What Jokowi Needs to Learn from Soeharto (Hint: Book Lovers will Agree)

‎As the honeymoon phase is slipping away, Jokowi has been getting bombarded with criticism (out of varying levels of disappointment) from some people around him.

And now it’s my time to do so.

It’s been almost 7 months since Jokowi started to reign. Overall, I approve of almost all his steps (with the KPK-Police tug war as an exception).

As a book lover (and a hopeful writer wanting so much to get published), however, I feel deeply concerned with Jokowi and his regime’s ignorance of the importance of publishing and book industry (one significant part of Indonesian creative industry which the president once promised to help flourish) . Not to mention authors’ welfare. Knowing Indonesian author N. H. Dini (and the majority of Indonesian authors) living in such a way makes me think a zillion times before plunging into the ocean of publishing industry full time. ‎

A fellow writer and publisher Bambang Trim today fretted on his blog about his concern, which we also have in common, saying that Jokowi and the related ministry seem to pass National Book Day on May 17th with nonchalant abandon.

For your information, the special day was set by President Soeharto, reasoning that Indonesian Republic National Library was founded on May 17, 1980. The day, Bambang wrote, is also commemorated as Indonesian Publishers Association (IKAPI), born 65 years ago.

Bambang compared Jokowi to Soeharto, commenting the current president ( and leaders after Soeharto, too) have done very little — if any — for the progress and betterment of the domestic book and publishing industry.

On May 2, 1973, Soeharto even invited IKAPI staffers to Bogor Presidential Palace after having declared 1972 as International Book Year. At the time, Ajip Rosidi chaired the organization. “I do hope all of you can come up with well-planned and neatly-conceptualized suggestions needed for the development of our nation,” the smiling general told them at the banquet in response to the meager number of books published in the country.

Soeharto walked his talk. He poured some funding which later was used up to found Yayasan Buku Utama. The foundation selected the best teenagers book on an annual basis, told Mr. Rosidi.

Of course, we may not overlook Soeharto’s censorship and book bans and most importantly, freedom of expression and press markedly lower than freedom of it during the subsequent regimes.

Another milestone was Kongres Perbukuan Nasional in 1995 but sadly soon after the monetary crisis hit Indonesia, the future of book and publishing industry turned hazy.

Aside from that, we should see whether Anis Baswedan can be as daring and innovative as Fuad Hasan when it comes to this issue.

And this explains very well why there is much disappointment arising after Indonesia came out as the guest of Frankfurt Book Fair recently. Some said it was quite pathetic because it wasn’t well prepared.

(image source: ayojokowiaja.blogspot.com)

I Told You Kindle Won’t Win!

An Instagram account is trying to romanticize the joy of reading books. By books, it means real books with paper sheets and covers you can touch and rip and write on.

A friend mocked me, sometime ago, that I should’ve bought Kindle instead. He thought my collection of books in the bed room is so yestercentury. Well, there might be a strong reason I dispel the idea of getting myself a Kindle. Yeah, Kindle books are cheaper but still I can’t let go the joy of grabbing physical books.

So this Instagram account is made for guys who read apparently. But you’ll find no Kindle users because you must read physical books to be published on this account.

Such a great idea to make more people go to bookstores and read! And yes, reading makes men sexier in an unexplainable way.

Lessons from the Book Launch

The coach mentioned, as long as my memory serves right, about this site called future.me. As he told in an exuberant manner on why everyone should visit the site and write down to his own future self, I got a shiver.

“You can write down your own life plans there to your future self. And what matters most is that… y’all will get the plans in your email inbox at the specified time. So if you set it to be sent 10 years from now, you’ll get the email 10 years from now. As simple as that. So if you cannot rach your desired goals, you’ll be so sorry. That means you suck and you must work harder and find the answer as to why you suck in this life,” the coach extolled the undertaking of planning life.

The audience kept silent. They moved nothing. Their eyes might roll in bewilderment. “What this ambitious, seemingly successful and wealthy young man was trying to tell us?”they might think.

I was stunned by this. Do we really have to think that way? Do we need to insult ourselves in the future just because we fail to achieve the objectives in our 10-year, or 20-year, life plans? Some people think we do.

I don’t, however.

I’m not that mad to plan my life in such a way. Not because I don’t have any ambitions in life. Not at all. I do have a list of ambitions. I want to get published a lot. I want to meet great people. I want to write books and anything useful for others. I want to have more freedom in life, making choices and taking responsibilities. I want to have my own family someday. I want to enrich my life with yoga, whether it be teaching or practicing. I want to be happy, ample and free. And the list goes on.

But life doesn’t always go your way. You cannot control life anyhow, no matter how great you are. Life is too powerful to conquer and to be controlled.

All these years, it has dawned on me that being a human being means accepting the fact you’re microscopic cosmic dusts in this infinite universe. Seriously, we in fact almost means nothing. Whether we exist or not, the world keeps going as it has to be. The sun keeps on shining even if your most beloved ones are dead. The Milky Way is still up there even if it’s time for us to leave this world. We’re really a mere complement to this world. Not more.

