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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sex and the City 2 (the movie)

There are several parts in this movie that attracted my attention most:
  1. Carrie's so-called 'scandal' to kiss Aidan
  2. Miranda's decision to quit from her job
  3. the private conversation between Miranda and Charlotte
  4. the way the scriptwriter ended the story

CARRIE'S kissing Aidan

I remember in one serial of SATC where Carrie and Big were not a couple, they had a date in California, when Carrie attended her first book reading. Big seemed so guilty toward Carrie when reading Carrie's first book entitled SEX AND THE CITY because reading one article to another article to another in fact made Big realize how he hurt Carrie's feeling. Carrie -- who had been horny since leaving New York and expecting to have sex with Big (Carrie chose to do it with her ex boyfriend rather than with any other guy, a stranger) -- thought that the book became her big obstacle to appease her lust. So when Big refused to do it because he was worried if he would hurt her more, Carrie said, "Oh come on, it it JUST SEX." Big responded, "But in your book you said, "it is NOT JUST sex ..."

I did not think that Carrie would be that troubled due to the kiss she had with Aidan, although she did it accidentally because they accidentally met each other in one traditional market in Abu Dhabi, more than 6000 miles away from New York, although their dinner was not done accidentally. Carrie could have refused the dinner invitation, but she did come to Aidan's hotel.

After the short 'accident' kiss, Carrie rushed back to her hotel and told her best girl friends. Miranda and Charlotte who were still having a heart-to-heart conversation about their being a mother, were just speechless, could not say a word. They were too shocked to hear it or to see Carrie's troubled facial expression after doing it? LOL. (joking ...) While Samantha who was still having relaxing bath to prepare herself before dating a hot Arab man, 'easily' said, "Don't tell Big! It is JUST A KISS." when Carrie said that she had to 'repent' by telling Big the truth because she did not want to have any secret between Big and her. It is sooo Samantha. LOL.

Carrie eventually told Big. And he was shocked.

MIRANDA's decision to quit from her job

Although I repetitively said (or wrote) in my blog about the definition of being a feminist is to have her own authority to make any decision -- for example to work professionally or to be a full housewife -- Miranda's decision surprised me.

I love Aidan's remark on Carrie, "You are anything but being traditional."

I think this remark was also appropriate for Miranda (as well as Samantha). I would not think that Miranda would quit to be able to attend a ceremony at Brady's school to make him happy.

MIRANDA AND CHARLOTTE's private conversation

This part is very feminist. LOL. or you can say humane. :) Both Miranda and Charlotte were mothers. So different from Carrie and Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte's days were full of taking care of babies. Miranda got Brady 'accidentally' because she did not plan to get pregnant. Charlotte was on the way around. Charlotte and Harry, her husband, tried hard to get a baby. They adopted their first baby, while the second one was their own.

"I really want to be a mother but then when having two babies sometimes I want to get rid of them. I need some private time to be on my own!" Charlotte said.

"That is very natural, don't feel guilty for that. I experience that too after I decided to quit from my job." Miranda agreed.

Absolutely I agree with these two good friends. Everyone is entitled to have some private time to be themselves, to do anything they want, such as to be with their good friends. In this case, it means I also agree with Big's idea to sometimes live separately from Carrie, although it does not necessarily mean they do it regularly, let's say like Big's idea, to live separately for two days EVERY WEEK.

One surprising thing from the private conversation was when Charlotte -- the most traditional one of the four -- said that she was even more worried to lose her nanny -- she was outstandingly a very good one, and her babies love her -- rather than Harry. Erin was illustrated as a very sexy woman with big boobs and never wore bra! Charlotte was somewhat offended when Samantha said that probably Harry would get attracted to Erin and cheat Charlotte. And Charlotte several times saw with her own eyes how Harry got stuck to look at Erin's boobs in several occasions.


I must say that I was disappointed to see how the scriptwriter ended each problem, especially Charlotte's problem with her nanny, Erin. The writer made Erin as a lesbian so that she would not get attracted to Harry at all. Why that simple? :-( (So, what do you expect Nana? Just like one sinetron in Indonesia? Despite the hot temptation, as a pious (probably?) Jew, Harry tried hard not to get attracted by Erin? LOL. And he successfully passed it. LOL.

That Big forgave Carrie for kissing Aidan was not a surprise. It was JUST a kiss and both Big and Carrie were grown-ups. The silly thing (seemed like teenagers anyway for me) was when Big asked Carrie to vow, "I will not kiss any other man but my husband." LOL.

That Miranda then found another job was very predictable.

And Samantha got hot and wild sex with that Arab guy was not a surprise. Samantha seemed to always get the same role, a very hot one. I adore her because I am not sure if I can be as sexually open as she is. LOL.

PT56 19.19 171010

Monday, September 20, 2010

Beliefs about God

In one session of my Religious Studies class, we discussed “Beliefs about God” in four religions: Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism. The previous week, we discussed “Beliefs about God in Christianity”. When getting the material, the students complained why they had to ‘study’ other religions than their own. (All of them adhere to Christianity except one student who said that he was an agnostic.) In Indonesia we have one well-known axiom “tidak kenal maka tidak sayang” or “if we don’t know one thing, we will not understand it, so we will not love it.” I used this as one reason.
In most schools in Indonesia, I am of opinion that the students get lesson about the religion they claim to adhere when registering, except those who study in schools that have label as Christian or Catholic or Islam schools. If a student studying in one Christian or Catholic school, although he or she is a Muslim, he or she has to attend Christian or Catholic class. Or if not the class, he or she is to attend the routine religious service. It also happens on the way around.
The school where I work now is an international school. This year we include ‘religious studies’ in the curriculum and we do not exclusively discuss only one religion.  I told my students that I expected them to understand the way people from other religions view their own religions, practice the religious teachings so that it will encourage mutual respect. Since most of my students are Christian and my background is Islam, we spent more time discussing these two religions. We just talked about Hinduism, Judaism, and Sikhism only based on the material I downloaded from
After the class was over, I asked my students to write a simple paper on their understanding of our discussion in the classroom. Below is one writing of my student who claims to be an agnostic.
There are many gods depending on the religions, so gods may vary. Since there are many religions, there are many gods. Since there are many gods, there are many swearing variations available (God xxxx it, Allah xxxx it) (please forgive my coarse language.)

