“Where the Mind is Without Fear”, by Rabindranath Tagore

tagore

WHERE THE MIND IS WITHOUT FEAR

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high

Where knowledge is free

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments

By narrow domestic walls

Where words come out from the depth of truth

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way

Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit

Where the mind is led forward by thee

Into ever-widening thought and action

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Rabindranath Tagore

Standalone mogul

apple daily

 

Profiling Apple Daily, one of Hong Kong’s most sensational and outspokenly anti-Communist news outlets established by Jimmy Lai, founder of fashion giant Giordano, as it undergoes a series of shadowy threats from numerous underground organizations, one alerting concern also currently being faced by numerous independent journalists living in the semi-independent city-state of what they perceive as ‘Beijing’s increasingly tightening grip on the city’s media industry and freedom of expression’.

Read the full article in Foreign Policy.

 

Excerpt:

 

Lai is the most powerful critic of the Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong, if not the world. Next Media now employs more than 4,000 people, according to company executives, and also owns popular entertainment magazines and web portals. His flagship tabloid, Apple Daily, founded in 1995, introduced Hong Kong to an irreverent mix of salacious Fleet Street-style journalism and political activism. Lai brought large-character tabloid headlines, web-cam “scoops” of celebrities backstage, irrelevant animations of breaking domestic and international news stories, and front-page calls for protests. But his biggest cause is what in Hong Kong is called “universal suffrage” — the right of citizens, not a council, to choose their chief executive.

Whoever wanted to silence Lai and his activism has instead increased public support for his cause and driven traffic to his websites. Just hours after the fourth triad-style attack, on July 1, tens of thousands of peopletook to the streets calling for genuine democratic elections in 2017.According to internal figures shown to Foreign Policy, traffic to the Hong Kong website has surged to about 20 million page views each day, and that’s not including a staggering 10 million daily views of the news and animation videos.

But Lai’s dream of universal suffrage for Hong Kong is looking less and less likely — and the city’s famously open and cacophonous media landscape is under threat. Hong Kong’s independent-minded journalists are complaining that opinion columns are being tampered with, popular columnists sacked, and news self-censored by tremulous editors. This media crackdown reflects a trend of Beijing tightening its control on Hong Kong. “The Chinese Communist Party’s growing subjugation of the Hong Kong executive and its pressure on the Hong Kong media through its ‘Liaison Office’ is increasingly compromising media pluralism there,” Reporters Without Borders said in a February report. Hong Kong has slid to 61 out of 180 countries and territories on the organization’s World Press Freedom Index, down from 18 in 2002.

And the challenges keep coming. This year, as the July 1 anniversary of Hong Kong’s 1997 handover from Britain to Beijing again approaches, the 66-year-old Lai faces a different kind of threat. Now, two Western financial institutions — banks nurtured in the laws and freedoms of the British Empire — appear to be boycotting Lai’s Hong Kong media business in service of Beijing.

Freedom, Fried

taiwan media

 

Another article about Taiwan, this time focusing on the country’s increasingly sensationalist, ridiculous, and no-holds-barred media industry.

Read the full story on Tea Leaf Nation.

 

Excerpt:

 

Andy Hong, a reporter for Taiwanese newspaper Want Daily and a journalist in Taiwan for 20 years, said that Taiwan’s post-martial law media did not originally run “bloody” or “gossipy” news stories, adding that “newspapers were like those published in the early days of China’s Republican era,” after China had toppled two millennia of imperial rule. Instead, Hong said, they thought they had an obligation “to promote cultural literacy.” Hong’s colleague Yongfu Lin, who became a reporter with the China Times in 1985 and is now deputy director of Want Daily’s cross-strait news division, said that in the years after martial law, “news reports were very diverse,” and the public had “fewer misgivings about the media,” partly because journalists were for the first time targeting political figures who were “once considered off-limits.” But Hong claimed things changed around 2003, when Hong Kong-based Apple Daily, a web site and broadsheet with a tabloid flair known for publishing color photos of grisly crime scenes and scantily-clad women, entered Taiwan and “immediately attracted readers.”

Why not everyone is gonna watch Persepolis.

Marjane Satrapi is a living talent. In my lifetime, there has never been an animated film – and never a motion picture itself – as satirically biting as her beloved ‘Persepolis’. What makes it exceptional lies on her ungodly experiences she herself had tasted through the tumultuous periods of life. She is not only doing her own tale-telling; things go deeper in the entirety of the 95 minutes Persepolis offers you. Deeper in her soul, she tells a fairytale about a polity imprisoned by its own isolationist regimes.

