By Sheilla Njoto
With the ubiquitous freshly-released movies like Crazy Rich Asians and the Netflix Original, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, it seems like the so-called ‘Asian pride’ reemerges in an instant. But not only that—it appears to be a trend to covet being represented in the Hollywood.
A couple of weeks ago, I was representing my country, Indonesia, at an International Relations conference, particularly in the track Art, Media and Culture. I came across a conversation in which we discussed this particular question: “Is it time for Asian superhero?” I have found my answer. But I’m getting ahead of myself—I’ll get to that.
There were other premises on which this question lies. It seemed to be a mental puzzle the first time I heard it. This question did not lead me straight to an answer. In fact, it raised a couple of more other questions.
The subconscious need for us, Asians, to be represented in Hollywood is in itself a fruit of eurocentrism. Yes, we want our image to be represented in the Hollywood, but Hollywood itself—or the context of superhero movies itself is rather a Western culture. So my question is, why do we want to be fit into the Western culture in the first place? Why do we want Asian culture to be boxed into Hollywood culture?
I am not at all against Hollywood. After all, there is a lot of historical facts supporting the massive contribution of Western culture to social development. But that’s not my point.
There is a thousand or a million of Asian movies that have been successful in, not only representing the Asian face, but also representing the Asian culture. I am sure that most of us who are reading this might have heard of Ip Man (it went on to Ip Man 3 and still is going)—a story of a local Wing Chun expert, who, not only was a true superhero, but he also defeated a snobby English boxer who was dishonouring China and putting Chinese people in the lowest pit during the second movie. What more of a superhero do we need?
Let’s take some other examples. Power Rangers, Ultraman, and all those superheroes represented in manga. These are the superheroes that represent the power of community and not at all emphasising on individualism as that of influence by the West. Why don’t we take these into account? Is it only because these movies are produced by Asian film productions?
“Yeah, but these movies aren’t really trending.” they said. Well, I say, who are the trendsetters? Aren’t you guys the trendsetters? Not until we start being proud of our local cultures can we be fully represented. If we don’t even take pride of our own culture, we can’t demand others to.
This reminds me that there has been a ton of critically-acclaimed Asian movies that had gone internationally recognised, like The Raid (2011), Train to Busan (2016), Forgotten (2017). There is also a number of Hollywood movies adopted from anime cultures that have gone popular, such as Dragon Ball: Evolution (2009), Tekken (2009), or Godzilla (2014). Even better—we have also witnessed successful Hollywood movies that are mainly starred by Asians--Rush Hour (1998), The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014), or Charlie’s Angels (2000). I have not mentioned the legendary Hollywood movies that portray Asian face and cultures--Life of Pi (2012), Lion (2016) or Slumdog Millionaire (2008). These movies did not only go viral because of the Asian representatives but because they are extremely amazing movies. And they have been there for a long time. So why now? Why did we only start now when Crazy Rich Asians and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before came out?
We live in the generation of what I call as the era of ‘feeling victimised’. Everyone thinks that they’re victims but they don’t reflect on how much they contribute in this victimisation. Everyone wants to feel special by saying that “I am a minority.” Well, guess what? Everyone is victim in their own story. But what do you do with it? Do you just stand there and complain about it or feeling sorry for yourself? Everyone wants to a change for themselves or an impact in this world but no one wants to change or shift their perspective to look at the other side of the story.
This leads to another topic, which is the misrepresentation of Asians in Western movies.
“Why are all Asians depicted as smart and academically ambitious? Not all Asians are like that!”, some people say. Well, I agree. Not every Asian is smart or academically ambitious. But when we only perceive an issue from our perspective, we most of the time get some sort of a ‘cultural amnesia’. We seemingly become oblivious towards the history and reality.
In some parts of the world where Asians are considered as minority (which, by population, I don’t think we are anymore at this point), it is true that most of the Asian students I have met are intelligent beyond standards and most of them are ambitious! Most of them also love story-telling to each other about how strict their parents are about their career choices and academic grades.
A friend of mine, in a slightly humourous manner, once expressed a thought that I shared the same experience in, “there are only four career options for us as an Asian: an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer, or a disgrace of the family.” But anyway, I might have gone off-topic.
