Sunday, October 30, 2011

Kenapa nulis?

Kadang-kadang Sering-sering, kalau saya lagi mau nglanjutin nulis catatan perjalanan dari Tohoku kemaren, suka kebayang bakal ada orang yang nanya, "Lo ngapain Syhur nulis panjang lebar beginian kayak ada yang baca aja. Lagian catatan perjalanan kan ngebosenin, toh yang jalan-jalan elo, bukan gue."

Yang kalo saya bener-bener jujur mungkin bakal saya jawab, "Yah sesuka gw lah, toh gw nulis utamanya buat diri sendiri. Gw nyesel catatan perjalanan pertama gw dulu dari Ukraina ilang pas komputer pertama gw rusak. Kalo ditaruh di internet gini kan jadi lebih awet. Kalo lo ga mau baca juga sok lah."

Tapi paling saya jatuhnya jadi diplomatis* dan bilang, "Ya kali sapa tau sambil nulis catatan perjalanan ada orang lain yang mau jalan-jalan juga dan nemu informasi yang berguna. Kayak dulu pas gw ke Lombok sendirian, berbekal browsing dari hp mungil doang akhirnya sukses menyasarkan diri ke Kuta."

Dan kalo lagi mood jiwa sosial lagi kuat, bakal ditambahin sama, "Apalagi kegiatan jadi volunteer kan ga semua orang tahu. Dan kadang seringnya kegiatan volunteer itu kurang orang karena pada ga tau volunteering itu ngapain, nah kalo gw nulis catatan perjalanan gini mungkin jadi bakal lebih banyak yang tau soal volunteer dan bakal ikutan volunteer ntarnya."

Yang mungkin bakal direspon sama, "Volunteering kan intinya macul bukan? Kan kayak lo bilang lo macul di Tohoku makanya jadi item dan belang? Gue mana bisa macul."

Dan saya bakal bilang, "Ya ga semuanya macul juga kali. Kan kegiatan volunteering itu macem-macem. Ada juga yang ga pake tenaga gede macem macul dan nyekop lumpur, misalnya ngebersihin dermaga dari sampah-sampah ngapung yang kebawa air pasang dan bikin pantai kotor, atau ngebantu ibu-ibu lokal nanam bunga, atau--ini paling penting:--ngebantu ngehabisin makanan yang udah dimasakin sama orang-orang lokal."

Yang paling bakal membuat saya menerima satu toyoran di kepala plus sebutan, "Dasar perut karet."

Saya paling cuma bakal tersenyum bahagia mengingat-ngingat masa-masa bahagia dijamu warga lokal di Tohoku.

-------------------------------------
* Pfft. Dasar Jawa.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Seven years ago


We interrupt your regularly scheduled programmings to bring you this sappy and nostalgic non sequitur:

The year was 2004. The morning was always misty. The air was patently cold. There was no need to take a bath daily. Or weekly, for that matter.

Yang membuat Pak Hardja melempar lelucon kalau pintar saya ada di daki tiap kali ada yang berkomentar tentang hasil olimpiade saya.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

On the road

I'm on the road again. After 22 days in Kyoto, I am back on the road, this time southward.

But truth be told, I'd rather be northbound.

Last month, I went northbound twice, and they made up for the best summer ever.

If you had asked me before, I guess there's little chance I'd answer a summer pronounciated with physical work be the best summer ever; but it did.

For the first time in my life I actually wielded power tools: I drilled screws to create wood prisms (way harder than it looks), I unscrewed out the screws that once held walls together, I cranked the lever to restore the stone block back upright, I ground the edges of wall boards to smooth it out, I cut new wall boards to be installed on a warehouse. I had a crowbar that was almost an extension of my hand--deftly (if I may say so myself) pulling out the roof of a destroyed house, tearing out wall boards, pulling away the screws to make the beams usable again. And there's also caulking fun--at the expense of only my jeans, t-shirt, and baseball cap, now all stained with silicone sealant and I have no idea how to remove that.

