Or humanizing human by looking at human as a human? Or maybe, SELF: questioning the idea of human?
I don’t know, this is just another midnight muse that won’t let me go until I words-vomit it. I have been on this for most midnights the past week. So if you are going to read this, sorry not sorry for the confusion later on. It’s a messy, jumbled thought. You are warned.
Truthfully, I have a problem with the world right now. I have problem being a human. I have a problem with humanism, also with human rights, too. The last one is mostly because of the wars in Gaza, Syria, and other places in the world that is not covered by media; and local laws on rape, sexual harassment). I think I am having identity-crisis, or maybe I am on the way to find the core of myself. A bit late I suppose, because I am no longer a teenager, I am supposed to be the adult who know their way of life. But nope, I am still clueless. I have more questions rather than answers for life. Well anyway, to be late is better than never.
There are a lot of things happening in the world that, in my opinion, almost taking the concept of “human as a human” as something taken for granted; for example the wars, then crimes, basically the murder of human by another human for whatever reason. I mean not only a physical murder, also identity and mentality murder.
My question: being a human, is it not the basic identity for us, humans? For me the answer is yes.
But it’s not enough. To be a “human” right now, I must have identities. Plural. People tag me as a woman, an Indonesian, a Chinese, a graduate student, a traveler, a daughter, a friend, and so on, and so forth. Those become the identities of me—me being a complex subject. The idea of “just human” is not suffice anymore. To define me is to label me with these identities. However, these identities trouble me.
They produce certain problems for me, for you, for anyone who only looks at me by just one or two labels.
I am not denying that some of these labels have a good connotation, is prestigious, is earned by hard work; but some are given by the people, the society whether I like it or not, some are there because it is a physical fact and pretty much irrevocable, and so on.
As a woman–as in having breasts, womb and vagina–somebody might look at me as a weak kind of human who needs protection—no dad and mom, this is not entirely about you, because you are bound to care for me because I am your daughter, you know, the concept of ‘family’. This is for others who only know me as a silly young woman, and if I try to prove myself I can protect myself just like how these old men can protect themselves, they says that I am too stubborn,
and then if I failed to protect myself, they would say “see, I told you so” and see my failure as punishment of being too-cocky as a woman.
This doesn’t mean that I am ungrateful for the concerns. I am, and thank you, but rather than ‘dehumanizing’ me because I am a woman, why not teach me how to protect myself? Or better yet, why not create a place for human, in which a woman (or a man) doesn’t need to protect themselves? Why insist on prohibiting me to do something because I am a woman, and this is necessary to protect myself?
I can’t speak for men, for I am not one, but I believe I am not the only one experiencing this. This is not just a woman thing, or just a me-thing, or a genital/gender-thing, it just happens (indiscriminately, I guess). People just have this kind of assumptions and expectations and judgments about me, in this case based on the physics I have. This doesn’t say that I don’t do it. I do. I assume, I expect and I judge other people, too. It’s hard not to do so, because they have been doing this to me, and so I think that is the ‘normal’ way to do it.
Because everyone is doing it, I learn to do it, too. I was nurtured inside a society system that encouraged this kind of behavior.
Another human-identity-crisis situation is my identity as an Indonesian, a Chinese Indonesian. As far as I know, I have always been an Indonesian. I have no doubt about it. Until people tell me that I am Chinese. When I was a kid, those kids in my neighborhood—my friends, calling me names and told me I was Chinese, I have slanted eyes, “dasar Cino”—I was different. Until now the word “Cina” or “Cino” is a derogative term in my mind. Even though it is in Indonesian language, that is supposedly neutral, but the term stuck as a racist term for me, hence I prefer the English’s word Chinese to refer myself or for other people when they refer to me. I don’t think it’s only me, though.
However, despite that, me being Indonesian itself is still not a question. I was born, grew up and have been living, and most likely will die in Indonesia; as an Indonesian, undoubtedly. I wholeheartedly embrace this idea of being Indonesian, to the point of being possessive with the idea of Indonesia as “imagined community” (thank you Benedict Anderson for the term); no matter how Chinese I am supposed to be.
