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When I Die…

When I die,

I don’t want to be buried under bricks and cement

Just a fertile soil and green grasses

I don’t want tomb with religious affiliation

Just simple stuffs, name, RIP, DoB, & DoD

 

When I die,

I would love to share my grave with my loved one(s)

Especially my wife, if I had any by the time I pass

Of course she could refuse to share

And I won’t be alive to painfully know her refusal

 

When I die,

I want people to mourn me

Cry their hearts out as if they couldn’t live without me

I want my funeral to be attended by thousands

Just like Jean-Paul Sartre’s

Also broadcasted and seen by millions

Like Princess Diana’s

That would really make me feel special

(Yeah right, like I would still be able to feel)

 

When I die,

I don’t want to go to heaven

At least not to the so-called “better place”

I don’t need 7 angels, milk river, and golden gate

Nothing is better than being on earth with my loved ones

(I can say that for now…)

 

After death,

I think it’s either I reincarnate or end for good

So pathetic is the idea of heaven, a utopia of those dreamers

Who cannot accept pains and sufferings

 

Death,

An event, inevitable one

And yet we can prepare for it, having this and that in advance

Just to make it extraordinary

 

Like a play,

Death needs a spectacular ending

Precedented by spectacular acts from spectacular actor(s)

I’ve wished for spectacular end, but have I acted spectacularly?

Only the audience can tell

Being Acknowledged Through Music

According to the late German philosopher named Arthur Schopenhauer, music is the highest and the best form of art. For Schopenhauer, music is the highest because it is the most dynamic among other forms of art. Painting and sculpture, for example, are static, they do not flow like music and poetry do. Although poetry is also dynamic, it is still not on the same level as music for Schopenhauer because it is less complex and its mood is predictable. We can tell from the beginning whether it’s a sad or happy poetry. Unlike it, music is more subtle, complex, and less predictable.

            This dynamic character of music is one of the reasons why more, a lot more, people prefer enjoying music to poetry. Music is more powerful in its ability to touch one’s emotions. Music makes us cry, dance, happy, hopeful, or even more angry than we already are. Music, in any form or genre, is enjoyed by billions of people around the world. Through his or her music, an artist would have a better chance to cross cultural and regional and even lingual boundaries. It doesn’t matter if the language of a song is foreign to he or she who hears it, it would still be enjoyable if it could connect to his or her emotions.

            Artists like Anggun from Indonesia or BoA and Rain from Korea have proven this. They all gain international success through their hard work and their musics, and, as an effect, his or her native country also get acknowledged by the rest of the world. Artists like them, who managed to cross cultural and regional boundaries, have contributed to their country, especially to its cultural development.

            For example, if it’s not mistaken, sounds of Indonesian gamelan have been used by Japan’s Teriyaki Boyz and USA’s Justin Timberlake in their musics. They incorporated the etnique and traditional sounds of gamelan with the modern sounds of synthesizer and other electric musical instruments, therefore making gamelan music contemporary. The international audience may not recognize the sounds of gamelan but it makes the Indonesians proud to know that their traditional product of culture is recognized by the popular international musicians.

            The sounds of gamelan in Teriyaki Boyz’s and Justin Timberlake’s musics may not retain its pure form as it was traditionally performed, but it shouldn’t matter. Music, and any other product of culture, must adapt if it wants to survive and stay popular. This adaptation and integration of traditional music to modern sounds have proven to be effective. Nowadays we can also hear the sounds of traditional Middle East and Indian musics in the musics of Caucasian artists such as Sting and Britney Spears. Those are proofs of how music can penetrate through cultural, racial, and lingual boundaries.

            With Asian international artists like Rain and Anggun getting more popular, Asia now has bigger chance to promote its wider culture through its rich musical heritage. Unlike promoting traditional belief system, promoting music is much easier. People have little prejudice on music, they’ll listen to it as long as it’s enjoyable. Music would be the most effective way to promote Asian culture. Once the music is already popular then other efforts to develop and popularize Asian cultures, such as through film and travel, will have a greater chance of success. Even the success of Asian films depend, to a certain degree, on a good, unique, and enjoyable music.