Sure, I didn't get to play with the chainsaw. I also didn't get to drive the forklift (Sheila did that). But maybe it's a good thing--I haven't driven a car since ages and the last time I did that I sent Glagah's old kijang to a ditch. On an uphill road. Smack dab on the intersection to Bosscha observatory. So yeah, that's a good thing. And maybe I'll get to play with a chainsaw when zombie apocalypse finally arrives.

Until said apocalypse come, you shall be content with me for coming week or two describing said best summer: part two in Tohoku (now with extra five days from part one!)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

You can only go further away

"Remember when you read him out loud the writing on the cheap book?"
"'To be number one'? Yeah, how can I forget that? I insisted that 'one' is read as ow-nay, I was reading that using Indonesian reading key,"
"Well, you are Indonesian. A six-year old one. There was no reason to assume the phrase wasn't Indonesian,"
"Yeah, but I insisted I was right, despite him telling me that it's English, it isn't read that way, and the correct pronunciation was 'one',"
"Well, you were six years old,"

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

On indignity and sex


There is something undignified about sex.

Politicians fall from grace when pictures with them in unflattering light surfaced (think Weiner), or when testimonies of their questionable sexual behavior are picked up by the media (I forget the name of the politician, but there was this one politician satirized in Pearls Before Swine who employed the excuse of "I have a wide stance," on his sexual behavior in an airport's toilet).

But it is not limited only to politician. Ordinary persons are not immune to it as well. Ask the Scottish siblings who caught romping in an elevator by CCTV camera.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Enam hari di Tohoku (3/3) : Kaneyama

Sebelumnya: Oshika (1/3), Onosaki dan Kaneyama (2/3)


Kalau dilihat dari jumlah produksi keringat dan pigmen yang membuat kulit lebih gelap, nonton festival SummerSonic di Osaka ini setara sama nyekop lumpur di Kaneyama.

Sayangnya bukan lemper yang disekop, kalo lemper dua hari nyekop perut udah jadi gembul deh (halo Ria! :D).

Sedikit cerita dulu kenapa tim IDRO ada di Fukushima: awal bulan lalu daerah Kaneyama di prefektur Fukushima dilanda hujan amat sangat lebat yang menyebabkan banjir lumpur. Jembatan-jembatan jalan raya dan jembatan rel yang melintasi sungai besar. Banjirnya Kaneyama ini bukti kalau daerah pegunungan pun bisa kebanjiran.

Sialnya buat Kaneyama, lokasi mereka di Fukushima itu bikin orang-orang yang normalnya bakal membantu jadi sukarelawan menjauh karena stigma reaktor nuklir yang mletup di sisi jauh Fukushima yang dekat pantai.

Lalu kenapa tim kami--dan beberapa NGO lainnya--ke Kaneyama juga? tak lain dan tak bukan ini karena iming-iming onsen/pemandian air panas gratis yang banyak tersebar di Kaneyama. Jadi kami dibujuk dengan janji-janji surgawi habis membanting tulang mengeruk lumpur kami bisa berendam di mata air panas.

(Yang berarti mandi telanjang di depan umum--er, tapi ya erm).

Kerjaan kami di Kaneyama sendiri lebih simpel daripada di Onosaki: karena sampahnya ngga banyak dan ngga ada barang busuk. Yang harus kami lakukan adalah membersihkan lumpur.

Karena setelah banjirnya lewat, lumpurnya mengendap, menutupi pekarangan dan jalan dan memblokir drainase, dan yang paling penting: mengisi ruang kosong antara lantai dan fondasi rumah penduduk di sana (saya juga baru tahu kalau ngga seperti di Jawa yang antara dasar fondasi sampai lantai ubin semua ditimbun tanah, di Jepang rongga itu dibiarkan kosong. Jadi rumahnya seperti rumah panggung dengan lantai yang tingginya selutut dari permukaan tanah.)

Waktu Tara tanya ke Quentin kenapa lumpurnya harus dikeruk, jawabnya adalah untuk mencegah masalah rayap ke tiang rumah (yang dibangun dari kayu). Permukaan lumpur yang basah ini kalau dibiarkan bakal membuat lantai lembab dan merusak kayu, dan mengundang rayap.

