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.

Sorry Mr. Prabowo, but It Is not Merely About Increasing the Salary

It is quite interesting to see the first debate from both of presidential candidates. People have also reviewed their performance and it does seem that the conclusion is relatively unanimous: that Joko Widodo performed quite well. This result is indeed unexpected since he is usually known as low-profile figure who does not really like to talk much. On the other hand, Prabowo could be pushed to the corner by Jusuf Kalla due to the human right issue that asked by Kalla. To be fair, the second candidate has successfully controlled the atmosphere last night. You might judge me as bias but you could check by yourself in my blog that I have also posed my critic to Jokowi once he declared himself as a candidate for Indonesia Preseident. However, what I want to elaborate in this writing is not about reviewing the whole debating process. Rather, I am quite interested in one particular moment where Prabowo was asked about bureaucracy reform and this is the specific part that I want to discuss on.

Last night debate concentrated on how to build clean government, strengthening rule of law, and everything alike. Thus, it was not rare if bureaucracy reform, human right, and corruption became the main topic during the show. One interesting point was made by Prabowo in this issue when he made a statement that remuneration for civil servants was indeed important and required to ensure that bureaucracy reform can be run smoothly and successfully. The most important question is then: is remuneration scheme urgently required to complete such a reform? Should clean government be achieved by disbursing more money to civil servants?

When taken unto the most extreme point, democracy can be associated with master-slave relationship. Who is the master and who becomes the slave? They are the people and government, respectively since the actual position of government is to serve the people and not the opposite. In master and slave paradigm, it is up to the master whether or not he/she will let the slave to be free. If the slaves are good enough and the masters want to show a little bit of mercy, the masters will be likely to pay them. But it is inevitable that in regard the remuneration, the masters retain the sole right.

But we are not currently living in such a paradigm. Slavery is undoubtedly prohibited worldwide since we have already advanced to adopt human rights value. However, the main principle from the above explanation does still prevail, namely that government is actually the servant of the people and not the opposite. Following this logic, simple conclusion can be made: remuneration of the government officials mainly depend upon the will of the people. As long as the people do not agree on the scheme, remuneration scheme should have been just blown away by the wind. Let alone the government officials beg for such incentive.

However, this condition does not exist in Indonesia. It can be clearly seen from the poverty level of Indonesians and those who are vulnerable to get dragged into the region. In contrast, our legislative members, ministers, and also government officials can enjoy extravagant lives. It is true that this statement is like an exaggeration or generalization and there are some government officials who are indeed very honest in doing their job. But, how much the probability really is? Of course it is also the fact that such people will be overwhelmed by those who are very greed in extorting dirt money in order to enrich themselves. Thus, why could this happen?

First of all, democracy in Indonesia is indeed very expensive. This condition makes those who desire to be elected as government officials or legislative members should prepare much money to campaign. And what is the paradigm once such people are elected? Of course, this is not a matter of national duty and rather a trade balance: I should earn more money to cover up my expenses and in order to be elected on the next election. It is just a vicious circle. Secondly, it may happen because the salary is not enough for sustaining their lives. This then becomes the main reason to justify remuneration. The question is: are you sure that remuneration will give clean government?  

The answer is quite clear: no. The first reason is because the democracy itself that is still very expensive. Hence when everyone competes to get elected, they will eventually disburse more money and once elected, they can easily beg for remuneration to recover their expenses. In this regard, campaigning to be a part of government has been considered as the expense that should be covered by taxation. Without them, they can no longer sustain their lives. In contrast, people who work in labor-intensive factories never demand such an expense; while in fact such people are actually the master of the government officials.

Secondly, when I heard Prabowo’s statement last night to increase the salary, I remembered my high school teacher when she left us a word: “it is no matter how small your salary is. As long as you are wise, everything will be covered. And the opposite does also exist: even though you have big salary, as long as you are not wise, you will never get enough.” I know for sure that such a statement cannot be taken literally. Small salary does not mean that we just submit ourselves to the fate. There is a red line that should not be surpassed so people are still able to get proper lives.

Thus, the most important thing is not about remuneration. As long as our government officials never get enough for themselves and pursue political career as a pathway to be richer, they will never get enough. Corruption will be still prevalent and clean government cannot be ensured just by remuneration program. Furthermore, the question is: what if there is a person who comes to a minister and offers some amount of money that is significantly bigger than their monthly salary? Does it mean that he/she will be subdued because of their price tag-based loyalty? Another case: what if one of his/her relatives comes to him/her insisting that they want to get a government project? Even though they do not offer any money, as long as they are family member, it will be very likely that special treatment will be endorsed upon them. Thus, how can we be sure that salary increase can build a clean government? How can we be sure that the term “enough” is not an exaggerated condition aired by our government officials? And as long as they always look their relatives who are richer than them, how can we be sure that they will not get subdued to be greed and thus demanding more salary increase in the name of “daily needs?”

