Unsubscribe Me, Please!

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.

Coffee time! Wear my make up, ties my hair up, and tries to present the best me. It is time for me to hangout with my dearest friend. Out of the hundreds of friends that I have, she is the only one who is always by my side; she is the kind of friend everyone wishes for. Her level of confidence and attractiveness is undoubtable. She wouldn’t let her negative sides overshadow her enthusiasm. At least, that’s what she wants other people to believe. It is no wonder that everyone adores her. Perhaps, she is  our mutual friend. Let me introduce her to you. Her name is Narcissism. Narcissism introduces me to her world, the digital world of self-marketing.

“Whatever you do, put it on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. You don’t need to reach the stars to become one. You only need to be pretty and entertaining. Be a competent bluffer and fake it when necessary. That’s how you earn friends. It is a world of entertainment for a generation that’s addicted to instantaneity”, she says.

I don’t mind the way I get into her world. In the end, she makes me yearn for acceptance and instant gratification. Ah yeah, I smell dopamine! This is the point where being friendship turns into an addiction. Another thing about Narcissism that captivates me is the smell of her perfume. Peculiarly, her scent becomes stronger every time I get more followers or likes on my photos and videos. Flourishing likes and followers are what I pursue to keep her scent close. I scroll down for hours, tracking the number of likes my photo gets. But wait… the more I scroll, the more I recognise a pattern here. People post their happiness, but they always look so happy. The heavy-hearted posts of buried depression are barely there. Millions of those social media users turn silent when it comes to sad posts, as if expressing one’s sorrow is taboo. Indeed, social media is no platform for one’s true colours. Although Narcissism appears happy in her digital world, is she actually being herself all this time? It is only me being sceptical, I guess. Despite my doubts and queries, everything takes a worse turn when Narcissism introduces me to her brother. He has sharp eyes and well-built body, emitting an aura of a bully and an abuser. His presence makes me feel tiny and fragile. But Narcissism has been my best friend since I was twelve years old. His brother should make a good friend as well.

“Hi, I’m Identity,” I greet him with concealed intimidation.

“Insecurity”, he snaps.

I start to hang out with both Narcissism and Insecurity, and I am drowning every time. He judges my appearances, fashion style, and old-school lifestyle. I constantly feel like I will never be good enough for him and myself. My self-esteem has reached a dead end. But Insecurity’s effort to make me feel small does not stop there. He even mocks my lack of achievements, flaunting his favourite YouTube video  “How to be rich in your 20s”. Ironically, he is in his 30s but still lives with his mother. However, I am too engrained in his personality and habits that I can’t seem to shake him off. The more time I spend with him, the further I shrink. He constantly raises the bar for me to feed his ego until my soul eventually fits in his little cigarette box.

“What world did you come from?” I ask, hardly maintaining my posture.

“Ahh, Narcissism and I are from the same world. Personally, I call mine the world of comparisons. Oh, and you are in it!”

You don’t value social media, social media value you. Like a child being taught to give the same answer to a basic mathematics equation, so am I to social media. In this digital platform, there is a uniformity of answers to moral values. What does a happy life look like with Insecurity and Narcissism? Fame and money. Likes and Comments. Doesn’t it sound empty and narrow? I’ve had enough! I need a little break from Narcissism and Insecurity. It has been six months since the last time I saw my beloved. We set up a date at our favourite sushi restaurant. I feel tremendously happy because of the initial warmth in our talks. But as conversations go on, his phone gets him distracted. He needs to answer important group chats; something that is always important. The atmosphere changes, the warmth cools off and I shrink back into Insecurity’s little cigarette box, one of which I eventually adopt and embrace.

“Thanks for your time to meet me here”, smiles my ‘beloved’. I cannot say the same thing. He barely gives me his time.

“It’s nice to see you again, Unfocused,” I reply. I will miss him but that is a goodbye.

