Migrating to Wordpress

Hey, everyone! I'm migrating my blog to wordpress. All of my writings you've seen here will be available in the new page: yosseandrean.wordpress.com.

I've had amazing run with blogger, but to improve my writing and your reading experience I've decided to gamble on this decision. I hope I can see you there!

PS. I'm letting this site alive for a couple of months to let everyone notice the migration, but after that I'm putting it down for good :)

Gender Inequality and Its Persistent Power in Indonesia

The talk of gender equality has been storming Indonesia's media these past few days, triggered by the death of Yuyun, a junior highschool student who was gang raped and murdered by 14 teenagers. Law makers, experts, and activists appear on Tv talking about what went wrong. The public is enraged, as shown in social media and the signs they were holding on the street. The spotlight on the issue of sexual abuse and gender equality has never been brighter.

source: jpnn

Everyone—well, almost everyone—seems to be in agreement that it is a problem of inequality. Yet, we're still debating of the root cause, and that causes the opinion to branches on how we should fix it. We can't deny that our law hasn't provide justice equally, that it hasn't provide equal protection to both gender. But behind all of that there is an underlying reason: our culture, our way of thinking, and our perception of women.

The patriarchal culture is already so deep rooted in the mind of Indonesian public that it makes the talk of equality so difficult to do. We are still stuck inside the hole of conventional wisdom that dictates the inferiority of women. Yes, we have to fight for gender equality, but it is still women's job to take care of the babies. Yes, we have to educate our women, but it is still a wife's duty to obey her husband. Yes, we demand equal rights, but women still need to understand their place. All this but's make the conversation of gender equality trapped in eternal loop. When it comes to empowering women there's always a but.

And although it is easy to think this is mainly the fault of the men of the society, the women are actually holding a significant portion of the blame as well. Women—or rather, most women—still holds dear their old conservative wisdom. Too often we hear that it is not lady-like to express your feeling to the man you like, that for a woman the only important thing in life is to find the right husband, and it is not necessary for a woman to be strong, leave that part for the men; and yes, we do hear these coming from women. We are taught that there is some kind of virtue and moral value in being weak and submissive to the other gender. It is true that men are the ones who mostly benefited from this unequal ground; but it is the moms, sisters, and girlfriends—those who can actually damp the pressure—who are allowing this to happen so easily.

As much as I don't want to always bring this up to surface, how can one ignore the role of religion on this issue? After all, it is the religious who puts pressure on how women should look and behave. We can just skip the theological debate to facts: Aceh—the only province in Indonesia which reenacted Sharia Law—has a state-official regulation of women's dress and curfew only for women (Ironically, Aceh placed on top of sexual harassment cases in 2014, according to Buah Hati Foundation); The Gender Equality and Justice Bill, initially drafted in 2010, had been stuck in parliament because the Islamic party had found the idea of liberal women as Western-ish and "un-Islamic"; and it was only last month that a feminist event in Yogyakarta was assaulted by Islamic hardliners. Are we still gonna pretend that this has nothing to do with religion?

Now all these has built up creating a wall that blocks progress. For years, the feminist movement in Indonesia has been struggling to get past this wall, but in order to do that we can't pretend that the wall doesn't exist. We need to take account of all the factors of why there's some kind of resistance in the idea of gender equality and why even the women in Indonesia are so reluctant to be empowered. We need to find the courage to discuss the problem at hand and say it as it is. If not, it's only a matter of time until we see another Yuyun.

source: @komunalstensil


How Free Should Free-Speech Be? A Shout Out For Freedom and Critical Thinking

We are the only species on earth to have enough brain power to invent ideas and to see things from our individual perspectives. That leads to diversity of ideas and opinions in society. As much as there are altruistic ideas, innovative ideas, and loving ideas; there are also harmful ideas, discriminating ideas, and hateful ideas. It is only by comparing those ideas, by giving them the chance to speak out their contents that we can figure out and judge for ourselves the values of each one.

To protect this process of finding better ideas and eliminating the bad ones, throughout the course of history humankind has devised a concept called freedom of speech. Since the invention of the printing press by which ideas can spread in such pace never before predicted, a suppression to this freedom has been imposed again and again by figure of authority. The people of power are always uncomfortable of free-speech because ideas always bring critics, and critics almost always lead to change. They start to impose laws of censorship, to prevent discussion and bartering of ideas to take place, holding the public in clutch of ignorance.

Censorship changes form, from the most abrupt method used by the church by burning heretics and issuing the List of Prohibited Books in the 16th century to today’s internet censorship; but the goal remains: to deny the public the right to access information. The most subtle and probably most effective form of censorship still exist today is taboo-ness. It is so effective it makes the people themselves to prohibit their right to speak of certain topics. It puts them in the illusion that they have the freedom of speech, but limited. There is a line the discussion should not cross.

