Reviu Artikel: Identiti Terancam di Ruang Internet

Permulaan forum bermula dengan penerangan mengenai identiti oleh saudara Faizal Tehrani di mana dia menerangkan bagaimana identiti setiap manusia itu merupakan hak asasi mereka untuk memilih dan memiliki dan identiti itu merangkumi pelbagai elemen termasuklah kepercayaan dan personaliti. Ianya merupakan elemen yang menjadikan seseorang itu dirinya sendiri dan ini dinyatakan melalui dua ruang yang berbeza tetapi berhubungan: peribadi dan awam. Di dalam kes ini, ruang internet dilihat sebagai ruang publik di mana seseorang itu turut menyatakan pendiriannya dan siapa mereka melalui apa yang mereka kongsikan dan laman apa yang mereka ikut. Melalui internet juga, identiti terancam dapat difahami apabila seseorang itu tidak dapat mengekspresi nilai-nilai ataupun karakter-karakter mereka. Kita dapat lihat bagaimana identiti itu terancam sehingga ianya dapat membawa kepada bentuk-bentuk keganasan yang lain dan pada masa yang sama membawa impak yang lebih merbahaya. Saudara Faizal Tehrani memberi contoh bagaimana seseorang telah menyatakan keberanian untuk mengajak yang lain untuk membunuh beliau dan identiti individu tersebut terserlah kecenderungannya melalui beberapa laman yang spesifik, secara tidak langsung menunjukkan identiti yang antagonistik terhadap keberadaan saudara Faizal sendiri. Walaupun ancaman yang wujud hanya berlegar di ruang internet, tidak dapat dinafikan bahawa ianya turut dinyatakan di dalam kehidupan harian seseorang, di mana hal-hal yang kita baca atas talian turut mempengaruhi sudut pandang kita dan tindakan kita di kehidupan yang sebenar. Persoalan identiti bukan hanya berlegar di persoalan mengenai ekspresi ataupun nilai, tetapi berkait rapat juga dengan keputusan untuk tidak menyatakan identiti mereka. Ini juga turut dilihat sebagai hak asas bagi setiap pengguna internet. Wujud juga kes di mana identiti seseorang terancam apabila siapa mereka didedahkan secara meluas, tanpa kebenaran mereka. Kedua-dua kes ini, walaupun berbeza dari segi konteks tetap sama dari segi identiti mereka bercanggah dan menghadapi konflik apabila berada di ruang publik internet. Kemudian tiba giliran saudara Pang Khee Teik untuk menerangkan sedikit sebanyak mengenai pengalaman golongan LGBTQ di dalam kehidupan harian. Golongan LGBTQ merupakan salah satu golongan yang seringkali mendapat ugutan apabila mereka menyatakan identiti mereka di ruang internet, malah menurut saudara Pang, seakan menjadi lumrah bagi mereka untuk menghadapi masalah seperti ini. Apabila membicarakan mengenai cara-cara untuk mengendali ancaman ataupun ugutan seperti ini, beliau memberi contoh berdasarkan pengalamannya. Pang menyatakan bahawa segala bentuk provokasi yang berlaku tidak perlu dibalas melalui sikap provokasi yang sama, kerana ianya seakan memberi sebab yang kukuh bagi si pelaku untuk terus melakukan pembulian yang sama. Secara tidak langsung ini berkait rapat dengan bagaimana pihak yang terancam memahami hal ini dan etika yang bagaimana perlu kita ambil untuk menghadapinya. Kemudian beliau menyentuh persoalan yang menarik di mana persoalan negara-bangsa di bawa ke dalam perbincangan. Persoalan negara-bangsa yang dilihat sebagai ‘komuniti bayangan’ ini seakan-akan memainkan peranan yang besar bagi pembentukan identiti seseorang di ruang awam. Berbeza dengan ruang peribadi, ruang awam menjadi dominan di mana ianya seringkali mengawal tindak-tanduk seseorang sehingga ia mempengaruhi hal-hal yang dinyatakan seseorang itu di ruang peribadi. Menjadi lumrah wacana bagi konsep negara-bangsa itu dikawal dan didominasi oleh kelas penguasa. Jadi secara tidak langsung ianya tidak memberi landasan yang secukupnya bagi golongan-golongan yang terasing. Komuniti seperti LGBTQ dilihat sebagai ‘luar’ daripada konsep yang dibina lalu kekuatan pembentukan identiti yang ingin dinyatakan oleh mereka dihalang dan disokong secara kolektif. Panelis yang terakhir, saudari Syafiqah Othman pula menjelaskan bagaimana identiti seseorang yang menghadapi masalah mental diterukkan lagi di ruang internet. Syafiqah memberi contoh di mana identiti seseorang itu lebih mudah terancam apabila seseorang dapat mengambil kesempatan terhadap mereka setelah mengetahui masalah yang dihadapi oleh seseorang. Ini menjadikan senjata bagi mereka untuk terus mengugut dan membuli, secara tidak langsung mencabar keberadaan si mangsa itu di ruang internet. Dengan menggunakan contoh temannya yang hampir membunuh diri, beliau menjelaskan bagaimana seseorang yang menghadapi masalah mental lebih cenderung untuk menghadapi banyak masalah. Kemudian forum diberikan ruang kepada para hadiran/hadirat untuk berkongsi pendapat dan pertanyaan soalan yang