The Misfits of Sensitivity

There are rising movements of student activism that discourages free opinions because it could be offensive. I recently shared a funny video on Facebook about a kid who sings about flirting with someone. I typed, “this girl is way cooler than me,” as the caption. A couple of minutes later, someone mentioned that the kid in the video was a boy. I replied with, “What about the hairpin then?” Someone then sends me a text explaining to me about how I shouldn’t have asked because hairpins aren’t just for girls. I could have explained to them that hairpins are marketed to females, and mostly females wore them. Sure, males can wear hairpins, but it should be understandable why I would think the kid was female. So I apologized and moved on, only to tilt my head back in surprise. An ordinary afternoon of fun became a lecture. Anyone who is active in Facebook or Twitter would see that their feed in 2015 and 2016 was highlighted by the presidential election between Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. There was another current, however; a river flowing right underneath the ocean. It started before the 21st century but has recently become popular in North America and continues to spread further over time. The Atlantic calls it, "The Coddling of the American Mind". The New Yorker deems it, "The Big Uneasy". It asks everyone to be politically correct, demands professors to put trigger warnings across their syllabus, and requests schools to make safe-spaces. Is it righteous to its cause? In 2014, several university student unions requested the school’s board members to officially implement "trigger warnings" before lectures. Trigger warnings are intended to warn students of "triggering" materials, or materials that have the potential to trigger an unwanted or traumatic memory and response. This allegedly arose after a student suffered a panic attack after watching a rape scene in class. Such warnings are sometimes beneficial to the well-being and growth of students, but its implementation has escalated quickly in recent times. Jeannie Suk once wrote in The New Yorker that some students pressured professors to avoid teaching rape law in a criminal law class. It’s like a person who wants to be a swimmer but won’t hold their breath after watching a guy drown in a movie. Is a pre-emptive warning important for the wellbeing of students? Seeing the number of teenage suicides in Australia supports this. The 2015 Orygen report states the young Australian suicide rate is the highest in 10 years. The mental health of millennials’ is a dangerous problem right now, thus any measures to prevent or to heal are brought to the table, but trigger warnings might not be the right answer. I spoke to my former lecturer, Rachel Wilson, who discourages censorship in academic spaces. “I've thought about this in detail. […] My main perspective is worrying about an intellectual dumbing down of university space. The university is one of the only spaces we have left, culturally, to explore and unpack difficult materials. The world is made up of difficult circumstances, and if we’re constantly are having to apologize that, then it makes having those conversations very, very difficult.” Wilson was particularly concerned for academics like herself. Giving warnings before a lecture was usually a choice, a strategy to teach. But now it is an obligation. “I do talk to students at certain times on certain contexts about the nature of this kind of material, and it is a fantastic topic to be having a conversation about. But I worry as an academic there would be an administrative that I and other lecturers would have to put in trigger warning that would actually result in a form of self-censorship,” she explained. Rather than engaging students in meaningful conversation, teachers would hold the materials out of fear of backlash. It seems to me that academics welcome arguments when a student brought it to their attention. Resolving an issue through conversation is refreshing and challenging. The problem is when students feel that they are obligated to find support in social media. In the digital world, words travel in the simple click of a “share” button, and there is power in the number of shares. More often than not, only one side of the story gained popularity and the other side of the story wouldn’t be given a chance. Like Black Mirror’s, “Hated in the Nation”, trending hashtags literally kills people. For students that felt attacked or denied, a safe-space can become a place for refuge. Filled with “coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh… and a video of frolicking puppies" Kathryn Byron explained that the safe-space is a place safe from "troubling" or "triggering" comments, where people won't have to worry about judgment or differing opinions. Unfortunately, as inclusive at they believe the place to be, safe spaces only promote exclusivity. Judith Shulevitz wrote in response to Byron in The New York Times “Once you designated some place as safe, you imply that the rest are unsafe". People with diverse opinions are not welcome. Safe spaces, Trigger warnings, and everything ‘aggressive’ has created social justice warriors, that not only force their opinion on others, but also condemns opinions that aren’t theirs. They gain power from the internet, where they can be anonymous anytime they want. Teachers, parents and students, all are entitled to express their opinion. However contrast that idea is to another, it cannot be hindered. Free speech is the base of democracy. It allows the people to have a voice. “Without contraries is no progression. Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy, love and hate, are necessary to human existence.” Such is the word of William Blake is his book, “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”. The 1984 Universal Declaration of Human Rights say “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression”. Arguments are hard. Having personal comments challenged by others may hurt feelings, but it is necessary to learn. Without free speech, oppression is inevitable. A diamond underwent hours of cutting and polishing to be valued more than it should have been. An eagle must break its own beak to grow a newer and stronger one. A human need to lose its milk teeth for the stronger, permanent ones to grow. Pain hurts. But the only response is to fight or fly from it. Indulge in opposing views as an opportunity to dive into intellectual conversation, and grow from it. Being sensitive is for the weak. As George Orwell says “The greatest enemy of clear language is insincerity”

