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?
Being an idealist 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 lays 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 idealistic people 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.
It depends on what the definition of feminism is (the word feminism has changed a lot over time), but I never label myself as a feminist. Here is why.
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!
We come from different perspectives. We have different pairs of shoes.