Indigenous people need more support to become tech-savvy and deal with the threats digital technology can pose to their culture, a conference has heard.
Digital technologies such as smartphones and drones can bring problems as well as advantages to indigenous communities, an expert panel said at the World Conservation Congress on 5 September. Without in-depth knowledge of the scope of such technology, indigenous people may allow themselves to be misrepresented and their knowledge to get exploited, they said.
One issue is the struggle to keep sacred sites a secret in a world where posting photos and publishing blogs can reveal their locations. Often, well-meaning researchers compound the problem when they digitise photos of cultural sites or traditional knowledge for scientific purposes, says Mikaela Jade, the founder of Indigital Storytelling, an Australian company using digital technologies to preserve aboriginal culture.
“Companies supplying indigenous people with services should have a cultural protocol to clarify who are the custodians of their data,” she told SciDev.Net. “We need to know, can we take our data back and can we destroy it if it is causing a problem to have it in the public space?”
These issues are compounded by the fact that many indigenous communities still lack access to the digital world, the event heard. Having better access can encourage them to become more assertive in protecting their culture, suggests M’Lys Flynn, a digital mapper working with indigenous people in Australia.
The panel, which took place on 5 September in Honolulu, Hawaii, acknowledged that digital technology can enable indigenous communities to claim rights over land and better preserve traditions. Having access to GPS mapping, social media platforms and other communication tools is also crucial, to make their voices more prominent in global discussions, the panellists agreed.
The best way forward, says Roberto Borreo, a consultant at the International Indian Treaty Council, is for communities and digital companies to work together. The Taino people in the United States, for example, helped a start-up game company to develop Arrival: Village Kasike, a mobile-phone strategy game set in pre-Columbian Central America.
Taino representatives were involved throughout the development process, ensuring the game represents their culture correctly and gives a balanced view of their lives.
“Some game developers just appropriate Indian culture, they use our stories and symbols without any benefits to the communities,” Borreo says. “They represent us as violent or primitive, and we do not need to encourage any more racism or violence against indigenous communities.”
With better knowledge of digital technologies, indigenous people will also be in a position to choose which technologies they want to let into their lives, Jade says.
Suicide stories surround me everywhere – my colleague, two sisters in Bandung, a broken hearted man who filmed it live, a local social media celebrity, to international artists that surprises the whole world. They all made the choice to take their own life.
So what makes people take their own life? What goes on inside our heads when we get to the point of no return and ultimately kill ourselves?
People have their own reasons and explanations, sometimes from a suicide note, sometimes their families or friends speak for them, but they can also leave the world in silence. Creating confusion and shock, helter skelter.
In general, dr. Alex Lickerman M.D. from ImagineMD explains that the causes of suicide are depression, psychosis such as schizophrenia, being impulsive that can be related to drug and alcohol use, a cry for help, or a mistake they made such as the people who flirt with oxygen deprivation.
Maybe one of the controversial causes of suicide is the desire to die, that is often motivated by the presence of a painful terminal illness from which little to no hope of reprieve exists. A courtesy of taking your own life by trying to cheat time gets approval from certain countries.
England, Ireland, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, United States, and some other countries give their people the freedom of suicide. These countries made laws to support suicide, exclusive to those who suffer from terminal illness, thus euthanasia or suicide assistance exists.
On the other side, there are countries that ban suicide assistance such as China, Denmark, France, Japan, and Indonesia. Countries like Hungary, Singapore, and India even imprison people who attempt to end their own lives.
Perspective sheds light on suicide, with government laws that act as an instrument to determine whether we can or can’t take our own lives. But if we take a closer look into ourselves, the courtesy is still exclusive to our actions. After all, we are the ones who will close the final curtain of life in suicide.
A Philosophical Problem
On the edge of a balcony in an apartment at South Jakarta, I looked down towards the distance from the seventh floor and asked myself how a man can jump, ultimately making the choice of taking their own life.
When we talk about and look into ourselves, the urge to find meaning in one’s existence will appear. Philosophical questions like “What is the meaning of life?” and “What is my significance in this world?” will haunt us as an existentialism problem.
