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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

English versus Bahasa

Several months ago I read a short writing in one blog belonging to a youngster (I forgot how young, but I suppose he was still in college for his bachelor’s degree). He complained when one day in one cyber cafĂ© he heard two users speaking English, and both of them were Indonesians. The blogger considered that they JUST wanted to show off their capability in English! What was wrong with our own national language—Bahasa Indonesia? Why didn’t they just use it instead? He asked himself.
(I am really sorry I forgot to quote the site address. )
Last August 9 2007, Suara Merdeka published one article entitled “Alat Pemersatu Kurang Laku”; page 6 different from the one I quoted above but similar. The writer said that the phenomenon of people using foreign terms, such as bus way, three in one, etc showed that Indonesian people do not love their own language.
I love writing in English. Perhaps because I am an English teacher and I am accustomed to thinking in English when the first time I made a blog, I used English as the media. Moreover my blog where I got lots of warm comments from people all over the world was at an English website ( This made me write in English more and more. I started writing in Bahasa even when I made friend with an Indonesian guy living in New Zealand. This best friend whom I call ‘Abang’ said that he was somewhat tired to speak English all the time there so he enjoyed speaking Bahasa when communicating with me and some other mailing list friends who live all around the world. My other mailing list friends also said the same thing—they would prefer to speak Bahasa to each other rather than to use English because they wanted to maintain their capability in Bahasa. Instead of using English (to show off who is the best to use this international language after living abroad for years, for instance), they chose the national language to communicate!
So, in this small scope, I absolutely don’t agree with the narrow-minded opinion that when people speak foreign language—English for example—it means the speaker doesn’t love the national language. I want to speak English with my daughter—especially in public so that people will not know what we are talking about, and not just to show off—but she refused to respond in English, perhaps because she is not used to it, or because she felt uncomfortable to people around that perhaps would judge us as arrogant. Meanwhile, I just want her to practice her capability in listening and speaking with me (besides to speak secretly in public). Anything wrong with this learning process? Learning does not always take place in classrooms, does it?
In a bigger scope, such as the use of Bahasa for titles of books, especially for literature—read it as novels, dramas, or poems, including movies—I am of opinion that in literature, people are free to express their being artistic and creative in using any language. In literature, the choice of one word—in any language—can mean a lot. If the word is changed into another word, the creator probably will think that the ‘sense’ is different. For the name of some television programs, or the name of some buildings/malls/offices, I somewhat agree that they had better use Bahasa. Should the government made a regulation about this? I don’t really agree with this though. To me this is not really crucial, compared to the government’s responsibility to provide job vacancies for the citizens so that they don’t need to go abroad to be migrant workers only to “let themselves killed by the irresponsible and cruel employers”; or to alleviate the poverty; or to decrease the prices of everything; or many other things: including paying attention to some insane mayors or regents of some cities/regencies in Indonesia that tend to make crazy regulations (such as checking female students’ virginity!!!)
In this globalization era, we all must realize that mastering one international language—in many cases English is considered to be the lingua franca. To master an international language, people must practice it again and again anywhere and anytime, including in public places, with whoever they speak. Will it decrease our love to our own national language? I don’t agree with it. Will it make Bahasa not be used as the national lingua franca among ethnic groups in Indonesia? I don’t agree with it either. The Javanese absolutely need Bahasa to communicate with the Sundanese or Balinese or any other ethnic groups in Indonesia when they don’t understand Boso Jowo (Javanese language). Even in some areas where there are many tribes like in Papua where each ethnic has respective local language and the people don’t understand each other, they need Bahasa to communicate with each other.
We will always need Bahasa to communicate with our fellow citizens from different ethnic groups who have different local language. Meanwhile, speaking English—or any other foreign language—will not easily reduce our love to our own national language.
PT56 21.49 190807

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Be a Chinaman!