What a world I live in. Staying in my little cigarette box may be the best place for me. But then I meet an old man in the café where I work. A man in his mid-fifties, palpable joy in his belly, wears a calm face with a light-hearted personality. He comes to me and asks, “How are you?”. He is unlike the usual customers who merely asks out of formality. He genuinely asks about my welfare. During my break time, I chat with him. I observe his gestures, attitudes, and facial expressions. Our eye contacts are platonic yet it feels different. His phone is nowhere in sight. He gives me his full attention. He listens, responds, and keeps the conversation going. He slows down my otherwise fast-paced world. It is bizarre. How can I feel such intensity through a conversation with a stranger? Why do I feel disconnected when I am connected, and connected when I disconnect? As we talk, I brag about my friends Narcissism, Insecurity, and Unfocused. I sound like I’m proud of them. He humbly laughs and says, “You’re living in a hard generation, kid. Don’t lose yourself. Life is more than image and possessions. Whenever you want to feel accepted, search for friendships not followers. It may be called social media but it is not a medium to give you a social life.” My break time is up. I ready myself to return to my fast-paced world, but I ask for his name beforehand. He giggles, “People call me Mr Real-Conversation”. As I reflect upon the world into which Narcissism and Insecurity have dragged me, I realise its counterfeit nature. No one asks my permission to be a part of this world; I automatically subscribe into its culture. Why do I need to get followers instead of friends? Fame instead of relationships? Feigned self-image instead of sincerity? How could I feel content when those matters bring discontentment? I become a prisoner in a culture I live in. Soon after I get back to work, Mr Real-Conversation is no longer there. I should have asked for his contact and assistance earlier. Numb and speechless, I desperately need him. I need to unsubscribe me from the world I live in.

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.

The Green Field

We sit on the edge of nature. My friends and I, on a green pasture. We guard the field since the beginning, Guarding peace and harmony above everything.   You humans used to come and go, As there was no living space before. But once you created one, you remained. And since then, our lives began to change.   When the day ended, the bustle would fade, We’d look up to the sky and watch the sunset. We cherish those moments with you, Just staying quiet and basking in the view.   One day, came a young child with bright, Warm, brown eyes and short height. She was loving, gentle, and careful. Our days with her were always beautiful.   Because of that child, more humans came to us. And we protected them as one would. We made an unspoken promise. Unexplainable For you humans, but––for us––it was simple.   As we grew old, the city became busier, more alive. While others turned away, the girl with brown eyes Continued to stay. We watched her grow Alongside the city you call home.   Suddenly, she was gone and I became older, My skin rougher and my leaves withered. They say wisdom comes with age, but I could not foresee The roaring of the machines that would ravage the field.   I hear my friends scream. I hear the agony of their pleas. I have never witnessed such a slaughter Or felt such pain and such anger.   You pretend you can’t hear. You close your eyes so you can’t see. You leave and wash your bloody hands. Remove the dirt and dusty sands.   Perhaps the skies feel sorry for me. For they cry and wash away their bodies. It makes things easier for you, right? You don’t have to see your own blight.   How many moons has it been? Hard to gauge when all I see Are grey concrete and dull nights, The stars refusing to show their light.   Why should my friends be gone? Why I should remain? Not one Day would go by without me Wondering of what could’ve been.   “It’s a new start,” I always hear. But can you see the consequences of your greed? Your new start meant the death of my friends. Your beginning is––to many––their end! Hope is no longer something I can reach. It’s just nothing but a distant dream. Everyday I live like it’s my last. Always scared of you repeating your past.   A vehicle arrives to the concrete home you built. A husband opens the door to his wife’s seat. He takes her hand and leads her out. She cradles Their newborn. She looks troubled.   Our eyes meet for a second, Before anything happens, The husband calls for her. “It’s a new start,” he murmurs.   Today, I sit here, winter biting my skin, Leaves all dried, weak, and thin. I thought I was alone, but then I see her. I recognise that girl.   The same bright brown eyes, But much taller in height. She looks at me, and Says, “I miss you, old friend.”   Instead of her newborn in her arms, She guards something else from harm. A small sapling, Now sits beside me.   “I’m sorry you’re hurt.”

