Archive | March, 2007

story of winners

23 Mar

Recently a few classmates and I had a discussion about how history was told in our own countries. At the end of the discussion, we conclude that history is the story of the winner. For example, history of Indonesian revolution in 1965 is told differently in Indonesia and in abroad – from completely opposite angle.

There was this guest speaker who gave a talk about researching history. He said that people wrote with agenda and it was not easy to know which are the truth. We need to know the agenda and background of certain publication or people. He ended the class with the message “the only way to know better on which one is the truth is by reading more”. But I wonder, how does reading more materials which truthfulness is in doubt help to direct us the truth?

From a reader to a writer, now I am doing my dissertation and found many conflicting point of views; each holds certain truth. Out of this sea of knowledge, I should extract the information that represent the truth because the objective of my study is to see the issue objectively. But, I feel very much challenged by my own objective. Out of so many data, which part do I extract? It is so easy to fall into the trap of deciding the conclusion first before examining the evidences. If my dissertation is bias – no matter it is due to pure incompetency or personal prejudice – but I put the argument forward convincingly by the chosen evidences, how can my reader know?

But a climate change scientist complained in a talk that journalists were obsessed by presenting both sides of the story. He said that most of scientist agree that man-produced CO2 caused global warming. Only a handful of scientist disagree. He said the media gave similar coverage for both – in the name of being objective – as such covering something unbalancely. However, does majority lend enough support for truth? History shows that Copernicus – againts the concensus at that time was right that the earth is not the central of universe. However, it is also correct that the absence of proof does not mean the proof of absence.


Also, with so little words to be used, which one do I put forward? If I cannot be objective, how do I expect others to write fairly? With our own mindset and prejudice involved, will we ever be fair? Can I be sure that I will not draw the conclusion before evidences are present?

And most of all, even though I start off with a clear goal, the practicality is a clear obstacle. From the experience in newspaper pathway, things may and will go wrong but the newspaper still must be out at certain time.  Deadline is the king. What’s the give and take? How to avoid giving the image of truth – the selected bit of information – as if it is the truth itself?



23 Mar

photo-45.jpgHow little we know about people around us. People meet everyday, talk everyday, but sometimes it is so little that has been communicated.

The one week in Citizen Media class was really interesting. People shared personal stories and found out about each other. It was not easy. I had been rather personal so I was not used to all this sharing-in-group stuff but it was an interesting process. Each of us, whether Indian, Chinese, Canadian, Italian, English, Welsh, or Indonesian, has stories to tell – some stories are so different than yours but others are like your own. Everyone has own likings, experiences, pains, troubles and hopes.

How at times it is easier to see ourselves through the story of others. 

Thanks the whole class for such an enjoyable week.
PS: The constant tea, coffee and Welsh cakes certainly made it nicer too. Champagne at the end of the class was splendid.


16 Mar

I was quite negative during the past weeks. I think I let my feeling of helplessness strangle me.

I must say I came to the UK with high expectation. The places where I went to before were not fully democratic, were not ‘free’. I wanted to taste what it was like to be ‘free’. That made me felt disappointed and hopeless when I saw that the system here – which I saw to be the model system – was not perfect. There are many positive things that people here enjoyed. People can say what they think without real danger of being thrown into jail or killed. It is also encouraging to see how the charity groups and the people in charity groups care so much about other people. It is encouraging when we know that change can be brought forward from this country. Also, I’ve met a lot of good people.

But, it is depressing when I thought about how small this force is, how much developing countries depend on developed countries and rich corporations, how much we have to follow the unfair rules of the game, how we – the poor ones – cannot really decide our own fate.  

And it is scary how I am becoming more and more sceptical (or cynical??). I have always been the happy one. I do not know how can I go home with these changed thoughts knowing so little change I can do – if I can spare sufficient time at all other than trying to survive in the competitive world and financially demanding environment.

But it is okay. Let’s take it when it comes. There is no point worrying.

I think it’s perhaps about perspective. Everyone of us is a dust in the universe, so small and helpless. But everyone’s life is actually important for someone else. So I reckon there is no point feeling down because of feeling powerless. I just have to keep looking forward and contribute a bit of positiveness from myself.

When there is a will, there is a way. 😀

growing radical

11 Mar

“Why Indonesia matters,” Time Asia (22 February 2007 edition) shouts on its front page. However, it only writes two sentences saying that Indonesia is the most populous muslim country and dedidates the rest of the four pages on the facts that Indonesia is growing radical. The title is pathetically misguiding. The article itself have done nothing much except making me felt giddy of the extend of radicalisation so far, but failed to give information on possible reasons why it is happening and what is the significance of this trend. But that is not the thing I concern most. I wonder where the radicalisation will lead Indonesia to.

I still remember when I was growing up there, there wes really hardly any woman wearing jilbab. Back then, the problems we had were more related to racial rather than religion. Not a pretty picture, but my point is it was a different situation. People were moderately religious. They believed their religion, but still allowed others to practice their own as long as others did not step into their territory. We lived in that tension, push and pull, trying to find the right tension.

Then, every religions, except Islam, were only very small minorities and thus were modest. I think that imbalance greatly reduced any possible tension. The majority did not feel that they had to self-defense their position, the other smaller religions were just living their faith and did not try to be too outward. The majority may sometimes attempted to bully the minority, but problems could usually be solved with right amount of compensation. Balanced and peaceful. I suspected, as time went by, Christianity became more popular with more and more followers. The balance was broken. The minority wanted to exert more power and freedom, the majority felt threatened. Clash occured and new balance was achieved – after blood was shed.  

