Why do we attack others? Because we fear. Why do we do personal attacks? Because we fear. Why do we fight at all? Because we fear.
But it’s also because we believe. Believe an idea, believe in a person, believe in our self.
Recently, the topic of faith has been capturing my full attention. An atheist was jailed for 30 months because he was “deliberately spreading information inciting religious hatred and animosity,” proclaimed judge Eka Prasetya Budi Dharma at a court in western Sumatra. Alexander Aan, 30, reportedly wrote “God doesn’t exist” on his Facebook page and eventually started his own atheistic movement on the social media by posting political cartoons. By this, he was arrested and beaten out of the public’s fury.
“What he did has caused anxiety to the community and tarnished Islam,” explained Dharma. Anxiety over what, exactly?
Let’s take a brief look back at Pancasila according to Soekarno’s speech, “The Birth of Indonesia”, back in 1945:
Belief in the one and only God, (Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa).
Just and civilized humanity, (Kemanusiaan Yang Adil dan Beradab).
The unity of Indonesia, (Persatuan Indonesia).
Democracy guided by the inner wisdom in the unanimity arising out of deliberations amongst representatives (Kerakyatan Yang Dipimpin oleh Hikmat Kebijaksanaan, Dalam Permusyawaratan dan Perwakilan)
Social justice for all of the people of Indonesia (Keadilan Sosial bagi seluruh Rakyat Indonesia)
Right then and there President Soekarno declared our government’s basis on monotheistic values, which have, over time, rooted interfaith issues that only keeps growing by the year. As the most populous nation of other Muslim-majority countries (90% of total population), Indonesia’s faith community is comprised of as many as 5 other religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Catholicism, Protestantism, and Confucianism. Not all of these faiths are monotheistic by nature, but the stronghold of our young nation was faith itself – a belief that our nation can stand alone to become one of the most powerful economies in the world.
The idealistic vision of Sukarno back then, as I imagine it, would be a strong nation led by its people because of interfaith relations, not in spite of. Essentially Sukarno puts his confidence in all generations after him to understand each other’s faith through increased tolerance with one another, so as we can better implement richer ideas to the nation’s empowerment and its goodwill. Presently, however, we all know that his vision had almost died in vain.
We can still prevent this from happening, as long as we keep believing in the vision of our founding father. As in the case of Aan’s arrest, and also for the general rise of atheist communities in recent times, I believe they spurt because of the increased radicalism and simply the blind refusal to regard other neighboring faiths. Our central focus has been our differences instead of our shared values, thus forgetting the commonwealth purpose to develop a solid, harmonious country. This is harmful for the nation’s psyche.
More and more people of different faiths attack one another. To the general public’s eye, these “fanatics” have zero tolerance for other faiths but their own. For fear that one could lose one’s “obsession”, one attacks another different than his own to blindly “save” oneself from other false gods – this fear have only increased within all faith communities, prolonging our interfaith conditions to remain as probing national issue instead of a sanction. We’ve forgotten that all theistic beliefs, no matter how different, was embedded within the Indonesian psyche since the nation’s foundation.
In the midst of this growing fear and all the hatred amongst differing faiths, the Indonesian Board of Mosques (DMI) can only preach religious institutions to focus on building constructive communities. “Mosques should not fall into the hands of those who want to send provocative messages that could incite violence and terrorism,” said Vice President Boediono.
My faith lies in the original vision of a peaceful nation – no bombings, killings, and other fights concerning the ill-treatment and disrespect toward other faiths than our own.
Mental health experts are beginning to understand that anxiety does not necessarily mean a warning for more worries to come. They discovered that how anxiety affects us depends on how we perceive the stresses in our lives: Do you take it as a “challenge” or break it down as a “threat”? “Anxiety itself is neither helpful nor hurtful,” says Sally Winston, co-director of the Anxiety and Stress Disorders Institute of Maryland. “It’s your response to your anxiety that is helpful or hurtful.” Scholars suggests that simply not feeling anxious isn’t the answer. In fact, people who have too little stress suffers as much physiological damage as those who experienced too much psychological stress.
Common sense suggests that the quieter your life gets, the happier you’ll become. However, in modern-day lifestyles, stress is inevitable. Stress is an integral part of our lives, and women, who are more prone to illnesses as they age compared to men, should accept that challenge and manage their anxieties better to prevent, or, at least delay those fatal diseases caused by their inability to cope with stress, which is learned helplessness in disguise. In a sense, stress itself has a sweet spot. Through proper diet, consistent exercise, and adequate rest, a woman enhances her overall well-being alongside the passion for her work. But first, let’s examine the emerging theory behind the symptoms of clinical depression.