“Jadilah orang Cina!” (Be a Chinaman!) is a title of one short soty in PETUALANGAN CELANA DALAM. As in my previous post, the story has setting place Semarang, especially Pendrikan and Magersari, where in the boundary of those two areas the writer of the book, Nugroho Suksmanto, was born. Let me quote the special stanza printed as an opening of the story.
Aku ingat betul pesan bapakku. Kalau ingin jadi pengusaha aku harus jadi orang “Cina”. Maksudnya tidak hanya bergaul dan memahami perilakunya, tetapi juga mendalami budayanya agar bisa sukses seperti mereka.
(I remember my father’s advice very well. If I want to be a businessperson, I have to be “a Chinaman”. He meant not only to socialize with Chinese and understand their behavior, but I also have to comprehend their culture and apply it in my daily life so that I can become successful as they are.)
In this story, Nugroho narrated a teenage boy’s experience before Ramadhan month came. Several weeks before Ramadhan, the dwellers of Magersari area were busy to do many activities to collect money to welcome Lebaran day, the biggest Holiday for Muslim. It had been a tradition to celebrate Lebaran, people wore new clothes, went sightseeing around the town, ate and drink to their heart’s content. To do all of those things, people needed much money.
What kind of activities did people in Magersari do to collect money? Such as making toys of ‘warak ngendog’1 and piggy bank, making cookies, sewing clothes, and then they sold them in DUG-DER.2 Meanwhile for some naughty children, they tried their luck to collect money by gambling! Some games mentioned by Nugroho are ‘dadu kopyok’, ‘udar-bangkol’, ‘cap-sa’.
Talking about ‘dadu kopyok’ I remember I saw it done too in my dwelling place in 1970s, Bulu Setalan, on the south of Magersari. It was done by a group of people, adults, close to my house. (FYI, Bulu Setalan is a very crowded area where many small houses are built very close to each other, leaving no space for yard. In that era, my parents were one of two people in our alley who had televisions. No wonder in the evening, my house was always crowded by neighbors who wanted to watch television. This made me able to sneak out of the house to watch people gambling.) Curiously, I came close to it and watched those people playing. I thought it was just a kind of game. When I saw someone win, he could get much more money than the money he put on one number, I was amazed. Was it that easy to get much money with only a little capital? This made me think of taking some money from my piggy bank to join the game. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any other children around my age joining it. This made me doubtful. However, I was really tempted by the easy way to get much money. As a little child, I didn’t have any access to get much money in a short time besides asking for it to my parents. My relatives lived in one town in North Sulawesi, Gorontalo. This hampered me to enjoy one thing that other children did on Lebaran holiday: getting some pocket money from their grandparents, uncles, aunties, cousins, etc.
Thinking of the much money I would get led me to one thing: I had to take some money from my piggy bank! After I won, I could put my money back to my piggy bank, right? Among many neighbors watching television in the living room of my house, I sneaked into a special place where I hid my piggy bank, in one cupboard located in the kitchen. I did it in the dark so that I would not attract anybody’s attention. When making a small hole at the bottom my piggy bank carefully, but nervously (I felt like I had done a very big sin  stealing my own saving in my own piggy bank), I was shocked by someone’s voice, “What are you doing in the dark Na? Why didn’t you turn on the lamp?”
I almost fainted. Huh, it was my brother!!! Feeling shy because he caught me in the act, but also feeling sure of what I was doing, I told him my plan. (In fact, he had watched me secretly for some time while I watched those adult people gambling.) Unfortunately he didn’t agree with me. He said, “That is called JUDI (Gambling). It is not just a common game! And you know that JUDI is HARAM in our religion. Don’t do this! No one is rich only because of gambling, our religion teacher said that, right? Our parents will be angry too to know this.”
Uh … I was very disappointed. However, as someone raised in a very strictly religious family, of course I was afraid of making sin, especially making my parents angry!
So? I never joined it even though I was very tempted. I still watched people playing it around my house until my dad found out and he forbade me to go out in the night to see those people.
P.S.: What is the relationship between the title of the short story with gambling? Read the story by yourself, will ya? :)
PT56 21.20 150807

Warak ngendog is a special creature that is believed to represent three different ethnic groups in Semarang: Javanese, Chinese and Arabian. Its head is like a dragon (Chinese), its body is the combination of camel -> Arabian, especially its long neck) and goat (Javanese).
Dug-der is a special event held some days before Ramadhan month. This is like a fair done in the evening. In the event, people sell many things, from children toys, clothes, various kinds of food—especially dates are sold because Muslim people believe that to break their fast during Ramadhan month, their fasting will be blessed more if they eat dates

Below is the picture of warak.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Fortune Teller

Do you believe in fortune-teller?
I am in between. I mean sometimes I believe in it sometimes I don’t. I remember that ‘what your zodiac says’ column used to be my favorite in a magazine or a newspaper during my younger years. However, I also remember that I would remember it very well when that column talked about bad thing for me. For example, when it said, “Something bad will happen to you this week.” I would not live peacefully the whole week, worriedly awaiting what bad thing would happen to me. On the contrary, when it said something good, let’s say, “There will a new guy having a crush for you,” I would not really pay attention to it. Always the bad thing haunted me.
Therefore, gradually I tried to control my mind not to really pay attention to it anymore. I just wanted to live more peacefully without feeling worried excessively.
Several days ago my sister attended her friend’s wedding. She also came to that friend’s house the night before the wedding. Javanese call it “malam midodareni”. My sister was accompanying the bride together with another friend. Let us give her an initial R. In fact R can read someone’s palm’s hand. My sister playfully asked R to read her palm to read her future. One thing R said to my sister, that has been bothering my mind, was: “I am sorry to say that you don’t have a long life.”
Surprisingly my sister commented, “Well, I have known about that. Once I went to West Java with some friends of mine from PRANIC HEALING group, we dropped by at one Chinese temple in Lembang. I tried my luck to see my future because there was the way to do it. I found out that I would not have a long life.”
I was shocked to hear that. Absolutely we don’t know how long is a long life, how short is a short life. How many years is the life for someone in average? Sixty, seventy, eighty, or more than that? When a good friend of mine said to me that he was already ‘old’, while he was only forty-nine years old (he will be 50 years old this August 20), I protested, “Gerontologists said that someone is considered to enter old age when the life expectancy is 10 years later.”
“Well Nana, nobody knows how old we will die. So, how can we say that we are entering old age because we know that we only have 10 years again to live?” he protested.
“That’s it. Don’t say that you are old then. As long as we still have spirit to live this life, to go on struggling, why should we say that we are already old?” I commented.
“Well, my mother is more than ninety years old now. If I can expect to live until that age, it means I am still young now.” he said. LOL.
Going back to my chat with my sister, I reminded her of one Chinese serial we used to watch in video. I don’t remember the title. I just remember that one of the characters in the film was “destined” to live not until twenty years old. The parents read her palm to find out about it. Therefore all the family members always tried their best to protect this girl. They expected that the girl would go on living until more than twenty years of age with the family protecting her.
One day, no matter how carefully the family protected her, the girl fell down into a ravine exactly on her birthday of twenty. Everybody cried because they thought, “At last, she came to the end of her life.” However, a miracle happened. The girl didn’t really fell into the deep ravine. A tree with its branches had saved her life. She fell into the tree. Quickly the family helped lift her above the ravine. Quickly they checked the palm. There they saw a longer line, the line that signs how long someone’s life in the world is. It means the accident made that line longer, that means (again) she would have a longer life than just twenty years old.
My own experience after taking a look at the lines in my palm, I have seen some new lines, some longer lines too. For the special line that people say shows ‘education’, it became longer after I graduated from my master’s degree.
When telling this to my sister, I wanted to tell her indirectly that I didn’t really believe with what R said that my sister would not have a long life. But still, I keep being bothered with it until now. That’s why I am writing this.
PT56 11.09 130807

