Perang Melawan Semuanya ala Sosmed

Pernah nonton Where Do We Go Now? Film festival asal Lebanon yang menceritakan sekelompok perempuan di suatu desa terpencil yang berusaha menjaga stabilitas dan perdamaian di desanya, yang dihuni oleh warga Muslim dan Kristen. Bukan tugas yang mudah. Di pekan pertama, Amal, Yvonne dan teman-temannya harus membakar surat kabar. Pekan berikutnya mereka harus merusak radio dan televisi- satu-satunya radio dan televisi yang dimiliki oleh penduduk desa. Selanjutnya, perempuan-perempuan ini masih harus siaga untuk melihat tanda-tanda perpecahan, lalu segera memutar otak untuk mencari solusinya. Mereka harus gerak cepat. Sebelum terlambat. Seolah-olah, setiap satu ‘misi’ selesai, mereka menghela nafas dan langsung bertanya pada diri sendiri, “Where do we go now?”, “Ke mana kita sekarang?” atau, “Opo meneh saiki jal?”

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Tokoh Amal dalam Where Do We Go Now? – sumber: Youtube

Hal ini karena tampaknya, pemicu kemarahan manusia itu tak ada habisnya. Selalu ada saja hal-hal yang menyebabkan darah kita mendidih, membuat segalanya jadi tampak hitam-putih, dan kita hanya boleh menyukai salahsatunya saja. Sisanya harus kita benci, tidak bisa biasa-biasa saja. Dan karena benci, maka kita harus menjauhi, menghina, kalau perlu memukul.

Usai menonton film itu, yang terpikirkan di benak saya adalah: Mereka belum merasakan yang namanya media sosial. Di desa yang terisolasi saja, Amal dan kawan-kawannya sudah kalang kabut menjaga kedamaian. Entah bagaimana jadinya jika mereka berada di kawasan yang penuh sinyal, sehingga provokasi dan hoax hanya berjarak dua ibu jari. Pasti mereka akan menyerah. Fuck this shit. Terlalu sulit. Social media is such a riot.

Kata orang, kita harus toleran dan terbuka. Kata orang juga, perkembangan teknologi saat ini memudahkan kita untuk melihat berbagai sisi yang berbeda. Such an ideal thought of technology and social media, yes? Yang mungkin kita tidak tahu adalah, media sosial seperti facebook tidak memberikan ruang yang sebebas yang kita bayangkan untuk melihat “sisi lain”. Facebook punya sistem tersendiri yang mempengaruhi informasi atau iklan apa saja yang masuk ke timeline kita, termasuk diantara yang mempengaruhi pengalaman kita saat scrolling timeline ini adalah interest, advertisers we’ve interact with dan informasi personal. Saya mencoba mengecek bagaimana aktivitas online saya mempengaruhi timeline facebook. Hasilnya, facebook ternyata memasukkan saya dalam kategori berikut ini: Away From Family, All Frequent Travelers, Smartphone Owners, 3G Connection (Cih, gak tau dia saya baru punya hape 4G dibeliin suami! *pongah*), Close Friends of Expats, dan Family-based Households. Facebook juga mengidentifikasi website yang sering atau pernah saya buka, antara lain: Traveloka, The New York Times, Comedy Central, Rainforest Action Network, The Guardian, The Body Shop, Buzzfeed dan Kumparan. Dari situ, sedikit-banyak saya sudah bisa mahfum tentang alasan di balik sponsored pages yang muncul di timeline saya, yang rata-rata progresif, pro keberagaman, feminis, dan biasanya pro Jokowi dan Ahok. Hasilnya tentu berbeda jika mereka memasukkan saya dalam kategori: Meninist, Anti-Semitics, Islamophobic dan Chinese-haters (LOL just kidding, saya nggak tahu apakah kategori-kategori itu ada). Atau jika saya lebih sering membuka situs panjimas, eramuslim, gemaislam, kiblat.net, atau situs-situs lainnya yang juga diajukan oleh BNPT untuk diblokir. Intinya, facebook sudah secara automatis mengatur agar kita sebisa mungkin hanya membaca dan mendengar apa yang kita mau dengar. (Jika kamu ingin mengecek bagaimana facebook memasukanmu dalam kategori-kategori yang kemudian mempengaruhi timeline, ikuti langkah-langkahnya di sini atau baca penjelasan dari facebook di sini).

Lalu, bagaimana dengan hal-hal yang tidak bisa diatur secara otomatis oleh facebook? You know, seperti om yang homophobic, atau teman SMP yang bersikeras bahwa perkosaan disebabkan oleh pakaian yang seksi? Untuk kasus ini, facebook menyediakan fitur unfollow, unfriend hingga block. Dan mari kita akui bersama, kita sudah sangat sering menggunakan fitur-fitur tersebut. Alasannya karena ingin mengurangi negativitas di facebook, daripada pahala puasanya berkurang yekan? Atau bahkan, demi menjaga silaturahmi. Daripada jadi enggan datang ke arisan keluarga, lebih baik kita block si om X di dunia maya.