relevan. Antara salah satu hal yang menarik disentuh oleh saudara Azwan Ismail, iaitu mengenai persoalan penggunaan bahasa kebangsaan dan bagaimana ianya dilihat sebagai suatu hal yang mencabar kekuatan hegemoni wacana yang dominan. Dalam konteks ini, bahasa nampaknya tidak terasing daripada persoalan identiti. Langsung wujudnya konflik apabila beberapa wacana dan isu mulai diperdebatkan melalui bahasa tempatan dan ini termasuklah beberapa persoalan seperti isu LGBTQ dan juga pluralisme, hak asasi dan juga liberalisme. Hal ini seperti yang disedari kesemua panelis dan juga pihak awam yang hadir, bersetuju bahawa kebanyakan wacana sudah pun secara bebas berlegar di ruang internet tetapi berlainan pula jadinya apabila ianya dibicarakan di dalam bahasa kebangsaan. Lalu secara tidak langsung, timbulnya persoalan apakah bahasa tempatan itu sendiri masih belum menjadi alat yang inklusif dan berjaya untuk menyediakan wacana yang sihat dan tidak membahayakan bagi golongan minoriti. Konsep negara-bangsa yang merangkumi penggunaan bahasa masih belum dibebaskan daripada kongkongan suatu kerangka yang eksklusif, lalu timbulnya beberapa konflik, seperti wacana mengenai Hinduisme oleh saudara Uthaya Sankar yang aktif menjelaskan mengenai Hinduisme di dalam bahasa kebangsaan. Wacana yang dilangsungkan oleh beliau ditentang oleh beberapa golongan, yang menuduh bahawa beliau cuba untuk menarik bangsa Melayu ke arah Hinduisme dan gagal melihatnya sebagai suatu wadah pertukaran ilmu di dalam bahasa yang difahami oleh seluruh lapisan masyarakat di negara kita. Saudara Pang kemudiannya turut menyuarakan kebimbangan beliau terhadap ruang awam di internet yang seringkali mengasingkan suara-suara ataupun pendapat yang berlainan. Ini turut juga merangkumi kedua golongan, pembuli dan golongan yang dibuli di mana tidak wujudnya ruang bagi mereka untuk berinteraksi bagi meningkatkan rasa empati sesama sendiri. Lalu persoalan pembinaan ruang selamat itu bukannya berkisar kepada golongan minoriti tetapi turut melibatkan golongan majoriti juga. Ini bertujuan bagi mencari suatu ruang yang saksama sesama mereka untuk bersetuju dan dengan harapan, dapat bekerjasama bagi mempertingkatkan kualiti kehidupan bermasyarakat di sesuatu kawasan. Faizal Tehrani pula mengakui akan perlunya pembinaan ruang selamat di mana beliau menekankan isu-isu yang terpinggir pastinya bercambah di bawah keadaan yang autoritarian dan ini pastinya akan menjadi dominan sebagai isu perbualan yang dikongsikan oleh rakyat umum. Walaubagaimanapun, tidak dapat dinafikan bahawa isu yang terpinggir ini bukan hanya berteraskan hal yang konstruktif tetapi turut juga merangkumi hal yang membinasakan. Dapat disimpulkan, bahawa identiti merupakan hak asasi bagi setiap pengguna dan ianya merupakan hak asas bagi seseorang untuk mencari, membela, mengekspresi dan memilih identiti mereka di ruang internet. Walaubagaimanapun, etika di dalam ruang internet sedikit sebanyak dapat dilihat sebagai cerminan pemikiran dan kebudayaan rakyat kita secara umum. Ini merupakan suatu hal yang perlu dipersoalkan secara terus menerus, sebagai contoh persoalan seperti penggunaan mengenai bahasa, pembinaan ruang yang selamat dan sebagainya. Jarang benar rakyat di negara kita memikirkan implikasi penggunaan mereka di ruang internet dan tidak pula ianya dikawal selia secara sedar oleh pengguna mengenai keadaan psikologi bagi golongan yang terlibat di dalam fenomena pembulian di atas talian. Pihak Projek Dialog berharap agar usaha seperti akan terus dilaksanakan oleh pihak-pihak lain, agar pembinaan ruang perbincangan yang selamat dan penuh hemah dapat dipraktikkan secara penuh dan impak negatif pengguna di ruang internet dapat dikurangkan secara drastik.              ]]>

An Expression Away from Home

The question of the conditions of migrant workers in Malaysia is often raised, but the state in which they live as a part of the local workforce continues to be unresolved, if addressed at all. On April 15th 2017, a forum titled “Expression Away from Home” was held at Ilham Gallery as a joint initiative between Ilham Conversations, North-South Initiative, and Projek Dialog, in order to stir conversations regarding migrant workers and creative expression. The forum featured Nasrikah Sarah from Indonesia and Dil Masrangi Magar from Nepal, and was moderated by Projek Dialog’s Victoria Cheng. The forum introduced Nasrikah and Dil’s experiences as migrants, where they discussed their lives both before and after moving to Malaysia, with a heavy focus on their aspirations and respective forms of artistic expression. The common theme shared by both Nasrikah and Dil at the beginning of the forum was how they pushed aside their