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Education

(Note: In the text version below, I summarize what I said in the video. It is not a transscript.)

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Have you ever enjoyed a movie that made you cry? Have you ever screamed in a roller-coaster, and then wanted to go there again? Well, people often enjoy things that might not seem very enjoyable. For example, some people enjoy being controlled, humiliated or whipped… but only if it’s done by the right person, in the right way and in the right context. This is often called “BDSM”.

As I’m writing this, my twitterfeed and other newssources has exploded with outrage over a Daily Beast and Jezebel text called “Spanking for Jesus”. This text attacks a subculture called “Christian Domestic Discipline”. However, their primary evidence turned out to be fake. So this subculture may or may not even exist.

BDSM need to be gender neutral, and neutral to religion: Pushing or manipulating someone into doing BDSM very easily become abusive or otherwise destructive, and it is therefore not okay. If you ever feel that you *must* be dominant or submissive because of your gender or religion, there’s a big risk that you will push yourself or others into situations where at least one of you get hurt.

The daily Beast and Jezebel article could have been about this. It wasn’t. It was a load of paraphobia – prejudice and bigotry against sexual minorities, in this case sadomasochists. Sensationalism designed to take people who enjoy getting spanked and make them look crazy.

Both articles put their emphasis on a couple called Chelsea and Clint. Daily Beast attacks them on a personal level, while Jezebel attack a book they have written and self-published online. Both articles are trying to convince the entire world that this couple are evil crazy Christians. However, the book doesn’t support these claims at all.

In spite of being presented by Jezebel as the primary evidence for these two individuals (and by guilt by association, anyone else who might like spanking) being “fucked up”, the book doesn’t even mention gender or religion. It instead puts emphasis on consent, that you shouldn’t get into any of that kind of stuff unless you really want to.

After following the link from Jezebel, I have now read much of the book. Skimmed the rest, and searched for a lot of keywords. As far as I can tell, the book is equally useful for gay couples as for straight couples. It is equally useful for heterosexual couples who want the woman to have the dominant role as it is for couples who want the man to have that role. And it is equally useful for atheists as it is for Christians. There is nothing in that book that suggests that a christian woman ought to be submissive, or any oppressive bullshit like that. And I didn’t see anything like that on their site either.

Are Chelsea and Clint even Christians? I don’t know, I don’t care. It should be okay for Christian couples to enjoy domination dynamics, if they are into that sort of thing. What should NOT be okay is to pressure or manipulate anyone to participate. It is not okay to send the message that men and women SHOULD be dominant and submissive, respectively. These articles attack Chelsea and Clint without any evidence that they have spread any such message – on the contrary, the evidence points in the opposite direction.

What Chelsea and Clint are talking about is “Domestic Discipline”. Not “Christian Domestic Discipline”. Jezebel points to a yahoo group that looks rather creepy, at least the way Jezebel present it – it should however be noted that the most damaging part of the presentation is not part of the actual quote, but instead added by Jezebel. And that they don’t even claim that Chelsea and Clint are members: They merely imply this by context.

The Domestic Discipline Chelsea and Clint present in their book seem to be what most people would call a specific form of BDSM. They claim that it is not BDSM, and that is true in the sense that it is not those other things that ALSO are BDSM. Domestic Discipline is about domination dynamics in long-term relationships. Not about games in the bedroom or about playing around with strangers. They seem to think that the concept of BDSM is limited to such games. Which in some local subcultures may very well be the case, although it’s not true in general.

A few days ago, the cardinal of the roman catholic church in South Africa got a lot of publicity. He claimed that pedophilia should not be seen as a crime. This publicity has mostly been negative, and rightly so.

The cardinal fails to make the basic distinction: between a persons sexuality and how this person handles his or hers sexuality. These are not only two very different things, but also things that it is very destructive to mix up.

In the case of pedophilia and child sex abuse, the former is sexual attraction towards children, while the later is to actually approach children in a sexual manner.