Learned helplessness is a formal term to indicate “the perceived absence of control over the outcome of a situation”, as defined by positive psychology pioneer Martin Seligman in his book “Helplessness: On Depression, Development, and Death”. A widely respected finding among his peers, psychologists have now understood that the more people perceive outside events are unpredictable and uncontrollable, the more stress they will experience, and the less hope they feel to making changes in their lives. Recently the National Institute of Mental Health researchers have published a study in Nature that may link chronic stress, now an everyday experience for most of us, as a lead to depression. The area of the brain that’s responsible for healthy stress response can be damaged if the woman is experiencing chronic stress. The hippocampus, where new brain cells can grow, is inhibited when a person responds slower to triggers of stress over time.
“One way to think about neurogenesis is that it’s a process in the brain that allows you to adapt to changing environments,” said Rene Hen, a researcher at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. “In stressful environments where you have lower neurogenesis, this may be adapting to the fact that when you are in a stressful situation, it’s better to stay put.”
In such harsh economic times and stressful working life today, it’s better to develop resilience rather than staying put and backing out of all the things life has been throwing at you. That is, accepting life’s biggest challenges but knowing when to stop when things are too big for you to handle, especially alone.
Nearly half of the American population, about 100 million people, are unmarried, according to the Census Bureau. “But a huge proportion of the population is unmarried, and the single population is only going to grow,” said Naomi Gerstel, a sociologist at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. “At the same time, all the movement nationally is to offer benefits to those who are married, and that leaves single people dry.”
As women, we feel a stronger pressure to marry at a certain age. Although research shows that unmarried people are the ones who contribute more to their society, studies repeatedly show that these singletons tend to die younger than married ones. A new study published on the American Journal of Epidemiology concluded that compared to married women, single ones face a 23% higher mortality risk across their lifetime, and 32% for the single men compared to the married men. Aside from that, marriage actually alters your hormones so that you, by default, experience reduced stress in the long run.
Naturally, two heads are better than one. As both a homemaker and passionate worker, poor health can get in the way of living our highest potential. Not only does finding meaning outside the home and being engaged with the community challenge a woman to be psychologically more resilient, but long-term commitment with a man provides women support too, and in return, taking good personal care becomes more meaningful, especially when children comes in to the picture.
Working mothers are reportedly happier and healthier than stay-at-home moms, concluded a study in December 2011 issue of Journal of Family Psychology. Cheryl Buehler, professor of human development and family studies at University of North Carolina at Greensboro studied how work impacts the well-being of mothers and their parenting based on three areas: sensitivity toward their children, involvement in their kids’ schools, and learning opportunities that these mothers provide their kids (books, enrichment courses, library and museum visits).
Her results matched previous researches that part-time working moms reported less work-family conflict than full-time working moms. Full-timers did not report more depression or worse health than moms who works one hour a week, so this does not suggest full-timers have lower well-being and poorer health than the part-timers. Apparently 32-hour workweek mothers are able to cope with stress as they are juggling with family life. One theory for the function of employment is to increase social skills and gain awareness of their community and the surroundings. “Maybe that translates to the experience they bring to their children,” says Buehler.
However, this is not to say that supermoms are better off than stay-at-home moms. The key is to keep the amount of stress manageable without compromising too much, as low to moderate amount of stress is necessary for healthy growth. After all, stress within control develops the person’s abilities to cope over time, providing a more established support to deal with stress and makes future adversity less worrisome. Way back in the hunter-gatherer days when a woman’s role is child-rearing and to perform “easy” tasks such as gather plants and other small foods, the deserts were an unsafe and most likely a threatening environment. It was far better to stay put than for a pregnant lady to hunt for food out there in the jungle. However, times have changed. Anxiety is within control, and most of us working behind the computer screens and sitting comfortably on our chairs are within safe grounds, while others choose to accept juggling everything at once – tackling deadlines, picking up phone calls, and eating junk food in between tasks. These challenges take a huge toll for the brain and the body, especially for these supermoms, who are better of spending those extra hours to nap or do light aerobics instead.
Laura Vanderkam, author of “168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think”, is a happy, healthy mom who has a flexible working time and therefore the hours to prioritize her kids. Before having children, she thought the start of it would ruin her career, and she would have no time to exercise and enjoy sex. “Yes, life often takes more planning when kids are involved, but planning ahead is a great way to make sure things get done,” she then suggested. “If you don’t have good time management skills before having kids, life will definitely be chaotic afterwards, but that’s not really the kids’ fault.” She did not give up her job to be a full-time mom, nor did she overthink the difficulty to raise children. Neither are a threat, as she perceived them as her personal challenge. In fact, she’s ran a marathon and had a vacation in India after she became a mom.
