Let’s Make Sure that Our Leader is Not Becoming a Dictator

Prior to 2009, politics were mainly about personal preference. Figure head was part of the conversation, but policy and ideology, the exchange of views, the battle between progressivism and conservatism has always become the main driver for most countries with democracy in the world.

Sure we have somebody like Al Gore or Bush being a poster boy for both of the extremes, but at the very end, the battle was between the left and the right.

There were arguably no bigger media darling than Obama once were. His rise to power and fame, was a unique and inceptive social phenomenon, that brings about changes in the political landscape not just in terms of policy, but more importantly on how politics will change its course over the years.

His Yes we can campaign is, for me, a turning point on how a political figure would be seen and regarded from 2008 on. His prominence and huge presence in social media, has shifted the way politics would work in the future [present].

Obama’s success proved that an individual as a brand can become stronger than the party. Arguably, his presence has lifted the Democrats more so than the other way around.

All that, apart from his charm and intelligence, was possible thanks to social media platforms. Through strong social media campaign, his public image skyrocketed not only in the US, but all around the world.

That trend catches on relatively quickly. In less than 2 years, Indonesian mayor turned governor turned president Joko Widodo has taken advantage of the same momentum and medium, to rise into power and fame.

Image result for social media political cartoon

On one end, this is a really good preposition. Thanks to social media, the pathway to power that was exclusively controlled by the “political elite” has since been demolished, and is now pretty much open to anyone. I mean if a dark skinned candidate can take the throne away from a clinton [granted that it is not a male one] and rednecks twice, then anything can basically happen from then on.

Somebody as “ordinary” as Joko Widodo was able to appeal to a much larger audience, because the stage that was exclusively owned by parties is now forced to be shared with independent (and yet collective) movements in the social media.

From then on, we have Trudeau and Macron and (unfortunately) Trump in an international political stages, and the likes of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, Susi Pudjiastuti and Ridwan Kamil in our national political landscape. The type of individuals that can basically win any election with any party if he puts enough calculated efforts into it.

This arguably new scape in politics though, does not come without consequences.

Whilst the pro of giving access to practically anyone to become a politician with the help of social media is quite desirable. Its cons can also be equally, or even more damaging.

And no, I’m not even going to talk about the fake news and hoaxes.

The overwhelming supports that a candidate, or a figure receive through social media has often driven by admiration of certain personality or individual characteristics. Obama was liked because he is reasonable and seems approachable as a person. Jokowi was adored for being modest, humble and honest. Basuki, Susi and Ridwan are loved for being smart and firm.

All that, were also followed by success implementation of policies or good decisions that in the end also elevate their profile.

Those things, however, has unfortunately created unrealistic idolization of the figure. Which leads to blind supports and fanaticism. The sort of support that were enjoyed by sports player and mega artist like Justin Bieber, is now equally enjoyed by politicians.

This is obviously not really good, because a football player or Justin Bieber don’t get to decide how much benefits your uncle should get from his medicare. Arsenal can keep Arsene and Justin can keep making cheesy catchy song that annoys you all day without necessarily making any significant impact in your life.

But a politician could.

In fact, those are what they’re paid and elected for.

We can always choose not to watch Arsenal play or listen to Despacito all day by turning them off. But we cannot turn our back on our country and politicians, because where else would we go?

So we cannot adore a politician the same way we adore Justin Bieber and Arsene (who am i kidding). We need to reserve some sort of criticism towards any politician, because as any politician naturally do, they will make mistakes.

Unfortunately, lately (in Indonesia at least) we have seen less criticism and more blind defense towards a politician for a certain policy. Take the latest executive order issued by president Jokowi on organisations for instance (Perppu no. 2 Tahun 2017). That decision, as sweet as his administration are trying to put it as, is still a very insulting backstab into our very idea of democracy. An authoritarian-esque move that we feel comfortable criticising when Erdogan or Putin does it, and yet defend to the dying breath when Jokowi issued it.

Sadly this is not the first time that he shows his willingness to be flexible with the idea of democracy and his willingness to flirt with power. Rizieq Shihab’s case (as much as I want him to be locked up) is suspiciously very comfortable in terms of both timing and circulation of evidence for the police to be just a coincidence. Not to mention the locking up of some figures (again who had it coming frankly) for supposedly treason without a proper trial.

