Thursday, December 23, 2010

End of the Year Reflection

Approaching their last semester, I frequently hear students questioning themselves 'What they are going to do for a living', 'Who they are going to be', and 'What they will do'. As much as I think strategising and planning for the future is very important, I can't help but wonder about what makes me content.

It is not in ensuring financial security or getting a permanent position.
It is not in professional achievements or peer acknowledgement.
It is for the passion in what I do, that I do what I do with heart.
It is for believing that what I do is somehow important.
And work becomes one of the ways I expand my own identity.
Just like my being a mother. Just like my being a partner.
Just like my being a daughter and sister.
A bestfriend and a citizen.

I know it sounds like I come from a la-la land where everyone sings Kumbaya. But I reflect how I had jumped from one job to another, to find my place in this world and a profession instead of an occupation.

I am more than glad I listened to that calling from within. That sometimes, by figuring out 'Who we are', 'What we do for a living' becomes an easy answer.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Enough is Not Enough

I vividly remember how my brain hurt while I was writing my thesis, how I felt that I have reached my limits and that this is the best that I can do - no more. How after surpassing that, I realised that things made much more sense afterwards. Somewhere along the process I actually understood, and now looking back I know I can write a 100-150 page research on another topic.

And yet we arrive to the same point. Where upon my 50.000th word of my PhD thesis, I stumbled. Surrounded by dozens of books and a string of tabs on my browser, once again my brain said: Enough.

And my head hurt all over again on a whole new level.

The difference now is that I know this is a journey where my comprehension is tested and pushed further. That the only way to learning is to actually force myself to know more.

And I do hope for the rest of my life I get these stumbles. Because then I know I'm continually growing, continually learning. It's when I don't feel that I have reached my limits that I should actually be concerned; because it means I am unchallenged.

Having said that, it could be a research paper or juggling work and family; or both; or relocating to another country; or a first day at a new job; or letting go of a loved one; or anything - being desperate and having a moment where we feel like this is 'enough' is actually the moment where we can actually grow beyond what we were capable before.

And the journey continues.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Had a session this morning with my supervisors. Currently comparing different interpretations of (if not only different because their multidisciplinary nature - that is what I have to find out) Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and select three methods to identify said discourse in three different, yet interrelating, units of analysis.


I'm strongly suspicious that I have overestimated my brain capacity.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Having or Being

The philosopher Erich Fromm, he forecast a society that was obsessed with possessions. He believed that human beings had two basic orientations: having and being. Now, a person with a having orientation seeks to acquire and possess things, property, even people.

But a person with a being orientation focuses on the experience. They derive meaning from exchanging, engaging and sharing with other people.

Unfortunately, Fromm also predicted that a culture driven by commercialism, like the one we live in today, is doomed to the having orientation. Which leads to dissatisfaction and emptiness. (...)

The point is there's always going to be extremes (...). Things don't have to mean everything, nor do they have to be devoid of meaning. They are one of the ways in which we can experience and enjoy life.

Ray Langston, CSI

PS: Bet you didn't expect that I got that from television.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Freedom of the Press: The Means Justify the Ends

Too often do I read in the newspaper sentences like 'we have to uphold freedom of the press' or 'this is our right to freedom of expression'. Very masculine, demanding, active sentences.

Freedom of the press is an idea that relates to the media's function as the fourth pillar of democracy. You have legislative, judicative, and executive functions of the government, and the last you have a healthy media system which monitors the principles, instruments and practices of the government. All four pillars are representatives of the public, whose tasks are a variation of creating a just society - with order and welfare in mind.

So by that concept, freedom of the press is not an objective; it's a means. The press, as part of the media system, has a task to monitor where our tax money goes, if the people we elected are doing their job, and what we can do to aid the process. The press, not unlike the other three pillars that are fundamental to a state, serves the public.

The television industry in particular often interchanges the term audience rating with public interest. Audience rating refers to the amount of people watching a programme*. The television industry is not addressing a geographically, ethnically, religiously (to name a few) diverse audience, it's speaking to their target audience - in other words, the economically sound and the centrally located.

In contrast, the term 'public interest' refers to the general order and welfare of a society. It does not side with the majority, it tries to ensure that nobody is suffering; and if someone is suffering, they have the right not to be. And the press is one of the parties responsible, or at least potential, in ensuring that no one is**.

We can blame lax regulation or a political process that is too close to the industry, which to some extent are both valid. But it is also important to ask ourselves, whenever the almost classic 'freedom of the press' argument arises, 'Is it really the public's interest that is being served?'.

* Imagine our Jakarta-centric television infrastructure and you'll understand why our television programmes are so homogeneous.
** Reflecting to the current state of the country, we should see more of the conditions in Eastern Indonesia for instance. But of course news that expose too much suffering is unappealing for advertisers, as it reduces the readers/audience's motivation to consume the products advertised. Which makes the task ever harder for the press to submit news that are 'of the public's interest'. So that's why we have the over-exposed case of Ariel-Luna, for instance.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Why Students Make Better Teachers

One of the reasons why I feel more comfortable asking what students think of a social issue than I do asking public figures is because the latter have a tendency to try and convince others to agree with their ideas. While the former are in a state of mentality of constant learning*.

Some people find their peace of mind from finding definitive answers.

I find my peace of mind from knowing that because my logic is limited, other ideas, as long as they are intended for public welfare (kesejahteraan bersama), are always worth considering.

*Although not all students 'question' and not all public figures are so sure of themselves, it is inevitably the general trend.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


Dear bloggers,

Your participation in a survey on blogging as part of a research conducted by a dear friend of mine will be really appreciated. Please click.

With many thanks,

Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Battle of Who Could Care Less

In an ideal world, everything is reciprocal. A kind act is returned with another kind act. Even better, the receiving end decides to pay it forward to another. And the process goes on and on and on.

And in contrast, an offensive act is not returned. So then the cycle stops, because no one paid it forward. It wasn't even returned in the first place.

Lately I've been faced with the stark reality that usually we return offensive acts and not reciprocate kind favours. Freud would say it's because of our ego. One, two, three people. Then it spirals into a group. Then between groups. Sooner or later, on a societal level.

Then you have intergroup conflicts, ideological contests, and the battle of who could say worse things in public.

It becomes systemic. The simple unwillingness (not inability) to just know when to stop. I find that it's impossible to agree on everything in life. I don't always agree with my partner, the closest human being to me in my life. But when you want to try and make things work, for something bigger than ourselves, something bigger than the sake of being right - it becomes less important to win the battle.

I fully understand that when we speak of religion, political interest, violence, righteousness, things become much, much more complex. Scholars and politicians make careers out of studying these factors (I know I do, ha!) usually not surmountable in a lifetime. We come up with concepts, definitions, theories to try and understand why we cannot live together.

When I think sometimes - sometimes - things are just as simple as knowing when to return kindness with kindness, and return violence with silence.


But of course it would help if we had trustworthy law enforcement to end the violence. And while I'm at it, a government that sides with the 'general welfare' and a media system that practices journalism of peace instead of journalism of war for sensationalism and profitability. And a solution to structural poverty. Education. Health. Housing. Environmental problems.

But I digress.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Err Moment: Equally Sad or Equally Pleasant?

I rarely talk about random moments, so here's one.

I was sitting with several students at the library for a research meeting. I was telling them about arriving at the campus trying to find a place to park, and the security told me students can't park in the space for lecturers.

I: Antara tersinggung atau tersanjung.
V: Tapi emang Mbak ngga kaya dosen muda sih, tapi kaya mahasiswa tua.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Fostering a dialogue or 'the exchange of ideas'
can only be successful if all parties would listen.
The louder we speak, the quieter other people become.
Perhaps even making them find other ways to be heard -
in some cases, with their hands.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Knowing That Much

We should learn more of the things we dislike.
With knowledge, we might not dislike it so much.
Or, we'd have a stronger argument for it.

Virtual Travelling Begins with a Click

Prejudism and bigotry are traits
of the socially immobile.


If not physically, virtually.

Exposing ourselves to difference
pushes us to realise
that the world is too complex
for us to fully understand.

And thus making us accept the fact that
it is impossible to claim
that our understanding of it
is the rightest.


Even more than logical thinking and knowledge,
I think the main prerequisite to a civil human being
is empathy.

If you can understand someone else's pain
you wouldn't inflict any more.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

God is in the Detail

When I say and do things, I almost never think of how it should influence people or how it would leave an impression. I say and do things because I mean it. And most of the time, I (try to) mean well.

It's in how I lecture, in what I read, what I think, say and how I say it, in my choice of past time, and eventually, overflows in what I write.

The 'sporadic' and 'nonstrategic'-ness of what I do is why the fact that people, who are otherwise strangers to me, randomly say hello over the internet astound me. Say to me, openly, that they share my views. And that these arbitrary thoughts of mine touched someone in some way.

It renders me speechless.

I feel humbled. For want of a better word.

You make me feel like life is not a solitary journey.

Thank you.