“I never would have written my book if I hadn’t had my son, and now my book is opening doors for me, professionally,” Vanderkam told The Happiest Mom. “Which means, by the transitive property, that my baby opened doors for me, professionally. That makes me a happy mom!”
Indeed, the sweet spot of stress enables us to handle our work, children, and sex life into perfect balance, women. There’s nothing threatening about finding meaning outside closed doors.
Last week, on July 12 to 16, an exhibition dedicated to traditional Javanese batik cloth took place at the Embassy of Indonesia at Washington, D.C. The American Batik Design Competition showcased a vast collection of the rich heritage Indonesian batik brought to world history and how it has fused with contemporary western-influenced garments. With its theme titled “The Spirit of America in the Heritage of Batik”, the competition challenged artists to illustrate the American innovation by making original design pieces in the backdrop of traditional Indonesia, highlighting the archipelago’s batik culture.
The Indonesian Embassy at Washington had “American Batik” in mind, a new design concept that aims to strengthen U.S. and Indonesian ties and foster cultural cooperation between the two nations, says Indonesian ambassador Dino Patti Djahal.
Listed as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in October 2009, UNESCO acknowledged the batik and its cultural implications to preserve the rich Indonesian heritage, alongside the wayang (shadow puppet play) and kris (ceremonial dagger) in previous years and the angklung (bamboo musical instrument) just last year. “Batik is regarded as a cultural icon with its own uniqueness,” said Aburizal Bakrie, coordinating minister for the People’s Welfare. “It contains symbols and a deep philosophy of the human life cycle — and it was submitted by Indonesia as a non-material element of cultural heritage.” For a developing nation like Indonesia, earning such an honor was only the beginning for its economy.
Since its recognition as a world-class cultural preservation, batik gained popularity in the fashion industry, flaunting its artistic beauty as a commodity for global outreach. Indonesian administrators has been encouraging Indonesians to wear batik on Fridays. Workers in the private sectors and government officials alike put on batik on a daily basis. The casual mall rat, the youth generation, and everyone else walking around the streets of Indonesia, is wearing the batik again.
It has, essentially, identified the Indonesians.
A typical Yogajakartan white background motif. Photo from blinkyogya.blogspot.com
You can easily find batik (and fabrics with its patterns) all over the archipelago. It first appeared in Java, where dark-colored motifs evolved into a local favorite. Today, every region in Indonesia has a batik signature of its own. Just as we see the white background batiks everywhere in Yogyakarta, we can also spot the vivid colors enlivening the northeastern coasts of Indonesia.
Batik historically uses wax-resist dyeing decoration technique, which is ultimately a painstaking process of dipping linens into wax, then dyeing them. It’s a traditional art form invented when the first civilizations came into existence in the world. Samples of it can be found all across the ancient Orient. However, none has been found as highly developed a fabric was as the batik in Central Java. Patterns and motifs of the traditional batik were woven so intricately that they can only show how those figures have structured a unique civilization richly-ingrained in the traditional Javanese life.
Even though batik’s development was largely influenced by the Hindu culture, Indonesian archaeologist F. A. Sutjipto believes that the Indonesian batik is a native tradition. Original materials found in batik-making are widespread throughout the archipelago, notably the root of morinda tinctoria tree, processed into red dyes. Other ornaments include the skin of soga tree, the damar kucing, the bee wax, and other plants and animals found throughout the Indonesian islands.
Sutjipto’s studies provided numerous evidence that the batik-making tradition formally took shape through local roots. Tracing back to the early 17th century, he found early roots of the modern batik culture during the reign of Islamic Mataram, just after the Hindu-Buddha kingdoms were replaced by Islamic rulers. This era popularized the present notion of batik reserved exclusively for powerful people reckoned with nobility and placed in higher social standing. During traditional Javanese ceremonies, one could tell the royal lineage of a person by the clothe he or she was wearing, as wider stripes or wavy lines of greater width indicated higher rank, or “clothe maketh man,” so they say.
In the early 19th century, batik began rising to international fame. During the colonial era, the Dutch had profound influence in batik-making ever since merchant Van Rijckevorsel stepped foot on the lands of Indonesia. He brought his batik collections back to the Netherlands and this has exposed its beauty to the westerner’s eye. Consequently, batik has impressed art patrons and the general European public alike, as exporters continued reinventing original prints according to the European taste. Through this cultural assimilation, batik evolved into a valuable Indonesian legacy as it quickly gains a new international appeal.
