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.

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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

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The Depressing Comfortableness

People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf. – George Orwell

President Barrack Obama has told us what may well be the greatest political suicide ever been done by a modern American president. He finally gave up to common sense and decided to act against gun violence. He is going to use everything that he has in his executive power to assure that American people are a little bit safer.

A risky move, considering that what he will do in the next few months will most likely be the most things that we would remember about him as an American President. Why should we care, though? I mean it only affects the American people really. And if their congress and citizens are foolish enough to think that gun laws would make them less safe, then why we should we care?

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Well, the numbers alone are astonishing enough for us to care.

At it stands, the US leads the world’s countries by gun ownership per capita, almost twice than Saudi Arabia and Iraq combined, and those two countries are actually at war right now. The US has 88.8 guns per 100 people, that’s 20 guns per 100 people more than the country with second highest gun ownership in the world. And that’s (yup, you guessed it) Yemen.

So who cares? If the people who have it bought it for their protection, shouldn’t people feel safer?

Well, in a utopian world, yes. But sadly, in 2015 alone, at least, 375 people died because of gun violence (That’s more than one people every day if you failed to notice). Not terrorism, gun violence. The number of people died because of terrorist attacks in the last decade in the US? 24.

If that number is not staggering enough, in 2016, which has only been 5 days, by the way, there has been at least 463 gun related incidents, with at least 127 body counts.

Now that is amazing.

So one would wonder then, why is it that this seemingly serious problem is not dealt with properly? Why is it that a (relatively speaking, successful) two-term president has to commit such a political suicide just to keep His citizen safe?

Well, that’s politics right there, and I have no fucking idea how it works really. If I’m being honest, nobody really does.

But what I can say is that it happens not only in the US. I mean of course, not in the exact same context. We’re seeing a lot of political tug-of-war over things like refugee crisis in the Europe, Climate change talk during the COP21, or even the 6 decades or so civil war which is yet to be resolved in the Korean peninsula.

Seemingly complicated political problems that go from one leader to the others without being resolved, while the ordinary people are forced to suffer every single day.

Perhaps it is that complicated, perhaps it is not as easy as turning our palms around.

But how can one sleep, after being sworn in to serve the people, while hundreds and thousands of their people suffer because their exclusive interest were not met in the negotiation?

Well perhaps I’m being too naive here, and perhaps it is a complicated problem. Especially when the people are easily manipulated to support one way or the other. I’m just a newbie writer after all, but hell if ordinary people like me are trying to understand this problem as hard as I can and has, at least, realise that something has to be done here, then why aren’t they?

You may think that I’m an idiot. That I don’t understand even a squat of the problems that looms around? That I made a snap judgement before trying to even understand the aspects?

But isn’t the people who are as far away as possible from the problem, are the one who can actually see the problem more clearly than the people who are involved in it?

 

 

 

VICE Media: Just some thoughts

Most of the people at my age would be very familiar with the existence with this edgy news media called VICE news. An online media founded by Shane Smith and some other bunch we might not familiar with. VICE started (surprisingly) as a magazine that I sort of suspected no one have ever heard of, or at least anyone who is around my age (or doesn’t live in the States). The magazine started at 1994 and apparently reached quite some successes with CNN and other media tried to buy them in 2004.

However, it is not until the year of 2013, when they came up with their online news that they exploded into the digital world. Vice produces a lot of radical reporting covering various issues from drugs, North Korea, through to education. With their daring reporting that includes getting high with the president of Uruguay, Going to Chernobyl and sending its founder to North Korea, Vice forced its way into various success including (relatively) recent collaboration with the HBO to make their program available in the cable channel.

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As a media graduate myself, I see their success isn’t really puzzling to be quite frank. Of course they would need to do a lot of work themselves, and the traction as well as circulation of their contents need to be stable enough. But for me, their target market is really precise that the merely two-years instantaneous success that they achieved makes sense.

Knowing quite well their audiences, (which I as a younger demographic like myself), they played with the topics of drugs, LGBT, human rights, war and environmental issues. Drugs and gay rights have particularly stronger stress in their content (I wish I had an actual data on the proportion of their topic, so please note that this is all based on my view only). Topics that was quite “taboo” to be talked about in the mainstream media and can only be discussed freely recently thanks to the Internet.

As a rebel adolescent who cannot actually show sorts of interest in the topic by themselves, the cyber platform that Vice is operating at becomes the perfect way to express their view on the matter. That is why when Vice can finally get an interview with president Obama, the most asked question was the legalization of Marijuana in the States.

I don’t know how to react to this frankly, because this is a topic with A LOT of social perspectives to be involved in, and I don’t feel like discussing about it at the moment. Instead, I want to take a moment, as a media enthusiast, to explain that Vice is a business after all. I want to talk about this because of a comment mocking at a segment in Youtube by Vice which was supported by the “call of duty” game and talks about the private war contractors. The issue itself I think is real, and to concentrate on sponsors rather than the issue is appalling.

Of course we all have to acknowledge political economics influence in every media contents, and the segment doesn’t operate outside it. The first thing that popped out in my mind watching it was the “Call of Duty” sponsorship and how it would bias their reporting. But the topic itself was quite concerning that I started not to focus on the delivery but more on actively engaging with the content. Eliminating possible bias and taking facts into persona conclusion to decide on the appropriateness of the issue.

I know a Youtube comment shouldn’t be taken seriously and those people have way too much time to do that. But this actually paints a bigger picture about the state of our society and its level of media literacy. What’s sad is that some people do not know how to do that (the eliminating and taking facts thingy). I am not saying that what I did is the correct way to consume media or that it is better, but it does work in a sense that it drove me into looking at topics that are more urgent, serious or may impact my society in general.

What I ultimately want to say is that the media operates in a way that follows its consumer. A particular content is there because somebody (and quite hell lot of them) keeps on consuming it and drives the media money. So when we complains about how Justin Bieber is annoying and tried to make thousands and millions of pledges to make him disappear, it would never work because: 1. Murder is Illegal and 2. There are millions of idiots listen to him.

So is news media. Despite of Shane Smith’s strong ideology, he can’t keep on feeding on it because his ideology might not generate money. People want to hear about weed from Vice, and when they are trying to feed us different topic, they will need to keep relevant or makes compromises (such as using the Call of Duty sponsorship). So it is quite sad that a great discussion about various political from war, environment and foreign aid issues between Obama and Shane Smith has to be distorted by a bloody Marijuana question that I can sort of suspect Shane is embarrassed about and Obama is appalled about.

The more disturbing potential fact and problem is that we seemed to be comfortable to stay in that bubble and stay with certain topics of their choice. So when Newsroom’s Will McAvoy was quite sceptical about the media’s influence on the society and said, “people choose the fact they want now”, he might not be wrong. And our society does need to handle this problem if they are ever to ever tackle these social issues. Of course this would need to be assisted by the media industry and government as well, but since we are not any of them, why don’t we start from ourselves?