            For example, many Indonesian teenagers have followed American culture and style of living that represented by its musics and music videos. Nowadays many teenagers have shifted their attention to Japanese and Korean culture, style, and anything about them due to the rapid invasion of Japanese and Korean TV series and its musics. More people are interested in studying Korean and Japanese cultures because of this. The University of Indonesia has even opened a program in Korean Study, the growing interest in Korean culture must be one of the reasons.

            It is evident how one culture can get instant acknowledgement once its music has been popularized. The same can happen to Asian cultural development. Asian cultures would be better acknowledged and more appreciated and no longer regarded as boring, low, and tasteless if we could draw the world’s attention to Asia. As it has been said before, promoting Asian music is the best way to do it. At first, Asian musicians might have to compromise their musical traditionality and originality by integrating it to “Western” sounds, but as it get more popular people would be more interested in the pure form of the music.

            To achieve this, the governments in Asia must pay more attention to the development of their music industry. They must help the music industry to get more and better talents, explore the country’s musical heritage, and, of course, promote their music to the international community.

Not Meeting the Demands of Civilization

Michel Foucault’s Madness and Civilization wasn’t much of Foucault’s own account of madness. It was more of an account of how madness was understood from one stage of civilization to another in the course of history. Madness and Civilization, to me, was well-written and strong. As Foucault’s 1st book, it has depth and really exhibit Foucault’s comprehensive understanding of the object of his inquiry, which was madness as it was understood and treated under the scrutiny of civilization.

            Madness, as it was understood, came in several faces which shared a common feature, although it might’ve come in different degrees in different faces of madness. Those faces were melancholia, mania, hypochondria, and hysteria. Their common feature was abnormality in the abstract sense of the term.

            Foucault recognized that what was considered to be madness was firstly judged by the so-called normality. This normality wasn’t just the social norms devised to bring order among the members of society but also the normality of the laws of nature and physics. Normality was, and still is, sustained in civilization for the sake of order which is one of the main prerequisite of a civilization’s longevity. Civilization demands its members to be physically in accordance with nature by staying healthy, psychologically sane, and socially in accordance with social norms. These were the demands that mad people were considered to be incapable of meeting.

            Foucault was of course very critical towards civilization and its excessive demands for normality. Even worse than the demands for normality were the attitudes “normal” people had toward mad people and the ways that were employed to treat these mad people. In order to bring the mad people back to sanity several ways were employed to “cure” them. Among others, icy-cold water being poured onto the body of the mad person from a level as high as possible and the mad person being confined in a remote place, far from the “sane” members of the society. Even more outrageous, these mad people were also being excorcised. All these, for Foucault, were only maltreatments.

            Of course, if we stay honest to the objective historical condition of the periods that Foucault analysed we can forgive all those maltreatments to be merely experimental. We can forgive those maltreatments to the extent that they give way to a better understanding of madness, its symptoms and the proper way to treat them. But Foucault employed no such attitude towards the maltreatments. Instead, Foucault was more intrigued by the irrational and destructive sides of those maltreatments.

            It was strange, for Foucault, how the so-called sane and rational people treated the mad people in many irrational ways. Many treatments were employed for the body of the patient while madness had little to do with the body than it did with the mind. Patients of madness were being excorcised because they were considered to be possessed by evil or being punished by God due to their sinfulness while madness may, in fact, have nothing to do with sin. Madness is blind to saints and sinners.

            The insane wasn’t the only one under the umbrella of madness. Later in the modern industrial period the unemployed and lazy person were also considered to be mad. It wasn’t wholly wrong, though, because unemployment sometimes do lead to madness especially when the unemployed no longer able to cope with the demands of the then and now competitive life. The common feature of the employed and the insane was their “abnormality” or their incapability to meet the demands of civilization.

            Radically, madness is difference. Madness was synonymous with irrationality, insanity, abnormality, and chaos which, respectively, are the opposites of rationality, sanity, normality, and order. As Foucault stated in Madness and Civilization at the end of part IV:

“That is, on one hand madness is immediately perceived as difference: whence the forms of spontaneous and collective judgments sought, not from physicians, but from men of good sense, to determine the confinement of a madman; and on the other hand, confinement cannot have any other goal than a correction (that is, the suppression of the difference, or the fulfillment of this nothingness in death); whence those options for death so often to be found in the registers of confinement, written by the attendants, and which are not the sign of confinement’s savagery, it’s inhumanity or perversion, but the strict expression of its meaning: an operation to annihilate nothingness.” 