Balancing Indonesia's Charge

Indonesia has experienced its fair share of wins and losses across its history. For instance, we have recently lost Globe Asia’s 2015 Man of The Year, our beloved Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok), to Jakarta’s penitentiary due to an incredulous blasphemy accusation. However, the market researcher Indonesia Investments expects Indonesia to be one of the world's biggest economies by 2030. Unfortunately, Indonesia’s media doesn’t fancy a national positive news. Publications of ‘what’s good’ about Indonesia are rare as they are mostly drowned by yet another bureaucratic scandal. An example of this is Detik.com, one of Indonesia’s prime news agency that had to create a sub-segment coined ‘Happivity’, in order to round up Indonesia’s happiest news. So here is a list of news about Indonesia’s accomplishments to balance the mainstream negativity: 1. Victors of International Academic Competitions This year, Gerry Widiarto and Ferris Prima Hutama from Indonesia won two gold medals from the 2017 International Physics Olympiad (IPhO) held in Yogyakarta. Another three Indonesian students, Bonfilio Nainggolan, Faizal Husni and Fikri Makarim Sosrianto, were also the recipients of silver medals. Since its inception in 1967, IPhO is a platform for students across the world to compete and improve international education relations in the field of physics. Indonesian students have always surprised the international community with their remarkable intellect. Despite the national challenge in the distribution of education system and Indonesia’s high number of out-of-school children (around 1 million between 7-15 years of age), The British Council reveals that Indonesia has one of the largest university-level enrollment and educational growth. With more support from the Ministry of Education and provision of funding for schools, Indonesia could top the global education rankings. 2. Higher Happiness Index Recent studies conducted by the Central Statistic Agency (BPS) indicates that Indonesian people are satisfied with their life. The report shows that Indonesia’s 2017 happiness index is at 70,69 out of 100. This is a fair improvement from 2014’s score of 68,25. Even though the report does not include the number of participants, it carries a representative range of categories such as income, age groups, marital status, education, urban or rural areas, household position and numbers of household members. If you look deeper into the report like Bloomberg did, you’ll find that single people are happier than married couples. We could only wonder why, but do rub it on the faces of your unavailable friends. But don’t use this report as an excuse to stay single!   3. Rising Star for International Business Ventures The international world perceives Indonesia as an emerging and durable location for business ventures. The World Bank, for instance, ranks Indonesia 72 out of 190 in Ease of Doing Business 2017. The index report indicates that Indonesia’s “regulatory environment is more conducive to the starting and operation of a local firm.” In other words, it is fairly easy to start a business in Indonesia. The standard of this ranking system considers the measurement of permit process, registration, taxation system, and others. While we still rank below the neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia, 2 and 23 respectively, our rank has increased from last year’s 91. It is an impressive jump that portrays a promising prospect for Foreign Direct Investments in our economy. In response to this good news, The Jakarta Post writes that the Indonesian government is preparing a ‘special task force’ to help smoothen and accelerate Indonesia’s investment procedure. Hopefully this will help improve Indonesia’s national economy, as foreign investments and business startups are integral to Indonesia future economy. 4. Pioneering Eco-City In October 2017, the second-biggest Indonesian city, Surabaya, became the recipient of United Nations’ “Global Green City” award. Surabaya’s head of public relations, Muhammad Faksir, said to Metro News that the award recognises Surabaya’s sustainable growth and progress: "Activities that received the UN’s appreciation ranged from the re-arrangement of slums, the greening of its parks and the movement by the community to care for the environment.” Indonesia owes this honour and recognition to Surabaya’s Mayor Tri Rismaharini for her hard work and dedication. Huffington Post calls the Mrs. Mayor “Indonesia’s best kept secret” for the lack of international recognition despite her leadership prowess and hands-on approach. At her direction, Surabaya comes to win numerous environmental awards for the city’s promotion of hygiene and parks. Not only that, she is also famed for her humble effort to pick up trashes at many mornings. Indonesia needs more people like Mayor Risma. Her love for her parks and greenery shows exactly how much she cares for her city. 5. Brighter economic prospects Indonesia’s 2016 economy highlight was the Tax Amnesty program, which had just ended this June. Executed by Sri Mulyani, Indonesia’s Minister of Economy, the amnesty ensures that Indonesian citizens declare their offshore assets to receive lesser penalty tax rates. With more than 900,000 people declaring their assets, Indonesia’s tax amnesty is internationally known as one of the most successful tax amnesties. More than IDR 4.88 quadrillion (USD 360 billion) in asset value was declared. There were many criticisms directed against the tax amnesty. The amnesty was deemed as benefiting the top percentage while the government secured only IDR 147 trillion in revenue from tariffs instead of the goal of IDR 1,000 trillion. Nonetheless, we ought to acknowledge that the money obtained through the amnesty would circulate in our national economy instead of a foreign nation. 6. Conquering World Championship Our country is famous for its badminton athletes, starring Taufik Hidayat, Liem Sui King, Christian Hadinata and many more athletes. In the 90s and early 00s, Indonesia was one of the primary actors in badminton leagues. Nonetheless, Indonesia is still going strong. In fact, we recently got to strike our chests with pride as Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon won the India Open 2017 in men’s doubles. Their final opponents were, ironically, fellow Indonesian athletes Angga Pratama and Ricky Karanda. The match culminated with a score of 21-11 and 21-15 in less than 30 minutes. Furthermore, Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir grabbed the gold medal in the Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Championship in August 2017. Held in Scotland, the championship concluded after a vigorous match with China’s Zheng Siwei and Chen Qingchen, ending with a score of 15-21, 21-16 and 21-15. 7. Irresistible Tourist Spot - “Destination of the Year” At the 28th annual Travel Trade Gazette (TTG) Travel Awards, Indonesia was named 2017’s “Destination of the Year” for the Asia Pacific Category. The Ministry of Tourism received the award and was applauded for its effort to “[take] proactive steps and initiatives to the development and promotion of the travel industry.” Indonesia’s tourism promotional video “The Wonderful Indonesia: The Journey to a Wonderful Indonesia” that won two awards from UNWTO Tourism Video Competition was also screened within the gala. When you think about it, most of us Indonesian have not yet fully explored our native country when Indonesia is in fact a holy grail for many foreign travelers. The grass is always greener on the other side, but can we stop and look around once we step into the welcoming tropical air of Indonesia? You can visit www.indonesia.travel./ to find out more about Indonesia’s wonderful travel spots.   Undoubtedly, Indonesia has more great positive news to offer. This article contains only so few out of possibly thousands or even millions of Indonesia’s accomplishments, be it nationally or internationally. We need to understand that there are many things to be proud of in the land of Garuda. The ‘fake news’ you see in front of your digital screens or the negative rumours you hear about Indonesia may mortify you, but [we] millennials are responsible for Indonesia’s future. Only we can make it better and only we can drive Indonesia to further success. So, do you have any positive charge to share regarding Indonesia?