A Black Mirror on Technology

“Digital technology has made us antisocial.” Beneath those words lay an image of several people within a room. Their necks tilted down, their heads drawn to something in their hands as they keep to themselves. Upon closer inspection, it’s clear that they are all gripped by their phones. We’ve all seen that image. An unshakable feeling of skepticism, fear, and paranoia about the advancement of digital technology has driven plenty of criticism recently. Doubts about their unreliability, lack of security, and proneness to error have been at the forefront of debates concerning the future. Even at social level, technology has been the subject of negative rumours. Allegations of its ability to decrease intelligence, seed unemployment, and pardon laziness often frequent the public sphere. Such fear of technology has been a recurring theme for quite a while. The dystopian genre in movies and TV shows is particularly compelling to the mass market. The popular anthology series Black Mirror, for instance, is controversial and self-conscious for its bold, yet realistic depiction of possible futures where our society relies heavily on technology. Westworld explores the idea of artificial intelligence (AI) becoming self-aware by portraying an entire world constructed and maintained by technology for human entertainment. Even Wall-E, a movie targeted towards children, presents a world where technology exists purely to serve humans, who have degenerated into lazy, obese creatures. The sense of wariness concerning technological progress is, after all, not completely unfounded. The rise of the digital age was not without issues. When Edward Snowden risked his life to expose state secrets about how the NSA was illegally surveilling its own citizens, people were shocked - and rightly so. Cybercrime has continued to increase and even facilitate the flow of criminal acts such as corporate theft, child abuse, human trafficking, etc. Even mobile apps and social media have subjected individuals to discrimination and abuse. All of these phenomena have fed into the public’s increasing sense of paranoia and insecurity about technology, as the dystopian movies mentioned above have aptly shown. In spite of the drawbacks, however, technology holds a lot of potential for the future. There have been just as many, if not more, positive depictions of technology as negative ones on the big screen. Marvel’s Iron Man film series and BBC’s Doctor Who TV show are just a few of many well-known examples that present the positive potential of technology. Even though the setting of Wall-E presents how technology has gone awry, the film still demonstrates the extent to which technology exemplifies human achievements. The humans in Wall-E all live within a spaceship equivalent of a yacht that is self-sufficient and is a habitable home for humans (even though its inhabitants, the humans, have devolved into incapacitated creatures). In fact, the conflicts arising within the film plot are often simply caused by the human abuse of technological power or the lack of caution people have when designing their inventions. Black Mirror episodes are a particularly strong example of this, as they show the audience how people are always behind the horrors that occur due to technological use for invasive, illogical purposes. If arguing about the state of the future seems too full of uncertainty, then look at the present! Not only has new technology helped various fields of research in their search for knowledge, they have also made life easier for humans in general. Crowdsourcing, for example, is a beneficial Internet activity that facilitates the gathering and distribution of creative ideas and mass information. This information sourcing model has been proven as important to raise awareness during times of crises, as illustrated by Facebook’s "Crisis Response" hub. Websites such as Kickstarter and GoFundMe have also been crucial in helping to raise funds for personal or charitable causes. Even celebrities are now able to help their fans through the use of social media, as demonstrated by Kendrick Lamar providing a disabled fan with a wheelchair and a wheelchair-accessible van. Even professional researchers have taken advantage of crowdsourcing to further their research. Sarah Parcak, an American archaeologist, has used crowdsourcing to assist in her research and enabled ordinary citizens to look for signs of hidden archaeological sites. Another positive benefit brought by technology also includes the use of online media as a source of income. Nowadays, anyone can go on the Internet and earn money from their creative pursuits, which not only includes Youtubers and bloggers, but also authors, digital illustrators, artists, aspiring entrepreneurs, and more. The Internet has enabled a global distribution of information and a level of interconnectivity that allows anyone to learn about anything they want while creating employment opportunities unrestricted by location. Technological innovation has been the driving force of research in medical and astronomical fields, and technology previously used only in one area is now being developed for use in others. Artificial intelligence (AI) and Virtual Reality (VR), for example, both started as the imaginations of the entertainment industry. Their functionality has now spread to assist with breakthroughs in the scientific, medical and educational industry. All of this is not to say that our fear and wariness of the digital era is unreasonable. There will always be risks and uncertainties associated with the future. Nevertheless, we cannot let it hinder our progress. Humans have survived so far in history by continually adapting to the circumstances and improving life for ourselves. Technology has been an enormous help for us in that respect, significantly speeding up academic, economic, social, and political progress to get us to where we are now. However there is still so much to be done, and technology remains an immense source of potential in helping us to overcome the unknown challenges we are bound to face. After all, if Black Mirror taught us anything, it’s that technology itself is not what’s bad; instead, it’s how we use it that matters.