But the fact that there is a line is prove enough that it is not free. Who’s to say what topic should not be talked about? Who’s to say what opinion is too dreadful to be spoken of? What kind of freedom it is if the conversations are only allowed in some given constraints? No topic should be off limit from criticism. If our error knows no bound, then critics as our correction mechanism should be boundless as well.

The way to fight bad ideas is not by censoring them, but by giving them the spotlight and challenge them on stage. And if the challenged opinion has strong evidence that it can stand its ground against the bludgeoning of arguments, then we have to admit that it is probably a better opinion than the one we are currently holding and we should be willing to change our mind towards it. That’s how we learn. That’s how we move forward. If we are that confident of our opinion, why should we be so coward as to demand the other party to shut up? Disagreement should be followed with presentation of evidence and logical construct from both parties. Censorship -- the act of preventing this process of discussion, would murder the possibility for the public to access information and construct their opinion for themselves without interference of any authority. And thus, robbing the society the opportunity to improve itself.

"You will do me the justice to remember, that I have always strenuously supported the Right of every man to his opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it."
-Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

"I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."
- Evelyn Beatrice Hall, The Friends of Voltaire

On Human Testimony

Human testimony is NOT an evidence. No scientist would take something as the truth because he knows someone said it. Why? Because science acknowledges the frailty of human mind. Science acknowledges the possibility of error in our sensing and information processing capabilities. And also there's a possibility that the person could be lying, especially when they have motivation to do so. So we need to reside to something more objective, something that doesn't depend on our perception. We need good evidence.

So what constitutes as good evidence? Objective truth requires objective evidence, something that doesn't depend on us. A good evidence is something outside of us that we can all agree, no matter what each of us want to believe. That last part is important, we have to acknowledge our desire to be right, we all came in with an untested hypothesis that we wish to be the correct answer, we are all biased in this way. But that desire holds no value in the face of evidence. You can believe whatever you want but if the evidence doesn't support it, it's false. This just proves how wrong we can be, you only need to look back in the records history to see that point (we used to believe the earth was flat and it being the center of the universe, duh!).

Let's review the most common case of extraordinary claim, the ghost story. I'm sure you get this a lot or maybe you're one of the story teller. For simplicity, I'm gonna use one story I heard from a friend but you can use the same logic for other ghost stories you know. So he was on vacation with his family to Puncak -- a hillside family resort near Jakarta. He was staying in this old rented villa. Later at night when everybody's asleep, he was awaken by a loud sound. He checked downstairs and found that the big shelve has fell flat on the floor. He said the the shelve was too heavy to fall by itself...so it must be a ghost!

Remember what Carl Sagan taught us, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". If you want to make a case that there is a supernatural being that can interact with our natural world, you can't prove it just by saying the shelve is too heavy to just fall, the claim's too mighty and the evidence too simple. There are hundreds of more likely explanations: maybe the shelve wasn't balanced to begin with, maybe his cousin knocked it down and then pretend to sleep because she's afraid to get scold, hell, maybe there was minor earthquake. All those hypothesis are unproven, but are more likely to be true than the existence of supernatural forces, yet people jumped to the least likely and most extraordinary hypothesis -- hypothesis, mind you, and claim it to be the truth. Even if it is true, there are so many questions left unanswered, what was the motivation behind the knocking of the shelve? Why this family in particular? If the ghost has some point to prove, why do it when everyone's asleep? If he has some message for us, can he just pick up a pen and write it on a paper? He seems to be strong enough to knock down a shelve. It just doesn't make sense!

So, friends, if you experience one of those ghost stories, ask yourself those questions before jumping to conclusion. We are all capable of fooling ourselves, resort to available evidence for conclusion making. And if you are one of the listener of the said stories, don't take their word for it. Human testimony is not a good evidence, not even one to begin with. Remember, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

After Paris: To My Moderate Friends

Associated Press

AP/Christophe Ena

Getty Images/Franck Fife

AP/Thibault Camus

AP/Anne Sophie Chaisemartin

"Indeed you have been ordered to fight the infidel wherever you find him - what are you waiting for? There are weapons and cars available and targets ready to be hit,"
-Abu Maryam, IS militant

To my moderate friends who is trying to soothe the embarrassment by saying that your religion never teach you to commit those horrible acts, that it is only about peace and respect, and how you grew up in it only knowing of love and compassion; you do not have my sympathy. How many more blood do you need before you decide to open those eyes of yours? I am thankful that you are brought up in a loving family and they taught you to love and care, but that says nothing of the horrible idea that is in the belief. Know this, no one can break down a bad idea better than those who breaks the shackles itself. And you can, you're smart enough to realize there's something wrong with your faith, all you have to do is question it. You guys are the best hope humanity has for a change, yet you decide to turn blind eyes for the sake of the belief instead of the truth, like an ostrich buries its head pretending nothing's happened. This is not about you, nor the 1.6 billion muslim population who are mostly peaceful. This is about bad ideas, and how we can end it.