Now to be serious.

Hinduism has many gods, there are three main aspects in this religion, and three gods. Brahma, the one who created everything; Vishnu, the protector in times of disaster or its like; and Shiva, the guy who blow stuff up. The main god, however, is called Brahman, the everything – except Indonesian community – is in him.
Islam, Indonesian’s religion and some terrorists, has one god, that is pretty much like a cheater in video games, and he is a pretty lonely guy too. He’s also got lots of nicknames. By the way, Islam religion’s heaven will never be entered by a guy like me because we have to remember Allah’s 99 names – 99 ARABIC NAMES! – we are screwed.

Judaism, like Islam, believes there is only one ***. It is but considered profane to use the nickname for their ***, so I will use ***. WOULD YOU PLEASE STOP IT? … Sorry for being satirical, this G-d is described as a pretty good guy, and that he is everywhere and can do anything, the prayer, Shema can give you an accidental feeling of being concentrating on Hashem’s something …

Sikhism, which I’ve never heard, has a god that is rather controlling, and has MANY names. Since I have limited knowledge of Sikhism, I will stop here.

Christianity, most abundant religions? Or just in Europe? It centers around god and Jesus Christ, but I have limited explanation except that it is not very different from other religions with the exception that the gods have specific names now, and a son too.

If I sound offensive to most of these religions, then I am sorry. I have never been feeling religious since the age of 10.

In the end, in my opinion, I believe that everyone should choose what they believe and tolerate others, but must not rely on their god, we must be independent, we are an entire species, after all. If we keep relying on beings above the sky, what will happen? And religion is currently hindering modern world, anyway. 

I opine that this particular student must feel lucky to have me as the teacher in his religious studies class. LOL. I just laughed loudly when reading his writing. Likewise, I also feel lucky to have him in my class. LOL. When the first time he said, “I think I am an agnostic, Miss. It is based on my own contemplation after reading books.” I directly told him, “Oh, we are on the same boat, then.” And since then on, we always have interesting discussion in this particular class. :) Before this, he was somewhat a quiet and shy boy to me. But recently, he is somewhat outspoken. :)

PBIS 12.25 080910

Monday, August 09, 2010


How can we know if there is something we call 'God'?

The second topic to discuss in my religion class was God's existence. The material to be discussed was from God. As you can see in the website, the discussion on whether God exists or not was viewed from Christianity. One student said that her parents taught her to believe in Jesus. She said that at the beginning, she believed in it only because her parents taught her so. However, recently, she said she believes in it wholeheartedly that only in Christianity she feels saved.

Below is a summary written by one student of mine.

In many cultures and religions, God is mentioned many times. God seems to be the entire reason a religion is made. There also many different representation of gods. He has become quite an important figure in the spiritual world.

In the scientific world, however, God's existence is challenged by the requirement of proof. Not many people can claim God does exist just by saying He should. The scientific way of truth is based on disproving lies and proving true physical claims, but cannot see spirituality.

It should be noted that in this world, much more people will believe something that has been proven physically, someone cannot claim a man with double joints once existed without proof.

That is the weakness of religions:: no proof. Therefore, God's existence cannot be truly proven. That is why I say I am slightly agnostic, I am not sure whether he exists.

Does he exist or not? Why doesn't he show himself literally to the entire world? Why the secret? Is he real? Why are there many of him? Too many questions, aren't there? Those are mine. If they all can be answered, I'll choose to be Christian, or atheist, or whatever comes to my mind, although then again, I am too lazy to do much.
When seeing the background of his spiritual life, although only a little -- his mother never seriously teaches him about religions. He claims he reads scientific books and not religious ones. Perhaps as this academic year goes on, I will be able to dig more about him. :)

I am absolutely on the contrary from him. My childhood was full of religious teachings, reciting Alquran, memorizing hadith, learning fiqh, etc. I must say that the teachings I got were very patriarchal; that is why as a child, in fact I got a bit hurt to learn that women were the weaker sex in the so-called truest religion, the most perfect one. My life experience as one victim in patriarchal society, combined with my spiritual experience, plus the readings I chose to read as an adult made me somewhat agnostic.

PT28 20.10 090810

Belief about God and Praying

The third week in my religion class, my students and I discussed ‘beliefs about God’. After we discussed the material I downloaded from this site , I led the discussion to the students’ weekly habit to go to church. There were only five students on that day. Three of them – girls – go to church every Saturday and Sunday. At first, their parents somewhat forced them to go to church. I am of opinion that this is the common way for Indonesian parents to introduce religions to their children. However, then, they admitted that after they grew older, they go to church because they want to; or even because they need to. Another student – a boy – did not remember whether he was forced by his parents to go to church when he was very little. The interesting thing from his experience is he said he often got bored when he was in the church. Yet, he feels sinful and he feels something missing in his life if he doesn’t go to church on Sunday. The last student – a boy – said that his mother never forced him to go to church. Nevertheless, he has experience to go to church for sure.

The following thing, I led the discussion to praying. “What does “praying” mean to you?”