Apapun motivasinya, akibatnya sama. Timeline kita berisi berita dan orang-orang yang sependapat, satu pola pikir. Saat ada yang masih belum di-unfollow, rasanya mengganggu, karena kita begitu terbiasa dengan lingkaran yang berpersepsi sama, hingga persepsi itu terasa seperti kebenaran. Kebenaran yang menyenangkan. Padahal kebenaran biasanya tidak menyenangkan.

Saya pernah memutuskan untuk tidak mengakses media sosial selama beberapa minggu. Hal ini saya umumkan di facebook karena yaa.. sok ngartis aja sih, publisitas gitu. Waktu itu, ada juga teman yang tidak sepakat dengan rencana saya dengan alasan yang cukup idealis, “justru karena banyak racun di media sosial, maka kita harus melawan racun-racun itu dengan berada di medan pertempuran.”

Teman saya memang benar. Terutama tentang racun. Racun-racun. Banyak racun. Berbagai macam racun, dan media sosial memaksa kita untuk bertempur dengan semuanya. Hari ini kita menulis petisi untuk membebaskan Ahok, esok hari kita mengomentari kriminalisasi LGBT, sorenya menyempatkan diri menulis kata-kata simpati untuk Afi yang kena rundung orang dewasa bodoh, malamnya membagi link tentang tragedi di konser Ariana Grande, lusa pagi mengutuk Donald Trump karena mencabut komitmen Amerika Serikat dari Piagam Paris, siangnya memblock dan unfollow teman-teman yang menyebalkan, lalu menghias profil picture dengan tulisan Aku Pancasila. FIUH. Minggu yang sibuk!

Saya sendiri bukan superhero yang bisa memerangi semua kebatilan, bahkan jika alat perangnya hanya berupa keyboard yang berada di depan mata. Bahkan sejujurnya, kadang-kadang saya merasa lebih buruk dengan menulis status di media sosial untuk menanggapi peristiwa atau tragedi tertentu. Sebanyak apapun paragraf yang saya tulis, saya tidak bisa menyelamatkan Ahok dari vonis bersalah. Meski saya menggunakan caps lock, Ibu Baiq Nuril Maknun tetap dikriminalisasikan dengan UU ITE. Karena mungkin, menulis status memang tidak cukup. Menulis status mungkin membuat kita lega, because we need to get this anger out of our chest somehow, kan. Tapi selain itu, bisa jadi kita hanya masturbasi, menghilangkan rasa bersalah karena belum bisa berbuat lebih. Atau setidaknya, kita bisa memberitahu orang-orang yang berbeda pendapat di facebook, bahwa opini mereka sampah. I’m not saying that this is wrong, by the way. This is a free country. OR NOT. HAHA. Lihat Ahok, Ibu Nuril, bahkan HTI dan Rizieq Syihab.

Jika kita berpikir bahwa media sosial adalah tempat kampanye dan edukasi yang strategis, mungkin kita harus memikirkan strategi yang lebih strategis. Karena ingat, banyak dari kita yang hanya mendengar apa yang ingin kita dengar.    

Hingga saat itu tiba, media sosial akan menjadi tempat kekacauan dan pertempuran yang fana – virtual riot, yang dihadapi dengan virtual struggle. Di mana yang hitam dan yang putih menumpuk, makin tebal warnanya, makin menunjukkan perbedaan diantara keduanya.

Coba ada Amal, Yvonne dan teman-temannya. Mungkin kita bisa bertukar-pikiran, sabotase macam apa yang harus dilakukan sekarang. Opo mene saiki jal?

Dalam Kenangan Chavez

Suatu hari di tahun 2006, saya terkesima membaca berita di surat kabar tentang seorang presiden bernama Evo Morales. Ia adalah presiden Bolivia—rupanya presiden pertama yang merupakan penduduk asli—yang di hari tersebut, bersamaan dengan Hari Buruh sedunia, menasionalisasi seluruh perusahaan minyak dan sumber daya alam di negaranya. Perusahaan asing masih diperbolehkan berpartner dengan Bolivia, dengan syarat bahwa mereka tidak boleh menguasai lebih dari 18 persen royalti perusahaan. Saya ingat bahwa saya begitu kagum, dan cemburu. Menurut data yang diutarakan Ricklefs lewat bukunya, sejak tahun 1920 sudah ada sekitar limapuluh perusahaan asing yang ada di Indonesia untuk mengeksplorasi kandungan minyak bumi yang ada di sepanjang Aceh hingga pesisir timur Kalimantan. Bahkan perusahaan Shell yang terkenal itu sengaja didirikan untuk membiayai pengeboran di Kalimantan Timur. Pada tahun 1930, ia memproduksi sekitar 85 persen dari keseluruhan produksi minyak bumi Indonesia (Ricklefs: 2005). Royal Dutch Shell masih bertahan hingga kini, omzetnya hanya 0.8 juta dollar lebih rendah dibandingkan pendapatan Turki, dan jauh lebih tinggi dibandingkan pendapatan perkapita Portugal dan Hongkong, dan entah berapa milyar lebih kaya dibandingkan Indonesia.