The later group of opposites that I wrote above the quotation is the character of civilization that it needs to sustain. The order and longevity of a civilization is ensured by keeping these characters alive. Therefore the opposites, the difference, must be suppressed or even annihilated. 

            Today, in some societies madness is still being fiercely suppressed but not so much in a society with a more advanced and scientific understanding of the madness phenomena. As history progressed and human knowledge and science advance the madman gets a more proper treatment. They’re not necessarily being cured but at least they’re being treated humanly, not as savage animal or an embodiment of evil. Where the madman gets his/ her treatment is also an a lot more friendly environment compared to the confinement sites in the past.

            What is Foucault’s demand to civilization in respect to its attitudes toward and treatments of the madman? Of course Foucault demands a proper treatment for the madman, a treatment that is human. More radical than proper treatments Foucault demands, in my interpretation, a radical change in our epistemology of madness from a one-sided understanding to a comprehensive one. The previous understandings of madness, in the periods that Foucault analysed, were not only incomprehensive but also clouded by irrelevant, scientificly inadequate assumptions such as the God’s punishment assumption previously mentioned.

            The incomprehensiveness of old understandings of madness is expressed by their strong reductionist tendency on the understanding of human. Too much emphasis on rationality contributed to the maltreatments of the madman. For Foucault, human isn’t exclusively rational but also has irrational sides which are partly expressed by the madman. Reductionist understanding of human is not only obsolete but also destructive to human him/ herself. To be able to treat the madman in a proper manner we must first get rid of those obsolete understanding and assumptions.

The Trader and the Thief

Mr. Jusuf Kalla, Indonesia’s current Vice-President, has been accused by an anonymous group of people—whose members speak separately—as someone who has the “trader mentality.” The accusation was made with an unhappy, negative tone. Indeed, Mr. Kalla was and still a trader, i.e., a businessman and it’s no surprise that he carries his “trader mentality” to his Vice-Presidency. It’s not a bad thing either.

            Since the accusation was negative, the anonymous group obviously demands the alternative. They demand Mr. Kalla to kill his “trader mentality” and adopt another mentality that, the group will claim, fits Mr. Kalla’s position as Vice-President. I have few questions for this group: What is “trader mentality?” Why should Mr. Kalla kill it? What are the alternatives? No answer was given to the 1st and 2nd questions. And the answer to the 3rd question is indefinite and obscure, with the answerer’s tounge twisted all the way.

            What do traders do? They make profits. How? By being productive and by spending their money and resources on the right place, on the right time and for the right thing. Traders create value. They give their values to others in exchange for other values. They take values from others only when they can give other values in return, unless what they take is charity. But traders don’t rely on charity, they rely on their own productive efforts, on the values they created. This is the exact meaning of trade: voluntary exchange of values.

            There are only 2 alternatives to trade: slavery and thievery, and both are done involuntarily. These are the alternatives demanded by the anonymous group from Mr. Kalla. The bottomline of their demand is that Mr. Kalla must have the poor and the needy as his 1st and primary concern instead of “siding with the Bakrie Brothers.” How should Mr. Kalla (and the rest of the government) cater to the poor? By providing them for their needs, by prioritizing them. Where can Mr. Kalla get the money to do so? From tax, taken by legalized force out of the big businesses and the rest of the productive people—i.e., by enslaving the productive and steal their profit to give to the unproductive. Modern day Robin Hood-ism can never be justified on any ground other than altruism and collectivism which are being promoted by the anonymous group.

            It is true that our constitution gives a duty to the government to provide for the people’s needs. Continuing the Santa Claus program called Bantuan Langsung Tunai (Direct Cash Aid) is one way to do it. But to whom does the productive’s money go via taxation? It is true that some of the poor are poor due to the government’s own misconducts, e.g. corruption. They were impoverished by such misconduct. But only some of them are, and the rest were just victimized by their own unproductiveness. Look at the drug addicts, the violent gang members, the high-school students who hang on the street side in their school uniforms when classes already begin. The productive’s money go to subsidize these parasites.

