• Chow Kit dan Buku Saku Anwar Ibrahim



    PanaJournal - Ini adalah sepotong kisah tentang orang-orang Aceh di Chow Kit, buku-buku saku Anwar Ibrahim, dan mereka yang bertahan di pinggiran.

    BENDERA MALAYSIA yang tampak pudar dan usang terpampang di kedai seluas tiga kali lapangan tenis itu. Di dalam, beberapa rak berbahan stainless steel penuh dengan berbagai lauk. Melewati pintu masuk, tepat di sebelah kiri, ada rak mie Aceh di dekat dapur kopi.

    Kedai yang beralamat di kawasan Chow Kit, Malaysia itu, bernama Aceh Meutuah. Hari itu pertengahan bulan April.

    Orang-orang yang duduk di kursi-kursi plastik putih di dalam kedai tersebut rata-rata bertutur dalam bahasa Aceh. Saya menghampiri salah satu meja tempat batu-batu cincin digelar.

    “Batu dari Aceh,” ujar Marzuki, 42 tahun, ketika saya menatap batu-batu cincin tersebut.

    Batu-batu cincin miliknya itu, kata dia, hanya dibeli oleh orang-orang Aceh yang tinggal di Malaysia. “Tak laku dijual untuk orang Melayu,” ujarnya.

    Kepada saya Marzuki mengatakan, ia menjual batu cincin yang telah diikat dengan gagang seharga RM 100.

    Marzuki, warga asal Peureulak Aceh Timur, sebenarnya pergi ke Chow Kit untuk berbelanja pakaian: jilbab dan celana jins pria. Nantinya barang-barang itu ia jual di kampungnya. Membawa dan menjual batu cincin Aceh di Malaysia hanya selingan saja.

    Dalam beberapa bulan terakhir, nyaris di seluruh pelosok Aceh, baik di pinggir-pinggir jalan, kedai kopi, maupun di masjid atau meunasah (surau), orang-orang bicara soal jenis-jenis batu cincin. Gejala yang sama tampak di mana-mana di Indonesia.

    Marzuki mendaku, ia ke Malaysia menempuh jalur laut, naik kapal feri. Waktu tempuh dari Pelabuhan Tanjung Balai, Sumatera Utara, ke Pelabuhan Klang Malaysia sekitar tiga jam. “Hanya Rp 670.000 ongkos untuk pulang pergi,” kata dia, sembari menunjukkan paspornya pada saya, seolah ingin menegaskan, ia bukan ‘pendatang haram’.

    Biasanya, ia menetap di Chow Kit selama 15 hari. Setelah 15 hari berlalu untuk berbelanja, ia kembali ke kampung halaman. Begitulah pekerjaannya.

    Jumlah warga Aceh di Chow Kit, menurut beberapa orang yang saya temui di kedai tersebut, mencapai 5.000 jiwa—tidak termasuk mereka yang tinggal di wilayah-wilayah lain di Malaysia.

    “Itu belum lagi yang sudah beranak-cucu, yang datang berpuluh-puluh tahun silam,” kata salah seorang di kedai. “Datanglah ke sini ketika maulid, kau akan tahu.”

    Di sepanjang jalan Raja Alang, Chow Kit, kedai-kedai runcit (kelontong) dan kios-kios milik orang Aceh yang berderet di kiri-kanan membuat suasana di sekitar sana sedikit banyak menyerupai suasana di Pasar Aceh, Banda Aceh.

    Antje Missbach dalam bukunya Politik Jarak Jauh Diaspora Aceh; Suatu Gambaran Tentang Konflik Separatis di Indonesia, menuliskan karena konflik antara Gerakan Aceh Merdeka dengan Pemerintah Republik Indonesia—pada periode 1970-an hingga 1980-an—banyak warga Aceh menjual aset mereka di kampung halaman untuk dijadikan modal berdagang di Malaysia.

    “… cukup aman untuk mengasumsikan bahwa jumlah total orang Aceh di Malaysia mendekati 50.000 jiwa,” tulis Antje.

    SEPERTI TIMOR LESTE
    Saya bersama empat rekan lainnya dari Konsorsium Aceh Baru, bertandang ke Chow Kit untuk sekedar jalan-jalan. Tujuan kami sebenarnya pergi ke Malaysia, mengikuti Asean Civil Society Conference/Asean Peoples’ Forum (ACSC/APF) 2015 di Kuala Lumpur, yang digelar pada 21-24 April 2015 lalu.

    Secretary-General Konsorsium Aceh Baru, Juanda Djamal, menjadi salah satu pembicara dalam serangkaian workshop ACSC/APF. Tema workshop-nya: “Reflection on on Peace Talks in Myanmar (Burma), Patani (Thailand), Aceh (Indonesia), and Bangsa Moro (Philippine)”.

    Kuala Lumpur, tuan rumah yang sibuk: Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) tiap waktu membawa penumpang yang berdesakan ke pusat perbelanjaan.

    Di Aula Wisma MCA, Kuala Lumpur, 22 April sore, Asean Civil Society Conference/Asean Peoples’ Forum dibuka. Ketua Panitia ACSC/APF 2015 Jerald Joseph, pria dengan postur tubuh tinggi-besar, kulit gelap, hidung mancung, dan kepala plontos, berdiri di atas mimbar untuk menyampaikan kata-kata sambutan.

    Di akhir pidatonya, setelah deretan kata-kata “selamat datang” ia ucapkan berkali-kali, Jerald mengumbar eksotisme Malaysia sembari mengingatkan para peserta untuk berwisata di negara tersebut.

    Lalu giliran tiga pembicara dari Malaysia: Prof Johan Saravanamuttu, Ambiga Sreenevasan, dan Sabariah Yusri, masing-masing mengangkat topik tentang kondisi politik (Pilihan Raya Umum atau Pemilu), hukum dan keamanan, dan etnik minoritas/budaya di sana. Disusul sesi tanya jawab. Isu yang mencuat di tengah-tengah forum tersebut adalah politik uang pada Pilihan Raya Malaysia 2013 lalu.

    Suasana acuh tak acuh berubah serius kala Syah Muhammad, pria yang berasal dari Serawak, angkat bicara.

    Dalam bahasa Inggris dia berkata, “Kami, orang Serawak, ingin merdeka dari Malaysia. Kami kaya akan sumber daya alam, tapi kami terpinggirkan. Lima puluh tahun kami bersama Malaysia, tapi tampaknya sia-sia. Kami berharap ASEAN dan PBB membantu kami, seperti kalian membantu Timor Leste meraih kemerdekaan.”

    Ambiga lantas merespon pernyataan Syah Muhammad dengan jawaban normatif, “Kami mencintai Serawak dan Sabah. Kami tak akan membiarkan kalian pergi. Kita harus bekerja sama untuk mewujudkan Malaysia yang kita semua harapkan.”

    Hal yang tak jauh berbeda juga disampaikan oleh dua pembicara lainnya.

    THE OUTSIDER
    ACSC/APF 2015 mengadakan berbagai bentuk acara, di antaranya workshop dengan beragam tema, yakni ekonomi, buruh migran, lingkungan, gender dan Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity & Expression (SOGIE), demokrasi, hak asasi manusia (HAM), hukuman mati, hak atas penggunaan internet, media, pemerintahan, dan resolusi konflik serta perdamaian.

    Sebelas negara ASEAN membawa segudang masalah masing-masing, dengan harapan saling berbagi satu sama lain.

    Stan-stan sederhana menampilkan selebaran, poster, booklet, dan flyer. “Ruang-ruang” kampanye penolakan hukuman mati, aktivis yang diculik atau dihilangkan, dan pembebasan aktivis yang kini dipenjara di sejumlah negara ASEAN. Tak pasti benar disediakan panitia atau dimanfaatkan dengan sendiri oleh para peserta. Pemutaran film dokumenter juga dilangsungkan dalam acara tersebut.

    Di salah sudut ruangan lantai dua, tersusun rapi DVD film dokumenter, buku-buku saku tentang hak-hak warga sipil di Malaysia, dan buku-buku saku kampanye “Bebaskan Anwar Ibrahim!”. Itu stan Pusat Komunikasi Masyarakat (Komas), sebuah lembaga yang mengampanyekan demokrasi dan HAM melalui berbagai media kreatif.

    Buku-buku saku yang membongkar fitnah terhadap Anwar Ibrahim paling mencolok di stan tersebut.

    Anwar Ibrahim adalah tokoh oposisi Malaysia, yang mencalonkan diri sebagai Perdana Menteri Malaysia dan membentuk aliansi Pakatan Rakyat dengan anggota Partai Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), Partai Tindakan Demokratik (DAP) dan Partai Keadilan pada Pilihan Raya Umum 2013 lalu. Ia kalah. Nazib Razak, rivalnya, keluar sebagai pemenang.

    Anwar dijebloskan ke penjara dengan diangkat kembali kasus lama atas tuduhan melakukan sodomi terhadap asistennya. Pada 2012 lalu sebenarnya Pengadilan Federal Malaysia memutuskan bahwa Anwar bebas dari tuduhan tersebut. Namun pada 2014, Pengadilan Banding menetapkan Anwar bersalah atas tuduhan sodomi dan dijatuhi hukuman lima tahun penjara.

    Saya bayangkan, Anwar mengalami nasib tak jauh berbeda dengan nasib Mersault, tokoh utama dalam novel Albert Camus, The Outsider. Mersault dijebloskan ke dalam penjara lantaran membunuh seorang Arab. Ketika di persidangan, jaksa malah mempersoalkan sikap Meursault yang tidak bersedih saat pemakaman ibunya dan bercinta dalam masa berkabung selepas meninggalnya sang ibu.

    Jaksa lantas menjatuhkan hukuman bukan berdasarkan kasus pembunuhan yang ia lakukan, tapi lantaran sikap Meursault yang dianggap tak bermoral. Hingga hari kematiannya, Meursault tetap sendirian. ***
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  • Semalam di Cimiring

    PanaJournal - Mengikuti kehidupan satu hari penjaga mercusuar di Nusakambangan. Sisi lain nan sepi dari pulau tahanan.

    DI TERAS RUMAH, bertelanjang dada Kusni, 38 tahun, duduk mengangkat kaki. Celana pendeknya bolong. Kolornya kelihatan. Ia menunduk, menatap telepon seluler di tangannya. Sebuah ponsel hitam kecil keluaran lama merek Nokia. Usang dan terbungkus kantung plastik bening yang tak kalah kusam.

    Peluh meleleh dari dada ke perutnya yang agak buncit. Kopi hitam pekat tinggal setengah gelas. Kotak plastik berisi biskuit persegi bertabur gula ada di sampingnya. Juga sebungkus rokok kretek. “Ini tadi habis mbabat rumput,” kata dia.

    Cuaca cerah. Matahari bersinar terik. Tengah hari sudah lewat dua puluh menit. Nyaris dua jam perjalanan ketika akhirnya saya menginjakkan kaki di rumah itu.

    Saya minta tolong Kusni memanggilkan bos-nya, Sigit Permono, 42 tahun, asal Purbalingga, satu dari lima penjaga Mercusuar Cimiring, Nusakambangan. Sigit keluar. Perawakannya kekar. Kepalanya yang bulat telur dihiasi kumis dan jenggot tipis.

    “Wah, Mas orang pertama yang sampai di sini. Tapi, kalau untuk foto-foto harus izin dulu. Ini sudah jadi tugas saya,” kata dia.

    Sigit mengikuti rekrutmen Kementerian Perhubungan hampir sepuluh tahun lalu. Tiga bulan terakhir, mantan kontraktor itu ditempatkan di Subdistrik Navigasi kelas III Cilacap, di bawah Direktorat Kenavigasian Direktorat Jenderal Perhubungan Laut Kementerian Perhubungan.

    Sigit sebelumnya bertugas di mercusuar Pantai Baron, Gunungkidul, dan mercusuar Legokjawa, Pangandaran. “Sekarang enak, bisa deket keluarga. Tapi memang lebih berat,” kata bapak dua anak yang tinggal di Kota Cilacap ini.

    Tugas jaga di Cimiring digilir minimal dua orang untuk tiap pekan. Seminggu berikutnya petugas bisa libur dan pulang ke rumah. Tapi kala itu bapak dua anak ini—kelas 2 SMP dan 1 SD—harus berjaga sendirian. “Teman sedang ijin pulang.”

    Kusni bukan pegawai tapi sering dipekerjakan di mercusuar. Posturnya tak besar tapi tubuhnya liat. Rambutnya dibelah tengah dan kumis-jenggotnya dibiarkan berantakan. Warga Cilacap ini tinggal di Pantai Karangtengah. Di sekitar pantai ini ada belasan rumah warga termasuk para pendatang seperti Kusni. Umumnya menjadi nelayan, tapi ketika laut tak bersahabat mereka jadi penderes kelapa.

