Roosevelt and Meyer Might Have Shared the Same Childhood

By ‘Roosevelt’ I mean the great president of United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt and by ‘Meyer’ I refer to that lady who wrote Twilight Saga, Stephenie Meyer. Let me commence a series of tweets I posted yesterday:

Fdr-bill_of_rights

  1. Today over a lunch, @aswinprasetyo enlightened me on Roosevelt’s Second Bill of Rights which was exactly what I’ve been suggesting to @rizkiyuniarini:
  2. Instead of giving the ‘right to create, freedom of speech, etc.’ under the spirit of liberalist capitalism, the government needs to take the responsibility…
  3. …to let their people have the ‘right to employment with a living wage, freedom from unfair competition and monopolies, housing, medical care, education, and social security.’ In other words, it echoes the spirit of socialism.
  4. Kiki believes that socialism isn’t the answer for you’ll only turn people counter-productive and ‘not happy at all’. But then…
  5. One thing liberalism doesn’t realize is that not everyone stands on the same starting line and thus has limited access to sources of wealth.
  6. Seeing the ‘Bapak-Tukang-Bakpau-Yang-Jam-9-Dagangannya-Masih-Sisa’ or ‘Adek-Jam-7-Koran-Masih-Segepok’, I’d rather be unhappy in unison :(
  7. If Roosevelt was still alive by now, I would definitely be his Second Bill of Rights’ biggest supporter. Change should start from the U.S.
  8. I’m not a fan of Stephenie Meyer’s, but ‘The Host really has an interesting concept of a ‘mature society’. A utopianic idea, really.
  9. 1) Get the concept of ‘money’ and ‘wealth’ completely erased from the society. 2) Let everyone take a job they please and produce goods.
  10. 3) Now that everyone’s assigned to a certain role, take things you need and leave those you don’t. 4) Voila, peaceful equality for everyone.
  11. Still hard to imagine? Visualize yourself getting into a store after 8 normal hours of work and take a roll of tissue, don’t pay, get home.
  12. Why can’t people stop being so pretentiously obsessed with money and wealth? Why do we create gaps we don’t want?
  13. And yet here I am, one powerless girl giving up to what the society offers me. Guess I’m no Karl Marx or Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Will be beyond glad to have this discussed with you over a glass of blended green tea with cream. Until then, have a great day.

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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.

The “Talk”

Several days ago, I randomly decided to sleepover at a friend‘s place, which led us to the following post. Most of the ideas were explored better by expert psychologists, pray read to simply get trough its nutshell.

I. There exist private and public selves for each person.

I came up to her proposing a question about whether people who pretend to be kind deserve the same merits as those who are kind. What I really meant was related to the fact that there are some people who consciously do positive deeds just for the sake of doing good whereas there are people whose nature is to make their surroundings happy. I said yes, they did, because it’s actually harder for them, trying to be kind, while the second group of people don’t need to take extra efforts and are kind unconditionally. Of course, the notion changes if one has hidden agenda, interest, or intention behind theirs pretense.

 

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However, my friend rebutted this saying that, by nature, people do show certain level of ‘self-ness’. Colleagues or acquaintances, for instance, are only allowed to see the outer, nutshell part of your self. This merely includes your happy and organized face. At the other hand, your family or spouse have seen your dread, fear, desperation, and tears–attributes that are too personal to be shown to new individuals.

II. At which level of relationship are you?

I concluded that, there are at least three levels (she actually resolved on two):
a) friend-level-2
b) friend-level-1, and
c) friend-level-0.

Friends-level-2 are exposed to the idea that you’re an angel without any possible negative characteristic. They are not allowed to know that you’re human with problems, neither the fact that you may be angry at one or another point. This is a level shown to people you just know, or people with whom you have political (read: hierarchical) interest. The boss or subordinate, you might mention.