            Mr. Kalla, and the rest of Indonesian government, must retain their “trader mentality”—i.e., they must always spend state’s (i.e., the taxpayers’) money on the right place, on the right time and for the right thing. They must never give any value when the state (i.e., the taxpayers’) won’t get anything in return. Government doesn’t, and must never, do charity especially when the money wasn’t created by the government’s own productive effort via BUMN (State-owned Ventures) but by forcing (with law) the private productive people to give some of their profit away and hand it over to any other party without the taxpayer’s consent. Would you give your money to a violent gang member? I sure as hell won’t—not even for charity.

            But our constitution dictates that the productive should be taxed and the unproductive should be catered, you say? True, but that is the same as saying that the productive should be enslaved for the sake of the unproductive and that it’s just (since it’s according to the constitution). Every law system and constitution must be open for change, i.e. it must adapt. Adapt to what? To the supremacy of individual rights and consent, since consent is the foundation of every law. If our constitution isn’t open for change, and won’t be opened, then our Founding-Fathers and Founding-Mothers and our government must’ve never recognized that individual consent is the only basis and justification of any law.

            Such is the consequence of our, and every, mixed economy, of Welfare Statism. The damage caused by corruption, or any other misconduct, in a welfare state government will always be taken by everyone in the country, including the innocent. If Indonesia adopts laissez-faire capitalism or Minarchism or other form of minimal state, corruption and other misconducts in a private business will never be a national problem. Only the businessman will suffer. A true businessman, i.e., one who holds “trader mentality” firmly, is unlikely to allow corruption and other misconducts. If he allows them, he himself will perish. And who will perish if a welfare state government allow any misconduct? The entire nation. Indonesia is leaning closer to that, thanks to the “thief mentality” that desires for the unearned. 

The Cult of Economy Grayness

There had never been a time when Indonesia, its government and intellectuals, screams so frantically calling for more entrepreneur like nowadays. It is believed that if Indonesia has more entrepreneur then this country might get a better a chance to escape the cause of its demise: poverty. We can take that believe for granted because entrepreneurs can, and have always, save this country, provided that they run their businesses with honesty.

            Entrepreneurs do create wealth, and we know that wealth, with the right management, will create more wealth. More importantly, entrepreneurs do open up job opportunities. If one is qualified one can fill that vacancy. One can be a manager or a janitor, according to one’s qualification. One can labor with one’s brain or with one’s muscle, depending on one’s ability. Whichever position one fills, no matter how low, one has a job and one has the entrepreneurs to thank for providing such job, i.e., for providing one’s source of living. This nation’s desperate scream for more entrepreneur is just right.

            Yet observe how some of our governor candidates are promoting and promising to their local people that they will provide education and health care services for free. They say that education and health care are fundamental needs so they should be open for free-access by the people, i.e., the needy and the poor. At first glance, it looks like a desirable goal. It seems like a beautiful goal. But you should recognize the ugly truth within if you believe that nothing is for free. Ask this question to those candidates: at whose expense? They’ll remain silent or answer with their tounges twisted all the way.

            People (the consumers) will enjoy and benefit from free education and health care. Granted. But who’s paying for the teachers, the nurses and the doctors? Who’s paying for the schools’ and hospitals’ maintenance? Who’s paying for the text books, uniforms, medicines and medical equipments? The one and only answer would be: the government by subsidy. But where does the government get the money to do so? The most important source among others: tax money, i.e. money taken by legalized force from the productive people which, in this case, is taken to provide for the unproductive. And who are on the front line of a nation’s productivity? The entrepreneurs.

            Every productive effort has only one goal: success. In other word: longevity. How can we expect our new entrepreneurs to flourish and last if we drain—via taxation—their resources, their capital, from the very beginning of their businesses with nothing to return to these entrepreneurs, to the very people that will save us from poverty? The unproductive has nothing to return, and the free education and health care services program, when established, will undoubtedly include the unproductive, i.e. the parasites.