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Harry Potter

Several weeks ago my sister got the soft copy of so-called Harry Potter’s manuscript of the latest serial, entitled “Deathly Hallows”. Both she and Angie are great fans of Harry Potter. Therefore they loved it a lot. At first, Angie was not really sure if she would read it because she thought that her capability in English was limited. However when one of her school friends told her that he got the soft copy of it too and started reading it, Angie felt challenged. So, she started reading it too, with the help of ‘Linguist’, a program of dictionary we have in the desktop, or once in a while she looked up in the printed dictionary, or asked the one she sometimes considered as living dictionary: her mother: ME. J

Several days ago again my sister came up with more wonderful news: she got the soft copy of the printed edition of “Deathly Hallows”. She was excited but Angie was not really happy with that. She complained to me, “Mama, I have read the manuscript more than 50%. Now I have to start all over again from the very beginning?”

I calmed her by saying, “Well honey, I don’t think the story would be very much different. Why don’t you just go on reading the manuscript?”

“Okay then,” answered Angie.

One day after that, Angie reported to me, “Mama, the story is very much different. For example in the manuscript, Dudley was told to be a witch, but in the printed edition, he didn’t become a witch. Surely, this will make the plot of the manuscript and the printed edition very different.”

“Oh???” I didn’t understand.

As one outsider (I mean I am not a fan of HP. Although I love reading, I have never read HP yet. I have never watched the movie either) I didn’t understand the way JK Rowling thought. Why should she change the plot that far? Did she get too much energy? Or what has made her change her mind, from making the manuscript for the first time until she wrote the printed edition?

When talking about this to my sister, she told me, “You know I heard that the sixth serial of HP also got two versions. I don’t know which one was published in Indonesia.”

“I really don’t understand. Why should JK Rowling issue two versions at the same time? To fulfill what her fans wanted? While the other one she wrote it for her own satisfaction? A writer in some extent really has omnipotent power to decide what will happen to the characters, just like God. Right?” I said.

“That I don’t know.” My sister commented.

“Don’t you think it was perhaps because another person wrote the other version?” I was curious.

“Well ... maybe...” she said.

“Do you remember the children literature we enjoyed reading when we were teenagers? Famous Five by Enid Blyton? Do you remember at that time Enid Blyton decided to stop the story of Famous Five in the twenty first serial and she no longer wrote about Famous Five? Obviously that made many fans of Famous Fan disappointed. We were also disappointed because we could not read a new adventure of Famous Five. Knowing it, someone else wrote some other books of Famous Five. We read some serials too but then we decided that this new writer didn’t write as well as Enid Blyton, or well, she could not enliven the character of Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy as well as the original writer, we didn’t read it anymore.” I said the whole thing to my sister.

Remembering our experience during our teenage years, she smiled and said, “Yeah, and I remember the new writer wrote more about George and Timmy as the central characters while Enid Blyton gave the same portions to those five characters. Sometimes Julian was the hero in one serial, in another serial, it could be Dick, Anne, or George and Timmy. I didn’t mind it because I loved George.”

“Yes, that’s right. I liked Julian better and the fact that the new writer chose George and Timmy more often as the central characters also disappointed me.”

My discussion with my sister ended there.

One day after that, my sister told me another thing. “From the internet I gathered information that many people who already got the outline of “Deathly Hallows” secretly made their own versions, to make themselves satisfied because of the rumor before that JK Rowling would kill Harry Potter in her last book. And then they exchanged their own stories with many other HP’s fans.”

Nah lo. This answered my curiosity. It was not JK Rowling who had too much energy so that she made several versions of HP. Besides, as probably you HP lovers realize that many books about HP or JK Rowling sold in bookstores where on the cover there is a writing, “This book is NOT endorsed by JK Rowling.” But still people who are crazy about HP still buy those books. It is possible that the soft copy of the manuscript my sister got was not written b JK Rowling, isn’t it?