Those things we would’ve enraged by, if done by Soeharto towards somebody like Goenawan Mohamad.

Yet, somehow we (and by we, I mean Jokowi’s supporter) feel comfortable with it now. Again, maybe because he is hiding behind “pancasila” and “extremism”. But is putting those people behind bars worth our democracy? The very idea that we accuse those people against at the first place. Because the way it is done right now, is very undemocratic at the very least.

Same goes to cases against Susi when it comes to cantrang, or Basuki when it comes to evictions. Yes some bad people may have used their good intentions and bad implementations into their benefits to keep their dirty money going, but it does not take away the fact that Susi’s decision on Cantrang provides no solution for lower class fishermans, and Basuki’s evictions provides no solution for people who has become accustomed to a certain way of living.

All this shouldn’t take away the good things that these figures has done for the society. All and all, I still do believe that these people are good leaders. But, we need to realize, that as politicians, they should be hold responsible for any actions that they took, be it good or bad. Appreciations are due for good decisions and criticism should be imminent for bad decisions.

We shouldn’t get trapped by our preference and become a part of a sided wave by constantly engaging in argument with somebody in the internet and criticizing those individuals. Instead, we should criticize and pay more attention towards the policy and the decision makers.

Our best and most important part to play in a democratic society, is to be in the middle, or at least in our own side to hold people up to their promises. To tell them which policy you think is good for you and the society around you. Our leader should not come in a package like a macas meal. We should be able to point to them what to do policy by policy, not just follow and agree to anything that they say.

You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it – MX

Dear My Fellow Minorities: Just Let Ahok Go

Dear my fellow minorities,

Today we learn, that no matter how smart, quallified and useful we are; we will still be judged by who believe in, and what colour our skins are. That no matter how much we contribute to the society that we live in, that how much benefit we have offer to them is irrelevant as long as we are not in the majority. As long as there are more people above us who (does not necessarily have the right argument) but have the overwhemingly bigger numbers.

That, we have to make peace with the fact that we can never hold a prominent position in the society, because we are born with a lighter skin and believed in a crucified blasphemer.

We pride ourselves as the reasonable one, the oppressed ones. That we can still thrive under those pressures, even though millions and millions of them has marched to make sure that one of us is not to hold power for another day. We have been very patient in accepting the lies that all these are not politics or not driven by hatred. That this is all pure an act of a group that was broken hearted, for being attacked with words by a single person. Even though, without realizing it, they’ve been attacking us every single day with the same kind of words.

However bad the situation is, we have always been the wiser. We always say that it’s okay to be in the dark. To take a reroute when they close the road for their own goods. To listen to their prayers five times a day. To let the important role in the society and its norm to be dictated by their ways and believes.

We have let this to become the normal in this society, because we truly believe on our nations principle. On unity. On tolerance.

The consequences of living in a society as a minority is to be a minority. Our democracy demands a majority and rule of law. Justice is not about getting what you think is right. Justice is about what’s right for our society. The society with a majority of people that are hurt by Ahok’s word and truly believe in it.

We can disagree with it, of course. But ultimately, the result of an election or the decision by the justice system is absolute. That is (again) the consequences of our democracy.

So please listen to me when i say this. Just, move on.

Don’t do a protest or send those flowers anymore, because that will only degrade us to their level.

Don’t go to the streets asking for justice, when justice has been served. Because again what you might think is right, is not always the right think.

You know by rocking those prison gates demanding him to be freed. You’ve actually done something that are worst than those “aksi damai” because you are actually “protesting” against the law while they are “defending” the law.

There will always be somebody who believes in the flat earth thingy and truly think that is right, even though most uf us thinks its plain wrong. That’s who you are right now against the society.

So either move on and do something useful. Or move to either country.

This thing is really tiring.

Regards,

Your fellow minority

Governor Anies Baswedan: It is NOT Another Brexit

It is really hard to make sense of how Anies won the gubernatorial race last week. Not that the reasoning behind his victory is not obvious enough. Nor that his capability is way below what it should be. It is just that, for me who have known Indonesia for the past 24 years; Jakarta’s decision to choose Anies and Sandi goes against everything i’ve learned about country.

