Brown Jesus says Happy Easter

Good writing is hard to come by, so what we do with recruits at my workplace is to teach them to write well.

Being a former journalist and being one who writes moderately well, the task fell on Unspun to conduct the class.

Being a firm believer that writing is a reflection of your mental processes, I’ve always started the course with Critical Thinking 101 and the first slide in this presentation asks the participants to tell me which of the two images is a more accurate depiction of Christ.

Jesus

To Unspun the comparion is a no brainer. Jesus was a Jew and a middle easterner, a native of Galilee.

People like that, as in the BBC reconstruction from a skull found there during the period of Jesus, tended to look like the chap on the right. He may not looked exactly like the man portrayed but for sure he would have been swarthy and would NIT look like an Anglo-Saxon savior right out of the paintings of Byzantine artists.

Inevitably, however, there would be one or two – sometimes more – participants in the class who said that Jesus would have looked like the person on the left. The reason? That’s the image of Jesus they’ve seen growing up and the image that adorns the churches they go to.

Which was perfect for us to begin our discourse on critical thinking, the importance of not accepting anything at face value and why we need to ask questions more.

Inevitably too, someone would raise the argument that too much critical thinking is bad for us because it makes us cynical. We should just accept things based on faith.

The answer is that too much of anything is not good for anyone. At any rate critical thinking, if practiced skillfully leads one not to cynicism but to skepticism, which is not a bad thing.

In this world, if we question more without becoming cynical (which Oscar Wilde defines as “knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing”) we’d be enjoying oour lives more, not less; and socially and politically we would be ensuring that much of the ugliness and hate in this world we see today would be minimized.

Happy Easter everyone.

 

 

Serial Fellows

We all have them.

Friends and acquaintances who are so talented and must have accomplished so much and shown such promise that they have been singled out time and again to receive one plush fellowship or another.

You know them. They are the ones that pop up in your timeline proclaiming they feel so “humbled” to be selected for such fellowships, then proceed to bombard you with photos of the hallowed halls of influence and scholarship they’ve been sent to and the beautiful super smart people they’ve met.

At first we feel very happy for them, to be recognised for their contributions and being sent out on fellowships so they may learn of developments in their field by others in other countries.

Presumably, this would open their eyes give them new insights with which to come home  and put new ideas into practice for the benefit of recipients of their cause.

So we like their posts when they so generously share on social media the great times they had and the illustrious people they meet.

Then they come home and before you know it, they are on yet another fellowship again. And again with barely a year’s hiatus in between.

Which makes you wonder,

About the institutions dishing out these fellowships. Is Indonesia so thin on talent and worthy people that the same people keep being selected all the time?

About the recipients themselves. Where do they find time to put their new learnings and insights to work if they are busy going form one fellowship to the next?

Unspun recently had conversations with his friends and and we tried to analyse what these recipients do after their initial spurt of productivity that saw them establishing causes, movements and organisations for the public good. Out conclusion was that we couldn’t see how their fellowships had benefitted their causes.

In fact, in some instances, we felt that their causes had suffered from neglect because their founders/main movers were too busy traveling father fellowships.

We counted a couple of serial fellows who must have gone on three or four fellowships over the past five years.

There comes a point in life when anything, even the best intentioned ones involving very talented people, become ridiculous.

 

 

 

 

Erections galore but failure at maintenance remains the bane

Drive down Jalan Sudirman today and what do you see?

You’d probably say you see workers putting the finishing touches on smooth, wide walkways flanked by generous islands of grass, in a process of tarting up Jakarta for the Asian Games that starts on the 18th of next month.

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What I see, however, is a potential eyesore. The authorities here are very good at erecting monuments, public works, parks and grandoise  infrastructure. The look great.

Then comes the hard part – maintaining them, and this is where things unravel. What will the walkways be like a year from now? Will the islands still have grass growing? And what about the ornamental plants beautifying the scene?

Unspun’s prediction is that it will all go to seed because maintenance just isn’t a forte of the authorities.