The story began with a young woman, that is Satrapi herself, undergoing a watertight immigration check-up upon her arrival in Charles de Gaulle International Airport, Paris, 1994. She later went into a toilet, and saw one French woman viewing her – and her headscarf, a must-have item for women in today’s Iran – with full suspicion. In no time, the scene moved into Satrapi sitting in a cafe, while a cloudburst was taking place outside the airport, at the same time contemplating about her gruesome past. There, we began to see a 9-year-old Satrapi, bigotric of Bruce Lee, Che Guevara, and revolution. A 9-year-old who was full of beans on revolutionary hopes instigated by the 1979 revolt which ousted the dictatorial, heavily anti-Communist Reza Shah Pahlevi. Life became more exuberant after her uncle, Anoush, was released from the prison after having been behind bars for 9 years, due to his Communist-inspired rebellion against the regime. Little Marji was overwhelmed by hopes, dreams, and ambitions (one of which was to become a prophet) by the outcome of the revolution; societies cherished the collapse of the regime of terror, which Satrapi indirectly implied as ‘teddy-bear of the West’.

However, it took not much time to grab every smiling face from virtually every citizen of the country. As soon as the Islamic Fundamentalists, those led by similarly brutal, sadistic, and savage Ayatollah Rohullah Khomeini, led a victory landslide with an overwhelming 99.9%, Iran was back into another regime of terror, but this time, on the behalf of ‘Islamic Republic of Iran’. Women are no longer allowed to adopt Western styles of fashion outside their homes; every woman was required to wear hijab, otherwise they might be alienated by surrounding societies.

Her uncle – also her very own source of inspiration for her exuberant life, Anoush, was all in a sudden captured by the regime due to his ideology, and was subsequently executed by a firing squad. Iran was preparing for a war with Iraq, a war in which would later claim more than 1 million lives, and lasted for 8 years. Almost every single day was spent with overwhelming fear, due to the high possibility that Iraqi forces would fire missiles into their apartments, and blow their bodies apart. Millions of men and women were recruited in self-defense jihad units, in which they sacrificed their lives by crossing through the heavily landmine-infested Iran-Iraq borderline. To make things more miserable, Satrapi put a scene in which her mother was involved in a conversation with their neighbor, who had lost all her 5 sons in the war, and instead having them ‘rewarded’ with a government-made plastic key, which symbolizes ‘path to heaven for courageously expelling the kafirs’.

All the situation had its own immediate effect on Satrapi. There was much personal tumult she had to struggle. All sorts of Western art were prohibited – and are still in effect until this day. That means obtaining them would be a grueling process; even vendors of pirated DVDs on American movies would have to put their eyes all the time on to anticipate any unexpected raids that may be conducted by some kind of local sharia patrolmen. She expressed all her concerns on the loud, banging, explosive sounds of heavy metal bands, notably Iron Maiden (her lifetime idol), listened vividly to Michael Jackson’s songs (often mis-spelt in Iran as Jichael Mackson), and wore a denim jacket with signs written out ‘punk is not ded’.

Her personal struggle escalated after she was moved to Vienna, Austria, in 1983. She lived in a rented house under the strict supervision of Catholic nuns, but in her schooling life, she befriended a group of punk, anarchy-minded Bohemians, and frequently attended underground, death-metal concerts. She fell in love with one of them, but the relationship ended off in no time after the man declared openly he ‘is a gay, and is proud of it’. Having fallen headfirst into desperation, her relationship with the Catholic nuns deteriorated, and she was expelled after a rabble-rousery fracas, which ended up by snapping at the nuns as ‘prostitutes’. Most of her time in Vienna was spent bohemianly, where she had to move from her friend’s house to her friend’s house, again into her friend’s friend’s house, again into her friend’s friend’s house, and even had to stay 4 all-gay couples for some time, before she found a brief period of tranquility staying in a philosopher’s house. She fell in love with a freelance playwright, but she even fell headlong, deeper into the valley of stygian desperation, after finding out her lover was having sex with another woman.

Her life became unstable since then; she often had falling-outs with the philosopher, and ended up expelled. For months, she had to wander around the streets of Vienna as a beggar, having survived day to day from the food remainings she found in landfills. In a deep night, she fell into comatose. Someone out there had taken her to hospital. Unable to cope with the emotional pressure she had been facing for months, she decided to return back to her homeland.

