Thursday, October 20, 2011


It sneaked up the middle of the night
A memory triggered by a posture
A moment that was known not to last
Rushed back contemptuously
Prolonged and enhanced
Like an unforgiving karma

What was then a stolen joy
Crept up as uncaught tears
Soaked up by the blackness and muffled TV
A longing that was never mine to fill
A loving that was never his to give

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Working Draft

Image source

A tingle on the foot
And the tiny cockroach crawled
brown against brown

A jerk on the seat
And the cool air slowly reached
metal against metal

And the ground begins to rumble
muffled conversations
turned to waves and faces
consolations and reassurances, of
A parting
not too long

A constant push on the horn
how often does it crash?
faces pausing and looking,
how long does it take?

A stop.
people streaming in and out
tangled with sounds and smells
of foods and words
repeated words

A lady passed
And the remains swept
has the cool air stopped?
And the bones began to itch
for a stretch
or a bouncier flesh

A long pause.
And the air hissed from the back
And the coolness receded
A baby's screams hushed
And the still greens, stretched
An S.35 slowly passed

sedated naps
Abruptly awakened
And the repeated word returns
A pause for a sell
And the word returns
Another S.35 passed

the checking of the numbers
increased with the anticipation of
An arrival
And the screen flashed:
where is the exit?
[A sigh]

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Relevance of Schooling for All

Does the sheer joy of learning belong only to the privileged?

For a few years now I have been thinking about the relevance of formal schooling and its curriculum, particularly for members of the society who are marginalized – geographically, economically, politically, socially, or culturally. My encounters with communities living in poverty or in remote areas have made me seriously question what formal schooling means for them.

In an article I wrote in 2008 (available here in Bahasa), I argued that formal schooling in Indonesia is too academically oriented for a population where only 17.2% of 28 million youth age 19-24 pursue higher education. In rural areas, the percentage is even worse. During a visit to a small village of Marangkayu, in East Borneo province of Indonesia to conduct an evaluation for ProVisi Education, of the 22,117 people, only 7% graduated from high school.

In the attempt to start experimenting with what kind of schooling would be more relevant for communities in rural and remote areas, at the very last week of 2010, I had a lengthy discussion on this topic over coffee with a friend who is a social entrepreneur in the field of education. He shares his growing conviction that the only way to convince marginalized families on the importance of education is by ensuring that schooling makes a difference in their lives. Schooling has to directly translate into economical terms, if not immediate economical return for the families.

While this conviction is well founded on compassionate observations and is well meaning, I couldn’t help feeling a certain degree of discomfort. If schools are not only more relevant, but also introduce students to the wonders of the world, shouldn’t the sheer joy of learning become part of the main reason for education for all?

I found better comfort while finishing Stanley Aronowitz’s "Against Schooling (2008).” One of his main arguments is that because schools have become mere extensions of industrial productions, schools are no longer sites for social transformation. The growing pressure for higher education institutions to be financially more self-sustaining has taken away students’ “thirst for reflection” in exchange for the demand for ““relevance” in the curriculum” (p. 75). Quoting Gramsci at length, he suggests instead that education should find the balance between the two:
“The tendency today is to abolish every type of schooling that is “disinterested” (not serving immediate interests) or “formative” – keeping at most only a small-scale version to serve a tiny elite of ladies and gentlemen who do not have to worry about assuring themselves of a future career. Instead there is a steady growth of specialized vocational schools, in which the pupil’s destiny and future activity are determined in advance. A rational solution to the crisis ought to adopt the following lines. First, a common basic education, imparting general, humanistic, formative culture; this would strike the right balance between development of the capacity for working manually (technically, industrially) and the development of capacities required for intellectual work (Gramsci 1971, 27)."

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Quadruple one and the creative act

Happy quadruple one! I have resolved to start blogging again this year, to outlet experiences, thoughts, reflections, hopes, expectations along my personal and professional journeys through life, and to channel them through writing, which had hopefully reached its all-time low productivity in 2010.

I did try putting matters into words, but it was awfully difficult, not because of a writer’s block, but more as an outcome of – what dawned on me while reading Aronowitz’ “Against Schooling” – the lack of time and space to create. 2010 was a busy year, as I plunged into what was then a new job: developing and managing quality improvement program for schools in remote parts of Sumatra. Between overutilization of my finite time and limited brain power and underutilization of my best skills, I was mostly left exhausted and uninspired on weekday nights and weekends. “We are all so busy doing things that we never have time for thinking,” summarizes Aronowitz (2008: 58) in a chapter entitled “The World Turned Upside Down – Again” in the previously quoted book.

In this brilliant less-than-eight pages short essay, Aronowitz starts by highlighting the problems of the globalized world – from millions of displaced people unabsorbed by available employments, the availability of less fulfilling jobs despite supposedly better skilled and more intellectual labors, the requirement of lifelong learning as a result of insecure employments, and the strengthening and overpowering of capitalism on almost all public domains. He argues that the need to provide and create alternatives to globalization as a hegemonic system (and other hegemonic systems for that matter) is unfortunately unaddressed in schools: the need to gain self-knowledge vis-a-vis the world-at-large, to know the histories of the self and of humankind, and to have the time and the space to reflect, to invent and to create.

Let’s carve out the time and the space it takes in 2011 to reflect, to invent and to create, in order to find “what the alternatives are to simply accepting things as if they were natural (Aronowitz, 2008: 57).”

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Reading 1984 in 2008

“[C]an human nature be changed in such a way that man will forget his longing for freedom, for dignity, for integrity, for love ... ?” asked Erich Fromm in his afterword to George Orwell’s 1984.

In his haunting novel, Orwell described very convincing procedures through which even the most ardent believer in humanity, “a minority of one” in the sea of an otherwise brainwashed society, could be turned into an automaton, made possible by the concept of doublethink.

Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. ... The process has to be conscious or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt.
George Orwell, 1984, 1949: 214.

The following remarks are probably personal side effects of being freshly influenced by Orwellian thoughts: Aren’t we all, to differing degree, doublethinkers? Don’t we all maintain contradictory beliefs in our minds as a survival method in evading what would otherwise be too painful of a reality, too unpleasant of a memory, and too feeble of a character?