Friday, June 19, 2009

Priorities and Identity Construction

Arya was helping me organise my blog, when I stumbled upon this post:


Identity (?)
Friday, 7th April 2006
11.33 AM
Prins Hendrikkade, Amsterdam

I was just wondering why all-people-with-children's Friendster photos always have their children dominate it?

Is it because when you have children, they dominate your life?

Is it because your identity no longer is about you but about this tiny little thing?

How is it supposed to be?

Questions, questions. Maybe I can only answer them when I have one of my own.


I don't care. I'm never going to be ready. Full stop.

So, change of topic, shall we?


I've always trusted that identity is a complex issue. It is multilayered and will always be redefined according to our environment. There are layers that are more fundamental, which were molded perhaps decades - they are more fixed, yet still adjustable depending on individual characteristics.

However, I'd like to answer the question I'd asked myself 3 years ago.

Yes, my identity has indeed been enriched by the young man I call my son. My life does revolve around him. I still have targets, personal plans, deadlines, but I schedule them around him.

Because I've decided that he is my priority.

The question of whether or not I lose myself in him, is quite tricky to answer. I think it's about balance and priorities. We sort our life based on our priorities to achieve a certain balance (spiritual, perhaps? Psychological, mental? A psychologist would say it is to manage cognitive dissonance or conflict of will in simple terms). Identity is thus constructed by these priorities. We project ourselves consistent to our priorities.

A working woman, whose job is the highest priority in her life, would post pictures of her in conferences, as a speaker, leading a meeting, or with her workmates.

A proud father, whose child is the highest priority in his life, would post milestone pictures of his child smiling, laughing, walking.

A traveler, whose adventures are the highest priority in their life, would post the newest destination shots as trophies.

But I think that their lives are not exclusive to those aspects only. It is much more complex and the most superficial identity, the one apparent to others, are the aspect in their lives that are of most importance to them. It does not mean that their lives are limited to just that.

Then again, there is always the possibility that the image projected has nothing to do with priorities - but more to the fact that we want to create a certain image of ourselves regardless of how we are in person.

Which is kind of sad, really.

But who am I to judge. I just think it's nice to reflect on past queries and moving forward with more to bring. Cheers.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Righteousness of Right

There is a general (Western) trend to discard religion. It is perhaps safe to say one the reasons is, aside from the Enlightment and/or science, the fact that currently the biggest global conflict is related to (but not due to) religion. Cultural globalisation, the vehicle with which Western values arrive at our doorsteps, will, I think, give way for this sentiment to discard religion to secular countries - namely Indonesia.

When I was living in a Western society, I went through hiding my religious identity. I was ashamed to practice what I believe in because practicing your religion would potentially categorise you into the fundamental group.

Most people in Indonesia, however, wear their religion on their sleeves. Unfortunately, I would have to say that this is not due to their comprehension over the concepts taught in their religion, but more due to social confirmation. It was how they (we) were all built. Critical theorists would say that this is a false consciousness. Accepting constructed reality as objective reality, without questioning it.

It is from this tendency, I think, that relative truth (read: the truth of mankind) becomes the absolute truth. The way I deconstruct my religion, I would argue that if a person believes in God, they logically believe in the claim that absolute truth is God's alone. Therefore, any truth claimed by man could never be truism.

Therefore if a person thinks that they are right, absolutely right - then they fall into the concept of false consciousness. They perceive their reality as the absolute reality. Opposing (re/de)constructed reality will, according to their framework, be, well, wrong.

It is from this premise, I think, that conflict occurs. It is when our truth is above their truth (comparable to the concept of us/other). Difference can never be resolved if one party does not provide room to be wrong.

Following this logic, I think Marx got it right when he claimed that knowledge will free those enslaved by taken-for-granted reality. His concern was capitalism, the current concern of the contemporary world is social conflict. Perhaps to get things right, we need to allow ourselves to be wrong.

And I could be wrong.

Teachers Called Students

Someone sent me a moving message. Well, kind stranger, you made me write today. I feel like I know you already.

I have been getting several kind wishes lately, students saying thanks for being there to answer their questions. But I honestly feel that things are the other way around.

The only reason I teach them is because they manage my level of inspiration. Their questions, their challenges, make me want to read.

They make me want to learn.

Really, if I wanted money or societal praise, I wouldn't become a lecturer. We're a bunch of nerds appreciated by fellow nerds we call peers. To top it all off, we dress in ugly robes and silly hats a couple of times a year. But there's just something about teaching bright students that make me feel at home.

So guys, this is my thanks to you. For always challenging me and correcting my mistakes. For having the guts to raise your hands in class and talk back. For symbolising hope that the next generation will be better, more intelligent, more apt and conscious.

A wise man once told me: One repays a teacher badly if one remains nothing but a pupil.

It is my hope that you know now more than I do. Because that means that I don't suck that bad as a teacher :).

With love.