After 9/11, Charlie Hebdo, Boko Haram, and almost all the bloodshed in the record of history, somehow all that failed to lift your head off the earth. I'm afraid that once again we will lose this battle of idea, that tomorrow this will be forgotten, and the same tragedy will repeat again, because the very people who actually got the brains to end this refuse to use it.

Critique on Capitalism, and Why We Should Support Socialist Movement

I'm surprised by the fact that this blog has been up for more than 5 years and not once I've talked about my economic view. I guess it is because I didn't have much interesting conversation about this topic. People are always interested in my critique of religion and that leads to interesting -- or rather, in some occasion,  furious -- discussion, but as with economy I feel like people are too ignorant of the matter to even start a balanced conversation. Now with the current economic condition I think it is about time that we shed some light into this matter.

Let's start with talking about the most worshiped economic religion, Capitalism. Why do I call it economic religion? Well, it only benefits the top elite; enslaves the worshiper; against equality; and when you try to convince people that it is bad, they think you're crazy. Where have I seen this pattern before?

Pyramid of Capitalist System (source: wikipedia)

Capitalism, by definition, is a social system in which the goods essential for human well-being are owned by minority of people -- the capitalists, who will use their ownership to gain as much profit as they can get; and they pay the majority of people --the working class, to work for them. You don't have to have a degree in economy to tell that in this system the capitalists would benefit largely compared to the working class, and it would create financial inequality in the society. And that exactly what happens. One of the most disgusting fact I found is, in the US, the top 0.1% owns as much as the wealth of the bottom 90%. If that didn't shock you, I want you to stop for a moment and think about how severe that is. During the late 70's, those top 0.1% only had one-third of what they have now. Putting it in one sentence: the rich's getting richer, the poor's getting poorer, and that's bad, and it will only get worse. Given the current income inequality condition, the trend will continue unless there are some government interference to actually slow, or even turn back the current trend.

Capitalism prefers ignorance. Coca-Cola's million dollars effort to misguide research to link sugar to obesity and diseases, Exxon's funding on denying climate change, Philip Morris' political lobbying on tobacco control, those are just a few of giant corporations' effort on keeping the public misinformed. Capitalism prefers ignorance, they need it to sell their products. They need it to keep the hamsters on the wheel.

Here's the capitalistic slogan you must have heard: "If you work hard enough, you can be as rich as I am." That's bullshit. They are only saying that so you will run faster on the wheel that makes them richer. The system does not allow that to be even a possibility.

Do we have an alternative? Yes, we do. We actually have designed an economic system where everybody is equal in rights and would preserve everybody's well-being as best as the economy allows, and it's called Socialism. Now first thing's first, Socialism is not the same as Communism. I can't believe how many of my friends confuse the two terms. Communism is a system where all ownership are handled by a single authoritarian party, which puts everyone into slaves to the said party. By definition, it is anti-democratic and focuses its economic effort to satisfy the party in-charge (or in practice, the dictator in-charge), while Socialism focuses its effort on how to meet the people needs and demands. Now that I hope we've cleared that, let's move on.

Socialism has proved to work well in countries that embrace it. Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, to name a few, has health care system for everyone, free college tuition, and decent retirement funds. In my country Indonesia, the government has started socialist program like the new health care system -- BPJS, which has helped millions of people to acquire health treatment they couldn't afford before. And the people seem to love it, but ironically, still afraid of the word socialist.

The goal of socialism is to closen the gap between the poor and the rich. And how do we achieve that? By progressive taxing, by simple logic that if you have more, you should pay more. If we can get those top 1% to pay their fair share of tax, we could use that money to pay for the health care and education fee for everyone (of course this will only be effective in a free-corruption government, but that's another challenge and a topic we'll discuss another day). This is the reason why the rich hates socialist movement, they do not want to share their wealth to help millions of the poorer half of the population despite the fact that people's lives depend on it; and that is exactly why we have to challenge the status quo. Socialism is the way for the people to free themselves from the tyranny of the capitalists elite, and progress humanity as one.

This is desperate time in our global economy. The rate increase in inequality is alarming and it will continue to be so unless we start acknowledging the problem and challenge it. I encourage you to educate yourself on the matter, build your opinion, and more importantly, practice your democratic rights.

I implore you to check on this material:
* Bill Maher interviews Bernie Sanders on the word socialist, link here
* Stephen Hawking on the future of Capitalism and inequality, link here
* Karl Marx's prediction on economic evolution, link here

Richard Dawkins Conversation with Neil deGrasse Tyson

Two of my most favorite living persons having a chat.