Bagian pekarangan dan garasi sih gampang, tinggal kerahkan backhoe buat ngeruk, tapi buat dasar lantainya mereka harus membongkar tatami, melepaskan plang-plang kayu yang menyusun lantai, dan menyekop lumpur yang terjebak.

Paling tidak secara teori sih pakai sekop. Nyatanya lebih gampang diambil pakai tangan karena antara lumpur dan tanah lebih gampang dipisahkan pakai tangan. Plus hal ini berarti ngga semua lantai kayunya harus dibongkar: tinggal kirim saja dua-tiga orang untuk merangkak ke bawah lantai kayu dan mengoper lumpur ke orang lain yang siaga di ujung satu lagi. Karena ukuran tubuh Sheila dan Robert paling kecil, akhirnya mereka berdualah (plus Julian yang jangkung tapi semangat ikutan) yang banyak merangkak sementara saya membungkus lumpurnya pakai sak. Mudbusting ahoy!

Saya sih jujur seneng aja kerja mbungkusin lumpur, lebih gampang, terlindung atap dari terik matahari daripada yang kerja di pekarangan (karena cuacanya terik cerah tanpa awan tiga puluhan atas derajat celsius). Plus kapan lagi saya bisa berkubang lumpur tanpa diketawain? :D

Eh tapi jatuhnya masih diketawain juga dong, waktu selesai kerja dan lalu disemprot pake selang buat membasuh lumpur dari kaos dan celana lalu disikat pake sikat panjang. Berasa kayak anjing girang lagi dimandiin. Tapi takapalah.

Di hari Sabtu kami beneran ke onsen-nya; yang taunya saking banyaknya sukarelawan jadi kelebihan pengguna dan harus antri. Saya sendiri ngga lama-lama berendamnya karena--er--karena itu. Plus airnya beneran panas jadi saya berasa kayak direbus suku kanibal. Tinggal dibumbuin gara--eh airnya mengandung garam mineral juga ya? Satu bak besar kaldu manusia siap disajikan. (bonus sisa daki).

Hari minggunya, saya dan Sheila dan Quentin hanya kerja setengah hari karena Sheila harus pulang ke Tokyo dan saya harus ada di Sendai lagi pukul tujuh malam untuk naik bus pulang ke Kyoto (dan perjalanan Kaneyama-Sendai itu lima jam sendiri) jadilah kami meninggalkan Kaneyama jam satu siang.

Kami berpisah di stasiun Sendai--capek luar biasa tapi tetap sayang harus kembali ke Kyoto. Untungnya saya minggu depan bisa kembali membantu tim IDRO lagi di Tohoku!

Sekarang sembari menunggu bisa kembali lagi ke sana, saya mengikuti blog mereka di idrojapan.posterous.com. Nanti kalau saya sudah balik ke sana lagi dan ngga dapet sinyal untuk twitteran, tunggu saja sampai tau-tau ada muka saya nongol di salah satu entri mereka.

More fun awaits!