Well, the story has ended. Many key characters died but the “three musketeers” Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley survived. As one blog friend of mine said, “No matter what, this is children literature.” J

If JK Rowling is consistent with her words-she will not write some more serials of HP-there will be possibilities other people will continue writing the story, not only for profit, but also for fulfilling the thirst of its million fans to read HP again, again, and again, until they get bored with it eventually.

PT56 22.29 110807

Friday, August 10, 2007

Denias Senandung di Atas Awan

Denias Senandung di Atas Awan” (“Denias humming from above the cloud”) is one of good movies produced by Indonesian producers. It is produced by Alenia Pictures. The story-based one a true story-is about one boy named Denias living in Papua, one quite big island in Indonesia, located in the eastern part of the archipelago. The island has one so-called biggest gold mining company in the world, the Freeport. However, it doesn’t mean that the native people there live wealthily. Denias used to live in one poor village located in inland and the villagers still practice the ritual ceremonies from their ancestors.

There are five interesting things that I noted when watching it.

Mourning ritual ceremony

When Denias mother died in an accident, because a torch used fell down and burnt the house made of wood, his father had to undergo the mourning ritual ceremony, his left forefinger was cut. While for the other family members, they had to bath in mud.

For the first ritual, the forefinger is cut to show the mourning, I, as one stranger of one ethnic group in the Papuan culture, am of opinion that this practice is really not humane. The husband will get double pain, the mental and the physical. Although I must say that when I get psychologically troubled, sometimes I want to injure my body so that I will get injured not only inside but also outside. (I always suspect myself as suffering from sado-masochism.)

This ritual reminds me of the practice of suttee in India in the previous century. When a husband died, the wife had to throw herself into the blaze burning the corpse of the body. This is much more inhumane because a woman deserved life no longer when her husband died. Mary Daly stated that suttee was legally banned in 1829. I am wondering if in this era there is still one ethnic group in India still carries out this inhumane practice?

Discriminative treatment toward other people

One scene in the movie shows this discrimination when the Board of School refuses to accept Denias as one student there, with reason, “Denias does not come from the surrounding area. This school is especially for children from ethnic groups living around here.” Sam Koibur, one teacher in the school tries her best in order that Denias can study there because she sees good potential in Denias. This is what she says toward the Board of School:

“When the first time I came to this place, I heard a lot about the discriminative treatment toward other people. At first I thought that the discriminative treatment was only done by the newcomers; but in fact the native people here also can do the unfair treatment toward their fellow inhabitants.”

The situation is absolutely different from the one in Java, the most densely populated island in Indonesia. In Semarang, my hometown located in Central Java province, the government needs to issue regulation of ‘regionalization’ where students are to study in the school located in the same region where they dwell. If not, smart students will flood the most favorite state schools downtown, and the schools located in the suburb will only get the less intelligent students. This creates gap among state schools.

Papua is an island where the native people have dark skin with kinky hair. There are many ethnic groups there with different local languages that make them not able to communicate well if there is no national language-Bahasa Indonesia. Once I met a Papuan person that told me in the past people from those different ethnic groups often fought to each other because of misunderstanding, miscommunication, and different habits. This reminded me of the beginning story of slavery in the United States where many dark skinned people were brought from Africa to America to be slaves. (I refer to AMISTAD movie.) On the ship they could not communicate because they spoke different languages. In America they were treated very badly by the whites, such as being whipped when they were considered to be slow to work, or to do some mistakes. Unconsciously this way to treat other people was stuck on their mind. Consequently, they did the same thing when other people did mistakes, or just to take revenge. In the short story “Sweat” written by Zola Neale Hurston, Hurston wrote how Sykes treated his wife, Delia. It was the same way how the whites treated the black people. Considered to be under the black men, the black women had to get that severe treatment: as a revenge of the black men because they were considered lower than the whites?

The native of Papua have been treated unfairly by the new comers to that island. Feeling inferior, they do not protest. Unfortunately, then they ‘take revenge’ to their fellow native Papuan.

Papua is one of the richest island in Indonesia-with its gold mining company, the Freeport-but most of the native people live poorly.

The land is rich with gold and copper. However the native don’t know how to mine ores containing gold. Therefore they cannot do anything but just become workers after the mining company was established there some decades ago. Who gets the most profit from this mining company? Not the native people of course.

Denias comes from a poor family with an uneducated father. However, one volunteer teacher says that he is smart and suggests him to pursue his dream by studying until he can reach the cloud, to see the world from above. By the end of the story Denias is accepted to study in one elementary school in the town nearby. After the movie is over, it is stated that now Denias is studying in Darwin Australia, with the scholarship he got from the Freeport company.

Studying in formal school

Since Denias’ father is uneducated, he doesn’t realize the importance of studying in a formal school. He is angry when he finds out that Denias is studying (in a makeshift hut used as temporary school) while he needs Denias’ help to do something. Pay attention to the following short dialogs between Maleo (one army member sent to the area. he was willing to teach Denias and his friends simple arithmetic, how to read and write, geography, etc) and Samuel, Denias’ father.