In Le Mythe de Sisyphus (1942), Albert Camus opens his essay with a statement that suicide is the one truly serious philosophical problem. “Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy,” wrote the French author.
Philosophers argue about the nature of suicide, for instance Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) said that the ability to commit suicide was “the greatest advantage” God has given to humankind. The Roman scholar saw suicide as human power over his own existence.
If we reject religion altogether, then life seems has no meaning. Neither God nor afterlife, so why should we keep on living? Well, existentialism answers this question by helping us find our personal meaning in life, create meaning in the meaninglessness. After all, Jean Paul Sartre said that existentialism is optimistic, we don’t choose our own existence but are responsible for it.
Born to this world we then try to find worth when we slowly grow, both physically and mentally. The external world can be rough; work, love, and other life problems can make us think twice about our significance.
To live or to die, people has their own problems. An artist can just commit suicide because of depression that fame has brought upon them; on the other hand, people can survive a rough life of famine or war and still live on without ever thinking of taking their own life.
Suicide is not a simple thing because life has a broad spectrum, from psychology, sociology, to philosophy, and from personal to societal view and values.
Having an open mind, empathy, and being unprejudiced are essential in understanding this phenomenon, otherwise we tend to be judgmental when it comes to those who willingly end their life.
Into the Absurd
We can see life as an absurdity, a struggle to find meanings and/or one’s existence. When having this kind of angst, we have options that we can choose; embrace a religion, commit suicide, or as Camus said,”Accept the absurd and continue life as usual”.
Religion gives us a set of rules to follow and we use faith to make sense of it all. We can find our purpose in this world and its meaning depending on what religion that we choose. This doesn’t include the nonpracticing ones, and no, certainly not the “Islam KTP” – a term in Indonesia for those who claim to have a religion simply because it is stated in the ID card.
Most popular religion such as Christianity and Muslim ban suicide. To cheat life is a sin and hell is promised for those who abandon hope.
When there’s no religion to guide us through, does that mean we can succumb easily when facing some existentialist crisis? Well, I think not.
To still live a life and choose personal or alternative meanings in one’s significance is another option that we can choose.
There are times when we can’t find any meaning in our own lives. At this moment we can keep trying and finally find or accept it as an endless struggle in absurdity.
Everyone will be lifeless eventually, may it be because of sickness, accident, homicide, or other reasons. So, one thing for sure, death will come to us.
When committing suicide, people seem to choose the time. Some hang themselves in the morning, other blow their heads off with a shotgun in the afternoon, or doze off for eternity with pills at night.
In my opinion, suicide is a form a self escapism that doesn’t solve anything. If we try to find meaning then what does taking our life achieve? Acceptance and struggle for meaning is surely better than that.
But in the end, nobody can take away anyone’s freedom of suicide. Yes, like it or not, it is still an option for us to reflect upon.
Mentalhealthdaily.com, Psychologytoday.com, Philosophytalk.org, Le Mythe de Sisyphus (1942), A Concise History of Euthanasia: Life, Death, God, and Medicine (Critical Issues in World and International History) (2005).
[LttW, Jakarta]. In recent years, diversity that was once embraced as human treasure seems to be taken as a threat to humanity. This far right view has gained followers in many parts of the world, and at the same time caused tensions, conflicts, killings, and wars within and between countries.
Humans are bound to be different due to the order of nature; there’s nothing we can do about it. Our physical (including racial) and cultural differences are the natural results of our adaptation to the environment. However, diversity is not the only thing we share. We also have common possessions: conscience, common sense, logic, intelligence, emotion, human anatomy, etc. It is with these commonalities human should forever manage diversity as as an enriching factor, not a destroying one.
History has proven that diversity has not always been the cause of problems; it has also given the world amazing human inventions that elevates our civilizations over millennia. So why keep insisting that diversity is the root of problems while we know that it can be the answer to the problems? [Desk]
World Humanitarian Day is also a time to remember the sacrifice of those who risk their lives to serve. What often gets ignored, however, is the role that faith plays in people’s desire to give and serve. This is where I focus my research.