Again, I cannot stress this enough, I’m not saying that all of us share the same bring-ups but it is a fact that the majority of them that I have met do. Equivalent to this, it is also a fact that most of the Caucasian people I have befriended and encountered love drinking. Especially those I encounter in Bali (where, for some reasons, I always end up meeting more Caucasians there than here in Melbourne), almost every Caucasian you see there drinks a whole heap of beer! So it is a reality. It doesn’t mean that all Caucasians are obsessed about drinking. As a matter of fact, I do have some Caucasian friends who don’t. But it is understandable to see this characteristic of Caucasian in Asian movies too!
Let me fast forward to the Crazy Rich topic!
I am not at all saying that I am not proud of Crazy Rich Asians. As a matter of fact, I am. I am proud of the diversity that is starting to be promoted extensively. But I am also proud of thousands of successful original Asian movies like Ada Apa Dengan Cinta? (2002), that perfectly portrays an innocent Indonesian high school love drama back in the 2000s. I am proud of ridiculously bloodcurdling Thai horror movies, like Shutter (2004), that has successfully represented the mystical culture in most Asian countries, especially the rural areas. In fact, this movie had been remade in Hollywood but it went down the drain.
So… going back to that question: is it time for Asian superhero? I don’t think it’s necessary to add on my direct answer on top of all these. I will leave it open-ended after all these paragraphs of verbose waffles!
By Sheilla Njoto
“When I see things from the present, life seems like a maze of doors. One door closed, another one opens up for you, and another one, and another one. But when I look back, it all happened for a reason—choices that I made and what I ended up doing.” he smiled.
Let me tell you a story about a guy I know. Let’s call him John.
Wearing his ripped red shorts and dirty white shirt as his primary school uniform, John got up, ate up half a plate of rice with sweet soy sauce on top and a traditional garlic cracker for his breakfast.
“If I could have half a fried egg on top of my rice, it would be the highlight of my week” he said.
As always, he would eat up alone. His oldest sister and second brother were away for work and his first brother was in Bandung for college. John's mum was rarely home, traveling back and forth for work to Mojosari, a little town that was a 3-hour bus ride away. Meanwhile his father slept the whole day and gambled the whole night.
“You know those trucks in the CBD with those little kids secretly climbing up the trucks from behind and shouting excitedly just because it’s fun? I used to be one of them.” he added.
His school wasn’t too far away so he walked. Sometimes he would meet his classmate along the way and walk together.
No, he never had books with him because he could not afford one. All the things he had in his mended bag were found somewhere in the corner of his classroom.
He didn’t mind.
“I remember how embarrassed I was when I was a kid when a friend invited me to their birthday lunch because my school uniform was the best outfit I had.” he chuckled.
He was supposed to finish grade 5, but his marks were so poor that he couldn’t move up to grade 6. Usually, when his mum came back to Surabaya, she would spank him and lock him up in the bathroom because he did so poorly at school. This time was different—he was actually failing. His mum begged the principal of the school to let him have a month of probation in grade 6 and see if he could continue.
Afraid of disappointing his mum, John elevated his grades exponentially and started being involved in school extracurricular activities, including basketball.
This was the starting point of his journey. In high school, he was recruited in a basketball club and he started playing nationally. He became a national basketballer. For this reason, he could still continue his high school despite his financial issues because he attained a scholarship by working with the club. As a consequence, he had to juggle with school and travel intercity and inter-province all the time.
After he graduated, he started dating a lady he met at high school.
“The first time I saw her was when we had mixed-class exam. Her cheeks were very rose pink. I was there and I was wondering how could someone be as beautiful.”
Planning to marry her, he needed a decent job in order to support his future little family. He started working as a labour worker at a textile company. A couple of years after, he was promoted as the cashier. And a while later, a salesman.
Having to juggle between basketball, relationship commitment and work, he needed to rethink his decision. He left basketball for good.
When he was 25, he married his wife. Ten years after, he provided his director with a business proposal to be partners in building a new textile company. He approved. Now he’s a co-founder and owner of 13-branch textile company around Java.
John is my dad. His real name is Anton.
Every once in a while he would talk to me and say, “what are you most grateful for in life?”. What is it, indeed?
Any other day he would tear up thinking on his own—with all that he has had now, why can’t he be completely content with himself?
“I remember when my happiness was only playing in puddles with my friend and taking a bar of soap and running outside naked when it was raining so I could wash myself in the rain.” he said. “Who would have known a silly kid like that can teach me something greater than what I know now—joy and gratefulness.”
When do we ever feel enough? Contentment and thankfulness. With these can we start to receive by giving instead of demanding to receive and receive.
How many people out there who are down to do anything to be in our place? To have good education? A loaf of bread with peanut butter and jam? I even have a relative who teared up smiling when she touched my iPhone for the first time.