Friends-level-1 are mostly misunderstood as bestfriends. It lies on a too quick assumption that if you feel comfortable enough to share thoughts and feelings, then he/she will stick with you forever. At this level of friendship, you start sharing your personal ideas and stories, the fact that you can as well be weak and stupid, for the sake of establishing a friendly relationship. The people in this level are candidates to go to friends-level-0, but in most cases, they fail to.

Friends-level-0 are those who still managed to stay after you throw your shoes at them to release your anger. Of course this is an extreme example, but the point is that people at this level have seen you at your worst. You and your imperfections. You and all the emotion, negativity, as well as furiousness over a problem. Although you might have a lot of bestfriends, I bet people on average only have one or two friends-level-0.

This article might add or change the way you see people, but always put in mind that no matter how you play it, always cherish the nowness.
Have a good day!

Meet Ted Fishman

Forrest Gump’s mother always said that life was like a box of chocolate. You’ll never know what you’re gonna have.

A fortnight ago, I had the rare chance to meet this incredible guy personally. In case you haven’t heard of him, he’s a journalist, the author of China, Inc. as well as Shock of Gray. This guy was once a lecturer in Universitas Gajah Mada and is now on a two-month trip in Jakarta. He was about to treat me a Big Mac–if only I hadn’t bought my own meal.

Fishman_about

Ted: (to a mas-mas) “Terima kasih!” (“Thank you!” in Bahasa)
Afu: “You must’ve been here before. You speak Indonesian!”
Ted: “Well, actually, yes. But you only see the part of language that I know. There are parts that I don’t–and that’s a lot more!”
Afu: “Haha, alright.”
Ted: “Okay. So…”
Afu: “So, yes. What would I do, as a research assistant?”
Ted: “Well, I think I’ll have to tell you how I work. I never have specific things in mind when I decided to write something. I just talk with people–talk with almost everyone, and then I observe their thoughts, I discover the concerns that they have, and then I narrow my topic down.
Afu: (that’s pretty much what I myself do)
Ted: “I contacted a friend of mine to help finding these people…yet, instead of bringing me to the market or kampungs, he made appointments with far too great people–like the ministers and all those politicians. I don’t think I’m smart enough to meet them now. So I freaked out.”
Afu: (what a humble guy–he can’t even tell who’s smarter than whom)
Ted: “Basically, I need someone to be a translator–to falicitate me converse with real Indonesian people in the suburbs, in the market…preferably in the afternoon. Because that’s when people slow down from their morning rush.
Afu: “Well, I’d love to. I think it’ll be a great opportunity to directly learn from the field.”
Ted: “Really? Great!”
Afu: (asks technical questions)
Ted: (answers technical questions)
Afu: (nods in agreement)
Ted: “Your English is excellent, by the way. Did you grow up somewhere abroad?”
Afu: “Thank you. Nope. Actually, no. I just watch movies.”
Ted: “Wow, that’s great. So, tell me about yourself. Your interests, your dream…your plans in the future?”
Afu: “I…aspire to be a writer…just like you. An academic one, who argues about something. I also want to give lectures in classes, and I hope I can do both simultaneously. But I’m not really sure where to start.
Ted: “Well. I think Indonesia is a great place for writers. The people here are hungry for information. There are a lot of newspapers to start writing for.”
Afu: “True. But that’s exactly why we can’t tell which news is worth reading and which is not. There are too many of them.”
Ted: “Well, the thing that you have to bear in mind is that books are not newspapers–nor magazines. People buy your book because they like your idea. Newspapers and magazines, on the other hand, are issued frequently. People buy them on a habit, for example.”
Afu: “Can’t agree more.”
Ted: “I’m not saying that magazines are bad–I subscribe to a number of them. But you know, you’ll have to have the idea to sell a book.”

I don’t know what point I’m making by posting this up, but I think when you’re really great, it would be hard for you to realize that you are. He’s such an increadibly smart, family-loving, and amicable man. He has all the checklist that ladies compose for their candidate husband. I fell so fortunate to have met him in person, on a table at McDonald’s Pasar Festival.

