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Memory

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I wonder if people realize one of the most precious gifts God ever gives us, without which we are only half human, half dead or half robot.  God creates men so complete that they came in with a brain. The intriguing question probably, is it true that brain is responsible for feeling something. If so, meaning that we feel something with our mind, not heart. I would think so because it likely the brain who instructs the heart to feel the happiness or sadness.

Well, I am not going to talk about technical aspect of our brain function. I want to explore what mind is and what it gives to our life. Brain also has some kind of a chip like computer chip to our mind and it is called memory, just like our computer, only this time we will not find any mark ‘Intel inside’ on our forehead.

I do not try to tell a joke. I just think that the memory plays very important role in our life. Imagine life without memory, it tends to be disastrous rather than happiness. Sometimes, we try to erase our memory voluntarily or we are forced to remove the memory from our mind, especially the bad ones. If we realize how precious the memory is, then why would we try so hard to erase it? Why are we not afraid of the prospect of God being angry with us, that He would erase all of it, even the memory we do want to keep? Imagine life without memory…

Once I met a friend who lost her memory because of Meningitis. She could not remember anything beyond three months. Her husband then left her, vanished, what a scoundrel. Some of us, her friends, unconsciously say it is lucky for her that she lost her memory. Unfortunately, without any particular reasons, she keeps the memory of her husband quite well.

God places memory right in the center of our big brain, so that it is well protected, unless an un-avoiding crash hit the head, it will stay in there safely. Memory contributes a lot to our life. Most of the times, it shapes people to what they are now. Good or bad memory will remain with us as long as we live and I think that is something that we should be very thankful. Imagine life without memory…

Just like man-made computer, despite His Almightiness, for some unknown reasons, God does allow disturbances occur to the brain affecting the memory. Why did I say ‘for some unknown reasons’? Because the reason is hardly understood by the person whose memory is disrupted, what would he or she lose the memory for? As the affected person loses the memory, of course, he or she could not figure it out why. For me, the fact that our memory is vulnerable and must be kept carefully is something we must remember all the times. We have to cherish it while we are having good memory, otherwise, it will be too late.

‘Memory corrupted’, that is a common message we see in computers. We will be thankful if we have back-up files when we see the message. Now, do we have back-up files for our memory? I do not think so. I doubt if we have any internal back-up file in our brain. What we have is some external back-up file systems such as diary, written story, photos, like nowadays, emails, etcetera.  I just try to imagine, if someone lost her or his memory, could he just retrieve his memory by going through the pages of his diary, written story or just looking at his once favorite photos? He might be able to read or see all of the external back-up files but he could not have the feeling of those files. He could not remember his sadness when he wrote the diary or stories or he could not know the meaning of words he wrote, why was he sad, excited, or even angry of something or someone, perhaps?

I know that we are not always going through enjoyable experiences in our life. Sometimes we find life sucks. I would rather say it is not something bad actually. It is not that I never experience bad things before; I did much in the past, only now I see it differently. I think bad experience filling bad memory in our mind should not be removed or erased. We should have the strength to keep them in our brain because we need them to remind us of our mistakes so that we will not make any more mistakes in the future, at least not the same one. If a donkey will not allow itself hit the same stone, then why would we? Thus, bad memory in such a way can help us be a better person. Memory and good values that live in everyone’s heart will ensure us to find the right direction in life.

Life without memory could mean disastrous because we will leave our beloved ones without physically ever leaving them at all. We will never share our love with them since we hardly know them, how could you share your love with strangers. Yes, strangers would be the name of your beloved ones, husband, wife, children, mom, dad, relatives, best friends or your once most hated enemies. Even I will not disregard the fact, I still believe that people will not intentionally want to remove their memory even the bad ones. However, in some cases, there are professionals involved in the effort to remove bad memory such as therapist or shrink. Bad experiences of people are relative to each other, bad to someone might be good to others. In such cases, where the good or bad is measured subjectively, I think we must not forget that God has provided us with such a sophisticated capacity that enables us to survive from time to time.