Friday, September 03, 2010

The Invisible Umbilical Chord

During Malik's first year, I went through the conflict of being a working mother. The guilt trips, the missed meetings, the inability to bring myself to the present task at hand because my sense of motherhood overpowered anything else.

In his second year, I learned to juggle. When it's time to write my thesis, I write my thesis. When it's time to read Malik a book before bed, I do just that. I wake up 3 times during the night and lecture the next day. I accepted the consequence of both roles with a serious attempt at not pining over the cons of the choice I made consciously.

And now, entering his third year - where he's learning to become more independent - I realise just like the years before that I am learning right along with him. I learned that parenting is not (only) a role, but part of who I am. I take with me the skills of listening, of deciphering his needs and the limited amount of words he has to communicate them, of squatting and keeping my face level to his so that he could talk to me with equal height (figuratively and literally speaking).

I slowly realise that I take that trait with me when I'm talking to students. I don't see them as people I 'tutor', I see them as people finding their way in life - just like I am - and that my role is to 'listen to their needs'.

As a teacher, I am a parent. And as a parent, I am a teacher.

I no longer 'juggle', my identity expands to accommodate the roles I am responsible for.

It's a unique process, which I do with all my heart. And once in a blue moon, when he needs me the most (he recently had a non stop high fever), an imaginary umbilical chord appears. My whole body responds to his needs. And after he's recovered and back on his own two feet, the chord disappears - only returning when he needs it the most. Quite a fascinating and illogical response, which I embrace as part of who I am. Or the period Malik and I are going through at the moment. I'm certain that things will change throughout the years, and I enjoy every period of this journey.

I am a 'mother' anywhere I am. A role that teaches us the will to give the best of nurture, only to let them go when time comes. That nothing in this world is actually 'mine'.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

My (Ignorant) Take on Ideological Islam

I've been reading about Salafism and Wahabism, the two allegedly fundamental Islamic school of thoughts. And although I have the need to mention now I feel more ignorant than before I began reading about it, I did find some interesting things.

Firstly, according to several sources, the term 'Wahabi', which is now popularly used derogatorily to refer to Islamist militant groups, came from the 'West' due to a Puritan-Islamic movement entering India which had generated from Pakistan. Al Wahab, the figure, was an 18th century reformist who criticised the phenomenon of Sunni Islam in Arab who became comfortable with a status quo. He had thought that they were leaving behind the Sunnah (what is recommended by the Prophet). Since he stirred the pot, he accepted protection from the Saud family, who, in exchange, received religious legitimacy (pragmatic, no?).

Secondly, I read about the three types of Muslims. The first is the Muqallid, those who follow Islamic scholarship without direct comprehension over textual evidence (Quran and Hadist). The second is Muttabi, those following the main texts (Quran and Hadist). And the third is Mujtahid, those who analytically deduce from textual evidence (ijtihad), comparing between school of thoughts (mazhab), historical context, and choose what is closest to the Quran. As I was Googling, there was a Q & A section that incuded the following:

Question: What should those who do not wish to conduct an ijtihad, do?
Answer: To choose an imam (leader) and follow the imam's mazhab.

Question: What is the law of those following a mazhab without changing (note: perhaps this refers to 'evaluating' or 'reading between the lines').
Answer: Haram (unlawful). Because he takes the Imam's truth as Allah's truth.

A human truth as a divine truth. Particular, absolute.

It got me thinking. That we are all accountable for our individual and conscious choice.

I began thinking about ideological difference within social science, my own field of expertise. How critical theory differs from positivistic approaches, as well as their fundamental assumptions. But all theories attempt to understand social phenomenon with the 'tools' they deem 'right'. I can even use two ideologically conflicting tools, modernism and critical theory, to explain the same social phenomenon.

And at the end, I think, ideology, mazhab, who our 'imam' is - are all decisions which we took consciously, even our choice to 'follow' instead of 'lead'. And the logic is also applicable to the notion of those who were accused of religious indoctrination (traditional santris) - they are just trying to live life, find their faith, the best way they know how. Just as true as the notion that liberal Islamic thinkers are accused of heresy. They too, are trying to implement their faith the best way they know how.

The point is to coexist, without feeling we know better than the other - because personal choice cannot be imposed on another human being. The point is, in a modern nation-state context, to apprehend those who use ideological religion to justify violence (e.g. FPI)* without condemning their fundamental ideas.

It become less relevant then to speak of factions, of ideological and/or mazhab differences because it is the responsibility of each Muslims to seek, choose, and accept them.

Just as every human being in the world are looking for ethical and moral guidance to interpret, lead and live their lives.

None the wiser.

* As far as I've read, in the context of Islamic thought, the Prophet taught values of peace, compassion, and thoughtfulness. These characters of the Prophet are largely accepted by those who claim themselves Muslims. From the hardliners to the liberals.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Hit or Miss

As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality,
they are not certain;
and as far as they are certain,
they do not refer to reality

Albert Einstein

I was watching Arya make basketball shots using Malik's toy ring when I concentrated on the momentum of shooting. There are several deterministic variables that decide whether or not the ball goes through the ring; distance, the pressure of throwing the ball, the fixity of the material of the ball and the ring and its reaction towards the pressure of the ball hitting the board (momentum).

You can calculate mathematically and determine a certain answer of whether or not the ball makes a hit or miss. All of the variables interact with each other - a string of actions and responses - which finally determine the result.

It got me to thinking about interpersonal communication. Before communicating with another person we have a goal set in our mind to deliver messages accepted in a certain way by the receiver. Resolving a fight with your partner, trying to make your children do the things you want them to, teaching, conducting a presentation, leading a meeting - the list is virtually endless.

Sometimes we are so focused on getting the message across - throwing the ball so to speak - that we lose control over the momentum. Sometimes we are too focused on making a hit with the ball that we concentrate less on calculating the distance, pressure, material, and reaction.

And the ball misses.

When talking with someone we need to understand what they are 'made of' (i.e character), because it determines how they will react towards what we say. We need to calculate the 'volume' of our voice, our angle, and the choice of words.

The same logic is applicable to other types of interaction; group, organisational, intercultural, and social interaction to name a few. We need to take into account all of the variables that come into play to select effective methods.

As I was observing Arya, the more he misses, the higher his stress level. The higher his stress level, the higher his degree of error. We need to be able remain objective in order to block out the noise of stress - to better our concentration and increase the probability of succeeding. But on the other hand, the more the mistakes, the better we calculate and control variables which help us master the skills of making hits.

But even then, sometimes we still miss. Despite all our calculation, we cannot fully control anything in our lives. And focusing on the effort becomes a good block to the noise of us stressing on our failures.

Because sometimes, calculating is the only thing we can do. And that the most important part is actually;

knowing when to let go of the ball.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

When the Pawn...

When the pawn hits the conflicts
He thinks like a King
What he knows throws the blows
When he goes to the fight
And he'll win the whole thing
Fore he enters the ring
There's nobody to batter
When your mind is your might
So when you go solo,
you hold your own hand
And remember that depth
Is the greatest of heights
And if you know where you stand,
then you'll know where to land
And if you fall it won't matter,
cuz you know that you're right.

Fiona Apple

Friday, August 06, 2010

Chapter 2


I have just finished reading your Ch 2. I think you are making excellent progress! This is a much more comprehensive version that your earlier draft.

I will scan the mss with my handwritten comments & send it to you within the next couple of days as a series of attachments to emails.



And so it continues. Drafting chapter 3...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Art Imitates Life. Oh, and Vice Versa

'Dragons are fantasy. If there's magical talismans
or a magic sword or wizards or loving crazy not-real animals...
all these basic things that break laws of reality:
that poo poo's all fantasy. I'm into hard sci-fi.'

Roman Debeers, Party Down

This morning I read about an Indonesian scholar arguing that the pursuit of civilisation begins from the smallest things. God is in the detail and that by questioning art, we can make sense of how we see the world. In 'Western' countries, this idea has been followed through in such a focused way that the difference between fantasy (i.e. Harry Potter) and Science Fiction (i.e. Star Wars) are taught in universities and invariably used as examples to explain to students phenomenons from the Cold War to Bush's invasion of Iraq.

Perhaps it's like how Naturalistic and Impressionistic paintings are differed ideologically, with what is accepted in medieval Western Europe and how it relates to history and political power. Through art, we learn about our past and plan our future better. Some would say, seni adalah penjaga peradaban. It's the same premise behind why Picasso's abstract art is significant, because by then Western civilisation has begun criticising the frigidity of the modernist thought and how society is in an identity crisis collectively searching for a spiritual entity amid a materialistic world. In a more modern context in Indonesia, it's like studying about pornography censorship and how the discourse explains the struggle between ideologies in the world we live in now.


Although I personally didn't choose this discipline because I needed a line of career that achieves a (somewhat) tangible set of goals - I think it's important to maintain our sense of aestheticism, because it indirectly affects our empathy and compassion.