Entering the age of industrialization, these new breeds of batik officially popularized the batik print, which emerged from the invention of automated techniques and machineries. To reduce the cost of the fabric, patterns have been mass-produced repetitively, thus increasing its volume of production, while the old dyeing technique became simply known as batik tulis, or literally, written batik.
According to professor Michael Hitchcock at the University of Chichester in the UK, batik has “a strong political dimension”. His doctorate research in Eastern Indonesia while attending Oxford University instilled him a keen interest in the batik culture. Recently, he stated that “the batik shirt was invented as a formal non-Western shirt for men in Indonesia in the 1960s, not long after the country’s birth.” He commented on the long-running cultural dispute between Indonesia and Malaysia, saying that batik served as a radical political statement for Indonesians, because the nation was a major member in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a list of 118 developing countries that came together representing the political, economic, and cultural interests of the developing world. Malaysia, however, was a former British colony that did not really fight for its freedom, he said to The Telegraph.
This fashion statement has somewhat revived in the 21st century since it waned in the 1960s. Some called it a renaissance of the old days, but others in the fashion world are reinventing batik from a traditional symbol and revolutionizing its meaning into a much stronger national identity.
A batik fashion show showcasing fashion designer Denny Wirawan. Photo from Asia Society.
Currently, in Indonesia, batik is the new black.
“Since this batik craze began my business has continued to grow,” said Lala Gozali to The Jakarta Globe. The owner of Gianti Creation, an original line known for combining modern designs with traditional motifs, has reportedly earned monthly profits up to Rp. 40 million (USD 4,400) since it first launched in 2003. By collecting batik and making clothes out of them, she has not only earned a luxurious living through her thriving business, but lived her passion for preserving the Indonesian heritage through her priceless collection of traditional woven fabrics. Some traditional colors, originally brought about from natural dyes, are indigo, dark brown, and white, depicting the Indonesian’s religious influences of Hinduism. These colors represent the three Hindu gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva respectively.
The trimurti of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Shiva. Image from Krishna Darshan Art Gallery on Stephen Knapp's website.
Over years of its development, the Indonesian treasure and its worldwide cultural expansion welcomes a variety of influences to its motifs, with each region adopting different approaches to their own artistic taste. Pattern designs of batik in indigenous regions are inspired by a wide range of foreign motifs, as we can normally see the fabrics imprinted with Arabic calligraphy, Indian peacocks, Japanese cherry blossoms, Chinese birds, and other embellishments representing a particular ethnic identity.
“Nowadays, batik artists are too lazy to learn and read about local culture, and this will jeopardize the future fate of batik, because Hardjono and Iwan found their ways through reading and learning,” said Soedarmadji Damais, co-author of “Java Style” during recent month-long batik exhbition at the Jakarta Textile Museum.
Damais was referring to two batik maestros, Solo-based Hardjono Go Tik Swan, and Iwan Tirta, ambassador of the Indonesian batik.
From May 31 to June 25, the exhibition displayed 150 batik collections belonged to the museum and some of the most reckoned batik enthusiasts, including Tatiek Fauzi Bowo, wife of the Jakarta governor, Pia Allisyahbana, founder of Femina magazine, and Meutia Hatta Swasono, former minister of the national organization empowering women and children (Menteri Pemberdayaan Perempuan dan Perlindungan Anak Indonesia). The exhibition promoted the role and history of batik as it is ascending the world stage through fashion, but more importantly, it was purported to raise awareness among the youth population on how it played a significant part in Indonesia’s evolutionary identity since the day the nation claimed independence. “People, especially younger generations, need to know the symbolic meaning of batik as well as the important figures from the history,” Tatiek addressed during the exhibition. It’s no wonder Indonesian gained new pride in wearing batik, traditionally worn for special occasions but now a norm in everyday fashion.
Singapore Airlines stewardess uniform. Photo from Wikipedia.
Like Tatiek, fellow batik collector Ann Dunham, better known as the late mother of United States president Barack Obama, participated in the effort to promote Indonesia’s heritage and its significance. In 2009, Dunham’s textile batik art collection went into national tour for the two-week exhibition A Lady Found a Culture in its Cloth: Barack Obama’s Mother and Indonesian Batiks. It toured around six museums in the United States and made a final stop at The Textile Museum in Washington, D.C., giving a looking window to Americans while taking them back to the richness of traditional Javanese culture, as fabricated in these vibrant textiles.
One popular example of batik’s international appeal is its influence on world-class flight carrier Singapore Airlines – their iconic Singapore Girl uniform in a Sarong Kebaya. Designed by Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain, the goal of 1972 Singapore Airlines (SIA) marketing campaign was to project a cultural reflection of the Asian heritage, symbolizing the Asian grace and hospitality in its cabin service. The Singapore Girl took over passengers hearts and won the Outstanding Contribution to Tourism Award in March 2004 for the 18th Singapore Tourism Board’s annual tourism awards. SIA also took pride after ongoing achievements in their service, now widely knowns as the best airline in the world. To note, they are recently named as the World’s Best Business Class Airline at the 2011 World Wide Airline Awards.