Two girls said that they pray to God when they want some things to come true in her life. They believe that God is the only Being that can help them make their dreams come true. They also sometimes pray to God to say thanks to God after making their dreams come true. Another student – a boy – said that he hardly prays to God. He goes to church only to attend and listen to the sermons. One student – a girl – also said that she hardly prays to God. This is very interesting to me because during my experience as a so-called religious person, during praying five times a day, I mostly asked God to make my dreams come true; only sometimes I said thanks to God during my prays. :-p For me, praying five times a day – either at home or at mosque – is analogous with asking God to make my dreams come true. For this one student of mine, going to church does not always mean praying to God. Going to church means attending services only. Furthermore, she said, “For me, praying means communicating with God, especially when I have problems, I need someone to talk to, and God is the only Being I trust. This is very private and I usually do this at home, in my bedroom.” FYI, as far as I am concerned, she is an introvert person.

This is also very interesting to me because recently I start thinking that praying is none other than communicating with ourselves. What we dream will not come true if we do not do anything real as efforts. When the so-called religious people need a Being outside from themselves to talk to, I as a secular – or agnostic sometimes LOL – do not really need that Being outside me. I talk to myself! You can check my post at P R A Y I N G

When I said this to my students, one last student in the class – he admitted that he is an agnostic, the one whose mother never forced him to go to church – said, “Miss … I always talk to myself, most of the time.” Simply I said, “It means you ALWAYS pray!” LOL.

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Saturday, August 07, 2010

Truth in Religion Class

This academic year, 2010/2011, for the first time I am assigned to handle religion subject in my workplace. As the material to discuss in class, I download those provided at T R U T H Since this is an international school, we are not limited to discuss only one religion. However, because the six students in the eleventh grade are Christian/Catholic, according the personal information they gave the school, I decided to discuss Christianity first.

In the first week, we discussed TRUTH. As you can see from the abovementioned website, TRUTH is divided into five ways, aesthetic truth, historical truth, moral truth, scientific truth, and the last one is religious or spiritual truth. After we discussed it in the classroom, I assigned my students to write around a one-hundred word paragraph to answer the question “What do you know about truth?”

In this post, I chose two writings of my students that I considered outstanding.

In my opinion, truth is about reality and fact, something that is real and does exist. Why I say reality, it is something that is provable and shown and has truly happened with everyone agreeing in its existence; whether it is an event, an object, or a living being. Or Zeus.

In our current era, scientific truth is the most effective truth. Films are photos are no longer truth; mere words don’t always reach. Thanks a lot to photoshop. Other “truths” are not proving much, because modern era beliefs are far different from those the old era beliefs. Le prechaun, anyone?

However, the scientific truth has mostly brought down imaginations of the people; films get ridiculous, gets illogical, etc. for example, do aliens that are allergic to water exist? Will they attack earth which is ¾ water? Is this the truth? They are suicide.

The word ‘truth’ has actually lots of different meanings. When we hear ‘truth’ we generally think about facts that are proven and unbiased. As much as this definition is correct, it is not the only way we can define ‘truth’. Truth can also mean, especially in religion, something we believe in; or what we have faith in. For example, as a Christian, I may say that Jesus Christ is my ‘truth’, but there is no evidence that this is so; therefore non Christians may be skeptical about it.

In history, ‘truth’ has a slightly different meaning. Historians record what they think happened in the past from findings articles and artifacts. In a way, the historians create their own ‘truth’.

For me, though, personally, I think ‘truth’ is about what we know about ourselves, our beliefs, our world and our lives. It is what gives u a purpose to live.

Well, I must say that I enjoy this class perhaps because I consider my spiritual journey fulfilling enough. I want to share the similar stuff with those young students of mine.

Nana Podungge
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Tuesday, August 03, 2010


“Praying is none other than communication with ourselves.”

I happened to find this statement in one note of one online buddy on FB several weeks ago. A spiritualist, this is how he labeled himself. At that time, using my ‘present’ point of view I could see the ‘truth’ behind this statement. I don’t consider myself as a spiritualist though. As one can find in my profile information on FB, I wrote ‘a secular Muslim’ to label myself, although in practice, I am more to agnostic or deist. Anyway, what is labeling for?

In communicating with myself I can write in my diary, blogs, or even write to my loved ones – my other half, my good friends, even recently in statuses of my FB. I sometimes need my loved ones to reply what I have written. However, just writing to them something has been very fulfilling.

Or maybe not in the form of writing? For those who find writing difficult thing to do, just talk to ourselves, in our bedroom, in the restroom, on our way to somewhere (make sure still be alert to the traffic), when swimming, at the office (when you can spare time being alone).

Indeed, praying can be done anywhere and anytime. :)

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Monday, May 10, 2010

The Life Before Her Eyes

“The power of visualization can shape one’s own future.”

This movie – The Life Before Her Eyes – is based on the thesis above. Diana, Evan Rachel Wood, is imagining what her future life would be like after she listened to the speech given by one professor at her school, Paul McFee.

Diana is an imaginative, impetuous, wild teenager. After listening to McFee’s speech, Diana starts to visualize her future life. She is married to Professor Paul McFee, having one daughter, Emma, and she works as an art teacher. Contradictory from her life as a wild teenager, she visualizes her future life as a very ‘common’ woman in general, in a very common marriage life.

However, Diana cannot prove the thesis stated by the professor, that she can shape her own future by having strong visualization – that she would lead a very common life, like many other women on the globe. Diana is tragically killed in a Columbine-like shooting incident at her school. When the killing happens, Diana is in a restroom with her best friend, Maureen. After shooting many people around the school, Michael, the shooter, enters the restroom where Diana and Maureen tensely wait for their turn. Michael forces the two girls to choose which one to be killed. Maureen offers herself first. Michael then asks Diana why not her. She acquiesces and asks to be killed. She is then shot and dies; leaving Maureen shocked.

