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 sport. Up until this year, I had 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, doing so meant that I had to gag my sense of idealism (or pride) and 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 are 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 sullied footprints 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. If that premise is true, why would it change the way I perceive politics, you ask?
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 the so-called '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. Marx has famously 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 should not be in us, but it is for us to be separated from our own desire to live as arrogant gods who strive 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 exactly when I found my reason to stay. And all these words are precisely why. The fact that the brokenness of humanity is endless – so endless that life seems pointless – is the more reason to stay. Because 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 on our behalf and 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 (and mind you, I don't mention 'pure love' too liberally). 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!
Our shoes have traveled miles, have seen and spoken – and we let you borrow them!