So, if there is ever a choice between losing the memory, may God forbid, or letting ourselves embrace the memory, no matter how terrible it is, I personally would choose to keep them instead of erasing them. Taking into account, the memory will make us alert in the future, just like a statue of any hero in any place, or a monument showing you the achievement you reached or the mistake you made and the price you paid for it. All for nothing but the goodness for ourselves. They made you tell the good from the bad, they would remind you of your happiness and sadness. They would remind you of your long lost love, your stupidity, your very human being. The memory would help you to remember how lucky you are that you should thank your Creator.

Imagine life without memory, it is just like watching movies without stories.

Rasuna, 2006

By: Nela Dusan

 

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We have been presented so many stories and facts about global financial crisis which was said initially rooted in subprime credits provided loosely in the United States. I have read in some websites explaining about what subprime credit means. Principally subprime credit means a credit provided by US mortgage banking to group of debtors called NINJA. In this case Ninja has no relationship to what we know as Japanese Ninja. NINJA stands for No Income No Job and No Assets. So evidently, the banking industrialists, especially the ones engaging as mortgage banks have committed irresponsible banking practices, i.e., evidently violated the 5C banking principles which every economy school student must have known.  Anyway, subprime credit only one of many other causes of the financial market crisis in US and now global financial market.

Antony Mueller, founder of the Continental Economics Institute said:

The current economic disaster is the result of the combination of negligence, hubris, and wrong economic theory. For decades, an economic and monetary policy has been practiced based on the illusion of, “It doesn’t matter.” At first it was, “Deficits don’t matter.” From that, the policy of “it doesn’t matter” got extended to money creation, the credit expansion, the stock-market bubble, and the housing boom. Now, we’re being told that buying financial junk by the central bank to beef up banks and brokerages also doesn’t matter.”

I am interested in finding the real cause of this financial market crisis. For I am neither a financial expert nor an economist, I tried to find all the information here and there. One of the references that really impressed me was a book written by Naomi Klein titled Shock Doctrine. This situation is exactly described well in her book. The difference is on the crisis spot, if most of the crisis detailed in the book happened in almost every place other than United States, now, it happened right in the core of the USA.

To me, this crisis is rooted from the combination of greediness, laziness, stinginess and selfishness. I am a believer of a theory where money and prosperity can be generated only by employment, people economic. The more employments, the better. As we may not forget that most people are living in sub-poor to middle class society, no exception for Indonesia or USA. No country on earth is able to eliminate poor level society to zero percent. I do not believe in money work mechanism as normally applicable under capitalism (which I suspect referred to as wrong economic theory by Antony Mueller) where the money put in the bank and let other people use the money somewhere and we receive handsome interest payment regularly.

To gain something we have to work, no doubt about it. It is the obligation of Government in every country to provide employment to its people. Now, what we can expect in Indonesia, no significant infrastructure has been developed, even a small problem like Monorail Project seemed too difficult to be solved by Jakarta Provincial Government. How can people generate income if they do not have work to do? No wonder criminal cases are increased, most drugs related business are very tempting to desperate people in this kind of situation.

After the cold war era, most countries have changed their faces from pink or red color regime to capitalist regime of economy. Under the capitalist regime as dreamt and urged by Milton Friedman, the guru of Chicago School Economy, the economy will find its balance if there is no intervention whatsoever from government. This idea has inspired the trend of privatization all over the world, affected and dictated by Friedmanist cronies, known as Chicago Boys in South part of America or popular as Berkeley Mafia here in Indonesia, of course.

It is hard for me to understand as to why we should accept the idea that privatization is the solution to the crisis while we all know that many of those state companies being privatized were money machines that support state finance. Anyway, I am just pretending naively, of course the more privatizations, the more controls those sharks will hold. The sharks called multi national companies. Of course there is interesting upside of certain amount of commissions for brokers known as international investment banks or more like piranhas. It is all about money, nothing else.

It is so ironical, that last time we have financial crisis in 1998, IMF has eventually successfully pushed some kind of financial rescue package or known as ‘structural adjustment’ which includes deregulations in investment law, tightening of monetary policy, deduction of subsidy and privatization of state owned companies. Many of our important and strategic state companies have been privatized, including banking sectors. Now we will see when those private sectors suffered from huge bad debts, it might be the time for government to step in, bail out the debt. Perhaps, when those companies become healthy again, then there will be another design to take over them by international private companies.