Social Media in the Political Sphere

When we think about politics, we often associate it with men wearing expensive suits sitting around large glass tables talking about how the economy is to blame for the civil unrest amongst citizens whilst subtly calculating which ally is more valuable in preventing World War 3. Naturally when we think about social media, it’s all about who appeals the most. Snapchat. Instagram. Facebook. It is where we choose to share our stories: whether our audience wants to see what we had for brunch with our squad last Sunday, or our politically motivated rant on whitewashing in Hollywood movies, or even a tagged meme post on when exam stress takes its tolls. However, when we combine both politics and social media, it is extremely unfortunate that Donald Trump and his ridiculous tweets spring to mind. Ridiculous yet highly effective, he has managed to annoy millions of people around the world in under 140 characters. Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) “Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest -and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure, it's not your fault” 6:37 PM - 8 May 2013. Tweet. Amazing, right? A genuinely intelligent person would not go around insulting others for not realising his/her “intellect”. We want to hate him and disregard his morally violating opinions. Yet we feed into it, like an addiction. We can’t ignore it. This tells us something about how politicians use social media to frame narratives and shape ideas. Donald Trump wants you to think that you can predict him when in fact, he has the upper hand on the element of surprise. His campaign manager must have been paid handsomely. There’s another prominent political figure with an equally fascinating social media reputation. Joko Widodo, the incumbent Indonesian president. His son, Kaesang, started a Youtube channel a while back. His videos would feature Jokowi from time to time, situating both of them in an intriguing and unusual setting. To most people, it is surprising to see Jokowi goofing around with Kaesang and competing on who has the better haircut. Through Kaesang’s videos, the world sees a new side of Jokowi -- a model of a loving dad -- behind the demeanor of the calm president that Indonesians are very familiar with. And down the rabbit hole he goes. Jokowi begins appearing on social media as a ‘gaul’ (chic) public figure. His public image and reputation soars tremendously as a result. How many presidents of a nation with 250 million citizens and one of the biggest global economic contribution can be photographed wearing band shirts while enjoying the concert? (Notably: Guns and Roses, WTF 2016 and 2017). There are even rumors going around Whatsapp that several Garuda Indonesia Airlines passengers had witnessed Jokowi sitting in Economy class during his trip to Singapore for his son’s high school graduation because he wanted to come as a father, not as the President of Indonesia. His well-known humility has garnered praises from the public, both locally and globally.. It is undeniable that Indonesia is still developing as a nation, but we are a rising, chaotic, and dynamic superpower. We are one of the most populated and diverse countries and we need a unifying common objective. Perhaps the positive responses on his appearances in social media were what led Jokowi to finally establish a Youtube account. His account is just like a regular Youtube channel, except for its content. Jokowi vlogs his interactions with reputable public figures such as Barack Obama, Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau. The president even vlogs about his day with his grandson or the time when he ate ‘bakso’ (meatballs) in Ambon. What really blew the roof was the time Jokowi vlogged his meal with the king of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, during the latter’s rare overseas visits to nations with diplomatic ties. The video is short with only 2 minutes in length, but it features Jokowi talking to the camera while interacting with the king with the help of an interpreter. The king even directly addressed the camera and stated that it has been an honor for him to visit Indonesia. The Youtube comments section is bombarded with positive comments on Jokowi’s willingness to share. “Pak Jokowi gaul abis dah bikin vlog 😂 setau saya cuman presiden Indonesia yang nyempetin waktunya buat bikin vlog walaupun sebentar 👍” Zahra Safira (trans: Mr. Jokowi is so cool to make this video. So far, he is the only president who takes time aside to make vlogs, even if it does not last long.) These unique modes of storytelling have shaped Indonesia’s perspective of politics. The idea that politics is a dirty game played by officials for corruption and tax evasion purposes is now outdated. We now see that the dynamics of politics has two sides, just like every other story. Public figures are no longer beyond our grasps of understanding. They are not Gods or super-humans. They can be a president and a grandfather too. They can get up in the morning and make coffee and read the papers, just like most of us. Social media have opened communication between citizens and the state. The platform has redefined how a member of local community can interact with their leaders and how those leaders exercise authority to govern a nation through unconventional means. It has opened a two-way street of direct interactivity. Social media has removed the barriers of transparency because Jokowi decidedly shared his life. Jokowi’s decision to share what happens behind the screen, behind his daily life draws us into trusting him. By sharing the ordinariness of his life, he pulls us to create a sense of identification and relatability with him. It is important to note, however, that he does not act without an agenda. Every move in politics is calculated to be executed with minimal cost. Yes, state leaders conduct diplomacy to reach mutual agreements that may bear some consequences. Jokowi chooses to share with us the bits of his life that he wants us to see. That is the bits, not the whole thing. By emulating his past positive experience with vlogging, Jokowi appeals to the public’s liking and trends, and therefore anticipates further positive responses. He wants to seem reliable and relatable. He wants to appeal to the masses and he has done so effectively. In this sense, Jokowi is like Trump, only less controversial, infinitely nicer and with more uplifting responses.

