Injustice and Echo Chambers

Recently, there has been a series of police violence incidents against black people in particular; the USA. As usual, people are outraged. But, it has only just dawned on me that not only are the people of the “United” States America unitedly outraged but also many abroad – some of which have never visited America nor have an American passport.

I have heard from Americans living abroad that they have noticed people outside of America tend to be interested and observant of American politics. I usually attribute this to the global influence in international media through the use of English. You tend to not see tragedies outside of America unless they have been covered by some local news agency in English, which will then catch the attention of a major international news agency or some Twitter user online. I say this because my non-American friends tend to be more aware of the tweets made by Trump of America than the actions of dictators from across the globe.

However, recently I am considering a different reason as to why people are very connected with American culture. It is important to realize that “American culture” is a conglomeration of cultures introduced through the immigration of people from all around the world. That diversity is projected worldwide hence connecting anyone who may have never set foot in America.

Sometimes, you don’t even need anything in common to connect with people. International media for years has been documenting the suffering of people from around the world, all trying to cope with the issues in their respective governments. The internet has brought awareness to the Uyghurs in China, censorship in Hong Kong, Rohingyas from Myanmar, refugees of Syria, civil war in Sudan, drug cartels of South America, police brutality in America…

Not an exhaustive list, but already paints an idea of what has been airing in the mainstream media lately. Even though we may never have set foot in any of the aforementioned places nor have met or get to know any of them, we still get emotional trying to process it all. Similar to fictional characters in a story, we are able to empathize with a stranger from across the world when they encounter an obstacle. We may not truly understand their current situation and perspective, but we understand feelings – whether it is anger, fear, grief and/or frustration. We are, after all, social creatures. I am sometimes guilty of sighing in relief that I do not live in such places – to be fortunate enough to live outside of a war-zone, in a country with adequate gun laws and be among citizens abiding by the coronavirus-related regulations. It is also important to note that the world is far from a utopia. I was recently reminded by a friend of mine that we don’t need to look far to see issues present just around the neighborhood. Injustice reigns all around the world in many different forms: corruption, censorship, racism. These events have not been isolated to a single country, region or ideology. Injustice has no single face.

You can tell me that we statistically have less casualties worldwide due to the decrease in number of wars, poverty and famine around the world. You can tell me that slavery is no more (controversial, but at least agree that it has indeed decreased or changed how it is being addressed). But it is a lot easier to state the facts than to accept that the world is indeed on the right trajectory to betterness. It is exceptionally hard for perfectionists to accept a half-baked solution especially when they see the glaring loop-holes in those solutions.

I had a teacher who once told me that MUN resolutions should not just be sheets of paper; they should be actions. That has stuck with me to this date. Of course, this has its limitations. Students will not be taken seriously if they stormed embassies demanding the removal of nuclear weapons. Instead, I have seen people in various social media platforms sharing donation links to countless organizations involved with relief funds and mutual aid of their respective cause. On the other hand, retweeting and putting screenshots of #BlackLivesMatter will only be seen within our bubble of similar views. The echo chambers we have built for ourselves only builds rage and hatred towards those on the other side of the fence, but brings us no closer to the solution.

Nevertheless, these actions are all applying a bandage over a gaping scar, rather than attempting to stitch the wound. We are currently working on reactive solutions rather than preemptive/preventive solutions. This is not how we prevent repeating the past.

There has been a recurring issue where the leaders of the world do not take inputs from the youth seriously. Greta Thunberg’s “How dare you” was greeted with claps and not much action since the speech. In the end of all this, I become self-aware of the fact that my message will only be read by those that share my views – commonly known as “Preaching to the choir.” This inevitably leads to existential thoughts.

Will there be a point of repeating what has been said by other for decades? Will the people in charge care? Ultimately, is there a point in trying?

I’ll be honest. I don’t know what I can do.

As I was writing this, I had doubts as to whether to finish the article; whether it will make a dent in the echo chamber. I had doubts as to whether it will be any use to finish this writing piece. The sliver of hope I have is seeing authoritarian regimes in Sudan fall after 30 long years. The hope I still have is seeing the youth leading the charge in those coup d’etats. Of course, you will be sacrificing time and energy. If you value a better future more than your deadlines (a big ask for an Asian mindset), I say:

Go.

Make that change.

Bhinneka Tunggal Ika

The title in question is the official national motto of Indonesia which translates to ‘Unity in Diversity’. This usually refers to how Indonesia is one despite the diverse culture spread around the country. If this is a surprise to you, consider that there are over 700 languages (not accents/dialects) across more than 16000 islands. Unfortunately, some people often misunderstand this motto.

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Trading Intelligence for Happiness

Today, a close person has said along the lines that I should stop “bragging” about not studying yet still get good grades. This made me realize the reality I live in where people strongly believe that being smart is the only way to achieve highly of themselves in life. Well, I guess I can’t blame them for thinking that way since that’s what the society has embedded in place for us.

The fact that people envy me is simply saddening. The fact that people looks up to me as a role model is just as saddening. I wouldn’t say I am “perfect” enough to be considered a role model. I am not studious. I am lazy. I have problems. It’s just so happens that grades don’t happen to be one of them.
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Smile in Chaos

I got out from ITC Roxy Mas, Jakarta. Traffic. What did I expect during a rush hour of people coming home from school and work? Well, it would all be fine if not for the excessive number of motorcycles on the road squirming within the gaps of large vehicles while the trucks and busses squeal behind us. It was chaotic. The sound of horns builds up stress and impatience in the minds of everyone on the street causing selfishness and ignorance to the other – including myself.

The worst traffic I’ve been in was trying to exit the highway while being desperate to leak. This was different. This was desperation to rage.

Suddenly, a man on a motorcycle comes by in front of our car, smiling at us with his daughter behind him. Instantly, the swearing man inside my head was gone – all from a small simple smile.

I always knew smiles are important. Even in Islam, a smile counts as a good deed. Yet, I was still inspired by how much impact it could have in such a disorganized environment. At least for me, it was a reminder to keep smiling. Who knows it might cheer up someone random like it happened to me?

Hope you can take something positive from this. 🙂

Assalamualaikum, Danang.