I once asked my dad, “papa, what can I do to be as successful as you?” He laughed and said, “What is success to you?”
In that moment I realised--isn’t success about being content and being grateful? And being grateful leads you to do your best because you know that’s the least thing you can do to express that? And what you achieve is only the fruit of it and not the other way around.
What have we really done as a contribution of our own thankfulness of what we have had so far? It’s too easy to think that it’s only us and we don’t have enough to give.
Since people love numbers, I will close with this:
According to Social Policy Research Centre (2016), Australia's poverty line for a single adult was $426.30 per week. That's way above the internationally accepted poverty line of about $2 per day. Even with this high of a poverty line, only about 13.3% of the population were living under the line.
According to Asian Development Bank (2015), Indonesia's poverty line, based on its government, for a single adult was USD 25 per month, that's about 82 cents per day. When that line was used, about 11% were living in poverty. If the internationally accepted poverty line of $2 per day had been used, 40% of the population would have been living under the line.
“If you ever had the chance, go. Go and try wearing their shoes. Try walking their walk. See how they think when you ask these little kids what they wanted to be in the future and they answered back ‘I want to be a president but—it’s impossible’ and laughed at their own dream. Then you will appreciate your place.”
We often think we give to give but we end up receiving. We often think we teach to teach but we end up learning.
Asian Development Bank 2015, “Summary of Indonesia’s Poverty Analysis”, ADB Papers on Indonesia, No. 4, October, Philippines.
Social Policy Research Centre 2016, Poverty in Australia 2016, Australian Council of Social Service, Strawberry Hills, Australia.
By Sheilla Njoto
“Honey, what do you want to be when you grow up?” Mum used to ask.
“I want to be a president, Mum.”
Of course, a couple of months after that, I decided that it would be more fun if I could become Anna Wintour’s successor instead. Do you remember when we used to dream to be a significant figure that could bring a change into the world?
Ah, those days—where do I even begin with childhood aspirations? We used to have so much passion about every single thing we did. We used to cringe when we heard about animal abuse. We used to get upset when we first found out which politicians were corrupt. We used to grieve for people who died in battles. We used to care.
But most of these days, I grieve more about how much I tend to say, “well, that’s how the world works; we can’t do anything.” Then, often with a straight face, as if my heart is senseless, I scroll down the news to see what happens next.
Who stole our idealism? Where did our principles go? What happened to them?
Having a vision for the society in the adult world is like being a know-it-all enemy to the society. Trying to defend what is right is considered as a bothersome replacement of authority. Our standards have suddenly become a mere naïveté. And all of the sudden, the world turns against us because we start questioning not only what people have been doing all this time, but also what we all have been doing.
Not too long after, our aspirations are seemingly locked down within pessimism and we started to settle with those that are only ‘enough’. Perhaps, we are just too comfortable with the way they are. Perhaps, it’s only ego. Perhaps, just like me, we realise that the world has been going on for millenniums without us and it’s been doing… enough. We decided to stop caring because people around us had—a long time ago. We decided to stop trying because we are used to being told that trying is useless—the world is controlled by evil authorities and imperfect systems. Then the question becomes—why were we educated with the ideals anyway?
Why were we taught about laws while at the end of all those years of our journey at school, we were revealed that “systems are flawed” or “authorities are a group of scums that steal our money”. When we have a set of idealistic notions in our head, people start commenting on how blind we are towards the reality. When we are eager to stand up, people start saying about how close-minded we are towards what is really happening. Thus, the assumption always lies on the premise that the more we experience reality, the more we lose our hope in our passion. Without us realising it, we’re adopting the idea they have adopted and we start wearing pessimism.
I know a number of people who were eager to become lawyers to bring justice—and came all the way to find themselves forget why there were there in the first place. I know many people who were determined to become politicians; at the end of the day, they found themselves settling with the so-called this-is-how-the-world-works.
So, again, why did we educate kids with the ideals in the first place?
It’s not the ideals that ruin what we think towards the reality. It never is. And it’s never even the other way around. They should be walking side by side. People want a change but they don’t want to change.
How do we demand a change and expect the world to keep serving us in our way? How do we feel comfortable blabbering some complaints about the reality while the only thing we do is just—well, looking?
Most of the greatest people I know are idealistic people—those who have an aspiration to defend what is right and to do their best they can do without fear of controversy.
