When you study politics as an Indonesian woman, you will start to get used of being asked: “Why politics? Why waste your time in it?”
But I get it – there is a certain negative undertone to the term politics itself – it is a dirty game, an endless battle for power, they say. I know these accusations pretty well – I am not naïve (at least I would love to think that I am not). But my expectations to this were flipped when I signed myself up to that game of chess. Up until this year, I have been responding that question with the same imprudent answer over and over again – and it was exactly this: “politics and policy are a matter of problem-solving strategy – I enjoy that kind of challenge!”
I still nod in agreement with the past me – but the reason why I was interested in politics is different to what makes me stay in politics. So, let me tell you my story.
It was my very first semester. I carried with me a confidence rooted on at least thirty pre-read books of political ideologies. I came in, expecting to see a political case and scrutinise it. Oh, how much I was wrong! In my first week, I was challenged to see a case and analyse why such unethical action is a smart strategy. In other words, I was taught to ‘play by the game’ in order for what I believe to be a ‘well-intended’ political agenda to pass through.
“If you don’t play by the game, you have already lost.”
I could not have the bravery to swallow that fact – after all, swallowing that meant that I had to gag my sense of idealism (or pride) – my confidence that things could work the way they should work. I thought learning was hard – but I have found that unlearning is much harder.
What I have come to learn is that my initial premise was proven to be true: both the challenge and the benefit of getting into politics is that we never ever run out of problems. It is a challenge, obviously, but it is also a benefit because… well, if we run out of problems – I won’t have a job.
But what I have come to unlearn is unquestionably heartbreaking. It is that this: all of the problems happening in this world that people have constantly tried for so long to eliminate– so long as humans came to be – are not of external casualties but are the filthy stain of our very own existence – the mark of our own ego.
This summer, my heart was crushed in humiliation as I read the book Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari for a discussion material. Brilliant man. Brilliant book! To prove its brilliance, I will quote his last remarks:
“We (humans) are more powerful than ever before but have very little idea what to do with all that power (and) more irresponsible than ever. Self-made gods with only the laws of physics to keep us company, we are accountable to no one. We are consequently wreaking havoc (…) on the surrounding ecosystem, seeking little more than our own comfort and amusement, yet never finding satisfaction. Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don’t know what they want?”
Politics is ingrained within us as humans: we seek power, entitlement and the comfort that comes with them. We are hostage to our own selfishness. I, too, am guilty of that.
This leads me to the second lesson I came to unlearn. It is that the way out of this cycle is not by saving ourselves out. I am disheartened by how foolish I could be to think that this was possible. I was knocked awake to my deepest conscience that what keeps us from ultimate freedom is not things outside. There is nothing more restricting than our own capability of self-seeking evil that constantly pursues an egoistic authority over our world and over others to follow our rules. Karl Marx has tried theorising this in his books as the predominant cause to the world’s greatest problems: war, violence, rape, murder, poverty and greed; but has miserably failed to find a successful antidote.
By this point I realise that if we are to eradicate evil, the first thing to destroy is us. The remedy is not in us, but it is to be separated from our own desire to live as arrogant gods who try to build our own dynasties.
So, then, I returned to the question myself: “When is this ending?” “If I really am getting into this field, where is this even going?”
If we know undoubtedly that solving a problem would create another, really, though, I thought to myself, what is the point?
But that was when I found my reason to stay. And all these words are exactly why. The fact that the brokenness of humanity is endless – so endless that life seems pointless – is the more reason to stay. But with bad news comes the good – and it is this: that we have been liberated from our brokenness when Jesus was nailed on the cross and he said, “it is finished!” After reading a bookshelf of policy literature, this is still the finest and the most unthinkable problem-solving strategy I have ever known in my life! No other leader worthy of throne would abandon their pride to give the ultimate freedom that we need. And you think the concept of democracy is pristine? Think again.
I have discovered my purpose; and it is not to find peace for myself anymore – but to share that peace that I have received; to mirror what has been done on the cross; to practice his justice and his love; and to partake in the brokenness of this world and sacrifice myself so that others could be as hopeful!