Maleo: I need your help to make Denias able to study again.
Samuel: Don’t interfere my affair. That is not your duty.
Maleo: I know this is not my duty but your duty.
Samuel: This is not Java. All sons have to help their parents. You don’t understand that.
Maleo: I understand that. That’s why Denias has to study. If he studies, he will be able to help you a lot later.
Samuel: That’s it. You only can say later later and later. What I need is now now and now.

From the above conversation we can conclude that process of acculturation between the culture of the native and the culture of the comers really need handling carefully and wisely so that none feels cornered and marginalized. The comers are not supposed to feel more civilized than the native, while the native are wiser to adapt with the new things. It is understandable if the native didn’t find it necessary to study arithmetic, reading, writing, etc in the old time. However now with more and more people move to Papua, it is advisable that the native study the same thing as the comers: to protect Papua their native land from the greed of the comers.

“Koteka”, traditional clothes in Papua.

To find out more about koteka, check this site:
People in Papua wore ‘koteka’ in the old times. This ‘cloth’ is only to cover the genital organ of both men and women. Papuan women in the past were topless and breasts were not considered to be covered. In the beginning of the movie, there is a ritual traditional ceremony called “Wearing Koteka”. The ceremony is done in a religious way that means ‘koteka’ can be categorized something sacred because only to wear that, they need to hold a special ceremony.

This reminded me of one experience of one of my Professors at college. Several years ago he was among some other experts in culture involved to carry out some acculturation process in Papua. One of them was: “To make our brothers in Papua wear more proper and decent clothes. We are already civilized here. How can we let our brothers there stay naked and not well cultured?”

If you were the native of Papua, would you consider these strangers more civilized only because they covered up their bodies? Or would you consider them as colonizers?

Not knowing what he would do in Papua at the beginning, my Professor protested after finding out the intention of a group of so-called expert in culture from Java.

“Denias Senandung di Atas Awan” is indeed worth watching with so many moral lessons behind. The casts are: Albert Fakdawer as Denias, Ari Sihasale as Maleo, Michael Jakarimilena as Samuel, Marcella Zalianty as Sam Koibur, one teacher who helps Denias accepted in the school in the town nearby.

PT56 12.21 100807

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Setting Up Priorities

One thing that I will never regret for my getting married in a relatively young age (FYI, I got married when I was 23 years old) is having the baby that was born a year after my wedding. I gave her full name DZIKRINA ANGGIE PITALOKA, or Angie for short. And I gave her a loving nick MY LOVELY STAR when I made a special blog for her. You can check it at My Lovely Star

I was still a student of English Department Gadjah Mada University at that time. When finishing my study at that bachelor’s degree, I had to leave Angie for several days. I remember I stayed in Jogja for around 10 days and stayed in Semarang for around 4 days. Except when I was doing the community service (KKN) in Bayan regency of Purworejo for two months, September till November 1992, I only had two days to visit Angie, each time I left the KKN site. I couldn’t stay longer because the rule said that a student could leave the site only for about 24 hours, not more than that. And staying in Semarang for around 2 days already broke the rule. LOL.

During finishing my study, I let Angie taken care of by my dearest Mom. Do you think it then made my relationship with Angie not strong? If you think so then you are wrong. Before leaving her to go back to Jogja to pursue my study, I didn’t let anybody take care of her. For about 10 months (Angie was born in April 1991, I moved back to Jogja in February 1992) Angie and I built our emotional ties, and it was very successful in my opinion.

After my graduation in October 1993, I moved back to Semarang, and I became the most favorite person for Angie again. My leaving her for about one and a half year did not make Angie forget the emotional ties we had built before that. We continued that ‘effort’ again before I got a job. And after I got a rather established job that made me busy out of the house, my emotional ties with Angie was already established too.

My good relationship with Angie inspired some friends to have the same experience. They dreamed of having a harmonious relationship with their daughters.

First, one ex workmate who dreamed of having a baby boy before she got married. After seeing my harmonious relationship with Angie, she changed her mind. She welcomed her first baby daughter warmly. Unfortunately because she had to work hard to earn money, she could not have much time to spend with her daughter. Both of she and her husband had to work while she did not really believe in having a babysitter or a nanny to take care of her daughter. Therefore, she left her daughter with her mother who lived in Magelang. She only visited her daughter every weekend. It has been like that for about four years. Until now she still works hard to be able to buy a house while waiting for the time for her bringing her daughter to live together in Semarang. From her experience she once in a while told me—when we worked together in one institution—I concluded that she was quite successful to build the emotional ties between her and her daughter despite the long distance of their dwelling.

Second, one workmate of mine now. She got married in her mid thirties and had a baby daughter around a year after that. She wanted to have good emotional ties too with her daughter although she said that she favored a baby boy more than a baby daughter. However she showed me a bit disappointment when she saw her daughter closer to her husband rather than to her. The coming of the second baby—a boy—in less than two years after her first baby made her a bit confused to choose a career or her children. Her busy working to make her ends meet has made her baby boy even closer to the babysitter rather than with her. It was a dilemma for her.

“Then set your priorities,” I told her when she confided in me several weeks ago.