Eudaemonia

Eudaemonia (Greek: εὐδαιμονία [eu̯dai̯mo’níaː]) A Greek word commonly translated as happiness or welfare; however, "human flourishing" has been proposed, throughout the evolving history of the English language, as a more accurate translation.   She was singing. The forest was the orchestra of her mind -- one enchanting symphony after another as her lush green leaves danced to an unspoken beat. In a world blanketed with iridescent verdure, she stood amongst the clouds; her luminous silhouette seamless yet extended so starkly to each crevice among the trees —her ever-ubiquitous presence. Where lustrous petals of flora freckled the sky, she painted the wind with colours. Where the over-arching vault of leaves and limb flourished with prolific life, she was its pulsing heart. Amidst the fields of foliage and the smiling lips of fauna, the dulcet tones of aria cascaded into open spaces through the frill of flowers. She smiled, and breaths of life adorned the terrains. The landscape overflowed with potpourris of fruit. Euphonious as it all was, her heart brimmed with more joy when the life she created evolved into something more. Humans. They were strong, intelligent and different from other creations. She saw them laughing, beaming, grinning as they interacted with the animals. She smiled when they started building houses from straws, wood, bricks, then finally, concrete. She smiled as the humans began to forget how dependent they are on her. She smiled through it all — through their exponential reproduction rate, through the escalating clearing of prairie now reconstructed to form fields of grey. She could hardly see her veins within the trees; only monoliths of concrete soaring out of the sidewalk were at sight. The cityscape was unapologetically urban. Drowned were the sounds of animals masticating on nuts and slurping on berries — they meandered, dug, and disappeared in fear of the superior inhabitants. The evergreens that were once fine saplings with soft spring leaves became gnarled embittered trees, growing tall without strength as they competed unnaturally against the towering apartment blocks. Nature was subjected to the fangs of humanity, turning it insipid, tasteless, incapacitated. Her eyes brimmed with tears as memories of what used to be flashed before her. She felt herself grow colder as her sky was shrouded in mottled grey. She breathed in, and she let it all go. A great scar of seething light opened the cloud’s center. Writhing and wriggling, great forks of flame-gold zigzagged through the agonised air. Her tears sank into the skins of grey concrete, as the humans stood untouched, protected by the kingdom that they have selfishly built. Not even a thousand days of rain could stop their insatiable flourishing of urbanisation. She could only watch in torment as biodiversity dwindled in number — gone were the first traces of life that stood by her. Distress was swallowing her whole; the anguish that wrecked her entire being was unceasing. In her eyes, there was no beauty in the arrays of buildings colliding in a mixture of shadow and geometry. On her skin, there were only tiny vehicles scurrying along the coarse, tangled lines of asphalt streets. The sea of metropolitan skyscrapers was all intertwined in a cataclysmic mess of a dream — a dream from which she would like to wake up. The more she watched, the more her frustration morphed