Philanthropy and religion
Let’s first look at available data to understand how much giving is tied to one’s faith.
According to Giving USA, the leading annual report of philanthropy in America, religious contributions (narrowly defined as giving to houses of worship, denominations, missionary societies and religious media) made up 32 percent of all giving in America in 2016.
Many of these organizations make up the world’s largest NGOs. For example, three of the top 10 biggest charities by total revenue last year (Catholic Charities, Salvation Army and National Christian Foundation) are explicitly religious. Religious agencies make up 13 of the top 50 charities in the U.S.
It is true that factors such as wealth, income, education and marital status are all predictors of giving. But religious belief and practice are one of the best predictors.
Overall, religious Americans volunteer more, give more, and give more often not only to religious but secular causes as well. Among Americans who give to any cause, 55 percent claim religious values as an important motivator for giving.
What religions tell us
These values of giving are deeply rooted in the texts, traditions and practices of many faiths. Take, for example, the messages within the three Abrahamic faiths.
In Judaism, the Hebrew Scriptures refer to “tzedakah,” literally meaning justice. Tzedakah is considered a commandment and a moral obligation that all Jews should follow. The commitment to justice places a priority on their giving to help the poor. Beyond giving just time and money, rabbis even spoke of “gemilut chasadim,” literally meaning loving-kindness, or focusing on right relationship with one another as the prerogative of religious giving.
Similarly, the Christian tradition has considered giving a key religious practice. Many Christians still look to the Hebrew Bible and the tithe (giving one-tenth of an individual’s income) as God’s commandment.
In the New Testament, Jesus spoke of giving not only a tithe but challenged followers to give far beyond it. For instance, in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions. Pursuing those values, a long monastic tradition has seen men and women taking vows of poverty to give themselves to the work of their faith. Today, while the tithe might not be practiced by a majority of Christians, most understand the practice of giving as a central part of their faith.
For Muslims, giving is one of the five pillars of Islam. “Zakat” (meaning to grow in purity) is an annual payment of 2.5 percent of one’s assets, considered by many as the minimum obligation of their religious giving. A majority of Muslims worldwide make their annual zakat payments as a central faith practice.
Above and beyond the required zakat, many Muslims make additional gifts (referred to broadly as “sadaqa”). Interestingly, the word shares the same root as the Jewish “tzedakah,” meaning justice. Muslim giving also focuses primarily on the poor.
Of course, charitable giving is not just for the rich. For those with no money to give, the Prophet Muhammad considered even the simple act of smiling to be charity, a gift to another.
Building a community
Religious traditions are clear that the value of giving does not simply rest with those receiving the gift. Givers themselves benefit. As sociologist Christian Smith makes clear, there is a paradox to generosity – in giving we receive and in grasping we lose.
At the same time, the goal of religious giving is not just about what it brings to individuals. Rather, it is more a focus on human interaction and a vision of community.
Perhaps most famously, the 12th-century Rabbi Maimonides outlined eight levels of giving – the lowest being giving grudgingly and the highest to sustain, but also to empower a person to no longer need charity.
Maimonides made clear it is not so much the amount of giving but how one gives that is important in establishing a relationship between the giver and the recipient. Giving should avoid humiliation, superiority and dependence.
With the majority of global citizens belonging to a religious tradition, it should be no surprise that religion often becomes the greatest asset in humanitarian work. Whether fighting AIDS, malaria or poverty, the development community has realized that the success of local programs so often turns on the support of the local faith community. The engagement of the local imam or priest is essential.
Just a few years ago, the humanitarian industry was convinced of the truth of this view when they found that a majority of the health care workers left on the ground in the midst of the Ebola crises were missionaries. Faith was the chief motivator for those both funding and serving in some of the most difficult parts of the world.
When it comes to humanitarian aid, there are certainly criticisms of religious aid agencies whose work does not follow minimum humanitarian standards – for example, the prohibition against discriminating or proselytizing before giving aid.
But returning to the centrality of religious giving, evil in the name of religion does not have the last word.
