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7.50 a.m. alarm rings. Half-awake. Grope for phone. Refresh. Scroll down and scroll down. Notifications. Likes. Comments. Check for viewers of Insta stories. Lock off. Back to sleep. “Am I one of those victims?,” I ask myself.Read more


Growing up Asian in White Man’s World

There are many pivotal moments in one’s life that mean almost nothing at that time. Sometimes, the everlasting influence of those moments can only be understood when you look back and recall the emotions attached. A woman can reminisce the first time she wore a dress and recognised that moment as her first taste of feminism; a man can remember the many dates he took his wife and pinpoint the moment he knew he loved her; almost every adult can find innocent moments of their past and delight in the impression it left behind. Individuals evolve by learning from mistakes and lessons. Looking back now at the mature age of twenty-four, I realise that there are many experiences that have left a permanent mark on both the character I am today and the legacy I leave behind. At age nine with a backpack on one shoulder, I waited at a bus stop in the western suburbs of Melbourne. A book in one hand and the leftovers of a packed lunch box in the other, I minded my own business like any other day. I drank a juice box like everyone else did and ate the remaining half of a peanut butter sandwich that my refugee parents made but never tasted. A car screeched around the corner and a conditioned instinct kicked in. I held firm onto the straps of my bag and prepared myself to receive some sort of bigotry. Typically, angry drunkards or senile figures would have said ignorant racial slurs that just roll off their tongues and leave it at that. by this time, however, those sorts of insults did not hurt anymore. Nonetheless, this encounter was different. It might have been the first time I learned the difference between a meritless bully and a racist. The man, who seemed to have too much time on his hand, rolled his window down and shouted with defiant aggression: “Go home - you don’t belong here!”. His bullet-like words were accompanied by a cowardly spit as he sped off into distance. When you grow up being a minority, you simply succumb to those sorts of behaviour. Being much older now with a little more wisdom, I finally recognise that moment as the first time I understood racism and saw myself differently. Before then, the concepts of racism and privilege were just terms that were taught, but no one actually learned of its consequences. Before then, the fact that the vast and specific references to my ethnicity are racist just eluded me. Before then, I naively assumed that some people were mean and nothing more. Before then, I thought that I was just like everyone else. I remember feeling confused on whether or not such taunts were specifically aimed at me. Judging by the way the gentleman sitting on the bus bench tilted his head away as if nothing had happened, I knew that this act of malice was mine to receive. But I am just going home - I’m at the bus stop - what just happened? Did he really spit at me? Instead of seeking equality, I came to desire “white” privilege. When you are a child, you do not see race as a divide. Racial inequality is something that is learned gradually and socially constructed. White is better, blonde is prettier and minorities come second.   I am the child of immigrants but was born Australian. I speak one language indoors and another outside. Despite being raised in two different cultures, I did not know where I belong back then. All I knew was that I was not like everyone else, but wanted to be. Growing up as a first generation Asian-Australian, there was never any form of minority representation. Everyone in the media was white. The only ethnic figures under media limelight were either the subjects of scrutiny or in cartoons. Here and there, we would sometimes spot an Asian character on screen that was relatable to the minority group. But even then, they were probably supernatural characters or had fighting skills that were comically theatrical.   Twenty years ago, the Australian society was hesitant to accept the existence of the minority groups. Introductions of multicultural restaurant and cuisines were gradual while xenophobia roamed the community. Minority children in the Western suburb grew to believe that their race meant that they were only qualified for second place. To this day, ethnic representation is an ongoing topic that is seemingly heard and discussed from time to time. Yet somehow, the issue of whitewashing remains prevalent. The same arguments are addressed, then expected apologies are released in the press. However, the cycle of identical empty promises often repeats. However, it is arguable that the Australian society has flourished into a moral state very different from the one decades ago. The variety of human characteristics, that is ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation, are now being embraced and celebrated. The other day, I was on a public transport on my way to complete a university exam. As I sat with a book, I thought to myself: who would have thought that the same kid who got spat on at a bus stop for being a minority would be graduating with journalistic major? The moment that marked my first understanding of racism eventually flourished into a driving motivation to prove stereotypical societal expectations wrong. The Australian society has travelled a long way on the journey of equality. Nowadays, it is no longer a bewildering sight to see children of diverse race playing together in the same school yard, to see different ethnic groups tasting a variety of international cuisines while enjoying each other’s company. Nonetheless, there is still a long way to go despite the evident growth. Minority groups are still often the subject of discrimination and hate speech. Immigrants and refugees are still unwelcome. Race and nationality have entered the thrones of major political debates. While the (mostly) white politicians debate on the welfare of the minority, they often forget that we too are humans.   However, if there’s anything I am sure of is that they cannot take away the fact that I am Asian. I am Australian. And I am proud.