The interesting thing from the visualization, in my opinion, is that Diana visualizes herself as a very ‘common’ woman, a married woman, having a kid, working as a teacher, and her loving husband (eventually) is involved in an affair with a younger woman. Diana’s life as a teenager is different from Maureen who is depicted as a conservative girl. Diana exposes her curiosity in drugs and sex by having a relationship with a guy who likes her because she is a ‘courageous’ girl. The guy does not want to be responsible, though, after Diana gets pregnant, and let her solve the problem by going to the hospital herself to get abortion.

Nevertheless, Diana visualizes her daughter, Emma as having a personality trait like her. This makes herself feels very concerned.

Anyway, when finally Michael chooses to kill her, instead of Maureen, from her facial expression, one can see that Diana is depicted to die peacefully. She has saved her best friend’s life.

PT56 11.15 090510

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My Literature Classes

It all started from my favorite poem entitled AN OBSTACLE by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, then my (present) students labeled me as "a woman movement fighter". LOL.

Annually, every even semester I have two classes in one private university in Semarang: Poetry Analysis and Drama Analysis. As an acclaimed feminist, one can guess that I will choose some materials related to women in the two classes. Besides "An Obstacle", I discussed "Reassurance", which was also written by Gilman. I chose it when in the class discussing 'some poems written by the same poet' to recognize the presence of the poet in his/her works. For those who study Gilman's works, they will easily recognize that all of her works represent her ideas as one 'heroine' for equality, be it poems, articles, or short stories.

Gilman lived in an era (1860-1935) where many American women struggled for suffrage. Nevertheless, Gilman never involved herself in such a struggle because she believed that to make women equal with men, having rights to vote in general election was not enough. She opined that women had to get equal rights to work outside the home, as well as to bear their own name, instead of just known as Mrs. X.

To commemorate Kartini Day on April 21 (FYI, Kartini was chosen by Soeharto New Order regime as a heroine for her struggle to give women equal chance to pursue education) I chose two other poems to be discussed in Poetry Analysis class, "Dedication of the Cook" by Anna Wickham, a British poet, and "Women of My Color" by Wanda Coleman, an African American poet. The two poems illustrate different problems women face. Wickham questioned whether women could have their private time to do what they wanted – such as to “indite an ode or mend a sonnet”, to be a great poet – and not troubled by household chores. Meanwhile, Coleman described the unfavorable condition to be born as a black woman. It is obviously stated that African American women had to liberate themselves first from any stereotypes addressed to them, then they could join the white women’s struggle for equality with men.

In Drama Analysis class, I chose TRIFLES by Susan Glaspell. Although this play was written around a century ago, Glaspell sharply chose a topic that is still up-to-date nowadays. She narrated the way men viewed women, bothering ‘trivial’ things too much so that they were not as alert as men, while in fact, from those ‘trifles’ the two women in the play even successfully discovered the background why Minnie Foster murdered her husband.

One very favorable thing for me to teach literature classes: I choose any literary work through which I can expose my feminist perspective, to ‘awaken’ my students from the latent danger of patriarchal culture. :)

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My analysis on 'An Obstacle' is at

My analysis on "Women of my Color" is at

My analysis on "Reassurance" is at

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mother - daughter relationship

I just read an article on how parents –especially mothers – wrongly treat their daughters so that it will worsen the relationship between mother – daughter. To make it worse, it will make daughters lose their confidence to be women.

Click here (in Bahasa Indonesia)

The fact that many mothers becoming the biggest critic to their daughters is the main scapegoat. The criticism varies from a ‘trivial’ thing such as wearing ‘improper’ clothes and makeup (according to the mothers’ opinion of course), to the way how daughters comment on their mothers’ confiding in them, to what kind of guy daughters date, until the so-called ridiculous thing in this era – checking their hymen when those mothers find out that their daughters have already had sex out of wedlock and then force them to have hymen operation, in order to be ‘recognized’ as “pure” women when they have their ‘first night’ with their husband later on.

The first point: wearing improper clothes and makeup. Indeed it is true that those ‘mothers’ were also “victims” in their own era. For example when they did not wear ‘proper’ makeup and clothes, they were ridiculed by their contemporaries – let’s say schoolmates, college mates, or workmates. Their being inferior made them feel uneasy. Not being able to find the reason what made them uncomfortable, they took the negative comment to their heart. In fact, it didn’t need to happen like that if they had big confidence to be themselves: to wear clothes and make according to their own taste.

Not wanting their daughters to be ridiculed like how they used to be, those mothers keep criticizing their daughters. They force their daughters to follow the ‘trend’ or even worse, the way patriarchal culture stereotypes women’s appearance. They do not realize that their daughters are different from them. In fact, those mothers just need to be confident, and tell their daughters, “Be yourself, and be confident.”

The second point: the way daughters comment on their mothers. It is also believed that people tend to forget that nothing stays the same, era changes. When their daughters were still little, they tended to listen to anything their mothers said. After the daughters grow up, getting knowledge – both from school / campus or from their socializing with many people, they possibly have different ways of thinking from their mothers. When their mothers confide in them – for example how their husbands treat them badly – the daughters comment something that is perhaps inappropriate, or not to the mothers’ want, the mothers complain strongly, “Why are you so mean to me? Not like when you were a kid?” This then makes their relationship bad. The mothers accuse the daughters misunderstand them. Worse than this, these inferior mothers will threaten their daughters that they will not get a husband if they do not behave well.

Again, in this case, I see how marriage-oriented society – as a result of patriarchal culture – victimizes women.

The third point: judging the guy the daughters date. Instead of having an open heart-to-heart communication between mothers and daughters, there is a tendency that those mothers just judge the guy the daughters date. The mothers’ disapproval without giving clear reasons absolutely worsens the relationship. It will be worse when the mothers keep bugging their daughters whose age is considered to be ‘crucial’ to get married soon. “Don’t make me embarrassed because you are still single in this age. Get a guy and marry him.” However, when the daughters date a guy who is not to the mothers’ ‘taste’, they will be condemned.