            Heroes are being called yet their own safety and interests are never concerned. This is a phenomenon that Ayn Rand, the founding-mother of Objectivism, would classify as moral grayness. I classify it as economy grayness (mixed economy), which is no other than a logical consequence of moral grayness. Moral grayness is so widespread in Indonesia, including in the government body, that it has become a cult. The members has no moral consistency, no adherence to principles and fundamentals, but only act on the range-of-the-moment. Such attitude is shown by those candidates who make their promises only to win the people’s heart, not the people’s mind—i.e., not the people’s rational judgment—in order to satisfy their range-of-the-moment interests: to be elected and to hold political power. Believe me!

Bringing Down the Untouchable

It is said to be impossible to put Soeharto, Indonesia’s former president, on trial for his corruption due to the man’s severe illness. The impossibility was pronounced by the members of Soeharto’s gang and, they claimed, by the law itself. Despite the disputes on the law, since it requires interpretation, some of our politicians—who might symphatize or antagonize Soeharto—suggested that we take a step beyond the law: the moral step. Among others, Hasyim Muzadi (head of PBNU) and Soetrisno Bachir (head of PAN) made such suggestion and explicitly proclaimed that we should take the moral step: forgive Soeharto.

            Suppose that Soeharto did corrupt (which might’ve been proved already), why should we forgive him when we know that corruption is obviously wrong? Soeharto’s gang would answer by saying that because Soeharto has given so much for this country. Well, Soeharto did give something to this country and to the people’s well-being. Progress was quite rapid under his leadership, and this fact made a lot of people long for Soeharto and Golkar’s regime when they felt that the Reform was failing. Just because some of us don’t want to let Soeharto get away with his corruption doesn’t mean that we don’t recognize his contribution.

            In fact, Soeharto has been rewarded accordingly. He was given salaries as president. He was being paid to do his job. And even more rewarding than billions of Rupiah, he was being called Bapak Pembangunan (The Father of Development) and had his face on our stamps, our paper money and everywhere. What could be more rewarding than having your name and your face immortalize in a heroic manner like that? Soeharto had his reward. But just as we rewarded him for his contribution we have to punish him for his guilt accordingly, and Soeharto did leave some mess. There is one principle that dictates us to put Soeharto on trial, a principle that must be firmly embodied in any law: justice.

            We should take the moral step, they say, by forgiving Soeharto. But what is morality? Which standard? No answer was given by either Muzadi or Bachir. We can differ in our morality, but as fellow citizens we must have and subject ourselves to objective rule: law and constitution. Isn’t that what we mean by ‘Negara Hukum’? Isn’t that what we mean by saying that our country is ruled by law? Whether he is a president or just a man dying in a hospital, Soeharto is still a citizen, i.e., a subject of law.

            To say that we should take the moral step of forgiveness means that we should go beyond the objectivity of law. It’s to say that we should resort to subjective whims. It’s to say that we should subordinate our reason to our sentiments. It’s to say that we should disrespect law. It’s to say that we should disrespect the claims of the victims of Soeharto’s wrongdoing. Worst of all, it’s to say that we should stop being consistent in our application of justice.

            If forgiveness is the pinnacle of morality, then we should forgive Amrozi, Hitler and bin Laden. Do you dare to ask the victims of Bali Bombs, Holocaust and 9/11 to forgive and let those criminals be free? I don’t, because they shouldn’t be forgiven. They should be put on trial. The same goes with Soeharto. His innocence (which is unlikely) or his guilt should be decided by a trial: a fair and honest one that is (which is also unlikely).

            “Is Soeharto really untouchable?” Our intellectuals are bothered by that question. No, it isn’t Soeharto that is untouchable. It is subjective, pseudo-morality such as those propagated by Muzadi, Bachir and other “forgiver” that will happily let Soeharto get away with his mistakes without trial. For Soeharto to be put on trial, we must all bring down morality from its untouchableness to its objective form: law and constitution. Both are our Bible. Reason is our apocalypse. Justice is our religion. Punishment is our forgiveness. Not to punish (i.e., not to forgive) a criminal means to stab him anywhere and anytime we please.

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