Policing Technology in Indonesia

Internet Positif:  A website frequently encountered by Indonesians, especially men. The strikingly red background is symbolic of government bureaucracy that stands between people and a world of simple pleasures. To most people, it’s not really a problem because they grow accustomed to hacking around any digital restrictions, which explains why lots of Indonesian teenagers are highly skilled when it comes to this.  Yet, we tend to forget that the familiar red webpage is actually an impedance towards a fully developed creative industry. Now, I am going to steer clear from the over-debated issues on internet policing’s effects on democracy, or whether censorship is effective in correcting Indonesia’s moral attitudes (it never had been and would never be, as evidenced by the popularity of Maria Ozawa between male teenagers). Instead, let’s look at how censorship and regulatory uncertainty has impaired the growth of intellectual property based economy, and how the government should change its approach. It is rarely well-understood by the public how censorship impedes the growth of the creative economy. This is due to the rather inconspicuous nature of the relationship between the two. An illustration of this impediment would be how censorship enables the development of monopolies, such as Telkom blocking Netflix in order to advance its own iFlix service. (While officially Telkom bans Netflix due to inappropriate content, the giant telecommunications company ironically hints that it would lift the ban if Netflix is willing to exclusively partner with them). Indonesia does not have a net neutrality law, and does permit governmental monopoly over several sectors. However, it is questionable whether digital entertainment is covered under the clause of “important strategic industry”, a term used to describe whether an industry should be rightfully controlled by the government because it is contributing significantly to the national economy, such in the case of petrol and arms. Censorship also decreases the ability for individuals to create content. This not only limits what they can include in their content, but puts them at risk of getting sued if someone disagrees or feels offended.  Censorship is not only about nudity and pornography, but also blasphemy, insulation, and other offensive-based charges. One of the most recent notable cases of this issue occurred to Kaesang, the son of the current Indonesian president, who got reported for blasphemy. The charge, however, was soon dropped. The Indonesian laws regarding the freedom of speech are very vague, and judicial decision concerning the charges are heavily influenced by popular opinion rather than an objective legal process. It is also very muchly politically motivated, as exemplified by the arrest of many meme makers who criticised Setya Novanto. This legal uncertainty creates a hostile environment towards content creators, and thus impedes the development of an intellectual property industry. Nevertheless, the issue with censorship does not end with content creators needing to secure an insurance for the freedom of expression. These active users also need to know the stable availability of certain social media platforms before they invest the resources necessary to create good contents or services.  YouTubers, for example, need to know that YouTube would not be blocked by the government before they invest their time, effort and money into producing a video. Furthermore, social media marketing agencies need to know whether Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter would be available for Indonesian citizens if they were to consider these platforms as target markets. After all, digital content is expected to replace traditional media and become independent from the latter platform. Therefore, we need to make access to digital content economically viable and justifiable for people to invest in media content. Companies must be able to make sure that they will be able to profit from digitisation and not get their platform banned due to vague rules. For instance Gojek, Indonesia’s first startup to exceed one billion dollar in revenue, often receives threats of bans because it competes with  traditional transport providers. This demonstrates the fragility of Indonesia’s current digital industry due to regulatory uncertainty. Subsequently, fluctuating and uncertain censorship makes it hard to monetize creative content and intellectual property. Digital platforms and their materials need stability for monetization to happen. For example, the Indonesian Minister of Informations once made a threat to block YouTube threat despite stating otherwise a year before. This further demonstrates the government’s pre-existing uncertainty when it comes to dealing with censorships. As a result, profit-seeking companies are hesitant to sponsor YouTubers amidst rumors that  YouTube would be blocked. No exchange of goods or services means no monetisation, which in turn indicates no economic incentive that is supposedly the blood regulating and running through the veins of any industry. In order to develop the Indonesian digital industry, it is significant to provide an intellectual industry-friendly internet access for the public. This also necessitates a change to Indonesia’s current approach to censorship and digital services regulation. The most significant economic effect of  censorship is produced not by the actual practice of banning itself, but by the resulting uncertainty surrounding the stability of the online media platforms. What the government needs are clear-cut and simple rules. Here are some regulations that I am proposing: simplify censorship rules into the internationally recognised standards of no genitalia, and ensure the total freedom of expression when it comes to content as long as there is no pornography. This is for the sake of simplicity since many major digital platforms have already recognized these standards and implemented it according to their own measures. Secondly, the government should ease the implementation of digital business ideas and models by reconsidering and revising trade and services regulations in the transport industry. This includes, but not limited to, allowing individuals to operate as rideshare drivers and introducing security standards for digital payments. The government should also adopt a net neutrality rule to prevent conflict of interest from competing Internet Service Providers while improving telecommunications infrastructure to provide better and speedier networking system. The bottom line is, in order to develop a successful digital-creative industry, the government must iron out its policies into one that is simple and clear while cultivating a trustworthy legal atmosphere that is friendly to both content creators and investors. In this way, the government can also benefit from the transaction and asset flow within the national economy.

Green Thumb

Every day the skeletons in my backyard sing And every day I water their flowers I take care of them; make bouquets out of them Every night I sang them lullabies To drown out the howling sounds Because the more these flowers bloom The less people are able to tell… It’s an absolute party down there

Insta-growth

Click. Snap. Send. Instant posts of the latest trend. Snippets of existence Through a manifest of pixels. We carry in our hands The power to project A vague portrait. We show “Life”.   For creatures who crave purpose, We want a removal from it. Back then, If we truly desire something, We’d have to journey for it. And now, With swipes and clicks, We press to it. It renders efforts Effortless. Connection or Attention?   Growth is always encouraged. But how much is “too much”? Did technology flourish As flowers do? Or is it a blight of weeds Opposing our personal bloom? Have we evolved To consume with our eyes? Do we hunger for nourishment Or thirst for attention? Likes. Comments. Shares. Entertainment or Addiction?   We’ve stepped far in advancement By the tap of a button, We can let the world know What we want to show. But have we ever asked “why”? For yourself or the digital Divine? Who is truly in control? You? Or what you hold? Swipe up. Double tap. Hashtag.