During my office at IBRA doing some debt restructuring before finally selling them off, I witnessed that the financial crisis in Indonesia and most Asia countries have weakened our economy which then weakened the political position of Indonesian government at that time. IMF showed up as the ‘hero’ in providing a loan to rescue the situation. Anyway, it came not without something. In line with shock doctrine theory the IMF saw the crisis as the opportunity to apply the theory in practice, such as deregulations in investment law, removing trade barriers, minimizing government interference in market, cutting out subsidy or lowering social spending and privatization.  

Given the experience in 1998, I started to think maybe this time IMF will drop by to the United States and lend its powerful hands to the US government, with the cost and implications of course to be borne by lowest level of society in the USA. It will be interesting to observe how IMF will work its ‘structural adjustment’ in its homeland. Will it have a heart to hurt people of the country which have supported it since the beginning? or is it just another bad luck for American people, just as happened to us in Indonesia.

I think it is not totally untrue what Antony Mueller said:

The current financial crisis is not of a cyclical nature. The financial turmoil is the symptom of the structural imbalances in the real economy. Over decades, expansive monetary policy has gone hand in hand with implicit and explicit bailout guarantees, and this has distorted the process of capital allocation. Under such perverted conditions, those investors will win most who cast away the restraints of prudence. It is a game that can go on for a long time — up to the point when the irrationality has become systemic.”

Is it really the phenomenon of the downfall of capitalism or is it the domino effects that ‘certain people’ wish to get in the end? We will find out later.

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By: Nela Dusan (Gusnelia Tartiningsih)

Rasuna, 13 October 2008

Now, every Thursday evening, I have my favorite TV show broadcasted. Since last week, the reality show, Amazing Race Asia the 3rd has started. 10 finest teams across Asia have been selected and have competed in a race which sometimes pushes the racers to the bottom limit of their endurance, mentally and physically.

 

Ever since I saw the series of Amazing Race Asia or America, I kept mumbling when I finished watching the show, ‘so amazing, what amazing race’. I found it brilliant to create such a reality show. Moreover, I found the show title exactly reflects it, ‘Amazing Race’, it really is.

 

I saw participants that represent Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Philippine, Thailand, India, and Korea, but I saw none from Indonesia. Imagine, 200-million population country. Even Malaysia, whose population only 10% of Indonesia, has successfully sent its two couple of racers in this third Amazing Race Asia and so far, they have done impressively.

 

In the first and second Amazing Race, Indonesia had participants. Even in the first Amazing Race, the Indonesian brothers were able to keep up until the second last round, being the fourth best team out of ten teams. If we followed their races from the start until the pit stop in Dubai, in which they finally had to give up, we would be very proud of them and it was a heartbreaking to see they just lost it. Anyway, they had tried so hard.

 

Now, let us see this third Amazing Race Asia. Where are Indonesians? Are we that pathetic as no pair of Indonesian competent enough to lead their way and be equal with other Asian representatives?

It is so ironic, while the Amazing Race is designed to reach the bottom limit of mental and physical endurance of men; the race has been joined by people who might know nothing about the hardness of life. They come from middle to high level of society of countries which might be not as poor as Indonesia. Then, why Indonesian who would have used to live in such a hardship could not let them pass the qualification of the race. The race which is specially designed to go beyond normal life, the kind of life most Indonesian experiences daily. With everything is so difficult around us, high price, low income, things and pressure you should cope with as long as you live in Indonesia, actually Indonesian should have mentally prepared racers. Does it not sound like challenges in Amazing Race only it happens all the time in our actual life? Or, perhaps the big political event in 2009 affects it. Maybe, the best of our people are now concentrating for the amazing race of Indonesian version in the 2009 election. There is no time to participate in such Amazing Race reality show.

 

Another irony, when the difficulties are intentionally created to be conquered, we are absent. Yet, when such hardship has been successfully coped with by other Asian nations, particularly ASEAN countries, Indonesia still could not get a grip let alone get up. While to others the hardship and challenges of life have become TV show, we are experiencing them without camera let alone rewards.

 

Why could not we find just two finest Indonesian people that can represent their 200 million brothers in the third Amazing Race Asia? Perhaps, because to us, the hardship is not a TV show but it is part of the life itself. So, why bother to participate in such a race and be watched in TV. Still, I keep wondering why there could not be just two Indonesian people taking part in the race of Asian people.