personal aspirations in order to support their family by moving to Malaysia to work. For Nasrikah, her studies in school and hopes of becoming a lecturer were halted when she moved to Malaysia at the age of seventeen to work as a domestic worker. At that time, she had just graduated from high school, with no experience of the work a domestic worker was expected to do. She described the intense and uncomfortable experience of the move, and how the conditions not only prohibited her from achieving her own dreams, but also deprived her of a decent standard of living. “In one house, there would be more than 100 people,” Nasrikah explained, “but we wouldn’t do anything because we needed a job…we were afraid”. Most of her money was sent back to her family in Indonesia, but it was clear that the most taxing part about her move was her inability to pursue her aspirations. She described her hope for freedom and better jobs, and how she was met with the unfair treatment she encountered due to her race and language. Similarly, Dil discussed his initial move in 2003 to the Malaysian workforce as difficult due to the poor treatment of migrant workers. For migrant workers, there is not a line of contact between themselves and employers, meaning they are not given an outlet to voice out their opinions and concerns regarding their welfare. The unfairness and unreasonable salaries have evidently been problematic for people like Dil, who explained how his first job here was in a sewing factory and he had no prior experience in the field. For his first month, he was given training, but not a salary. He received a salary the next month, but it was only RM72, which was barely enough to sustain himself, let alone send back to his family in Nepal. Like Nasrikah, Dil also had his own aspirations before moving, but his was to be a singer. After the discussions on Dil and Nasrikah’s lives, the forum directed towards their use of art as their voice. Dil made it clear that there is a lack of migrant voices within the local scene, especially in regards with finding platforms to express themselves artistically. This significantly impacts how they are able to pursue their ambitions; long work hours combined with restricted access to such platforms deprives them of a chance to showcase their talents. Nasrikah read her poem titled Jerit Pekerja Rumah Tangga, or “Screams of a Domestic Worker”, which she dedicated to all workers who are not given the rights they deserve. It entailed descriptions of what domestic workers go through, and how their well being and emotions are often overlooked. The xenophobia that such workers encounter has greatly set back their progress and even emotional states. Dil provided a contrast by singing the “Nepali Song”, which had spiritual, nationalistic, as well as motivational messages within the lyrics. The deep connection that Dil described in his song was due to his cultural roots, as well as the hardships he pushes through in his working life. Both Dil and Nasrikah work to empower other workers to express their art forms, but the lack of representation is a clear hurdle. However, they both expressed hope when the discussion dived into the question of art’s importance. Due to its subjective nature, it was in agreement between both panelists as well as Victoria that art is a method which can be used to counter the xenophobia previously mentioned, as well as spread ideas. It is through such methods that ambitions of migrant workers have an outlet to be fulfilled, and progressive steps to rid our society of discrimination and lack of workers’ welfare can be attained.   Conclusively, the forum was an eye-opener and gave insight about not only the mistreatment of migrant workers here in Malaysia, but also showcased two extremely talented workers who are advocating for their community’s voices to be heard. Even though there are a scarce number of outlets for them to express themselves, forums such as these provide an opportunity for a greater audience to hear what they have to say, and more importantly, spread the message. The conversation about the perspectives of two different workers with a common aspiration was one that sparked exchanges of experiences and opinions, but in the end contributed to greater focus on the issue surrounding migrants in Malaysia. *Note: Nasrikah Sarah has actually written a blog post about her experience being a panelist on this forum. Please click this link to read about her experience in the Indonesian language: https://buruhmigran.or.id/2017/04/17/project-dialog-berikan-wadah-pekerja-migran-di-malaysia-untuk-berkesenian/]]>

Reviu – Kapitalisme dan Aktivisme: Kontradiksi ataupun Tolak Ansur?

