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Cynicism and Critical Thinking

Cynicism is a poverty of curiosity and imagination and ambition. Today, the soul is in dire need of stewardship and protection from cynicism. The best defense against it is vigorous, intelligent, sincere hope — not blind optimism, because that too is a form of resignation, to believe that everything will work out just fine and we need not apply ourselves. I mean hope bolstered by critical thinking that is clear-headed in identifying what is lacking, in ourselves or the world, but then envisions ways to create it and endeavors to do that.
Maria Popova

There can sometimes be no end to cynicism. Or worse, cynicism is often branded as critical thinking. I experienced this many times, not just because I have had encounters with cynical people, but because I thought that with my training in cultural studies, I have to be cynical. There were moments in my life where I don’t believe in anything. I was deprived of hope or even the inclination for hope. I thought there is no use of family, community, or any categories that work to group people.

That doesn’t mean today I am uncritical, or that I am accepting of all conventional categories. Following Maria Popova, these days I find myself slowly learning about being kind and about opening my eyes to different kinds of lives, not just the ones I deem ‘progressive’ or ‘equal’. I am learning slowly that some people find comfort in the concept of family or in patriarchal, heterosexual relationships because life has told them that there is no other way to be, and it is not my task to pull them out of ‘darkness’ and ‘enlighten’ them through snarky comments or dark jokes I make with my friends. My duty, when I dare to venture towards that claim, is to ‘make a move.’ I see movement and progression no longer as a dearth of norms or conventions, rather acknowledge prevailing social system and to critically assess and later do something about it kindly and with compassion. Too much has been spent on assessing, and too much has been spent on doing that is dominating and controlling. I challenge myself these days to ask “What can I do?” Because in doing I find attempts to realize my thoughts in the face of others’ belief systems.

Bangkok, January 2017

I went to Bangkok in January this year for a conference in its Chulalongkorn University. Much of the spaces I went to reminded me of the older part of Jakarta.

What was so impressive for me was the hostel I stayed at, the 2W. It has an amazing coffee shop, Wanderlust, below it. The owner of the two establishments is probably the same person. The four-storey space is built in an old renovated building. Decorations are mostly from Ikea, it seems. And in the bathroom, there are Muji toiletries, which made me swoon 😉

What I loved was the cheap food, and I adore Thai delicacies in general. The traffic, though, was insane. I almost missed my flight back to Singapore by 5 minutes.

Foucault and his students

I’ve previously shared one of Lacan’s comments from his seminar. Here’s Foucault on the same theme: Has everyone read these texts? Yes? No? Nobody? Well, I will have to punish you, that’s for sure! I’m not going to tell you how… That’s a surprise for the last day! Dire vrai sur soi-même: Conférences prononcées à […]

via Foucault also struggled to get his students to do the reading… — Progressive Geographies

A Room of One’s Own and the Act of Writing (my Thesis)

“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.”-Virginia Woolf

This year I have spent more than one hundred days writing my thesis. The ‘ride’, as people would call it (call everything perhaps), has not been easy (as anything in this world).

My family back home, as usual, constantly demands attention. My achievement has been the fact that I have decided–after a series of depressive episodes and a point where I almost jumped off the fourth floor of my apartment building because I wanted to hurt myself and thought that by doing that I would show my family members that they were not the only ones hurting–to prioritize what I want and what brings me joy.

The challenge in writing my thesis (and any other kinds of writing) is that sometimes it doesn’t feel like joy.

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