People who fail to make this distinction when it comes to pedophilia will make one of two mistakes. They will unjustly condemn chaste pedophiles who stay away from children, or they will excuse actual child sex abuse. The cardinal is making this later mistake.

As I explained in a previous video, pedophilia is very different from other sexualities. Separated from heterosexuality, homosexuality and sadomasochism by the fact that children cannot give valid consent. Separated from fetishism, by the simple fact that inanimate objects don’t have any feelings or need for personal dignity to protect from sexual exploitation.

This means that pedophiles who are attracted to adults as well need to focus on this later attraction. It also mean that exclusive pedophiles need to confine themselves to fantasies and masturbation. Both kinds of pedophiles need to stay the hell away from children. As an adult, I can handle if a woman or ay man lusts after me or develop a crush on me. Children, however, are not ready to handle the desires of adults. And they shouldn’t have to be ready for that. Let them be children.

It is true as the cardinal says, that pedophiles can’t help being pedophiles. And that we shouldn’t blame them for their feelings. However, this does NOT excuse ANY form of child sex abuse.

What we as a society need to do is to help innocent pedophiles to stay away from children. Since I have worked a bit with rehabilitation of convicted pedophiles, this lack of preemptive measures used to be a big source of annoyance for me personally. The programs we had to offer is in my opinion quite good, but all the clients I had were men who had already committed a crime. They were not allowed to sign up for the program without committing a crime first. Some of them would have signed up right away, had they been given the chance.

Luckily, Sweden now has a hotline called Preventell. If you speak Swedish and have undesired sexual urges, please call them. If you know someone who fits that description, please give him or her their homepage or number. Preventell dot se or 020-66 77 88. If you know of such hotlines or similar resources for other languages, or better yet a global directory for them: Please notify me, and I will link it in the description of this video.

Pedophiles are not necessarily the monsters that the cardinal unwittingly portray them as in his misguided compassion. If it was true that they just can’t help abusing children, we ought to lock them up for life even before they commit those inevitable crimes. But those crimes ARE not inevitable!

Every heterosexual, homosexual or sadomasochist is required to stay celibate until he or she find a compatible partner for a mutual relationship on fair terms. For many, this means years without sex. Sometimes the entire lifetime. While this sucks, it is endurable. For pedophiles, there are no compatible partners. Fair terms for mutual relationships are not available.

This sucks as much for them as loneliness sucks for the rest of us. But many of them, probably most of them, are decent human beings. Persons who are able to control themselves. They don’t need people who indirectly tell them that it doesn’t matter whether they abuse children or not. They don’t need people who out of hate or misguided compassion tell them: “you might as well go ahead and live down to our lowest expectations”.

Preventing a case of abuse from happening in the first place is far better than forgiving it afterwards. What children need is that the pedophiles abstain from exploiting them. Not that the abuser says a certain number of “Hail Mary” after the deed is done.

A few days ago, I saw an interesting series of tweets from Zinnia Jones. It was based on the article “How I learned to hate transgender people”, which I link in the description below. The article described how Hollywood movies portray trans people as predators. Zinnia pointed out that transgender people is such a small group of people to hate.

She concludes: “I’m inclined to think much of this hate is rooted in the portrayal of our lives as more interesting and sensational than they actually are. ”

While this is certainly true in some cases, my personal belief is that most cases of transphobia has very little to do with stereotypes about trans people and their lives. It has even less to do with actual trans people and their actual lives. Instead, it’s mostly about stereotypes about men and women. Some people think of “men” as one narrow little box and “women” as another little box. Separate boxes. Clearly defined. Painted with a really broad brush.

A lot of people don’t really fit into those little boxes, which is very scary for someone who limit their thinking like that. What scare them about trans people is not what they are, but what they are not: They are not easy to squeeze into those little boxes of stereotypes.

This is the short version of what I have to say today. The long version is a bit more complex.