ImageEvo Morales, presiden yang membuat saya terkagum-kagum ini, mendapatkan inspirasinya dari presiden lain, namanya Hugo Chavez. Chavez menjadi Presiden Venezuela selama limabelas tahun dan ia menginspirasi Morales untuk menasionalisasi perusahaan sumber daya alam di negaranya.

Chavez bukan orang favorit Amerika Serikat dan Eropa. Chavez juga bukan fans berat keduanya. AS dan Eropa mungkin menjadi kiblat bagi kebanyakan masyarakat. Kita semua ingin pergi ke AS dan keliling Eropa. Kita menghargai demokrasi dan menyukai ide-ide kebebasan individu. AS kita pandang sebagai bangsa demokratis yang dewasa, dan kita sudah melupakan penjajahan berabad-abad yang dilakukan oleh bangsa Eropa di seluruh dunia, mereka kini jadi ikon keadilan. Tapi di saat yang bersamaan, AS dan Eropa juga menjadi ikon kapitalisme, dan di sinilah citra itu berubah. Kebebasan itu menjadi penjajahan, keadilan itu berubah menjadi ketidakadilan.

Pasca nasionalisasi perusahaan, setidaknya perusahaan tidak semata berorientasi kepada profit. Karena ia adalah milik negara maka prioritasnya adalah memenuhi kepentingan rakyat. Manfaat dari perusahaan tidak hanya didapatkan oleh segelintir orang, melainkan lebih banyak orang. Namun hal yang lebih penting lagi dari nasionalisasi perusahaan adalah munculnya kebangaan dan harga diri. Indonesia dan negara-negara Amerika Latin mengikuti strata yang diterapkan tatanan internasional, dan di situ mereka ditempatkan sebagai negara dunia ketiga; tingkat literasi rendah, demokrasi yang belum dewasa, merebaknya penyakit menular, dan fakta-fakta lain yang menunjukkan impotensi negara. Hal ini dipertegas dengan ketidakmampuan kita dalam mengurus sumber daya alam sehingga harus diserahkan di tangan asing. Ketidakberdayaan itu membuat kita membiarkan perusahaan-perusahaan kaya melenggang masuk dan pergi membawa kekayaan, tidak meninggalkan apapun kecuali tanah yang rusak pasca pengeboran minyak.

Chavez mengubah ketidakberdayaan itu. Ia mengangkat posisi tawar negaranya, dan menanamkan kepercayaan diri pada bangsanya untuk mengontrol sumber daya alamnya sendiri. Kepergiannya menyesakkan hati dan memunculkan kegelisahan tentang apa yang akan terjadi kemudian. Chavez tentu pergi sebagai sejarah. Itu artinya, sosoknya akan dikenang, namun perjuangannya belum tentu mampu dilestarikan.

Saya menghibur diri dengan masih adanya Morales dan Ahmadinejad. Orang bilang Ahmadinejad gila. Tapi memang perlu kegilaan untuk bisa menantang strata tertinggi dalam tatanan internasional. Lagipula dalam keadaan seperti apapun, kita selalu butuh ikon perlawanan. Terutama saat kekayaan negara Anda sudah dikuasai oleh tangan-tangan asing sejak tahun 1920, dan belum berubah hingga sekarang. Chavez. Semoga sosokmu akan selalu dikenang dan api perjuanganmu terus berkobar.

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Yogyakarta, 12 Maret 2013

Bingungnya Afrika

Ini semua gara-gara David Lamb yang lucu. Sungguh saya tidak bermaksud menertawakan nasib ribuan orang Afrika yang sakit dan kelaparan, sementara Jean-Bedel Bokassa dari Republik Afrika Tengah bangun di pagi hari, kemudian memutuskan untuk mengubah negaranya menjadi kerajaan setelah terinspirasi Napoleon Bonaparte. Atau menertawakan ribuan orang Uganda yang dibuat menderita lalu mati oleh Idi Amin, yang menyatakan dirinya bergelar Doctor of Philosophy dari Universitas Makarere. Saya tertawa saat membaca The Africans, karena gaya menulis Lamb yang dinamis dan humoris. Meski bisa jadi tawa itu juga muncul karena kisah-kisah yang didapatkan oleh Lamb melalui empat tahun pengembaraan di Afrika itu memang lucu. Lucu, karena tidak masuk akal.

Semester ini saya mengambil kelas Politik dan Pemerintahan Afrika, dan setiap minggunya saya hanya merasa dijejali dengan cerita-cerita aneh, yang semakin menunjukkan betapa anomalinya benua Afrika; kudeta bukan peristiwa yang luar biasa, pemimpin korup menggantikan koruptor lainnya, kemiskinan merajalela, HIV/AIDS menjadi penyakit umum, perang saudara dan genosidapun merupakan bagian dari sejarah. Keadaan-keadaan ini tidak cukup membuat rakyat Afrika bersatu untuk menuntut atau membuat gerakan perubahan. Ketika ditanya apa alasannya, kelompok-kelompok yang melakukan presentasi biasanya menjawab, “Karena masyarakat Afrika tidak memiliki kesadaran sebagai sebuah bangsa, mereka masih sangat terikat pada kesukuannya.” Karenanya, bagi mereka, memiliki masalah yang sama dengan suku lain tidak menjadikan masalah tersebut sebagai masalah bersama, yang harus dihadapi secara bersama-sama pula. Menurut saya ini masalah yang sangat mendasar: masyarakat Afrika tidak bisa mengubah nasib negaranya, simply karena mereka tidak memiliki ikatan dengan obyek yang hendak diubah itu. Ironisnya, ketidakmampuan orang Afrika untuk mengubah nasibnya sendiri ini mengakibatkan orang-orang asing datang untuk mencoba mengubahkan nasib mereka. Kata mereka, orang-orang asing ini, “Afrika butuh demokrasi.”