    Sebagai nelayan, andalan Kusni adalah lobster. Sialnya, kini tempat pelelangan ikan dan pedagang hanya mau menerima lobster ukuran besar dan berbobot di atas tiga ons per ekor. Setiap satu kilogram lobster bakal dihargai Rp 200 ribu. “Lobster kecil sekarang nggak laku. Mungkin karena aturan menteri yang baru.”

    Menteri Kelautan dan Perikanan Susi Pudjiastuti memang menerbitkan Peraturan Menteri Kelautan dan Perikanan Nomor 1/Permen KP/2015 yang melarang penangkapan ikan-ikan kecil demi menjaga pasokan ikan.

    Alam Nusakambangan juga makin buruk. Menurut dia, tak sedikit wilayah hutan Nusakambangan yang ditebangi. Pohon-pohon dijadikan bahan bangunan. “Pohon kelapa makin sedikit.” Ini berpengaruh terhadap hasil usahanya menderes.

    Maka untuk menyambung hidup Kusni menerima pekerjaan di mercusuar. Mulai bersih-bersih, angkat-angkat barang, sampai mengurus kuda. “Apa saja,” kata dia. Kusni tak pernah sekolah dan buta huruf.

    Pada usia sembilan tahun, mendiang bapak mengajak Kusni dan adik laki-lakinya ke Nusakambangan untuk pertama kali bekerja. Sejak itu, dua bersaudara ini bolak-balik ke pulau. “Padahal dulu pulau sangat ketat, penjaga bawa senjata disebar,” kata Kusni.

    Sigit menawari menginap, yang segera saya terima dengan senang hati. Sambil merebahkan tubuh di lantai teras, ransel saya jadikan bantal. Di atas sana terlihat ujung tertinggi dan paling timur dari Pulau Nusakambangan, Mercusuar Cimiring.

    Alcatraz-nya Indonesia
    Mercusuar Cimiring bukan menara jangkung. Tingginya hanya delapan meter. Ia tampak menjulang karena berada pada 170 meter di atas permukaan laut. Dinding mercusuar berwarna putih, kusam oleh waktu.

    Menara terdiri atas tiga tingkat melingkar berdiameter berbeda. Mirip susunan kue tart ulang tahun. Bangunan dasar berdiameter sekitar enam meter dengan tinggi hampir empat meter. Wujudnya serupa benteng kastil tapi pendek.

    Pada sisi utara tercetak relief burung—mirip Garuda—warna kuning yang menggenggam padi dan kapas. Paruhnya menghadap ke depan dan sepasang kakinya menggenggam pita bertulisan “Perhubungan RI”. Logo Kementerian Perhubungan ini, sebagai penanggungjawab mercusuar, ditambahkan dari bentuk aslinya.

    Di atasnya, sebagai leher mercusuar, berdiri bangunan diameter dan tinggi masing-masing sekitar tiga meter. Seperti pada benteng, pada leher mercusuar terdapat tangga besi menuju tingkat teratas berupa ruang berbentuk tabung dengan jendela kaca. Tinggi dan diameternya masing-masing dua meter.

    Cimiring berada di ujung timur dari Nusakambangan. Arahnya berlawanan dari kompleks lembaga pemasyarakatan yang terpusat di bagian tengah-barat pulau hingga menabalkan pulau ini jadi Alcatraz-nya Indonesia.

    Maka, dari puncak menara, terhampar laut selatan Pulau Jawa. Beberapa kapal besar tampak di sebelah selatan, Samudera Hindia. “Wilayah ini memang ramai sama kapal-kapal luar seperti dari Australia sampai Panama,” ujar Sigit. “Dari angkut pupuk sampai impor sapi.”

    Perahu-perahu nelayan lebih banyak lagi, tersebar hampir di semua arah laut. Sebagian horizon utara hingga sisi barat tertutup pepohonan. Apalagi arah barat ini merupakan “badan” pulau. Tiga ekor monyet berkelebat dari rerimbunan.

    Dari pucuk menara, bangunan kompleks mercusuar terlihat. Kompleks mercusuar terdiri beberapa bangunan. Bangunan “baru” berupa blok tiga unit rumah di sisi barat. Mess ini, begitu istilah Sigit, dibangun sekitar 1980 untuk tempat inap para penjaga. Tiap rumah terdiri atas ruang tamu, dua kamar tidur, dapur dan kamar mandi dengan lantai tegel putih. Saya taksir luas tiap rumah 10x6meter.

    Hanya rumah di bagian tengah yang digunakan. “Soalnya ada televisi.” Di terasnya disediakan dua bangku dan meja kecil. Perabot yang sama mengisi ruang tamu bersama satu meja kayu besar untuk menaruh televisi, penanak nasi listrik, teko, termos, gelas, juga colokan listrik dan kabel-kabel pengisi daya ponsel.

    Saya diminta tidur di kamar. Ada dipan besi dengan kasur ukuran satu orang dan satu meja kecil. Tali jemuran melintang di dalam kamar diisi satu kaos dan handuk mini. Tak ada apa-apa lagi selain itu. Kamar Sigit, ada maupun tidak ada orangnya, selalu tertutup.

    Dapur cuma diisi rak piring dan kompor gas. Kamar mandinya resik. Bagian belakang rumah ada teras kecil yang menghadap tegalan. Belasan pohon kelapa yang dirubung alang-alang setinggi nyaris dua meter. Selebihnya hutan.

    Kompleks bangunan berdiri bertingkat-tingkat pada sebuah bukit dengan puncaknya di mercusuar. Satu bangunan paling bawah—dipisahkan tangga di sebelah utara mess—adalah kandang kuda beratap seng.

    Ketika itu, hanya ada Inul dan anaknya yang belum diberi nama. Inul, yang tubuh dan surainya berwarna coklat, baru 10 hari beranak. Sigit dan Kusni hanya menyebut dia sebagai kuda lokal tanpa tahu jenis dan umurnya. Dua kuda jantan, Sadam dan Uhud, sedang dilepaskan dan berkeliaran mencari makan hingga ke luar pagar. “Nanti biasanya pulang sendiri,” kata Sigit.

    Area kompleks mercusuar dikelilingi pagar. Cakupannya, menurut Sigit, sampai tiga hektar. Pagar ini mirip pagar terali rumah biasa. Sebagian pagar tidak terlihat karena ditelan rimbun tumbuhan. Kondisinya pun alakadarnya. Beberapa bagian berkarat, koyak, bahkan jebol sehingga hewan dan orang bisa melintas.

    Di sekitar kompleks mercusuar tumbuh pohon-pohon kelapa. Ini konon yang membedakan antara wilayah di dalam dan di luar pagar. Nyiur sengaja ditanam oleh para penjaga terdahulu.

    Satu-satunya pintu masuk resmi ke Cimiring berupa gerbang besi. Jalan setapak 20 an meter memisahkan kandang kuda dan gerbang.

    Di luar gerbang pagar, jalan setapak masih menjulur masuk ke hutan. Meski ada beberapa cabang kecil, rute tersebut merupakan jalur utama pulang-pergi ke Cimiring ke tempat merapat perahu. Lokasinya di salah satu ceruk Pantai Karangtengah, tak jauh dari objek wisata Benteng Portugis yang ramai oleh turis. Saya sendiri berangkat dari Teluk Penyu, Cilacap, menumpang perahu motor seorang nelayan bernama Syuhada, yang rupanya kawan Kusni.

    Teman 
    Bakda asar, saya baru terjaga dari tidur. Kusni duduk mencangkung di belakang rumah. Rupanya, selama saya terlelap, ia melanjutkan tugasnya, melenyapkan rumput dan alang-alang.

    Kusni menyilakan saya makan. Menu makan siang yang sangat telat itu bobor kangkung dan tempe goreng buatan Sigit.

    Sigit muncul dari kamar mandi. Ia berganti kaos—kali ini warna biru—namun celananya masih sama, celana pendek dari bahan jins dengan warna mulai pudar.

    “Kalau air banyak begini bisa mandi dua kali,” sapa dia, dengan paras segar nan sumringah.

    Untuk masak, minum, dan mandi penghuni Cimiring mengandalkan air hujan. Soalnya kondisi geologi Cimiring keras. Air tanah susah. Dalam kelakar Sigit, menggali tanah sampai lebih dari 100 meter untuk sumur pun tak bakal keluar air. Menurut Kusni, kondisi ini cuma terjadi di Cimiring karena orang-orang Karangtengah lebih mudah membuat sumur.

    Sebagai sediaan air, di sekitar rumah tersebar sepuluh tandon berdaya tampung 1.050 liter besar yang terisi penuh. Di tangga depan menuju rumah juga dibangun bak air permanen setinggi fondasi rumah. “Stok air diperkirakan bisa untuk enam bulan.”

    Waktu itu masih musim hujan. Stok air berlimpah. “Mandinya campur kecebong, minumnya air aki,” kata Sigit. Maksudnya, untuk minum, air yang dipakai sama dengan air yang dipakai untuk campuran mesin aki. Setelah dimasak, air untuk minum cukup disimpan dalam dispenser.

    Tapi sering juga target stok air meleset. Apalagi ketika masuk musim kemarau panjang. Kondisi ini terjadi juga pada kemarau lalu. “Tidak mandi satu minggu sudah biasa,” Sigit terkekeh.

    Pada masa-masa susah air, penjaga hemat air habis-habisan. Jika ingin badan segar, cukup mencelupkan handuk ke segayung air untuk dioleskan ke badan. “kalau makan pakai daun. Habis makan langsung buang, tidak perlu cuci piring.”

    Air tidak termasuk kebutuhan yang dipasok ke Cimiring. Saban bulan, antara tanggal 5-10, pasokan kebutuhan sehari-hari didatangkan dari Cilacap. Dari sembako, gas, hingga solar. Suplai kebutuhan pokok disesuaikan dengan pergantian petugas jaga.

    Persiapan dimulai sehari sebelumnya. Terutama menyiapkan kuda-kuda yang harus dalam kondisi prima. Mereka mesti banyak makan karena menjadi pengangkut barang. Mencari rumput sebagai pakan kuda jadi pekerjaan kuda.

    Maklum saja, mereka bakal melalui perjalanan pulang-pergi Cimiring-Karangtengah. Jauhnya sekitar sepuluh kilometer. Rute itu persis rute yang saya lalui. Inilah rute terdekat dan paling mungkin untuk dilalui kuda yang membawa barang.

    Pagi buta mereka berangkat. Menjelang sore biasanya rombongan sudah sampai di “rumah” mereka lagi. “Pas angkut-angkut ini sebetulnya yang paling capek kerja di sini,” kata Sigit. “Sejak tugas di sini saya berhenti merokok. Supaya kuat.”

    Itu yang rutin. Kalau ada peralatan rusak, pekerjaan angkut-angkut ini tambah berat. Misalnya ketika dinamo pada mesin diesel harus diganti butuh dua orang mengangkatnya. Adapun mesin genset perlu tenaga enam orang.

    Kalau sudah begitu, warga Karangtengah lain dimintai tolong. Selain memanfaatkan kuda, mereka biasanya membuat alat pikul yang bisa menggotong peralatan beramai-ramai. Secara berpasangan, Kusni dan adiknya pernah memikul tandon air ketika pertama didatangkan.

    “Padahal adik saya kurus seperti sampeyan, ” kata Kusni pada saya. “Dan saya,” lanjut Kusni sambil melirik Sigit, “masih bisa habis (rokok) dua setengah pak sehari.” Asal tahu saja, bobot saya mentok 60 kilogram dan saya tidak pernah merokok.

    Sore itu, usai mandi Sigit mencabuti rumput di dinding batu depan rumah. Pekerjaan alakadarnya saja. Ia menunjukkan pohon cabe yang ditanam di pekarangan depan, di samping pohon pepaya. Tanaman yang sama ada di belakang rumah. Cabe merah dan hijau kecil-kecil bermunculan. “Kalau mau masak tinggal petik.”

    Dari belakang rumah, masih tanpa baju, Kusni meyambar parang dan gulungan tali. Ia bergegas ke belakang rumah lagi dan dalam hitungan detik sudah di pucuk pohon kelapa setinggi delapan meter. Parangnya menyambar lalu terdengar suara berdebum beberapa kali.

    Ia kembali dengan menyunggi sebelas kelapa. Sambil jongkok, ia lalu memotong beberapa bagian. Empat kelapa dilubangi dan langsung kami teguk airnya. “Tidak ada yang muda,” keluh Kusni usai membelah beberapa kelapa. Toh, ia sendirian yang akhirnya menikmati daging buah itu. Malam itu, kami mabok air kelapa.

    Jam 18.10, saat matahari belum terbenam, Sigit menuju ruang genset dan menghidupkannya. Suara dengungnya diiringi nyala lampu-lampu di rumah dan kompleks. Dari puncak mercusuar terdengar deru putaran mekanik. Cahaya kuning-keemasan berputar, menyambar daun-daun pohon, dan menyorot segala penjuru hingga 30 mil ke tengah lautan.

    Gerimis mulai turun.