Indonesian scholar Komarudin Hidayat - yes, this is the second time I've cited him the past week - argues that we need to nurture four important fundamentals of education (and in this case I reflect on my role as a parent and, by structure, an educator): art to soften empathy, sports to construct fair game, mathematics to sharpen logical thinking, and spirituality to understand the meaning of life. All four are significant but, particularly in a country like Indonesia, art (and sports!) is the easiest to ignore. Although in the end we might specialise in one aspect or a combination of several, I think it's important to be able to appreciate all four.

And that the conceptual and practical interaction between the four aspects is what makes society a whole entity.

* I feel the need to say that all of this came from my brother's tweet about a hypothetical battle between Voldemort and Darth Vader. Which, by the way, come from different (imaginary) worlds - by genre fantasy and Sci Fi. Voldemort should go against Sauron instead. This is the geek in me talking :p.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Cognitive Dissonance

Lately I've been confronted by individuals with dominant personalities. They are lecturers who could say 'This is trash' to a student in the middle of their defence, who acquires their air of authority if they've succeeded in proving they are intellectually superior to students. At first I, in all my lame attempt to avoid being self-righteous, gave them the benefit of the doubt.

But after consoling students who felt shut down and kicked around, somehow I just grew angry. Maybe it was the overprotective mother in me, but it really brought the worst in me.

I thought, these people should not become educators. They should perhaps choose a sector where it is part of a job requirement to mentally supersede someone else. But not as a lecturer.

Before I had a chance to pause and think, I felt that surge of motivation where I wanted to just beat them in their own game. Educate myself, be well-connected and climb higher up the ladder so I could shove them over.

And what purpose would that serve? Who am I protecting? What am I achieving? Who died and made me queen of all that is right?

I don't want to be that person.

And if my aim is to assist students to stand on their own two feet, to find a way to initiate ideas and structure their thoughts - then the point is to nurture their logical thinking and self-confidence. That with sound ideas, they should not fear anyone. That all of this is part of a learning process.

The world is full of black and whites anyway. If it's not these intellectual bullies it would be someone else. At the end, it's our individual battle to be brave enough to take a stand and defend ourselves. It is the tasks of educators (i.e. parents, managers, lecturers) to harness this trait in future generations - not (only) ensuring that the world is a better place once we've left it. But to make them believe in themselves and fight back when unfairly treated.

Embracing Fear

Nobody is courageous all the time.
The unknown is a constant challenge,
and being afraid is part of the journey.

via Endah Triastuti

Independence is a State of Mind

Yesterday a former student of mine said an interesting thing;

Indonesia sudah merdeka, tapi belum mandiri. 'Independence' should not (only) refer to freedom but to an independent mindset.

A sound, concise review of our current condition: unfocused and frantic.

But alas, I am still hopeful. In Komarudin Hidayat's words: '-merindukan Indonesia sejahtera dan bermartabat.'

Saturday, July 17, 2010


A culture that respects weddings more than commitment,
births more than parenting,
and deaths more than life -
is not mine.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Dumb Luck


Last time I was traveling, I was so tired I missed my flight. I ended up buying a new ticket.

Now, arriving on time, dumb luck brought me to being checked in to first class. And now my first experience of flying executive.

Udik is an understatement.

But I can't help but sense the irony between both events. And that somewhere, someone up there is snickering softly at the light jokes.

Homeward bound!

*Browsing from the lounge eeeeeeee (I warned you, udik)*



After I was being seated, while the other passengers entered the plane, I found myself very uncomfortable because some were staring. Then people with children passed me, some of them asked their parents, "Dad are these the good seats?" Having had the experience of bringing a child with me to fly and sit for hours in cramped spaces made me feel really guilty.

And yet, like a hypocrite, I didn't offer to switch seats because I was too comfortable.

If the world were up to me I would make all seats business class (and while I'm at it, terminate the term 'class' altogether).

Monday, June 28, 2010

Silent Sigh

As I am preparing for my third trip without Malik this year, I realise that it hasn't grown any easier. I feel anxious leaving him, as I did the first time. As a mother of a toddler, it's very difficult (if not impossible) to completely detach. To fully embrace the fact that we will be physically inaccessible to him.

But I do realise I manage better than I did the first time. I know that this is a carefully calculated choice with his well-being first in mind. I know that his father is every bit as good a parent as I am (if not even better in certain (emergency) situations). I know that having an active mother (hopefully) will contribute to his emotional development. And I consciously accept all the consequences, along with the fact that I can never have it all.

It's human to emotionally feel one thing and rationalise it with a 'cost-benefit' assessment. Not exactly finding a balance, more of accepting the consequence of a decided set of priorities and managing counter-productive psychological responses towards them (whoah, that's a mouthful).

But yeah, I'm learning. Sigh.

On the lighter side of things, logistically everything is set. Flight, accommodation, scheduled session, workshop paraphernalia, packing.

Intermezzo: I'm an early packer, I don't like forgetting things on the last day as it adds unnecessary stress - an imprint of my mother. Arya, on the other hand, packs the night before - not unlike another beloved (hello, Dad!). So I should get by just fine. It's not my own comfort than I'm actually shifty about.

What I've figured so far is: leaving loved ones does not get any easier with the amount of time I travel. The emotional attachment remains the same. I just learn how manage, set aside, and prioritise better. Which is a handy skill, don't you think?

Compartmentalisation training: level 3.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Who's to Say

Recently, a public figure told me that he thinks I have the potential to become a leader but I lack the self-confidence to take the role. He advised me to learn to believe in myself more and take charge. I don't fully agree with him, but I do think his opinion is valid in one way.

I do think I lack self-confidence, more in lack of self-assurance. But I embrace it as part of who I am, I don't see it as a weakness, I see it as character. That trait makes me think twice before I act, makes me listen before I speak. It pushes me to become observant.

And to follow that argument, I have no passion in becoming a 'leader', in a traditional sense of the word - one that involves persuasion and rethorics. I think we lead ourselves. We are accountable for our own actions and words. We are independent in deciding our thoughts, opinions, and beliefs.

We are all leaders. Through our own roles and in our own way. Some louder than others, but more often than not, none the wiser.

As long as it's done with heart.

Monday, June 21, 2010

After Several Rounds of Trying

Sometimes, great expectation
is met with great disappointment.
That's life. Move on to the next round.

Having said that,
I think our characters are defined more
by our failures than by our successes.

The point is, after all, to keep trying.

Or Ignorance

If you want to disagree with something,
it's very important to understand it first.
Or else it's called fundamentalism.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Deafening Silence

Around several weeks ago, I began to grow really disappointed in the public figures I thought had the opportunity to bring progress to the democratic and developmental change in Indonesia. Several became more fundamental, shooting down all views they perceive opposing theirs. Several became politically interested, leaving the ideals they fought for when they were young and aspiring leaders and substituted them for personal welfare. I felt that everyone had no elegance in fighting their battles, justifying their methods for their perception of a higher goal.

While the ones who had the maturity in behaviour, attitude and thoughts, to lead - remained silent. Because the ethically and morally uncorrupted will of course attempt to stay that way. Living lives that are content, peaceful, being members of society that affect the rest in subtle ways. But nevertheless, quiet.

I was really dissatisfied with the way things were. The non-existing common goal as a whole nation that is diverse and plural. Our media agenda is commercially determined, easily diverted on issues that are of no contribution to our betterment as a society. Ideologies are contended, accepted, negotiated, but I rarely see anyone who is willing to open a dialogue on how to work together - despite all these different stances, to reduce poverty, preventable deaths, illiteracy, increase access to education, ensure a sustainable solution to a welfare state, and a media system that serves the public. Call me a modernist, socialist, I don't care, because all these aspects are prerequisites to a democratic society with members who are equipped with the skills aiding them to participate in public agendas.

We are so focused on difference that we slowly forget how to search for common ground.

But I tell myself that these are growing pains. The preceding generation will give way for further generations in achieving these goals. It's a slow and unique process. You can compare to what has happened in other countries but ours is our own. With our own types of people, social groups, religion, and culture.

I fight in my own, immature and quiet way, making subtle efforts. Trying not to be corrupted. Trying not to be righteous as the public figures I criticise, simply being an insignificantly small part of the larger discourse.

And I too, stay silent.

Monday, June 14, 2010

One of the Same Kind

Yesterday I read an article on gender and social change in the past 10 years, there is a new trend initiated by the now 30 to 40 year olds. Researches show that women lead the global workforce. Findings suggest it's not because women are superior to men, but because patriarchy has limited the male's choice to a career line. Women adjust more to the demands of the industry, while men feel certain work aren't masculine enough. They choose engineering as their subject of choice in a world progressing towards a service industry, although not absolutely, we are slowly leaving behind the manufacturing industry. Consequently, women fill in the positions of customer service, news anchor, marketing manager, consultant, the list goes on to work mainly related to soft skills and developing the right side of the human brain.

Women leaving the house for professional work has also opened up new professional work in the domestic area and early childhood education sector. The people getting degrees on childhood psychology and filling up these positions? More women.

My criticism is that these findings are western-centric. Being culturally, ethnically, and religiously more diverse (and devout) Indonesia works differently, implying different gender development.