Demokrasi adalah sebuah sistem pemerintahan di mana orang-orang yang menempati posisi pemerintahan bertanggungjawab untuk membuat keputusan yang mengakomodasi kepentingan rakyatnya. Supaya kepentingan rakyat ini bisa diketahui dengan jelas, pemerintah berkewajiban untuk menciptakan lingkungan yang membebaskan masyarakat untuk bisa menyatakan pikiran dan keinginannya. Pola ini terdengar sederhana, akan tetapi tidak semudah itu di Afrika. Bahkan jika pemerintah mengakomodasi kepentingan rakyatnya, ia hanya akan mengakomodasi rakyat yang bersuku sama. Selebihnya akan cukup beruntung untuk diperbolehkan hidup. Karenanya, asumsi bahwa “Afrika membutuhkan demokrasi” menjadi asumsi yang melompat terlalu jauh. Pendapat ini tiba-tiba muncul sebelum pertanyaan “apakah demokrasi bisa diterapkan?”, bahkan “apakah Afrika bisa menjalankan pola negara-bangsa seperti tempat-tempat lain di dunia?”

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Jauh sebelum orang Eropa datang untuk membagi-bagi tanah Afrika seperti roti, Afrika adalah tempat bagi kerajaan-kerajaan. Masyarakat Afrika tidak terikat secara wilayah, kebanyakan dari mereka tergabung dalam suku-suku nomaden yang berpindah dari satu tempat ke tempat lainnya. Saya membayangkan cara hidup yang fluid dan laid back. Saya tidak bisa membayangkan keterkejutan mereka ketika mendadak dihadapkan pada konsep negara-bangsa. Tiba-tiba, suku-suku nomaden ini tidak bisa pergi ke semua tempat yang mereka inginkan begitu saja. Mereka dikelilingi oleh batas negara. Mungkin kata mereka, “Apa itu negara?”

Berdirinya negara di tanah Afrika juga menyebabkan tercerai-berainya suku. Salah satu akibatnya adalah kemunculan gerakan iredentisme, alias upaya mengakuisisi sebuah wilayah di bawah bendera suku tertentu. Dari sini darah mengalir, dan lebih banyak lagi darah yang mengalir karena negara menjadi tempat bagi orang-orang untuk berebut kekuasaan dengan cara saling menyingkirkan.

Bagaimanapun, percakapan saya dan seorang kawan di hari itu berhenti di sini. Berhenti pada keluhan akibat terbentuknya negara-bangsa di Afrika. Kami hampir saja merasa jenius dengan menemukan sebuah alternatif bagi Afrika, “Mungkin kita harus menghapus negara-negara di Afrika!”, sebelum akhirnya kami sadar bahwa ide itu amat kekanak-kanakan dan mustahil. Dunia kita sudah berjalan di atas konsep yang kokoh ini, di mana setiap jengkal tanah dan setetes air adalah bagian dari sebuah negara, bukan entitas lainnya. Afrika tanpa negara mungkin menjadi Afrika yang semakin terisolasi.

Akhirnya saya melanjutkan membaca buku David Lamb tanpa mencoba mencari jalan keluar. Saya hanya mengikuti petualangannya, kadang-kadang tertawa, terkesiap karena ketidak-percayaan. Terbersit keingintahuan apakah The Africans tahu bahwa peradaban manusia tertua ditemukan di benuanya. Tapi apa bedanya kalau mereka tahu?

21/12/2012, Yogyakarta

The Children’s Dream

we took a picture under the bridge. the drained bridge due to the cold lava.

At least two hamlets were gone because of the cold lava- the rain poured on the top of Merapi volcano, it washed tons of explosion materials down through the river. The quantity and the strength of this cold lava was very big that it destroyed the bridge pillars and also the hamlets located along the river. The children did not really remember how did it happened, some said it was at night and they just ran following their parents, some rode the motorbike. All they knew was their houses were drown into materials, some are completely covered. Now its been two years since the disaster, and the people has been living in the temporary settlement located in front of the hamlet offices. The local government built them houses made of bamboo, sized 6 x 3, standing side by side with no wall to separate one house from each other, make it possible for you to notice what TV program is watched by the neighbor next door. In the time of emergency, the rights of the children become secondary needs, if not the later one, because what matters were fulfilling the main and general needs such as settlement, foods and clothing. According to Pak Lurah, the academic achievement of children is decreasing after disaster, maybe because they lost the proper environment to study, maybe the disaster is affecting their psychology more than we thought it did. As our program we assist them studying, helping them with the homework, and even more than that we try to deliver information as many as possible. Especially for the international relations students, our main purpose is to show them that the world is bigger than Jumoyo, that they can go everywhere they want someday. Some kids are very interested, they can’t take their eyes off of the world map. Enthusiastically listened when we told them stories what is it in Japan and America, when we told them about the world war and which countries were taking part. He told us too what are the countries he wants to visit. We tell them that he can make it. He has to study harder, learn English, and I shared him the website address of AFS Intercultural program and PCMI.

