Why Social Science Matters

I’d like to start from the very background of this post: the gap between natural sciences and social ones.

Conservative–I should add ‘Indonesian’–people failed to see that social science is a science. Most of them believe that social science is just a compilation of facts that everybody can learn from newspapers. They tend to believe that:

a) It is obviously easy, everyone can conquer it.
b) Natural scientists can do whatever social scientists can, but not otherwise.
c) Social science doesn’t require you to have a certain level of analytical aptitude, it only needs people who can memorize.

As a result, the government provides youngsters with many mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology competitions–but not social sciences. Tell you what, they’re complete nonsense.

Social science is not, I assure you, ‘a compilation of facts that everybody can learn from newspapers’, it rather explains beyond what is written. When the press announces publicly that more people are using Twitter, social scientists can tell you what it means in the future. We can explain why China vetoed a number of resolutions in the Security Council, and we analyze why some policies can’t be implied.

Social science is very challenging for its dynamics. Things that mattered for the international community during the World War II, for instance, are not important anymore in the 21st century. Trends have changed, concerns have swayed, and televisions now show different news.

Its vastly wide range of issues makes it impossible for us to solve it once and for all. Therefore, social science is broken down to a number of specific studies: anthropology, sociology, economics, psychology, political science, international relations study, communication science, criminology, administration study, social welfare study, and a lot of others to follow. This provides strategic options for future students with varying passions. Yet the silver line is clear: the interaction between agents in a certain structure of a system in the society.

Social scientists can convey a single idea or concept in more than a million ways. Unlike natural scientists who ‘prove’ one static truth, our truth moves from place to place and it takes thorough efforts to extract an abstracted truth from empirical evidences.

Those assumptions are all wrong, and these are true ones:
a) Social scientists try to answer different questions–most of them directly affect your life.
b) It doesn’t need natural scientists’ logic, but it does involve common sense and imagination to ‘construct truth’.
c) I sucked in my first year of studying social science, so it’s ‘obviously’ not easy.

With a single hope that parents, teachers, and–above all–students will comprehend the case I, along with BEM FISIP UI 2011, am making, we hereby suggest you to spread the good news of first Southeast Asian-wide Social Science Olympiads:

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Find a lot more on: http://ois2011.com
Follow our Twitter: @ois_2011

Stairs (Not to Heaven)

M. Iman Usman, on a night chat at a Starbucks table:

“Ini analogi gue ya, Fu. Orang yang ‘nyoba’ berbagai bidang itu memperluas tangga mereka ke samping, makin lama makin lebar, tapi sama sekali nggak membantu mereka untuk naik tingkat dan mendekat ke tujuan sebenarnya.”

(This is my analogy, Fu. People who try as many opportunities as possible in different fields are actually widening their stairs, but in the end they don’t have time to go to the next level and get closer to their desired destination.)

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Lucky people are those who know where to go and take one step at a time.

How many of you, of us, really focus on a single thing at a time?

I know a number of people who are engaged in at least 10 committees and organizations at a time. Most of them, just as I also was, can’t be fully committed in any of these works since they should have their mind divided fairly. Multitasking is a talent that God bestows upon some of us, but come to think of it, great men (or women) who really excel and make history are ones who have their thoughts focused and set on what their passion is.

Say, you want to make your country a better place. You can do so by participating in either Indonesian Future Leaders, Garuda Youth Community, Ashoka Young Changemaker, LEO Young Club, etc. (with an emphasize on ‘either’–not more than one–because unless you do so, you won’t really contribute anything to these great organizations)

Say, you want to  have your writings read and your voice heard. Apply to journalistic club or radio station in your university, try internships at established TV station or newspaper offices. Get your books published! (DISCLAIMER: blogging is never enough)

Say, you want to make great research and astonish people with your unusual findings. Then you have to join research associations like Kelompok Studi Mahasiswa Eka Prasetya, or follow your favorite lecturer as their research assistant. I swear you can’t make a ‘boom’ without spending at least 6 months on your research.

See, options are there to pick, not to be greedily taken without any considerations. Indonesia needs more young minds that know what they want to do, not ones that agree with what people tell them to.

Ready to narrow down the width of your stairs and build it up instead?

Are Great Leaders Born?

A classic debate which everyone keeps debating on and can’t really have a consensus upon.

The conservatives hang on their faith that leadership is genetic. The magical power to move people, to inspire, to boost them pushing off their limits, it’s all in those leaders’ blood. Such ability is ascribed in ‘chosen’ ones and there’s no way for you to attain it through efforts.

The rest argue that leadership is about tiredlessly making endeavours to train yourself as a leader. Since the basic idea is “You are who you think you are,” once you perceive yourself as a leader, everything else will follow. Implement those ‘leadership quotes’ and principles in daily things you do, and voila! A leader you shall be.

Take, for example, Yusuf Hakim Gumilang. A name I’ll always come up with to answer “Who’s the leader that inspires you the most?” sort of question. He’s that kind of leader who knows his people better than they know themselevs. He notices when one of his staff is missing, he deals with pressure calmly, he embraces problems with solutions. Now the question would be: (1) Could his parents see that ‘seed of leadership’ when he was born? (2) Has he been shining since high school? Or, (3) did he learn to be such a great leader in the process of being Ketua BEM FISIP UI 2010?

Princes (and princesses, to make it fair) can somehow be told to be ‘born with leadership genes’ because to some extent they are surrounded by such environment that ‘shaped’ them to possess certain traits that are required to be move people. This notion might be half-true for today’s royal families, but was an absolute truth back then. If those Hamengkubuwonos weren’t raised in Kasultanan Yogyakarta, I doubt that they would have the skill to lead and charm to be praised.

I always belive that nobody was ever ‘born’ with such behavior (not even Hitler), but human beings learn. Although, there are several among us who are privileged to learn from the best minds and hands. Experiences shape our personality the most.

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Hasta Brata, the 8 elements to lead in Javanese philosophy: Sun, moon, star, sky, wind, sea, fire, and earth. Beautiful.

Let’s leave it there. Now my next inquiry would be: is it true that “leaders are those who don’t crave the throne”?

Leaders should indeed be favored by their people’s voices. However, it is not mutually exclusive with the existence of ‘willingness’ in these leaders’ hearts to seize for authority. Matterfact, great leaders’ shining eyes come from their endless stream of ideas and enthusiasm to make it true. Aiming to have a role at the higher post does not necessarilly mean that they are greedy, avaricious beasts. It means that these people have serious concerns to realize their aspirations.

Exhibit A: Hanifah Ahmad, a friend of mine, loves Indonesian Student Association for International Studies (ISAFIS), an organization she’s been engaged with for almost a year. During the process, she detected problems in the body, and wished to make a change, to bring the organization towards betterment, simply because she feels that she belongs to that group of people. She needs to bring her thoughts forward and see how the squad would respond. However, she knows she can do nothing if she’s not there as their ‘head’.

Exhibit B: With no intention to brag or anything, I know my utmost contribution for OIS (a remarkable social science olympiads event at my campus) would be by taking the responsibility as its project officer.

“There’s no such thing as a perfect leader either in the past or present. If there is one, he is only pretending, like a pig inserting scallions into its nose in an effort to look like an elephant.” –Liu Shao-ch’i

I believe that all youngsters have the basic seeds to be great leaders. Idealism and never-ending spirit might become their foremost fertilizer, yet in most cases both fade as these young minds grow as adults. The task is then to preserve and nurture these values so that you can still feel it somewhere in your heart as you sit behind your working desk at your 30s.