Last year in my Art History class, I was first intrigued by Frida Kahlo—known as a very iconic woman in history, especially in the art world. Although she was diagnosed with polio since she was young, she never stopped pursuing her passion in politics and arts. In her teenage life, she had a bus accident that caused some damages in some parts of her body. Although, the world sees it as a tragedy, it never hindered her from producing impressive paintings or empowering women. She is now one of the best painters in the history and one of the most inspiring female leaders in the world.
It didn’t start nor end at Frida Kahlo. No one needs more explaining on Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and the list goes on.
Why do we wait for the next Frida Kahlo to finally succeed to respect them? Why don’t we start with ourselves? What about idealistic people who cannot just sit there and bleed, seeing things in front of them going to a ruin? We need these people to motivate us. These people see things in a different way than what we have already seen.
In order to make a change, we first have to believe that there is a solution. In order to think of a change, we first have to see that there is a better way. Life is like a room with a hundred doors of opportunity. But to get in there, we first need to open them.
So when did we lose our aspiration? Our idealism? Why did we stop believing? So let’s constantly ask ourselves these questions:
“Where are we?”
“What have we been doing?”
“Am I on the right track?” If yes, good. If no, then what’s pulling you back?
It is underrated to say:
“But it’s just me. Who am I? What can I do?”
Needless to say again—those game-changers could have thought the same way and the history would have gone differently. Frida Kahlo wouldn’t have been Frida Kahlo if she wasn’t handicapped. After all, the question is not about when we stopped believing; it’s about how we believe again.
By Andrean Kristof
Just as Angela Merkel confronted Helmut Kohl on the CDU donation scandal, it appears that even though Merkel was only a junior politician back then, she could emerge to the public, confront her mentor, and uncover the truth. Merkel was Helmut’s prodigee, even this fact didn’t take Merkel back to tackle her senior. This kind of political manoeuvre is needed in every modern era democracy. Political parties may “play” every game available to be played but still under norms and moral limitation. Without this moral limitation, political parties could have done virtually anything that it takes to gain power and vote.
This moral limitation plays a vital role for the government to run the country. It disabled unqualified politician to win elections. In many developing countries, it is very common for an unqualified candidates to challenge and win the election. They often used methods that are out of norm and sometimes radical to campaign himself/herself in order to win election. This method is facile to be implemented and appears to be potent.
Methods such as escaping prosecution, using black campaigns, even to manipulating elections. In many examples, these politicians escape prosecution not only by terrorizing law enforcer but even by murdering. These methods, even though it is inhumane and immoral, can be categorized as “not severe” because it only victimise a handful of people. Black campaign is seriously baneful. Politicians often target a race or religion in order to unite the majority by giving them an enemy. They labeled their political opponent as a member of the blamed race or religion then prosecute. This is very harmful as it destabilize the economy, provides insecurity to the prosecuted, and hamper nation's growth. Many severe examples lead to massive exodus of the persecuted group and triggering a global refugee crisis.
A democratic country is a Government of the people, by the people, for the people - as said famously by Abraham Lincoln. Elected politicians through these corrupted methods do not hamper the democracy itself. As these politicians cut their way to office or they manipulate the opinion of people by feeding them false corrupt mindset. Moreover these politicians are mainly unqualified to hold executive nor legislative positions. These, again, leads to deprivation of possible growth and development, had the positions held by qualified politician.
To tackle this issue, we need to first understand why these politicians allowed themselves to employ such immoral methods?
In most countries - mainly developing countries, it has been a tradition for such practice to take place. It is deeply implanted on the minds of the people that self wealth, authority or power are an important goals that they should be achieved whatever it takes. wealth, power, and authority are the main items to appear to be respected by the society. These phenomenon is widely “cancer-ing” the society.
My second explanation of why politicians appear to have no limit, is that they can not tolerate differences among them or their group with another group or people. They force to enter politics to alter things that are not accordingly to themselves or their group. This second explanation take place mainly on countries that contains of many ethnicity, religion, and group.
The solution to this issue is to alter the corrupt and selfish mentality of politicians and hence, alter the corrupt mentality of the people - hence impossible and too good to be true. A more realistic solution which I may point out is the role of the press. In order to make the press as a guardian of the democracy, news agencies both online and offline need to be unrelated to government. A transparent press would provide the society a dependable and valid information regarding politics.