    Colokan listrik di samping televisi langsung penuh oleh ponsel. Sigit menghidupkan televisi 22 inchi. Setiap saluran tak jernih. Penuh semut dan berisik. Ia ke teras rumah dan menggoyang-goyang galah bambu yang ujungnya dipasangi antena. Usahanya sedikit berbuah. Semut di layar mulai berkurang tapi tak betul-betul bersih.

    Televisi menampilkan MetroTV yang menyiarkan berita kisruh Kepolisian dan Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi. Ketika itu, satu hari usai Ketua KPK Bambang Widjojanto ditangkap polisi.

    “Seru ini. Kalau kayak gini, kasihan pemerintah.”
    “Lebih ramai mana sama hukuman mati kemarin di sini?” tanya saya.

    Persis sepekan sebelumnya, lima terpidana mati kasus narkoba dieksekusi mati di Nusakambangan. Dalam beberapa waktu ke depan, dua terpidana kelompok Bali Nine asal Australia, Andrew Chan dan Myuran Sukumaran, akan menyusul dihukum mati di sini.

    Eksekusi mati terpidana narkoba berlokasi di Limus Buntu tak jauh dari Lapas Batu. Lokasi eksekusi terpidana terorisme bom Bali Amrozy dkk pada 2008 di Lembah Nirbaya juga sekitar Lapas Batu. Jarak kompleks lapas yang dibangun pada 1925 dengan Cimiring hampir separuh panjang Nusakambangan.

    “Kalau ramenya ya, di sana, di lapas. Kalau di sini ya, begini ini, sama saja.”

    Pihak Cimiring memang dihubungi petugas lapas bahwa akan ada eksekusi mati. Cuma pemberitahuan biasa. Koordinasi seperti itu berlangsung rutin. Cukup via telepon saja. Jika ada tahanan yang lari dari sel, komunikasi bisa lebih sering. Petugas lapas juga sampai datang. Siapa tahu, buronan lari ke arah mercusuar.

    Dari cerita kawan-kawannya, menurut Sigit, setidaknya ada tiga orang residivis yang bisa lolos dalam beberapa tahun terakhir.

    “Dua ketangkep, yang satu belum. Ada yang ketangkep sembunyi di bawah pohon. Pembunuh. Dari Sumatera katanya. Tapi masih di daerah-daerah sana. Ndak ada yang lari ke Cimiring.”

    Sigit memanasi sayur bobor kangkung menu makan siang. Ada tambahan lauk tahu goreng.

    Hujan semakin deras.

    Kusni telah meninggalkan kompleks bakda Isya tadi. Kata dia, mau mencari Uhud dan Sadam yang hingga malam itu belum pulang. Tapi tujuan utamanya berburu. Targetnya? “Apa saja lah, paling kancil sama kidang.” Kidang bahasa Jawa untuk kijang.

    Kusni tak khawatir dengan ancaman binatang buas di hutan. Pengalamannya to, lebih buruk. Tahun 2007, saat memasang jebakan untuk celeng, Kusni justru menangkap macan kumbang. Perut Kusni sempat terluka kena cakar. Namun macan itu akhirnya mampus di tangannya ditusuk tombak. Dagingnya disantap ramai-ramai. “Saya bilang itu daging luwak,” kata Kusni, nyengir.

    Malam itu, Kusni berangkat sambil menyandang parang, dan tas kain kecil. Isi tas itu mantel, senter, dan rokok kretek. Ia cuma mengenakan kaos dan celana pendek yang sama di hari itu, sepatu kets yang dipakai macam selop, dan topi yang dipasang terbalik. Namun, yang paling mencolok adalah senapan yang tersampir di bahu kanannya. “Senapan angin saja, tapi kalau ketahuan ya tetep disita. Nggak boleh.”

    Menurut aturan, senapan—apapun jenisnya–sudah dilarang di Nusakambangan. Aturan penggunaan senjata makin ketat satu tahun belakangan. Senapan dan peluru para penjaga mercusuar pun ditarik oleh Kepolisian. Alasannya senjata bisa disalahgunakan baik oleh aparat maupun penjahat. Apalagi marak aksi kejahatan, termasuk terorisme, menggunakan senjata rakitan.

    Aparat di Nusakambangan pernah ikut sibuk gara-gara peraturan ini. Sebabnya, seorang anggota Brimob kehilangan sebutir peluru. “Semua diperiksa dan ditanya satu-satu.”

    Hingga pagi, hujan belum berhenti. Kusni pulang jam 7.30. “Nggak dapat apa-apa. Nggak ketemu apa-apa juga.” Ia menginap di gubug nelayan di Pantai Kalipat. Ini pantai di sisi selatan Cimiring. Biasanya kuda merumput sampai situ. Tapi, Kusni tak bersua atau melihat jejak Uhud dan Sadam. “Daripada hilang, mending dijual kayak Kliwon, laku lima setengah juta,” celetuk dia soal nasib salah satu kuda Cimiring.

    Setelah sarapan dan menikmati kopi hitam pekat kesukaannya, Kusni melanjutkan pekerjaan menyiangi rumput. Di tengah rintik hujan, Sigit mengantar saya melihat panorama dari mercusuar. Tak lupa ia masuk ke ruang genset dan mengisinya dengan solar satu jeriken untuk persiapan nanti sore. “Saya senang ada yang ke sini. Ada teman.”

    Curam
    Gerimis belum habis saat saya meninggalkan Cimiring jam 9.30 pagi. Saya melalui jalur berbeda. Dari gerbang Cimiring, sekitar 50 meter ada belokan kecil menurun yang mengarah ke Karangbandung. Ini pantai terdekat dari Cimiring, jaraknya hanya tak sampai separo jarak berangkat Karangtengah-Cimiring.

    Tapi kondisi rute ini sungguh menantang. Lebih curam, lebih licin, lebih rimbun tanaman. Beberapa kali setapak tampak habis karena tertutup semak atau tanahnya tergerus longsor. Untung hujan sudah usai.

    Saya perlu waktu tiga jam perjalanan setelah sempat tersesat dua kali. Dengan susah payah karena sulitnya koneksi, saya menghubungi Sigit agar mengirim Kusni untuk mengantar saya. Benar saja, parang Kusni berguna menebas alang-alang yang menghalangi jalan.

    Pantai Karangbandung sungguh elok. Deburnya menyegarkan. Pasirnya putih. Ada muara sungai dengan batu-batu kali. Ada dua tandu kecil bekas tempat sesajen sedekah laut. Di kejauhan, karang membentuk gua-gua. Dari pantai ini, mercusuar juga tak tampak. Hanya terlihat bukit dan pepohonan.

    Demam batu akik sampai pula di pantai ini. Ada dua rombongan, masing-masing delapan dan 10 orang, yang menyebar dan menyusuri pantai mencari batu. Bongkah besar dan pecahan kecil yang dianggap bernilai diambil. Jenis buruan di pantai ini batu berwarna ungu, lavender.

    Saya meninggalkan Nusakambangan bakda Asar. Perahu penjemput saya tak datang sehingga saya harus nebeng perahu rombongan para pemburu batu. Air di pantai mulai surut. Perahu rawan kena karang sehingga harus lihai bermanuver. Ombak di tengah laut lumayan ganas.

    Sepanjang perjalanan hingga ke Teluk Penyu, Minggu petang itu, beberapa titik pantai di sisi timur Nusakambangan ramai oleh wisatawan. Aturan membatasi wisata sampai jam lima sore sehingga turis harus siap-siap berpisah dengan pulau itu. Setidaknya perpisahan itu membawa cerita lain tentang Nusakambangan, lebih dari sekadar pulau tahanan dan lokasi eksekusi mati. ***
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  • Ahok: Another New Hope?



    PanaJournal - All eyes are now on Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama after he challenged the City Councils’ draft budget, which was full of questionable allocations, and reported the irregular budgets to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

    People have come up with various social media hashtags and movements supporting Ahok have emerged.

    According to pollster Lingkar Survei Indonesia, from its survey on the city budget dispute, 40 percent of the lower middle class, 51 percent of the middle-class, and 72 percent of the upper middle class trust Ahok to run a clean government.

    This reminds us of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's presidency, when he was perceived as a hero of the people.

    Time magazine used the term ‘new hope’ to describe Jokowi’s presidential win—but does Ahok represent another new hope for Indonesia?

    Ahok's popularity is driven by something different than Jokowi's. The media used to portray Jokowi as a humble, populist leader.

    Yet Ahok swears a lot, stands proud with no party affiliation, and bluntly states the facts that everyone knows but no one dares to say out loud.

    He refers to the corrupt as the perpetrators and often says many people are against him not because they think he is wrong, but because he is ethnic Chinese and Christian.

    Ahok invalidates many theories of political communication. He lacks wisdom and has little diplomacy, yet many support him. The logic behind Ahok’s popularity lies in one issue that apparently matters most to people nowadays: a leader is valued on the firmness of his commitment to fighting corruption.

    Jokowi lost his charm because he failed to show firmness in stopping the police undermining the KPK. In contrast, despite many legal efforts to get rid of him, Ahok appears to be standing tall to fight corruption. When we talk about people’s opinion, who are we referring to?

    According to political communication scientist Vincent Price, three words often associated with "people" are crowd, public, and mass. A crowd is moved by the unity of an emotional experience and tends to be reactive rather than deliberative. In a crowd, individuals very easily lose themselves and only act according to collective desire.

    Meanwhile, in public, individuals gather not only in the name of empathy, but also in terms of the ability to think and argue. A group of people are called "public" when they face a common problem and express diverse views regarding that problem, but are willing to engage in discussions to find solutions.

    The danger shadowing modern civilizations is when the public changes into the mass. Abundant information and analysis from various sources—which are not always credible—can make people skeptical. At this point, individuals become no more than part of the mass, a group of anonymous people with minimum effort to communicate.

    In Jokowi’s case, people can be seen as more of a crowd. Jokowi's best qualities are humility and modesty, but we now know that these are not enough.

    In Ahok’s case, people are more deliberate in professing their supports. The budget saga gives people perspective on why they need to be in Ahok’s side.

    Clear data regarding the draft budget gives a sense of transparency to the Jakarta administration. It is also a sign that people pay attention to credible sources instead of giving support without reason. The message is clear: it is not about supporting Ahok as an individual, but more about how people are empowered to defend their rights to their own money.

    Whether Ahok makes it as the leader of the nation remains to be seen. The best thing to do now is to make sure the people stay together as a public, not as a crowd or mass.

    It will prevent them from being too emotional. It will also empower them to become watchdogs of government, institutions, and the media. Hate speech and smear campaigns should be abolished. The public does not always have to be in agreement.

    Differences of opinion with a desire to solve problem together becomes a prerequisite of the public existence. It is the only way our democracy will mature.

    As published in The Jakarta Post, March 28.
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  • Optimisme Tragis Serdadu Knevel



    PanaJournal - Alkisah, setelah Jepang menyerah-kalah dalam Perang Dunia II, Belanda menyiagakan kembali angkatan perangnya untuk menegakkan ketertiban di Hindia Belanda, tak peduli dengan proklamasi kemerdekaan Indonesia yang dimaklumatkan oleh Soekarno-Hatta pada 17 Agustus 1945.

    Judul Buku: Rampokan Jawa dan Selebes
    Penulis: Peter van Dongen
    Penerbit: Gramedia Pustaka Utama
    Tebal: 168 halaman

    MAKA, berlabuhlah sejumlah tentara sukarela dan wajib militer dengan kapal laut Tegelberg menuju Jakarta pada penghujung Oktober 1946. Di antara mereka terselip seorang serdadu muda kelahiran Selebes bernama Johan Knevel, tokoh utama komik ini, yang menyimpan misi pribadi dalam tugas itu: mencari Ninih, inang pengasuhnya, yang raib pada masa pendudukan Jepang. Malangnya, misi sang serdadu akan berujung tragis.

    Melalui misi Knevel itulah, Peter van Dongen melibatkan pembaca ke dalam sebuah petualangan masa lalu yang menegangkan, mencengangkan, dan memilukan—antara lain menyaksikan pelabuhan Tanjuk Priok yang hiruk-pikuk dengan bongkar-muat barang dan kerumunan pengemis yang kelaparan; merambah hutan-hutan lebat nan magis di sekitar Jawa Barat dan Makassar; menyusuri pecinan Glodok, jantung kota Batavia, yang membangkitkan nostalgia kampung halaman tentang rampokan (tarung macan) yang lazim digelar sebelum akhir Ramadan oleh masyarakat Blitar dan Kendiri.

    Semua itu dituturkan dengan bahasa gambar “garis-bersih” yang menggurat tokoh-tokoh komikal dalam latar belakang yang realistis dan detail. Itu sebabnya ia mengingatkan kita kepada Herge yang termasyhur dengan komik petualangan Tintin. Perbedaannya, teknik narasi van Dongen beralur cepat dan terkesan kompleks.

