As I finished my high school diploma and getting ready to pursue a bachelor’s degree in political science, I encounter quite a large number of people in my age being abudantly worried and confused of which college major is worth to choose and eventually choose certain major based on job prospects. While I understand where this consternation comes from, given the fact that we need to earn a decent income to live comfortably and to survive in this crazy world, I’d argue that this mindset is not best one to embrace, at least for me.
For one thing, choosing a college major based on future job outlook tends to be quite stressful. Pursuing fancy majors and therefore having ‘respected’ jobs and good money, the idea that the society dictated us to have, is what I think as one of the reason to why depression has surged to epidemic levels in recent decades as it has impacted millions of people. In the midst of complexities of modern life, with all its pressure, many people see life as a showroom, where your job and status define your worth as human being. I see this as a societal/psychological challenge we have to tackle for the better future.
There was this ineffable, weird, ambiguous, and hazy sensation that I’ve been experiencing for the past 5 years, probably it was after puberty hit me, and I definitely thought myself insane as I was quite sure that nobody would feel this particular sensation like I was. This strange temporary sensation enters my mind whenever I went traveling and having to see a row of great mountains of Alborz, the tropical landscape in Lombok, watching the vast night sky from my house’s attic window and million of stars that are moving at a million miles a day, huge skyscrapers in a city or whenever I’m watching some cinematic nature videos that’s showing the splendid and grandeur of god’s creations that beyond all the possibility of calculation or imitation. I get this feeling even more tensely when I think of the galaxies in our universe, how it can be so huge to the point where humans didn’t discover all of it yet.
It made me feel that my existence, human activities and interaction, are so insignificant as all of this big things around us would keep turning, moving, and existing even without us here.
I was actually not really interested in attending motivational events, unlike my mom. It is inspiring, of course, but somehow I thought such event was not really helpful and effective in improving my life in the long term. But then I thought maybe it was because I hadn’t found the appropriate one yet, until someday I joined a public speaking class (which is also a motivational event) that coached by Om Prasetya M. Brata and Pakde Prie GS. That was like a turning point in my life in general, eventhough the topic was simply about how to speak well in front of people and to elevate writing skill to a whole new level (and I forgot to post anything about this cuz I’m a horrible procrastinator yuhu! *high-fiving my fellow procs).
And just two days ago, I attended an event called TOSS Idea. Basically, there were 21 speakers with variety of expertises sharing ideas dan knowledges (all in english), each for 10 minutes. I wasn’t afraid that I might not understand their speaking, because as long as it’s not in british and indian accent, it’s all right (you know, I don’t understand a word in Harry Potter films without reading the sub).
The event was held in Intitut Francais Indonesia that located inside the Embassy of France. The auditorium of the event was relatively small but really nice and comfy. The audio and stage lighting system was also seem professional and fancy.
By the way, I’m not gonna review all the speeches (there were 21 of them duh). I’m just gonna write some of the ideas that I personally relate to and inspire me the most.
Hello there! It’s been a while since I posted any English article here. Now I’m going to review a book that I bet would make you hypnotized with its unthinkable ideas! 🙂
Before jump to the point, I’m going to tell you first how did I get this book and intrigued to read it over. It was all started because of philosophy. As you guys know I recently have been writing articles about philosophy on my blog (in Bahasa), and it might continue until part 15. It is so addicting to know the deep meanings behind all the things around me. It has changed my point of view towards the world. All I see around me; the people, universe, God, the living and dead creatures, my mind, consciousness, even my faith are not the same anymore (it doesn’t mean I become an atheist. Some people think studying philosophy will make you turn into an atheist because it’s sometimes questioning about God or criticizing religion, but I assure you, it’s not true. Instead, being critical about God and receiving good answers will make you understand Him and His existence more.)
Philosophy leads me to know more about universe.
I, myself, never doubt that universe is the most beautiful yet mysterious thing ever. When the first time I visited Bosscha Observatory, I completely fascinated with the night sky. I couldn’t imagine how vast is the heaven; how come our earth with this enormous size can be look so tiny compared to other stars; how did the universe begin—and how will it end; is it infinite or finite? It was too difficult for me to understand amount of scientific theories that try to explain the whole secret behind universe.
One day, I had a friend that lent me a book called Parallel Worlds written by Michio Kaku. I have heard that name before. I guessed he’s a famous physicist because every time I searched a science documentary film on youtube, he’s quite often appeared on the video list.
After reading Andre Vltchek’s book about Indonesia, Archipelago of Fear, I began to stalk him on social media, reading his biography on wikipedia and many of his articles about problematic countries from all around the world. What was in my head after discovered all of those stuffs, then? I was so inspired and started to think that I want to be like him. Furthermore, I felt like I’m obligated to. There are people somewhere on this earth who really needs me right now and in the future. The people who suffers, whose rights have been taken away, whose being tortured by greedy-rich people. Despite the fact that I fortunately born in a middle-income family so I can get a decent education, I surely have responsibility to help other people who can not live as lucky as I am.