But in terms of upper middle class Jakarta, to some extent these findings are reflective towards what is currently happening. Women in Jakarta do have more social mobilisation than men. I've seen mothers bringing their newborns to work so they can continue breastfeeding them, some choose part time work, and some decide to advocate on how to juggle between motherhood and career. But the general trend is to not leave domestic responsibilities while embracing professional development.

Another personal observation is how working women have a tendency to feel superior over their male counterparts. They are the dominant caregivers to their children and they contribute financially to the household. A female 30 year old manager said to me one day, 'I can do everything a man can, I can call someone to repair broken things in the house, and I can get pregnant.'

Let us all take a deep breath.

I won't go into a long debate about gender sociology, but I do want to emphasise on one thing.

Our foremothers worked hard so that women could have equal chance in education and work, not because we can build a new trend of matriarchy. If women today feel that the world has changed towards female superiority, really, we are just repeating the same 'repression' 'feminists' have fought against. We are becoming what we (used to) criticise.

I believe that the world creates a natural balance, but humanity, we need to work on.

The trick is now for men to be more active domestically and let go of patriarchal views that are actually repressive towards them actualising their potential. Embracing the fact that they can be as good a parent as a mother and as good in using their right brain as women.

And for women to remind ourselves, that a 'household' is not about who does things better and faster. But about how we can cooperate with each other to realise greater things, like raising our 'children'.

Let us leave behind '(matriar/partriar)-chy'. Let us embrace, well, humanity.

After all, aren't we all one of the same kind?


Dedicated to my partner
Who from the get go
Works as hard in tending to our son
as he does in his career

And all the while
thinks nothing of praise
But that we all live
to fulfill our responsibilities

Photo taken at 2AM
Malik was 2 weeks old

PS: in case you're wondering, that's bottled breastmilk :D
It's how we divided night-shifts. And no, he didn't have trouble latching on afterwards.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Dream a Little Dream

Yesterday night, I dreamed I was boarding my flight back to Aussie, when I realised I left my winter jacket and glasses at home. I asked the pilot if he would wait for my husband to bring it over and he said he would.

My subconscious is not very creative in cooking up metaphors.

Even in my sleep I see Arya as my support system. Even in my sleep I see that I need protection against the 'foreign', whether it's the environment or my own limitations. And even in my sleep I have high expectations in the kindness of other people.

Which for some reason, more often than not, are met.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Private Cooperation

Sometimes my over-analysing and theorising seeps into my personal life. In the middle of browsing for Malik's school, I research who owns it and what their ideologies are (political economy) since in invariably influences their policy making, curriculum, selecting their human resources.

Our children's education should be an extension of how we raise them, I think. Consistent to the values we transfer to them, the way we live our lives and see the world. It's a peaceful agreement between wanting to be certain that we equip them with 'empirically tested' tools and realising that it is our responsibility to facilitate them to grow into independent individuals. Following this logic, the best schools as indicated by society might not be the best school for the human beings we call our children. It really depends on which direction we want to point them to, but at the same time allowing them to walk their own journey.

At these moments I am very glad I have a partner who is levelheaded, grounded, with strong logics. Although I realise that it is important to understand the background and context related to decision making, I have a tendency to not know when to stop. Arya is willing to listen to my opinions and is able to 'moderate' them, so to speak. We share the same framework but our methods are different.

I subjectively claim that I could never have found a more appropriate partner. Or objectively claim that the probability is extremely low to do so in a lifetime (:D).

But the romantic in me chooses the former. With love.

Monday, June 07, 2010

The Inner Dialogue

After staring at my screen for an hour trying to write a critical article for a media (a long process of typing tentatively, deleting, typing tentatively some more, deleting some more as well), I decided that, at least for now, I am only capable of two types of writing.

The first is what I call 'menulis tulus' (this inner dialogue I call my blog). I write without thinking. Freely, passionately. As an illustration, my hands make those clackity-clack sound on the keyboard because I'm typing without pause.

The second is my academic writing, so far my theses (and several published journal articles). It's easier for me to write an academic article because I can fill in my logical gaps by referring to other scholars/studies. I get to explain more of the context and my own perspective in the larger spectrum of the debate.

At first I thought I needed to get my thoughts out there, via the popular media. But I figured there are some people who are brilliant critical writers whose articles are published numerously in the media. There are people who are great public speakers who have the natural talent (and perhaps acquired skill) to speak to an audience.

Maybe I have my own niche. Isn't the point of working (well, aside from the obvious (slash inevitable) bringing food to the table) - finding something you do passionately? I teach passionately. I blog passionately. I, ironically, write my thesis passionately. I believe the intention is more important than the implication.

I won't discredit writing an article for the media just yet. But for now, I'm focusing on the things I know I do with heart, naturally, almost effortlessly, and hope that one day momentum will allow it to spiral greater than the intention with which it was initiated.

To every person their own.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Beyond the Books

I was talking to my brother yesterday evening about some of his lecturers who grade based on comprehension over the text, not about what the students can do with what they've learned. Then we talked about how several lecturers, mine included, who refuse to be corrected, challenged, and questioned in class. They would be defensive and even flunk the student out of spite.

As a lecturer and researcher, going on my seventh year now, I have experienced being imprecise in class. It was in those first years that I felt the surge of insecurity, thinking about the possibility that after admitting not knowing, students would question my credibility altogether.

But this risk is always, always undermined by the fact that the best ways to learn is to admit not knowing. After lectures, I learn more than I knew before, because students are willing to contribute what they know into the framework that I've introduced. The classroom becomes an interaction, a dynamic, instead of a linear process of knowledge transfer (and what is knowledge, anyway, if not continually challenged).

And afterwards, seeing hands rising at the end of a lecture becomes gratifying. That those textbook science goes beyond the classroom, to everyday life, to how we handle personal and social trials. That a thought could generate a string of questions, furthermore shining light on other issues and finding answers is why I think human beings began thinking in the first place.

We should all consider ourselves students, because the best of mentality is one that allows mistake - and learns from them. It's how we better ourselves, develop our potentials and come out sharper.

After all, the moment we think we know it all is the moment we stop learning - which makes it the moment we're officially ignorant.

Friday, June 04, 2010


Bebas nilai bukan tidak memiliki nilai.
Tapi tidak menghakimi yang berbeda nilai.

Amal C. Sjaaf

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Chapter 1


This is an excellent first chapter draft. You have written with a clear structure in mind and explained well how the thesis will develop from this period. I have made some specific comments upon your manuscript where I have found parts unclear or in need of further work. But in general I think you should now put this to one side for the moment so you can continue to work on drafting later chapters.

Good work!



Dear Inaya,

Please find comments on your draft chapter in the attached. I’m very impressed with this work and have simply raised some questions to try and further strengthen the situating of the approach within the existing literature – especially vis-à-vis the way you are drawing on political economy. Overall, it is looking strong.



Upon receiving these emails from my supervisors, I have to admit I did feel a swell of, hmm, gratefulness (for want of a better word than pride). But after I stepped back and saw the bigger picture, I burst my own bubble and reminded myself that the only important thing is what I have learned throughout the process of writing my PhD thesis.

That life, and anything we do in it, is a learning process.

And afterwards, finishing the first chapter seems like just any other day of learning how to be a better person.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Looking up makes us try harder.
Looking down makes us think
of the things worth trying for.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Stupid is as Stupid Does

Recently, there was a moment where upon admitting not knowing something, I was laughed at. Finally, you don't know something, the person said.

But funnily though, I felt not an ounce of shame. I honestly wanted to know. I honestly accepted that I know little and I am here to learn.

I don't think there's any shame in learning. I'm more afraid of not asking questions than I am of looking stupid.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Too much change is not good.
Just ask the climate.

Michael Scott (The Office)

Think Twice

Intelligence shouldn't intimidate, it should inspire.
If it is intimidating, maybe it's the wrong kind.


You don't have to be rich to be arrogant
and you don't have to be poor
to recognise suffering


In disagreements, it's not about who speaks the loudest,
it's about who makes the most sense


And the people bowed and prayed
to the neon god they made

Simon and Garfunkel (Sound of Silence)

Idea-based Leadership

I think the best of leaders are actually those
who stay in the background
and let other people grow to their potentials.
Because their ideas live on
even after they seize to exist.


Hak berbanding lurus dengan kewajiban.
Not one or the other. A balance of both.

Curing Ignorance

I think conflict comes from ignorance, not difference.
Be informed on things u disagree with the most.
Google is a start.

And I Continue Reading, Still

The more I read
the more I realise
I know nothing

And So It Begins

Every good idea begins with the basic statement,
'That's interesting.'

Glass Half-full

So what I hear when I'm being yelled at
is people caring loudly at me

Leslie Knope (Parks & Recreation)

Subjective Well-being

If you can't stop desiring the things you can't get,
pause and imagine if you lose the things you already have.
Happiness is a state of mind.