Jakarta Deputy Governor Sandiaga Uno (the Dumber of the Dumb &Dumber Duo) yesterday admitted just as much when he told Kompas.com that  the City could build Kalijodo, the former red light district converted into a public park, but it could not maintain it.

Of course being Sandi he was not concerned by the truth (It was Ahok who converted and built the park, not his administration) and he had to blame others for his own failings. He said that the public was unable to take care of their park, so it was futile building things like that.

What is wrong with this guy? Cities have by laws against littering, destruction and defacing of public property and unruly public conduct precisely to prevent people from degrading the facilities. It’s a rather alien concept called enforcement that is required here.

Cities also have a budget for maintaining parks. But ensuring that the money is spent properly rather than ending in people’s pockets takes effort and hard work so its not something that he would concern himself with.

So here we go again, seeing magnificent erections but none of the energy to maintain them. When will this country ever learn that implementation and enforcement is as important, if not more, than grand gestures and magnificent new structures?

 

 

JWT’s decision to tap a PR professional to head advertising and digital agencies – good or bad idea

Unspun thinks its the best idea since tempe but then again, he’s biased to the PR profession.

But JWT has taken a huge step in appointing former Ogilvy PR and Pulse boss Marianne Adamardatine to head its operations in Indonesia, that includes digital agency Mirium.

If it works it will open the doors to lots of PR professionals and possibly usher in a new way of communicating not dominated by the advertising mindset. If it fails, the I-told-you-so guys will have a field day.

Will it work or won’t it? What do communicators out there think?

For more information on the appointment go to my posting in the Maverick blog:

 

Finally a PR person to head a major advertising outfit

These are interesting times for the marketing communications industry and for public relations.

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Like all companies in this area, JWT have been experimenting with how to cope with disruption and media convergence. Their answer is an interesting one in Indonesia: appoint a Public Relations professional to head their team in the country.

Campaign has reported that JWT has appointed Marianne Adamardatine, who has led Ogilvy PR and Pulse for many years, and who was recently appointed by Ogilvy to be their Chief Growth Officer, to head JWT indonesia.

She “will be responsible for expanding the company’s capabilities in strategic brand building, digital transformation, customer experience, marketing automation and commerce activation, as well as driving thought leadership and building business engagement with C-suite clients to initiate integrated campaigns,” according to the company. This means she will oversee the advertising and digital operations, Mirium.

We believe this is the first time that someone from a PR, rather than an advertising background, has been appointed to the top position to a major advertising outfit…read more

What do pribumi Indonesians think about their Chinese counterparts?

Not much that is good. That’s what the Singapore-based  ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute found in a survey titled  Chinese Indonesians in the Eyes of the Pribumi Public,

If the survey is accurate it suggests that after decades of living cheek by jowl with the pribumis, they still harbor stereotyped perceptions about the Indonesian Chinese.

Among the most glaring stereotyped are that the Chinese Indonesians tend to be more wealthy than the pribumis. Over 60 percent of respondents in the survey felt this.

Astoundingly almost half of the respondents, 47.6 percent, believe that the Indonesian Chinese  harbor divided loyalties between Indonesia and China.

The survey, which was conducted in May 2016 after the anti-Ahok protests, did not say whether these sentiments were as intense before the demonstrations.

Several questions come to mind from the survey results:

  1. Does this mean that no Chinese Indonesian can ever stand for high office and win, because all the opposition has to do is to fan the racial flames?
  2. Can pribumis be so oblivious of the many, many walthy-off Pribumi officials and  businesspersons that are so visible in everyday Indonesia?
  3. Does it mean that Indonesian Chinese should prepare for a difficult year ahead and until the 2019 presidential elections are over before letting out their breath? Will Indonesia be a racial powder keg all primed?
  4. Should Indonesian Chinese try harder to disabuse their pribumi counterparts of their prejudices? Or are they better off letting things lie than run the risk of stirring things up?
  5. The would the results of a similar survey, if conducted in neighboring Malaysia, show a lower, similar or higher level of prejudice?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some questions about #SayaPancasila

The hallmark of a good campaign is that it spurs public discourse on a particular subject. In this sense, the #SayaPancasila campaign can be said to be successful, if the preponderance of the hashtag and profile pictures bering the message on social media are concerned.