Catatan ringan nonton festival

出演者の撮影禁止
-tanda di plang yang diparadekan mas-masnya staf venue
•••
James Blunt: Are they stopping you from taking pictures and recording?
Audience: Yeah!
James Blunt: That's a shame. I don't mind being recorded. If you all took out your cameras at once they won't be able to stop you.
•••
Metronomy's diversity in physical appearances of their members is just pleasing to the eye. Plus Oscar suka tiba-tiba melakukan gerakan-gerakan aneh sendiri. Sayang ada masalah sama amplifier bass mereka--beberapa kali kelihatan keluar bunga api dari amplifiernya. They said they will be back soon!
•••
Mau ga mau tetep agak geli liat vokalisnya Friendly Fire joget. Agak mengingatkan sama Uphie yang joget kalau karaokean tapi dia jauh lebih gede gitu badannya.
And the part where he jump the fence and joining the mosh pit was unexpected. The worried look of the security guard is just pure gold.
I did not know why I would want trying to grab him but try I did. Unsuccessfully. I was within the meter radius but blocked by other revelers.
•••
Dan gila mountain stage yang terbuka langsung ke terik matahari itu panas pisan. Tentunya kaos jadi basah semua, walau persentase basah keringat dan basah disemprot air sama panitia jelas ga bisa dibedain.
•••
TDCC ga punya material baru, tapi tetep fun. Dan ngeliat vokalisnya terpanggang matahari jadi kebayang babi guling, pink merona. Plus perutnya si masnya gembul gitu.
•••
Kalau ada yang bisa menandingi heboh jogetnya Friendly Fires, Yelle is your girl. Berkostum leotard merah ketat, keliatan kerempengnya mbaknya. Woh tapi hebohnya jogetnya. She electrified the audience.
•••
Nonton Smith Western itu bikin keinget nonton The Drum tahun lalu: satu band mas-mas semua yang semua pake jins ketat. Gimana pakenya entah dah. Stereotipikal indie kali yah.
•••
So what was I doing yesterday? Basically I went to Osaka to watch white dudes sing and play music.  Lots of white dudes, two girls (Yelle and Anna Prior of Metronomy) and one black guy (Gbenga Adelekan of Metronomy).

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Enam hari di Tohoku (2/3): Onosaki dan Funekoshi

Sebelumnya: Oshika (1/3)


Hari ini saya terbangun pukul dua pagi, dan seperti malam pertama saya di Ishinomaki Kizuna, Minami Sakai, entah kenapa saya tidak bisa tidur lagi.

Di Kizuna, mungkin karena waktu itu tetangga tidur saya mendengkur kencang. Bisa juga karena setelah satu jam terjaga, tetiba saya merasa ada gempa kecil yang langsung membuat jantung saya berdegup kencang. Setengah menit kemudian setelah nafas kembali teratur saya sadar kalau ternyata memang barusan ada gempa karena kaca jendela barak tidur kami masih berderak. Tapi rupanya hanya saya yang menyadari gempa barusan karena tak ada orang lain yang terbangun.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Enam hari di Tohoku (1/3): Oshika

Kemarin pagi saya sampai lagi di Kyoto dengan badan penat hasil duduk dua belas jam di bus malam dari Sendai dan jiwa penat karena kembali ke Kyoto berarti kembali mengerjakan riset yang udah ga jelas juntrungannya ke mana.

Sementara jadi sukarelawan di Tohoku itu sangat jelas juntrungannya ke mana. Plus saya kan belom pernah macul jadi sembari berasa agak macho juga berasa kalo hidup saya berfaedah bagi orang lain di Tohoku, sekecil apapun faedahnya.

Perjalanan saya dimulai dari tanggal satu Agustus malam dengan bus dari Kyoto yang akan membawa saya ke Sendai. Tapi sehari sebelum berangkat, saya baru sadar kalau tas saya nggak muat ditaruh sleeping bag, sleeping mat dan Wellington boots. Jadilah siang terakhir di Kyoto minggu itu diisi dengan terburu-buru belanja tas baru.

The possibles and impossibles from Tohoku (0/3)

Five months on since the big temblor on March 11 that shook Tohoku region and delivered several stories-tall tsunami, it is quite possible for you to visit Sendai without noticing that nothing unusual had ever happened. Bustling central train station, blaring advertisements set on the sides of the skyscrapers, if you had had no access to the news since the last six months and had no any Japanese comprehension whatsoever, you would have been none the wiser.

Which is unremarkable, really, as merely one month after the big quake, it was already quite impossible to see any vestiges of damage at all in Tokyo. When Septian and I went there on April, the only thing that gave it away was that most of the escalators and elevators at the train stations are inoperational. That and the fact that Shinjuku and Shibuya area was dimmer at night--most of the skyscrapers weren't illuminated to conserve energy. Fukushima energy crisis and all, you see. It was only because I had been there once before that I noticed something was amiss. The throngs of people are still crowding the area, mind you.

But when I think about my recent trip to Fukushima-Miyagi via Sendai, it is quite impossible to see the ruins of tsunami for yourself and not be awed by the immense power that nature can unleash at her whim. At the same time, it also quite impossible not to stand in awe of the people's resilience, and to respect mankind's ingenuity. At the very least, watching the gigantic walls being built on the side of the winding road to Ishinomaki from Sendai and the bridges being built in Fukushima made me understand Egalita's desire to be a civil engineer.