Head and Heart

I think studying is not synonymous to learning:
studying needs head, learning needs heart

Wisdom of the Young

Age has little to do with maturity.
Maturity involves the will to admit mistakes & learn.
I know more children better in that than adults.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Inevitability of Judging

Throughout early adulthood (well okay, until very recently), I dubbed myself as a non judgemental individual. Whenever conflicting ideas arise, I usually observe and come to my own conclusions silently. Rarely do I speak up unless requested and I often begin my argument with 'Well, for me-'. I was indeed reserved to the idea of judgementality because I had assumed that it included an air of 'knowing that we are better than other people.'

One day, an intelligent (former student) friend of mine asked, 'Don't we need to be judgemental to know who we are?'. I pondered.

And true to my nature, I began reading and reading to find an answer. And as it turns out, he was right.

The definition of 'judgemental' or 'judgement' is 'the process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning and comparing.' (Merriam-Webster)

I began thinking, if judgement is a process within which we evaluate conditions based on comparisons, then it is mandatory to judge (compare) in order to choose. Without comparing the pros and cons of a given situation, we would not be able to concur anything - thus, never making an informed decision.

Justru, judgementality is needed to be able to know where we position ourselves in this world. A framework we use to guide ourselves in taking consequential steps to move further in life.

Indeed, judgement is not a choice. It's a prerequisite to knowing who we are.

And in fact, my presumed idea of judgement, is actually by definition 'arrogance', which refers to 'an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions.' (Merriam-Webster)

Then it hit me.

By definition, you can judge without arrogance. The aspect that bothered me was not the observation, comparison, and furthermore formulation of opinion. But the arrogance of thinking that our choices are better than others'. When in fact, they are mutually exclusive.

Rereading my writing, my process of developing thought so to speak, I realise that it is in fact judgement. The analysis in my thesis, my papers, my lectures: they are all forms of judgement. My choice to become a mother, a wife, a student, a lecturer, is a result of judgement towards the opposing conditions (i.e. not having children, not getting married, not choosing the academic field). The list goes on to all the decisions I have ever made in my life.

Then the point is not not judging, but not being arrogant. If we made consequential choices, we would not seek external validation - because the choices were internally validated. We would not need to feel superior to those who disconfirm our decisions. Because decision-making is a process of gathering data and finding a solution, based on observation, that best suits our conditions.

It's true then, the joke that said: 'Non judgemental people are judgemental towards judgementality.'

Because judging is inevitable. But arrogance is.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

That Fine Line

There is a fine line between 'giving up' and 'letting go':
It's called 'things you can(t) control'.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Silent Majority

I spent the day reading about history and the modern world. I found out that 62% of the world's Muslims are Asian. Yet what is perceived as Islam by the world are those of Arabic culture.

We are under-represented, if not misrepresented.

Another thing I learned is the underlying difference between Sunni and Shia: Sunni believes in the Sunnah and Shia believes in the rightful figure of Muhammad's successor (Ali)). 85% of the world's Muslims are by definition Sunni.

We can go into a long theological debate, but I want to focus on one thing.

The media is focused on portraying a linear, monolithic Islam that is culturally homogeneous (Arabic) and dogmatic. See Hollywood films, see how the news represents Islam (e.g. terrorism, turbans, veils). I am not suspicious and puritanical enough to claim it's a conspiracy but it's naive to not think that it comes from ignorance about the characteristics of the larger population of Muslims in the world.

I have high hopes that the world is changing, by means of the notion of pluralism and democracy, at least. An example is Esposito and Mogahed's book on Who Speaks for Islam? and Mogahed's subsequent appointing as Obama's advisor for Muslim affairs.

I am not saying that the 'pluralist' Muslims are better than the rest. I am saying that the current media representation does not provide a comprehensive picture which may lead to bigotry. I know I'm late in jumping the wagon, what with Edward Said's Covering Islam in 1997, but I do think it's still an ongoing process worth prolonging the discourse. For all citizens of the world wishing to live peacefully in general and for the silent majority of Muslims in particular. Everyone deserves to be heard. Let's listen.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Nilai Rasa

I wish I could express myself in writing in Bahasa Indonesia as fast as I can write in English. I am not a native English speaker and I am Indonesian. My thesis is about Indonesia. And yet, when it comes to expressing myself, I do it faster in English. Words pour out of me. I do not stutter in finding the right word as I do in Indonesian (Embrace? Merengkuh? Memeluk? Carry? Bopong? Gendong?). I read one of one of my students' blog and I am in awe with his grasp of the language.

I don't have that linguistic connection to be able to retrieve words like sekelindan, derau, sangkil, meracau to explain myself in writing (or verbally, for that matter) as many journalists and academics do.

Nilai rasa.

The first language I learned was English. My parents brought me to the States when I was 2 years old or so and returned 3-4 years later. I couldn't speak a word in Bahasa Indonesia. So maybe that's why.

But I wasn't raised in an English speaking country as an adolescent. I'm stuck in an intermediate level of English. So it's not exactly ideal in terms of being an English speaker either.

Alas! I am a student and I will learn how to. I promise, when I finish my thesis, I'll sit in a Bahasa Indonesia literature course in FIB, UI and learn how to write in advance Bahasa Indonesia.

PS: I can't even bring myself to write this post in Indonesian. I tried and it felt superficial. Terkesan meracau (ha!).

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Subjective Truism

Our life always expresses the result of dominant thoughts. That's why people demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.

Soren Kierkegaard

via Dedy N. Hidayat

One of the things I agree with Kierkegaard is his idea that truth is in subjectivity. He also admits that this attempt is not scientific. That truth is not objective.

I read truth as a peacefully resolved dialogue with(in) ourselves. Be it belief in a Supreme Being, faith, religion, or simply trying to understand life. Kiekegaard's, or the existentialism, line of thought is in agreement with Descartes' 'I think therefore I am'.

We think. It's what differs us from other species. In science, 'truth' can be found inductively or deductively. In deductive logic, one tries to prove a theory by means of empirical evidence - objective reasoning. In inductive logic, truth is found through observation, and furthermore theorisation. In Islam, it's the first verse of the Quran. 'Read', which is a concept that is repeated in other verses, such as 'those who are able to read the signs'.

I choose to search for truth subjectively. Through observation and thinking. Making sense of the signs that pre-exist. And in subjective truth, there is no concept of true and false, but valid or invalid.

In this logic, since it is not objective, I will never be entitled to say 'Saya lebih benar, karena...'. Because what is subjective could always be argued against.

I don't claim to be an existentialist. Neither am I claiming that what I believe in is truism for every human being. I don't think any of us will ever be equipped to claim that. I do however, find a resolve for my inner dialogue answered in the sentence 'For me my truth, and for you, yours.'

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


You can make more friends in two months
by becoming more interested in other people
than you can in two years
by trying to get people interested in you.

Dale Carnegie

via Muhammad Andri Mulia

The Not So Dark 'Dark Ages'

There was a period in my life where I was a horrible student. All through my high school to the first years of university. I was the student sitting in the back of the class, reading another book that had nothing to do with the subject. The one who skipped a period pretending to have an ulcer, because I didn't like the teacher (and the subject). The one whose single achievement was winning the essay competition on what's wrong with Indonesia's education system (ha!). I've always seen it as 'the dark ages', a phase where I wasted a lot of time; a time where I should have been more focused and determined.

I see some of my students who embody that ideal. They move fast, know what they need to achieve in order to progress further in their career. I smile upon their potential and promised success, because I know they will be better than I will ever be.

I was having yogurt with my 20 year old brother one day when we were talking about my PhD and the fact that I'm 27.

I: Tapi ada lho mahasiswa yang dapet beasiswa yang sama kaya aku, umurnya 25 wew.
Z: Kok bisa?
I: Ya lulus SMA langsung S1. Lulus S1 langsung S2. Lulus S2 langsung S3.
Z: Ya tapi kan dia emang rajin, Ka. Kaina kan sempet males-malesan banget, terus mutusin mau usaha dan berubah. Dan akhirnya sekolah dan sampe kaya gini.

I pondered on his argument and the logic behind it.

I guess it really is a personal journey. Life shouldn't be seen as a string of results, but a test as to how hard we try. It's not that other people are better than us or the other way around. But how we surpass the trials we face in life and come out a better person. A better person than we were yesterday, not a better person than somebody else.

When seen through this perspective, then my so-called 'dark ages' are not dark at all. It was a period where I questioned who I was when I was 17 and the education system did not give me answers. If it weren't for reading those philosophy books and reorganising the way I saw life, I would not be the person I am today.

So all those mistakes, all those regrets, when seen from this perspective are the aspects that mold us into more conscious human beings.

And it makes sense now, why I don't (well, rarely) compare myself to other people. Even if they're smarter, have achieved more, if they're wealthier or if they're salary is twice mine.

Because life isn't a competition. It's a journey, for every single one of us, to learn how to 'work our way around life'. It's never about the quantity of success, it's the quality of how these things make us better people. So let some people be more 'quantitatively fortunate' than others, because quality then becomes relative to each person.

After all, life is not about what we have, but what we do with what we have.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I am not afraid of death
I just don't want to be there when it happens

Woody Allen

Friday, April 16, 2010

Intellectual Bullying

I've been reading book reviews for my thesis and it turns out, bullies are not reserved for the academically challenged, as psychologists suggest. In the academic field, there are also intellectual bullies. Man, they are scary.