Again, the patriarchal culture takes its toll!

The fourth point is the worst of all. In this era, like it or not, having sex outside the wedlock has become sub culture all over the world, including Indonesia. However, many so-called conventional mothers just think about their own ‘good name’ before the parents of the guy the daughter is going to marry. To be able to keep the daughters’ purity is still one thing making them proud to be ‘good parents’. Therefore when they find out that their daughters have had sex outside the wedlock, they will ask their daughters to have hymen operation. They don’t realize that it will even degrade their own self-esteem. Isn’t it better that those mothers – daughters have good and open communication so that they will understand each other well.

When viewing it from feminist point of view, sadly I must say that even in this era, patriarchal culture still strongly exists.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A spiritual teacher

I must say that my recent spiritual journey was not only very excitingly fulfilling but tiring as well. I recognized the beginning of my spiritual journey happened in 2003, the same moment when I got to know feminism ideology. I started to label myself ‘secular’ perhaps two years afterwards. For several years, it was going on very slowly but surely I suppose.

As I wrote in my post “My Spiritual Journey”, I underwent this journey all alone; I mixed everything I have read with my experience in life. I did not involve anybody around me at that time, except very few good friends to whom I talked about this matter. And they were just my good listeners and observers (of my behavior). :) But they did not take any important role.

Several days ago I found a status on FB about the quality of someone to be a ‘spiritual guru’ in someone’s spiritual journey.

“He/she is a ‘mursyid’ if anything he/she says gives you awakening, and that will make you a better human being. If not, just leave him/her because it means that he/she is just a fake ‘mursyid’” This was the status.

I commented that I didn’t have any but myself. “Too confident and narcissistic?” I questioned.
“No. It is ok. However, to avoid straying off to a very mistaken ‘interpretation’, someone had better be led by a spiritual guru. Make sure that he/she is the right guru. After that, follow him/her saying because a guru is a saint.”

I am really sorry to say that to me this sounded very ridiculous and stupid. I don’t need a guru!!! (Aha, what AE said about myself was correct: I am a spiritual snob. LOL.)

As I wrote in the beginning of this post, my recent spiritual journey has been very fulfilling and tiring. This was due to my encountering with many new online buddies on FB and many of them label themselves as ‘spiritualist’. Reading their statuses as well as their notes has made my facebooking activity enthralling; but at the same time they also absorbed my energy!!! Unconsciously, I have forced my spiritual journey run very fast (while for some years it went on slowly).

After for many years I just naively knew religious snobs from my ‘own folks’ (Islam), those online buddies opened my eyes that religious snobs come from any religion/faith. My research on ‘fundamentalist secularism’ some weeks ago made me aware that secularists can be extremist. There is a sucking opinion too when someone said in Indonesia, imported religions/faiths are not supposed to survive. (Abrahamic Faiths were ‘imported’ from Middle East countries, Buddha and Hindu were also imported, and so was Confucianism.) And everyone sounds annoyingly compelling. Why don’t they just adhere peace by respecting other people’s faiths? So that other people will respect theirs too? “lakum dinukum waliyadin” => your faith is your own business, my faith is mine.
And I am exhausted.
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Sadie and Maud

Sadie and Maud
Gwendolyn Brooks
(1917- 2000)

Maud went to college.
Sadie stayed at home.
Sadie scraped life
With a fine-tooth comb

She didn’t leave a tangle in.
Her comb found every strand.
Sadie was one of the livingest chits
In all the land.

Sadie bore two babies
Under her maiden name.
Maud and Ma and Papa
Nearly died of shame.

When Sadie said her last so-long
Her girls struck out from home.
(Sadie had left as heritage
Her fine-tooth comb.)

Maud, who went to college,
Is a thin brown mouse.
She is living all alone
In this old house.

Belonging to Genetic Structuralism school of Lucien Goldmann, I cannot separate the work from the background of the poet and the society when a certain work was produced. Brooks was born in 1917 in Kansas, and grew up in chicago. She herself divided her writing career into two phases, “pre-1967” and “post-1967”. In 1967 when she attended the Second Black Writers’ Conference at Fisk University, Brooks met a number of young black poets who persuaded her that “black poets should write as blacks, about blacks, and address themselves to blacks.” It means, after that conference, Brooks’ awareness of her being African American poet made her dedicate more time and work for Black society in America.

Gilbert and Gubar stated that although Brooks did not claim herself as a feminist, believing that racial issues must take priority over gender questions, she has always written with extraordinary sympathy about the dilemmas of female characters. This can be clearly seen in the poem I posted above “Sadie and Maud”.

Maud went to college.
Sadie stayed at home.

The first two lines in stanza one illustrated two sisters who choose different kind of life, Maud goes to college, to study for a betterment in her own future life while Sadie her sister chooses to stay at home. Living in an era where education is very important for someone’s success in life, one can directly conclude that Maud will have a better future than her sister Sadie.
However, if one jumps into the last stanza

Maud, who went to college,
Is a thin brown mouse.
She is living all alone
In this old house.

He/she will be surprised because things do not turn like what he/she expects. Maud is even lonely, all alone at home, feeling desperate about her life.
What happens in the process of those two sisters’ lives?

Sadie scraped life
With a fine-tooth comb

She didn’t leave a tangle in.
Her comb found every strand.

The lines three and four of stanza one illustrates that life is not easy for Sadie, for she does not go to college, she has to struggle to survive. “with a fine-tooth comb” can be interpreted as she chooses to use her physical beauty to survive. The first and second lines of stanza two depicts the continuation of the previous lines. Her struggle indeed makes her survive, she can handle every problem coming to her, with her own way of life that she chooses (by not going to college).

Sadie was one of the livingest chits
In all the land.

