Pandemic Diary: That Lost Sense of Justice, Equality and Fairness

The last time I ranted about this mega wedding, I never thought the scale was increasingly insane.

And now all heads turned to the social media faux pas of our head of state and minister of defense. They were attending and serving as the witnesses of the bride and groom. That should not be an issue but their attendance was announced on the official Twitter account of the State Secretariate. Should this wedding go this far?

An archipelago of paradox

Way to go, mr President and his former enemy…

A lot of mixed messages we have found so far from Indonesian public officials, politicians, celebrities and public figures.

I almost cried but why should I waste this precious tear for those who don’t even think of laymen’s feelings like me?

Again and again we are faced with these shameless display of violation of justice and fairness and paradox.

Sometimes this is why I turn pessimistic but there are times when I just let this go and keep my head high.

Moving forward.

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Pandemic Diary: The Philosophy of “Tahu Bulat”

“Bulat bulat lonjong lonjong

Tahu bulat dan kosong

Digoreng dadakan

Hangat hangat

Enak enak enakkk....”

That is exactly what you can hear around Jakarta when you see a motorbike with a small truck behind it, where a guy usually holds a spatula to fry round-shaped tofu in a huge pan.

They are mobile and moving from one spot to another, which needs lower business cost than setting up a fixed business establishment.

It’s a smart way to get away from the government and local ‘preman’ (an unemployed guy whose job is to offer a false sense of ‘security’ and charge money for this unsolicited service).

You can find these repeated voices of a man in narrow streets between tiny houses around the megapolitan.

The lines can be roughly interpreted as belows:

“Round and oval

Round and hollow tofu

Fried on the spot

Warm warm

Delicious delicious delicious…”

It is so hard to forget the lines even after hours.

Totally screw my mind and sanity.

I am not anti grassroot economy movement.

They are of course warriors during this economic malaise.

They are microbusiness folks that prove they can survive the pandemic storm.

But if you want to solemnly analyze the lyrics, they tell you something about what this nation is really.

They are round, which means they roll easily right and left, back and forward.

That is just the nature of a round object.

They swing too easily unlike boxes.

It’s a nation of inconsistency.

You can tell how the law treats justice seekers.

How the bureaucrats say something and what you find in reality is another thing.

They are also hollow, or empty deep inside.

This nation is looking for things to fill themselves in with something after they throw their own identities.

Dadakan“, meaning instant, reflects the mentality of the people and the regime.

Everyone seems to be willing to be famous quick, make money quick on social media.

Hardly anyone is willing to give a full dedication to hard and smart work.

And everyone wants to make a huge sum of money without even paying for the cost. (*/)

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Pandemic Diary: Terrorism amidst Pandemic

To what extent can you endure the pandemic effects?

With the overwhelming economic and mental effects, we definitely forget the potential of terrorism to tear this nation down.

But here we are, still struggling with the sluggish pace of vaccination, economic downturn, rampant unemployment, and getting hit by terrorist attacks here and there.

We heard this attack at a church in Makassar and then another silly and solo terrorist act committed by a 25-year-old female in the headquarters of Indonesia police.

No one was killed except the terrorists themselves but still they were just stirring fear and restlessness.

I have no idea what fear of Covid-19 and terror attack can do to our wellbeing. But of course that is nothing good.

What a pandemic life!

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Pandemic Diary: Falling for Cikaracak Waterfall

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Pandemic Diary: Children Are Smarter than You

Two older but ignorant people keep talking inside a train couch when it is not allowed to do so. But a smart boy keeps silent even when there is no officer around.

Recently there is this discourse about opening schools back.

In the upcoming academic year, the government is ambituously pushing teachers and school administrators to reopen their school gates for the first time after the pandemic.

But the thing is the speed of vaccination in this country is so slow even in the heart of Jakarta. So you can guess what happens in other areas.

Educators must be vaccinated and then schools are ready to open.

But then another issue comes up: how to regulate students?