Reading a bunch of his articles about Indonesia and other developing countries, I realized that being a journalist like Andre is not an easy job. Physically, it must be very tiring. But I think the most terrible thing is the mental and emotional pressures when seeing murdered, starving, and tortured people. It will be very hard to keep determined in the middle of battlefield, being chased or blacklisted by goverment. I’m just wondering what will I do in those situations; hearing screams and shouts from victims, watching the flames from burning houses, and the bombs that cracked up the whole city. I could feel the scary feeling while reading Andre’s article about the time when he met an innocent Syrian girl in a refugee camp. When he heard people shouting in the middle of the night, alone, he felt totally vulnerable. It got me imagining how horrendous journalist life is. It is really a difficult job, but eventually we have no choice. Someone has to make the real information flow to the public.
Then, what does he do when facing those scary moments in those hideous places? Andre wrote, “When things get tough, I imagine a few people; men, women and children, from all corners of the world; people who touched me, who suffered immensely, and who are still most likely in distress. Their faces, their tears, even their screams, motivate me to keep working.”
So everything went unexpected. A year ago I wrote a review on a book called Archipelago of Fear. It talks about poverty, corruption, human rights issues, infrastructure, culture and education problems in Indonesia. The author is Andre Vltchek, whom I admire a lot, read my review and mentioned me on his twitter (that was totally made my day!). And a few days ago my mom and his publisher & translator, Rossie Indira, suprisingly arranged a meeting for me and Andre while he coincidentally is in Bandung. Of course, I felt very jubilantly and lucky. So the night before our meeting, I arranged several interview questions for him and struggled with the grammar accuracy. I even googled about ‘how to make questions for interview’ because I really had no idea what kind of question I should ask.
The next day on a clear sunny afternoon, I finally met Andre at Sheraton hotel. I felt extremely nervous because I never interviewed a foreigner like Andre before. With awkward-interviewer wannabe gesture, I asked him 3 short questions I’ve well prepared.
K: You’ve covered dozens of war zones, conflict, and poverty from all around the world. How does it feel? Did you ever feel scared?
A: Yes of course, but especially I feel scared for other people because I do this for many years, I’m professional, I know how to survive. When I’m in a war zones or conflicts zone, the most terrible is that the victims are innocent people who have nothing to do; they don’t have basic survival skill, so I mainly feel scared for them, not so much for myself. I’m from media that basically in between the public and the conflicts so my obligation is to inform people and to analyze as a philosopher what is going to come. So it is my decision to be there. I can go home anytime but for the people in the conflict, they are forced to be there, they have no choice, so I feel very scared, but I feel scared for them, not for myself.
K: [Mr. Vltchek], I really want to be like you, as an author and journalist. But I have no idea where do I start and how much effort does it take. Would you give me any advice?
A: Well, it’s not very easy. If want to be like me, then you have to be very determined. I would say, there are much de-force from the mainstream. I’ve never been with the mainstream in the west or anywhere else, or I did for period of time, but I totally separated myself from the mainstream media, from the mainstream academy. It is very risky, there is no guarantee. I can do whatever I want now because I have 13 books and like 23 languages, but when I was younger it was very difficult and actually very often I didn’t know what will come next. In Indonesia, people always have been in security. They are quite selfish, I would say, so it will be difficult for yourself to face your friends, your environment, because they definitely will not encourage you to be brave and to do something for the humanity. Because here you always do things for yourself and your family, you know this unfortunately has in Indonesia. So I would say if you really want to do something for humanity, you have to be very determined and to be prepared to be alone very often, because you will not get much support.
K: What has been your personal key to success?
A: Well you have to work. First of all, success for me is not a personal issue. I’m a professional revolutionary. Success is survival of humanity improvement of the society. So it’s socialism definitely for me. For me success is not measured by amount of money that I make, not measured by my personal standing in society. We fight, we work for humanity. I was in Cuba for so many years; you know I am against colonialism which still prevails so the success is basically real freedom of people all over the world, not freedom that United States is talking about. Real freedom which means that people all over the world can rely on their culture, they can do what they want to do, the aim is egalitarian and justice. And the key is hard work and first we have to have a talent, and then do very hard work, and determination. And above all, if you want to be successful in this, you have to know how to listen to people. You have to listen the stories that people tell you. You have to try to understand people that you’re fighting for. That’s the key, I guess.
K: Alright, thank you for your time.
Then we discussed about a lot of things; Indonesia’s intellectual backwardness, the abandoned culture, social inequality (we definitely saw a shantytown right in front of the hotel when we talked about it), and the most intriguing thing is about one single issue that I have always been interested in: education.
What Andre told us made me think again of the purpose of education. In Indonesia, education has been a site of struggle. Teachers still stand in the front of classroom and deliver information, and the students are forced to learn something that they will never need or use it in the future. The purpose of education is no longer for educating human beings but is for creation of economically centered beings. I told Andre that I’m interested in philosophy. He said, more or less, I should use philosophy for developing humanity and consciousness of social justice. Or like Andre has been doing: analyzing various issues that need to be resolved so that our species doesn’t continue to perpetuate the vicious cycle of war, human rights abuses, and other cruel things that has caused pain and suffering from all around the world.
*this is the first time I wrote an article in English, so I’m sorry if it’s not good enough.