Take the case of the United Nations staffer Michael Sharp, who gave his life working for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo this past March. Sharp had worked earlier with the Mennonite Central Committee, a humanitarian organization set up for alternative military service by the Mennonites, a historic peace church. Sharp’s faith guided his call to peacemaking.
There are many such examples around the world where people of faith were moved to shared solidarity. It was their faith work that inspired Jordanian Muslim youth to protect local Coptic Christians at this year’s Easter services after repeated attacks on the Christian minority by Islamic terrorists. It was the same with Muslims in the Philippines this past June who hid fellow Christians in their homes to protect them from Islamic State fighters.
In working through the mandate of our various religious traditions towards the healing of the world, we often come to understand that we have more in common than we had initially realized. And perhaps, we might want to remember this, as we commemorate World Humanitarian Day.
An interview with AKAR Foundation, with psychological insight on cultural roots and identity by Denny Putra.
Raising children in this internet and digital information era is no easy task no matter where we live; external influences (good and bad) already exist within homes through gadgets and cable TV. So it is a great importance for parent(s) to equip their children with values, knowledge, experiences and perspectives. With these “tools” they will inherit the “wilderness” of this world and lead their lives into the future. By comprehending the wilderness, hopefully the future will be all about exciting opportunities to the children.
The term “wilderness”, according to Sacred Bridge Foundation, is anything we encounter as soon after our birth, and it exists in several domains from physical, psychological, geographical, social to cultural. A physical comfort or discomfort in hospital and/or home is one example of wilderness that an infant immediately experiences at birth, while the geographical area expands from home, neighborhood, school, public space, recreational venue, work place to countries. The level of care at home given by parent(s) is the psychological part of wilderness that a child faces; negligence, too much attention, child abuse, and good parenting are among the examples that may describe the range of wilderness in this domain. The social layer also stretches as the child grows up, from immediate family members, relatives, neighbors, school friends, communities to colleagues at work. The cultural part involves roots and identity that cover family history, race, ethnicity, faith or religion, migration and naturalization, profession, and so on.
The following interview focuses on the cultural part of wilderness among the Indonesian diaspora in the US, particularly a few individuals who live and/or were born in New York City. The interview involves Andhini Febrina and Bhima Aryateja, the two founders of AKAR (meaning roots in Indonesian), and three of its immediate supporters, Garry Poluan, Annissa Hamaki, and Arya Handoko.
AKAR is a not-for-profit organization that aims is to reintroduce Indonesian cultural heritage to Indonesian children who were born in the US by using Indonesian language as the main vehicle. In doing so, AKAR naturally must deal with variety of challenges; finding and securing an ideal venue for conducting the program, minor parental support, and a handful of volunteers are some of the difficulties that the organization have to resolve.
Akar: We first thought about the program around July 2014 when PERMIAS (Indonesian Students Association in USA) held Indonesian Independence Day games in New York City. The participants of the games were Indonesian children born and raised in the USA. Quite many of them weren’t able to speak Indonesian. Moreover, they had no clue about the history and culture either. This condition sparked Andhini Febrina and Bhima Aryateja to do something about it by establishing AKAR as the first step. The three of us then immediately pledged our support. Our objective is to encourage and assist the children to rediscover Indonesian culture through the teaching of Indonesian language.
Do all AKAR’s committee members come from Jakarta?
Most of them do, but some volunteers come from different cities in Java.
What are the backgrounds of the committee members?
All of us are students studying different majors, such as economics, communication, education, journalistic, arts, etc.
What is your concern regarding the program’s condition today?
What’s quite apprehensive now is the lack of volunteers. Although the parents and students’ enthusiasm rises, the number of volunteering teachers is decreasing.
Is there any assistance from the government and Indonesian embassy?
In 2015, we received financial assistance from the Indonesian Embassy in Washington DC while the General Consulate in New York City provided us with a venue to run our program and event.
How many children have participated in this program?
To this day, there are approximately 50 students in total that have joined the tutoring program, including those who no longer participate due to clashing schedule.
