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.

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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

King of Saudi, Selfie Stick and the Impotent Parliament

“I’m so sick of congress I could vomit”

Joshua Lyman, a character from West Wing said that, in an episode called “five votes down”. In short, the main conflict of the episode resolves around the president’s bill to make the sale of some gun’s harder to ultimately reduce gun violence. At first, They got enough vote from the congress, but all of a sudden, five of them withdrew the vote. Some for a good reason, other for a completely childish one. Basically this one guy just decided not to vote for the bill, that saves lives, because he wasn’t getting enough photo op with the president. And he used that momentum, to leverage himself into getting attention and asking for exactly that.

I'm so sick of Congress I could vomit. photo joshymansickofcongress.gif

I know it’s a hyperbole or a rather exaggerated fiction from a TV show. But in reality, I feel like this petty and selfish reasoning for not passing a bill couldn’t be very far from this fictitious rendition. I mean look at the whole republican party and how the acted in support of Donald Trump. Some of them, at some point really went at him during the campaign period, and now, they just somehow decided to back him up. They just want to board the train, no matter how crooked it is.

Not to forget this whole calamity regarding the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and how members of congress insisted they will repeal the plan, even though they still do not have any feasible replacement. You know what’s funnier, their constituents actually want to keep the ACA, but they decided to try and repeal it anyway, for whatever reason they may have. In short, Congress members are (more often than not) selfish. Re-election is the only thing they worry about when it comes to their constituent, and political agenda for their party is the second in command of their lives. And if (worst come to worst) they fail to convince their constituents, they can always lie.

This is no unique to the U.S.

Photo Credit: SINDOnews/Isra Triansyah

Indonesia, the largest democratic country in the world has the same problem of dishonest and stubbornly selfish parliament. Worst, they’re impotent too.

By November 2016, two years after elected, they have passed only 10 of their 90 planned regulations. Only 10% of their annual targets are fulfilled. 10%. If you only achieved 10% of what your boss asked for in the office, you are surely screwed. Yet, nobody really hold them accountable of this impotency. Vacant chamber during a parliamentary meeting is a common sight. Yet they flooded the news cycle with their visit to some country that are (most of the time) irrelevant to their performance and actual regulations.

Okay, I may be a bit unfair here. They do flood the room at some point. Like when the King of Saudi visited the parliament this Thursday. Whilst this sounds encouraging, I think it’s important to note, that our dignity as a citizen wasn’t really kept well by our representative, as all they do is sneaking selfies and pointing selfie sticks everywhere.

And to be fair, they do sometimes push forward an emergency meeting. Like when they need to take away Basuki Tjahaja Purnama’s gubernatorial seat for an ambiguous technicality. They actually insisted really hard for this resolution to pass quickly. Of course it has nothing to do with the people they represent. But hey, as long as it benefits they party’s agenda right?

Ironically, on the same day , a group of citizen marched in front of the Saudi Embassy in Jakarta to ask for more protection towards Indonesian Worker in Saudi. With high numbers of violence and unfair criminal prosecution of Indonesian citizen in the Saudi; and with the high numbers of Indonesian workers and diaspora there, I think this is a really important issue (aside of Hajj quota) to look on to. This issue can be easily pushed by the member of the parliament into a discussion with the King himself, and yet, the people representing those protester are instead busy taking selfies and posting the moment they catch a glimpse of the Arabic King on their social media (I should mention though, Setya Novanto did mentioned this issue during his speech). One may say that the fate of our worker has been deemed redundant and unimportant by our representatives, so that they can priorities on taking some pictures that they can brag on their social media.

Congress consists of one third, more or less, scoundrels; two thirds, more or less, idiots; and three thirds, more or less, poltroons. – H.L Mencken