Now the main question is how to heal countries tangled by corrupted manner of their politicians? In my opinion, countries like this need a fresh start. Its old government needs to be toppled out of power. I am not saying that people needs to start a coup, but a brand new fresh party whose members are not from the old regime or even never even dipped to politics. Parties like En Marche by Emanuel Macron is a good example. It serves as a fresh air to the french politics. This new government needs to reform how politics should really be practiced. With help from the press and the people, government can then slowly wash the old customs and traditions of corrupted politics.
Now I am asking you people, do you have the guts to be the next Macron in your country?
By Sheilla Njoto
How many of you have heard of people saying...
“Women are stronger than you think.”
“Don’t be afraid to stand up just because you’re a woman.”
“Women have equal rights.”?
I agree. They are crucial; but I am not here today to tell you about all those again. I know we all have heard of them lots of times especially since a couple of years ago.
I was raised in a traditional German/Chinese/Indonesian family. My mother comes from a German/Chinese background and my father comes from an Indonesian/Chinese background. Being the youngest and the only girl among my siblings, I was taught in a certain way with certain etiquette in order for me to grow up in a safe and a protected environment to be a ‘well-behaved’ and ‘morally decent’ lady.
I was trained to cook for my family. I was taught to serve the family because we believed it was part of women’s role. My room was expected to be clean all the time and my handwriting was assumed to be very neat. I remember once when my parents would tell me off because I used to draw a lot on my notebooks and there was a lot of scribbles. I was a girl and they thought neat notebooks were my thing.
As I grew up, there was a time when I felt left out because my two brothers used to play video games and they didn’t want to include me. My brothers wouldn’t let me play because they thought I must have sucked at it because I was a girl. And I remember when they were still at school, I tried so hard to win Counter Strike. I wasn’t a huge fan.
I kept on practicing to prove a point to my brothers that I was, indeed, able. And I was right. The next night, I got the first rank among my brothers and all the AIs. I was so proud and content. And I never let them forget until today.
It was surprising for my father when he knew how huge my ambition was since I was little. I have always been a strong-willed, determined woman and sometimes it scared my parents.
“What if you never marry because you are being too opinionated and it intimidates your partner?”
It didn’t make sense for me because I didn’t understand how such amazing ambition, which, I was very proud I had, could affect me negatively. Wasn’t that a good thing to have determination and motivation for the future? To push my talents and to constantly search for new challenges in life? Wasn’t it a good thing to be able to lead? To inspire people, to speak up and to be a good leader?
I became tired of hearing all those negative comments about my so-called ‘masculinity’. This distinct characteristic in me that became one of the biggest drives for me to go out there and bring a change was seen merely as a ‘rebellious’ act towards norms in my own culture. I started questioning myself over and over again.
And just like any other most women you may know in your life, I envied the opportunities that men could have but women just didn’t.
This thought I kept on carrying in my mind along with a wishful thinking that someday, when I finally leave a communal society like my cultural bring-ups, I could be free from normative expectations—until I started living in Melbourne in 2015.
I, then, realised that I was wrong. I started to think that I could never escape a set of expectations put unto me about what a woman should be. No. It wasn’t that women have to cook or clean. It was a total opposite. I just realised that I have entered a new world where, having built by the same tradition in the past with all the new cultures revolving around it, women are valued more when they can only hear their own voices, become very individualistic, fiercely reject requests of serving men, and more. I was often put down for being ‘too weak’ as a woman because I seemed to confirm to some traditions and cultural values. I was often put down because I enjoy doing things that women were ‘assumed’ to do.
Yes, I cook for my brothers—not because I’m pushed to but because I enjoy looking at their smiles when they devour my cooking. Yes, I care about how I look—not because I care about looking pretty in photos but because I want to be respectful towards whoever I meet that day. Yes, I care about how revealing my dress is—not because I don’t agree with women’s rights to choose but because I care about what I might be silently expressing through my decisions in life. Yes, despite my aspiration in bringing social change to the society, I wish to be a full-time mother someday in my life because I feel called to be a loving mother and wife.
I came to realise that cultures take a huge part in the definition of being a so-called ‘good’ woman. I would say that there is no better or worse definition for it. I like to be able to appreciate both cultures. And whether we like it or not, cultures, along with what we are exposed to and the way we were brought up, take part in shaping ourselves and our identity. I am more than grateful to have been exposed to all these cultures.
Thinking that there is only one definition of being a ‘true’ woman only means we’re being exclusive to certain cultures. Thinking that jobs with most women are second-class jobs only means we’re being exclusive to certain women.
From all these experiences, I gained a thought that having a freedom to speak as a woman is not merely the freedom to have equal opportunities as men, but also the freedom to be the best of our authentic self without being put down. That’s when we truly have the freedom to speak and to choose.