two little boys in our huntara who might be the next Soekarno and Sudirman

Some other kids though are not that excited. Once I heard this boy yelled when I taught English in his class, he said, “Why would we learn English?!” I couldn’t answer, I thought to myself the comment was making sense. They have never been exposed to the ‘outer’ world, they have met no foreigners, none of their relatives went abroad, they have never dreamed of going abroad, why would they learn a foreign language then? So I asked a favor from UGM office of international office, from my boyfriend, and then Mbak Ika. I asked them if we can invite the foreign researchers in UGM to Jumoyo so they can meet with the students. It happens that these students are doing their research about disaster management, and I believe that Jumoyo is the right place for that. Pak Lurah and his village officers are great examples of leadership during disaster. Of course everything was messy when the disaster was happening because everyone were just unprepared. But they coped with it very well. Pak Lurah himself worked all days and nights, tracking his people who were separated from each other to find safe places, while at the same time he was taking care of refugees from other places (mostly they were from upper Kaliurang, only several kilometers away from the top of Merapi. Pak Lurah said that they panickly entered Jumoyo, already covered with ashes, some were suffered from burn). He was helped by volunteers, they cooked for thousands of refugees three times a day. It was just unbelievable.

After awhile, condition was not as messy. Pak Lurah started to create more sustainable solution to cope with the disaster. He established an organization called Organisasi Pengurangan Resiko Bencana, an organization to minimize the risk of disaster. This organization is not only create trainings for people and evacuation simulation, but they also keep news updated about what is going on in the top of Merapi mountain, whether or not there is condition risking the safety of the people down in Jumoyo. Jumoyo now also has their own local FM radio called Lahara FM (taken from the word Lahar which means lava), the radio entertained the people with songs as well as shared them information about the risk of disaster. I adore Pak Lurah for his vision and dedication, at the same time I cannot imagine what happened with societies that is as prone to disaster but do not have strong leaderships.

I can share some more about it, the point is I believe that we can all get the benefits from the meeting. Mbak Ika said they will do it next month after lebaran, it will be after my KKN program is finished. But I will still gladly escort them here to meet with the children and the organization. There are children who have dreams, if we can do things to preserve them, the children will someday make them true.

August 2, 2012

American experience: boys and girls club, apple pie, and the federalist paper

Bethlehem Steel Company used to be one of the powerful steel companies in America, but what is left for us to see is only the factory building. It closed down in early 2000s, the cause is according to some people (by people I mean the people that I talk to in the program) it failed to compete with other companies, it then got worse from the labor strikes, the production stops, company couldn’t make any money, it bankrupted. The shutting down of the steel company gave a huge impact to the community. In fact, many people came to Bethlehem to work in the steel company which means, the shutting down left many people unemployed. I didn’t get the condition up until now, but it turns that Bethlehem has the very wealthy people as well as the poor living in its area. Shannon told us that she lived in one area in where her neighbors are the ex executives of the steel companies, and that they are all living happy and wealthy life. Meanwhile if you look down from the mountain, you will see the poverish area where the ex labors is living. I never really got that until today, when our group visited the Boys and Girls Club. The club is basically a place where teens get together and do activities, it runs by volunteers. In the school year, kids go there after school to get helps for their homework and play with their peers. Meanwhile in the summer, they do bunch of activities start in the morning until the afternoon. Almost all of the children who go to the club are come from low classes. And, stealing Debra’s term, Bethlehem might be as wide as these kids are going to see.

Some of the boys in boys and girls club

Boys and Girls Club decided to make a program for them, called something like passport around the world. Every once a month these kids will learn about other countries, and then they will receive paper with stamps in it, just like a passport with visas. Lehigh decided to take us, the participants of USIPP, to the club this morning. We’ve prepared stories about Indonesia to tell. I taught them how to greet in Bahasa, Cindhi described Indonesian foods, Ola showed them kebaya, she and Uwi taught them Saman dance. That one was personally my favorite part. Ola and Uwi did very good, and then kids just sat on the floor and followed the movements! Lehigh girls also shared their stories: Angela told about Merapi volcano, Ellie shared the experience about komodo dragon, Theresa showed her picture with Jogja Hiphop Foundation and Shannon too. Out of my expectations, the children were so excited. They asked questions, and among those questions, some kids were asking about prison. They were like, “What the prison in Indonesia is look like? What are the juveniles in Indonesia wearing?” We were confused at first, but then we realized those were things that these kids relate to. However, these ‘sad questions’ were eventually drown by the cheerfulness of the kids though. They were so cute and friendly. The boys sat next to me at lunch and asked questions about game and my life, they showed us some break dance, and when we ready to leave for the next destination, this cute little girl came to me, said thanks and told me that I am a very nice person. I hugged her back and I swore that I’m about to cry. No one ever told me that I am nice, especially kids. The experience in the Boys and Girls Club today left me memories than I thought I would get. Maybe I spent too short of times with them to see how their life are, but I definitely will always remember that enthusiasm and kindness.