Students are kids. They are not adults who can consciously keep their distance from each other, wash hands and keep their masks on.

Wrong!

I just want to say these adults are simply underestimating kids.

Kids know and practice what they know.

It is ignorant adults who know and then resist what they know.

Kids are destined to be observant. They copy adults’ behaviors.

If they see adults don’t wear masks in public, don’t wash hands after touching things or don’t keep physically distant from others, they get mixed message.

And if these kids disobey, it is their parents, their older siblings, uncles, aunts and other adults around them whom should be blamed.

In the meantime, I still believe that kids are the scapegoat. These pure souls just imitate the fucked up adults around them.

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Spread Too Thin

I’ve been asked about the podcast I initiated last year when the pandemic started to hit.

I just ditched the idea of podcasting since I’m not a speaker type of content maker.

I’m a texter. I love to text and type.

Speaking is not my domain and comfort area.

I can but I don’t feel extraordinary.

I also contacted a friend this morning to speak more about an opportunity of collaboration to build a blog together with him.

I know a niche that needs this knowledge and experience but I just didn’t have the right tools and partner.

I absolutely feel incapable of running this all alone. It’ll drive me crazy in just several months.

Together, I hope we can build stamina together.

We own the idea together and own the success or failure together.

Sharing risk is so important because my resource is also limited.

Of course I have many ideas to explore and materialize but I just can’t if I do it on my own.

Even if that’s my passion project.

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Pandemic Diary: No ‘Mudik’, No Cry

How much is our life disrupted by the pandemic?

I guess we can measure this scale of ‘destruction’ (or disruption?) by observing how much we have to change our habits as humans.

So again, this year we have to succumb to the virus.

‘Mudik’, a kind of Thanksgiving commute for the Americans, in Indonesia is also once again postponed. Or cancelled, which means it’ll be deleted from the yearly agenda.

I knew from the very beginning that this would just happen again.

But what annoyed me is that the government seems to be too slow to make a decision.

They were still indecisive about it several weeks ago when this discourse came up to the public.

And the sluggish progress of vaccination program definitely becomes one of the triggers.

Tears have dried up.

Angst has been exhausted.

It’s funny how I reacted to the cancellation.

I just sighed.

Relief? Or complete surrender?

Of course, (sh)it happens.

(Sh)it after (sh)it…

Relentlessly hammering my sanity but chill, you’ll survive, pandemic survivors!

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Pandemic Diary: Monetizing My Writing Skills

To survive this pandemic unscathed, I decided to more intensively monetize my writing skills by becoming a writing ‘whore’.

Sounds disgusting, but let me explain.

I’m always living ideally. Well, choosing this profession itself is an idealisme per se.

This pandemic has caused a lot of ups and downs in my life as well.

And it turned out writing religiously on this free WordPress blog won’t pay my bills.

I’m running out of resources and need to find ways to monetize things I have to help people with their problems.

I took the liberty to choose and try some things new out.

Hence, Substack.com and Karyakarsa.id (I can say it’s Indonesia’s Patreon.com).

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Yawatahama Sinbun’s Obituary

Yawatahama as seen from bird’s view (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Japanese newspaper was dying and it left legacies.

It was Yawatahama Sinbun, a local newspaper in Ehime Prefecture that got a lot of readership back in its heyday.

The dying newspaper was a sign of a dying small town as well.

The town of Yawatahama has become a lot quieter with fewer inhabitants (34,951 only as per 2015 census).

Shopping malls are closed.

And approaching its last edition, the local newspaper highlighted the spirit of the local awakening.

It’s hard to relate to such a story because Japan whose population is aging and shrinking is so different from Indonesia which is enjoying its demographic bonus.

Japanese sees fewer children, and as a consequence many elementary schools are closed. No students came in and studied.

Though the newspaper is now non-existent, it gives profound impact on the locals.

How It All Began

Their grandfather founded the newspaper in 1926. Its missions was to respond to its readers.