What we can look forward now is the biennial batik exhibition attracting batik aficionados from all over the world.
Indonesia will hold the World Batik Summit 2011 at the Jakarta Convention Center (JCC) on September 28 to October 2. “The event is expected to attract international’s interest towards batik,” says founder of Batik Indonesia Dipo Alam to ANTARA news. The summit aimed to establish a strong networking community between batik makers and its lovers around the world. Through such treasured artistic and cultural legacy, the Indonesian Batik Committee is set to establish the nation as the “Global Home of Batik” within the world community. This summit is a gateway for foreigners to enjoy immersing oneself into the deepest roots of Indonesian culture. Event attendees are sure to experience batik’s enduring charms like no other place in the world can give.
Indonesia, according to the World Bank, is still considered as a developing country. Recently, the bank also estimates that 7 million Indonesians join the middle-income group every year, showing that Indonesia’s economy has improved significantly in the past few years.
The World Economic Forum’s 2010-2011 Global Competitiveness Report showed a two-rank decline in the United States’ economic performance, falling to the fourth position behind Switzerland, Sweden, and Singapore. Due to its high fertility rate, the U.S. is still the most prominent industrialized nation that is expected to grow throughout the next generations, filling in an adequate replacement level in the workforce.
However, when population is imbalanced, fewer youth population can work and help a nation’s economy to thrive, and more elderly people need social support. “There will be an unprecedented number of people who will be the old old. That’s more people to be cared for but fewer people to fill jobs,” explained Carl Haub, senior demographer of the Population Reference Bureau to USA Today.
Out of the 139 countries listed, Indonesia was ranked 44th, 10 places ahead from the previous year, thanks to better education and a healthier macroeconomic environment. Due to Indonesia’s huge population growth and the expansion of the middle class population, we are increasingly showing that we’re competitive as a developing nation.
“Indonesia now compares favorably with the BRICs, with the notable exception of China (27th). Indonesia precedes India (51st), South Africa (54th), Brazil (59th), and Russia (63rd)”, cites the report. Measured with the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI), the annual report is based on twelve pillars of competitiveness: institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic environment, health and primary education are the basic indicators for economies to grow. Higher education and training, goods market efficiency, labour market efficiency, financial market development, technological readiness, and market size are economic measures of a nation’s capacity to thrive. Business sophistication and innovation are two transitional elements required for any nation to cultivate new ways to expand its economy.
Currently, more than 3 billion people reside in the BRIC nations, covering about 45% of the world’s total population. Early this month, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said that Indonesia ranked 5th in population growth rate after India, China, Nigeria, and Pakistan, with 4 million babies born every year and roughly 700,000 deaths per year. By 2060, Indonesia’s population could exceed that of America if the population control programs remain ineffective, said National Demographic Family Planning Agency (BKKBN) chairman Sugiri Syarief toThe Jakarta Post.
“We already have the fourth largest population in the world, but in terms of the quality of life for all citizens we are in 108th place out of 188 countries,” Sugiri told The Jakarta Globe. Despite the vast array of indicators reported on the nation’s economic health in support of its bigger population and larger workforce, Indonesia ranked poorly on its quality of infrastructure and public health. Nationwide, tuberculosis and malaria are increasingly threatening the Indonesian households, while infant mortality rates are still among the highest in the world.
According to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), Indonesia’s annual population growth rate has averaged 1.49%, well passed the government’s predictions. “The population boom will burden the central and regional governments in terms of having to provide more food, health care, education, jobs, transportation, and other services for a far bigger population,” said Sugiri. This reactive pattern follows Malthius’ Iron Law we visited earlier in Learn to Make Yourself Useful. True, increasing population makes for a competitive advantage in economic performance as we’ve seen today, but with the nation still dealing with a host of other problems, combatting corruption and such, what are the odds of Indonesia to stand as an economic powerhouse fifty years from now?
Infested with poverty, Indonesia’s population will reach 475 million to 500 million people by 2060, or double the country’s current population number if there are no family planning efforts to control the population, said Sugiri.
This means that one in every 20 people in the world would be Indonesian.