What I find was odd is that it is quite possible to go to Fukushima prefecture and not give a damn about radioactivity. We check the radiation level in Ishinomaki and on our way to Fukushima, for sure (and we found that the reading was nothing to be worried of) but to be honest my mind relegated this radioactivity issue as a non-issue. After all, it did me better trying not to retch whenever we found a fridge that hasn't been opened for nigh on half a year, or whenever we stepped on a rice stock went moldy, or even whenever I had to use the vile portable loo.

It's only been two days since I'm back in Kyoto, but I wish I could spend my whole summer up there. Too bad it's quite impossible to do so.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Tangle of thought-threads

Gila yah, ternyata susah nulis yang emo-emoan kalau situasinya adalah: a. besok mulai weekend. b. perut kenyang. c. udaranya mendung enak, ga terlalu panas.

But in truth I have been brooding this past week. The reasons are nothing new, I was just mulling it over and over and again, compounded with anxiety of first time attending special lecture in astronomy to obtain credits, final exam for japanese reading class--intermediate level, the looming conference, plus the fact that I had no clue whether I am supposed to write a report for other classes I attend this semester.

But now a cool Friday evening descended upon Astro Plaza, and save for the cicadas' constant cacophony, it's really quiet so I shall now try to disentangle the threads of thoughts that had been keeping my mind between a hard place and a horrible place.

We shall start with the first thread (out of three, but I'm not sure I'm ready to write about the third): of falling out of religion and parental hopes and expectations.

(If you have a delicate mind, or especially conservative, my following rants may offend you. Save us both the hassle and do not continue. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.)

Monday, July 18, 2011

On cheating

In light of all the recent news coverage of concerted cheating effort blown apart by one Mrs. Siami, I would like to say that boy, ain't it fun to justly be on the high horse?

On my high horse, looking condescendingly upon the despicable unwashed masses who mobbed Mrs. Siami out of her house; most unlike my parents who taught me to value honestly with stern discipline colored by corporal punishments.

*Snickers*

You didn't actually think I'm raised with corporal punishment, did you? Because of course I wasn't.

But back on cheating: to the best of my recollection, I don't think I ever actually cheated on a test, covertly using notes on closed book tests and what not. Even if I did do that at one time or another, the fact that I can't easily recall such instances shows a repression of the experience and thus signalling deep shame and rejection to embody the values from the very activity of cheating in my psyche.

As Duck of Minerva wrote, following Vaughn Shannon, he taught his class that,
"[A] denial of a norm violation constitutes a greater recognition and internalization of that norm than does a justification. (Eg, countries who torture but deny it demonstrate a greater respect for the anti-torture norm than countries who torture but claim their actions are actually allowed under the Torture Convention.)^"
As it were, it never becomes a habit for me. However, I think that the real reason why I don't do that is simply because I see no necessity for it to begin with.

I cruised my primary and secondary education fairly easily--and save for physical education which I loathe with all my life, all the subjects are doable. Up until high school, I might not be the one with the best report cards in my year, but it was more than decent. As long as I put enough hours to study, all is well. And mind you, my experience of enough hours isn't really that high: so the time cost of doing so is not taxing.

Compare that with what others would need to do, rewriting notes in very fine handwriting to fit into minuscule scraps of paper that hopefully are inconspicuous enough to not be noticed by the teachers--I regard such minutiae work more hassle than its worth.

I am fully aware, of course, that not everyone shared the same view as I do.

I am also aware that with the nascent of big-screened smartphones with their powerful cameras, it significantly reduces the time necessary for the preparation of cheating itself. It will be easier and temptation will lure more.

Which if we all agree that honesty and integrity is a noble thing to promote and to instill to the children, it means that more burdens are being squared to the collective shoulders of parents and teachers to do so^^. And this is why the Gadel Sari teachers' and parents' betrayal of those values are even more outrageous.