A lot of its news was about the locals’ happenings and incidents, which seemed trivial, such as fights between drunk men, girls who ran away from home, a cancelled wedding.

Kazuhiro who previously working in the male clothing industry began working for the newspaper 34 years ago after his marriage with Junko, his classmate.

He got used to the journalism industry gradually as he learned by running Yawatahama Sinbun.

He admitted that the gratitude that people gave him for publishing their news was amazing to him. The appreciation kept him moving forward.

How It Went

We are existent to support locals and offer hope for them, said Kazuhiro.

Kazuhiro wrote perhaps millions of articles for 33 years of working at the newspaper.

He was quite persevere as an old man. A job of a reporter is not easy but he did it fabulously till the end.

The newspaper was run by a couple of local old journalists. They are not certified or by any means, trained ones or graduated from a journalism program at a university. They are just third generation of the previous owner of the newspaper.

Junko, the wife, and Kazuhiro, the husband, literally ran Yawatahama Sinbun on their own every single day.

Journalism is hard and unforgiving. The couple must work hard from 8 am to midnight if necessary.

They had to stop operating the newspaper because Junko is not as fit any longer. She was ill and unfit for such toil.

How It All Ended

But sadly in 2017 Junko fell ill and had to undergo a major heart surgery, making her unable to do any strenuous work. That included working for Yawatahama Sinbun, which involved working for long hours every day.

They managed to find a replacement for Junko if necessary. But Kazuhiro realized it wouldn’t last long. Junko had to retire soon.

November 2019 saw their final decision to permanently stop the publication.

But what to do after the newspaper is gone?

The couple were clueless. Running a newspaper business was what they knew and did for many years.

The readership of Yawatahama Sinbun was quite large and constant for a local newspaper, achieving 3,000 copies for 3 decades.

The newspaper left legacies. Many readers still remember their first writeups and essays being published in the newspaper, and how it felt to read news that showed their names.

A sake business owner could not contain his regret. The business had placed ads in the newspaper for 80 years.

Yawatahama Sinbun was officially closed on December 27th, 2019.

It marked the end of its partnership with Yawatahama people for 94 years through thick and thin.

At the end of the publication, Kazuhiro stated that they wouldn’t bid farewell. They just ended the publication. That’s because an end is a new beginning, he wrote in his last column.

A month after the last publication, they worked on a new project: curating noteworthy articles from the newspaper for a book.

They intend to put the legacy to the hands of youths. (*/NHK)

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Pandemic Diary: The Government Pathetically Shows Mixed, Confusing Messages about “Love and Buy Local Products”

Every citizen has something to say about their government every single day regardless of the country they live in.

You cannot feel satisfied and content with your current government.

Imagine for example if you live in the US, you may be now lamenting over the increasing racist Anti-Asian tension in the country after some Asian women were shot.

In the UK, people may rant about the royal drama that has been at the center of spotlight after Megan Markle’s debacle at Oprah Winfrey’s.

Meanwhile, in China you may complain about the dictatorship of Xi Jinping’s regime despite the country’s marvelous economic achievement. They may be rich but are not enjoying much freedom as human beings who are known to be animals of politics (zoon politicon).

In Indonesia, we have our own issues. Our government recently sends out mixed and confusing messages about the president’s statement which incited comments whether we should not only love local, domestic products but also HATE foreign products.

Of course the president faced backlash. The public has seen him at a lot of public events sporting an Apple product such as iPad to support his online appearances.

And now a ministry stated that it’d import salt from other countries because the domestically produced salt failed to comply with international standards.

The president has instructed ministers to discover why it is so. But still no real solution is achieved to date. Sad.

It’s regrettable that salt producers felt disappointed and furious at the same time. Prices of domestic salt has dropped and while the government did nothing to help, they want to import foreign salt to the Indonesia’s market. I can understand they are mad as hell.

The government is accused of importing salt out of compulsiveness. Instead of real needs.

But to top it off, the government also stated it’d import rice when local farmers are celebrating harvest season this month.