Sesi pertama bermula dengan definisi mengenai kapitalisme itu sendiri menurut setiap panelis. Saudara Azrul menyatakan bahawa kapitalisme menyediakan ruang bagi setiap individu untuk bekerja keras dan menerima balasan gaji ataupun wang yang setimpal mengikut keupayaan mereka manakala saudara Yuva pula memberi definisi bahawa kapitalisme merupakan sistem ekonomi yang mempergunakan pekerja di dalam proses pengeluaran bagi mengaut keuntungan yang maksimum bagi si pemodal. Kemudian Victoria Cheng, selaku moderator bagi forum ini mengajukan soalan yang spesifik iaitu program pekerja pekak yang dijalankan oleh syarikat Starbucks, bukankah ini merupakan salah satu inisiatif untuk meningkatkan kesedaran terhadap orang awam? Bukankah ini salah satu inisiatif yang perlu diambil contoh dan diambil kira, menunjukkan bahawa syarikat besar mampu mengambil kira keadilan sosial sebagai salah satu pendekatan yang mampu memberi impak? Saudari Michelle bersetuju dengan inisiatif seperti ini, dirasakannya bahawa pendekatan ini penting bagi meningkatkan kesedaran pihak awam. Walaubagaimanapun, dia menekankan bahawa program ataupun tanggungjawab sosial korporat seperti ini tidak sepatutnya digerakkan berdasarkan prospek keuntungan, tetapi sebaliknya berteraskan keperluan manusia secara umum. Kemudian saudari Syerleena Rashid berpendapat, dengan keuntungan maksimum yang dikaut oleh syarikat korporat, sudah tiba masanya pihak awam memberi tekanan dan berorganisasi, meminta mereka untuk turut menyumbang sebahagian besar daripada keuntungan tersebut kepada masyarakat sebagai suatu tanggungjawab asas. Dia menjelaskan lagi, momentum untuk meningkatkan kesedaran itu perlu dijalankan secara konsisten; kita perlu menggunakannya untuk kelebihan kita, agar setiap syarikat korporat akan melaksanakannya sehingga memberi impak yang positif kepada masyarakat. Panelis yang ketiga pula, saudara Azrul Khalib bersetuju bahawa contoh program Starbucks ini dapat dilihat sebagai penyediaan ruang kepada komuniti yang seringkali dipinggirkan dan ini dapat dilihat sebagai salah satu usaha bagi memperkasakan mereka. Kemudian tiba giliran saudara Yuva Balan dari Sosialis Alternatif yang menerangkan bahawa para kapitalis seringkali menggunakan ruang pasar sebagai justifikasi kekuatan dan relevannya sistem ekonomi kapitalisme. Malah kritikan yang jelas terhadap sistem tersebut berlangsung di bahagian pengeluaran, di mana proses mengaut keuntungan dijanakan melalui eksploitasi para pekerja melalui pelbagai cara. Di dalam kes Starbucks, masih terdapat pelbagai bentuk eksploitasi berlaku di ruang produksi, pengeluaran biji kopi bagi penggunaan mereka yang berbeza dengan program inisiatif yang berlangsung di bahagian servis dan penjualan. Moderator Victoria Cheng kemudiannya mengajukan persoalan mengenai kekuatan akar umbi di kalangan komuniti bagi meningkatkan kesedaran sesuatu isu. Ini dipersetujui oleh kesemua panelis dan dijelaskan oleh saudari Michelle di mana dia memberi contoh gerakan kesedaran mengenai ALS dan bagaimana gerakan akar umbi memainkan peranan untuk menyebarkan info dan kesedaran mengenai masalah ini. Para syarikat korporat yang mempunyai tanggungjawab sosial mereka, tidak perlu berdiri di barisan hadapan bagi mengedepankan sesuatu isu, sebaliknya ia perlu digerakkan oleh kesedaran komuniti yang berorganisasi, bersama ataupun tanpa sumbangan mana-mana syarikat korporat ataupun kapitalis. Ini dapat dilihat sebagai jaminan bahawa ianya isu ataupun perjuangan tidak akan diambil kesempatan oleh para kapitalis yang bergerak ke arah keuntungan semata-mata. Persoalan di atas berkait rapat dengan isu dana: apakah bentuk kedinamikan kuasa yang terbentuk jika syarikat korporat ataupun para kapitalis yang terlibat di dalam sesuatu isu? Ini juga dapat dikaitkan dengan beberapa parti politik ataupun NGO yang bergerak berdasarkan dana yang diberi oleh sesebuah