Be the best leader you can if you are a leader.
Be the best motivator if you are a motivator.
Be the best housewife is you are a housewife.
Do all those not only to prove a point. Do all those because you know it’s the best you can do. Do all those because you’re confident about yourself and you know what you’re capable of.
I have met a woman who has decided to become celibate because she had a mission in Africa to help them with their education and famine. She believed that having romantic relationships would only hurt more people at the end of the day. At the same time, I also know a very wonderful woman who turned down a prestigious architectural role and decided that she would be able to serve her husband and her whole family better if she became a stay-home mother. It was, indeed, her decision. And never in my life have I known a time that her husband disrespected her. He knew what she was capable of. He knew what she was worth. He knew how smart she was and there was not a decision he made without neglecting her bright opinions—and he let everyone know about it.
These women are a huge inspiration and these are the women to look up to! The women that are happy with who they are. The women that can find joy in things that they believe in. They prove to be great people.
And the question becomes: why, then, the more people know about this confidence in these women, they gain respect towards their decisions?
Instead of trying to define what it means to me to be a ‘good’ woman, I chose to push myself towards being a ‘good’ person instead—and through this, I let people decide what I am as a woman. I decide to be authentic about who I am without forgetting to question back what I am politically-but-mutely saying by doing a particular thing. Let’s try out best not to define ourselves by what people say about us but at the same time let’s try our best not to disrespect people’s opinions or even their presence just because we only think about what we think.
I believe that not caring about what people think about us entirely is not the key to being confident as a woman. I believe that the key to being confident as a woman is to be the best person you can be—not because you are proving a point, but because you realise it is a good thing. Think of people’s perspectives as a medium to reflect.
So why do we keep on feeling sorry for ourselves because we are women? Why do we keep on victimising ourselves? Why do we keep on playing victims?
If we want to be respected as women, then we, first, respect them. If we want to be listened, then, first, engage with them. If we want to be included, then include ourselves. If we want to be included as women, don’t exclude men in return. If we don’t want to be victims, don’t victimise ourselves. If we are smart, be smart. If we are strong, be strong.
After all, it is not winning Counter Strike that made my brothers realise how strong I was as a woman. It was my great ambition and determination that did. My willingness to face new challenges and to push myself out of comfort zone was what first made my dad realised that I could be stronger than both my brothers—being my authentic self and the best person I can be. It was never about me winning Counter Strike.
By Andrean Kristof
Everything good in life is all about process and patience. Thank God I have this amazing opportunity to do an intern at a big tyre manufacture in Hannover therefore, please allow me to share a few things I've learned because nothing good should be kept alone.
On the first week of my intern days, we didn't had even a single chance to do work. We were given a bunch loads of reading items of literally everything in detail. From how to count alcohol contain in blood and level of distortion caused, manuals of every single machinery that we will operate, to how to perform a first aid in emergency. This taught me real hard on doing the right things exactly correct.
We repeat over our work for at least 3 times per stage because they do not tolerate flaw on our work. Our works are done according to the DIN Metal standards and that means our margin of error is by 0,5 mm. Even then, our instructor said that it was a very huge tolerance. At first I was to desperate to follow this standard because there was no way one could shape raw metal even using electric saw or sophisticated drilling machine to be something real precise. But again, time does its work. Slowly I got myself used to the rhythm of getting the "feeling". Now I can shape a rounded item using only metal hand graver perfectly (see picture). This time, I learnt that to master something, one should learn slow and willing to be processed, even if the process is painful. Nothing instant is good.
When being asked on guidance, seniors would gladly show us how to perform the work in a detailed manner. Although they are more experienced, I felt no "seniority" at all. I'm flattered on how Germans respect each other even to their juniors. Every single day, before the day start, instructors would came out and shake our hand and greet us one by one. Although it seems like it's just a normal thing to do in life, greeting people, but never before in my life have I ever known instructors, no matter how senior they are, respect a nobody like me. One of the reading item from the first week is about respect. It is clearly stated that everybody is equal and should be respected evenly. There is also the German law regulating this matter. From this I learnt to respect everybody regardless who they are and who you are.
Although I've been there less than a month, I have never seen someone coming late to work. I knew that punctuality is a serious thing in Germany, things like train would come on the exact minute as it is in schedule, but i never anticipated this level of punctuality. We have two break times each day, colleagues never pack their stuff five minutes before break time they are always on full working pace. They do not exploit time on doing personal things like playing handphone or even talking personal to other colleagues, this is simply fascinating. I do not know where this culture came from but they are very very serious with integrity. By the minute work should start to the minute of break to the minute work should end, they are working on full pace. This amazes me everyday I go to work.