The two boxes I mentioned are an example of the thing called dichotomy. We try to understand something, in this case gender, by dividing it into two categories. These categories are defined by each other: To be a man is to not be a woman, and to be a woman is to not be a man.

While such dichotomies make it easy to get a quick overview, it is easy to get stuck in them. In this case, reducing all human to your stereotypes about what it means to be a man or woman respectively.

Generally speaking, dichotomy is that something is “either A or B”. For example assuming that every person is either a man or a woman, and either a child or an adult. In reality, parameters such as gender and maturity are sliding scales. Any person who refuse to see this will have a very hard time handling individuals who don’t fit their stereotypes of what it means to belong to one of these categories.

Richard Dawkin has named this phenomenon “the tyranny of the discontinuous mind”. Yet another article I’m including in the description of this video. However, the phrase “the tyranny of the discontinuous mind” is too long and cumbersome. Therefore, I call it dichotomism instead. For simplicity. Dichotomism is to get stuck in dichotomies.

Another such “ism” word I often use is Categorism. At the core, Transphobia, Misogyny, Homophobia, and Paraphobia are all the same thing. The same thing as each other, and the same thing as Racism and Sexism. They are different focuses of this same phenomenon: They are prejudice, discrimination, bigotry, marginalization, dichotomism, and so on against a certain category of people, or based on a certain categorization of people. In these cases against the categories trans people, women, homosexuals and other sexual minorities respectively. Or, in the case of racism and sexism, based on the categorization of race and gender respectively.

However. While different forms of categorism are the same basic thing, they often work a bit differently. Homophobia and misogyny are about in-group an out-group. It’s about dividing people in dichotomies and then putting one side on a pedestal. Heterosexuals being better than homosexuals, men being better than women.

Male chauvinists tend to define themselves against women. They have a narrow-minded misogynistic vision of gender. A vision that is so narrow that it leaves no room at all for trans people and gender-queer people.

Likewise. Heterosexists tend to define themselves against homosexuals. They have a narrow-minded homophobic vision of sexuality. A vision that is so narrow that it leaves no room at all for sexual minorities such as fetischists and people who are into BDSM. Minorities sometimes referred to as “paraphilias”, hence the word paraphobia.

Gender and sexuality intersects a lot, and heteronormativity is based on the same gender stereotypes as sexism. We can’t divide people into heterosexuals and homosexuals if we don’t divide them into men and women first. Therefore, heterosexism often includes quite a bit of misogyny or misandry or both. As well of the inability to comprehend the existence of trans people. A wide definition of heteronormativity includes narrow norms for gender identity, and monogamy, as well as limiting and reducing sexuality to being a matter of male on female penetration.

In my opinion, this wide definition is reasonable. I know that some people want to limit the concept of heteronormtivity to the cases where it excludes monogamous, vanilla, cis-gender homosexuals. This limitation is very useful for making these particular homosexuals appear more normal, at the expense of the polyamorous, the sexually kinky, the transgender, the gender-queer, and so on.

What I’m trying to explain here is a system where transgender people are excluded: Not just by being the unfavored side of the dichotomy, but being outside of the dichotomy altogether.

People make up a lot of negative stereotypes against homosexuals or in some cases heterosexuals. Against women and against men.

They do this because the other orientation or gender is on their mental map. It is not only on it, but it is a major landmark for how they understand themselves. For example identifying as heterosexual men, telling themselves that the very essence of their identity is to not be gay and not be female.

While a lot of people identify as heterosexual and male or female, I don’t think a lot of people identify themselves as cis-gender. Not yet, anyway. It will probably come more and more, as trans people and gender-queer people become more and more visible. But for now, trans people is not something that the narrow-minded in general define themselves against. Instead, it is something entirely outside the realm of their comprehension.

They can imagine themselves to be staring into the abyss. Further imagining themselves to discover, that the abyss is staring back. And that it has teeth. This nightmare of theirs has nothing to do with reality. Nevertheless, it is surely very real inside the minds that spawn it.