Back in Iran, Satrapi again regained her gusto after she dreamt she met God – and Karl Marx, her longtime idol. She enrolled back into academic life, amidst increasing fear about more possible repressions coming up in the future, since the death of Ayatollah Rohullah Khomeini. She openly spoke up about the hypocrisies and all the religious absurdities in symposiums, fell in love with a local man, married her afterwards, and divorced him 4 years later, before she moved to Paris, and lives there until now.

—–

To be honest, Persepolis is many times ‘crunchier’ than any animated films I have ever seen. If there were a measurement unit to calculate how deep these films are from 0 to 10, I would rate most of Dreamworks-produced films on average 5, most of Pixar-produced films on average 7.5, and Persepolis on 10. I don’t say that all Dreamworks- and Pixar-made films are bad, but Persepolis has its own path to interpret about the absurdities of the world in a simplified manner that, if you listen deeply on their dialogues, you will slowly feel it. But not everyone will do it. Only those who are already well-prepared to witness the personal tumults of Satrapi as a woman, and as part of Iranian nation, are permitted to watch Persepolis.

But perhaps the most important theme it wants to emphasize is about the essence of human freedom. Satrapi was once born in a country ruled by dictatorial regime, and once had to overcome all the challenges imposed by another, religion-based regime who continues to rule Iran iron-handedly until this second. Once she was set free, she had made one mistake, and had learnt it: the metaphorical wired fences of harsh rules had ‘forced’ her to dream and seek her very own utopia, a realm of absolute freedom. But the world out there never permits, and is always absurd. Only the resilience and fortitude of hearts of man in seeking human freedom itself that will set themselves free, not the elusive, imaginary pledges of utopia. That had ruined her life once. And she realized she must not make another mistake like that anymore.

This is a film to commemmorate everyone who dreams of being ‘set free’.

Life, as you (will never) know it

“Really? You wanna move?” My English teacher replied. She seemed surprised with me.

“Yes, I do.”

“You never reconsider it back?”

“I’ll never change it. I’ve been certain that I want to pursue International Studies.”

I have been thinking about it for a very, very, very long time. It took almost 7 months to rack my brain regarding to the decision whether to move to Science Class – commonly conceived by parents as ‘headquarters of the geniuses or at least the not-so-bad buddies’ – or Social Class – of which majority of the students are conceived by majority of the teachers as ‘helpless’. That happens in my school (to make it more convincing, I’ll just write down the name of it), SMA Sutomo 1 Medan. I am not really sure about other schools, because so far, the truth is undeniable that majority of the parents (I hope that your parents are not primarily included, especially those in my hometown), still have tendencies to underestimate students from Social Class and regard them as ‘lethargic’ (that is: students from Social Class do not need to learn anymore about the complicating formula in Physics and Chemistry so there won’t be any additional tuitions about them, or the higgledy-piggledies about the trigonometric equations in Mathematics, but they do still learn Civics, Geography, Economy, History, Sociology, and whatsoever). That is not uncommon; there are frequent negative sentiments whenever parents or teachers hear about students from ‘Social Class’. Whether this sentiment is contagiously spread nationwide, I am not much clear about it.

Or am I just too sensitive?

In the past, I had a dream of becoming an architect. I don’t know where that will-o’-the-wisp came from, but as soon as I saw the pictures of the skyscrapers gleaming over the big cities on the postcards my grandmother and my auntie, I had that much interest on it. I aspired to design as many skyscrapers as I like. And until now, I still have that interest on it.

The problem is: I am not as much mastering well in mathematics as I think I could. The latest Semester examination in the long run proved that. I performed, perhaps, the worst, all the time. Out of 30 queries given from the paper, I did not have adequate time to answer the remaining 3 questions (all of these unanswered questions were about ‘three-dimensional structures’, the one that requires your imagination and a mess of architectural crinkum-crankums to comprehend it); when I tried to match all the answers I had written on another piece of paper with my friend (so far, only him and only him), there were slightly 14 differences between his and my answers. All right, that is my first reason.

Before that, I had also researched deeper about what fields of knowledge I am much more dominant in. I was firstly introduced to a local-made encyclopedia of countries in a Gramedia bookstore in 2004. All of a sudden, it seems that I had fallen in love with it. Not only for the first time, but the second time, as well. The book may have been dog-eared and severely torn, but I would not simply trash it away. I was nuts on the population, about the history, about the ethnic composition, about their ideologies and their forms of governments and percentage of religions represented by the populations, and a long list to go on. I can tell you, honestly, I prefer spelling the names of countries or capitals than all these obnoxious elements over the chemical table.