    Lihatlah, misalnya, bagaimana ia menceritakan dengan plastis pertarungan macan: dari sebuah kedai minum yang ramai di Batavia, ia menyelanya dengan sepotong panel bergambar gending yang dipukul secara perlahan-lahan mengalihkan adegan ke alun-alun Blitar yang penuh orang berdesak-desakan menonton pertarungan macan, yang sesungguhnya berlangsung dalam ingatan Knevel yang hampir mampat karena mabuk bir (hlm. 21-24).

    Membaca adegan itu saya mendapat kesan kuat bahwa van Dongen adalah seorang komikus yang sangat terlatih dalam pemikiran deduktif. Dengan begitu, saya kira, tak sulit baginya menampilkan tokoh cerita yang memiliki arus kesadaran dan ingatan yang fluktuatif, seperti tersurat dalam sosok Knevel. Contoh yang pas terdapat pada halaman 37. Di sini, komikus kelahiran Amsterdam 1966 ini menggambarkan peralihan aksi-ke-aksi, subyek-ke-subyek, dan adegan-ke-adegan dalam 12 panel yang mengaitkan situasi kekinian yang dihadapi Knevel dengan kenangan masa kanak-kanaknya yang melekat-erat dalam benaknya.

    Penggambaran itu mengingatkan saya pada apa yang pernah dikatakan penyair Ezra Pound tentang komik. Katanya, “Komik merupakan sebuah citra yang menampilkan hasil intelektual dan emosional yang kompleks dalam waktu yang singkat.”

    Buku komik yang terbit pertama kali dalam bahasa Belanda pada 1998 (Rampokan Jawa) dan 2004 (Rampokan Selebes) ini ditulis-gambar van Dongen berdasarkan penelitian selama tiga tahun di sejumlah tempat di Belanda dan Indonesia. Itu dilakukan bukan hanya untuk mendapatkan setting yang realistis, melainkan juga untuk mempertautkan dirinya dengan masa lalu sekaligus “membangun kembali dunia yang masih dihuni oleh nenek moyangnya.” Perlu diketahui, Buyutnya adalah orang Ternate-Tionghoa—sementara ibunya yang kelahiran Manado 1941 pernah mengecap hidup selama tujuh tahun (1945-1952) di Makassar.

    Sampai di sini, baiklah kita ingat bahwa Rampokan Jawa—bagian pertama buku ini—pernah juga diterbitkan dalam bahasa Indonesia oleh penerbit Pustaka Primatama, Jakarta, pada September 2005. Dengan itu saya beroleh dua versi terjemahan dan suntingan. Dikatakan secara berimbang, keduanya memiliki keunggulan-perbandingan dalam cita rasa bahasa dan visual.

    Ada yang sama menggelikan dalam penerjemahan frasa, teks, dan dialog. Ada yang berlainan dalam perupaan gestur, pose, dan adegan. Tapi yang paling menyolok, berbeda dengan terbitan Pustaka Primatama, buku ini “menyensor” sejumlah pose dan adegan yang menampilkan tubuh telanjang dan alat genital manusia. Contohnya tersua pada panel 6 halaman 15, panel 12 halaman 39, dan panel 6 halaman 55. Apa pasalnya? Hanya van Dongen dan penerbit buku ini yang tahu.
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  • Patani, Darurat Militer, dan Bom Mobil



    PanaJournal - Di tengah kekerasan militer Thailand dan operasi para gerilyawan, masyarakat Patani berusaha mempertahankan identitas Islam dan Melayu. Mereka menolak hegemoni budaya Siam.

    MOBIL yang saya tumpangi melaju kencang di tengah-tengah jalanan yang lengang, dalam perjalanan dari Kota Hat Yai ke Patani, salah satu wilayah di Provinsi Patani, Thailand Selatan. Waktu tempuh dari Hat Yai, kota ketiga terbesar di Thailand setelah Bangkok dan Chiang Mai, ke Patani sekitar dua jam berkendara.

    “Dalam beberapa tahun terakhir, bom mobil sering meledak tidak hanya di Patani tapi juga di Hat Yai,” ujar Tuwaedaniya Tuwaemaengae, salah seorang aktivis di Patani, yang juga direktur Lembaga Patani Raya (LEMPAR).

    Tuwaedaniya salah satu steering committee dalam workshop “International Youth Engagement in Governance and Conflict Mitigation in South East Asia” yang digelar di Hat Yai pada 27-28 Oktober lalu. Sembari menjadi peserta acara tersebut, saya putuskan menyambangi Patani, wilayah yang tengah dirudung konflik bersenjata di bawah pemberlakuan darurat militer itu, meski panitia sempat melarang.

    Saya sampai di Patani pada 27 Oktober malam.

    RAKAN PATANI
    Sejumlah polisi dan paramiliter berseragam serba hitam, tampak menenteng senjata M-16, senter, dan metal detector. Mereka begitu teliti memeriksa tiap kendaraan roda empat yang melintas di sejumlah pos pemeriksaan di jalan raya di Kota Patani.

    Sementara itu, di sebuah kedai yang letaknya agak menjorok ke dalam gang, tak jauh dari kompleks Universitas Prince of Songkhla, sejumlah anak muda berkumpul berbagi cerita, tentang kawasan yang dulunya dikenal sebagai penghasil karet itu.

    Nama kedai itu adalah “Rakan Patani”. Kursi-kursi dan meja-meja kayu tersusun rapi di dalamnya. Lebih dari lima lampu pijar tergantung di langit-langit. Di sudut kiri kedai yang juga menyediakan kopi Aceh itu, tergantung pula sebuah papan tulis putih.

    Seorang pemuda menatap layar handphone-nya lekat-lekat. Dia adalah Arfan Wattana, Ketua Forum Ikatan Remaja se-Patani (IRIS).

    “Ada penembakan berturut-turut dalam tiga hari ini,” kata dia, menunjukkan foto dan posting-an di akun Facebook-nya, yang berisikan informasi tentang penembakan seorang pria yang menolak berhenti di pos pemeriksaan ketika diminta oleh polisi dan militer. “Nama pria yang ditembak 'askar' (sebutan bagi militer-Red) dua hari lalu itu adalah Nikpha bin Cek Pak.”

    Affan dan anggota di organisasinya gencar mengejar kabar ihwal penembakan dan kekerasan yang dilakukan oleh pihak militer Thailand. Informasi yang didapat kemudian mereka publikasikan melalui media sosial.

    “Biasanya pihak petinggi militer akan merespon dengan enteng bila ada penembakan masyarakat sipil,” ungkap Affan. “Mereka akan bilang, ‘dalam keadaan seperti ini, kesalahan dan kesilapan sering terjadi’.”

    Lagu nasyid di dalam kedai kopi Rakan Patani terdengar hingga ke jalanan, tempat beberapa mahasiswa duduk menikmati jajanan kaki lima.

    Di teras kedai tersebut, saya juga berjumpa dengan Heru Lesmanda, pemuda asal Kota Pekan Baru, Kabupaten Siak, Riau, yang juga tercatat sebagai mahasiswa di Universitas Islam Negeri (UIN) Riau. Di Patani, Heru tengah menjalani program pertukaran mahasiswa. Ia dan sembilan mahasiswa UIN Riau lainnya belajar Universitas Prince of Songkhla, Patani. Jurusan mereka: Islamic International Study.

    “Di sini fasilitas belajar lengkap. Tapi, jika ada yang banyak bertanya dan menyanggah dalam kelas, dosen tidak suka,” ujar Heru.

    Mendapati hari-hari di Patani yang dirundung kabar kematian, Heru mengaku tergugah untuk melibatkan diri dalam diskusi-diskusi kritis mahasiswa. “Tapi saya tak terlalu berani maju ke depan karena saya orang luar,” kata dia.

    Malam terus berlalu. Pukul 10 malam, orang-orang masih berlalu-lalang di sekitar kedai kopi Rakan Patani. Jelang kopi yang saya pesan akan habis, seorang perempuan muda dengan rambut tergerai dan tinggi semampai, dan senyum lebar yang selalu tampak saat ia bicara, memperkenalkan diri. Namanya Pakkamol Siriwat, 25 tahun, kandidat PhD di Universitas Cambridge, Inggris (Department of Politics and Social Studies), yang sedang mengerjakan penelitian untuk disertasinya di Patani.

    Nama panggilan perempuan berlesung pipi itu: Naan. Ia Siam tulen.

    Kami mengobrol tentang Patani. Ia juga bertanya-tanya tentang Aceh. Naan sedikit “mengenal” Aceh dari karya-karya seorang antropog yang menulis beberapa buku tentang kawasan Asia Tenggara, yakni Anthony Reid.

    Judul disertasinya, kata dia pada saya di tengah-tengah perbincangan, adalah Sense of Belonging of Present Day Melayu Pattani Youth.

    “Ada dua hal yang saya dapat di sini (Patani-Red) mengenai bagaimana masyarakat Patani mempertahankan budaya Melayu dan Islam. Pertama, dari keluarga dan selanjutnya sekolah (Tadika-Red),” kata dia, dalam bahasa Inggris.

    Tadika adalah sekolah alternatif tingkat dasar dan menengah, yang digagas untuk menyediakan pendidikan Islam dan budaya Melayu pada siswa-siswa Patani, yang dari Senin hingga Jumat “dicekoki” pelajaran-pelajaran yang terintegrasi dalam “kurikulum Siam” di sekolah nasional.

    “Meskipun pemerintah pusat Thailand melakukan asimilasi besar-besaran, masyarakat Patani masih bertahan dengan identitas Melayu dan Islam mereka,” kata Naan, dengan mulut dipenuhi mie bakso.

    BRUTAL
    Kata Tuwaedaniya, gerakan militer di Patani saat ini digawangi oleh Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) yang aktif sebagai gerakan bersenjata. Dan BRN bukan satu-satunya. “Ada dua lainnya, meskipun tidak aktif dan konon berafliasi dengan pemerintah Thai,” ungkap ayah empat anak itu.

    Sekitar 80% penduduk Patani merupakan etnis Melayu dan beragama Islam. Di Thailand yang berpenduduk sekitar 66 juta orang, mereka adalah kelompok minoritas. Dulunya, selama ratusan tahun, kawasan selatan Thailand merupakan wilayah Kesultanan Patani yang berdiri sendiri. Sejak tahun 1902 wilayah Patani berada di bawah pengelolaan pemerintah Kerajaan Thailand.

    Menurut Ana Lehmann, penulis artikel Konflik Berdarah di Thailand Selatan, dalam merespon gerakan bersenjata di Patani, pemerintah Thailand mengandalkan sekitar 65.000 tentara, paramiliter, dan polisi. Militer juga mempersenjatai kelompok lokal Buddha dan memberi pelatihan senjata kepada sekitar 80.000 relawan.

    Penampilan dan tindakan militer menghadapi para gerilyawan sangat brutal. Menurut organisasi Human Rights Watch, banyak warga muslim yang diculik, disiksa dan dibunuh. Militer bertindak di bawah undang-undang darurat dan undang-undang khusus lain, sehingga mereka luput dari sanksi hukum.

    Di bawah pemerintahan Siam, nama "Patani" dicoba-kecilkan secara politis menjadi "Pattani", yang terpisah dari Narathiwat dan Yala, di bawah Provinsi Songkhla. “Dulunya Patani merupakan kerajaan yang juga menaungi kedua wilayah itu (Yala dan Narathiwat-Red),” ujar Tuwaedaniya. “Penduduk Patani menggunakan bahasa Melayu yang sama seperti bahasa Melayu Kelantan, Malaysia.”

    Penolakan penggunaan nama Patani juga terlihat dari rambu-rambu lalu-lintas dan plang penunjuk jalan yang dicorat-coret. Menurut Tuwae, itu bentuk perlawanan terhadap upaya “hegemoni budaya Siam” di daerah tersebut.

    Lewat pukul 11 malam, saya meninggalkan kedai Rakan Patani. Esok hari saya juga akan meninggalkan kota ini—di mana sewaktu-waktu bom mobil bisa meledak dan menelan nyawa siapa saja.***
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  • Poems of Love and Labor


    PanaJournal - They are migrant workers who are also poets and writers. While they toil hard for the rest of the week at shipyards and construction sites; every Sunday; from early evening, they gather to recite the poems they have written over the week.

    IT’S A SUNDAY and at Little India in Singapore, thousands of migrant workers, from Bangladesh, India and other countries have assembled, drawn by the immense attractive force that people from the same country of origin exert on each other once they are in a foreign country.

    It is the only day off in the week for migrant workers and this is their favorite place to socialize, idle around, and indulge a little bit. It is early evening and the place has become a human mesh. I am negotiating every step through the forces exerted by this enormous blanket of human bodies. I am brushing against men in loose untucked shirts, moving around holding hands.

    A tight circle has formed around a street vendor selling jhal muri; the national snacks of Bangladesh, a mixture of puffed rice, raw onions, and mustard oil and green chilies. Four men are sitting on the curbside, reading the facing sheets of the same newspaper, each forming own opinion about the world.

    Long queues are forming and breaking outside the shop houses, the ones that double up as brothels; the men in the queue gawking at the series of elaborately groomed women sitting on the steps.