It turns out, in some cases, the more you know doesn't necessarily correlate with the better you are at rearranging your wording so that the delivery of criticism occurs in the most constructive way - the lowest of offense, the highest of insight. It could be the insecure in me talking, but the impression I got from reading the horrifying review is that I am not looking forward to that first book review of when my thesis gets turned into a textbook (it's a common thing to do after the completion of a PhD thesis. Afterwards around 100 people buy the book, most of whom are your students. We're a very sad bunch, aren't we?).

Having said that, shouldn't criticism make us learn, not make us too scared to even try? Wasn't the idea of peer review to ensure the quality of the article, not shut down every idea generated as a way to show intellectual superiority?

If I reverse the logic of the psychological theory about bullies, perhaps these intellectual bullies are those who were athletically challenged. And intelligence became a substitute for muscle. Their criticism is synonymous to taking candy from a crying classmate.

So perhaps, the point then becomes, it doesn't matter which field you're in or which skills you're trained with. The point is in your emotional and spiritual development. The ability to sympathise and empathise and place yourself in other people's shoes.

I know we all have different values and see life in unique ways. But when we need to coexist, the best of instruments are those which ensure common ground, not competition.

And that is another point in how to raise Malik. Sigh, back to my thesis!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Relative Indicators

A short thought before starting my thesis editing for the day and afterwards lecturing.

Yesterday afternoon, I (un)intentionally browsed through a child development website (a US one, mind you) to see the milestones of an 18-24 month old toddler. The table contained the statistics of the skills a child of a certain age should have learned. And I studied them, compared them to Malik's - to no direct gain aside from stressing me a bit.

Some of the milestones he's surpassed and some he is behind. And I tend to emphasise on the ones he's behind. But the thing with these statistics is the fact that they are indicators that are generalised by a sample taken from a general population of children in another country. With different food combination, language, cultural backgrounds and the list goes on.

They are there to guide us, not determine for us. So that we can identify if there's a problem and whether or not this is an issue. I need to be able to see them as that, not solid indicators to the relative journey of a human being's growth and learning process. I don't want to be the type of parent who compares her son's grades to another student - and motivate him to be better based on 'competition'. Because within the concept of 'competition', there is no space for the concept of 'sharing'.

As a mother, half of the unit called Malik's 'parents', I want him to be able to acknowledge his strengths, his passion, the things that make his brain tick and work harder - not because he has to beat someone at it, but because he enjoys learning. From that 'sincere effort' comes great things, I think. From that 'sincere effort' comes the will to achieve not for recognition, but for the sake of learning.

So as long as his pediatrician isn't worried, and he is a very good diagnostician, I shouldn't be. I need to see Malik as a unique individual, with particular interests in reading books, kicking his ball, drawing on the floor (I buy him washable crayons hehe), moving to music and feeding the stray cat that keeps hanging around our porch.

Although these statistical indicators are important to see if he is healthy, they are not absolute. Afterall, his growth is not a target, it's a process. Just like mine, just like Arya's. And as a parent, I should let him learn to be himself. Just as my parents had done with me.

With (intense) love.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Marginal(ised)

To empower people who are on the margins of society
people who have a little say in the direction of their lives
and who are scrambling just to survive

Stuart Hall

via Rinaldi Ridwan

Contextualising Human Beings

As media scholars, in appreciating cultural artifacts, such as literature and film, we are taught to appraise them contextually. For instance, appreciating Usmar Ismail's films, which includes ideas of modernisation and postcolonialism, you need to understand the historical context and his progressive use of film as a social communication tool.

In appreciating art form, one needs to take into account the historical context within which it was produced, which relates to the dominant ideology of that time. How it breaks the barriers and questions authority. The premise led me to think about how we perceive other human beings.

In understanding other human beings, shouldn't we also understand the context within which they were raised? Their dominant ideology, their 'historical context'?

It is much too easy for us, when we are exposed to different beliefs and values, to feel disconfirmed and position ourselves as 'us' and they 'others'.

I think that if we try to understand other people's thoughts and words by taking into consideration the way they were raised, their cultural background or ethnicity, their religion, their gender construction, their social and economical class, their subjective reality - there is an opportunity for us to make sense of their acts and thought process.

That reality is too relative to judge based on a 'single' event. And by understanding their 'reality' it is much easier to comprehend their way of thinking and the actions they take. If we're lucky enough, make ourselves understood.

I've recently come to realise that every moment we refuse to understand, we are actually depriving ourselves from a chance to learn. The moment we stop 'listening', stop 'reading', is the moment where we stop becoming more than we are.

Knowledge of difference shouldn't disconfirm our beliefs and values. If what we believe in is true, then difference should strengthen it. Or at least, help us understand that life isn't about right or wrong. It's about learning how to be, simply, 'good'.

And now, sigh, back to writing my thesis.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Between the Educational Bourgeoisie and the Socially Aware

With Malik growing up in a very fast rate (faster than any parent's preference, really), lately I have been wondering about how we are going to raise him after his toddler years. I reflect this decision by observing some of my students and I must say, it's very difficult to do a cost and benefit assessment when the person taking in the consequences is not yourself, but a person you hope to better than you could ever be.

In terms of our children's education, do you school them in the best of the system (the educational and economical elite) or in public school (a person who is aware of class difference)?

I honestly have not found the answers and Arya and I are constantly going back and forth with the pros and cons, debating on whether, in a country like Indonesia, it's more possible to instill social awareness in a person who is intellectually, emotionally and spiritually sound (by having received the best of educational stimulation) or to intellectually stimulate a person who is socially aware (for being an active participant in a 'heterogeneous' environment).

Having said that, I am fully aware that being the secondary socialisation agents, the education system is only second to Arya and my nurture. The random moments where I read to him and converse with him and consciously answer his curious questions when he steps into childhood. According to the most recent (and consistent) findings in child development, parents remain the most important socialisation agents for children. So when I think about this notion, which school he goes to becomes less of an issue.

But, an issue nevertheless. Sigh.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Thank You

I've installed Google Analytics recently and I am astounded by the numbers coming in on the amount of people visiting my blog, the amount of time you take to read it and the amount of pages you click (don't worry, you appear anonymous). I am intensely curious as to why. I understand why people within my primary environment would be interested. But map overlay shows readers are scattered, literally, around the world.

I feel humbled that you would take time out of your busy day to read my random thoughts. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Indeed in this very lonely journey we call life, it's good to know that you're not alone.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Monday, April 05, 2010

Piramida Cari Jodoh

When I was still dating Arya, I remember talking to him about why I think certain relationships work and some don't. I have had my string of trials and errors, and although some of them are good people I couldn't bring myself to the 'I do' stage of a relationship.

I had a theory (or more accurately, a proposition). That inter personal compatibility could be explained by the pyramid below (click to enlarge):

The lowest level, the primary, is the most basic indicator to compatibility. It is the values with which we view life. Two people need to share compatible values in order for the relationship to succeed. Within this level is usually the moral and ethical debate over right and wrong, what kind of person we strive to be, etc.

On the secondary level, you have social fragmentation. Socio-economic class, profession, and nationality are examples. Although they are ideological, they are less fixed than life values and they are adaptive to circumstances. The logic is: an Indonesian could adjust to life abroad but their moral indicators (primary) would stay the same.

On the tertiary level you have hobbies. Music you listen to, sports, things you do in your leisure time. Usually our hobbies determine which sub culture we are part of. Movie buffs, geeks, TV addicts all emerged from the choice of past times but they shape sub cultures.

Having said that, I argue that a relationship could only work if the couple is compatible in the primary level. Afterwards we work our way up the pyramid. A relationship can survive with just primary compatibility, but it would grow more intense if they're compatible on the secondary and tertiary level.

This is why 'pernikahan taaruf' works. You wonder how is it possible that two people that have never met before could build an intimate relationship. It's because that is the basic values they believe in. They adjust the secondary and tertiary level according to their primary 'needs'.

And that's also why the relationship of two people with the same profession and hobbies, which is so easily read externally as 'the most compatible couple since they can talk about work' could fail - because my argument is that they might not share their relationship on the primary, most important level.

To be honest I made this model up based on my own personal experience and it's probably faulty in more than one context. But it's nice to conceptually explain why my relationship with Arya works. Cheers!


When in doubt, Google it

Critical Political Economy (and the Media)

Similar to political economy, this approach examines how media ownership determines the exercise of power play, within its structure and representation of reality (ideological hegemony), impacting social relations and cultural perspective in society. A step further beyond political economy, critical political economy emphasises on ideological analysis of the audience's reading towards the reality presented in text - a structured mode of interpretation. It is a critical combination of political economy and constructivism.

This is what I got myself into. Revising chapter 1 of my thesis.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Trials and Tribulations

One of my favourite students asked me one day: What drives you in life?

My answer was an incoherent ramble.

So now I have more time to think to structure my thoughts (at this moment I think I explain myself better through writing than verbally).