“My priorities are my children. I want to have good emotional ties with my children as good as yours with Angie. My busy working has made my children—especially the younger—ignore me when I was at home. He would rather be with the babysitter than with me. Should I give up working and be a full housewife?” she asked me.

“Do you think the income of your hubby will be enough to cover up your daily needs?” I asked her back.

“I am afraid not. You know my paycheck is even higher than his.”

“What I mean with ‘set up your priorities’ is about the future of your children. Perhaps you can give them your full attention by giving up your job. But can you provide the funds for their future education? ‘Setting up priorities’ here means choice between present time—by staying with them for most hours everyday—and your future time—by leaving them many hours everyday. However, you can give them a better future because you can provide funds for their education by working. Which one is more important to you? The present time or the future time?” I explained thoroughly.

“Oh I got the picture,” she commented.

Well, I know this is always a dilemma. However I don’t want to just quote what patriarchal society says about a good woman and a bad woman. “A good woman must put aside their egotism for the happiness for the whole family?” “A bad woman is she who just thinks about herself, let’s say by choosing to have a career outside the house.” It is easy to say that a woman can become SUPER WOMAN by putting the two things in balance—be good in career and be good at home. Not wanting to leave your children? Just do something to augment your income from home. This does not always work for all women. Setting up priorities is always the main solution. Just stop putting women in pedestal place as if you adore them while at the same time you marginalize them.

“Don’t hurt yourself by thinking that you are selfish because you have to leave your children to work. This is also for their future. Don’t hurt yourself by thinking that you are not a good mother because you cannot stay with your children all the time. Apparently we two have different lives,” I soothed her.

Third, one ex workmate too who moved out of town to pursue her dream—to be a civil servant. She delivered her first baby—a daughter—around three months ago in Semarang. Apparently she wanted to follow my step—having a harmonious relationship with Angie. However, because she lives all alone in that town located in the East Java, she could not just take her daughter to live with her after her months off from the office were over. Her hubby lives in Semarang. This couple has a long distance marriage. She left her baby with her auntie who promised to take care of her while waiting for the time for my friend to provide a decent place to live. Her hubby cannot take care of the baby because he has been suffering from a mental disorder.

After writing the three examples above, I can conclude that the main obstacle for a woman to be close to their children—although it is not always applicable to all women in the world—is a matter of money. Women have to work to make their ends meet. I am of opinion that most women in Indonesia work to fulfill two needs from five needs proposed by Maslow in his theory; they are survival and security needs. They work to survive and to secure their future. While for the three other needs—self-acceptance, self-esteem and self-actualization are too high above to reach. Not many women in Indonesia think about that yet.

Do you want to have harmonious emotional ties with your children? Set up your priorities.

PT56 12.12 060807

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Beauty Pageant

I went to bed late last night, almost 1am.because of one somewhat spectacular show on television: PEMILIHAN PUTRI INDONESIA (Miss Indonesia Pageant). What the hell out of the blue such a rubbish program attracted me very much so that I was willing to spend hours to sit in front of television? And I am not a television freak at all! I would rather sit in front of my dearest desktop for hours than sit in front of television, that’s for sure.
So why?
This Miss Indonesia Pageant was followed by 36 representatives from 33 provinces. The representative from Central Java-the province where Semarang my hometown is located-is my ex student of my ex workplace. This ex workplace left a bad taste in my mouth, but not my students. I always love them. Moreover I know that Elvaretta Nathania Gunawan-that ex student of mine-admitted that I was one of her inspiring role models in her life. :) (There is nothing wrong to be a narcissist, is there? LOL.)

More than a year ago Elva told me that Putri (Miss) Indonesia 2005-Nadine-inspired Elva to follow her step because of the mixed blood (white and Indonesian blood). Some articles I read in media said that the committee of the pageant selected Nadine to be the winner in 2005 because of the mixed blood. And Nadine is very tall for the average height of Indonesian women. It sounded ridiculous? Indeed. The committed was of opinion that to win Miss Universe pageant, (the winner of Miss Indonesia Pageant will be sent to Miss Universe Pageant), Indonesia needed to send someone who was tall (so that she would be easily spotted among other contestants from other countries). Nadine’s mixed blood absolutely made her face look like white people. Well, for this case, one can use pre-colonial theory stating that the white-referred to the colonial countries in the colonial time-were always superior than the colored. In Indonesia, fair complexion always means beauty. Naively the committee thought that Miss Indonesia never won Miss Universe yet because of this very “surface” things.

Elva thought that if Nadine could win Miss Indonesia Pageant mainly because of her mixed blood, Elva would be able to do the same.

Unfortunately, Nadine lost Miss Universe in 2006. She even failed to reach “the biggest 15 contestants” step that could be reached by the previous Miss Indonesia. With Nadine losing the pageant, Indonesian media cornered her and the committee because of the same thing: Nadine’s mixed blood. Miss Indonesia pageant must choose a girl who has really exotic Indonesian beauty, without mixed blood.

Nevertheless, this “accident” did not stop Elva to pursue her dream. More than a month ago, in her friendster profile, she wrote that she represented Central Java in Miss Indonesia Pageant 2007. Wow, it was very good for her because she could come closer to her dream-to be Miss Indonesia. However, remembering Nadine’s ‘accident’ about that mixed blood, I was even thinking that Elva’s mixed blood even would hamper her.