---
^ The whole point of this post is really just an excuse to use this quote, really. Such an awesome quote this is.
^^ This is one of the reasons why I shudder at the thought of being a parent. You would need to be a good role model to not contribute even more in fucking up the one Earth that we have right now. Why so many people my age are in rush to get married and have children is beyond my comprehension.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

It's a circle!

"Without sustainability, we will not maintain prosperity; and without prosperity, sustainability will remain a vain hope. Without justice, there can be no enduring equity or fairness; and without equity, justice becomes a mere formal myth. Without freedom, community withers under the totalitarian; and without community, freedom becomes fraught and lonely desperation."

Totally awesome quote by Roy Morrison, USBIG Discussion Paper No. 017, February 2002.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

#indonesiajujur: Salut untuk Ibu Siami

Ibu Siami,

Saya salut dan bangga atas tekad ibu mengajar anak anda untuk menghargai kejujuran dengan tindakan nyata. Saya rasa mungkin dari sekian banyak orang yang mengeluhkan kebobrokan Indonesia, tak banyak yang berani mengambil resiko seperti Anda: yang ketika melihat praktek nyata kecurangan berlangsung lalu berani meminta kejelasan siapakah yang mengajarkan anak Anda berkomplot berbuat curang.

Menurut saya, teladan yang baik jauh lebih bernilai daripada berjam-jam kelas agama dan budi pekerti tanpa contoh nyata.

Jelas Anda jauh lebih berani dari saya, dan saya turut berharap AL bisa melanjutkan pendidikan di tempat yang lebih menghargai kejujuran, di manapun itu.

Salam hangat dari Kyoto, Jepang,
Masyhur

-----
Latar belakang: Suarakan Dukunganmu Terhadap Kejujuran, Si Jujur yang Malah Ajur

Monday, May 23, 2011

On a quiet change of inter-personal appellation

Did you notice that recently I started to use the more colloquial first person pronoun 'gw' in lieu of all-time tested 'aku' on virtual channels recently? Strangely enough, this change is neither voluntary nor involuntary. 

Not voluntary, because in my mind I described the whole thing as "I deign to use 'gw'" and thus signaling rejection on my part. But it's not involuntary either, as I find that I like how egalitarian it sounds--which probably is why other people use it in the very first place. 

You might wonder exactly what is up with my resistance to the ubiquitous 'gw'. And you won't wonder alone. 

Because to be fair, nothing is inherently wrong with 'gue' or its variants 'gua', or 'gw' and 'g' for SMS. My objection was that only it's different, and it's also inconsistent to boot. Dewi Lestari in one of her Supernova novels offers regional differences to explain the different inflection. 

And maybe my reluctance has its root to regional difference as well. As Adhitia Mulya noted in one of the footnotes in Jomblo, the Javanese girls in Bandung stood out for their use of 'aku' instead of the more popular casual 'gua'. Two anecdotal observations from two friends (Puspa, via IMs, and Firman, via tweets) assured me that I am not alone, albeit in a minority. For what it's worth, Puspa went to the same high school with me and lives only a kecamatan away. Firman is from Malang, I think: valid generalization for the following point. 

That said, the best explanation that I can offer is this: raised in Javanese-speaking culture, I already have not one, but three first person pronouns: 'kula' to use with teachers, elders, older strangers; 'saya' as its Indonesian equivalent; and 'aku' for everyone else, family and friends included, in both Javanese and Indonesian. Naturally, the last easily dominates both the former in term of frequency of use, and it serves all purposes just fine. 

So I have a pronoun that works fine. Very fine. And I don't see why I should change something that works so. 

But as with every other things in the world, other inhabitants sometimes have this bizarre idea of running things differently than you intended to. And conveniently for them, there are more of them than you. 

And just like those who espouse extremist values or ridiculous religious belief (cf. May 21st Rapture), one finding oneself in a situation where one do not have the advantages of number, one would resort to make up for it by ferociously clinging to such belief.

If (Principle is True) then Go. Else Stop. 

I would not touch 'gue', not even with a ten feet pole. Particularly because I can never remember how many meters is in a ten-feet and I also do not have a pole. 