    But in one shop house along Rowell Road, something unique is happening on the second floor. I have been coming here often on Sundays and I am always greeted by the same scene.

    On the floor, two migrant workers are sleeping. Next to them a group of men are rehearsing a song, their ensemble comprising of the instruments popular in Bangladesh; harmonium, tabla, cymbals and an empty water drum.

    Facing the musicians is a book shelf with over three hundred Bengali books. Further on, at a desk, Mohsin Malhar, a man in his early fifties, is busy working on the computer. Next to him, a group of eight men are sitting around a big table; they are a group of migrant workers who are also poets and writers.

    While these workers toil hard for the rest of the week at shipyards and construction sites; every Sunday; from early evening, they gather to recite the poems they have written over the week, collect and give feedback, and celebrate on occasions like Id or one of their birthdays.

    This place is called Dibashram, a place for migrant workers to practice arts and culture. It also offers emergency shelter to workers who are facing issues with their employers. Once, Dibashram even organized a wedding over Skype between a migrant worker in Singapore and his bride in Dhaka.

    I am here today to check on the preparations for the first Migrant Worker Poetry Competition in Singapore that I am helping to organize together with Banglar Kontho, The Literary Centre (Singapore) and venue sponsor, The National Library of Singapore.

    Banglar Kontho is the only Bengali newspaper in Singapore, run by Mohsin, who first came to Singapore as a student. Under the platform of Banglar Kontho, he encouraged the migrant workers to form activity clubs such as the Banglar Kontho Cultural Forum and the Banglar Kontho Kobi Porishod (Poetry Association) to cultivate appreciation and practice of the arts and culture among the workers.

    There are over 980,800 unskilled foreign workers in Singapore. They often pay fees as high as US$4,000-US$5,000 to the employment agents back home. Once they are in Singapore, they earn anywhere between US$1,000 to US$2,000; from which they have to pay off their expenses, loans taken to pay the agent, and send some money home.

    They work mostly in the construction and marine industries; tough labor made tougher under the tropical weather conditions of Singapore. When things are going fine; the workers manage to buy a smartphone and save a lot more than what they would have done back home.

    But when things go wrong; they can go really wrong. Some end up getting paid a lot less than what they were promised by the agents. Some, when injured, face months of uncertainty over their case, and could face situations like denial by the employer that the injury happened at work; not being paid proper compensation during medical leave; not being given proper treatment by company-affiliated clinics; and occasional reports of being bundled to the airport to send them back to their home countries by repatriation companies.

    The government has been responding by enacting measures such as mandatory provisioning of itemized pay slips and in-principal-approval letters for migrant workers stating the precise terms and conditions of employment before the workers leave their home countries for Singapore.

    However, xenophobic sentiments have been becoming increasingly visible in Singapore, particularly on social media where migrants were being blamed for crowded public transport to general erosion of civility. This reached a climax during the Little India Riots of December 8, 2013; when there was an outpouring of anti-migrant feelings on Twitter and Facebook.

    28 POETS
    The contest had received submissions from 28 poets; well beyond my initial estimate of 10. Some had submitted up to six poems while the contest rules allowed only three. We had set up a well-designed website with a submission form; but none of the entries came through it. Contestants sent in their entries by either scribbling it on paper; scanning their past work and sending it by email; and even over Facebook chat.

    Over the last few weeks, I had got to know the poets better. They add me on Facebook. I see pictures of them with their children; typically everyone is smiling but occasionally with drained-out eyes, the father cheek to cheek with his young daughter, in pictures taken just before he took the flight to Singapore.

    I see a Facebook post by Masud Parvez Opu, a singer who has also written the lyrics for many popular songs in Bangladesh, “Mother, I am always scared that you will leave before I can see you again. Don’t leave mother, please live till I come again.”

    Jahangir Alam Babu, 41, the leader of this gang of poets, is a polymath who writes poems, short stories, and features for newspapers back home. He has written and directed plays. He has also written lyrics for songs and given tunes to them.

    Monir Ahmod; 27, a construction worker who writes mostly poems of rebellion under the pseudonym ‘Shromik’ or worker once told me, “I am always thinking about what to write and use my time during the commute to work and during coffee breaks to write poetry using my mobile phone. My favorite poets are Kazi Nazrul Islam and Sukanto. As you see, they are also rebel poets.”

    Mohor Khan, 33, once told me, “I write only sonnets and they are usually about injustice and social ills. I feel a lot of pain when I see or think of poverty anywhere in the world. And poetry is the only way I can take that pain out of my heart.”

    Mohor has not seen his wife and son for three years, “Imagine all these tall and flashy buildings here, elder brother. They have not been built just by stamping on the ground. They have been built by stamping on my youth and the youth of other workers like me. I have buried my youth under these buildings for the sake of a little comfort for my family. What can be more tragic for me?”

    N Rengarajan, 28, is the only Tamil contestant. His poems are often satirical and make fun of politicians and social ills. His favorite poet is the Tamil poet and lyricist Vairamuthu. He has the habit of saying, “Ok, ok, ok, ok, ok,” in every sentence.

    Syedur Rahman Liton, 30, once told me, “I haves been writing since I was fifteen. I write because I believe that writing is a way for me to influence this world in a small way by either calling for positive action or by protesting against injustices.”

    Asit Kumar Barai (Bangali), 33, is also multi-talented like many of the workers here. He writes poems, novels, short stories and also plays tabla and the plastic water drum. He has acted in over twenty plays in Bangladesh and Singapore. Asit told me once, “I always keep a pen and paper in my chest pocket so that I can write poems whenever I have an idea.”

    Asit is always in a jovial mood. He talks to me about his love escapades in Bangladesh, “Many girls have requested me to write a poem dedicated to them.”

    He tells me stories from his childhood, “When I was twelve or thirteen, my father scolded me heavily one day. I became very angry and left home. I decided to walk all the way to India. I bought a small plastic bag with a map of Bangladesh printed on it. I really believed that this map would be enough to find my way to India. But within 10 minutes I was lost and scared. My uncle found me crying by a small road and then brought me back home.”

    Mohiuddin, 26, also a construction worker once told me, “Writing is my favorite pastime but I also enjoy nature and solitude. I love the sky. I love this earth. I love people.”

    Md Mukul, 24, always has the glint of innocent youth in his eyes. He has written a novel, Buker Simanaye Sukh (Happiness at heart’s edge) and a poetry collection Apurna Vasana (Unfulfilled desire) that has been published in Bangladesh. He told me once, “I miss my mother a lot. So, most of my poems are about my mother. Sometimes I spend the whole night writing.”

    Soft spoken Rajib Shil Jibon, 28, is one of the most versatile among the poets. He writes profusely; on every theme, from romantic, patriotic to day to day life as a worker in Singapore. One of his poems, ‘Life of a Dustbin’, had won awards in Bangladesh. Jahirul, always carries around a thick file of all his poems, neatly written in white sheets.

    THE EVENT
    On the day of the event; it is a full house at the National Library with only standing space available. More than one hundred and fifty people have turned up. Most of them have heard about the event only through social media. I see people from all races and age groups but the majority of the audience are young, college going teenagers.

    Most of the poets and their cheerers have come wearing a kurta resembling the flag of Bangladesh.

    “Elder brother, how close shall I stand from the microphone?” Rajib asks.
    Mohar asks, “Elder brother, Can I say a few words before I start the poem to explain what it is all about?”

    Sohel Rana, a construction worker, and also a lively singer whom we have invited to perform a song to add to the vibrancy of the event, asks me, “Elder brother, will we singers also get some certificate?”

    The event comes to a climax with rousing performances by the singers, who sing about their pride in Bengali culture. The audience, perhaps with limited exposure to this proud and sophisticated culture prior to this event, join in, clapping with the beats. When the singers can’t control their enthusiasm and begin dancing on stage, some from the audience can’t control their hands and feet too.

    The winners are announced soon.

    In third place, is N. Rengarajan and his poem ‘Lessons from Circumstances’; with three anecdotes; one where he asked a firefly if she burns in fear of the dowry she has to pay for her daughter’s marriage; the second about the modern nuclear family that pushes out the old mother who had once picked up the son whenever he fell down as a child; and the third about ‘money’ which he says is the only disease, unlike cancer, AIDS, Ebola, and even love; that kills by its absence rather than its presence.

    The second prize goes to Rajib Shil Jibon, who in his poem titled Aadho Aalo Aadho Adhar (Shades of Light and Dark), talks about the sensation of falling in love as a twilight experience:

    Perhaps I will see a kite looking for its string 
    A rain drop paused, a search waiting in front of me 
    The magician spreading a mountain of illusions 
    And calling us by waving its discarded feathers 

    The first prize goes to Zakir Hussain Khokon, who talks about the loneliness of migrant life and his longing for his wife in his poem Pocket that has the lines:

    I remember when I returned this time 
    my heart dissolved in your tears 
    The pocket of my shirt was wet 
    Reaching the end of my memories 
    I wear that shirt every night and write love poems to you 
    Do I really write poems 
    Or do my poems cry with me?
     
    After the event, I talk to some people from the audience. Treepti says, “It was hair-raising. It was such a revelation; I could never imagine that they could have such depth of thoughts. I was so humbled.”

    Tammie, a student, tells me, “We couldn’t imagine that they are so cultured. It is so heart-warming to see that migrant workers have such talents outside their jobs. And in a way, it is a bit shocking that we could relate to their poems so well.”

    Ryosuke, a migrant worker from Japan, albeit a high skilled one, tells me, “I thought they would be nervous and may be difficult to approach. But they were always smiling to each other and everyone else. I don’t think they felt like this was a competition. I felt that they were just so happy to be presenting to people like us, who they don’t have a chance to communicate with in their daily lives. And this friendly attitude of theirs spread all over the room.”

    George Szirtes, the Hungarian-born British poet and winner of T.S. Eliot prize, who happened to be at the event, writes about the poets in his blog, “They are confident in delivery, some dramatic, some songlike, some gesticulating, some very still. …. The [best of them] have idea, images, a sense of place and of complex emotions. Some are particularly moving but all are moving. Here they are, for the very first time in public, recognized for the creative human personalities they are, not just lost figures in the distance.”

    Zakir’s supervisor Mr Jonathan Tan writes a poem as a congratulatory note to Zakir; it’s titled ‘Wish for Pocket’ and has the lines:

    You write poem so that she can read your heart, 
    Your teary, hurting heart, 
    And she says, come to me you weary soul, rest in me. 

    The event is covered by the local media extensively and also by the major newspapers in Bangladesh. Local poets Alfian Sa’at and Zhou Decheng translate the winning poems to Malay and Chinese as a small gift to the poets.

    Congratulatory comments start pouring in; for the poets and the singers for their performance and for Singapore and its residents for hosting such an event. There is also some good humor; messages on Facebook asking the poets to be mindful of their safety at work and not get lost thinking about a poetic line.

    HUMAN EMOTIONS AND FEELINGS
    After the event, Rajib Shil Jibon says,
    “Elder brother, life as a migrant has been a mixed bag. But do you know the saddest day of my life here? A few years back, I was having my lunch during the break one day. My supervisor came to me and gave me some work right then in a rude way. I was very hungry but had to leave my food right then. I was very angry but stayed quiet. I just kept singing our national anthem, Sonar Bangla, softly, till I finished the job. I was feeling very worthless that day. But then, when everyone at my workplace saw my photograph in the newspaper with the award, all of them, people from different races who work with me, came to congratulate me. Then I recognized this happy-bird called respect. This will forever remain as the sweetest memory in my life.”
    When we had begun preparing for the contest, most people including myself were referring to the contestants as ‘migrant workers.’ I noticed that with time, most including me had begun referring to them as ‘poets’. So perhaps there is also a case for organizing a poetry contest for Investment Bankers or Digital entrepreneurs, professionals normally considered to drench the soul dry.

    Maybe that is why we held this poetry contest for unskilled migrant workers. Perhaps after listening to their poetry; we would not see them as mere components of an economic machine. Perhaps, we would understand again the universality of human emotions and feelings.

    Perhaps, at the same time, we will also relish this diversity of human expression, through this brief exposure to a not too familiar culture. Perhaps, we will not think of arts as an elitist endeavor but as something capable of energizing a life around all the drudgery. Perhaps, the migrant workers too, once they see a full-room of listeners, will appreciate that this wealthy society doesn’t consider them as mere disposables.

    Perhaps, it will be a gentle nudge for everyone to be more compassionate.***
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  • A Cold and Hungry Christmas in USA



    PanaJournal - Behind its wealthy facade, the so-called “Land of Opportunities” isn’t quite like so to many Americans. The 2008 economic downturn has left many families and individuals, including children, homeless and hungry.

    TODAY, more than six years later when the country’s economy is already growing at 3.5 to 4 percent, the casualties can still be felt. Although not all homeless and hungry individuals are “victims” of the recent crisis, using this framework helps in understanding the issue with clarity.

    Approximately 3.5 million people in the United States are homeless today, while at the same time 18.6 million houses are vacant. Isn’t it amazing to think that for every homeless person in USA, there are six vacant homes? If the houses were given away to homeless individuals with “one person gets one house” scenario, there would still be 15 million vacant ones.