Btw, I know that many feminists mock this pageant things as putting women in their low rank because they are just judged only based on their physical beauty. The slogan of 3b-brain, beauty, behavior-is just slogan. However, in my opinion the main core of feminism is to let women make up their own minds in their life, without depending on anybody else. A woman can choose any career she wants-including to be a housewife and or a homemaker; one thing that was very downgraded by the second wave feminists in 1960s. This means a woman also has full right to join any pageantry and be responsible with the risk.

When Elva was chosen to be the biggest 5 finalists, I thought she deserved it. As one of her ex lecturer I know that she is smart, always eager to learn, and she belongs to the hardworking type. In this step, she could answer one jury’s question very convincingly and confidently. Unfortunately she did not go on to the following step, the biggest 3 finalists. This made me somewhat suspicious that her mixed-blood face hampered her. The committee did not want to get attacked by public, just like what they experienced with Nadine.

Well, anyway Elva must have felt satisfied enough to pursue her dream. At this step, to win or to lose is no longer important. Elva has done real things to make her dream come true. This struggle is more important.

For next year? Oh well, perhaps I will not really care anymore with this pageantry. LOL. But one thing: let women do things they believe that they are capable to pursue their dream, and let them become “the subject” and not only “the object”.

PT56 22.35 040807

Thursday, August 02, 2007


Before discussing the article entitled “Media Power and the Dangers of Mass Information” in my class, I gave my students the following questions to be discussed first.

1. How many kinds of media do you know? How many of them do you usually use in your daily life?
2. What are the powers of media?
3. Mention some programs on television that are influential in the viewers’ lives.
4. Mention some programs/facilities in the internet that are influential

For your information, it was a small class, with only five students, one girl, four boys. Two of them are in the third grade of senior high school while three others are graduates of senior high school. They will start going to college in the beginning of September 2007. They are about 16-18 years old.
For the first question, they mentioned two kinds of media, printed media—such as newspapers, magazines, tabloids, and electronic media—such as television. Internet can be categorized into both kinds, printed and electronic.

What are the powers of media?

The students mentioned two kinds: positive and negative. (In fact, everything in this world always have these two contradictory things, don’t they? There are usually positive and negative aspects of everything.)

For the positive side, the students mentioned through media, people could get up-to-date information—via news shows in television, news websites in the internet, news column in newspapers/tabloids; knowledge—via educative programs such as Discovery Channel, National Geography, Learning Foreign Language program in television; entertainment—via cartoons, movies, soap operas, sport shows, etc on television, special websites in the internet, such as,; profits to market their products for producers, while for consumers, they will get information about more various products.

For the negative side, the students mentioned some “conventional” things, such as people are exposed to crimes in crime news, brutal shows (in Indonesia for example “smackdown“ program), and pornography through some “indecent” programs on television or porn sites in the internet.

Some television programs that are influential in the viewers’ lives mentioned:

 Commercials

The students admitted that their life somewhat changed due to these commercials. The attraction of many produces in promoting their products successfully changed their taste. Instead of feeling “cheated” or “abused” they thanked those commercials so that they knew more various products to be used in their daily life. They did not realize that those commercials also have made them become the consumers of some products that they did not really need in the past.

 Soap operas/movies
Some soap operas—especially produced by local production houses have changed their way of life, the way they socialize, the way they get dressed, etc. Why local? Because local soap operas seem so “real” with Indonesian actors/actresses so that they do not realize that those seemingly “real” lives oftentimes are just exaggerated by the producers. Many soap operas were just copies of foreign movies/soap operas.

Does it mean that foreign movies/soap operas don’t really influence the viewers’ lives? They do too. One very distinct event in my opinion is the tendency of teenagers now hold prom nights, while in my era, we didn’t know what it was.
Besides, addiction to watch soap operas of course has changed the rhythm of their daily lives.

 News
News do not really change a lot of the viewers’ lives like the two examples above, except crime news. Crime news that are so blatantly shown on television even can give examples how to do some crimes.

 Sport shows
Apparently the five students of mine do not really like doing sports. However, they said that sport shows influenced them to gamble, which club would win the game, for example.

 Reality shows
Many kinds of “being idols” show on television obviously have changed many teenagers’ way to choose dream profession for their future. During my time, two most prestigious professions were doctor and engineer. Nowadays, the easiness to earn money by being a celebrity after winning one reality show, such as Indonesian Idol, has made teenagers lazy to study. They would prefer to dream of being a celebrity rather than to study hard to be a doctor or an engineer.

Some internet programs that are influential in the users’ lives mentioned:
 Game online

Playing game has always become one favorite pastime. If in the past people felt enough to play games in the personal computer, nowadays game online are more attractive because people can play games while looking for friends from around the world—with whom they play together.

 Emails
Sending emails must be more convenient and faster, not to mention cheaper, than sending airmail letters.