In this regard, I think Prabowo’s statement is absolutely wrong. The first thing that we need to reform is meritocracy and loyalty. This is not about increase in salary. It is true that people should never let others to live in a desperate condition. But once you serve for a country, you work for people and give your loyalty to your country. In an extreme case, I rather agree with what has been taught by Plato and applied in early Ottoman Empire that guardians of a nation should be told about “noble lie” and forced to renounce their kinship tie in order to accomplish political purification since kinship tie will disrupt the just political order. Or it does seem more proper if government officials should be ruled in the same way as during the Ottoman Empire where they could not hold hereditable properties. Or even like in early Chinese Emperor while the all of the eunuchs are castrated in order to prevent them to have sexual desire, especially toward the wife of the emperor. These conditions then lead to pure meritocracy and loyalty. Those who serve for the nation will give all of they have and then never intends to disrupt the whole system; purely to serve the people. Should we have a system like this one? The answer to this question can only be validated through public deliberation in order to consider its good and bad.

However, the most important point that I would like to underline in this matter is not such extreme cases. I just want to put one thing: once you have chosen to serve your country, please never think about your salary because I am sure that Indonesians will not let you live in a desperate condition; once we have acquired proofs of your achievements, we can even easily grant you many incentives; but the first thing that you should have in your mind and conscience is your sincere to serve us. This is why to become a leader or a legislative member for this country is actually a very demanding job due to the high responsibility. And in this regard, I still cannot understand why many people out there eager to take this position and then just begging us to increase their salary but just can sleep and absent during meeting or extorting our taxation through project projects. Thus, it is not about money, Mr. Prabowo; it is about sincere in serving and I think from the point incentives will follow because Indonesians are your master  and everyone sits in the government position has a duty to serve all Indonesians. Like Ahok, your own cadre, said: if you want to be rich, be a businessman not a civil servants.  

Belajar Dari Plato : Cinta dan Perkawinan

Cinta dan perkawinan terkadang menjadi sesuatu yang suka dipermainkan. Patutkah itu semua? Belajarlah dari Plato, seorang filsuf Yunani. Saya mengutip artikel ini melalu pencarian saya di internet.

Cinta dan Perkawinan Menurut Plato

Satu hari, Plato bertanya pada gurunya, “Apa itu cinta? Bagaimana saya bisa menemukannya?

Gurunya menjawab, “Ada ladang gandum yang luas didepan sana. Berjalanlah kamu dan tanpa boleh mundur kembali, kemudian ambillah satu saja ranting. Jika kamu menemukan ranting yang kamu anggap paling menakjubkan, artinya kamu telah menemukan cinta”

Plato pun berjalan, dan tidak seberapa lama, dia kembali dengan tangan kosong, tanpa membawa apapun.

Gurunya bertanya, “Mengapa kamu tidak membawa satupun ranting?”

Plato menjawab, “Aku hanya boleh membawa satu saja, dan saat berjalan tidak boleh mundur kembali (berbalik). Sebenarnya aku telah menemukan yang paling menakjubkan, tapi aku tak tahu apakah ada yang lebih menakjubkan lagi di depan sana, jadi tak kuambil ranting tersebut. Saat ku melanjutkan berjalan lebih jauh lagi, baru kusadari bahwa ranting-ranting yang kutemukan kemudian tak sebagus ranting yang tadi, jadi tak ku ambil sebatang pun pada akhirnya.”

Gurunya kemudian menjawab “Jadi ya itulah cinta”

Di hari yang lain, Plato bertanya lagi pada gurunya, “Apa itu perkawinan? Bagaimana saya bisa menemukannya?”

Gurunya pun menjawab, “Ada hutan yang subur didepan saja. Berjalanlah tanpa boleh mundur kembali (menoleh) dan kamu hanya boleh menebang satu pohon saja. Dan tebanglah jika kamu menemukan pohon yang paling tinggi, karena artinya kamu telah menemukan apa itu perkawinan”

Plato pun berjalan, dan tidak seberapa lama, dia kembali dengan membawa pohon. Pohon tersebut bukanlah pohon yang segar/ subur, dan tidak juga terlalu tinggi. Pohon itu biasa-biasa saja.

Gurunya bertanya, “Mengapa kamu memotong pohon yang seperti itu?”

Plato pun menjawab, “Sebab berdasarkan pengalamanku sebelumnya, setelah menjelajah hampir setengah hutan, ternyata aku kembali dengan tangan kosong. Jadi di kesempatan ini, aku lihat pohon ini, dan kurasa tidaklah buruk-buruk amat, jadi kuputuskan untuk menebangnya dan membawanya kesini. Aku tidak mau menghilangkan kesempatan untuk mendapatkannya.”

Gurunya pun kemudian menjawab, “Dan ya itulah perkawinan.”

Catatan kecil:

Cinta itu semakin dicari, maka semakin tidak ditemukan. Cinta adanya di dalam lubuk hati, ketika dapat menahan keinginan dan harapan yang lebih.

Ketika pengharapan dan keinginan yang berlebih akan cinta, maka yang didapat adalah kehampaan…tiada sesuatu pun yang didapat, dan tidak dapat dimundurkan kembali. Waktu dan masa tidak dapat diputar mundur. Terimalah cinta apa adanya.

Perkawinan adalah kelanjutan dari Cinta. Adalah proses mendapatkan kesempatan, ketika kamu mencari yang terbaik diantara pilihan yang ada, maka akan mengurangi kesempatan untuk mendapatkannya, Ketika kesempurnaan ingin kau dapatkan, maka sia-sialah waktumu dalam mendapatkan perkawinan itu. Karena, sebenarnya kesempurnaan itu hampa adanya.

Inilah cinta dan perkawinan yang berhasil dirumuskan oleh Plato lewat pengalamannya sendiri. Pelajarilah, renungkanlah, dan praktikkanlah.