Oh, fine, I touched it, all right. But in the past my use of 'gue' is restricted either for ironic and sarcastic abuse (e.g. Guweh habis makan mi ayam pinggir jalan! Mak nyuss!) or to remain faithful when conveying other people's words (e.g. "Ta, si Bunga bilangnya sih 'gw ga mau kalo keluar duit mahal',").

So it should come as no surprise then that I acquire winding casual speaking style, avoiding direct mentions of first and second person pronoun whenever possible (change 'gue' and 'aku' to 'elo' and 'kowe/kamu' in preceding paragraphs and you'll get the gist). 

And then I get to know English. Oh joy!* As English doesn't care whether you're talking to peers, teachers, parents, or your local hobo, it allows you to use the singularly useful 'I' everywhere. Imagine that. No need to give a damn about social structure. Best of all, it's also the same way for the second person pronoun. With very little modification such as appending 'Sir' or 'Professor', you can use 'you' for anyone. 

Is it any wonder I am glad for debating and SEF ITB? They strip daily communication in English at Indonesia off its pomp and let me celebrate egalitarian value in my own personal way. Or you can call the aforementioned value as resistance to change, if you so inclined. 

The next question to be addressed is why do I finally, timidly embrace this change? After all, I'm not living in Indonesia at the moment, you'd say. 

Well, for one, after English, now I get to know Japanese. Oh joy!** A language that is if not as stratified than Indonesian and Javanese, more so than both languages. An antithesis of egalitarian values if I ever knew one. 

'Watashi', 'boku', 'ore', 'atashi' are there to trip you off. Casual '-ru' verbs and formal '-masu' ending aggravates one's insecurity, making one constantly wondering if the local sees a foreigner--albeit with a brown face--as stand-offish. 

Not that I'd have any problem described as stand-offish, mind you. I've had my share of seeing 'stoic' and 'non-expressive' used to describe me. None would puzzle me in a bit. Though I'd have to honestly admit that 'warm' and 'beaming smile' never fail to make me double take then roll my eyes heavenward when they are used to describe me. 

But back to personal pronouns: me stopping to cling to 'aku' would be consistent with me generally saying principles-with-less-than-fundamental-reasons-to-espouse be damned. If you know me well, you'd know what principles I'm talking about. The rest of you, you'll just have to take my words for it. They're good words, if I may say so myself. 

On a more practical level, I figured a relaxation in stance will help me immerse myself in using the ever confusing Japanese. As I get the hang of using and mixing 'gue' with 'aku', so should I get the hang of referring to myself with 'boku'. 

Which is just about time. 

*genuine happiness here. 
** less-than-genuine happiness here. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Danger in Metaphors

It takes very little before we identify ourselves with a fictional character.

Suppose you're a girl, but feel more comfortable with a boy's haircut, have a loyal dog, and generally wanting to always challenge authority. Meet Georgina a.k.a. George.

Suppose you're an orphan, living close with a pampered cousin that always receive a better deal, better toys than you. You'll find it easy to imagine you're Harry Potter.

Suppose you're a girl just moved in to new neighborhood. People tell you you're clumsy, and you feel you have had no luck with boys. You should beware lest you identify yourself with Bella Swan.

If I stop here at three examples, it's really not for the lack of examples.

But thinking you had something in common with Harry Potter is a relatively harmless association, because will it all you want, no owl will suddenly knock your window to invite you to Hogwarts. To some extent, so is an association with Bella Swan. Though if you're a girl who wants an uninvited creep to watch you sleeping, I'd wager some will be willing to grant your wish. Too willing, even.

Then what if the character that you're associating is just a step above ordinary? The character you associate with does not wave magical wands to levitate objects, nor does she have an idiotic urge to be a vampire. Would then you be able to separate where fantasy ends and reality begins?

I guess this is what Tomas in Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being unwittingly committed himself into. By identifying Tereza as a child put in a bulrush basket and sent downstream and he as a Pharaoh's daughter that snatch baby Moses, he assigned characters for himself and Tereza.