    Foreclosure crisis, which resulted from failed economic policies, and homelessness are on-going nagging problems that shouldn’t have existed in the first place, provided that US economic policies had been designed and developed to cater to the very basic needs of American people.

    Alas, capitalism has reached its lowest point. It has become a vulture, a hyena, a corpse-eating cannibal. What a stark reality.

    First things first, what caused the economic downturn that started in 2007/2008? There are no simple answers. Let’s identify the involved parties in this chaos before we go into details of the devastating impacts.

    There were US Federal Reserve, big banks, Wall Street financial product engineers, and investment banks-cum-commercial banks. Wrap them in a blanket of naive consumers with herding mentality who were sold on the idea of “homeownership” and “your home is your ATM.” The “homeownership euphoria” was made even worse by a statement by George W. Bush stating that “every American must have a home.”

    A multi-dimensional problem indeed.

    In short, the economic downturn was triggered by failed economic policies, which was approved due to lobbies by big banks like Citibank, and was made widely spread by euphoria triggered by naive mindset of “your home is an investment” instead of “a home is a financial liability.” A presidential statement supporting “owning a piece of American Dream” was the icing on the cake.

    The Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which was intended to keep investment banks separate from commercial banks for the sake of American economic recovery from the devastating effects of The Great Depression in the 1930s, was repealed during Bill Clinton Administration in 1999 with The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999.

    Yes, it was Clinton Administration who repealed it. Not the Republicans. It’s a fact that most democrats might not find favorable. But it was a fact nonetheless and we have to accept it as it is.

    The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act allowed the consolidation of investment banks and commercials, which meant allowing retail banks and other financial institutions to create financial products intended for retail customers (you and me) that would be re-packaged and sold as “investment products” by their investment banking arm in Wall Street. One arm of Bank X would create easy-to-sell financial products just to get naive consumers to buy them, while the other arm would create easy-to-sell investment products to Wall Street investors. And those banks made gazillions from the transactions. How convenient.

    The most appaling part of this “re-packaging” of home mortgages, which were mostly “creative loans” due to ease in obtaining credit with minimal income documentation, was the leveraging of up to 70 times by the investment banks. In layman words, your homeownership debt was re-packaged as CDO (collaterized debt obligation) and “guaranteed” by “pseudo insurance” CDS (credit default swap) to be sold 70 times at Wall Street. Imagine your US$250,000 home loan was sold and resold again as “investment package” to Wall Street investors 70 times over, making it worth US$17,500,000 on paper.

    Along with 18 million other homeowners who had lost their properties, as one of “victimized” homeowners, I educated myself on the root causes of 2007/2008 US economic downturn so I could better use macroeconomics data in analyzing the current state of economy and how it would influence my personal finances in the future. I think, many “victims” have learned their lessons and become more aware consumers of financial policies since then.

    This also explains my involvement in advocating for fair housing and anti-foreclosure that would benefit all Americans and citizens of the world. At least, it is an honor and a privilege to educate the whole world about the perils of some financial policies and loan and investments packages, regardless of their short-term advantages.

    Second, are all homeless individuals victims of the economic downturn and current slow economic growth? The quick answer is: no.

    People became homeless for various reasons. Having a home foreclosed might not directly result in homelessness, as long as the individual has sufficient income to support themselves and to rent apartments. However, every individual is different and some individuals are more fragile psychologically and emotionally. I have heard homeowners who killed themselves after losing their hard-earned properties. They were rare but did occur.

    Thus, it is safe to assume that many homeless and hungry individuals are direct and indirect victims of the recent economic crisis.

    The most inexpensive living arrangement is renting a room in someone’s house, like what foreign students and fresh graduates have been doing. It only costs a fraction of a full-fledged apartment unit, which should have been affordable to most working people. This, of course, might not apply in “hot bed” of booming economic bubbles, like in Silicon Valley in San Francisco Bay Area and in “oil boomtowns” in North Dakota, where a one-bedroom apartment may cost US$3,000 per month.

    Unemployment, underemployment, mental and physical health conditions have been the primary reasons of homelessness, which are universally valid. Some of the most chronically homeless individuals are those with mental illnesses, including drug addiction and untreated depression, schizophrenia, and psychosis.

    Combined with American culture that glorifies “being independent” away from your relatives, it is understandable that USA is a land of homelessness. Compared to Asian cultures, in which staying with your relatives —including parents, grandparents, and siblings— despite employment and adult-age statuses, Americans are more reluctant to seek help from relatives. This may contribute to the high rate of homelessness.

    Third, who are those homeless individuals, demographically speaking? Unlike in certain parts of Europe where many homeless individuals are immigrants, American homelessness is more diverse.

    According to data collected by National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty in July 2014, half of homeless individuals are African-Americans, 35 percent White Americans, 12 percent Hispanic Americans, 2 percent Native Americans, and 1 percent Asian Americans. Why so? Due to a long history various issues, including but not limited to slavery, post-slavery, racial divide, post-racial divide, failed housing projects, ghetto mentality, and immigration policies favoring highly skilled and highly educated immigrants.

    Fourth, how about children? According to the US Department of Agriculture, approximately 49 million people lived in food-scarce households in 2014, among which 16 million were children. In Zavala County, Texas, food-insecurity rate among children was 41 percent, while the state of New Mexico had 29.2 percent children living in food-insecure households. These are remote counties, which explain the difficulties in getting food and shelter assistance.

    Using point-in-time method, The Homelessness Research Institute the number of homeless individuals were estimated 610,042 on a single night in January 2013. Sixty-five percent of them lived in homeless shelters or transitional housing and 35 percent lived in various random unsheltered locations.

    Twenty-three percent of the homeless individuals were children under 18 years of age. Ten percent were between 18 and 24 years of age and 67 percent were over 25 years old. In between 2012 and 2013, overall US homelessness declined by 4 percent. Fourty-five percent of homeless individuals lived in major cities. Major cities provide more hidden places as temporary shelters, such as under the highway overpass, in alleyways, and behind tall buildings.

    Fifth, how do homeless and hungry individuals cope on day-to-day basis aside from getting assistance from the US government in forms of welfare benefits and food stamps?

    US federal government stated that under American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a total of US$816.3 billion has been paid out in forms of tax benefits, contracts, grants, loans, and entitlements. This fund was intended to ease the poverty and economic problems arising from the devastating effects of 2007/2008 economic crisis and the current Great Recession.

    Individuals and families in need are usually getting food and shelter assistance from non-profit organizations, including religious charity organizations. Food banks, food pantries, and churches have programs to feed the hungry with non-perishable foods donated by individuals and stores. Special kitchens have also been set up to feed the hungry whenever they need breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

    The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has been serving the less fortunate around the world and around the clock with food pantries, free kitchens, free health clinics, thrift stores, vehicle donation programs, and shelters. Most Catholic churches in USA have “free food days” and other programs to help their members in need. Churches of other denominations also have such programs.

    Tent cities, oftentimes, become homeless individuals’ last resort, after other avenues have been exhausted. While every homeless individual’s progression toward “complete homelessness” varies, some individuals and families have requested for temporary shelter but failed. Low-income housing provided by cities and counties are available for those with steady income and special needs, such as small children and caring for elderly or a terminally-ill family member, thus this avenue is fairly limited and restricted.

    The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty estimated that there are more than 100 tent cities in the United States. Out of 100 tent cities, only eight were considered legal. The number of illegal “camp cities” keeps rising.

    In California, “notable” tent cities can be found in Little Tijuana in Fresno, Ventura County, Safe Ground in Sacramento, Ontario, American River in Sacramento, and Village of Hope in Fresno. These tent cities are currently considered livable and relatively more comfortable than other tent cities.

    In 2009, in a tent city near downtown Fresno, California, PEN/Hemingway award finalist and PEN/Malamud award winner George Saunders observed the 300 inhabitants by setting up a tent for himself. He had experiences living in ghettos and slums, such as in Kathmandu, Bangkok, Peshawar, Nuevo Laredo, and Jakarta. Fresno proved to be a new experience for him, where he found himself felt more insecure than in those foreign shantytowns. Shoutings, weird smells, and shadowy figures added to the suspense.

    In general, a “tent city” consists of several sub-communities, such as “underpass” community and “open field” community. Tent city dwellers come from various backgrounds, thus they create a self-sustaining “bartering” community. With some “hacking skills,” tent city dwellers would be able to get clean water for drinking, hot water for showering, and electricity for lighting and charging electronics.

    Poverty is a complex issue. It’s not about “laziness” and “low productivity.” It’s not merely about economic inequality and failed economic policies. It’s not just about one’s mental and physical states. It is a combination of many variables. Sometimes the variables are too many to count and oftentimes overlooked or hidden.

    What matters is we have educated ourselves about the complex issues of poverty and aren’t afraid to speak up for the voiceless. The least thing we can do to the cold and the hungry is to accept and appreciate them as fellow human beings, not as some trash ready to be thrown away, like in cities that criminalize homelessness Sarasota (FL), Lawrence (KS), Little Rock (AR), Atlanta (GA), and Las Vegas (NV).

    May this Christmas and many more Christmases are no longer cold and hungry all over the world. ***
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  • Belas Kasih di Belantara Jakarta


    PanaJournal - Ini adalah cerita tentang belas kasih—jenis rasa yang konon langka ditemukan di rimba ibu kota. Seorang karyawati bernama Juliana menyelamatkan balita Iqbal Saputra dari siksaan sang penculik, Dadang Supriatna, setelah tak sengaja bertemu di halte bus TransJakarta.

    UNTUK SAMPAI ke kantornya di daerah Kota, Jakarta Utara, Juliana harus menumpang angkutan umum bus TransJakarta. Pagi itu, di halte Sawah Besar, dia duduk bersebelahan dengan bocah lelaki berusia kira-kira tiga tahun. Anak itu terduduk lemas dalam gendongan seorang lelaki, yang belakangan diketahui sebagai Dadang Supriatna, pacar ibu Iqbal yang menculik dan menyiksa si bocah lantaran dendam. Kasusnya sempat heboh diangkat media pada awal tahun.

    Juliana terenyuh melihat kondisi Iqbal yang tampak kepayahan. Di tangan dan kakinya tampak bekas lebam yang sudah membiru. Sesekali balita itu mendesis kesakitan. Juliana memutuskan membuka obrolan dengan Dadang, yang ketika itu mengaku (dan tampak meyakinkan) sebagai ayah kandung Iqbal. Menurut Dadang, mereka datang dari daerah Karawang, Jawa Barat, ke Jakarta untuk mengamen.

    “Ngamen kok, bawa anak, Pak?” tanya Juliana.
     “Dia ngotot ikut.”
    “Anaknya sakit apa?”
    “Ini, dipukulin ibu tiri.”

    Dadang lalu mengangkat kaus dan celana Iqbal, menunjukkan bekas-bekas lebam yang tampak sudah lama. Selama perbincangan, Iqbal hanya diam sambil sesekali mendesis kesakitan. Tatapannya kosong. Tak ada kata-kata keluar dari mulut si bocah. Saat itu, lidah Iqbal baru saja digunting oleh si penculik.

    Juliana melirik jam tangannya, menghitung waktu yang dibutuhkan untuk sampai di kantor. Di hatinya mulai terbersit niat untuk menolong Iqbal dan Dadang. Dia sengaja tak memberi uang karena takut uang itu tidak sampai pada maksud yang sebenarnya, yaitu memeriksa dan mengobati si bocah.

    Bus datang. Ragu-ragu, Juliana memasukinya.

    “Saat itu, saya masih dalam dilema, menolong atau tidak? Tergoda juga untuk memberi uang saja lalu langsung pergi ke kantor. Tidak perlu takut terlambat. Saya yakin itu yang akan dilakukan sebagian besar orang bila berada dalam posisi saya,” papar Juliana.

    Ketika sudah mantap memutuskan menolong Iqbal, Juliana berbalik, tapi Dadang sudah lenyap. Di hati Juliana timbul sebersit rasa menyesal—mengapa ada penderitaan di depan matanya tapi dia tak bisa menolong? “Saya pikir mungkin Tuhan punya rencana lain untuk menolong Iqbal, dan rencana itu tidak melibatkan saya,” kenang Juliana.

    Maka alangkah terkejutnya Juliana ketika berganti bus di halte Stasiun Kota, bertemu lagi dengan Dadang dan Iqbal. Kali ini Dadang tampak memamerkan luka-luka di tubuh Iqbal pada sejumlah ibu-ibu yang berkerumun. Juliana makin bingung melihat tingkah Dadang yang menjadikan Iqbal seperti “tontonan berbayar”.

    Tiba-tiba Iqbal kejang. Juliana setengah berlari, menghampiri Dadang. Kali ini tekadnya bulat sudah: harus menolong si bocah.

    “Pak, anak ini harus ditangani!” Juliana berseru.
    “Ah, dia memang biasa begini,” elak Dadang.