Indonesia has been (sort of) famous for being a diverse, multi-cultural yet tolerant country. For anybody who lives in it long enough as a minority, they’ll know that it is just a bunch of lies. Indonesia being tolerant is like saying that the great wall of china can be seen from outer space. It sounded plausible, but it is not when you actually try and see it yourself.

And that has never been a problem for me. I kind of get used to (with some complaining to get me through by using this blog) living a life where I have to be disrupted by prayers call five times a day, or being judged for eating during the fasting period, or the minor inconvenience of not being able to find bacon in every supermarket. That has generally been okay with me. So when Ahok is being attacked for blasphemy against muslim even if it is obviously a political maneuver, I wasn’t even raising my eyebrow, because it is sort of expected..

It is politics. It is dirty. it is corrupt. it is opportunistic. So Anies’s victory, for me, is more than comprehensible.

What I could not understand, however, is the way people reacted to it. Understandably, Ahok’s supporters are frustrated and they took it to social media and start bullying everybody they know, while Anies’s supporter just go about their usual live as if nothing has happened.

But, there is this one group of people who started bullying every Anies’s supporter and blaming them for allowing him to be voted. Basically comparing the election to Brexit and the U.S. election. Arguing, that their country has been polarised and divided because of this very election.

Thing is, our country has always been polarised. Our country has always been separated.

I remember when I was growing up, every single day my mom would drove me to school; Back then, she would made sure that I understand I could never marry anyone outside my religion (especially muslim). I remember (being in a catholic school) hating muslims together with my friends without knowing why. I remember blaming all Muslims for the Bali bombing without even knowing the differences between radicalised terrorist and my muslim neighbours.

That level of hatred has always been there. Hatred that was manufactured by fear. You see, my mom was completely scared that I would marry a muslim and found out that our religious differences would lead me to an unhappy marriage. You see me and my friend hated every muslims we met because we are scared that they would punch us in the face for not behaving properly (even if there’s no reason why they would punch us at the first place). And that relationship is reciprocal.

We acted everyday as if everything is okay. We say hi to our neighbours, wish them good things when they’re struggling and send them congratulations when they achieve something; But deep inside, we wished they would’ve been more similar to us. We wished that they do not believe in the holy trinity, or that they do not believe a woman should cover every single inch of their body, or that they could not eat a cow.

Deep inside we created assumptions about somebody we do not even know and talk to, because they believe in different Gods than us.

Please do tell me if I’m the only one, but at least that’s how I was raised.

All that change when I met my friends in Melbourne who completely share the same fear and concerns as I was and ended up being less devoted to our Gods.

But my friends here. Those people reminds me of my middle school years.

And that is how I have always seen Indonesia. And sadly, socio, economics or even educational backgrounds has nothing to do with it. One can have good degrees but understanding requires more than just learned knowledge. It requires patience and a willingness to be wrong. And religion just simply does not let us to be wrong.

So when you say Anies’s voters has created a brexit-like condition in Indonesia, I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about, because it has always been like this. We have had these polarised, racist and divided society all along, even before this country was even born, we have the innate instinct to hate on different groups. We live kingdoms by kingdoms, and we have maintain different traits for living in different parts of Indonesia, governed by different kingdoms. And that differences will always be a source of fear for us. And that source of fear will always manufacture hatred for us. We are innately trained to fear (and later hate) anybody who has a different background than us.

We are not divided because we choose Anies, we choose Anies because we are divided. And minor issues like blasphemy would only highlight something that has always been there all along.

This is a really negative and pessimistic view of it, but it is (whether I like it or not) the way I see it.

Man, I hope I’m wrong.

Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts… perhaps the fear of a loss of power. – J.S.

London Attack: The Emerging Art of Blaming Islam and the Liberals

I am writing this post, as news organisations are learning more about what happened in London just hours ago. Reportedly, there was at least 3 shots fired at the Westminster bridge, as a car mowed through pedestrians killing at least one women on its way. Moments later, the car rammed through the fence of the parliament building. A police officer was said to be stabbed, before the alleged perpetrator was finally shot to dead by authorities. Of course the Information is still very limited, and we’ll get clearer details about the attack and what exactly happened. For now, we can only hope that the injured can be recovered and that there will be no further attacks.