Is there any memorable experience during the program?
Thank God the program has been running well. The most rewarding moment is every time we see the students try their best to communicate with the tutors in Indonesian.
Do you have any plan to expand the program to the other states?
We have disseminated the information about our program and the learning materials to members of PERMIAS, Persatuan Mahasiswa Indonesia di Amerika Serikat (Indonesian Student Association in the United States), across the states, in case they are interested in having this program in their state. Up to this day, none has started anything yet.
Mosque as the Center of Learning
Why did you choose mosque as a place where Akar’s first sessions were held? What is the purpose?
We chose it because there were many Indonesian children taking Islamic studies in the mosque. The purpose was to gather prospective participants efficiently.
Do you have any plan to hold the sessions in other mosques or other communities?
At first, we had an intention to start the program in other places, including church, but the idea brought controversies among some members of the mosque management board at the time.
Just a few months ago, we tried again in Indonesian church community. It was still a trial session and there were only a few students. It was difficult to arrange the schedule since the number of teachers we have is quite limited.
Do you accept non-Moslem students?
Yes. AKAR welcomes all Indonesians in New York although the mosque management board asks us to prioritize the Moslem student; when there’s still room left we will accommodate children of any faith.
Language as logic
What approach do you use to make the children understand the logic of Indonesian language?
We use visual aids to introduce objects and terms in most sessions.
Do the children show curiosity about Indonesia?
Some children show more interest and enthusiasm than the others.
How do they see the logic in the language? Does it make things harder or easier for them?
At first, the children were confused in adapting to the logic of Indonesian language. However, as it is practiced during the class and at home listening to their parents talking in Indonesian, the confusion gradually disappears—it only occurs when new topics are introduced.
Cultural Heritage and Identity
How do the children see their identity?
We see the majority of the children (ranging from 7 to 11 years old) haven’t identified themselves as Indonesians. As we’ve mentioned above, compared to other children from various descents, the Indonesian children here haven’t really used their mother language (Indonesian) that much when it comes to daily conversation with their parents and fellow Indonesian friends. From our observation, we think the children feel themselves more as American than Indonesian.
Do they have the confidence to be Indonesian in New York?
So far, we see that they’re neutral. There is no extreme pride or shame in being Indonesian that affects their living in New York.
How does the New York environment shape them?
We see New York as a melting pot—the heterogeneous society consists of different races, religions, nations, and backgrounds; it shapes them to be more tolerant children who respect differences, compared to the majority of children their age living in Indonesia. On the other hand, however, they don’t really show their pride in being Indonesian.
Do the children see Indonesia – as a multicultural country – as potential or strength?
They haven’t been able to see it yet.
What are the obstacles for Indonesians living in New York?
There’s a bit of bad habit in discriminating race and religion, and that limits their ability to see that diversity is what makes the culture rich. Other than that, there’s the lack of pride in being Indonesian that holds back the parents in teaching their children their should-be-native language.
Indonesian vs. English
How do you see the “English is cool, Indonesian is not” phenomena among the young Indonesian?
This problem doesn’t just appear all of a sudden. It’s something progressing for decades, caused by technology and Westernization. Therefore, it is very crucial to make the children proud and interested in our own culture and our own language.
What values do you teach to the children to make them appreciate Indonesian language?
We tell them that it will add their skills and will make communication easier for them when they’re in Indonesia.
How do you attract the children in learning Indonesian language?
We use local games and Indonesian children music for children aged 5 to 9 years old, and exercises combined with games for children aged 10 to 14 years old.
Being color in the US
How does AKAR view the emerging issues on Islamophobia, anti immigrant, terrorism, and white supremacy?
We are very concerned, but we feel grateful living in New York because it’s one of the most multicultural and tolerant cities. The government is also actively involved in assisting the immigrants.
How do the Indonesian children feel?
We have faith that they’re confident and they feel secure.
Do the immigrant communities interact to each other?
Yes, they do.
Does the Indonesian multicultural value have a role in the way the children think?
The majority of children (aged 7 to 11 years old) still haven’t been able to see Indonesian diverse culture as something that matters in their life.
