The Breakdown of Norms

We have been complaining, and hearing complains, about the breakdown of norms. Certain groups claim that they are concerned with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual (LGBT) movements, with the apparent vulgarity in our television, or with the decaying sense of nationalism. The government generally responds to these concerns positively. The Minister of Research and Higher Education commented that LGBT movements are not welcome in college campuses. The Indonesian Broadcasting Commission zealously censored virtually anything, including a person milking a cow and beauty contest participants wearing traditional dress.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But here is the problem whenever we talk about norms. We think that norms concern only the society whereas they actually also concern the government and the way it governs. To see why, we need to understand a state not only as a collection of actual people, legal rules, and institutions, but also a set of tradition, precedence, and unwritten conventions. Tradition, precedence, and conventions constitute the norms that govern the state. These norms, just as societal norms do, define what actions are appropriate or inappropriate and constrain the behavior of state actors such as president and legislators.

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Maundy Thursday and the Love that Hurts

Maundy Thursday is always the most touching of the Three Holy Days for me. Why? Because it presents Jesus in its most human form.

On Good Friday Jesus was tortured and crucified. There’s virtually nothing He could do about that. The Romans already captured him. Whatever He said, they would probably kill Him anyway. And on Easter He rose from the death. That’s good news. No more suffering.

But on Maundy Thursday were the real temptations. He knew the time was near and He had to leave the people He loved. Can you imagine the feeling? You love a person, so much, and you realize that that night is your last night with them? It must be hurtful.

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In a Quiet Field

There were no bells tolling
Nor birds chirping in the air
Even the winds didn’t blow
And the grass stood still

There were one or two flowers
But it was definitely not a tulips garden
Let alone parks in the movies that are stunningly beautiful

But there were stars
A lot of them above our heads
The moon was there too
Staring at us with the warmth of a mother

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To One Who’s Hurt

To one who’s hurt
May you remember that
although the past shapes us
it doesn’t define us
It can hurt
But every new day is an opportunity to heal
And I promise, there will be always more new days than your past

To one who’s hurt
May you know that everyone is somebody’s someone
You are somebody’s someone
You might not know who that somebody is
But he or she is immensely grateful that you two ever crossed paths
You are meaningful to them
You are their world

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The Voyage

Someday, my friend
Echoes of your past would get quiet
Princes and princesses you dreamed about
They would cease to exist
All gone and quiet

Mores and memories appeal you no more
Endless possibilities, that’s what you now seek
Long you for a new adventure, a new journey
Limitless, endearing, and magical
In that voyage, amidst all the storms and sunshines, you whisper “I am ready”
Now the past ends
And the future begins

(Jakarta, 9.12.2016)