institusi. Apakah integriti bisa dibela? Apakah perjuangan sebenar dapat dikawal sepenuhnya oleh pihak yang menerima dana itu sendiri? Persoalan ini dijawab oleh saudara Syarleeena dengan nada positif dengan menjelaskan bahawa dana bisa digunakan bagi kelebihan sesuatu parti ataupun mana-mana gerakan. Kerjasama pemberi dana dan juga mana-mana gerakan politik adalah sesuatu hal yang tidak boleh dielakkan tetapi perlu ditekankan bahawa sesuatu isu ataupun arah tuju bisa dikawal melalui aktiviti dialog dan perbincangan yang konsisten, baginya kerjasama ataupun pemberian dana tidak semestinya dilihat sebagai sesuatu hal yang negatif. Pada akhir sesi, forum berlangsung dengan perbincangan mengenai persoalan bagaimana kapitalisme dan aktivisme boleh bekerjasama. Ini disertai dengan pendapat daripada pelbagai pihak awam yang turut hadir sewaktu forum itu berlangsung. Bagi pihak Projek Dialog, persoalan seperti ini adalah sesuatu hal yang masih terus diperbincangkan. Adakah sesuatu isu itu bisa dibela secara telus jika sumber dana itu sendiri merupakan hal yang ditentang oleh pejuang itu sendiri? Apakah percanggahan yang jelas boleh difahami melaluinya? Walaubagaimanapun, kesemua panelis bersetuju mengenai suatu hal: iaitu kekuatan akar umbi dan komuniti dalam menentukan hala tuju sesuatu perjuangan dan penekanan agar ianya tidak diambil kesempatan oleh para syarikat korporat. Ada sahaja dikalangan panelis yang bersetuju bahawa masyarakat mempunyai kuasa untuk mengawal pasar dan juga bahagian produksi dengan tindakan memboikot sebagainya, dan ada juga yang tidak bersetuju dengan hal itu, di mana selama sistem kapitalisme berlangsung, eksploitasi masih wujud di bahagian produksi dan ini dibantu dengan aparatus kelas penguasa dan kerajaan yang masih aktif membela kepentingan para pemodal. Ini adalah polemik yang masih berterusan di kalangan para aktivis yang terdiri daripada paksi kiri ke kanan. Persoalan sama ada kapitalisme tidak bercanggah dengan perjuangan rakyat ataupun tidak. Dan para pejuang keadilan sosial dan rakyat secara umum perlu secara aktif membincangkannya, agar ianya tergerak ke arah perubahan impak yang jelas dan konkrit.        ]]>

Pengalaman Spiritual dan Kefanaan Segala Sesuatu

Artikel ini merupakan sebuah reviu filem Melancholia oleh saudara Hazman Baharom   Maka berkatalah Meitreyi: “Tuan, andai kini seluruh pelosok bumi dipenuhi harta kekayaan, dan seluruh kekayaan itu milikku, akankah aku hidup kekal abadi?” “Tidak”, ujar Yajnavalkya. “Engkau hanya akan hidup sepertimana orang berharta. Pun, akan hidup kekal abadi, tiadalah harta benda mampu memberi akan dia.” Maka berkata Maitreyi lagi: “Apakah patut aku lakukan, andai harta itu tiada mampu menjadikan hidup ini kekal abadi? Khabarkan kepadaku apa yang Tuan tahu. Apakah dia, khabarkanlah!” [Brihadaranyaka Upanishad; 2.4.2]   Manusia dan segala makhluk hidup senantiasa melihat imej kematian di hadapan mereka, suatu kepastian di penghujung terowong perjalanan kehidupan. Kematian ialah motif yang sentiasa hidup dan tidak pernah mati, dan ini terpapar lewat pemikiran, perasaan, dan perlakuan insan zaman-berzaman. Mati ialah alat untuk mengawal manusia lain, mati juga ialah sesuatu yang mengawal diri sendiri. Kematian, dan kemusnahan diri itu sendiri merupakan satu persoalan yang menuntut satu pemerhatian mendalam. Jika kita menelusuri pelbagai ranah keagamaan, imej kematian dan kemusnahan ialah sesuatu yang biasa kelihatan. Daripada imej ini, refleksi tentang kehidupan di dunia yang sementara menjadi satu latar belakang kepada kehidupan beragama serta moral manusia. Sebab itulah, kita melihat dalam beberapa agama terutamanya agama-agama monoteisme—misalnya Islam, Kristian, atau Yahudi—imej Hari Kiamat yang merupakan hari kemusnahan segala sesuatu, melainkan zat Tuhan, terlakar dengan jelas sekali. Pada zaman industri yang membataskan segala konsep kepada proses