Our apple pie and vanilla ice cream

We also had another American experience today by going shopping in Wegmans (it is like a grocery store where they sell fresh fruits, vegetables, spices and many kind of foods), cooking (I’m not a big fan, of course. But Jen made me, and I actually ended up enjoying it. We cooked spaghetti, garlic bread, and apple pie. Jen, who by the way is an ex chef but I guess will never stop cooking, promised me to give the recipes and I promise you I will put the recipes here on blog), and went to Emmaus theatre, a classic theatre, where you only need to pay 3 dollars to watch movie, there are only 2 movies are played in a day, and most of the audiences are elderly people.

So those are my fun day, and considering the way we started today, we deserved all the fun. We started today with a lecturing from Dr. Rick Matthews, a professor of political science in Lehigh. It was a great and serious lecture, and I will try my best to write it down here, because it was too precious to be missed. Our discussion is basically about the beginning of American politics. Our pre-read is the Federalist Paper by James Madison. I have to be honest, the language wasn’t the language that I can easily understand. But Dr. Mathews tried to explain it. Madison was one of the 55 framers who created the constitution, they actually did it in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When the idea of United States came up, many people were pessimistic including Madison. He was afraid of unstability, because he sees human as factions who has different interest, and they fight for everything, and it is impossible to cooperate. Moreover, giving the interesting fact that the country used to be consists of 13 separated states, which are very individual. Dr. Mathews gave us the example, if at that year you met Vermonters abroad and you ask them where are they come from? They would certainly answered that they come from Vermont, and not United States of America (actually Dr. Matthews was using different state for example. I just like using Vermont). Imagining these 13 states were willing to ratify the constitution was a big dream. That was why three men; Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay wrote series of essays to promote the ratification. What we read and discuss today was the one written by Madison.

Along with the concern, Madison and the other 54 men had the solution. To deal with different interest groups or faction, they believed that they need to extend the size of the country. From 13 states, US expanded to 50 states. The principal was basically, the more the merrier. Same thing goes to religious life in the US, in which Madison also concerned with due to his observation in the domination of religious leaders in his hometown. US then decided to separate between church and state, and invited more religious believers to come and live here. That’s probably where to concept of the land of the free came from. So that all people, religious believers from all around the world, move to United States looking for religious freedom. The framers of US constitution also designed the federal government to check and balance each other; legislative (with two branches: house and senate), executive and judicial. This system, according to Dr. Matthews, was designed to say no. That is why, amendment of the constitution is almost never happen. Civil war was probably the only even that could make a major change in the US political life. Dr. Matthew’s lecture gave us ideas where the political, even individual attitude of the US and US citizens came from. Its individualism is for instance, in where individual’s rights are the most important thing above everything else. I almost think that it is above the public interests, but I will hopefully make that clear in our next lecturing session with Dr. Matthews which is going to be this Wednesday, about liberalism.

The Story of African American

The Oba of Benin was not only a king, but he was also considered as a God. Oba protected the people as long as they stay inside his ruling area. But some people, or many of them, were curious about what they might find if they took a walk further than they should be. They heard about groups of strange men who came to their island, and took people away with their big ship. And so they went out. But instead of only witnessing the presence of the new people, they were also taken away by them. Museum of African-American History—as the oldest and the biggest African-American Museum in the world, located in Detroit, Michigan—pictures the story very real. Karen, our tour guide, took us to the basement which is designed like a prison. In this prison, with no light, ventilation, or toilet, the African men were kept while waiting for the ship that will bring them to destination country. The women, however, were treated differently. They were not only stay inside the jail. Sometimes they were showed off in front of the Portuguese men, in where they will just be picked to fulfill whatever the white men desired. When the ship finally came, African men and women will be dragged into the ship, marked with a piece of hot iron just like a horse, and piled inside the deck. Again, the museum pictured this in a very vivid way. Karen took us into a room where we were surrounded by African men chained in barracks. Through the sound effect, we hear them groaning, crying, praying. The ship took them in months of journey to South America, Europe, and finally America, where they will be sold as slaves. They were forced to leave the beautiful island which is very rich with minerals, oils, animals, sized bigger than America (in fact, the size of America only fits with one Sahara Dessert). The whole process, from capturing them in Africa until keeping them in the ship like sardines, were basically very cruel and inhumane, something you could hardly believe. Meanwhile in the destination country, their values are no more than products. They were sold through auction, and were forced to work as real cheap labors.