The article that prompted me to make this video describe how movies accuse trans people of being predators who emotionally harm cis-gender heterosexual men. However. While these movies do point fingers at trans people, I don’t think they actually *portray* trans people at all. Instead, it takes a “predatory male” stereotype, and slaps a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” or even “incomprehensible chaos spawn alien” template on top of it. In other words, they use stereotypes not to try to “explain” trans people, as they would explain homosexuals by homophobic stereotypes. Instead, they try to explain *away* trans people, creating a narrative where the trans people are problematic without even really existing.

To eradicate transphobia, we need to eradicate the dichotomism that fuels it: The delusion that mankind exists solely as a cis-gender dichotomy between the male and the female.

Transwomen are simply women who happens to not be cis-gender. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. But to understand this simplicity, you must first come to peace with the fact that gender itself is more complicated than a simple dichotomy. There is no abyss. And therefore, no teeth.

Last night I had a rather annoying little nightmare. But first, some background. The day before yesterday, I learned something rather upsetting from the Jakarta Post. Since Indonesia has six state religions and Indonesian schools have a lot of religion education, I had taken for granted that all children get to learn about all six state religions.

The day before yesterday, I learned that this is not the case. On the contrary, all children learn only about the religion of their parents. They are actually barred from learning about the other five state religions!

What if a child’s mother and father belong to different religions? Well, then the child is probably not allowed to go to school in the first place: The parents are not permitted to get married without one of them changing religion first, the hospitals are reluctant to give birth certificates to the children of unmarried parents, and schools are getting stricter and stricter with demanding birth certificate from the students. If the child gets to go to school, he or she will still count as the illegitimate child of one of the parents (usually the mother) and be defined as belonging to her religion.

So, anyway. Each child gets to learn only about the religion that the child is considered to belong to. Not learning anything about the other religions. And the education is all about making the children believe in the religion. Thus, including children of other religions could be seen as an attempt to make them convert to that religion.

This was news to me when I read about it I The Jakarta Post, so I asked several of my Indonesian friends and coworkers about it. They all confirmed that yes, that’s the way it works here. And they have never really given it any thought, because to them it’s simply how things are. One of them had even taken for granted that it works the same way in Sweden, and in all other countries. It does not. On the contrary, religion class in Swedish schools teaches about all religions. This is considered important, because if we don’t know about a religion we will be prejudiced and suspicious against the people who follow it.

This was also the main point of the article in Jakarta Post: If the current system doesn’t outright make people prejudiced and hateful against each other (which it probably does), then it still fails to help them overcome prejudice. The children need to learn about all religions, and learn in a way that teaches ABOUT the religion rather than teaching IN the religion. Trying to convert them to six different religions at once would indeed be confusing and pointless, but they need to know about what others believe. Know about it in a neutral way, not a way that portray one culture or religion as being superior or inferior to any other.

Dividing people, making them identify with their own group and keeping them from knowing about the other group… There have been so many psychological experiments that has proven that this is a sure way to create conflict and mistreatment, a sure way to make people mistrust and dislike each other. It goes against the basic teachings of Pancasila, the national philosophy of Indonesia. This country is trying it best to live up to its motto of “Unity In Diversity” and to be a good democracy. Why would such a democracy create a destructive system like this. Well, to put it simply: It didn’t.

As I asked around about the origins of the policy, I was told it was created by the Suharto regime. The bad old dictatorship, ruling by “Divide and conquer”. It stayed in power by turning its victims against each other, and this education policy was one of its tools for that. However, Suharto and his lackeys didn’t cook this up on their own. The colonial regime laid the groundwork. Not only for the use of “Divide and conquer” policies as such but also of misusing religion education as a way of dividing the people. I the colonial regime, their lackeys went to catholic schools and learned only about Catholicism, while the most of the people didn’t get to go to school at all. Some boys (but not girls, until Kartini) were allowed to attend Islamic pesantren schools, where they learned only about Islam.