dan prosedur semata-mata, manusia beragama seolah-olah kehilangan sisi pencarian makna dari dalam diri sendiri, terutamanya yang bersangkut dengan kepastian kemusnahan dunia. Kita mula beribadah seolah-olah Tuhan ialah sejenis “mesin jual air tin,” yakni tatkala kita memasukkan wang, dapatlah air tin yang dihajati. Lebih banyak wang kita, lebih banyaklah air tin yang boleh dibeli. Begitulah sempitnya kita semua melihat segala sesuatu, dan kita mendakwa kita sedang beragama. Filem Melancholia (2011) arahan Lars von Trier cuba menelusuri sisi spiritual manusia apabila kemusnahan dunia merupakan sesuatu yang pasti berlaku beberapa jam lagi. Ia cuba masuk ke ruang paling dalam di sanubari seorang insan yang sedang bersedia untuk majlis perkahwinannya—yang dianggap antara majlis paling besar dalam hidup seorang manusia. Namun, apabila Justine, watak utamanya, mengetahui bahawa dunia akan musnah dalam masa beberapa jam, segalanya sudah tidak bermakna lagi, dan akhirnya, segala kelakuan manusia menjadi karut, absurd! Simtom Melancholia, Manusia, dan Narsisisme Melancholia merupakan satu filem yang tidak mudah ditonton. Istilah tersebut juga sebenarnya digunapakai oleh Freud untuk membicarakan sejenis simtom psikologi yang boleh dihadapi manusia yang sedang berputus asa daripada semua harapan. Dalam esei beliau, diterjemahkan ke Bahasa Inggeris sebagai Mourning and Melancholia, simtom melancholia dihuraikan sebagai satu kesedihan dan keputusasaan seorang insan terhadap sesuatu yang ia sendiri nanar dan tiada memahaminya. Ia, menurut Freud, berlaku di peringkat minda separa sedar, dan seiring peredaran masa, ia akan sedikit demi sedikit memamah jiwa insan yang mengalaminya. Inilah juga yang cuba ditonjolkan pengarah menerusi perubahan perasaan, gaya fikir, dan cara berinteraksi antara dua adik-beradik Justine dan Claire dalam filem tersebut.    Latar keluarga Justine dan Claire ialah sebuah keluarga borjuis yang kaya-raya, digambarkan mereka memiliki segala kesenangan material. Lihat saja majlis perkahwinan yang ditaja oleh suami Claire itu, yang diadakan di sebuah resort dan kelab golf 18-lubang. Maka semua ini bisa menonjolkan kepada kita betapa senangnya mereka dari sudut material, dan mereka tidak perlu risau tentang masalah tidak cukup makan, kesempitan wang, dan sebagainya. Pun begitu, kita mula melihat kontra antara sikap dua watak ini tatkala peristiwa kehancuran bumi itu kian mendekat. Justine mula menerima dan mendakap realiti tersebut, dan beliau terperosok ke dalam pengamatan dan penaakulan dalam dirinya sendiri. Sebab itulah, kita dapat melihat satu babak di mana Justine tidak mahu melakukan apa saja yang memberi makna kepada kewujudan insan di sekelilingnya, bahkan dia tidak mahu mandi sekalipun, walaupun diheret oleh kakaknya ke bilik air. Satu lagi babak menunjukkan Justine berbogel di bawah sinar planet Melancholia yang kian mendekat itu. Kesemua imejan ini jelas menunjukkan betapa dia mula menerima nasib yang akan menimpa, dan kepasrahan mendalam terhadap apa saja yang bakal tiba. Satu perkara yang amat penting untuk disebut ialah dalam filem ini, tidak ada langsung babak-babak klise dalam filem-filem bertemakan kemusnahan dunia yang lain—seperti pasukan tentera bersedia membantu evakuasi rakyat, kenyataan media para pemimpin dunia, usaha para saintis untuk mengelakkan ancaman tersebut, dan lain-lain lagi. Hal ini sebenarnya sesuatu yang serius untuk ditanggapi, apabila tujuan filem ini akhirnya bukanlah untuk menunjukkan betapa masyarakat yang berada di ambang kemusnahan itu sedang resah, tetapi ia mahu masuk menerobos ke lohong-lohong jiwa seorang insan, dan insan ini dibaluti segala kemewahan material. Dunia moden adalah dunia yang penuh dengan optimisme. Manusia meninggalkan sifat pasrah dan menerima nasib warisan zaman pramoden, dan mengangkat idea bahawa manusia mengawal nasibnya sendiri. Selepas kapitalisme