Lines three and four of stanza two illustrates that Sadie is the happiest girl in her community despite the fact that she has to undergo many severe problems in her struggle. Her struggle to survive by choosing “the best” life that suits her personality does make her happy.

Sadie bore two babies
Under her maiden name.
Maud and Ma and Papa
Nearly died of shame.

Stanza three describes one episode in Sadie’s life as “one of the livingest chits in all the land”. She has two babies outside the wedlock. Therefore, she makes her sister, Maud, and her parents very ashamed. Maud and her two parents obviously follow the consensus of “good girl” as required by The Cult of True Womanhood spread since the nineteenth century America that a girl must keep her virginity before getting married. Therefore what Sadie has done really makes them almost die because of feeling humiliated by society.

Does Sadie ever regret of her own choice—not to go to college, to use her physical beauty to survive, to have babies outside the wedlock? The following four lines in stanza four shows that.

When Sadie said her last so-long
Her girls struck out from home.
(Sadie had left as heritage
Her fine-tooth comb.)

Before Sadie dies, she “teaches” her two daughters to follow her step in their life, “Be yourself. Do what you think will make you happy. And be responsible with your own choice. Don’t just follow the consensus of “good norm” of society if you don’t feel happy with that.”
Since 1960s after the abolishment of Jim Crow Law in America, many African American people want to forget their “heritage” as Black people and start to follow the habit of the white (read => the European American). Many feel ashamed to do the “habit” of their parents or grandparents or older generations.

Brooks depicts Maud who follows the bulk of white women who go to college in that era, without realizing what it is for, without trying to like doing it, only as an “obligation” to be considered as “the educated” person. Doing something because it is an obligation without knowing the significance why doing it, without enjoying it will just make Maud—or anybody else—unhappy.
PT56 09.05 220407

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Fundamentalist Secularism

This article started from my old post entitled "My Spiritual Journey" that I reposted in my FB a few days ago. A dear good friend commented jokingly, "what a spiritual snob you are..."
I responded, "I am absolutely not a spiritual snob. An intellectual snob, well, yes you can say that again!"
She replied, "Well, yes, first cognitive then affective ..."
Jokingly I asked her, "Spiritual snob is different from religious snob, isn't it? You know, in our country, there are abundant religious snobs who believe that they are 'ahlul jannah' and the rest are 'ahlun naar'."
However, since she tried to be careful -- offending people in the networking sites can be considered a crime in Indonesia recently, and no longer just a misdemeanor -- she continued discussing this topic via personal message, or more popularly known INBOX on FB. And she introduced me to a (for me) new term, "fundamentalist secular".
My curiosity on this term made me do googling. And ... here is the article I promised her to write.

Term 'fundamentalist secularism' comes from two terms, 'fundamentalism' and 'secularism'. I will start from giving definition of terms 'fundamentalism' and 'secularism.
Wikipedia encyclopedia defines 'fundamentalism' as a belief in a strict adherence to a set of basic principles (often religious in nature), sometimes as a reaction to perceived doctrinal compromises with modern social and political life. The term has been generalized to mean strong adherence to any set of beliefs in the face of criticism or unpopularity, but has by and large retained religious connotations.
Furthermore, Karen Armstrong defines fundamentalist movements as 'embattled forms of spirituality, which have emerged as a response to a perceived crisis" -- namely the fear that modernity will erode or even eradicate their faith and morality. This concern is shared mostly by Fundamentalist Christians, Jews, and Muslims.
Secularism, according to Wikipedia encyclopedia, is the concept that government or other entities should exist separately from religion and/or religious beliefs. In one sense, secularism may assert the right to be free from religious rule and teachings, and freedom from the government imposition of religion upon the people, within a state that is neutral on matters of belief, and gives no state privileges or subsidies to religions. In another sense, it refers to the view that human activities and decisions, especially political ones, should be based on evidence and fact unbiased by religious influence

So, what is fundamentalist secularism?

Tobias Jones, the author of “The Dark Heart of Italy”, in stated that "Secular fundamentalists are the new totalitarians*". He cited an example of the hijab ban in French schools. The government doesn't give any space for their citizens to practice their religion freely. Another example cited by Jones was when the government considered the wearing of crucifix or a veil or a turban as offensive to other faiths.
It reminded me of a topic discussed when I was in college. In 1620 the early immigrants left England and sailed to North America, on the ship 'Mayflower'. In the 'newfoundland' they formed Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts. They did this because they could not practice the religions they adhered to freely in the home country. However, when they succeeded establishing a new 'country', they did the same thing: they forced the settlers to follow the religion of the chosen 'ruler'. When a group of people didn't accept the rule, they had to move to another area, or they would be hanged to death.
Does fundamentalist secularism only exist in the western countries?
I observe that this secularism thrives everywhere, including in Indonesia. Indonesian government is not a secular one. Indonesia is not a Muslim country either although it has MUI that obviously has interfered the citizens' lives by issuing some ‘useless’ fatwas, although some provincial governments have issued some 'unfriendly' (and sadly misogynist) Islamic (or other religious) bylaws. However, I guess there are abundant people (I know via internet) in Indonesia claiming themselves as secular, thinking that the government should separate itself from any religions' teachings, the government should respect citizens' freedom either to adhere a religion or not. Secular people -- I am one example -- do not mix their religious beliefs with their daily routine. They also believe that people must respect each other's religions, no judging that other people will go to hell only because -- let's say -- they are not praying five times a day (for Muslim) or not going to church (for Christians) etc.
Referring to my post "My Spiritual Journey" where the main theme is "there is no such chosen (or best) people (to go to heaven)", I recently have recognized that these secular people -- perhaps I am also included in this case -- start to ridiculously think themselves as the "best" one. They start to laugh at other people who adhere their religions rigidly, they consider people praying together to alleviate their sufferings as fool. They have lost their empathy. They no longer respect other people's faiths.
From some examples above, let me conclude the definition of ‘fundamentalist secularism’. It refers to the concept that government or other entities are separate from religion so rigidly or strictly that until a certain rank it eradicates the existence of religions, or more hostile it regards religions – and their adherents – evil.
As a secular Muslim, I want to end this article by citing one famous verse in Alquran, "lakum dinukum waliyadin" -> your religion is for you, my religion is for me. In a wider sense, it can be interpreted as “whatever faith (that I consider having broader sense than ‘religion’) you have, or even if you are agnostic, deist, nihilist, or atheist, keep remembering that difference is beautiful, respecting other people is necessary, being empathetic to other people is awesome.