Advanced technology today has made things easier for us in terms of communication, access to information, and education. However, if not controlled, it can bring bad impacts to human civilization.
What is the role of (information) technology in AKAR’s activities?
It is not that significant actually; we teach language, we mostly talk and write in classes without any gadget. We occasionally use video whenever we feel it’s more appropriate for the topics to be discussed.
Which one is more efficient to teach children: gadget or books?
We prefer books since each child’s access to gadget is different, while every child can always grab a book, read, and write.
How do you implement your program?
Our program consists of 10 meetings followed by 2 days of evaluation test and 1 day full of traditional games, songs, and dances from all over Indonesia.
Participating children and their parents
Besides AKAR, we also did a short interview with two children and their parents. Rangga Faber was accompanied by his father Chandra Faber, and Suzan Koch was with her mother Citra Bakti.
For Rangga and Suzan, learning Indonesian language is a load of fun, and both not only want to be able to speak Indonesian, but also to read and write. They also feel that they need to have an adequate fluency in the language so that they can communicate with other Indonesians in the city, and with their relatives back home. Visiting their home country also seems to be something they look forward to. So far, learning Indonesian language is considerably easy to them. For Rangga, one of his favorite words is “bermain” (play in English) since he loves to play with friends; for Suzan, her favorite word is “terima kasih” (thank you in English) because it is easy to say, it sounds good, and it’s meaningful. Another important matter that they shared with us was the fact that they simply love the tutors for being very kind and patient.
As parents, Chandra and Citra are grateful to AKAR for teaching their children Indonesian language and occasionally sharing subjects that are part of Indonesian cultural heritage. To them, able to speak, read, and write in Indonesian is a must. They don’t want their children to forget or neglect their cultural roots.
They hope that through learning the language, their children will also learn about Indonesian values, customs, and traditions; they feel that their children need to be equipped with these subjects since they grow up and live in a free society.
Their future hope for AKAR includes program continuity, more tutoring hours, and government support for the program.
Journey Into Self
by Denny Putra
Identity crisis may not occur mainly during adolescence but adolescents are often found to experience greater anxiety than other age groups, due to their progressing hormonal changes and widening social encounters, in their journey of discovering, developing, and at some point affirming both of their self and social identity.
Developmental psychology recognizes four statuses (identity confusion, foreclosure, moratorium, and achievement) on how adolescents exploring and evaluating their stands over many life domains including embracing cultural identity. Their current behaviors may serve as observable indicators that reflect on where they are on this identity development. Some are careless and make very little commitment to understand their “roots” while others made premature commitment to his roots without even trying to explore further due to their given family heritage.
One of the four statuses (identity moratorium) seems to serve as possibly the closest term to the main principle of what Sacred Bridge describe as wilderness, that is an interesting and exciting active exploration period that leads to self growth albeit potential risk involved. A moment of walking down the path by encountering variety of stimulus, possibilities and opportunities that supposedly help build one’s courage and spirit along the way to learn, evaluate and decide on how one lives one’s live. Understanding adolescents’ journey in this wilderness to embrace their roots requires efforts to listen to their inner struggle on how they perceived and being perceived by their social environment on who they are supposed to be and how they are supposed to act.
The tug of war between equally strong force of wanting to be unique (ideal) against wanting to belong (real) acts as subconscious driving force of adolescents’ attitude toward wilderness. A stimulus such as learning one’s native language can swing back and forth from being viewed by adolescents as an opportunity at one end to the threat to themselves at the other end due to their inner conflict of unique vs “belongingness”. Achieving balance or harmony of this inner conflict should be the aim of those who wants to help these youth to embrace and proud of their cultural roots. How do we reintroduce them to their unique cultural identity and at the same time provide a gradual feeling of acceptance and pride of their collective identity.
Denny Putra is a senior lecturer at the Department of Psychology of Universitas Kristen Jakarta (Christian University at Jakarta), and Psychology Specialist at Sacred Bridge Foundation. Denny Putra obtained his Master Degree in Psychology from Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois, USA.