 

In the show, every participant is pushed and forced to keep up with and complete the race. Even though they have to go through the night without sleeps. No unfinished race is allowed, every challenge must be dealt with conclusively to enable the racers to reach every pit stop. It is interesting to learn how men can endure under such circumstances amazingly.

 

In Amazing Race, both Asia and America, the pressures can dismantle and uncover the real character of its participants. There are patient, tolerant persons or emotional and moody kind of persons. We sometimes see some kind of mean and rude persons, pathetic persons, weak or kind of a blaming on other person type of people. They sometimes use very tricky and evil strategies to get rid off their competitors just to reach pit stop earlier than others. The rule of the game is so simple, never finish last at every pit stop, otherwise you will be eliminated. So simple, yet the process to achieve it very much startling and so hard. It is said that this particular Amazing Race Asia is the toughest race ever.j0305743

 

One of the interesting facts is nice team tends to be the winner of each race episode. Actually, it takes more than just brain or even muscles. It gets a complex formula to win the race. Internal factors that can drive the couple to win the race are solid cooperation between partners, trust in each other, be dependent on and relied upon on each other at the same time. High motivation and fighting spirit in every racer also contributes a lot to the success.

 

All teams have equal opportunity to win or lose because nobody can control external factors, such as delay in transportation, no public transportation available, unnecessary miscommunication with drivers can cause a team be eliminated. Any team can finish first at one pit stop but it can also be the second last team who arrived at another pit stop or even the last team arrived then eliminated. 

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I see similarities between Amazing Race and our lives as human being, regardless nationality. In the Amazing Race, we have to fight to avoid being the last team who reaches the pit stop and eventually struggle to be number one at the final pit stop at the end of the race season. In life, we often encounter challenges and race into competitions, fair or unfair ones.

 

Notwithstanding the complex factors, internally and externally, it was proven that during the first Amazing Race, the Indonesian couple could keep up their fight before giving up at the last two pit stops during the first Amazing Race Asia because they had counted more on their brain, rather than their muscles. Analogically, our nation, being one of the racers, is likely to win the fight of this life if we use our brain instead of muscles. Just like Amazing Race, the life is also affected by brain superiority, namely, planning, preparation, strategy and implementation.

 

Ironically, it seems that in our nation life muscles have dominated more than brain. The pathetic fact is when other Asian countries could get up and reach out from the crisis in 1998, as it happens now in the United States, Indonesian seems to go nowhere as it was 10 years ago. Where do we go wrong?

 

If we compare it with the Amazing Race in which every racer must finish the challenges conclusively, regardless how long it takes to finish it, it seems Indonesian people have failed or at least have not successfully concluded its challenges and reached its pit stop. Our nation has not completed the homework attributable to the crisis which has been suffered since ten years ago. Whilst, other countries have reached their pit stops quite long ago. It seems if we have not dealt with our home works conclusively, namely, domestic economy, social and political problems, it is likely that we will be the last team who reaches the pit stop.

 

Despite the similarities between Amazing Race and the amazing life, there is a significant difference. As to Amazing Race, it is so important to try hard to be the first and avoid being the last, there is no such a thing in real life. It does not matter whether we start first or last as long as we can reach pit stop safely. Without prejudice to other countries’ problems, it is possible that problems they faced were less complex than ours. The point is, no matter what, we have to try hard to solve our problems. We have to start to confide in each other and show others that we can be relied upon and trustworthy as much as we expect other people vice versa, for the sake of our nation.

 

Taking into account all the external factors, there is no guarantee that the existing more advanced countries will stay advance forever or Indonesia can not chase them one day. There is always a chance that Indonesia can position itself in an equal level to other countries.

So, it is clear that it takes more than just a bunch of brainy people to lead this nation but people who have vision and sense of nationalism, people who are humble enough to set aside their personal, group or foreign agenda for the sake of this nation survival in the amazing race of this precious life. It is okay if our country gets up a bit later than other countries, as long as we settle our challenges and ready to move toward next pit stops.

 

As it is in Amazing Race, let us hope that the next pit stop will not make our nation be eliminated. Just as the popular tag line of the host of Amazing Race, “The last team checks in may be eliminated”. How is it Indonesia?

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Rasuna, 18 September 2008

Nela Dusan (Gusnelia Tartiningsih)