Please note that except for the part about Kartini, the entire last paragraph is just hearsay. Things I have recently heard from various people who I have reason to believe that they know what they are talking about. I would like to know more about these issues, and I’ll keep looking for more information on these topics. Your opinions, experiences and any credible written sources you provide are all much appreciated.

Back to my own life. Yesterday I told one of my friends about the article in Jakarta Post. But we were sitting in a restaurant, so she simply asked me to change the subject. Afterwards she explained that education of religion is a sensitive topic, so she had been afraid that some other visitor would overhear us and launch a physical attack for talking about such a topic.

The night between today and yesterday, I dreamt that I was defending someone in court. It didn’t matter who I defended or from what charges, this was just business as usual. However, the prosecutor refused to talk about the case. Instead, he built his argument on trying to convince the jury that I am worthless and evil, so if I’m defending someone then it must mean that this someone is guilty. It didn’t matter to the prosecutor who I was or who I defended from what charges, this was just business as usual.

Waking up from this dream, I was feeling very tired of my life. It has been very long since the last time I felt that way. The problem is that the dream is true. To challenge the expressions of categorism – prejudice, bigotry, discrimination, marginalization, certain kinds of conspiracy theories and so on – is to make oneself a target.

When you question categorism, people will attack. And they will not attack your arguments, since they would not win an honest debate. People who cling to their expressions of categorism will say that they are right because you are evil (or any specific label they bother to come up with) and that they are right because they will beat your worthless little head into ground meat. Some who use this method will use it to persuade themselves and others that they are right and that you are wrong. Others will not bother with getting emotionally involved. They will simply go through the motions because it gives them power or because it is the job they are expected to do.

Many will also try their best to avoid finding out what your position is: If you are not with them then you are against them. There are always a lot of conflicts where people on both sides will demand that everyone hate the other side. If you argue against this, aggressive people on both sides will take for granted that you are secretly a member of the other side. In Sweden, it is currently becoming more and more mainstream to hate either Jews or Muslims. People who fight against antisemitism will spread antimuslimism, and vice versa. And if you don’t share the hatred, you will be labeled as a “Kulturmarxist” (“Cultural Marxist”), a word invented by Hitler’s Nazi Party.

This week, my future has seemed so clear. And it still is. The dream was an important reminder that the path I have chosen includes having to deal with a lot of bullshit. Hatred, personal attacks, accusations of all kinds, and so on. But it doesn’t change anything. I already knew that I need a strong network of allies, and I have that already. It just has to keep growing stronger. And I already knew that I need to be careful to minimize the risks and to pick my battlegrounds. I am trying to do that, within reason. Limiting my life or work simply because some people might take offence or find an excuse to attack me is to give them power they don’t deserve. I don’t want to distribute more than necessary of such rotten power. The balance is a thin line to always walk on.

Most importantly, we should all try to understand each other and dare to talk about things. We need mutual respect, not merely “I won’t tell you how much I hate you, and I expect you to shut up as well”. Knowing about different faiths and systems of belief is a good start.

Every child has the right to exist and have this existence recognized. Every child must get a birth certificate from the government of the country in which they live. In Indonesia, this right is not upheld. The country fails to provide birth certificates for many of its children. Yet, the birth certificate is mandatory for going to school as well as for getting an ID card or passport.

A few weeks ago, I found out about this problem, and wrote a blog post about it. Since then I have researched the issue some more. The issue is extremely interesting. It is a very destructive and powerful oppression, while looking like a minor administrative glitch. It also looks so neutral and “same system for everyone”, while actually being several kinds of discrimination at once:

1. Discrimination based on class, as a matter of information asymmetry: Well educated people who are socially established and know how the system works can get birth certificates for their children free of charge, others cannot.