See, this is why Kundera then wrote,
"Tomas did not realize at the time that metaphors are dangerous. Metaphors are not to be trifled with. A single metaphor can give birth to love."

By putting himself in a Moses metaphor, Tomas bind his action to follow his character in the metaphor. He then took Tereza in to his life (snatching the basket out of the river), and guardew her, which subsequently grew compassion.

When you employ a metaphor, associate a character for your own life, lest you be able to separate truth from fiction, you will follow in your metaphorical character's step. If anything, for consistency's sake.

And I fear we often do so voluntarily.

Because so powerful is our desire to see the future, the metaphors that we employ become our means to divine our future, forecasting the result of the action that we take by means of the result that our metaphorical characters took.

[TBC]

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

So you abhor violence

And you saw what can only be classified as a naked display of violence. You saw a cuffed man, wailing. Loudly. 

Which is an acceptable response, given that at that moment five people were taking turns beating him. Punching him at the face and gut. Slapping his left cheek and right. 

Where was this? This was at Dukuh Atas busway stop, Jakarta. Early morning on Wednesday, March 23rd. 

Given the appearance of who beating whom (four transjakarta employees and one man in white formal shirt beating a man in orange-and-black t-shirt), I think my assumption that they were beating a petty thief caught red-handed must not have been far from the truth. 

And he wailed, loudly. 

So I averted my sight, cranked up the volume of my iPod. 

And still he wailed. 

Oh, tush, you bleeding heart. He was not even bleeding. See other waiting passengers' sight: see their eyes widened watching the violence, see them glued to the scene. 

Fortunately the bus I was waiting for was coming. So away I went. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

In defense of the word apartheid

Dear Ms. Natalie Portman,

I'm writing to express my dismay of your rejection to the term "apartheid" used by Faisal Chaudhry in his Op-Ed, "An Ideology of Oppression." Although I agree that physically, the Palestinian and Israelis physiques are not as markedly different as Africans and Caucasians in South Africa, it does not mean that discrimination does not occur.

We don't have to look any further beyond the encroaching separation wall, built by Israel, to "contain" violent elements away from Israeli civilian lives. A separation wall that obviously makes mere transport difficult for the Palestinian. And then there's the checkpoints, where people without Israeli ID can be hold up for hours, making any journey to work, study, or emergency medical situation uncertain.

All I am saying is that discriminations occur. It might be not on the base of race, but it occurs. And the term apartheid feels more apt than anything to describe that. As the saying goes, "A rose by any other name still smells sweet," so does the injustice done to the Palestinian. It doesn't matter that you refuse to name it so, we still know life is fraught with unfairness for the Palestinians.

You say that it was an untrue finger-pointing tactic, I say it is untrue indeed but only if we adhere to the strictest of definition. You say it is finger pointing, but time and again we read that israel often does not honor its words to freeze settlements. You say it is childish, I say it's an evocative name that befits the injustice on the ground.

If you fear that such name will portray a sweeping insensitive prejudice of the Israeli, I wish you had the ability to stomach that. Maybe if it persists, it would finally force your government to act accordingly. For far too long of a time the world have been ready to condemn Israel by a UN resolution, and it was only by the veto from US that the resolution is not passed.

However, I agree with you that any loss of life on either side is a loss immeasurable. Countless blood have been shed, and if you dream of a future where Israel and Palestine people live together with no bloodshed, I share the same dream too.

At the end, I would like to acknowledge that your letter was 9 years old, and maybe you have been all but forgotten it. Maybe you had even changed your stance. It's a shame I wouldn't know, as the people who shared the link to your letter say no more word of it. So maybe my feeling of dismay shouldn't have been directed at you, but rather to the self-proclaimed critical thinkers who blindly pass your old words along, in their haste to praise you. I'm aware that people can be starstruck even from a mighty distance, and maybe it's what breaks my heart.

Lastly, I would like to congratulate you on your Academy Award success with Black Swan. I haven't had the chance to see it on the big screen--I'm not even sure it has already been screened in japan--but I'm sure it must be riveting. After all, I did enjoy your portrayal of Evey Hammond.

Yours,
Masyhur