In retrospect, as our economy is blooming, our cheap, numerous human labor and consumer market is becoming a huge asset for our country. In fact, the Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia’s Economic Development (MP3EI) was outlined just last May. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has set ambitious goals for the nation to become one of the world’s top ten largest economies by 2025. These goals include raising an average annual growth to 8-9 per cent between 2015 and 2025, reducing inflation from 6 to 3 per cent by the middle of the next decade, and investing US$468.5 billion over the next fourteen years, including the improvements in infrastructure.
“We can never meet these needs if we cannot control the population,” said University of Indonesia’s Demographic Institute director Sonny Harmadi to the Jakarta Globe. While not many of our nation’s leaders understand his warning, he addressed that many of the nation’s problems emerge out of a fast-growing population due to increasing demand in public services, especially problems with transportation and fuel subsidies.
The government should contribute their efforts to increase awareness of our rapid population expansion and access to family planning services. It’s good to note that BKKBN has announced early this year that they will be working together with the Indonesian military (TNI) for the Acceleration of Development in Underdeveloped Regions, a commitment to revitalize government’s efforts in family planning and contraceptive campaigns since its fallout after President Suharto stepped down from the office.
Without plenty of investment in education and higher training for the youth population, we are inevitably heading toward a double population burden ahead. Last year alone, the Indonesian population older than 60 years old accounted for 21.4 million people, and is expected to reach 73.5 million in 40 years.
With facilities such as new infrastructure and better living conditions, extra people can benefit in the long run. Industry’s public and private sectors can profit in creating more high-paying jobs to continue improving the economy in the long run. Through high-quality education, Indonesia would remain competitive in its economic performance, improve its competency for innovation to bridge new ways for stretching its global productivity and, hopefully, meeting the President’s goals by 2025.
On May 31, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to California Attorney General Kamala, saying that American false prophet Harold Camping is responsible for the “untold numbers of people” that were deceived and contributed their money solely to promote the doomsday, which didn’t happen. In the letter, FFRF claimed that Camping has committed a fraud “in persuading his followers to donate often large sums of money to his organization based on a claim … while objectively conducting his business as though he knew it to be untrue.”
Founded in 1958, Camping’s multimillion-dollar nonprofit organization Family Radio has always been funded almost entirely by donations. The organization’s IRS filings show that they’ve collected $18 million worth of contributions in 2009 alone. According to CNNMoney, they requested an extension of their original paperwork as the station continues seeking approval to solicit financial contributions from its listeners. In Minnesota, they requested to extend the July 15 deadline to November 15, well past Camping’s postponed doomsday on October 21, 2011.
“The timing, the structures, the proofs, none of that has changed at all,” said Camping on May 23 on his show Open Forum. The preacher refused to talk to reporters until Sunday, when he finally came out of his home in Alameda, California. “It was a really tough weekend,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle. But what about others? How are his loyal followers coping after May 21 came and went?
Psychologist Elliot Aronson, co-author of Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts, noted that “it’s very hard for us to say, ‘Boy, was I stupid!’ The more committed a person is to their prophecy, the more likely they are to justify their action, and to try to convince people that their belief was in some way right or good.” Still, it will take some time to observe the impact these people experience in their lives after quitting their jobs, leaving their families, and spending all their savings to market the end times.
Before the end came, a 14-year old Russian girl Nastya Zachinova committed suicide. The once lively teenager turned withdrawn, fearing the coming apocalypse so much she believes that “we are not righteous; only the righteous will go to heaven, and we’ll stay on earth and face terrible suffering.” Back in California, a woman attempted to murder her two daughters, then take her own life. Regarding suicidal followers, Camping responded to a reporter: “I don’t have any responsibility. I can’t be responsible for anybody’s lives. I am only teaching the Bible. I am not teaching what I believe, as if I am the authority. I am just simply teaching what the Bible says. And I don’t have spiritual rule over anybody.”
Back then, it turns out that Camping’s teachings was never obscure as it has evolved today. Trevor Hammack, an ex-follower of Camping and also a pastor from Victory Baptist Church in Ovalo, Texas, spoke with The Christian Post recently to discuss the Family Radio President before he started working out convoluted calculations predicting the end date.
Camping never failed to go in-depth when interpreting the words from the Bible. He would go through verse by verse in detail. But everything changed when he started to base his own understanding of Mark 4 (Parables of the Kingdom of God) into all his future teachings. What Camping taught others from here is that Jesus speaks in parables, “so when Jesus gets on a boat to cross the sea, well the sea represents one thing, the boat represents something, people in the boat represent something and so he began to use this to interpret the Bible,” Hammack explained to The Christian Post. “Once you go in that direction everything is open for anybody to interpret it the way they want and he left [out] any type of historical context and it just becomes a spiritual parable which he can kind of mold into what he thinks it says. And that’s what happened.” From a psychologist’s standpoint, we may ask, what has gone wrong in his mind?