2. Discrimination based on class, in a purely economical way: The above problem can easily be compensated for, as long as you or your parents have enough money – on a scale that is entirely out of reach for most of the ordinary people.

3. Discrimination based on religion: If a man and a woman start a family, they will not be allowed to marry each other if they do not belong to the same religion. And if they are not married to each other, it is often much harder for the children to get birth certificates.

4. Discrimination based on sexual orientation: Gays and lesbians are not allowed to marry. Even if they were, it wouldn’t help much, since it’s not enough to be married. For a child to be considered “legitimate”, the father and the mother need to be married to each other.

5. Discrimination of children whose parents does not have their best interests at heart, or have a very misguided idea about what those interests are. The system relies on the assumption that since the child needs a birth certificate, the parents will want to provide it. However, this is not always the case.

6. Most likely also a structural discrimination against women. The fifth discrimination above is far likelier to victimize girls than boys, for three reasons. Some people consider girls to be less valuable than boys, prefer that girls don’t get an education, and/or wish to control the physical location of “their” women.

The first four points are built into the system itself. They are challenges faced by well-meaning parents who want all their children to have a good education and so on. The system punishes the children if their parents don’t have enough knowledge, don’t have enough money, or doesn’t live in a way preferred by the government. However, the system also relies on the assumption that parents always care and always want their children to have access to education and freedom of movement. This is not always the case. Thus, the fifth point is self-evident.

As for the sixth point, I have strong indications that this is a real problem. However, I do not yet have any conclusive evidence that a systematic gender-based discrimination is actually happening. My next step will be to find more reports that have already been written on this subject, and to talk with more organizations that are already involved in the issue. No need to discover the wheel all over again.

For the future, I plan to do my own research on this subject. When I return from Indonesia to Sweden, my first big project will be my Master Thesis in Human Rights Studies. It will be on the subject of categorism. After that, I will work on a Master Thesis in Sociology while I start looking for a PhD program. The Sociology Thesis will be on the subject of birth certificates in Indonesia.

Until yesterday, I had assumed that my PhD studies would focus on categorism, on a theoretical level. The Sociology Thesis was only meant as a platform to get Swedish NGO:s involved in the birth certificate issue. Well, that and that I wanted to apply my knowledge to a specific issue. The discriminations surrounding birth certificate issue has a lot of aspects on how people are categorized, how they are made invisible rather than openly categorized, how they are treated based on this categorization or invisibility, and so on.

However, last evening the vice president of the organization I work for advised me take the birth certificate issue for my PhD studies. I think this could be a very good idea. While I plan to explore the theoretical aspects of categorism further in the future, it might work best as a secondary focus for my PhD rather than the primary one. Having a specific issue as primary focus would have many advantages.

As my final words for today, I would like to end with a quote from the newspaper Jakarta Globe. In Indonesia, all children must attend school. Nine years of education is compulsory, just like in Sweden. Yet, millions of Indonesian children are barred from entering school, on the basis that they do not have a birth certificate. So, why has the Government made having a birth certificate a requirement for being allowed to participate in school? The reason given in an interview with the newspaper is, as follows:

We push this because we need to make sure that children aged 7, for example, should immediately be sent to school. […] We want to make sure that their names are correctly spelled on their school certificates, because this is important for further education.

Every child should have the right to understand the world. To get a overview glimpse of mankind’s knowledge of how everything works. When you have a basic understanding of how the world around you actually works, it increases your chances of adequately handling the way you live in.

Sadly, there are many ways the nations of the world can fail to deliver this empowerment to our children. As I see it, there are three main failures in this area: Failing to provide education, failure to give natural science it’s proper place, and finally failing to give a comprehendable overview of what natural science knows.

Failing to provide education at all
In some countries, girls get executed for wanting to go to school. In other countries, many children don’t have access to school. Either because public schools doesn’t exist, or because they are actually not available for all the children.

