The Changing Nature of Human Beings: a Journey to Find Right and Wrong

This story occurred last week when I was just came back home after attending a weekly mass in a nearby church. Upon arrival, I had a short yet deep conversation with one of my friends. He firstly asked me where I was from and the conversation ended up talking about the recent issue engulfing Catholic religion.

In short, he criticized Catholic priests who are involved in sexual scandal. He argued that this might be caused by the fact that Catholic priests are not allowed to get married. Although he did not say that allowing the priests to get married will completely eliminate the case, he went on to say that such a change in policy will probably reduce the sexual scandal case. “After all, we are all human beings who are made from flesh and thus also prone to any temptation. I just feel such a change in policy might help to reduce the sexual scandal in the Catholic church.”

At that time, I said that I do not agree with his standpoint. In short, I argued that as a Catholic priest, you have to devote all your life to the church. It is as if you have decided to take the church as your eternal wife. Although it is true that human beings are made from flesh and prone to temptations, it just indicates that becoming a Catholic priest is not an easy matter and requires high degree of discipline.

However, what is more interesting about the conversation was not about the discussion of Catholic priests and their sexual scandal. It is more about the aftermath of the conversation. My friend went on to say that, “Well, above all of this, despite your disagreement, I would just want to highlight that we are only human beings who are prone to make any mistake. So, later on you need not to be surprised if it is your priest who will be implicated with such a scandal. We are just human beings and our mind can easily swift from one position to another. Maybe at that time, your priest think that this is the right thing that he would like to do. And probably, the Catholic church itself may see it as the right thing”

Human beings and change: between right and wrong

It is a fact that long time ago, Catholic priests were allowed to get married before the celibacy policy were universally applied to all Catholic priests. This policy itself has actually demonstrated the dynamic nature of what is right and wrong within the Catholic church itself. Thus, even a huge religious institution like a Catholic church should admit the necessity of change. This then somehow triggers us to ask: is there anything that is absolutely right and wrong if our simple conversation just revealed that even religious institution does not immune to change its standpoint?

In this regard, I said to him that my position is yes: there must be an absolute right and wrong. However, I am more in line with what Plato teaches us. This right and wrong are actually an ideal that I think cannot be completely realized in this mundane world. From my perspective, human beings are always like the people chained in the Plato’s cave. We can never fully grasp the idea of right and wrong despite the fact that the idea does actually exist. Even if someone might come to us and say that they have actually grasped the ideal and want to share it with us, we are still reluctant to accept the idea. Then, does it mean that we are actually indifferent towards what is right and wring? This is the point where we actually have to play our role as human beings.

The dynamic nature of human beings is actually a blessing that should be effectively utilized. In this case, such a dynamic nature should be able to lead human beings to be better, including a better person who is able to differentiate what is right and wrong. It is more like what Hegel teaches us: when a thesis meets an antitheses, synthesis is formed. This is actually the nature of change. We cannot infinitely hold on to one theses. Since once we have found its antitheses, a synthesis must form and its degree should be above both the theses and antitheses. This dialectic process must then lead human beings to be better and get closer to the ideal world of right and wrong. And this is why communicative action and deliberation process are essential for human beings because only by doing so, we can get closer to the ideal condition of right and wrong, even though, from my perspective, we won’t be able to reach it since our nature that continuously changes.

Then a question related to my previous conversation might be asked: why then a religious institution does not immune for such a thing? This type of question does actually makes sense since religious institutions always deal with something that transcends us, namely God and it is often argued that the nature of God is absolute. The answer for such question is indeed very simple and straightforward: because such an institution is comprised of human beings as well. As what my friend clearly noted from our conversation, regardless of our status, we are all human beings who are made from flesh. Thus, as long as the human beings status is still with us, we really have to change and so does the religious institution. In regard of this, there must be a limitation on to what extent the religious institution should change since it not only deals with this mundane world but also to the world that transcends our nature. But, it is definitely out of my scope to talk about to what extent religious institutions should change. The only thing that I can underline, however, is to encourage any religious institutions to keep open-minded and maintain dialogue between religions and even towards unbeliever. Because only by such communicative actions do we able to be better human beings.

So, won’t I then be surprised if later on Catholic church changes its policy and allows their priests to get married? As long as it has been rationally deliberated from different perspectives, I might not be then surprised. After all, neither Catholic church, any religious institutions, and ourselves are perfect. We are just pure human beings who are prone to make any mistakes and are always constantly exposed to the dynamic nature of the world. But as long as human beings do not deny this condition, they are actually constantly marching towards the better and more ideal condition.


The Last Man and The Slave in Indonesia’s Energy Sector

After reading of one of my friends’ blog, I was then carried to think deeply about the current circumstance in Indonesia, especially in regard with energy issue. This posting can then be considered as a response to my friend’s writing, but it should be underlined that I have produced it with my whole originality.

Discussing energy issue in Indonesia does seem endless. The country has many crucial issues in regard of energy. First of all, it can be clearly seen when BP Migas was eventually dismissed by Constitutional Court. Such regulatory body was considered to be a body that did not give enough support for Pertamina, Indonesia’s Oil and Gas Company, thus giving away Indonesia’s oil resource to foreign companies. Secondly, the issue that has something to do with social lives, namely subsidized fuel. As has been widely known, almost a quarter of Indonesia’s budget is used as a fund to subsidize variety of needs. And fuel takes the dominant part of the subsidy. Thirdly, with our dependence unto foreign companies in lifting oil, it does seem that Indonesia can have no independency in supplying its energy demand.