At least, that was my assumption. But, few days ago, when I was on the train back from a summit related to Make Poverty History campaign, there was a BBC report on the radio that there were a research done by a Californian university on racial or religious clashes. The researchers wondered: “Why some multi-cultural and multi-religious places do not experience clashes while some other do?” It concludes that people with differences can actually live together peacefully. There can be tension, but it won’t lead to open clashes. Only when there was political intention, the clashes happened. 

So, if this study is true, no matter if there is tension and discontent between the groups, it won’t be great enough to cause an uproar.

Perhaps it is true that there is always someone or some group backing a uprising, with their own agenda, manipulating the faith and the mind of people. In the Insurgencies class, Howard explained few tactics used by successful insurgents. Winning the heart and mind of people by using their faith or belief – be it for the pride of ancentry-line, or in the name of God, or for the sake of respected leader – is the key in successful insurgencies.

Who are behind all the events in Indonesia? What are their motives? What are their objectives? What are they doing and why are they doing what they are doing? Perhaps only by answering these questions, the police, the secret service, the government have the slight chance to keep Indonesia out of terrorism, insurgencies, chaos and, in the worse case, civil war.,9171,1592576,00.html

Miss last week? Read The Week

10 Mar

I have read very few news for the past few weeks. I was too busy (arguable) and mentally exhausted (or simply lazy nerve kicking in?). So I bought this week issue of The Week.

Splendid magazine idea. It targets busy or/and lazy people who cannot afford to be left behind by their more dilligent peer. Not only that, I found the content is really good and enjoyable, they also make effort to draw out different views so the readers know the on-going debates. Best of all, all done in so few words.

In a story, it started with a story of a student crying because she got to go to a less desirable school. Her dad then decided to send her to a private school instead. Some families – many are wealthy middle class – dislike the lottery system and there was student (read: kid) protest outside the townhall. On the other hand, the Independent argued that the lottery system is fairer to less fortunate students. But, The Observer questioned if the policy targetted at the right thing at the first place. It said that  parents actually shunned certain school because of the disruptive students rather than the second rate teachers. All of these views are written in less than 600 words.

I like to mixture of news too. I think it tries to be objective and serious yet light enough for weekend reading. I know that I would miss out a lot and I face yet another filtering layer, but this is better than nothing. I would still say, “Miss last week? Read The Week.” 😀

Vietnam needs to build dreams slowly

6 Mar

In the past, Vietnam people sacrificed themselves to chase away the US army from their land. Thirty years later, however, Bill Gates, an American tycoon, received pop-star reception when he visited the country. What a turn of events.

Now the younger Vietnamese warmly welcome capitalism, a concept largely promoted by the US. It has made the country wealthier. But, it seems that it is still not ready to embrace capitalism so rapidly. Last week, the Time magazine highlighted the unregulated over-the-counter stock market situation.

Most of the stocks traded in the gray market belong to the state-owned companies that were privatized during the free-market movement in 1980s. The companies’ financial accounts are neither checked nor published. The investors can only rely on rumours and can easily be manipulated. The government is trying to impose tighter rules, but practically unable to do the clean up soon. According to the magazine, there are only 10 inspectors to oversee thousands companies.

Unlike the US, Vietnam has only opened its arms to capitalism since 1986. If Vietnam government is to follow the US footsteps more successfully, it should also draw lessons from the US’s hits and misses so far, and improve its market systems based on this knowledge. Vietnam does not have to experience the failures. It can create the suitable regulated systems, and educate its people to take advantage of capitalism and avoid the drawbacks.

The Time magazine ends the piece with ‘The madness of crowds, it seems, is alive and well”. But, the problem is much more urgent than portrayed. If the government does not act soon, the country may experience more negative than positive sides of capitalism. ____________________________________________________________________
1 – The Economist – February 10 2007
2 – BBC news.

Opera review: Carmen

3 Mar


The simplicity of the stage setting and costume design used by Welsh National Opera in the new version of the famous opera Carmen has allowed the personality of the characters sparkle. Carmen has been one of the most performed operas despite the cold reception at the launch in 1875. Written by Georges Bizet, it is about a free-spirit Spanish gipsy woman who has many admirers. Her sense of freedom has taken her from one lover to another. She makes a soldier falls in love with her. She then dumps him because she realizes that he is not her match, and fall for another man. The broken-hearted Don Jose stalks Carmen and begs for her return. After she repeatedly refuses, he kills her.

The new adaptation, directed by Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser, integrates singing and dialogue resulting in theatrical feeling. The cast is strong as a whole, except the rather disorganized children’s singing. Sara Fulgoni as Carmen and Rafael Rojas as Don Jose played their turf cards. Adding to her rich voice, Ms. Fulgoni uses her body language to depict the sensuality and pride of a beautiful gipsy. Her performance is captivating and she naturally attracts the attention. Mr Rojas’ acting, however, sometimes falls flat. But once he sings, he manages to portray Don Jose’s feeling beautifully.

The act is well supported by the orchestra, which helps create the climaxes. During dialogues, the music stops; yet the suspension created earlier together with the strong presence of the actors manage to overcome the quietness. Lightings are smartly used to enhance the dramatic effect of the scenes. During act 3, lighting creates the illusion of dawn and the movement of people across the mountains. The bareness of the stage allows the spectators’ focus to fall on the characters. This is a challenge as well as chance for the actors to show their capability.

Making it even better, the costumes are brilliant. In the first three acts, the earth-tone colours costumes, blended with the lighting effect and the stage’s design, naturally lead the viewers to imagine a dusty poor rural area in their head.

It is definitely a show worth seeing. The next performance of “Carmen” is on 2nd March 2007 at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. It is sung in French with English & Welsh subtitles.