Thursday, 5 April 2012

What I Want for Christmas

(This article appeared in the Christmas edition of the Jakarta Globe)

As the year is drawing to a close, my list of what I want for Christmas grows longer by the day. Some I can cross off already (e.g the latest objects of desire, an overdue get-away-holiday and the huge Steve Jobs biography) but others look unlikely to be fulfilled, probably not even for the next few Christmases, if ever.

By the way, for those of you who think I’m a Christian, I’m not. I’m one of those who find religion is, at best a wishful thinking and at worst, the root of just about all earthly evils. But I do have a soft spot for all the nice things about Christmas such as the nicely wrapped presents, cute decorations, stuffed turkey (sans the Brussel sprouts), Christmas carols, Nigella Lawson style Christmas pudding laced with brandy and all lit up in blue flames and of course, the dreaming of peace on earth.

Which incidentally is somewhere on the list. Peace on earth is one of the items not yet crossed out however, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to either. At least not while in this supposedly plural and tolerant country of ours churches still have a hard time being built, and church goers are harassed and threatened by the locals while the police pick their nose. I hear that the notorious bunch of religious thugs known as the FPI have expressed readiness to ensure Christians will have a peaceful Christmas this year. Great. Just the kind of peace we all need. A peace guaranteed by thugs who should not even be allowed to roam around the streets and tormenting law-abiding citizens.

Which takes me to the next item on the list recently added, which is that I wish those Aceh police would leave those punks alone and stop acting like bullies once and for all. Ok, so those kids smell and look unkempt, but hey, they are youngsters trying to express themselves and at an age where they still need to find out where they fit or don’t fit into the society and the world.

Moreover, recent scientific findings show that teenagers’ brains are not yet fully developed - their prefrontal cortex (the part that deals with reason) is not yet joined up with their amygdala (the part that deals with impulse), so it’s only normal for these young adults to want to sport Mohican hair styles, pierce their bodies and wear weird clothes. Give them a few years more and the necessities of having to find a job and make a living will soon transform them into boring, unimaginative and mediocre individuals like the rest of us. In the meantime, the syariah authorities in Aceh should stop forcing people to be, look and act the same in the name of religious belief, when what it is, is just fostering a fascistic society. (I personally think it’s a mistake to have a part of Indonesia that does not conform to the Pancasila philosophy, but then that’s another issue).

This takes me to my other item on my list (which, as you can see, is not really a Christmas wish list at all, but more of my list of gripes). I wish Santa Claus would send those people who think they are godsends all the way to the north pole and leave us to struggle with our own dark nights of the soul ourselves. Yes, I’m talking about religious fanatics, evangelists and the likes of Tim Tebow whose belief in having the Holy Spirit on his side as the cause for their success and the millions of dollars that they earn. Those who, buoyed by their own faith, claim ownership to a privileged access to the divinity, appropriate God’s name for their own egotistical use to justify their every action, including boring others with their sermons, and who knows, irking the Almighty with their pestering.

Play football well, by all means, and bask in your success, but no need to attribute it to all to Jesus Christ who is there helping you win. Like Jesus said in the hilarious SNL skit on Tim Tebow, ‘it’s not a good week if every week, if I the Son of God have to come in, drop everything and bail out the Denver Broncos in the 4th quarter, okay? I’m a busy guy....‘ Yes, indeed, leave poor god alone, especially when it comes to wanting something for your personal glory. It’s tantamount to hubris and belittles the Almighty to a god that only cares for the winners. Besides, as Jesus complains to Tim Tebow in the skit, ‘I’m doing all the work here.‘ ‘Here’s something else you should do before the game, stretch, get the arm warm and read the play book...’

What I also don’t need in my life, and here I pray to the heavens above, are people who are concerned about the state of my soul and my salvation, like a Twitter follower who generously assures me that Jesus loves me and that only the Truth will set me free. That is, once I’ve seen the light. Now, I know that he means well, but this kind of thing invariably arouses feelings in me that are far from charitable. Whether Jesus loves me or not, is something I’m quite happy to leave to the Saviour’s good judgment, as is whether Santa Claus thinks I’ve been a good girl or a bad girl this year. What I find objectionable is some wise guy who thinks it’s perfectly okay to tell me what Jesus or God thinks or does, and claim what the Truth is, just because he believes in it.

As Herbie Hancock whom I recently met said, ‘there are many ways of looking at the same thing.’ But then, Herbie is a Buddhist. And that’s also on my wish list. To be more Buddhist.

(Desi Anwar: first published in The Jakarta Globe)

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