I thought I came to help humanity, but he came to restore it. I thought I came to establish justice, but he unveiled to me one that is true, one that comes with pure love. I thought I came to build a legacy for humanity, but he revealed to me the story of his victory over evil and death and welcomes us to partake in it! I thought I came to pave the way to a better future, but he paved his way to the cross to make a new life to come that is full of joy forever and ever!
By Sheilla Njoto
Almost two months ago, I got back to Melbourne from my intense experience overseas. The next morning I woke up, I sat there in bed, taking myself to this imaginary time machine, traversing my own memory. Of course, I recorded my day-to-day in my journal, as always, but it didn't mean that I understood what I had gone through, because you know - you only start to comprehend when you look back from the present.
So, I turned my journal over and I unfolded it with my left hand. On the very corner of the first page from the back, I started writing the '10 major things I learnt from January 2018 - March 2019'. I had been meaning to expand what appears to be a list, into a beautifully curated blog post - but, oh dear, I just realised how much my talk is just a talk. So, after almost two months, I decided that a list is 'okay enough'. If I could advise you, please, when you read this, take a minute or two after each point to 'digest' it - or perhaps, to generate your own thoughts!
So, here is the list.
1 When the unexpected happens, I shift my question from "why is this happening to me?" to "what are the opportunities that are carried by this?". I have been surprised too many times by how much the unexpected has challenged me to grow beyond what I thought I was capable of. A hint of pragmatism allows me to enter a new world that I would have never expected I would enjoy.
2 If it is true that most failures are inevitable, it does not mean that it should be the reason we settle for less.
3 I have learnt to look at myself from the outside in the hardest way I can imagine. I realised that I am enslaved by my own ego. The freedom that the world offers does not free me from it. I have observed that this, too, is so often the root of major human problems.
4 Questions lead me somewhere I have never expected I will discover. Questions allow me to sail to the land of the impossible.
5 In the self-entitled world where people are demanding freedom, it is too easy to overlook responsibilities. In the world where people are trying hard to pursue happiness, it is too easy to forget to seek (or question) meaning.
6 Writing is like having a conversation where I can set my own parameter and where I can control where it goes. It allows me to structure my own thoughts. Receiving information doesn't always mean that I understand it. Understanding it doesn't always mean that I am able to conceive a conclusion.
7 Committing to wake up at 6 and actually doing it don't only mean waking up at 6. It trains self-control.
8 Reading is like traveling in time and space. Or better - it allows me to borrow someone else's eyes and mind for a little while.
9 Most of the sophisticated-appearing people I have met are those who avoid to (or almost never) talk about others - not even when it's positive. They tell that to their faces.
10 It is difficult to actively listen, without building up something in our heads.
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?
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 see his classmate along the way and walk together, brushing up against each other and giggled. They often played around giving piggy-back rides to one another. That should have been easy to do; John was as light as air and 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.
Let's meet to feet.
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 Amelia Earhart, 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? 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 overrated 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.”
I agree--but I am not here today to tell you about all those again. I know that most of us have heard of them repeatedly, 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 so-called ‘well-behaved’ and ‘morally decent’ lady.
I was trained to cook and serve the family because we believed it was part of 'women’s role'. I was expected to have my room perfectly clean and neat every second. It is even extremely common for people to assume that my handwriting should be as neat as freshly-printed script. I remember one time when my parents would tell me off because I used to scribble lot on my notebooks.
As I grew up, there was a time when I felt left out because my two brothers used to play video games and they never wanted to include me. They thought I must have sucked at it because I was a girl. Feeling challenged about it, I remember when they were still at school, I tried so hard to win Counter Strike on my own. Believe me, 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 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 a huge 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 the '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 coveted 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, despite having been built by the same tradition in the past with all the new cultures revolving around it, it is what I never imagined before. The majority of women I know 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 shaping how the society perceives an issue. 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. The point of this life is not me. The world doesn't revolve around me - it is so much bigger than that.
Thinking that there is only one definition of being a 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 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 choose without being put down. That’s when we truly have the freedom to speak.
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 Algeria 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 enjoy the 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 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 the best of 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 being completely ignorant about what people think about us entirely is not the key to being confident. I believe that the key to being confident is to be self-aware and humbly strive to be the best of yourself—not because you are proving a point, but because you realise it is a way of growing. 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 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
IEverything 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 have different pairs of shoes but we'll let you borrow them!