There are, as far as the news knows, no information on the attacker. His/her motives, background or even physical traits, are still unknown as authorities are focusing more on the casualties, evacuations and are still gathering reports from eyewitnesses.

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Photo Credit: Reuters/Toby Melville

As concerning as this news is, one of the most alarming thing that I saw, has instead came from Twitter.

If you scroll to the top trending page, you will come across some conservatives users (mostly Trump supporters) that used this horrible incident as a justification to condemn Islam and argue against accepting refugees. Again I must reiterate that we have no information (yet) that the attacker is Muslim. Even if he/she is Muslim, I don’t think we can use this attack as a reason to antagonizes Muslim anyway.

These people has also somehow managed to blame this attack on Sadiq Khan, merely because He is Muslim, and (even more astonishingly) claimed that the mayor is behind this attack (or at least attracts it).

They have also blamed the “leftist” or “liberals” for allowing this to happened. They argue that their fight for freedom and to distinguish Islam from the act of terrorism as a doorway to this sorts of attack.

To be honest with you, these tweets concerns more than the attack itself. You see, a united community is easier to be protected, as long as they trust each other. But evidently, we no longer are. Fear driven xenophobia has (as far as our history can tell) only lead us into conflicts.

What I saw from those tweets are hatred created by fear, perpetrated by anger, and translated into blinded judgement that generalize millions of unique individuals into a group of radical terrorists.

I have no idea, whether this sorts of fear has been there for quite a long time without me knowing it, or whether this is the product of “Us against them” mentality created by groups of populist leaders across the world.  One thing that I know for sure is that these people has become more and more visible.

Exactly a year before this attack, three suicide bombing happened in Brussels, and some months before, deadly attacks also killed hundreds in Paris. That was only around 14 months ago, and if my memory serves me well, the reaction was not as polarized and hate filled as it is now.

All I want to say is that we cannot easily label this attack as the responsibility of certain religion, nor do it should justify our hatred towards that religion and certain political decisions.

These sorts of attack are done by radicalized individuals, not because of a religious teaching. Sure, we can say that religious teaching can be misunderstood, but in that case, it is wrong to just look at Islam, because evidently Christian religion can also be used by KKK or other white supremacist to do different forms of violent attacks.

At the end, we can’t let this sorts of attack scares us and pressures us into believing misguided assumptions that will only polarize the society.

We cannot bow into pressure, and let this fear driven hatred govern our humane nature. Allowing us to make unreasonable justification to discriminate others, especially if that fear was mainly driven by individuals who created this trends, just to score some political points.

Suicide on Facebook Live, is not Something to Laugh at

Some of you may now aware of the guy who hang himself on Facebook live. Pahingga Indrawan (36), an Indonesian father, hang himself this Friday, following an argument with his wife regarding infidelity. He died in front of his Facebook friends, and his video has been shared more than three thousand times before finally being taken down by Facebook.

His story is indeed sad, his reasoning for taking his own life is even sadder.

Suicide is never an easy subject to understand and has always become a taboo subject somehow. The number of death by suicide in Indonesia is still unclear. Back in 2010, WHO reported that around 5000 people per year committed suicide in Indonesia. Although I must mention that even at that time, WHO wasn’t completely confident about that data, because suicide cases has a tendency not to be reported.

Image result for suicide cartoon

From Robbin Williams to Pahingga Indrawan, suicide is always a hard thing to understand. It is very saddening, heartbreaking and depressing for me to imagine what goes through the mind of somebody who decided that they want to commit suicide.

For somebody who faces so much troubles in their lives, and decided that there are nothing worth living for. Nothing. For somebody to not have anybody worth turning to. For somebody to leave everything that loves them because hope has remain to be a false notion.

You know what’s even sadder. Most of the people who watches Pahingga’s video commented as if he was a moron. “Why would you kill himself on Facebook?” “You’re stupid for killing yourself because of a girl”.

How could anybody said that?!

UK’s National Health Service listed at least 8 different reasons for suicide to occurs. From severe depression to genetic hereditary, suicidal tendency are most likely caused by severe psychological problem that resulted from a long-term process. One just does not wake up one day and decided that they want to kill themselves.