    Tak peduli dengan tanggapan Dadang yang cenderung datar, Juliana segera keluar dari halte. Ibu-ibu yang berkerumun, bubar. Juliana menyewa sepasang ojek: satu untuknya, satu untuk Dadang dan Iqbal. Dia sempat bingung ke mana harus mencari klinik karena tak begitu mengenal daerah tersebut. Juliana pun menginstruksikan kedua tukang ojek untuk membantunya.

    Klinik pertama, tutup. Klinik kedua, antrean praktik dokter terlalu panjang. Saat itu napas Iqbal sudah satu-satu dan dia mulai menangis kesakitan. Juliana panik. Apalagi, kedua tukang ojek tidak tahu lagi klinik atau tempat praktik dokter terdekat. Tapi, Juliana tidak mau menyerah.

    “Pak, kita harus cari lagi. Kalau tidak diobati, saya yakin anak ini tidak mungkin bisa bertahan,” kata Juliana, berulang-ulang.

    Tukang ojek yang memboncengkannya, heran. “Ibu ngapain rusuh, sih? Emang Ibu siapanya?”
    “Bukan siapa-siapanya sih, Pak. Tapi ini kan nyawa, anak kecil pula.”

    “Lah itu, Bapaknya kuatir juga enggak.”

    Dadang memang tampak tenang-tenang saja.

    Di klinik ketiga, Juliana ditolak karena tidak ada dokter anak. Di klinik keempat, belum sempat masuk, suster sudah buru-buru menolak dengan alasan tak punya alat. Juliana sempat ngotot minta bertemu dokter, tapi daripada berlama-lama berdebat dan menghabiskan waktu Iqbal, dia memutuskan mencari klinik lain.

    “Saat itu saya dalam hati merasa miris. Kasihan bener nasib ini anak. Sudah luka-luka, giliran ada orang mau tolong pun, jalannya berliku,” papar Juliana. “Tapi itu justru menguatkan tekad saya bahwa dia harus ditolong, bagaimanapun caranya.”

    Sampailah iring-iringan ojek di Puskesmas Pademangan. Satpam yang berjaga di pintu depan, sigap menyambut mereka. Iqbal segera ditangani oleh seorang dokter umum bernama Zakia Thalib. Kondisi Iqbal yang kritis dan menyedihkan segera menarik perhatian orang-orang di puskesmas tersebut. Selain lebam-lebam di sekujur tubuhnya, ada juga bekas sundutan rokok di puting susu, gigitan, dan luka karena benda tumpul. Ketika celana bocah kecil itu dibuka, tampak buah zakar Iqbal bernanah sampai terlihat dagingnya.

    Astaghfirullahaladzim…” desis Dr. Zakia berkali-kali saat memeriksa bocah kecil itu. Beberapa orang menitikkan air mata karena tak tega melihat kondisi Iqbal yang sangat mengenaskan. Iqbal sendiri hanya mampu menangis kesakitan.

    Begitu kejang Iqbal berhenti, Dr Zakia mengajak Juliana berembuk. Ia merasa fasilitas di puskesmas tak cukup untuk mengobati Iqbal. Karena itu, ia minta persetujuan Juliana untuk merujuk Iqbal ke rumah sakit untuk perawatan lebih lanjut.

    “Ibu ini siapanya?”
    “Saya bukan siapa-siapanya, Bu. Hanya mengantarkan.”
    “Tapi, Ibu setuju kan, kalau anak ini kita rujuk ke RS?”
    “Ambulans itu berapa duit, Dok?”
    “Oh, gratis, gratis semuanya.”
    “Kalau begitu, langsung bawa saja,” kata Juliana, lega.

    Di luar dugaan, Dadang menolak Iqbal dibawa ke rumah sakit. Dia ngotot membawa Iqbal pulang ke Karawang. Juliana, yang berprasangka baik bahwa Dadang sekadar takut uangnya kurang, meyakinkan bahwa semua biaya gratis.

    “Bapak enggak ada Jamkesmas?” tanya Juliana.
    Dadang menggeleng.
    “Mau dibawa ke Karawang saja.”
    “Sekarang ibu tirinya di mana?”
    “Sudah dipenjara. Ini sudah ditangani sama Polres Karawang, kok,” Dadang terus mencoba meyakinkan.

    Saking mengerikannya kondisi Iqbal, semua orang di puskesmas berebutan menanyai Dadang. Di sinilah Juliana mulai curiga karena jawaban Dadang tidak pernah konsisten. Kadang ia menjawab Iqbal sudah disiksa sejak seminggu lalu, kadang dijawab baru kemarin. Tapi, saat itu dia mencoba maklum karena mungkin Dadang memang tak sanggup bercerita secara runtut.

    Dr Zakia kemudian mengusulkan agar Juliana menghubungi Komisi Perlindungan Anak Indonesia (KPAI) untuk meminta advokasi karena kasus Iqbal sudah jelas terkait kekerasan dalam rumah tangga (KDRT). Juliana keluar ruangan untuk menelepon KPAI. Dari sana dia diinstruksikan untuk membuat laporan ke Polres setempat sesuai prosedur. Setelah kasusnya resmi ditangani kepolisian, barulah KPAI akan melakukan pendampingan tanpa dikenai biaya sedikitpun.

    Betapa kagetnya Juliana ketika dia kembali ke ruangan, Dadang sedang menandatangani selembar surat pernyataan. Rupanya, saking ngotot-nya Dadang membawa pulang Iqbal, pihak puskesmas akhirnya menyerah dan membuatkan surat yang isinya menyebutkan bahwa pihak puskesmas tak bertanggung jawab jika ada apa-apa dengan Iqbal, dan tindakan memulangkan Iqbal adalah murni keinginan Dadang sebagai ‘orangtua’.

    “Saya kecewa sekali,” kata Juliana. “Saya merasa kasihan dengan Iqbal. Kalau anak ini dibawa pulang, pasti tidak akan dapat perawatan yang layak. Dalam hati saya seperti ada pertanyaan yang berulang-ulang, 'Kenapa bisa lepas, Kenapa bisa lepas'?”

    Tapi semua sudah telanjur. Ketika hendak menandatangani surat pernyataan, Dadang mengaku tidak punya KTP. Juliana semakin curiga. “Pak, kalau ada apa-apa, nanti dikira Bapak lho, yang mukulin si anak. Kita ke polisi saja karena prosedurnya benar seperti itu,” bujuknya.

    Dadang diam. Satpam puskesmas lalu berinisiatif membelikan rokok dan makan siang agar Dadang tidak kabur. “Dikasih rokok si Dadang itu anteng,” kata Juliana, yang segera menelepon polisi. Tunggu punya tunggu, polisi tak kunjung datang.

    Bagaikan adegan film yang sudah diatur sutradara, di depan puskesmas lewat patroli dari Polsek Pademangan. Juliana dan satpam segera mencegat mereka.

    Bripka Putra dari Polsek Pademangan memasuki puskesmas. Dadang langsung terlompat dari duduknya dan cium tangan. Pertanyaan pertanyaan dari Bripka Putra dijawab dengan terbata-bata. Keterangan Dadang makin tak konsisten. Ketika ditanya dari mana Iqbal mendapat luka-luka di sekujur tubuhnya, Dadang menjawab bahwa Iqbal disiksa ibu tiri.

    “Di mana menyiksanya? Kapan?” Bripka Putra mencecar.
    “Di ruang sidang.”
    “Kok bisa menyiksa di ruang sidang?”
    “Ngg.. ibu tirinya bilang mau peluk dia untuk terakhir kalinya. Eh, tahu-tahu malah ditendang.” “Terus orang-orang lain diam saja begitu? Tidak ada yang menolong?”

    Dadang tidak bisa menjawab. Bripka Putra lalu minta bicara bertiga dengan Juliana dan Dr Zakia Thalib. Satpam diperintahkan untuk menjaga Dadang agar jangan sampai kabur. Bripka Putra menyampaikan kecurigaan dan ingin Dadang dibawa ke kantor secepatnya. Juliana setuju, meski di dalam hati dia masih berpikiran baik bahwa bukan Dadang pelakunya. Apa ada ayah tega menyiksa anaknya sendiri sampai begitu rupa?

    Persis ketika mereka sedang berdiskusi, dari kamar terdengar suara jeritan dan tangis Iqbal. Rupanya Iqbal sudah tak kuat lagi menahan sakitnya. Belakangan di RSUD Koja, Jakarta Utara, baru ketahuan bahwa tangan Iqbal patah di dua tempat. Dan yang mematahkan tangan si bocah tak lain dan tak bukan adalah Dadang sendiri.

    Berdasarkan penelusuran polisi, pernah ada pelapor yang melihat Dadang tengah mengancam Iqbal di depan WC umum. Saat itu Iqbal sedang menangis tersedu-sedu. “Mau diem nggak? Kalau nggak diem, dipatahin nih tangannya,” ancam Dadang. Si pelapor terkejut ketika Dadang sungguh-sungguh mematahkan tangan Iqbal, bahkan sampai dua kali. Malang, saat tiba bersama polisi, Dadang dan Iqbal sudah lenyap.

    Dadang segera dibawa ke kantor Polsek Pademangan dan Iqbal dirujuk ke RSUD Koja. Juliana ikut ke kantor polisi untuk memberi kesaksian. Bripka Putra sempat mau memukuli Dadang agar mengaku, tapi dicegah oleh Juliana. Dia takut kasus ini justru berkembang jadi salah tangkap. Beres memberi kesaksian, Juliana tetap masuk kantor seperti biasa. “Untung bos saya tidak pernah rese bertanya-tanya dari mana saja saya sampai terlambat setengah hari,” Juliana terkekeh.

    Dia memang tak menggembar-gemborkan tindakannya membawa Iqbal ke puskesmas. Ibu dua anak ini merasa tak ada yang terlalu istimewa dengan tindakannya itu. Maka ketika kemudian kasus ini menjadi besar dan dia tiba-tiba harus menerima wawancara dari berbagai media, juga tampil di televisi, Juliana canggung. Di kantor, dia dipuji-puji. Di rumah, suaminya mencandainya setengah menyindir, “Wah, sudah jadi artis kamu, ya.”

    Juliana pun kerap bingung menghadapi pertanyaan-pertanyaan wartawan yang kadang aneh. “Misalnya, ada yang tanya saya terafiliasi dengan organisasi atau gereja apa. Lah, saya saja jarang ke gereja!” Warga Tambora itu tertawa, sembari mengakui dirinya bukanlah orang yang religius.

    Beberapa hari kemudian, Juliana mendapat info bahwa masa kritis Iqbal sudah lewat. Dia pun memutuskan menjenguk Iqbal di RSUD Koja. Di situ sudah ada tante dan kerabat Iqbal yang lain. Dari si tante, Juliana tahu, ternyata memang Dadang yang sudah menculik dan menyiksa Iqbal. Motifnya dendam pada ibu Iqbal, Iis Novianti, yang pernah jadi pacar Dadang.

    “Dadang dihadap-hadapkan dengan Iqbal, lalu Iqbal ditanya apakah orang ini yang sudah menyiksa dia,” cerita tante Iqbal, Irma Nurcahayanti. “Iqbal hanya bisa mengangguk, sambil ketakutan melihat Dadang. Ya sudah, Dadang langsung ditangkap.”

    September lalu, Pengadilan Negeri Jakarta Utara telah menjatuhkan vonis 13 tahun penjara untuk Dadang, tanpa banding. Juliana berharap, suatu hari nanti hukum di Indonesia dapat berbuat lebih dari sekadar mengirim pelaku kekerasan terhadap anak ke penjara.

    Hukuman kurung memang bisa jadi menimbulkan efek jera bagi si pelaku, tapi bagaimana dengan anak yang menjadi korban? Berapa banyak dari mereka yang mengalami trauma, dan tidak memperoleh pendampingan psikologis karena tak ada biaya?

    “Padahal, dengan proses penyembuhan yang tepat, kita bisa memutus rantai perilaku kekerasan berulang. Banyak, kan, para korban yang ketika dewasa justru jadi pelaku?” kata Juliana. “Kalau diterapi dengan baik, anak-anak ini justru bisa menjadi kuat dan menginspirasi sesama korban kekerasan untuk sembuh.” ***
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  • Beyond #hashtags: Netizen's Outrage and Hope


    PanaJournal - The case of the regional elections (Pilkada) bill has brought the Democratic Party and its chairman President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono into the spotlight. On Sept. 25, 130 members of the party walked out of the plenary session before voting began on the bill.

    AS A RESULT, only 135 lawmakers agreed on direct elections for regional heads, while 226 others wanted all regional heads to be chosen by local legislative councils. At 2 a.m. the next day, the House of Representatives passed the now controversial law on regional elections.

    Although later the Democrats’ Sutan Bhatoegana claimed that the President’s instruction was originally “all out” instead of “walk out”, the people already felt cheated.