Failure to give natural science it’s proper place
In many schools around the world, children are fed the lie that physical reality is a matter of opinion. A matter of what you believe, or who you believe. Thus, the physical world itself also becomes a matter of loyalty. Are your parents fundamentalist Christians who believe in Creationism? Very well then: The Universe is 6.000 years old, and if you say otherwise it means that you are disrespecting your parents. Telescopes around the globe are picking up starlight that has spent billions of years traveling from distant galaxies, but these teachers believe that it would be ”disrespectful” to allow the children to know such truths.

Knowledge about culture and religion is important, but it needs to be kept separately from science. They are different fields, different kinds of knowledge, and they are about different levels of reality in the first place.

Children has to the right to know what physics, chemistry and biology tells us about the world. They have a right to know that this knowledge is based on evidence and research, not on belief and opinion. They also have a right to know the meaning of concepts such as evidence and research: It should not be empty words.

Finally, teaching about natural science must be about understanding: It must be about giving all the kids a basic understanding of the world they live in.

Sadly, many seem to miss this basic goal of physics, chemistry and biology. Instead, they see it as a mere tool for turning some kids into useful engineers, doctors and scientists. Based on this worldview, teaching the rest of the kids about the physical world looks like a waste of time. However, this worldview is inhumane, antidemocratic and self-defeating.

Inhumane, because it deprive the children of their rightful chance to understand the world. Antidemocratic, because democracy is not merely about the procedure of voting. For democracy to truly flourish, we need informed voters with a good understanding of all levels of their situation. This requires good education as well as a free press and so on. Self-defeating, because if you fail to give the children the spark of curiosity in science, much fewer of them will grow up with a true passion for these important fields.

Failing to give a comprehendable overview
What the children need is a basic overview. To understand the big picture, how the whole thing works. They don’t need to comprehend the details. Sadly, science class is often about pushing the kids into details that are boring and bound to fail anyway. Children don’t need to try to calculate physics equations, what they need is to learn what these equations are and what they does.

Earlier today I was shown a very beautiful youtube video. It was ”The Universe in a Nutshell” by Dr. Michio Kaku. This video is what physics class should be like. Actually, this is what physics class should be! Let the children see the video, or at least the first 30 minutes of it, and discuss. That would be well spent time. This particular video may not be perfect for children in itself, but it has the perfect attitude. They can get the general idea from it, an overview of how things work. Videos and books in the same spirit, made for children, could be even better. The Magic Of Reality is probably one such book. I would like to read it. Judging from what I have heard about it I want all schoolchildren in the world to read it as well.

Two days ago, I had a very interesting but upsetting conversation with some coworkers. They informed me that if a child is born by parents who are not married to each other, the hospital will not give the child a proper birth certificate. Without the birth certificate, the child might not be allowed to go to school. Having reached adulthood, there will still be problems with getting an ID card or passport, thus making it hard to for example vote or leave the country.

Oh, and by the way. A little detail. If the parents come from different religions… they are not allowed to marry each other. Sure, you can change your religion esaily, if your social situation allows that. And if you have enough money, you can also fly to another country and get married there instead. So, there are ways around all these problems… assuming you belong to the elite, not the general population.

Yesterday I went out shopping with one of my friends. I asked her about this issue. She said that she’s one of the many who has this problem. She managed to sneak through school on empty promises to show them her birth certificate soon. Grew up knowing that she was not really allowed to go to school, that she only got her education by pretending. She later managed to get an ID card somehow. Getting a passport is out of her reach, however.

Today I met a man from the American Embassy. I hope he’s okay: The religious fundamentalists attacked the embassy later in the day and had a big battle with the police. Anyway, we talked a bit about this birth certificate issue. He’ll send me some report they have written. I also plan to have a serious talk with Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association and some other organizations, learn all I can about this issue. See what projects and campaigns are going on about this and see if I can help.

The current system, or lack thereof, really seem to be one huge injustice. Stigmatizing unmarried couples is bad enough. But taking it out on the children, who had no say or choice in the matter… 😦