How could anybody say that?! That somebody who has been struggling for God knows how many years, who has given all of their self worth and hope, for being stupid. How could anybody be that low?

I’m sorry for being very emotional about this, but we can’t always take anything for granted. And we can’t always speak of such things with such ease. This illustrates the importance of welfare, of social supports, of precautions. Because suicide is the easiest thing we can prevent, compared to cancer. Maybe not actually, we can also prevent death penalty (sigh). But isn’t the high numbers of suicide and this case is enough to remind us to put emphasis on looking for solution for this problem?

Can we really shout about abortion being inhuman and ridicule the act of suicide at the same time?

Are we really going to be that kind of human? Who can see death with such ease. Who found justice in murder. Who sees irregular death as something that we can laugh at because we don’t know the people?

Are we really that kind of human?

Towards a Muslim Indonesia

At a first glance, Jakarta doesn’t seem any different than other big cities in the world. Sure it may be more chaotic in terms of its underdeveloped infrastructures and public transport, but other than that, its citizen are arguably more moderate and relatively open to new ideas. Thanks to a developing numbers of foreign graduates, different diaspora, or even university graduates in general; You can basically discuss anything openly with the general working class in Jakarta, regardless of your or their social, race or religious background. In short, you can generally found a middle ground when discussing any issues with these people.

But that was at a first glance.

Image result for populist cartoons

If you look closer into a more underdeveloped part of Jakarta, into the slums, or even as simple as turning into a small street just behind your office tower, you’ll see a growing groups of people who become less and less open to reasons and are prone to provocations.

You can see banners defending a certain religious figure for being prosecuted, and you’ll see banners inviting people to not pray for their friend (who share the same religion as them) because they defended a figure that has different ethnicity and religion, who is facing a blasphemy charge. Banners that people still insisted should be there, even though the government has ruled them as offensive and advice them to put it down. This same people also insisted that the government resume the prosecution and imprisonment of a leader (who had 70% approval rating) for being offensive to their religion (Irony impaired?).

Meanwhile back here where I work, our anchors are now banned from wearing a sleeveless wardrobe because people has apparently found it offensive and wrote to us through email and twitter. This protests comes from the same media sphere that glorifies services like Bigo and taunts its user to flash their breasts and Instagram account that presents sex and nudity as its main content. I’m not saying that I have problem with any of this, I’m just saying that it is just a tiny bit hypocritical isn’t it?

This rise of religious conservatism in Indonesia coincide with the rise of right wing populist movement in the Europe and the U.S. With leaders in at least five big European countries rallying for a more closed border and less open society towards an influx of minority movement.

However, if religion truly is the reason for this movement, then what’s happening here in Indonesia and there in the west can’t be the related to each other. Because here, the people who scares the shit out of those European conservatives are the people who are doing an exact same campaign as the European; only the relationship is now reversed. So is it all purely political, or are these movements truly based on a legit concerns with a good merit that are just misunderstood and unchallenged?

I don’t know.

What I know is that right now, this populist movements are gaining traction and supports, and learning from what happened in the UK and U.S; what might happened, did happened. Conservative majority that has concerns has managed and are willing to take over their country and set aside tolerance and choose not to embrace diversity for their own conservative reasons. And with that in mind, these similar movements in Indonesia that are growing traction and the stubbornness that is actually adored by the majority will only lead to a change from Indonesia being the biggest Muslim population in the world into the biggest Muslim nation in the world. And if I’m being honest with you, people here might actually like the idea of that.

It is now up to us the people to decide which kind of community do we want to live in? Because in the end, we choose the leaders, and the way they sway the country towards can be assessed beforehand. Not only in the executive and local governments level but also at a parliamentary level. Because right now, we still have a president who are still trying to preserve diversity. But in 5 years, with this kind of societal environment, who knows what kind of representatives and leaders will we have. The choice, is ultimately ours.

A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward. – FDR

 

Rethinking Religion and Its Relevance in the Now

Hope, is not something innate. At least, I don’t believe so. Not like love or fear, I don’t think that we have hope when we were born. I don’t think we are even capable of expecting something really. I mean, literally,  we can’t even see back then. Let alone to hope for something that we don’t understand yet.