Nana Podungge
-- the secular Muslim --
PBIS 12.12 190210

* (Totalitarianism = a form of government in which the state controls all phases of the people's lives. Totalitarianism allows only one party, headed by an absolute leader. He maintains his power over the party and the rest of the people by force and violence. Freedom of religion does not exist. => "The World Book Encyclopedia)

Tuesday, February 02, 2010


The disappointment I got from the religion I have adhered since I was a little kid -- due to the unfair treatment towards women and got the 'answer' from the feminism ideology -- easily made me feel 'awakened' when I came to read articles quoting anthropologists' statement that religion was a mere creation of human beings.

(Have you heard what African American said in the nineteenth century? "We were of opinion that Adam was the first white man in the world. He brought injustice to the Black people." You can relate this statement tot the fact when the White enslaved the Black for centuries in America. Worse still (for Muslim people especially) one lecturer of mine said that the Arab people (in which we can find those people who feel that they are the chosen ones since the three celestial religions were passed down in their areas) were the ones who brought the slavery to American continent. I believe Muslim people still remember the story of Bilal -- the first slave who converted to Islam. It shows that Arab countries had practiced slavery many centuries earlier before America -- the so-called country that always supports equality among human beings -- did this really inhumane act.)

Anthropologists also stated that Adam was NOT the first human being in this world.
I believe that human beings have two contradictory characters in them -- good and evil. What will make a person good or evil depends on whether he or she is able to control those two sides; whether they will listen to their intuition to be good people or their greed to be evil.

Some super genius people realized this and they wanted to 'help' maintain the peace in the world by creating the so-called religion complete with the teachings, including the belief in heaven and hell. The teachings brainwashed people's mind that they will go to heaven if they do good to others meanwhile they don't forget to worship the Almighty. Contradictorily, if they do bad things -- let us say creating bad impacts toward society -- plus keep forgetting to worship God, these people will go to hell. Heaven is portrayed as a place where all comforts exist while hell is on the way around. This makes people -- who are easily brainwashed -- so scared if they will go to hell.

One teaching in Islam (I don't know other religions' teachings, so as one example I took one teaching in Islam, the religion I have adhered since I was a little kid, and I still choose to adhere after I baptized myself as a secular, since if you live in Indonesia, it is a must to adhere one religion to be printed in your identity card LOL) is about praying five times a day. Surah Al-ankabuut verse 45 stated "praying five times a day will prevent human beings from doing evil things." This verse made Muslim people brainwashed that the avoid doing evil things, they NEED to pray five times a day. In another word we can say that they are not really confident that they will not do harmful things to others if they do not pray five times a day regularly. They do not believe in themselves that they will not do evil thing if they do not rely on one teaching in the religion -- PRAY. And they are also brainwashed that those who do not pray five times a day regularly have lower rank because they are believed to be prone to do evil. In other words it can be stated that human beings are not trusted that they can use their common sense and have high self control to do good or bad without applying what is stated in that verse. In Arabic, this is called 'hablum minannas' -- relation among human beings.

In 'hablum minallah' -- relation between human beings and the Almighty -- who needs to pray or to be worshiped? Many Muslim people think that the Almighty created human beings to worship the Almighty. It means that the Almighty is believed to be angry when people in the world do not worship the Almighty. Those people forget that in this case they have humanized the Almighty!!! The Almighty will get offended if human beings do not pray to the Almighty and will ask those people who do not pray to move out of the earth and other planets in the Milky Way.

Surah Al-ankabuut verse 45 is closely related to Surah Al-maa'uun verses 1-7. This can be translated as "those who pray five times a day will be doomed if they do it only for show off, and they are reluctant to help others." It is clearly seen that the Almighty has given more emphasis to 'hablum minannas' than to 'hablum minallah'.

However, we can find more people thinking that this teaching --praying five times a day -- is more to 'hablum minallah', more people do this only because they are scared to be put into hell. And also more people believe that they are the chosen ones because they pray five times a day while they still do evil thing to others. It is because they are brainwashed that their praying five times a day will 'erase' their so-called misdemeanour.

Going back to the main topic of this post. Those super genius people who created religions to help maintain the peace in the world were just creatures who could not always predict what would happen in the future. Many people who learn their Holy Books without trying to find relations among the verses to come to a thorough understanding -- that must control people's negative side and maintain the peace among human beings -- even come to an interpretation that ruin the peace. They believe that their religion is the rightest -- so that they feel that they are the chosen ones -- and they have rights to diminish other people.

Can we control our negative side in ourselves by relying on our common sense without those so-called holy verses who were just created by human beings?

-- Nana Podungge, the agnostic --
PBIS 11.30 02.02.2010

The picture was taken from this link

"This is Ibu Agus ..."

NOTE: In Bahasa Indonesia the word 'Ibu' is a label addressed to respected women regardless their marital status. It is followed women's first names. In my case, for example, it is very common for people to call me 'Ibu Nana'.