industri mengembangkan kekayaan material, sains memberi makna baru kepada kehidupan, dan politik demokrasi menawarkan kekuasaan tiap individu bagi menentukan kuasa negara, dunia yang kian optimis mula terbentuk. Inilah dunia moden, dunia yang mana manusia berada di ambang revolusi menjatuhkan Tuhan daripada takhta-Nya. Melancholia cuba menawarkan penawar kepada optimisme yang membarah ini. Sepertimana yang diratap para pemikir eksistensialis, akhirnya tiada satu pun yang memberi makna dalam kehidupan manusia, melainkan hakikat bahawa kita semua akan mati. Bahkan, tatkala kita terlalu yakin dengan semua orde dongengan yang sekian lama kita anuti seperti kewujudan pasukan keselamatan negara, keberkesanan sains dan teknologi, atau kekuatan politik antarabangsa, filem ini menempelak kita secara terang-terangan. Pada akhirnya, tiada apa pun yang bermakna lagi melainkan bagaimana kita memahami diri kita sendiri, bukannya apa yang masyarakat boleh buat untuk kita, mampukah pasukan keselamatan negara menjaga keluarga kita, ataupun bolehkah skim pencen kita menampung perbelanjaan hari tua. Modeniti telah menumbuhkan sisi narsisisme yang kuat berakar dalam atma setiap insan hari ini, sehingga kita menganggap dunia ini wujud untuk kepuasan serakah kita. Walhal, ketika kita semua berseronok memuaskan nafsu masing-masing, bukankah dunia sedang berdarah? Namun, kepasrahan yang terpapar lewat watak Justine itu ternyata bukanlah kepasrahan kosong semata-mata. Ia disulami dengan usaha untuk menanggapi kewujudan diri sendiri dan juga segala yang hidup di sekeliling mereka. Apa yang akan terjadi jika setelah kemusnahan bumi, semua makhluk hidup mati serta-merta, dan hanya bumilah tempat tinggal makhluk hidup di alam semesta ini? Maka tiada lagi yang hidup, yang akan tinggal hanyalah jasad-jasad tak bernyawa yang saling terapung di angkasa raya. Adakah keadaan ini lebih baik daripada keadaan di mana wujudnya makhluk yang bernyawa? Inilah salah satu persoalan yang cuba dilontarkan, biarpun secara tidak langsung, oleh filem ini untuk ditanggapi secara serius. Kita semua, yang merupakan sebahagian daripada banyaknya makhluk yang hidup, sentiasa merasakan bahawa kewujudan kita adalah sesuatu yang “baik,” malah “diperlukan” oleh alam semesta. Inilah naratif yang cuba disuguhkan oleh semua kepercayaan agama, sekurang-kurangnya. Dan jelasnya, ia perlu dinilai secara teliti—adakah benar begitu? Kita semua tidak akan terlepas daripada pandangan berat sebelah dalam meletakkan nilai ke atas sesuatu, dan pada saat kita bertanyakan “adakah kewujudan manusia di dunia ini sesuatu yang baik? Atau lebih baik jika semua manusia mati sahaja?” kemungkinan besar jawapan kita akan berat sebelah akibat kita sendiri merupakan sebahagian daripada spesis “manusia” itu. Saya bersetuju dengan filasuf Slavoj Zizek bahawa pada dasarnya, Melancholia merupakan satu filem yang optimis, bukan pesimis. Kita perlu melihat kemusnahan bumi dan kematian manusia bukan sebagai sesuatu yang buruk, tetapi sesuatu yang baik untuk alam semesta. Ia menggambarkan satu refleksi kejiwaan seorang insan yang berfikir tentang segala kebiadapan yang pernah dilakukan oleh spesisnya sendiri di atas muka bumi, sehinggakan spesis ini menjadi terlalu narsisistik, malah cuba untuk mengawal segala kewujudan di alam semesta ini. Kesimpulannya, kemusnahan bumi adalah sesuatu yang pasti dalam masa terdekat. Jika bukan sebuah planet menghentam bumi sepertimana yang digambarkan lewat Melancholia, politik dunia hari ini menunjukkan bahawa perang nuklear adalah sesuatu yang bakal berlaku tidak lama lagi. Pada masa yang sama, sains telah membuktikan bahawa beberapa spesis serangga mampu bertahan dalam keadaan radiasi selepas letusan nuklear. Mungkinkah selepas kita semua mati akibat letupan bom nuklear suatu hari nanti, serangga-serangga ini akan terus berevolusi dan mereka pula akan menjadi makhluk pintar yang mendiami planet ini? Harapnya, mereka tidak menjadi narsisistik seperti kita.      ]]>