We learn hope. By interacting with our surroundings, with the people around us, we learn this humane trait of hope. Be it from being introduced into this dream of being a fireman, astronaut or Richie rich. Or even from something as simple as getting a new bike, because you just got good scores in our school report. This notions of winning something that we set a target for, that created hope. We were trained to hope.

Back in 2012, I spent almost 3 weeks in Cambodia volunteering at an orphanage. It was a fairly normal experience, life changing of course, but for a voluntary mission, it was fairly regular. There, I had to paint a classroom, teach English, treat kids hairs for lice, nail bamboos to make a floor for a simple house, those sorts of things.

The kids was of course very grateful and charming. They were all really sweet and full of smiles, different from the kids here in Jakarta (you know what I mean, those little bastards have had it coming), and they were all really discipline in their way. They would always clean whatever they used, they would help each other out, they would finish their homework and they would pray.

Now, this particular orphanage is run by a christian organisation. The guy that brought me there, which was a really inspiring teacher of mine, is a christian priest.

In the end of our mission, they held a service for us and prayed not only for their own blessings, but also for ours, who volunteered there for a week or so. These orphans, who doesn’t have a family apart from each other looked really happy at that time. They played music, they danced, they joke around and most importantly they smiled. Not the kind of smile when somebody open the door for us, not even the kind of smile when you finally got that amazon package we were waiting for. But a real genuine one. A big happy face smile.

These kids, who were not born into a family. Who lived in a country, that (only just around 10 years before) was massacred, tortured and enslaved. These kids who are supposed to hate the world for the unfairness that they are facing. These kids that could never dream of having a happy meal, while on the other side of the world, that very food was being thrown away just because they already got the toys. These kids can genuinely smile.

But how can they smile with their predicament? How can they smile when I can’t even smile that way, and I have all the privileges in the world of being a normal kid.

I asked that question every day after I got home from that mission. Until one day it hit me. They had hope. Their religion gave them hope.

They don’t need money, or new bikes or anything to give them a sense of hope, because in their mind (and heart) they have their God to wait for. They have their heaven to be hoping for. And that may just be enough to keep them happy everyday, knowing that they belong to the same heaven as anyone who may have more things that they have.

I am not a religious person myself. I was quite an avid prayer because of my mom when I was a kid, but now I rarely go to church or even pray. I pray for my food because it has become an involuntary habit, but other than that, as far as your concern, I’m the devil.

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But I am always fascinated by religion and how it affects people. Be it in a large group, small group or even in an individual level.

The laws of religion has rarely changed, but the way people interact with it, is very unique. I never think of religion as a problem or a solution. I always think of it as a way of life and a guidance to help you take your steps. You don’t necessarily need it, but some people prefer to have it anyway.

And for so long, this guidance has never change whatsoever. It has never made any attempt to adjust itself to be more relevant to the age that they are living in. That’s why you can always see conflicts like the blasphemy case in Jakarta every now and then. Be it with Gus Dur, Ahok or anyone that has not follow the guidance as is really. And that’s why (partly) we have terror groups and racism.

Yet, once or twice, you see figures like the Dalai Lama or Pope Francis saying something really far from the normal things that the guidance would say and it makes you wonder.

Just recently, Pope Francis hinted that He might be okay with married Priest in the catholic church. This is huge, considering that for the past 2000 years that this religion exist, this rule has always been there and is seen as one of the most important ones. Yet, with decreasing numbers of priests and followers, and with the changing nature of our society along with the ever-moving time, these supposedly stubborn guidance has showed its willingness to adapt. I mean the pope has an Instagram, if that’s not enough proof.

Does this mean religion is cool? I still don’t think so. I think religion is a personal experience, and whether we choose to follow a certain religion or not is totally an individual call. It has shown its ugly sides, yes, but it has also shown its willingness to adapt and to be more than just an archaic novelty from the past. It is with no doubt an important part for a lot of people’s life, and a source of annoyance for many others. But I think religion serves a certain purpose in life, and while its function might not be the same along the time, I think it is wrong to disregard it entirely.

For more than 2000 years, we’ve gotten used to a certain role of religion, when I think that role is overdue for a change. Its governance was a fit for the roman empire, but its old value needs to be adapted into a more open value that our society have already attain. Otherwise, the hope that a lot of people have, will only turn into terror, hatred and fear.

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind – AE