The Case for Religions

I bet many of you have been astounded by Karen Armstrong’s work on The Case for God (well if you haven’t previously, you’re about to). Read these two paragraphs:

We regularly ask God to bless our nation, save our queen, cure our sickness, or give us a fine day for the picnic. We remind God that He has created the world and that we are miserable sinners, as though this may have slipped His mind. Politicians quote God to justify their policies, teachers use him to keep order in the classroom, and terrorists commit atrocities in his name. We beg God to support “our” side in an election or a war, even though our opponents are, presumably, also God’s children and the object of his love and care.

Religion is a practical discipline that teaches us to discover new capacities of mind and heart. …Like any skill, religion requires perseverance, hard work, and discipline. Some people will be better at it than others, some appallingly inept, and some will miss the point entirely. But those who do not apply themselves will get nowhere at all. Religious people find it hard to explain how their rituals and practices work, just as a skater may not be fully conscious of the physical laws that enable her to glide over the ice on a thin blade.

A subtle, delicate way to define God and religion, two magic words that people utilize (underrate, I should say) in almost everything they do. Bearing in mind that Karen’s an (more than) expert in comparative religion study, the fact that she uses common examples that are so close to us is simply mindblowing. Both concepts are huge and saturated, hence people would usually opt their unique way to explain it to others. Karen Armstrong, she…fluently, flawlessly, define them in such flowing sentences.

Related to that, this Thursday evening I had a date with three single ladies, going out to the movies and watched Gnomeo and Juliet. If you thought that we’re going to have some pathetic talk on love in the sleepover afterwards, you’re utterly wrong. With all credits going to Dwinta Kuntaladara (and a Rama-Sitta painting on my wall that stimulated the whole thing), we had an IR-ish discussion on religions, and an epiphany came across my head. Said her:

Jadi Fu, aku punya pikiran kayak gini: Imagine God being the center of gravity–bukan Clausewitz, bukan (strategis perang, red). Just, the center of everything. And then there is you, standing at its North, me at its South, terus Ipeh…you’re at the East, dan Candini di Barat. Every single one of us tries to get ourself closer to God. How? Afu, since you’re here (pointing on ‘N’), you move southward. I, I move northward. Ipeh akan bergerak ke Barat, dan Candini bergerak ke Timur. Arah-arah itu adalah apa yang agama kita masing-masing suruh kita untuk lakukan. In the end, we’re reaching the same destination.

The clash happens when you see me going to the opposite direction of where you’re traveling to. Some people would tell, “Hey, kamu jalan ke arah yang salah. Jalan menuju Tuhan itu ke Utara!” Padahal, dari posisi kamu Fu, South is where you should go to.

My reaction was, as most of you probably are, stunned. “I love the idea, Dwinta. I. Totally. Do.” I love the idea that God is a destination and religion is a map to get there. It’s simply impossible that everyone’s going towards the same direction because God made you born with different initial positions, different stories. MAN, THAT PERSPECTIVE CAN ACTUALLY PUT THIS WHOLE WORLD IN PEACE! I’m saying this with goosebumps all over me.

Many people are busy sharing their ‘map’ with others, debating on which publisher created the best map, and overlooked the obligation to actually describe what you’ll find in the end of the road. God, the divine being, in form of Allah, Yahweh, avatars, or whatever other different names humans label Him with.

In addition to that, I’m a true believer that language and semantics bear some of the guilt of mankind’s misunderstandings towards each others’ religion. The fact that the oldest Bible was written in Hebrew and got translated to almost every language in the world leaves a part of me questioning on its purest meanings. Same assumption applies to Islam’s Qoran, Buddha, and Hindi’s handsome scripts.

Abrahamic religions densify God into one single image to Whom their believers can cling on, ask for, and be weak to. Dharmic and Taoic religions, however, believe that God is a grand construction that is all-encompassing, present wherever humanity is present. After all, we’re looking for the same light. After all, we believe that there is something else, something big, beyond what is physically seen.