“I’ve been told I read the wrong Bible,” said Brian Haubert, as he held up Judgment Day posters while parading on the streets of Palmyra, New Jersey. “And then there’s the occasional person who seems to be genuinely interested,” he told NPR while passing pamphlets to passersby. Two weeks till the day comes. The 33-year-old actuary embraced the spiritual message so much, he quit his job without a retirement plan or a savings account, and didn’t really mind. His family and friends think he’s crazy. “I’m crying over my loved ones one minute; I’m elated the next minute,” he says. “It’s all over the place.” Whatever happened there?
>“Problems have become so big, with no solutions in sight, that we no longer see ourselves able as human beings to solve these problems,” said Lorenzo DiTommaso, a professor of religion at Concordia University in Montreal and the author of an upcoming book, The Architecture of Apocalypticism. According to DiTommaso, at the heart of apocalyptic thoughts and fears is a desire to solve two conflicting beliefs. “The first is that there is something dreadfully wrong with the world of human existence today. On the other hand, there is a sense that there is a higher good or some purpose for existence, a hope for a better future,” said DiTommaso to LiveScience. His studies are based on years of research on over a hundred failed doomsday predictions in the last hundred years, which he coined the “apocalyptic worldview” that’s “a very persistent and potent way of understanding the world.”
Conventional Christian wisdom humbles the mystery of the end date. According to the Bible and most Bible scholars, nobody, not even Jesus, knows the exact date of Judgment Day. Only our Father God knows. “In my mind, Harold Camping has quite an account to render with God when judgment day comes,” said Steve Wohlberg, Christian author of over two dozen books about the End Days, to the New York Daily News. “They’re looking at all of these disasters and everything that’s going on in the planet, and this is creating a climate of deep interest in Biblical prophecy.”
Believers of Camping are still coping with fear of the apocalypse. Some lost their faith, others are simply angry. On Monday morning, an unnamed caller expressed his loyalty for the radio station on Open Forum. After watching May 21, 1988, and September 7, 1994, then now May 21, 1988 passed him by, “I don’t know what it means to be faithful anymore because I am really disappointed,” he said to the radio preacher.
Framed in a worldview that has an expiration date, people couldn’t care less about their futures on Earth, a flawed place from which they believe they would soon escape forever. “I no longer think about 401(k)s and retirement,” Haubert tells NPR. “I’m not stressed about losing my job, which is a lot of other people are in this economy. I’m just a lot less stressed, and in a way I’m more carefree.” Other families drifted away from one another because they believe in different things.
EIleen Heuwetter of New York was devastated to find that her aunt, Doris Schmitt, left almost nothing of her estate to her own niece. $25,000 of Schmitt’s will was given to each of the two Heuwetter sisters, while the rest – around $300,000 – goes to Family Radio. “It was a good amount of money that would have helped a lot of people live better today — but now it’s not helping anyone,” Heuwetter said to CNN. On May 2, 2010, Schmitt died alone in her home at 78, never living long enough to witness the rapture that never was. Struggling nearly a lifetime of alcoholism and coping with two children who dealt with drug addictions, the radio station was more than a source for comfort.
“The architect represents neither a Dionysian nor an Apollinian state: here it is the great act of will, the will that moves mountains, the rapture of the great will which aspires to art. The mightiest men have always inspired architects; the architect has always been under the spell of power. In his buildings, pride, the victory over gravity, and the will to power strive to become visible; architecture is a species of the rhetoric of power in forms, now persuading, even flattering, now simply commanding. The highest feeling of power and sureness finds expression in that which possesses grand style.”
- Friedrich Nietschze
“People cope. People cope,” affirmed Camping when he came back to work on Monday morning. I doubt these words is enough to console his followers.
In recent years, apocalyptic beliefs have popularized survivalism, following through difficult times since 9/11 till the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami. In the quest for creating a grand scheme to solve all the world’s biggest problems, mainstream population starts to ask fundamentalist questions, and so we turn to philosophy, or, as Socrates once said, “a love of wisdom”.
In Apology, Plato famously said to the juries on Socrates’ trial, who questioned the power of the gods: “Death is one of the two things. Either it’s annihilation, and the dead has no consciousness of anything; or … it is really a change; a migration of the soul from this place to another.” Either the previous or the latter, it is crucial to acknowledge the eternal split between the limited body and the limitless mind, a constant struggle to turn away from the consciousness of our mortality, through self-destruction or through managing ourselves well with the mystery link in the eternal mind-body problem philosophers have been trying to figure out for years. In the 1974 Pulitzer-prize winning book, The Denial of Death, renowned philosopher Ernest Becker stressed that we have an innate defense mechanism with response to our knowledge that survival must serve to some meaning or purpose. In this modern age, though, to counteract this problem-solving difficulty we now have cutting-edge technology to construct the digitized self in our increasingly dependent world on augmented and virtual realities. This human-computer-interaction gives a sense of immortality for just a moment, thus an escape from the problematic reality.