into anger. She could no longer comply with their bidding and let them soak in her like a drug. No more! She could no longer spoil them. She should not let them bask in the fresh breeze of spring or the brilliant shades of fall . Even the heat of sultry summer was too good for them. She needed to remind those humans that she was not there for them; they were there because of her! Darkness began to cover the earthy landscape as she howled a noise so terrifying it pulsated through all matters. Attacks of lightning burst on the streets. A ghastly orange grin tore through the terrain as she spat unfettered flames to the screaming creatures. Her blood simmering, her brain stewing, and her bones smoldering with the intensity of her wrath. She let the blaze devour everything in sight, licking and enfolding every coppice. She quaked and the sea gorged on life. For a moment everything became silent as fear had transformed intelligible words into searing moans and groans. Months had passed, but the earth had not forgotten. The terra was scarred by scorched fire as the trees were stripped of their evanescent beauty, leaving only their gaunt, skeletal remains rooted on the barren soil. She was tired. Her outpour of emotions was so intense that she was left empty — drained of the sentiment that once fueled her fury. She needed time, and so she let her eyes close. The breeze lifted the veneer of dirt and grime that clung to the land — a subtle sign that the life below took for a second chance. Just as fast as the way they collapsed into the ground, other concrete towers stretched out to the sky yet again, reaching out with their pallid, gnarled hands. Though these skyscrapers were just born, the history of their ancestors etched across their bodies like fresh blood. They tried so desperately to latch on to what was left of their once sacred realm. When she finally woke up from her daze, her eyes could not believe what they were seeing. More cities. More concrete. More humans! She stared at them in disbelief; these humans never gave up hope. Her eyes sparkled with awe as the clouds broke apart, reveal its golden-blue glory. Harp strings of coruscant light immersed the meadows in sheets of flaxen, as flora dazzled in the crisp air. Lush green leaves awoke from their slumber, dancing higher and higher in the vast expanse of light blue sky. Life was resonating through every being, and she realised that she should not be looking at it in spite. She still loved the humans nonetheless. She hummed quietly and beats of avian wings lilted across the air, serenading the murmur of the vibrant city. Her soft whispers hung suspended in the air, tranquil and mindful. All was peaceful, all was calm, as it always was before the storm. Seconds after, pain lanced through her core. Her insides began to twist, intensifying with each jagged breath she took. She tried to keep her eyes open, tried to endure the shooting aches, but with each movement, she quivered — her consciousness ebbing away. Black mists swirled at the edges of her mind, slowly drawing her into dark oblivion. As much as she tried to hold onto life, the pain soared and choked her alive, suffocating her from within. And before she could warn the creatures below, the wound took her far, far away. A deep bellow of pain roared through the sky. Then it sizzled itself to silence, its searing stilled, its anger quieted. Reboot. Reset.