    Earlier, Yudhoyono publicly broadcast his support for direct elections through his party’s YouTube account, “Suara Demokrat”. Hashtags like #shameonyouSBY, #shamedbyyou, and #SukaBohongYa (you like to lie eh?) enliven the Twittersphere. On Sept. 29, the latest hashtag #shamedbyyouagainSBY had been tweeted 40,025 times by 6:40 a.m.

    Are those hashtags forms of digital activism, or merely representations of middle-class fussiness? For the recently resigned Communications and Information minister Tifatul Sembiring, the second possibility is more plausible.

    Tifatul even accused the majority of Twitter users of being teenagers; which means their voices are irrelevant and unimportant. Tifatul also thought of the possibility of the government banning Twitter, just as the governments of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt did.

    Funnily enough, he voiced this thought through his own Twitter account, @tifsembiring.

    From this case we learn that the separation of the real world from the virtual world is no longer relevant. If the Internet is not seen as a valid form of another reality, the elites of the Democrats would not need to respond to any news emerging from cyberspace.

    If the President is not afraid that his image — which he has taken very good care of for the past 10 years — could be destroyed simply because of Twitter hashtags, he would not bother to clarify. And if indeed Tifatul believes Twitter users only comprise teenagers, why should he think of banning it?

    There is something bigger than middle-class fussiness in the case of the Pilkada law and hashtags that attacked Yudhoyono’s image. Currently, Indonesia has surpassed the era where people sit back and watch the elites fight for power. People want to do something, even if it is just to write a 140-character status or to push the “like” button on someone’s Facebook page.

    The scholar W. Russell Neuman writes that the public’s affective intelligence in political communication is affected by both anger as trigger and fear as repressor. Anger increases when people realize they have been treated unfairly by the ruling elite.

    They want to do something about it, but are afraid of what might happen to them as a consequence of their actions. This condition causes anxiety. One way to cope with that is to gather, share, strengthen and inspire each other to fight together. And this is where social media plays its biggest role.

    What happens now is this: people are angry because the ruling elite took away their democratic rights and are fed up because they feel cheated constantly by the President.

    They meet and share thoughts with each other on social media. People start to realize that they are not alone. Many are angry, disgusted and ashamed of the government. And this encourages taking action.

    On Sept. 28, people gathered to collect photocopies of their IDs on Sunday morning’s Car Free Day session at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta. It was part of a social movement called “Indonesian people challenge [regional] election law”. In the book Networks of Outrage and Hope (2012), Manuel Castells mentions some characteristics of social movements.

    Although mostly beginning on the Internet, a movement becomes social when people start to occupy urban space, whether it is a public area or street demonstrations. It is precisely that hybrid between cyberspace and urban space that Castells called “the space of autonomy”.

    So, it is not appropriate to regard the hashtags phenomenon as mere political euphoria, in the same way that we should not define “digital activism” as being extremely talkative on social media.

    Social movements have to occupy both channels, especially considering that during President Yudhoyono’s second term, our Gini Coefficient (a measure of a country’s level of inequality, O meaning perfect equality and 1 meaning perfect inequality) has increased to 0.41 in 2011 from 0.3 in the Soeharto era. There are people without Internet access, and the middle class should be able to embrace them.

    Finally, whether digital activism eventually becomes nothing more than a bunch of tweets and Facebook statuses, or even a form of social change, will depend on two things. First, the extent to which people realize their potential power and are willing to fight for it, and second, the extent to which the government will listen to, and humbly engage, the voice of its people. ***

    As published in The Jakarta Post, October 2, 2014.
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  • Death of Print and Rise of Long-Form Journalism


    PanaJournal - Print is dead. And long-form journalism is rising. The digital environment of Internet serves as the perfect backdrop platform for the pair. The Internet provides immediacy and brevity. It also recreates the world by making it more efficient and transparent, which are key to rapid progress of human civilization.

    APPARENTLY, we aren’t going back to print nor to the pre-Internet era. We’re already spoiled by instant responses, lightning-fast pace, ease of analysis supported with transparent and verifiable data, and conciseness of information brought to us in written, visual, and auditory formats. In short, we are used to the conveniences made possible to advance our lives within a few keystrokes and several swipes.

    According to the Pew Internet Project, people particularly use the Internet for four distinct functions: communication, information gathering, personal and business transactions, and entertainment. Thus, we have better get used to with the new normal. We can take online courses with professors located across the Pacific Ocean, we certainly can skim and scan through information quickly too.

    Media experts said that print newspapers will be extinct within this decade, which has been prequeled by the massive drop of print advertisements. Already more than 50 percent of print journalists had been laid off and the growth of this profession is -6 percent (minus six percent).

    This figure showed the failing severity of the state of print publication industry. Graduates of journalism schools are among “the unemployable” job seekers due to lack of vacancies in the industry, as well as other liberal arts graduates. The few vacancies in the publishing industry are now filled by underpaid professionals.

    Because, apparently, being a journalist doesn’t require as rigorous a training like for being a medical doctor. And with a little bit of luck and many hours of self-taught skills, anyone with some knack of writing and excellent reasoning skills can literally break into this industry.

    Print books, print magazines, and print newspapers are likely to occupy museums in the near future. Just like rotary phones, which have been replaced by digital phones, mobile phones, and smartphones. And facsimile copier machines are being replaced by emails and PDF files. Interestingly, hundreds-page lengthy print books are now being replaced by long-form narrative non-fiction journalism.

    Note this. Long-form narrations are replacing lengthy books.

    But print books will be replaced by digital books, which is also called “ebooks” or “electronic books.” They are usually formatted as PDF, MOBI, and EPUB files, which can be read with any tablet computer with ereader apps, Kindle Reader, and Nook Reader.

    Print books of hundreds of pages will be replaced by short ebooks, which are essentially lengthy essays or long-form journalistic articles, due to shorter attention span in reading on computer screens. This means hundreds of print pages are getting streamlined into tens of pages of digital texts.

    Blame the short reading span due to using electronic reading devices. Paper-like reading screens like in Kindle Reader and Nook Reader should solve this problem, thus reading lengthy ebooks shouldn’t cause too much strain on the eyes.

    My Kindle reader application for iPad, for instance, is the home of 15,000+ ebooks now. Imagine how much physical space they would have required to store the same amount of print books in a brick-and-mortar home or office library. I collect various length electronically-published and print-turned-into-digital books. And among my favorites are long-form narrative non-fiction works.

    This shift in reading habit comes with numerous pros, cons, and tremendous opportunities and possibilities.

    Now is the right momentum to start online publications that publish lengthy journalism pieces like New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly. More insights can be packed into such pieces. Unlike in brief reporting, in which journalists must write concisely without developing close rapport with readers, long-form journalism gives room to grow.

    An impressive case of transformation is Amazon Kindle Single. This Seattle-based book retailer pioneer is one of the most aggressive game changers in the publishing world. Amazon already acquired The Washington Post, which is one of the most prestigious print newspapers in the world.

    Amazon.com has been renowned for progressively selling, distributing, and publishing ebooks of various length via the Internet with their Web-based online retail platform since early 2000s, in addition to selling millions of consumer items through courier delivery. Amazon now offers ebooks called “Kindle Singles.”

    Kindle Single is a division that publishes carefully selected journalistic pieces and fictional novellas adhering to esteemed publishing standards. Most of them are of 5,000 to 20,000 words. Pretty short for books, but quite long for articles. And this “in between” length is likely to stay for a long time. More publishers are following its footsteps, including niche-specific ones, such as SheBooks.net and embooks.com.

    Here is the reason.

    With such massive overload of today’s information, readers expect writers and publishers to provide high quality content designed for quick enjoyment with the latest gadgets. Tablet computers like iPad and Samsung Galaxy enables the revolution of journalism from analog to digital. From print to digital. From pbook to ebook. From book-length content to long-form journalism content.

    It is interesting to note that with the demise of print industry, Web-based long-form journalism is on the rise. Granddaddies of narrative journalism, such as New Yorker, The Atlantic, The American Scholar, The Morning News, and The Walrus (Canada) are having new competitors, like Kindle Single (a part of Amazon.com), Aeon, Medium-Matter, Guernica, Byliner, Atavist, TheBigRoundTable, and curators like Longform.org and LongReads.com.

    For Indonesia, Panajournal.com is one of the pioneers.

    Long-form journalism has become more popular not because we read longer journalistic pieces, but because we read shorter books in digital format. And long-form journalism is an excellent substitute. Just by saving the long pieces and sending them to a tablet, we can read them at any time with the level of enjoyment of reading a print book. After all, reading attention span has shortened considerably.

    Storytelling has become more popular as well, as a way to balance out the robot-like digitalization of texts, images, videos, and audios. Compelling stories filled with inspiration, motivation, insights, and love bring out good feelings, as the “sterile” ambiance of high-tech environment may feel too “cyborg”-y, which can only be balanced by reminders of how much we feel as human beings.

    Long-form journalism is also a great medium for brand journalism, which is similar to advertorial but more sophisticated in presentation, delivery, and insights. “Brand journalism” gives a strong “after taste,” which “conventional journalism,” such as reporting and journaling, doesn’t. This trait alone is ideal for delivering “branded messages” with sophistication, so readers can still focus on the ideas and messages of the piece itself and not distracted by the brand.

    What is long-form journalism? Is it identical with “narrative nonfiction”? The answer is yes. It is about writing like telling a story, not reporting. Truman Capote in In Cold Blood (Saturday Review, January 22, 1966) wrote, “I got this idea of doing a really serious big work --it would be precisely like a novel, with a single difference: Every word of it would be true from beginning to end.”

    Traditional inverted-pyramid style of journalism is limiting in its structure and word count. It is also a bit awkward when telling the whole story of an incident. The writer’s biases are somewhat “hidden” behind facts and objective details, which usually don’t show much of his or her viewpoint, albeit implicitly.

    The former senior editor at The Atlantic Monthly once made a comment on what constitutes “narrative nonfiction.” He said, “I think [narrative nonfiction]... is essentially a hybrid form, a marriage of the art of storytelling and the art of journalism --an attempt to make drama out of the observable world of real people, real places, and real events. It’s a sophisticated form of nonfiction writing, possibly the highest form that harnesses the power of facts to the techniques of fiction, constructing a central narrative, setting scenes, depicting multidimensional characters and, most important, telling the story in a compelling voice that the reader will want to hear.”

    Essayists and columnists find writing lengthy narrative nonfiction pieces satisfying. They can include direct quotations, citations, and personal opinions without having to worry about the 800-word count limit of a regular op-ed column. They can include scenes and personal viewpoints as if they were creating a film. They can include anecdotal illustrations and deep analytical thoughts derived from various schools. They can be as physical or as philosophical as possible. They can be as literal or as figurative as possible. No one is policing them.

    Such unique traits are especially valuable in this age of storytelling marketing. Yes, its “for profit” side is as remarkable as its “non-profit” side.

    The latest trend in publicity is “no-promotion marketing” or “telling story without selling.” Such long-form narrative nonfiction format allows interviews and stories about a brand to flow naturally, creating the so-called “native” promotion. Just like when a professional photographer’s Instagram account showcases his portfolio, this mixed genre of writing provides a platform for telling stories about good (and bad) traits of a brand naturally and effortlessly.

    Peter Rubie in The Elements of Narrative Nonfiction wrote, “we use stories as a way of making sense of the world around us. We grow up with them, and we crave them like a fix. They are reassuring and comforting in some strange way, perhaps because of their structure and order and their predictability. As children, we often want to be read the same story again and again in an almost hypnotic fascination. But we approach puberty, it slowly dawns on us that like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, many stories are inventions. Despite this apparent “betrayal,” despite “real life” slowly impinging on our shrinking world of fantastic possibilities, we still want to believe in stories.”

    In short, stories have hypnotic qualities that mesmerize us and frame our thinking. And we feed on stories to nourish our mind and soul since the day we were born. It has been our programming, which isn’t going anywhere despite our aging.

    Steve Jobs of Apple computer is the poster child of “story economy,” which explains why people love Apple products. Simon Sinek in his book Start with Why wrote, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” And it applies to both for-profit and non-profit causes.

    How often do you hear stories about celebrities who are interested in humanitarian causes? George Clooney and Angeline Jolie, for example, have their own stories on why they fight for humanity. How often do you hear stories about scientists who are researching for a cure because of personal encounters with the disease? How often do you hear about how rich and famous individuals who had legal issues but eventually thrive?

    Most motivational and inspirational books are filled with stories and anecdotes. Stories about failures and successes give us an opportunity to learn. Contently and the Content Marketing Institute exemplify the latest trend in storytelling with impact. Sites like Upworthy, Mental Floss, and Good are receiving acceptance and popularity. They tell stories, touch people’s hearts, make them think and say “aha!,” and change lives everyday.

    Sure, a long-form journalism narrative nonfiction piece doesn’t necessarily convey feel-good messages. Its main purpose is answering our innate human quest on “why” something occurs in a more in-depth manner than what breaking news covers.

    After all, we live surrounded by stories and live for reading about and telling stories of ourselves, our works, and our hopes. And print is dead.***
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