“It’s because of a desire — in a world of chaos, in a world of instability, in a world of anxiety — that people want their doubts eased,” explained Tim Simpson, a professor of post-apocalyptic literature at the University of North Florida. Escaping from states of helplessness in life, listeners like Doris Schmitt perceived momentary solace, manipulated by Camping’s voice behind the radio, television, and other broadcasting technology. “They want their fear beat back, and hearing someone like Camping is extremely comforting to them.”
The man is an autodidact, that is, someone who teaches himself. “When you study the Bible, you’re always learning,” said Camping. Only he himself can understand the Bible in his own way, refusing to learn from Bible scholars and studying it in isolation. With a formal educational background in engineering, he “reads the Bible like a mathematical or scientific textbook,” writes Dr. W. Robert Geofrey on his blog. Geofrey was a student of Camping who is now the president of Westminster Seminary California in San Diego. “His education was not in the liberal arts or theology. He had not been prepared to read literature or ancient texts,” nor could he read the Bible in Greek or Hebrew, a requirement for preachers to translate the Bible’s message to his followers.
Over the years, as Camping’s prediction doctrine prevails through mass media, so does his own perception of reality. “Political and moral issues are more inherently a personal judgment,” said Dolores Albarracin, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “There is no risk of experiencing the effects of being inaccurate as you have in science,” she told LiveScience. “Hence people are free to seek information that confirms their attitudes pretty exclusively.” While numerous findings suggested that people who are less confident about their beliefs tend to avoid conflicting perspectives from their own, Camping was very confident about his prophecy, telling The New York Magazine earlier that “I would be absolutely in rebellion against God if I thought anything other than it is absolutely going to happen without any question.” After May 21 passed him by, he kept reinstating his previous theories during interviews and came up with the notion that the “spiritual” rapture did, in fact, occur, resolving to talk his way out of opposing perspectives that are not in line with his own, or what can be theorized as the constant experience of cognitive dissonance. Has his May 21 confirmation bias against different worldviews turned into a whole new “Campingism” paradigm among his fellow believers? What effects does this have to followers of his thinking, other than killing of one’s soul, one self, and others? It’s still very early to tell – or too late to see, as the “invisible” spiritual rapture was over. Soon, specifically on October 21st, it will all be over.
“Everything in God’s plan fits a very structured way – it’s all very structured. On September 7 1994 when I said there was a high likelihood it was judgement day, it was true – there was judgement. It was salvation in a wonderful day. Since May 21 1988 virtually no-one could be saved in the entire world,” Camping rationalized on Open Forum Tuesday night. “On September 7 God brought even more judgement on the churches because in the world where God’s judgement had begun, God lifted that judgment and allowed people to be saved outside of the churches – leaving the churches under the judgment,” he spoke, defending his shift from Reformed Christian traditions to the thought that Satan has taken over all the churches, and the only way to be saved is surrender to the tribulation, and keep looking forward to The End.
Indeed, we fear the end of the world, but we love the idea of the end of the world – so much that we just don’t know how to speak for our ideas. The “invisible” kind. The kind in our own minds.
To conclude, here is a New King James Version of Mark 4 to ponder upon:
Parables of the Kingdom of God
1 And again He began to teach by the sea. And a great multitude was gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitutde was on the land facing the sea. 2 Then He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching: 3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 “And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. 5 “Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. 6 “But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. 7 “And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. 8 “But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced; some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”
9 And He said to them, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
10 But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable. 11 And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but those who are outside, all things come in parables,
12 “so that
‘Seeing they may see and not perceive,
And hearing they may hear and not understand;
Lest they should turn,
And their sins be forgiven to them.’ “
13 And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 “The sower sows the word.
15 “And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts.
16 “These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness;
17 “and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.
18 “Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word,
19 “and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
20 “But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”
21 Also He said to them, “Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Is it not to be set on a lampstand?
22 “For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light.
23 “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”
24 Then He said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given.
25 “For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”
26 And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground,
27 “and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how.
28 “For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.
29 “But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
30 Then He said, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it?
31 “It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth;
32 “but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.”
33 And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it. 34 But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples.
35 On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.”
36 Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling.
38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacjer, do You not care that we are perishing?”
39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.
40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?”
41 And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”
_New King James Bible_. Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1982.