Until finally, conscious American shouted for the stopping of slavery. It wasn’t easy, the land lords, mostly from the southern of America, didn’t want to lose their cheap labors. This became the beginning of American Civil War, from 1861 until 1865. The war was won by the human rights defenders, and as a result they created Amandement 13, 14 and 15 where they made slavery illegal. However, this wasn’t the end of the sufferings for the African American. Started as inferior products, the whites still looked down to them. Post war era, they were not labors no more. But they were segregated and hated. African-American history after the civil war was one of my favorite subjects when I studied in Brattleboro Union High School in 2008. My social studies teacher, Bill Holiday, was one of the smartest guys I know. We took civil right trip to Alabama, and I received so many information as well as witnessing the historical places, where the effort to pursue full citizenship rights of the blacks took place. And I still remember the injustices they received; segregated school, no voting rights, back door in the bus, giving up the bus seat if the white needs it, and there were many murder cases that remain unsolved; Viola Liuzio, Emmet Till, until Martin Luther King Jr. himself. In 1960s, the civil right figures were march and advocate the civil rights for everyone, for the blacks. The effort was succeed and as a result, African-Americans are no longer discriminated. Even the current president Barrack Obama is in fact a black descendent. In 2008 election, I believe that I praised Americans for taking a huge step in their life, choosing a black president. For me, and probably for most of the non-americans, it was a sign of succeed on overcoming racial conservativeness issue. But Professor Vince Hutchings from political science in University of Michigan doesn’t think so.

Through his presentation titled “Race and American Politics in the 21st Century”, he mentioned that one of the reasons why Obama won the election was because Bush was one of the worst American Presidents. When he ended his presidency, people not only hated him but also distrust the Republican Party. That was why, as a Democrat candidate Obama had more advantage. He successfully gained “rainbow votes”, which means voters from people across ethnicity: blacks, whites, Hispanics, etc. More than 90% blacks voted for him. But, according to Professor Hutchings, it wasn’t because he is black. But most African-Americans simply favor to Democrat Party more than toward the Republican.

The constitution bans all forms of racism. But in reality, whites still have more privileges than the black. For example, white Americans who’ve been jailed are most likely get jobs, and not with the blacks who have the same condition. And although it is not legal, the housing area between blacks and whites are pretty much segregated. Whites most likely live in a better area, and this is because the home dealer usually delivers different information to blacks and whites who wanted to buy a house. Professor Hutchings also showed the wealth disparity, in where whites’ asset is as much as 120.989 US$, while the blacks only reach 19.024 US$.

Speaking about change, the condition and treatment toward African-American is indeed been changed. No segregated area, they can vote, they can interact with the whites, and no hatred prosecution toward them is legal. But their quality of life, especially if we compare it with the whites, is not so much changing. Professor Hutching thinks that it is basically a result from injustice in the past. He gave an example of New Deal policy by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which is basically sided to the whites. I’m not sure that I can elaborate though, I need to study this further. But Cindhi added, when we were in the van on the way to the museum, that it was also the consequence of capitalism. This economic system gives the chance for people who own capital, and kill those who don’t own one, and blacks basically don’t have as much of asset like the whites. The solution suggested by Professor Hutching is repairment, which means compensation for the blacks, for the injustice they received in the past. We all agree that it isn’t possible.

There are wealthy blacks, of course. Kharis, a staff from University of Michigan said that they are mostly in Atlanta, Georgia. Detroit itself is quite a poor area. There are many people end up moving out because they don’t have anything to live in the city. From the museum, we headed to another part of Detroit, to Earthworks Urban Farm Soup Kitchen. Soup kitchen is sort of a shelter, where homeless or poor people can come over receive free foods, take a shower, training to improve their skills, and some places also give them places to stay. This place has made a lot of changes in Detroit area, considering many poor people live here (note that most of the Detroit citizen is black). But Earthworks Urban Farm is not an ordinary soup kitchen. It is maintained by Capuchin, a Catholic order. They grew their own foods in the farm. And their main purpose isn’t only to serve foods, but healthy foods. Shane, one of the workers in Earthworks also explained the philosophy of foods. Foods keep the history of society, and food can bring people together. Shane himself came from Philippine, working at the Earthworks gives him chance to preserve his background through foods. And it can bring people together because in Earthworks, Detroit people plant their own foods and they are able to socialize and interact with people while working on their plants. It sort of like farmers who are bonded because they meet every day in the rice fields. Earthworks also employs the poor blacks, and (black) ex convicts who can’t get jobs.

The disparity between blacks and whites doesn’t make the country less democratic, but makes it problematic, said Professor Hutching. America is challenged to equalize the rights and welfare of its citizens, all citizens.

Ann Arbor, June 21 2012

Day 2: Little disagreement, many enlightment!

The building of Universitas Indonesia is impressive, and they just brought us to the library tour only. I’m not good in number, but I’m pretty sure that the size of its library is at least twice bigger than my campus. They showed us a room in the library which keep old manuscripts, if not ancient. The room is set in a cold temperature to keep the manuscripts in well condition, we were also not allowed to touch anything or to take a picture. This lady who worked there wore a glove and showed us 3 manucripts: the first one, an old bible from the 17th century, it was written in an old Dutch-language. The second one, a manuscript written in daun lontar (papyrus?) in old Balinese language, it was about practices in Balinese traditional ceremony. The third one I can’t remember, but there were Chinese figures in it, and written in Javanese letter (wait, now I start to get curious, a Chinese figure in a book written in Javanese letter?).