It is not a secret that German cars, machinery, and beers are perhaps the best in the world. Throughout my time living in Germany, I am confident to sum up that these thing I’ve shared above are the secret ingredients. These secrets may theoretically be simple, but believe me, it is hard to change one’s imprinted cultures and norms. But I believe it would worth to try to be “Germans”. I myself am struggling real hard to alter myself. On this post, i share about the situations in work, maybe next time i may share about the culture in day to day life. I hope this post may bring something good for you, and for me. Prost!
By Sheilla Njoto
Ya, saya setuju, bukan dengan pernyataan diatas; namun dengan beberapa dari Anda, pembaca, yang dalam hati menjawab: “Tidak semua orang menghimbau (atau dihimbau) demikian.”
Saya berasal dari Surabaya. Kegemaran saya dalam bidang seni dan sosial sangat jauh dibandingkan kegemaran saya dalam bisnis—yang alhasil, visi dan misi saya dipertanyakan dan ditentang oleh kebanyakan orang di lingkungan saya; beberapa anggota keluarga, teman – teman saya, teman – teman orang tua saya, and you know, hampir setiap orang yang saya bisa pikirkan.
“Percuma dong, kalo sudah sekolah tinggi dan mahal, tapi kurang hasil dan kurang sukses? (!)”
Mungkin yang perlu ditanyakan dan dijelaskan adalah: Apa definisi ‘hasil’? Dan apa definisi ‘sukses’ itu sendiri?
Menurut saya, ini yang menjadi titik inisiasi cara pemikiran seseorang tentang karir dan pendidikan. Saya kira perlu untuk seseorang mempertanyakan objektif dari pendidikan mereka, khususnya di universitas. Apa itu sukses? Apa yang menjadi hasil dan objektif saya?
Tentunya, menurut saya pun, tidak ada definisi ‘sukses’ atau ‘hasil’ yang salah. Saya suka melihat keragaman kegemaran dan visi/misi.
“Aku mau share pengetahuanku dengan mengajar. Indonesia perlu tenaga kerja guru.”
“Aku sih mau berpetualangan ke berbagai kota, pulau, dan negara, untuk foto the best landscapes. Makanya, rencanaku sih lamar kerja ke majalah travel.”
“Aku suka bertemu dengan angka. Aku juga mau banget untuk menjadi mapan secara finansial.”
“Kalian pernah dengar tentang filosofi dibalik seni, gak? Seru banget, loh! Banyak hal yang bisa dipelajari dari sana untuk ngembangin seni dan budaya Indonesia.”
Namun, saya lihat yang menjadi masalahnya adalah kurangnya keragaman ini. Visi dan misi mayoritas dari kita (saya tekankan, memang tidak semua) adalah kesuksesan dalam bentuk finansial, menekankan tujuan akhir saja dan mengabaikan kegembiraan dan enjoyment dalam proses kerja itu sendiri. Mungkin, sudut pandang ini sudah terbentuk sejak orang tua menekankan: “Kamu sekolah yang benar, ya. Kalau sudah besar biar buka perusahaan sendiri trus kaya.”, atau bahkan “Kamu sekolah yang benar, baru Papa percayakan perusahaan Papa ke kamu.”
Mungkin juga bukan sepenuhnya dari orang tua, tapi dari institusi pendidikan. Berapa banyak sekolah di Indonesia yang menjelaskan tentang plagiat? Berapa banyak sekolah di Indonesia yang menjelaskan tentang sistem parafrase dalam penulisan esai? Atau guru yang menghimbau pelajar untuk belajar dengan giat untuk menjadi sukses secara finansial di masak depan? Sebelum saya lupa, saya perlu katakan, tentunya, saya harus mengecualikan sekolah internasional di Indonesia, karena sistem pengajarannya merupakan hasil adopsi dari sistem pengajaran luar negeri.
Faktor lain yang jelas adalah, bagaimana kita bisa harapkan pelajar muda tidak menyanjung uang kalau lingkungan dan sistem negara kita pun men-design kita untuk menyanjung uang? Bagaimana kita tidak menyanjung uang kalau mengurus kartu SIM saja dipersusah jika tanpa uang? Bagaimana kita tidak menyanjung uang kalau segala proses dipermudah saat uang dikeluarkan? Bagaiamana kita tidak menyanjung uang kalau orang yang punya uang justru dipermudah, bukan hanya secara proses, namun juga finansial? Diskon besar untuk pengguna kartu kredit? Ring any bells?
