top of the world

It’s raining and I feel bored. So, sorry if this piece turns out to be long.

The recent discussion on my alumni-mailing list has developed to a very interesting topic. It was all started from a question from a friend on the shocking news about an alumnus that is suspected to kill her children –all of them are under 5 years old (balita). The question was soon became a very hot issue, got a lot and diverse comments. All of them are very enriching for me, some of them have even slapped me on the face and make me think, for example a comment from a friend saying how mass media can be so damaging, and ignore the basic principle of presumption of innocence. We don’t talk about the suspect here (as of course it’s a huge huge burden for her), but most of it is the family of hers. The husband, the parents, the siblings, the relatives –-all the unknowns that of course have hearts, and I am sure it’s hurtful for them as well.

The discussion has also been evolving broader and broader, from the analysis about what could be the “reason” of the act (the psychological and physiological aspects), to the very nature of human needs of respects and self-existence, to the role of housewives that until now, sadly to say, is very very taken for granted by our modern society (and it’s even more sadly to say, most of the time it’s the women themselves that retain such undermining view of housewife’s role in their head –as a friend experienced). Some of us, including me, departed our analysis from this point of view (well, I admit that it’s mostly due to the influence of the media that gave sort of ‘superhuman-but-feeling-unworthy’ description about her.

Related to the above description, the last comment I read just now is quite interesting. A friend’s saying that to some extent, becoming us –-the students and ex-students of Tuttekdung (copyright by Tissa hehehe) –is not easy. There are such huge burdens especially from people around us that expect more from us. The kind of “social standard” for us as if we’re “superhuman”. And it has been planted as well to our heads from the first day we entered that sitting-elephant gate. Let me share with you the story of us and how we have been “crafted” systematically to be a “superhuman”.

Brainwash No.1: We’re the special and chosen ones

In welcoming us, the rector and other professors will tell us how special we are. They will present to us (and our parents –-ya..ya..your parents will be invited to the institution to hear this kinda remarks) some statistics that show our position. Yes, you are there, on the tip of the pyramid. You’re there on the top of the world. So, there’s no reason for you to not being successful. If you get D or E on your exam sheet, you’re a loser. But getting an A is not easy as well. Of course! We’re not that regular institution that give away A grade just like that, right?!

Brainwash No.2: Mens sana in corpore sano

Yeah…yeah…you are bright as the stars…but what the use of it if you don’t have that physical health. Sounds reasonable, huh? But what if your healthy state is measured by a grade resulting from how much time you spend in running around a football field –-6 times by the way. Or how skillful you are in a sport –-can be swimming, tennis, badminton, basketball, arching, athletics, martial art, etc. They don’t check your blood pressure, or your cholesterol level, by the way (ehm…it’s how we measure our health, isn’t it?). Don’t like sport? You’re a loser, pal!

Brainwash No.3: It’s hard out there, so you have to have a strong mental state

Being harassed intellectually by your professors? Being called stupid? Or given a book titled something like ‘How to Use Your Brain’? Piece of cakeeee! Not enough, your senior brothers and sisters will make sure that you have bold nerve by giving you exercises called ‘OS’ (abbreviated from OSPEK) –-during the whole first year in the campus— before you can enter this ‘alpha-beta-kappa-like’ Himpunan (Student Union) and award you with a piece of jacket. Some individuals that were brave enough not to join this ritual have to bear a kind of social alienation from
the others (not in my department, fortunately, but in many others this situation applies). C’moonnn….you won’t cry because of this, will you? The world out there is harder than you think. Be strong!!

Brainwash No.4: Look at those alumni! Imagine you’re one of them someday

I forget once in how many years, there will be the alumni gathering in the campus. There gather those big shots, public figures, some ministers maybe, famous business persons, faces that you can only see on TV, coming with
those expensive cars, branded outfits, sophisticated gadgets, etc etc. Imagine
you’re one of them. Ehm…btw, you have to! Don’t ever dare to show up if you’re not eligible!

Brainwash No.5 (this is only for the gals, I speak on behalf of all of you as well my dear gal friends): You’re in the stockpile of guys, just pick one as your future husband!

What? Don’t get a boyfriend from Tuttekdung? What the heck were you doing all those years? Hellooooo…as if it’s as easy as picking an apple from a tree! But please, don’t ever think of giving reasons for this “failure”. It won’t work. They won’t believe you. Whatever you say, there are two titles stamped already on your forehead: (1) you’re too picky; (2) you’re not attractive enough. Next time you’re being asked, just smile, okay?!

Brainwash No.6: You’re Tuttekdung alumni, go collect some million bucks, will you

Don’t have those cars yet? What? Being a housewife? C’moonnn…what’s the use of that degree? Next time you’re asked why you don’t work (btw, the term “work” nowadays means that you do something that give you money in return. If you stay at home, take care of your children around the clock, sorry girl, you don’t work), give them this reply, “Why not?!”. And don’t forget to give your sweetest smile.

Well, maybe there are many other examples, but I am not saying all the above things because I revolted those brainwashes or system at that time. Not at all! I was not brave enough to revolt at that time, or even worse, I was a believer of those dogmas! I was part of it. I was part of the crowd that maintains some of those “cultures”. But time after time, slap after slap have awakened and educated me. That’s a pseudo pride, don’t ya think? Yes, we might have been sharpened on our intellectual and rational part of ourselves, but we’re so poor in our emotional part of it.

I was quite lucky for having hideaways where I can forget all those burdens, where grades or himpunan-or-non-himpunan didn’t matter, where we could laugh at our bad luck and made fun of it. I have been quite lucky that I am stubborn enough and not to care about what people think. I have been sooo
fortunate that my parents never burdened me with expectations. I have been
grateful that I don’t have to prove anything to anybody. The heck with society’s expectation!

I don’t say that I have totally freed myself from those mindsets. But some people are not lucky enough. Some people must –-like it or not— live up with others’/our society’s expectations. Some people just don’t have that buffer-zone or safety-net around them. And every people have their own coping capacity.

Now I say that we have huge and difficult task to do: changing the mindset of our society. Otherwise, what my friend referred as a kind of potential genetic disorder can be manifested more and more, triggered by these social pressures.

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