Injecting Culinary Preservatives

Has anyone never tried instant noodles? Something like Indomie or Top Ramen. The kind of pre-prepared, processed food from factories that come with the solid block of carbs that become less stiff and flow more like proper noodles once they settle in the hot water for a few minutes. The flavor of hot water and bland dough are swathed in layers of condiments like chili powder, garlic powder, msg, and some oils. Those packets that come at the cost of spare change, and theoretically a few organs when eaten too frequently, have become an everyday meal for people who can’t afford to eat better because there are more important things to pay for, like rent. Aside from the health hazards, think about how advanced the technology is. To be able to create a massive amount of food on a large scale and have it be virtually non-perishable is an outstanding feat. The chemicals used to process the food and allow it to be immortal is not safe human ingestion, but it is certainly a large leap from a long time ago. Even if the food is going to decompose for certain, there exists refrigerators that delays that inevitable outcome. The seemingly simplistic method of refrigeration certainly goes beyond placing things in tin cans and hoping the copious amounts of salt can kill the germs before the raw food goes rotten. Or pre-cooking the food so that the bacteria are dead, but the food becomes cold, stale, and still at risk from fungal growth in a matter of days. In the modern era, not only are the food storage techniques more reliable, but the art of food preparation is also more advanced. With electronic tools such as blenders, toasters, ovens, and stoves, anyone can make any meal worthy of an Instagram story. Not everyone has the skill to make it impressive, but that doesn’t matter with the current technology. Anyone can cook a recipe they pull off from the internet on beginner-friendly kitchen appliances using ingredients from around the world. Capture and post the outcome on the digital media, and it will probably get the fleeting attention of some random strangers from somewhere in the world. With a few simple recipes and online video tutorials, people can claim to be master chefs, live a healthier lifestyle, and save money on food by buying only ingredients instead of everyday takeout. Perhaps not the “master chef” part, but the message is there. The scale at which human survival operates is global. It is not just the fact that raw ingredients can be imported across countries more efficiently, but also the options humans have when it comes to cooking. We get to not only purchase and cook non-native produce, but also decide the style of the meals, such as Italian, Greek, or Chinese. With the ubiquitous availability of information regarding recipes, ingredients and cooking techniques on the internet, an amateur home cook can compete with professional chefs in their own game. An average person with a mere internet connection can influence and be influenced from anywhere at anytime by anyone. Compared to the days before the internet, recipes had to be handed down from generation to generation, parent to child, chef to apprentice. The art of picking ingredients had to be taught by a professional or paid institution, or learned through trials and errors. The path to becoming a proper cook has become shorter and easier, and that is only with traditional cuisines from known places such as Asia and Europe. Imagine what these people could do if they learned a bit of science! With the progression of science and technology, professional chefs tend to have the same know-how and hygiene as medical doctors. Alongside the standard procedures of washing hands and keeping clean uniforms, the equipment both professions use for their jobs must be sterilized and cleaned to the highest degree, from syringes to knives. Higher level chefs have to enact a certain precision akin to surgeons, and an eye for food like painters to their art. A lot of chefs with Michelin stars talk about cooking as an art of passion, innovating dishes for the perfect set of flavors, and reinventing meals to suit a particular challenge, like a wholesome meal that tastes meaty for vegans. But sometimes, science wants to take a crack at food, like with Indomie packets, to create interesting and innovative treats within a field of culinary chemistry. This is a field known as “molecular gastronomy”. With foods like pop rocks, cocktail ice spheres, flavored gel and paper, ice cream frozen on the spot, and noodles that taste like herbs, the possibilities of new dishes and their various interpretations are endless. Professionals like Heston Blumenthal take that creativity to overdrive. This proprietor of the three-Michelin-starred restaurant The Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire uses scientific processes and tools to elevate the sensation of his dishes. He frequently attempts to reinterpret classic dishes and throw the concept of normal out the window. (Check out his bacon and egg ice cream). One prominent example is when he attempts on mimicking the sensation of being inside Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Blumenthal was able to use liquify nitrogen by cooling it down to subzero temperatures and make a waterfall of chocolate by adding some chocolate powder. Not a liquid chocolate waterfall, but a misty flow of chocolate liquid that dissolves in cool smoke, leaving fine chocolate dust in its wake. Videos of him taking advantage of the intersection between science and culinary arts are viral all over YouTube. They are certainly worth a watch. Blumenthal’s work is an extreme example of molecular gastronomy, but it demonstrates the potential of scientific play within the art of cooking itself. Technology has certainly made food global, safe and somewhat homogenized, but that is merely a shallow view. Science not only elevates the efficiency of food dissemination and consumption, but also pushes the boundaries on how a meal is viewed and consumed. Technology, as the byproduct of science, will inevitably help in this. Whether it is by supplying information and inspiration, or by helping to properly get a dish down, science and food will always play a part in each other’s flourish.