We had two professors from UI as our speakers: Pak Maswadi Rauf (Faculty of Social and Political Science) and Pak Muhammad Fuad (Faculty of Humanity, and a Head of Muhammadiyah office branch). Pak Rauf told us about democracy in Indonesia. He explained about the democracy trend started from our independence in 1945 up to now. I should say that I wasn’t totally agree in all of his points, especially when he answered Cindhi’s question about the case of Yogyakarta, and he said that Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono does not fill the requirement of being a king and a governor at the same time. And he said that we should’ve adopt the same system as the United Kingdom in where the King “can only be” the symbol. You see, we need to understand the idea of power in Javanese before we get further into this; the power of King in Java cannot be separated into parts of political, religious and cultural, which means the King cannot only be the symbol of cultural. Yet, although stick in this principal, the King himself aware that we’re now in the era of modernity, in where the King cannot acts authoritarian even if he can, so the King will consciously act democratically, regardless his absolute power as a King, so he’s trying to wisely combine his role as a King and as a governor, which is a leader of a modern concept in nation-state. But I’m sure we’ll have a lot more discussion about this issue later in Jogja. Other than that, I think Pak Rauf’s highlighted many interesting points, like what it takes to have a good democratic country. He said that the law and regulation have to adapt the need of democratization, to help implementing the democratic way of life. But what we’re lacking of today is the individual democracy, which is why people are misusing the idea of freedom (he defined freedom as a chance for everyone to do anything that is not against public’s interests) and harming others. But of course, it takes a lot more effort to instill democratic way of life and way of think to the individual’s mind and heart.

Meanwhile Pak Fuad told us the case of Nahdhatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah. I like that even though he himself is an activist of Muhammadiyah, but he was very objective in giving the presentation. He admitted that NU is probably more aware with the issue of pluralism rather than Muhammadiyah. Let me brief you about his presentation: Muhammadiyah was created in Jogja, by Kyai Hajji Ahamad Dahlan in 1912. It was a response toward the backwardness of Islam (he didn’t elaborate that, but I remember my teacher told me in the middle school that at the moment, the Muslim society were mixing the Islamic teachings with their cultural beliefs, which created bid’ah, or practices that were not taught by Rasulullah SAW and that was why they against the religious teaching), and the Christian missionary activity. Christian missionaries were very active to spread their teachings especially through building education and health facilities. It became a threat—because the number of Christians might increased over the number of Muslims—as well as an inspirations, that Muslim should also contribute toward society’s welfare, while spreading the teaching of Islam at the same time. Meanwhile NU was created in in Jombang by Kyai Hajji Hasyim Asy’ari 14 years after Muhammadiyah. It was a response toward Muhammadiyah’s rapid development, which is in fact very rapid; at first they only built 5 schools, and then increased into 1.774 schools! I don’t know how many they are now.

In terms of way of thinking, Muhammadiyah is more progressive, yet puritan. Funny, right? Muhammadiyah has many scholars and they are really concern in modern science. At the same time, their vision is to purify Islamic teachings from traditional or cultural elements (which is again, funny, because somehow they refer to Middle Eastern tradition and culture). Pak Fuad said that Muhammadiyah is tend to be suspicious toward traditions. Meanwhile NU has a traditionalist approach. NU realized that Islam came to a place who has its distinct character, so it should be flexible and adapted. He introduced us to Kyai Hajji Abdurrahman Wahid, or Gus Dur, who was apparently the grandson of NU founder. Gus Dur disagreed with the “imported Islam from the Middle East” (that’s going to be my new favorite term), and believed that “no ideal of Islamic society outside Indonesia we need to aspire to” (another new favorite quotation).

I also like the idea that, even though we have this Islamic belief, but we need to realize that we are now in a modern nation state society in where the government is exist with its constitution and the rule of law. So if Islamic group wants to voice out their aspiration, they also have to struggle through democratic political system, instead of blind violence. Religious groups also cannot be selfish only in advocating their ideology interest, but they also need to be aware of social problems such as poverty and education issues. I see these efforts in Muhammadiyah and NU, but these are exactly what groups like Front Pembela Islam does not do. I also see these approaches when we met the representatives of student religious bodies of Universitas Indonesia. We met the groups of Islam, Hindu, Catholic and Christian. In their activities, they conduct religious discussions, but also many social activities. This last meeting was also quite enlightening for the US participants. Like Angela said, the image of Islam domination was really dominating their view about Indonesia, so it was great to see that the believers of non-Muslim are actually prominent too.

We ended the day by going to the Margo City mall. We ate at Pizza Hut. I managed to order one pizza with meat, because 3 out of 4 Lehigh participants are vegetarian, and one of them just wanted the plain pizza tonight. They were very excited with the many kind of drinks that our pizza hut have, and also the many kind of donnut toppings in JCo. It was a fun day! We will have to get on the bus at 7 tomorrow for another journey! I’ll talk to you later!

Depok, June 5 2012