Project O: Happiness in Giving

Project O returns this October for its seventh year, showcasing Indonesian talent and rich culture for a charitable cause. Witness RMIT Alumni Courtyard getting transformed into a night of full of dances, Melburnian skits, live stand-up comedy, and Yura’s singing performance on 7 October 2017! Themed “Happiness in Giving”, this year’s Project O collaborates with Book for Papua to minimise the cycle of poverty and improve the literacy conditions in Papua. Different from past years, Project O 2017 focuses on both children and adults alike while highlighting four key goals, i.e. education, hygiene, food and health, for the betterment of Indonesia. As a prelude to the main event held on October 7, Project O hosted “Pasar Malam Untuk Amal”, or “Samuna”, on 26 August 2017. This pre-event incorporated activities such as interactive games, live performances, and food bazaar. The games during Samuna were designed to increase awareness of the “health, education and hygiene” of Papuan children. Such games include a mix of ring toss and trivia Q&A as well as blindfolding a group of players to travel on a lined path. However, these kids need wider access to technology, education and healthcare in order to develop and succeed. The live performances during Samuna were chosen via online voting prior to the event. The audience could vote for the Indonesian artist they’d like to see by donating to Project O’s online funding source. The top five winners from the voting would then be selected, and one of them would be invited to perform at Samuna and the main Project O event. In this way, Project O encourages the audience’s engagement, thus building the hype prior to the actual event. All proceeds from Samuna will go towards Project O’s main event and most importantly, Book for Papua. But it does not end there. If you want to continue being socially responsible while enjoying yourself surrounded with Indonesian talents, come to Project O 2017’s main program on 7 October 2017 at RMIT Alumni Courtyard.
Project O 2017’s main program will take place on October 7 at RMIT Alumni Courtyard. Tickets to the main event are currently available for purchase online. The individual ticket goes for $15 per ticket while the bundle ticket for five goes for $65. To find out more about Project O’s program and their cause, please visit their website or follow them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Project O is also still receiving donations on KitaBisa and GoFundMe pages, all of which will be donated to Book for Papua.