As has been stated on my friend’s blog, even though the country has many energy sources to be converted to renewable sources of energy, such conversion are seldom accomplished. A question is: we know that there is much potential there, but, why does Indonesia still get trapped in fossil fuel? Is it caused by the lack of human resource? I do not think that such answer is plausible. I would rather say that Indonesians have become last men in regard of energy sector.

The last man and our current issue

Having reading Francis Fukuyama’s treatise The End of History and The Last Man, it is clear then the last man is a person who does no longer face any difficulties in his/her own life. This circumstance is absolutely different compared with the first man described by Hegel.

Such first man, according to Hegel, was a person who always tried to be recognized as a human being. Thus, he/she can engage in a bloody battle just to be recognized. At the very last, those who became the victor would be the master and the rest will be the slave. The slave would beg to the master in order to live peacefully. The master could then use the slaves to achieve his/her own goal. In such circumstance, the master was considered more worthy because he/she can surpass his/her own natural desire and to get engaged in a war in order to preserve their dignity. On the other hand, the slaves, who surrendered, were considered less worthy.

But as time went on, the slaves would soon realize that they also longed for their dignity. Throughout work on nature that was imposed by their masters, they knew perfectly that they could master the nature and should have not been considered as slave. On the other side, the masters also longed for more recognition because they did not consider the recognition raised by the slaves since the slaves had been downgraded, no longer human beings. This condition then would bring people unto an equal condition, no more slaves and masters. Each person is equal. Unfortunately, this condition also brings people toward a condition where last man does appear; because there is no longer struggle for recognition, persons will be automatically downgraded. Their lives will be only used as a mean to fulfill their natural desires, like a slave but with no masters. And there is no reason to have an outstanding personality to be proud of.

This condition is actually happening in Indonesia. The fact shows that fresh graduates tend to apply for a job that offers them a competitive salary, no matter what flags do the companies bear. It is also a fact that almost of all current students enjoy the subsidized fuel, even though they can be classified as upper class. Both of these examples clearly show that Indonesians have been trapped to become the last man: human beings who need not to struggle to achieve something and can no longer see something different except something that will bring them to richer and then fulfilling their natural needs. Thus, who to blame: ourselves as Indonesians or Indonesia Government?

Proud, challenge, and value

It is clear then there is something that should be achieved in order to avoid to get trapped in becoming the last man. Moreover, the something offered should produce proud feeling for those who have achieved it.

In regard of the first case, it can be said that working in a multinational company can bring prosperity and more proud-feeling rather than working in a national company. Working in such company is then considered as prestigious. Well, this argument is not wrong but it should be scrutinized further.

From the above explanation, it is clear that the slaves would realize that they actually could become a master throughout work because they realized that they could master their nature. This emphasis actually lacks when people are working in a multinational company. Their prestige will stop as long as they can live peacefully and thus never realizes that they actually can master their nature. They never learn from multinational companies how they can achieve such outstanding technologies. What Indonesians often do are merely just operators: high salary and no need to learn to master the technology. Is it freedom? Yes, free to get released from needs difficulties and shortages, but not as human beings. It is quite clear why Indonesians like to become slaves in their own country.

Regarding of the second case about subsidized fuel, I thought that it is absolutely the fault of Indonesia Government. The question to be asked is: until when the fuel should be subsidized? It is a good idea if the subsidized fuel can be controlled so it will not harm the essence of subsidy that is actually directed for poor people. But, the reality shows the opposite. Such action will only bring Indonesians to not be a creative and hard-working person. It does seem like parents who always supply the daily needs of their children until they grow up and get old. But, the children will never get mature.

Releasing subsidized fuels will then bring two advantages. First of all, it will incentivize people to conduct more researches in order to produce renewable energy commercially. Secondly, it will make people learn that they should work very hard to achieve something that will bring convenience for them. But it seems that Indonesia Government never considers such advantages. By giving more subsidy, and not controlled, will only aggravate the condition to become the last man in energy sector.

Thus, what can be done? As I have stated above, I do believe that this country does not lack of human resource. What we do really lack is the human beings who want to strive, struggle, take pride for not having subsidized fuel and have greater value in their own lives. It means that Indonesia is lack of people who are brave enough to be recognized as true human beings who are recognized by their struggle to have values rather than just fulfilling their natural needs. Indonesians have been successfully trapped by every easy access offered to them and they are never incentivized to achiever more.

It is then the homework for all Indonesians: both of Indonesia government and society, especially the young generations who will become leaders for the years to come. Indonesia needs the brave and creativity from its own citizens. Without such value, independence will never get its essence.

Thus, talking about renewable energy is important, but to change our mindset is more important since it is the latter that will drive the former. Without having pride to involve in such projects and always get trapped in fulfilling natural needs with every ease offered by multinational companies or government, it will be a utopian dream to have renewable energy and let this country imports renewable energy in the future. I do not hope it to be happen and I do believe, we all Indonesians also yearn for the independence in our energy sector. And we can start it together: to quit as a last men.