That said, I arrive to the conclusion that life always offers you failures. But some failures are not real failures. This type of failure leads us to a better life at times. What seems to be bad luck sometimes changes into an unbeaten, hidden path leading us to a higher level of life achievement which you didn’t even plan or never cross your mind before.

So when my future self receives the email in 2025, I might crack a smile and write a satire of it. Because it feels like I read a letter from a childlike version of me. Life so far has taught me how fast humans can change their minds, their beliefs, their spouses, their careers. And chronicling it enables us to track down the development of our foolishness.

I may lose some things in life but it doesn’t mean I’m a total loser. So long as I do my best in life, how can I become a loser?

To the coach, I wish I could say this:”Get a life.”

But thank God I held my sharp tongue. He’s still in his twenties. I hope he learns a lot over time.

Books Lee Kuan Yew Loves to Read

Your favorite books reflect who and what you are. As for Lee Kuan Yew – the architect of Singapore – the list of books he loves to enjoy comprises biographies of interesting people.

“I am not attracted to novels — make-believe, or recreations of what people think life should be,”stated the 91-year-old statesman‎.

He is obviously a man of logic, rather than of imagination. That’s why he wouldn’t be entertained by reading fictitious works.

To Write More and Better, Get Disconnected. Totally.


I once said to my friend that being a writer means one should get cerebral. That entails the endurance of sitting all day long (or standing if you have that standing desk), working alone, without being and feeling lonely because one is much too busy, engrossed with and accompanied by all the intellectual work.

When I write, everything else comes second. That brings the consequence that I ought to entirely disconnect myself from the outer world. It keeps the mind laser-focused. Think only one thing on your mind and do write about it without hesitation, without fear or anxiety that you have neglected other things and people around you. Don’t bother thinking about the chats you can’t reply right away, the texts your parents sent, the phone calls your employer or client did to reach you. All these things can wait. Once again, they can wait. If you say they must wait, they’ll wait. It’s just a mind game. Be the master instead of the slave.

That said, I always try to write offline. Like now, I am typing on my BlackBerry without the mobile network turned on. Or if I find a desk, I’ll sit and work on my laptop without getting connected to the wifi or internet connection so I won’t be disturbed anyhow.

Schopenhauer’s Porcupines Theory (A Secret to Happiness?)

Below is the transcript of a footage titled “This Emotional Life” by Elizabeth Gilberth. I find this nice and profound in meaning, thus I publish it here. Hope you all like it, readers.

“Schopenhauer in his book had a theory of human relationships. That was about porcupines. And he used that as a metaphor when he said, “In love and relationships with, woud that be our family, our spouses, our friends, we are all of us on this earth.” Because we are so uncomfortable with our emotions. That all of us are like porcupines which are out in a cold winter night. And they get cold, and they need to huddle together for warmth. They crave connections. They crave warmth. So they come together. And then they prick each other because they have these horrible spines. And it’s painful. And so in order to avoid the pain, they retreat,and then they get cold so they come together and then they get spined, so they retreat. And then they’re cold. And they come together. And this dance of intimacy is what defines our relationships with everybody we encounter. They need to be close. That is followed by needs to be separated in order to protect ourselves from the inevitable hurt that happens when you get too close. And Schopenhauer didn’t have much remedy for that. He didn’t think that it was really gonna end. He saw that as a need to human nature. What he suggested is that those who had learned had generated their own warmth were able to keep the safest distance from the other porcupines. Well, that didn’t mean we have to live a life in isolation. It just meant not impelling yourselves on other people. So you have that critical little space, in which you’ll feel a little bit self-contained to create your own warmth, your own sense of humanity, so that you could be close without being stabbed. The path of that is called a secret to happiness as anything I’ve ever learned. “

I Read a Zillion Books. So What?

“Books are good enough in their own way, but they are a poor substitute for life.”- Robert Louis Stevenson Once I met a digital entrepreneur. He was a smart young man. Extremely erudite with wealthy parents and strong educational background in business and marketing and so forth. We chatted and sat at a similar desk. Like many other digitally obsessed youths, we said hi in brief, smiled at each other and a moment later we had our eyes glued to our smartphone screens. It wasn’t because we didn’t like each other but we were on Twitter searching for each other’s handle and immediately follow one another on it. Megain Widjaja, this young man, seemed particularly made a great point to ponder when he appeared on stage that day and said,”You entrepreneurs are to read a lot to keep up with the latest knowledge yet please do not stop there. Read and then discuss, so there’ll be more and more brilliant ideas coming out”. He bluntly stated the reading habit alone will not ever get us anywhere. We have got to do something about the knowledge and vicarious experiences learned. I also found his proposition on reading is right. Cannot agree more on this. Reading is one thing and doing is another. I love reading and we all must in fact but avoid being too engrossed with books and forget our real lives. So the best practice would be how to learn more and more from piles of books to enrich our minds and souls and bring all these ideal notions in mind into practice.

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