I think what drives us in life changes through periods. I tend to reevaluate myself from time to time, particularly upon those moments where something, be it personal or professional, happened.

I recall gaining a sense of purpose and determination during my early twenties. Mostly driven by the need for self-actualisation and monetary gain (sad, but it was true at that time). Became head of the student body, straight A student, began assisting lectures, got a job. Afterwards I planned the next five years of my life based on this framework.

Then I met Arya. At the beginning our relationship had to coincide with my personal plans. But then slowly my priorities shifted. Yes, I had my personal objectives but it had to be consistent with our plans as partners. Amsterdam pretty much rearranged my views in almost everything in life. Knowledge was no longer inherited but grasped. I reviewed the things in life that I had taken for granted.

And then I had Malik. For the first time in my life something was absolutely dependent on me. Then I functioned accordingly. I embraced motherhood to the extent that I stopped thinking about myself.

Arya dragged me out of this spell. I had to have my own space and balance it (or juggle it) with the others. Afterwards, life wasn't about one or the other. But about priorities, responsibility, consequence and consistency.

Having said that, there has always been an underlying idea behind all these decision making, which is the framework with which I view life. Values, so to speak. It was molded into me for decades, challenged, reevaluated, restructured, rearticulated along with the trials and tribulations (pun intended, you-know-who) that I had gone through in life.

This is the only consistent thing in my life. The glasses I use to view the world, just with experience, I get a tighter focus. Or a wider range of view.

These set of ideas are fundamental, for me. Without it, I think I wouldn't have been able to make sound decisions and accept the consequences - then not dwell in the costs. Through it I found inner peace. That whatever happens in life, I know I will be alright. Because eventually I will learn how to accept the string of collateral effects and come out a stronger human being.

I'm pretty sure that I will go through more changes and reshifting priorities. And I might look back at this post with deep humiliation over my naivety. But for the moment, this is the most honest answer I can give.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Academic Life

I was never a good student. I never had the ambition to be on top of my class.

You know how puberty is the period where we shape our own identities? I went through peer pressure, irrational crushes, playing the guitar, sneaking out of the house (or in. I'm sorry Mom and Dad) - and I never found any answers there.

I found them in reading.

I always, always loved to read. I found that books (or any other physical manifestation thereof) provided me the space to question without any judgement.

Arya: Stres banget sih kamu, dari SMA baca beginian (Bibel, Quran dan Sains Modern, upon eyeing my book collection).

I remember the feeling of realising for the first time that some people accept me for how I think, what my arguments were. Not the way I look, the clothes I wear, not even the music I listen to. For the first time, I wasn't categorised in a social class. I wasn't stereotyped.

And then I learned how to not do that as well.

I think that knowledge should give you a chance to be moderate. To realise that we could never know for sure. That all views are relative, that the world is too complex for us to fully comprehend.

And that is why I chose Academic Life. It's a space where ideas are alive. Where we give ourselves a chance to be wrong. To not take things for granted. Though at moments things are not as ideal, it is the closest to that utopia that any other sector I've set foot in.

Don't worry, I'll put the knowledge into practice. But I'll always have one foot in the academia. Just to keep my head in place.


Don't admire the figure, admire the ideas
People are temporary, ideas live on

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Diagonal Reading: Cross Reference and Skim Reading

Dear skripsi-writing students,

When writing an article or a thesis, you don't have to read everything about everything that's been written on your topic of choice. Start from the most recent article/book that's received most citations. Google Scholar is very handy. In the olden days, scholars cross referenced their sources physically in the library, now Google Scholar would do.

Then, see how the writer quoted his source. Good writers, those most often cited, almost always acknowledge the many conflicting views within that topic. Go to his sources. This is one of the ways to do diagonal reading.

The second way to do it is by key terms. Usually in journals, key terms are mentioned under the abstract. Find those key terms in the article and see how he/she defines it. This approach is also called skim reading. If you 'see' the whole page, the key terms would fly above the radar and the conjunctions would blur out. Instead of spending hours on a 20 page article, it will only take you 10 minutes to figure out the main ideas and important definitions.

Note: Journals are more recent than books, their findings are more novel and progressive (usually criticism and/or a development of previous concepts and/or theories).

And only when there is one consistent book mentioned in almost every single text (journal and book) - that you need (obligated!) to read that book. Kind of like Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities if you're writing on national identity or McQuaill when you're writing about Mass Communication Theory or McLuhan or Stuart Hall. You get the gist. It is because these prominent books re-defined the approaches to an area of study.

Do you see how I've bold-ed some terms? After reading what I've written, those bold terms make sense, don't they? Without repeating reading the text I've written, you know what they mean - and you can explain with your own words, only by re-mentioning those words, in a new paragraph, explaining everything that I've explained.

Now try to do it backwards. Forget you've read what I've written and find the definitions of citation, diagonal reading, key terms, skim reading and consistent book mentioned. Arrange the definitions in your head and re-write them with your own words, with your own conjunctions.

That is the logic of diagonal reading.

Now, if you need a crash course, I'd be glad to give it to you. These skills are useful for writers and my aim is for all of us to be 'sharper tools in the shed'.


PS: I first learned about diagonal reading at UvA, accidentally mentioned by my lecturer who never found the time to personally teach me how to. Therefore, since I am self-taught, this is not a scientifically proven method - as it includes my personal account. But at least it's tried and tested by me :)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Up in the Air


Finally, after three months of waiting (for the film to play in theatres and then for me to have time), I have finally seen Reitman's newest. You want to hear something ironic? I accidentally watched the ending of the film on my way to Sydney around a week ago, on Qantas. So literally, Up in the Air up in the air, for me.

On (Double) Meaning

I loved the interplay between (global) enterprise symbols (Hilton, American Airlines, Hertz) and the contrasting effects of the lay offs (mind you, Reitman had real (laid off) people speaking in the film). How some giants remain giants while the faceless workers are dehumanised, and survivors become the elite. It was very cynical and I couldn't help but feel a hint of socialism in the film. Maybe he was aiming for humanism but when you reveal the ugly face of capitalism it's kind of inevitable.

On Structure

There was a scene where Bingham's (Clooney) future brother in law had cold feet before getting married. The huge step was suffocating. Marriage, children, soccer games, graduation, their weddings, grandchildren, death. What's the point.

But all I could think of was that this structure was also exemplified in Bingham's frequent flyer miles, loyal customer programmes and dozens of membership cards. It's just a different kind of structure.

And so Bingham was left without words upon his 10 millionth mile. A thing he thought he wanted very badly. A goal he had headed towards as an intentional release from the more conventional social structures of marriage and settling down. And yet he too, had cold feet.

I loved the questioning of the taken-for-granted reality. You think you want something very badly until you get it, then you question the whole purpose and value. This is the problem with linearity, be it confirming to the social norm or defying it.

Very articulate.

On the Fixed and the Fluid

Bingham's older sister (Morton) asked him to take a cut out cardboard photograph of his younger sister (Lynskey) and her future husband on his travel, so that they had honeymoon pictures without traveling - as they're left without honeymoon funds to pay for property investments.

There is the contradiction between fixity and fluidity.

For his sister, fixity was her relationship. The spaces are fluid. They could be anywhere, nowhere, a lie or true traveling - and what mattered was their relationship.

For Ryan Bingham, the spaces are fixed. The only certain thing in his life is his mobility, with all his relationship baggage (pun intended) stripped off to the bare essentials. For him, people are fluid, they come and go.

It got me to thinking about choice. How what matters to us is highly dependent on what we need 'fixed'. For some it's family, for others its personal development. I don't think either is the wiser, as long as the decision was made consequently. I know I'm straying off focus here, but I just can't help it.

On Personal Reflection

I couldn't help but feel pangs of familiarity with the security checks and checking in and boarding and packing light and dragging my small suitcase everywhere.

I did more traveling in the past five years compared to the first 22 years of my life.

And I couldn't help but feel validated, that for me, traveling is only exciting as long as I have a home to go to. The people, the physical space, the notion of home. And I also couldn't help wondering that once it loses its novelty, every place, no matter how exotic or grand or inspiring - once we've adjusted - will lose all its attractiveness.

Usually it's then when I would love to go home. I am no Ryan Bingham.

On Reitman

I have always loved Jason Reitman's work. I loved Thank You for Smoking and I loved Juno. But hands down, Up in the Air is his best so far. It deserved all the praise and critical acclamation it received.

I think he is the best (new) director in the past decade, coming from our generation. He covers capitalism, ethical and moral debates, sub culture, social marginalisation; all coming from a son of a successful capitalistic director. The difference in ideology between his father and he is staggering.

What I really love? He isn't judgemental and self-righteous. He says it like it is, lays it out for the audience and I pretty much leave the theatre reflecting on life and meaning. No absolute right or wrong. Just reality and construction.

Which is how it's supposed to be, with film.

And to communicate all this with an aesthetic mise-en-scene and a great choice of cast (Clooney and Kendrick in particular), I applaud. I truly hope to see more to come from Mr. Jason Reitman.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Left, Right, Somewhere in Between

In social science, it's common to label a person left or right (or the undecided in between, you can never win) through the theories, authors and paradigms they cite on. A little too easy.