Saya nyatakan ulang bahwa saya sama sekali tidak menentang keinginan untuk mapan secara finansial. Menjadi tumpul jika saya bilang saya hidup tidak butuh uang. Uang itu penting, tapi saya kira bukan yang terpenting (‘saya kira’, sekali lagi, bukan pernyataan absolut). Permasalahan yang saya ingin utarakan adalah saat semua orang menginginkan hal yang sama. Hal ini membuat masyarakat merasa menjadi kurator museum karena peduli budaya bangsa, ibu rumah tangga karena memiliki hati melayani, menjadi guru karena (akui saja) kita semua butuh, atau bahkan masuk TNI karena patriotisme yang tinggi, menjadi pekerjaan – pekerjaan kelas B.
“Kamu suka seni? Masuk design saja, supaya lebih bisa dapat uang waktu buka perusahaan design sendiri dan tinggal duduk menerima uang.” Saya perlu garis-bawahi bahwa design dan seni itu sangat berbeda dalam sangat banyak hal. Fine artist dan designer bisa berdebat berjam-jam tentang perbedaan mereka.
“Kamu suka ngajar? Buka les-les an saja, terima uang banyak daripada mengajar di sekolah.”
Bagaimana dengan keinginan untuk membawa perubahan kepada bangsa? Bagaimana dengan keinginan untuk berpolitik? Bagaimana dengan keinginan untuk… you name it.
Seni, kreativitas, intensi mulia lainnya tidak lagi dihargai. Saya tahu beberapa institusi pendidikan yang konon katanya mengajarkan design dan seni, tapi ujungnya mengabaikan kreativitas dan inovasi, dan kembali lagi mengarah kepada pernyataan, “Gak papa, yang penting pembuatan nya cepat dan praktis, supaya cepat dapat konsumen.” Kembali lagi ke pertanyaan awal saya, proses atau uang?
Tidak kaget jika budaya dan seni bangsa kita letakkan begitu saja di meja lama. “Yang penting punya.” Ya, sampai negara lain klaim baru kita menjerit berduka.
Saya kira beberapa tahun terakhir keadaan semakin parah. Dengan booming-nya media sosial, anak muda semakin mendambakan kehidupan orang lain yang jauh lebih cantik/tampan dan jauh lebih kaya. Berapa banyak seniman dan designer yang kesusahan dan kehilangan harapan karena so-called clothing line (toko baju online) yang menjual produk pesanan dan by design/by demand dikuasai oleh orang yang ‘terkenal’ di media sosial, bukan karena mereka designer yang hebat (mungkin iya, tapi bukan alasan utama), bukan karena mereka lulusan design di sekolah ternama, tapi merely karena mereka terkenal dan didambakan orang. Memang, itu semua bisa dihubungkan ke segi marketing, dimana di zaman sekarang sistem marketing endorsing- through- social-media-celebs itu marak. Tapi, coba kita pikirkan lagi, apa itu satu – satunya alasan? Entrepeneur bertalenta pun jadi tersembunyi karena maraknya trend ‘buka usaha sendiri’. Tidak ada salahnya membuat start-up business, tapi yang membuat prihatin adalah saat masyarakat mengabaikan seorang yang sesungguhnya bertalenta dalam bidangnya karena mereka tersembunyi dibalik orang - orang ternama di media sosial karena kecantikan atau kekayaannya dan dipuja orang.
Hampir semua bidang di Indonesia ditarik kedalam bisnis, dan bisnis pun dikuasai oleh social bees di media sosial. Saya kira jelas bahwa salah satu alasan bidang lain selain bisnis kurang berkembang di Indonesia adalah pengaruh hal tersebut. Komunitas yang up-to-date mayoritas adalah komunitas bisnis. Komunitas pendidikan, seni, dan sebagainya kurang ditengok sehingga kurang berkembang.
Bayangkan jika ini terus terjadi, kapan Indonesia sendiri berkembang? Belum kalau ditambah dengan proses ilegal pebisnis Indonesia demi mencari uang. Mudah sekali untuk kita menyalahkan pemerintah lagi. Tapi pertanyaannya adalah--jika kita mau perubahan, mengapa kita tidak mau berubah?
We come from different perspectives. We have different pairs of shoes.