Almost nobody has a hint of what ‘ethnography’ is all about. A few have even never heard about that. But this is another field that I have a deep interest in. More or less there are thousands and thousands of ethnicities and communities scattered worldwide through diasporas, and it does really help me in understanding about the ‘true colors’ of the world.

I also fell in love with writing. Thanks to Microsoft Word (once again, I had no intention to promote the product and I am under nobody’s pressure to advertise it), typing really makes me look like a ‘grown-up’. Or there have been ‘writing genes’ deeply coded in my DNA composition? Okay, just let the curiosity kills the cat. My mother told me that she liked writing when she was in her early childhood years, but slowly vanished as she became more matured.

Despite the fact that I will be moving to Social Class next month, I have not completely lost in touch with Sciences. I like Sciences, but that does not imply that ‘I love sciences’. In harnessing knowledge, I don’t want to differentiate what it is and where it comes from. Whether it is about nuclear science, or chemistry (altogether with these obnoxious elements), or global economy, or ecology, or motivation, or countries, I am always open to devour all of them, as long as I am able to comprehend in my own sense.

This is what life has shown me for. When I was a small child, I had never had such dreams. I did more use to visualize myself as ‘having been a professional architect’, but now, I have completely given up that to pursue for another. As if life had many intersections, and we are the ones who sojourn them. One thing that I learn from life is it has its own mysterious ways to show us which path suits us the best. One who aspired to be a professional physicist instead became a professional businessman within an interval of 20 years. Or a graduate of Faculty of Physics in a world-class university ends up as a Buddhist monk. Or a Wall Street investment banker ends up as a dancer. Or a graduate of Engineering Faculty became one of the most respected bankers nationwide 50 years later. We may have set our certain goals for our lives in the future, but sometimes life has its own unusual formula.

Perhaps, in certain times, you began to feel bored of what you are right now doing. Not simply bored, but you may be totally unhappy in doing it. You are doing the daily accounting duties. You are being faced with the similar burdens whenever you are in business meetings. You spin your brain many times whenever someone shows you your company’s financial graphs. You see patients and you examine their bodies vividly. You take care of the business your parents had worked to grindstones to succeed. You give tuitions for your students everyday. You are filled in humdrums, and you do really aspire to do something different. Then just do it! Whenever life begins to knock your heart, and says, “Well, it seems that my excitement rate has diminshed.”, take any actions. Find some time to relax, at first. Do what you like. Write. Blog. Visit a new restaurant and review all the dishes you eat. Watch a movie and make a review of what you think about it. Spend more time with your beloved pet. Create some cupcakes. Picnic to a jungle. Learn organic farming. Learn a new language. Read more critically-acclaimed novels. Taste a new kind of music. Paint some pictures. Play with your beloved children. Get to know a local vendor around you. Browse a new, unique website (porn sites are not recommended). Get involved in charities. Play a guitar. Help someone arranges his or her messy room. Backpack to a country you have been wanting to visit the most. Learn diving. Know more about dinosaurs. Take a salsa course. Taste the wine. Learn to meditate. Make some noodles of your own, cook them, and let all your family eat your self-made dishes. Cook and stew vegetables. Play badminton. Watch inspiring videos on Internet. Write a story. Know more about types of fish. Volunteer yourself in a local NGO. Watch a theatre drama. Get to know more about English’s longest words. Learn to do belly-dancing. Take some pictures. Enroll in a photography class. Collect chocolate products. Collect stamps. Collect wine bottles. And still, a long list to go on (continue it yourself). Weekends are always the best moments to do things that increase ‘excitement rate’ in your life.

Also, you can afford to make use of hobbies as sources to provide increment for your income. As told by one of our country’s most respected real-estate moguls, Ciputra: entrepreneurship is about turning dirts and scraps into gold. You may have your book published as soon as you have completed it. Sell some paintings, earn a few bucks. Innovate your methods in playing guitar, make an album, and release it. Take some pictures, and set up a little gallery, or a photography studio. Or, here is a weird concept of mine: collect some chocolates, don’t trash the wrapping paper into the dustbin, but instead collect them, and build what you soi-disant as ‘chocolate museum’. Whenever you think you are happier with it than the job you previously held in, just resign. Start an entirely new life, learn to obey more on what your life desires, not on others’ expectations.

And now, I am no longer part of the Science Class. Let’s see 50 years later. Who knows I am going to be organic-farming specialist, who knows?