a wall.”
[With that, he began a class on Fukuyama versus Huntington.]

Plato-socrates2

Plato and Aristotle–just walking around.

Plato’s mighty master of mind, Socrates he used to be called, was a great philosopher of his time who–simply put–ask questions to make his audience think, which is a humble way of messing with people’s minds. That rare trait, as it turns out, has (re)appeared in one of my favorite lecturers this semester. A brilliant guy who undoubtedly has done his readings, the kind of a nice person who inquires for your opinion in order to put out his own agenda from your answers.

In addition to this exceptional characteristic, I finally found another human being who, like me, approved the idea that bahasa Indonesia is such a mess.

PM: “So in English, we have breakfast, lunch, and dinner–each of which to determine a certain time-framed meal. While in Bahasa, we have makan pagi, makan siang, and makan malam–you can translate that as eat morning, eat noon, and eat night.”
Class: [laughed]
PM: “This reflects how Indonesian people basically eat whatever they can get their hands on, at whatever period of the day they can actually manage to find it. On the other hand, European languages show their superiority as a civilization. We weren’t prepared for complicated syntax for any coherent cultures.”
FU: [silently nodding way too much]

Just when I thought that was all, he continued.

PM: “My discussions with Mas Edi were mostly around the notion that language was a perfect tool to gain resources. In Russian, for instance, one can not say that this glass is ‘mine’. Right, Afu?”
FU: “Well, I’m convinced they have different pronouns to describe possessions…”
PM: “Exactly. This is a way the government put a control over Russian people under their system, where private property becomes a scarce privilege that you can hardly have.”

The course has been pretty much revolving around intersubjectivity and the (supposedly threatening) absence of truth upon identities. It is therefore unfortunate that we don’t have that many people in the class to contribute their own pieces of mind and arguments to enrich our weekly discussion.

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