I know this is naive and I am fully aware of that fact while typing these words.

I am neither here nor there. I will use any paradigm, theory and/or cite on any author as long as its purpose is to end injustice (towards the 'marginalised' and 'poor') in society and to say what is true as true. If there could be a sustainable business model that provides education and health care, both in the broadest sense of the word, to the 'poor', I would be first in line to support it.

I don't even think serving the (political economical) interest of the priviledged could taint the purpose as long as this target is achieved.

Honestly, for me it's as simple as that. A big dream from such a little person, yes. Now if only I can find two very large and strong hands to set the dreams in motion.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Arya Sang Juara: Hobi yang Berbuah

The second news article mentioning Arya, this time on Jawa Pos. Hayo, tebak ID yang mana :D

The first article was on tktq+ (yes guys, remember that. That was what he did with his free time while studying in Amsterdam) covered by Koran Tempo in 2007 (see below).

Looks to me that his (one of his) niche(s) is the Indonesia new media industry hmmm... 1+1=3.

Monday, March 22, 2010

On the Trip

On the Conference

As I was leaving for the leadership conference in Canberra, I was already wary of the title. I had presumptions, emphasis on the 'pre', of how it would be. I know it's aimed at 'character building' and 'finding the leader in all of us', not that I am against the idea, but I have always been reserved to these types of trainings (AsiaWorks, ESQ, etc). Firstly, I think character building is a life long process, at least for me, and it would be very difficult to pack it into a week, let alone 3 days. Secondly, leadership is a broad concept. I am not a leadership scholar, and from what little I know of the area, I think leaders are not necessarily those in the spotlight. They are the random traits in each and everyone of us, inspiring others (and ourselves) to do the right thing. Conventional roles like manager, president, director are all easily identified. But leadership roles that are often overlooked, a parent, a lecturer, informal leaders - all contain aspects of leadership, without attaining its role. Leadership through ideas, not through the people.

But it's nevertheless a mandatory course of my scholarship and I did meet very interesting people throughout the region (including the enlightenment the course gave me on the Pacific Islands, which I was very ignorant on before). Some friendships I think I'll carry with me decades afterwards.

On Being Mobile

There are two main things I learned from the trip:

1. No matter how exciting adventures are, there is no place like home.
2. No matter how inspiring some people are, the people my heart aches for are the people I love.

I love, love, love traveling. I love the mobility, the constant move, the learning opportunities, but these are all worthy, I think, when I think of the settlement I am blessed with. I just began thinking that I am the type of person that could enjoy adventure only to a certain point. When I get wary, tired, I realised that I hear that voice in my head that says: 'Okay, I think I've had enough. I am ready to go home.' And I don't think those adventures would be as interesting if I didn't have a 'home' to go to.

And this was confirmed when I was physically so tired that my body began to break down. I know that I would be ok, I know how to survive: make sure I eat nutritious food, take a walk outside for fresh air, get vitamins and basic meds, sleep, etc. I know without loved ones I could survive, but they make the process so much faster and comfortable. At least for me.

And yes. I got so tired that I overslept. After 5 connecting flights in 6 days, I finally missed the one that mattered the most: the flight home. I woke up at 1AM when my flight was on 2AM. When I arrived at the airport the check in counter had closed, I was 10 minutes late. I did all I could, from banging the airline office's door, talking to security, immigration, and finally gave up when the airport manager said there's nothing I could do. I was tired, sick, and I was very ready to go home.

When I thought about it, I don't think I would do it any other way. Even if I knew I couldn't get on that flight, I would have still hopped on a taxi and went to the airport to go down kicking and screaming - just to make sure I did everything I could. Then I would dust myself off and try again.

So I took a deep breath, drank my bottled water, and sat down for a while. Then I walked over to the monitor to see the earliest flight back.

I bought tickets on the 4AM flight with connecting flights. Had a healthy breakfast and slept on the plane for almost the whole trip (seriously). Discussed logistics with Arya and landed safely on 10.30AM.

So the total sum was 7 flights in 7 days. I think I have had my fair share of flights for the next 4 months. No flying for me for a while :D

Oh I learned another thing. I do not like connecting flights. Especially ones that include planes with propellers.

'Tapi, Inaya, pesawat dengan baling-baling itu lebih aman lho daripada BOEING. Soalnya kalau mesinnya mati, pilotnya bisa nerbangin sampai mendarat,' said an ALA scholar before boarding.

Yes, this is the kind of information you want to hear before boarding.

On Going Home Unbeknownst to Malik

He was sleeping and Arya and I were hovering above him. He peeked, smiled. Then his eyebrows met like he was thinking in his sleep, he opened his eyes, looked at me confusedly, and he cried like it was nobody's business.

I think he felt a bit betrayed (assuming I had the skills to translate his cry) and that suddenly everything fell into place to logically decipher my absence as real. It took him a while to adjust to my being home and for me as well. But I do remember my parents not being home when they had duties abroad and all of us survived and turned out travellers as well. So I am an optimist that this is as much a learning process for Malik as it is for his mother (and father).

One of the positive points is the fact that he is now attached to Arya like he wasn't before. And although it's bittersweet for me as the (former) dominant caregiver from my pregnancy to breastfeeding days, this is actually healthier for him. The more sustainable his support system is, the better he will survive and acquire confidence. Which reminded me of a speaker from the conference who spoke of gender issues. I wasn't in full agreement with all her points but I did agree with one.

The current industry does favour men over women. But the logic works otherwise. The current family system favours women over men. There needs to be social opportunities for both, so that personal choices are not forced upon us but laid out for conscious decisions. Women's ability to bear children are fixed. But raising children, that is fluid. It is a role both parents may excell in, and both should, whenever possible. A child may benefit from the presence of both parents with each of their unique characteristics. And it turned out, my going away for a while provided this opportunity 'equity' in our family system.

On Talking to My Bestfriend

Throughout the trip I had little to no internet connection, so I barely had the chance to talk to Arya. We survived alright, we're adults and we stand on our own two feet. Almost five years into marriage you tend to not dwell on 'I miss you's. But it was when we began talking and cracking jokes and discussing things that I realised: he is really my bestfriend.

Ours is a relationship where we are sound individually. We work well without each other in our own niches. I am not miserable without him and neither is he. But after talking and 'opening the faucet' so to speak, I realised I was profoundly happier.

This level of commitment I think comes with responsibilities. And it is my responsibility to earn his trust wherever I go, whoever I meet, no matter how far away from home I am - as he does mine.

So in short, it's good to be home :)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Very. Long. Day.

Arrived at 2AM, things are more efficient now that I know my way around the house. Frances and Charlie didn't even hear me settling in the front room. Slept at 3.30AM, woke up at 8AM, then off to campus with Nicole, breakfast and session on 10.30AM.

And now I have to do massive editing on my first chapter. But alas, comments were very, very constructive and I can really see how much I will learn in this project.

'I knew since the moment I read your proposal that this will be an interesting research. Your work so far has only proven that,' said Garry Rodan (my 3rd supervisor. Yes, I have 3 supervisors).

Sounds nice, eh. Wait until you see how much I need to re-write haha.

It's nicer now that I have learned how to just enjoy the process. I am enjoying the fact that I learn a lot of things throughout the project and I don't think too much about the end result (like grades or criticism, etc). I think at the end the goal is to learn as many things that I can, especially that I'm on a free ride (snicker). And I think that goal is accomplished every day.

So that's how I see my PhD project. A learning process. If I produce something useful then that's a bonus. But this project, see, it's my 'school'.


Random things on my mind:

- Malik's ok. Phew.
- I have a name card haha. So I finally have a formal business card to give away at the conference in Canberra.
- Rachmah Ida's book arrived safely. 'Imagining Women in Indonesian Ramadan Soap Operas'.
- I bought stuff for the whole family. Ibu-ibu banget deh, I can't help it. I particularly like Arya's and Malik's T shirt.
- The ice cream in front of Guido's on the cappucinno strip is unbelievable.
- The seagulls and crows apparently see me as a giant bread. They hover around me constantly, at Murdoch, at Fremantle.
- I drove Nicole's car in the city. Just accross where the water is and it's very nice (ngga macet). Just as I passed the House of Parliament I really missed Malik, Arya and Zaki. We spent a day there last year (it's been a year already?). Balik lagi yuk, semuanya.
- I got an angry call from the library for returning books without its barcode (ternyata sama Cano dicopot pas fotokopi trus ngga dipasang lagi). So I need to be extra careful the second time around. Untungnya: 'I don't know if you have small children in your house, but you're not supposed to take off the barcode stickers.' 'Oh, I actually do have small children in the house. I'm very sorry.' But the small children are innocent (maaf ya, Kaka, Malik dan Omar, jadi kambing hitam).

So to wrap things up it was a good day with its ups and downs. I miss everyone but I can't really complain about the things I get to do here.

Talk to you tomorrow.