I do comprehend their frustration. Indeed.

My heart and deepest sympathy go to every and each salt producer and rice farmer in the archipelago. (*/)

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Pandemic Diary: Indonesia’s Badminton Reputation at All England Gets Ruined by Coronavirus

Everyone seems to be angered following the decision that Indonesia’s team at All England 2021 must be isolated for days after it was found that a passenger taking the same airplane with the team tested positive for Covid-19.

Badminton is a big deal in this country. Just as big as soccer but badminton surely gives more prestige and real achievement at the international scale.

This year the dream of consoling the pandemic-ridden nation collapsed after the team suffered from an unexpected turn of event.

Indonesia, as far as I’m concerned, has so much pride when it comes to badminton. That’s almost what the nation has got. This sport is just everything they’ve got to brag about. Which is why they make so much fuss about this incident.

No other sports enjoys the same shower of attention in Indonesia like one that badminton has.

The sport has put the developing country to the equal podium just like other developed nations such as Denmark, Japan, China, and even the United Kingdom, a country of origin of the sport itself.

There must be something about badminton that makes it so unbelievably loved by lots of Indonesians.

Badminton turns into a face of the nation in the world. It is even dubbed “sport diplomacy” for Indonesia.

But the problem is badminton is a sport that shows the paradoxical nature of the nation.

(Almost) every Indonesian loves badminton but badminton so far is identical with Chinese-Indonesian figures from Rudi Hartono to Susi Susanti. If you may not be aware, Chinese Indonesians are not a majority group. They are usually marginalized and up to now they still have to face discrimination both subtle and overt ones. But guess what? They proudly represented the country that has treated them quite unfairly in life.

We know how Indonesia has become a lot more conservative and rigid these days. It has always been but the past years as we saw Ahok’s case and other public cases that showed shamelessly the violence, ignorance, hate and hostility towards minority groups, we cannot turn our face away from the fact that badminton in Indonesia is huge thanks to the merits of the minority group as well.

Another paradox is that the sport is supported by the most notorious yet lucrative industry in the country: cigarette. Years ago a cigarette company funded a badminton scholarship and some people were enraged about this. But long time ago, such thing had already been the norm. The cigarette companies are known to be a generous sponsor for badminton players and their young sprouts. Especially because the sport is not cheap indeed. If you want to go international, you have to build a good system to continuously produce quality players in a sustainable manner.

What I need to stress here is that Indonesian government’s favoritism over badminton has sometimes made other athletes from other sports envious. A lot. (*/)

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Pandemic Diary: Children’s Gadget & Internet Addiction Surges

ANOTHER day in the pandemic-ridden world, another issue coming up.

The more children are made to stay home, the more they are prone to internet and gadget addiction.

They have to learn online and they also find solace and entertainment through the internet.

Not because they want to escape from the real world but because they have no other options.

News emerged that there are some young children got addicted to gadgets. So addicted they have to be sent to nearby mental hospitals.

Another news showed a boy died after a prolonged use of gadgets and playing online games. News outlets said he died of nervous disorder, which is unclear.

Who to blame?

Their parents?

Or these poor little souls?

Meanwhile, a psychologist advised that they need to observe a schedule and parents had better tell them the importance of observing this timetable, or else they’ll get consequences.

Also, children need to get out and find some fresh air, and get physical as well.

Sounds easy but how you can tell children living in a tiny house in a slum area in Jakarta? They are not as lucky as their counterparts living in countryside with lots of open space and fields to play soccer on.

It also sounds easy to tell parents to give good examples by not using gadgets at home or after normal working hours but in the working from home scheme, parents are also unforgivingly pressured to be able to respond even at wee hours. So that advice is a bit insensitive and unfeasible for those parents working as corporate or startup slaves.

Another solution is signing them up at an internet detox bootcamp. This may turn these children wild and rebellious but they need to do it.

Internet addiction treatment, instead of Korean boyband content, is what Indonesians need to learn and adopt from Koreans. (*/)

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