A few weeks ago, a female workmate of mine -- her name is Prima Siska -- got married. She took some days off after her wedding day. On the first day she came back to the office, a male workmate of mine greeted her, "Ibu Agus ... how are you today?" The female workmate of mine did not respond it because the other one is known as a playful guy.
Several days ago, I got an email from a good friend. Out of the blue she was wondering if -- as an acclaimed feminist -- I will let other people call me using my husband's name (for example 'Ibu Didi', well at the moment my boyfriend's name is Didi, but at other time it can be any other name LOL) when I get married again later.

I heard that the custom for Indonesian people to adopt the family name of the husband to be mentioned behind a woman's name after getting married was brought to Indonesia by the Dutch colonial government. The so-called 'real' culture of Indonesian people do not recognize the practice of 'annihilating' the existence of women only due to marriage. Even, one lecturer of mine said that in Javanese culture -- or perhaps only in Jogja culture since this lecturer of mine is from Jogja) several decades ago, a new married couple would leave their both maiden names and then they would choose one new name to be used by both of them.
That a colonized country adopts the culture of the colonizer is taken for granted. Even there is a tendence that the colonized country will consider everything from the colonizer better, more modern or more advanced. To adopt the husband's family name behind a woman's name after getting married is included. For those who live in areas where the people do not use family name -- like in Javanese culture -- married women will be called 'Ibu' plus the first name of the husband, such as 'Ibu Agus ..." My female workmate's husband's name is 'Agus Sulistiyo'. (NOTE: 'Sulistiyo' here is NOT a family name.)
I was amused by my mother's experience relating to this addressed name. In 1970s when my family lived in an area where the inhabitants were included into the low class society, neighbors called her own name -- Ida -- plus 'auntie' at the front. (NOTE: In Indonesia, mostly in Javanese culture, it is very common to call the married female neighbors 'auntie' while the married male neighbors 'uncle'.) My mom was popularly-known as 'auntie Ida' in that area. Meanwhile, when she got involved in any gathering held by my dad's office -- attended by the wives -- my mom was called 'Ibu Muien Podungge': my dad's name. Her own name -- Ida -- was not known.
When our family moved to another area in 1981, my mom was also called as 'Ibu Muien'. Then I recognized the 'trigger'. The inhabitants there could be included into the middle class society.
To conclude it, women who belong to the middle class society, they will get the annihilation of self existence after they get married.
This conclusion is supported by what happened in the low class society of American women in the nineteenth century. In her poem entitled "Ain't I a Woman?" Sojourner Truth complained the unfair treatment to low class women, moreover she was black. ((Click ) Besides, Mary Ann Fitch Wescott, the mother of Charlotte Perkins Gilman (one feminist author living in 1860-1935), the author of "The Yellow Wallpaper", chose to stay at home, instead of working outside, because she felt that she belonged to the middle class society, although her husband left her with her two kids, that meant she had to depend on her relatives to support her own life and the kids. In the nineteenth century, "the Cult of True Womanhood" -- one tenet was the domestication of women -- was only for middle class and upper class women.

Going back to the case 'Ibu Agus ...' or 'Ibu Didi ...', I work because I want to work, to actualize myself, as well as to share the knowledge I have with others, not merely because I am a feminist. Nowadays, women working outside the house do not exclusively belong to the low class women. While for nicknames, well, I agree with what Shakespeare said, 'what is in a name?' I respected women who proudly use their husband family name behind their name, and leave their maiden name, as long as it is their own choice. I believe they have their own ways to actualize themselves. Even if they are willing to annihilate their self actualization, I respect it. In other words, I also demand other people to respect my choice if I still want people to know me as 'MS NANA PODUNGGE' or just 'Ibu Nana' when I get married again later.

Nana Podungge
PBIS 14.34 02.02.10

Check my other posts about 'family name'

Monday, January 25, 2010


A couple of days ago I read a very interesting article in JP, the title is “Literature boosts Gus Dur’s spirit of pluralism” written by Setiono Sugiharto. In short, the article tells us that reading literature can maintain the idea of pluralism proposed by – one of pluralism scholars in Indonesia – Gus Dur.

The article reminded me of one class I joined when I was in college “American Multiculturalism”. The professor assigned us to read various kinds of literary works – mostly short stories and poems – written by many American authors from different tribes, such as Native American (e.g. Leslie Marmon Silko’s “Yellow Woman”), African American (e.g. Zora Neale Hurston’s “Sweat”), Mexican American (e.g. Sandra Cisneros’ “Woman Hollering Creek”), Chinese American (e.g. Amy Tan’s “Two Kinds”), until one poet who was born in Indonesia, Li Young Lee; we discussed his poem “Persimmons”. We absolutely also read works written by white American, such as Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where are you going? Where have you been?” The main objective of this class is to provide the students how rich American culture is, and of course also to respect those so-called marginalized authors’ works. America is indeed multicultural.

Going back to Indonesia. After the fall of New Order regime, we can find more various kinds of books – read it novels – written by authors from different ethnic as well as religious groups. It means Indonesian people are more exposed to their own country’s multiculturalism. (However, this ‘freedom’ has recently been stained by the banning of books. SBY followed his predecessor’s way to maintain his position?)

However, we must not forget that in Indonesia books are still considered very expensive so that not all people can afford to buy books. Besides, the interest in reading among Indonesian people is still very low. Not to mention if teachers at school do not read a lot. How can they suggest what books to read by their students? Moreover, if those teachers are not ‘plural’, or do not respect multiculturalism.

Absolutely Setiono Sugiharto’s idea is very good. The implementation needs work hard. Schools as well as public libraries must provide more various kinds of books. Teachers of ‘Bahasa and Sastra Indonesia’ must increase their readings so that they can suggest their students which books to read to increase their awareness of the existence of multiculturalism in Indonesia. Media must help by providing articles written using point of views which support pluralism.

PT56 21.51 24.01.10