excess and essence

In less than one hour I will be watching the super soccer match, Chelsea vs. Liverpool; my guess is Chelsea will be victorious by 2 or 3 goals. If I err in my judgement, well, I'll have to buy someone a pack of Gudang Garam tomorrow.

To pass time, I'll keep my promise to blog based on the comments I received from my previous posting. I got two comments! One comment wrote something about posts before comments; the other from someone, big hearted enough to show understanding over a blogger's block, preferring to read on something about Indonesia. So, here it goes:

Recently, when trapped in the usual traffic jam on the way to office, this particular sentence has rung in my head. "If complaining solves problems, this city would be a better haven." That was when I suspected myself of having harbored too many grunts--mostly against how things are run by the government. Then I began to feel sort of self-assured that the term "rebels without a cause" has been a misconception; for, I think, every generation must have its own curse, no matter how stable, democratic, or advanced the country is.

Such line of thinking, I mean that particular kind of thinking, as well as the ensuing disatisfactions, presupposes that government is responsible for governing most aspects of our lives, from cradle to grave. To further the issue in my previous posting, citizens should limit themselves in entertaining the idea that government will do them good. This mode of thinking has been subscribed by too many, perhaps without ever asking why. Realities are already too punishing to be added by yet another hope against hope.

That said, would that make me a pessimist or an optimist? Would be nice to say I am a cautious (or responsible) optimist, but I'm basically as optimistic that pessimists can be truly pleasantly surprised as I'm pessimistic that optimists cannot go to the dumps. Hhm, I think I'm digressing now, but let me digress a bit more. I believe Thoreau was somewhere near the truth when he said the best government is one that governs the least, but, heck, I'm not promoting civil disobedience (at least for now). I rather symphatize with SBY, that's why.

To come back to my point: part of the thoughts that we have about our country, or the memories of it, depends on who we are, the people our parents warned us about (he, he). We can agree that as beings we are the products of nature and nurture. Nature aside, only very few are lucky enough to adopt fresh values and ways of thinking.


On the other hand, the heart of the matter itself, Indonesia, is one country unable to solve its developmental gap. Some of us in big cities have already gone into what Toffler dubbed as the Third Wave; quite a few have entered the second wave, but, most strikingly, most of us still dwell in the third wave, being simple peasansts, something resembling the Sumerian state six thousands years ago!

Strictly speaking, Indonesia is not a nation. Rather, it's a collection of nations. Aceh is one; Batak is just another, Moluccas yet another, etc. It's a USA in a smaller format; some of our nations are even bigger than those in Europe. "Indonesia" itself is not a name but a mere anthropological term concocted by the German Adolph Sebastian back in 1864. Then was the time when the large part if not all of Southeast Asia was called Java. The Malay language was then called Jawi, bahasa Jawi, or tulisan Jawi. Hamka once remarked, had we not found word "Indonesia," the republic I'm in now would be called "Jawa."
Indonesia is taking shape.

So, what's happening in Indonesia now is not it. Since 1998 we have experienced something new in the form of freedom of expressions, a novelty unthinkable even just one year earlier. To some people who couldn't stand it, it's rather excessive, but are we to mistake the excesses for the essence? A new balance may be attained some 20 years from now.

We live in one country, but over the 240 millions of us here are living in different ones.

Hope this isn't too bad for half an hour blogging. (The match already starting!)

Sensitivity or over reaction?

Posted by Rei Talk about the freedom of expression, last night I watched a talk show on our national television regarding the dispute between the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and rock group Dewa. I'm wondering if this kind of controversy will suppress the right to freedom of expression.

FPI reports this group to police for blasphemy based on the word Allah that appeared on the floor of the stage during their recent concert aired by a television station. The word Allah is also written in Arabic script on the cover of its Laskar Cinta album.

The controversy takes an interesting turn when some ulama, including Quraish Shihab and Gus Dur say that the group didn't commit blasphemy. Later on, National Council of Ulama (MUI) that acts as a mediator in this case declares that using the calligraphy of Allah for commercial purpose is permissible.

Blasphemy is not an easy issue, and not one to be taken lightly. Before accusing someone of committing blasphemy, one has to be sure that the blasphemy accusation is well founded, valid and credible.

One thing that we must not forget is that, blasphemy can be due to unintentional carelessness. Regrets and public apology from this group should've been enough.

Religion is the human quest for coherence and meaning in the understanding of the world. It is something about "PEACE" and "BALANCE". It defines rights and duties. It should not defy reason or do harm to others.