I have experienced discrimination, although I don’t think it affects me that much, more than it affects my family. However I became more aware of this as I grew up. If possible my family preferred me to hang around within the Chinese community. I did but not very much. Funny thing is, I always thought that Chinese community was way too exclusive for my liking, and that’s not a me-thing, so I rarely hang out with them. I preferred to hang out with friends from whatever backgrounds. I rarely think much about people’s background anyway.
Now that I re-think about this, I find one of many possible reasons why I have that kind of behavior, of not wanting to be as exclusive as the Chinese community is because I am probably scared-shit of being Chinese.
Most likely I don’t want to be shun off by the Indonesian, for I am Indonesian, I want to be acknowledged as Indonesian, thus I have the urge to avoid the Chinese-ness in me.
Because to be Indonesian, I can’t be Chinese.
But I grow up and live in a Chinese family, I am Chinese, it’s familiar for me, although I don’t indulge it. The Chinese traditions, the languages, the dialects, they are almost became a lost cause for me. I became a ‘passive’ Chinese, if that makes sense at all. Or in Indonesia term, I am one of the Cina-Peranakan. Not sure if that’s a proper term to define myself, though.
However, now my perception shifts. I think differently on my Chinese Indonesian identity. Thanks to friends who desensitized me from that calling-name issue, also many people who think Chinese is important part of Indonesian especially on the discourse of 1998 riots (it is the closest nation-wide issue on Chinese Indonesian that I can relate to), the Cultural Studies with its enlightening classes, thanks to Basuki Tjahaja Purnama or Ahok, Jakarta’s beloved soon-to-be-governor, and the people I met in IACSS 2014 Summer School (thank you for indulging me and my questions).
Partly, I have accepted and recognized the Chinese dimension of my identity, but I have decided that I am more Indonesian than I am Chinese. I can’t do anything about the fact I was born Chinese, but there are many things for me to do as Indonesian.
But it’s a problem in itself, is it not? Although I have reconciled with these two identities of mine, it is still a problem for other Chinese born Indonesians.
One of my friends, who loves China and Chinese culture and people, once told me a story. She is not Chinese, but she wanted to get close to them. She adores Chinese-ness. But she can’t, since the Chinese community in her place was an exclusive one. They preferred not to hang out with the locals. My friend was very upset about that and asked me why is that.
In my head, there are plausible reasons why Chinese in Indonesia prefer to keep to themselves. One of it, Chinese Indonesians have always been the victim if something happens, and this is not a new thing, it has been happening for centuries, from the segregation based on race in Dutch occupation period until now, or maybe longer. The Chinese almost always become the scapegoat by the ‘authority’, I learned. The Chinese experienced discrimination, thus the preference to be exclusive. It is a defense mechanism. But by being exclusive does we, the Chinese Indonesian, not discriminate the others too? Does this not create a division in the society? Moreover there is the assumption that Chinese is rich, further dividing people by capital.
Why can’t people see pass this Chinese identity? Why can’t we see each other as human beings that lived in a place called Indonesia and happily coexist?
I wonder why everything is so complicated, which in my opinion it should not. I am physically a Chinese race, you are not. Does it make life any different as a human? As long as we respect each other (as a human being) it should not matter. Right? It is simple. But it’s not. It’s complex. But it should not, because it is simple.
If I go by my heart, it is simple, heart doesn’t think. It feels. But the brain makes it complicated, and the heart feels too much it’s numb.
I am getting too philosophical and emotional, so I think I should put a stop on this, although I still have a lot in my mind. Another time maybe. But before that I want to explain on the title I choose: human as a code.
On Fast Furious 6, the one with Joe Taslim *coughs handsome Indonesian actor coughs* in it, there is this scene where the antagonist said “Every man has to have a code (in their life)” and then he went on to explain it. What stuck with me after watching that scene is the idea of having “every human-being has human as a code in their life”. It is somewhat an utopian thought–to witness human activating their human code, I realize, but definitely better than the dystopic reality. And if dystopia can be reality, why not this utopian thought becomes a reality too?
I know. Too optimistic. Sometimes, it sucks to have this optimistic trait in me, I can’t even be skeptical of things. Hah!
Thank you for reading this words-vomit ’til the end!
— A general and brief reference on Chinese Indonesian history and Basuki Tjahaja Purnama: read here.
— Note: originally written on Facebook note dated August 4, 2014. This is the edited version.