 General websites
Students get more various assignments from school that make them look for more data from this huge library—internet. Unfortunately, I see the tendency of them to only collect data and submit them to their teachers in the printed form without trying to comprehend the data first. It is inevitable for me to suspect that the teachers just need the data for themselves but they don’t have time to look for the data by themselves. If the data is really beneficial for the students’ knowledge, the teachers are supposed to ask the students not only to submit the assignment without checking/assessing them whether they understand the data they submit.

 Friendster/multiply/hi5
This “new way to look for new friends” has become more and more popular in Indonesia. However, not only new friends they get, sometimes they also can find their old friends who have moved to other cities/countries. Or, via friendster/multiply/hit they can also keep in touch with their friends, not only via emails or phones.

This special website has changed people’s lives because they can watch some foreign programs that are not aired on televisions in Indonesia. Indonesian people living abroad also can watch some television programs—such as “Empat Mata” show—that are promoted in this website.

 Chat online
Chatting facilities provided by the internet really make people easy to communicate with one another although they live poles apart. They can keep in touch with not only their old friends who have moved abroad, let’s say, but also make new friends.

The result of this discussion told me that the students did not realize the more subtle power of media but very influential in shaping their way of thinking in reading and interpreting texts in a form of hegemonic culture infiltrating the one they have got from the elders—such as parents and teachers.
To be continued.

PT56 11.00 020807

Media Power


By Michael J. O’Neill

Television nowadays is not just another page in media history. It is an utterly unique phenomenon that is profoundly influencing everything we do: how we act, how we think, how we see the world, how we govern. Television alters and distorts our perceptions of reality, not only expanding knowledge overwhelmingly but also changing its very nature, resulting in enormous consequences. But how does television change our knowledge? How are our perceptions and our thinking processes being affected?

First, television alters the way we see the world. Distant events are brought into our personal horizon, influencing our feelings beyond what we might have experienced before, from football World Cup to great human disasters in India or Ethiopia. Real-time experiences are delivered into our living rooms, in a sensational manner, so that we can share the daily triumphs and tragedies of the human race. The result is a new kind of knowledge.

Second, television influences the very process of thinking and deciding in written communication, the worlds stand passive and still on the page, never moving. Our imagination must work to convert them into our versions of reality, and then our mind has to take over and reason its way toward conclusions and action. The progression is from words to reason, to conviction, to action. In the case of television, on the other hand, movement, sound and color rush actual experiences directly to the senses, forcing us to produce instant emotional reactions. The process moves from image to impression, to emotional reactions, and then to action. The reflection and reasoning, which is a part of verbal communication, are bypassed.

A third point about television’s effect is that it sometimes needs to distort knowledge because it always focuses on visual events or actions that can be photographed and issues that can be dramatized or simplified. It cannot deal with subtle, complex and abstract subjects that lie beyond the camera’s beady eye. An event can only become interesting when it comes with pictures that provoke emotions. Oftentimes, an important event is neglected because it cannot produce a moving picture while a ridiculous one becomes important since it comes complete with pictures.

The fourth note about television’s effect on our thinking is that it depends our knowledge. Its sheer volume of information overwhelms our brain’s capacity for absorption, selection and interpretation. There are always news shows, headlines, and dialogs or talks. But at the same time they create problems. Everything is chopped into tiny pieces of information and presented repeatedly, making it difficult to digest, analyze, and judge.

These changes in the nature and uses of knowledge have enormous consequences, not only for public wisdom but also for the way democracy works. Television and mass media have altered the basic relationship between the people and their government. For instance, voters can get instant access to the same information received by their elected representatives. And because television produces instant mass emotions, instant mass opinions, and then mass pressures, policymakers are forced to at without prior thought and against their best judgment. The national media are no longer just observers and messengers but lead actors in government by creating, shaping, and often distorting information. television and mass media do it by magnifying as well as reporting the conflicts of power, supporting, nagging and harassing but at the same time also explaining. This power also makes the mass media the targets of manipulation by every party and the victims of conflicting pressures, knowing and unknowing participants in the management of crisis and in the formation of policy. The mass media have become both the collaborators and adversaries of government.

The ability of the press to mold public opinion is now so great that issues and events are often shaped to serve their needs. Newsmakers modify their behavior, creating controversy, looking for more effect by refusing to have a rational debate and petition in favor of staging loud protest and demonstration. False issues and facts are created in abundance. They do not reflect reality, often displacing truth, just so it can achieve the greatest media impact and public favor.

What can be done about all this? One solution is to come up with a new kind of journalism, “preventive journalism”. It should present news in a very different way from what it is now. Instead of only describing the sensation of an event, preventive journalism should search in advance to try to identify the underlying causes of crises before they happen, rather than after they explode. This kind of journalism might give an alerted society time to protect itself from the sudden exposure to the event. It is not enough for the media to provide the videotapes of war; they should also beware of causes that might lead to war in order to prevent it. This would require a different mindset and new techniques. It would mean looking deeply into societal trends on a sustained, long-term basis, so that the public can see and hear the process that might lead into a crisis.

Michael J. O’Neill, former President of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, gave the above annual Carlos McClatchy Memorial Lecture, sponsored by Stanford University’s Department of Communication. Mr. O’Neill was Editor of the New York Daily News from 1975 to 1982; he has been a journalist for 30 years.
Adapted from:’Neill_Media_Power.html