The trouble is, there are too many people out there who believe they were ordained or called by God to punish people on his behalf. Political correctness in the name of protecting religious sensitivities and religious overdose can have destructive effects because it can be used to justify intolerance and violence on religious grounds.

Religion is a sensitive subject. One has to be very careful in dealing with religion. But that doesnt mean it can't be discussed and doesnt mean it can't be argued over, although in the end it comes down to belief.

I think people should leave judgment to God, rather than acting as arbiters.


it turns out that i am austrian

I JUST LEARNED that I am 80% Austrian! Obviously, I was surprised; for how come they never told me about it all this time? Not even my aging parents!

It unfolded just recently, through the Internet, when I was browsing a Mises website. An unassuming sign struck my eyes. It read: Are you Austrian?. One magical click took me before a panel of most erudite scholars. To me they appeared somewhat intimidating. Then they asked me questions, which were no less intimidating. I oscillated between darting away or bracing myself, but a voice within reminded me: hey this is about your life; some mundane matters, maybe, but like it or not, they influence your very life! And so I braved the answers, one by one and by one. Then they left me on my own for some time,to come back again before I realized it. One of them cleared his throat and read out the verdict: You are 80% Austrian! His voice deep baritone, but hey, wait a sec; what is it? What's the matter with you people?

Yet, knowing a bit about their contribution to man's history of thoughts (although mainstream waves washed them ashore and burried them in deep sand, almost to complete oblivion), kept me from blurting out. So I'm Austrian then? I didn't think I was being flattered, nor did I feel the need to thank them. (Pardon me, but if you lived as a young man in the part of the world I'm in now, you'd know that nationalism as concocted to you as a kid has been just an empty word--no I correct myself, a mantra for concealing state's robbery and mass suppression.)

Anyway, at parting the the pundits handed me a token: Human Action by Ludwig von Mises.*) A kind of book that easily interests people in search of the kernels of truth, and certainly one of the most thickest, too. For this I thanked them and promised to read it with an open mind.**)

*) In a less ideal, bodily world, this means downloading a handsome megabytes and printing out over 900 PDF pages.
**) Now that I'm still reading it, every page of the book has got me equally enlightened. The fact that I'm not done with it doesn't nullify the authencity of my feelings, and this is what I'm trying to say: Whether or not you are Austrian doesn't matter, but Human Action DOES matter regardless of your nationality. I guess I cannot thank those Misesians well enough for this.


wanted: young global leaders

When a friend called from Davos last week and said he planned to nominate me for a Young Global Leader, I sure felt one most flattered guy on earth!

He emailed this link for me to learn more from, and asked me to send a bio. Later that same day at home I found myself once again a boy, as full of curiousity as when I was about to unfold a first "secret." To say that I have no interest in it would be to "divide ice from snow", both to him and myself; in fact I began a brief discussion with my own conscience what I'd done to deserve such nomination when, if I may shamelessly so claim, the good things I ever did to my neighborhood were very few and far between?

Minutes of reading of the YGL requirements and browsing the profiles of members already gave me trepidation...it says: you should be under 40; have substantial leadership experience; have already clearly demonstrated a commitment to serving society; are willing to devote their energy and expertise for five years to tackle the most critical issues facing the world....etc.

I am under 40, and yes I am willing to devote energy and expertise for as ling as it takes to tackle the most critical issues... But willingness and ability are two different things, and when it regards a global effort, something I can't fathom. Besides, another look at the existing member profiles made me feel that my nomination would be a joke; some of them are ministers, former ministers, CEOs, presidents! The jurries would throw away my CV the moment they lay eyes on it.

If it happened, it wouldn't bother me. But the thought that this good American friend of mine would probably be ashamed of himself for having picked me up in the first place was rather disturbing. It might as well mean he did not know me at all. All this time he's only been accurate about two things: one, I am under 40. Two, I wish to see the world a better place (but then name any father who doesn't?). Now I feel peculiarly sorry. But, boy, how I wish to see someone, an Indonesian truly qualified, join it and work for solutions...


ceteris paribus: a most dangerous economists' tool

Whilst ceteris paribus helps economists indulge in their propositions, the naked reality has been such that nothing is ever in that state in life. Those employing the concept while trying to solve practical problems are condemned to be erroneous--the more serious the problems, the graver the mistakes. The announcement in Kompas today by head of the statistics bureau about March inflation rate has proved that the mainstream economists were wrong in estimating the effect of the latest fuel price hike on the inflation rate. The invisible poor are already starting to suffer more "beautifully"; let everyone be reminded once again. That ceteris paribus doesn't live here. It never did and never will.