Effective public discourse, however, exists when there are differences of opinion and when the participants abide by rules of rhetorical fair play. So here goes Unspun‘s contribution to the public discourse on the#SayaPancasila campaign.

Three questions spring to mind from all the #SayaIndonesia and #SayaPancasila profile photos being used on Facebook Instagram and other social media channels:

  1. Are atheists allowed to proclaim #SayaPancasila? Pancasila requires the belief God, in whatever form she exists. Arising from this should there be a discussion on which is more appropriate for Indonesia today – a concept from 1945 repurposed to knit together Indonesia in 2017; or would Embracing Diversity be a more appropriate idea to campaign on?
  2. When people these days declare #SayaPancasila can it be taken as their full subscription to the five principles formulated by Sukarno in 1945 as an instrument to rally people round Indonesian Nationalism? Or is it more a talisman to signal their rejection of the more extreme and intolerant elements of Indonesia today, i.e. Rizieq and the FPI as well as other assorted hardliners? There is a difference here: one is an embrace of something, another is a rejection of another thing.
  3. Are all these declarations of #SayaPancasila on the internet missing the target? One of the things the internet is notorious for is to create bubbles where like-minded people reinforce their own ideas and convictions. How many of these #SayaPancila proclamations are actually seen by the real targets? These are the 50+ percent who voted for Anies, the thousands of easter-clad protesters who came out on 212 and other demonstrations, that part of Indonesia who get their information more from mosques and grassroots institutions than the social media. There is also the question of whether seeing such #SayaPancasila declarations would persuade them to change their minds or reinforce their believes so that they dig down even deeper in the embrace of hardline attitudes and beliefs.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that any effort to claw Indonesia back from the clutches of the hardliners is something good for this country and society. But will it be effective? Or wilt be a distraction when resources could have been channeled elsewhere for greater effect?

So where do people stand on these three questions?

 

 

 

Oxford University about to shoot itself on the foot with Kalla invite?

Unspun watched with incredulity and horror a segment from the documentary The Act of Killing in which Yusuf calla addressed a group of Pancasila Youth, who were known to be the secular equivalent of a FPI in their heyday.

 

He told the group that this country needed preman (thugs) because they got things done. Unlike the apparat (bureaucrats) who would debate a thing to death. he then explained the romantic origin of the word preman which apparently is derived from freeman.

How is it that such a man who has been documented on film as having said such preposterous words could become the Vice President of a country not once but twice boggles the imagination. He hasn’t improved since and like Trump is a serial offender against tolerant and non-sectarian views. His latest, of course, is taking a swipe at the stereotype of the Chinese Christians and Taoists being the richest people in Indonesia while the Muslim non-Chinese lag behind.

You wonder what checks and balances as well as screening processes this country’s political is bereft of. But that is Indonesia, where democracy is still a shiny new toy whose ways need to be mastered.

But Oxford University? The cradle of some of the best minds to walk the earth? The seat of intellectual prowess? Surely they can do better?

One assumes that the people running the university would have access to the internet and they would do some desktop research, at the very least, before they extended an invitation to Kalla to speak.

VP Kalla to Speak About Religious Tolerance at Oxford University | Jakarta Globe

Jakarta. Vice President Jusuf Kalla will speak about religious tolerance in Indonesia upon an invitation from Oxford University in England.

“They want to know about Islam in Indonesia, how the religion is practiced here. Many experts and diplomats will attend the event,” Kalla said on Monday (15/05).

According to Kalla, the international community seeks to learn more about the development of Islam in Indonesia, which many consider unique and different from other Muslim countries.

“They want to know why in the Muslim world, which is marred by divisions, there is Indonesia which still believes in Islamic unity as long as [the religion] is rightly practiced,” Kalla said.

According to the university’s website, the vice president is scheduled to talk at the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies on May 18. He left for the United Kingdom on Tuesday.

During his international trip, Kalla will also attend the 2017 Indonesia Trade Expo in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“We are always looking for new markets. The Balkan region is still out of reach, so we’re working to change that,” Kalla said.