Reviu: Agama Hindu 101 – Pengenalan Sesi Kedua

Eka Aneka sebagai justifikasi bahawa Hinduisme adalah agama Tauhid terawal di dunia. Ianya merupakan istilah sanskrit yang diterjemahkan dan turut dipergunakan di dalam Bahasa Malaysia iaitu Tuhan yang berciri “Eka” (Tunggal/Satu/Esa) juga bersifat “Aneka” iaitu dikenali dengan pelbagai nama mengikut sifat-Nya. Kemudiannya, persoalan mengenai jumlah 330 juta Tuhan di dalam agama Hindu dan konsep penyembahan berhala di jelaskan. Uthaya menerangkan, berbeza dengan agama Tauhid yang lain, Hinduisme membenarkan sifat-sifat Tuhan digambarkan secara visual. Walaubagaimanapun, tetap ditegaskan beliau bahawa ajaran Hinduisme itu sendiri menegaskan bahawa Tuhan itu tunggal tetapi manifestasi sifatnya yang tidak terkira jumlahnya. Seperti yang dinyatakan dalam kitab Chandogya Upanishad tentang konsep Ekam Evad Vitiyam yang membawa makna “Dia hanya Satu dan bukan dua” manakala dalam Rigveda ditekankan “Tuhan hanya Satu, sembah Tuhan yang Satu”. Hal ini juga diakui oleh Pengarah Unit Dakwah, Persatuan Kebajikan dan Pengubatan Islam Malaysia iaitu Muhammad Fitri Abdullah pada tahun 2009. Setelah itu, konsep Dharma sebagai kod etika masyarakat kaum India tidak dilihat sebagai tuntutan agama Hindu semata-mata, tetapi merupakan suatu bimbingan manusia ke arah kebenaran. Ajaran agama Hindu digelar sebagai Sanatana Dharma iaitu “agama yang abadi” atau “agama yang tiada permulaan dan tiada kesudahan” atau “kebenaran abadi”. Tidak lupa juga dengan gelaran lain iaitu Vaidika Dharma iaitu “agama menurut kitab-kitab veda”. [caption id="attachment_7168" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Pihak hadirin dan hadirat yang hadir dan berinteraksi dengan saudara Uthaya dalam perbincangan mengenai asas Hinduisme.[/caption] Secara umumnya, veda membawa maksud “ilmu” atau “pengetahuan” dan kitab-kitab veda merupakan panduan ke arah kehidupan yang menyeluruh bagi membimbing masyarakat. Lalu empat kitab Veda dalam Hinduisme iaitu Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda dan juga Atharvaveda merangkumi segala maklumat yang bersifat universal dan datang daripada Tuhan, serta ditujukan kepada semua manusia di seluruh dunia. (Artikel lanjut boleh dirujuk di sini.) Saudara Uthaya kemudiannya menekankan aspek sejarah dan perkembangan agama Hinduisme secara lebih lanjut. Dia membahagikan perkembangan ajaran Hinduisme kepada lima bahagian iaitu Sangam 1 (sekitar 9000 tahun SM), Sangam 2 (sekitar 4600 tahun SM), Vedik (sekitar 1500 tahun SM) dan juga Sangam 3 (sekitar 900 tahun SM). Sangakalam ataupun Sangam adalah istilah Buddha yang meliputi kawasan Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andra Pradesh, Karnataka, Sri Lanka dan lain-lain kawasan di bahagian selatan. Kemudiannya diterangkannya mengenai perkembangan Hinduisme melalui setiap zaman, bagaimana Sangam 1 yang bertanggungjawab mengembangkan bahasa dan sastera Tamil telah musnah akibat banjir besar dan juga Sangam 2 yang menghasilkan kitab purba Tolkappiyam, manakala yang lain juga telah musnah akibat banjir besar. Sangam 3 yang bermula di Madurai sekitar 1850 tahun yang lalu menghasilkan karya-karya Sangam yang menjadi rujukan pada masa kini. Turut diterangkan pada sesi tersebut mengenai kewujudan mazhab sebelum kedatangan Arya iaitu Saivam (Siva), Vaishnavam (Vishnu), Sauram (Suria), Saktham (Sakthi), Kaumaram (Murugan), Ganapatiyam (Ganesha) tetapi tidak menjadi masalah. Ini membawa maksud ajaran Hinduisme diselaraskan pada waktu kemudiannya dan ianya bermula sebagai ajaran pelbagai mazhab yang pelbagai dan rencam sifatnya, pada masa yang bersatu merujuk kepada Tuhan yang Esa dan berteraskan konsep Tauhid. Kemudian munculnya zaman Vedik yang mulai menggunakan bahasa Sanskrit dan berpandukan kitab-kitab Veda. Turut ditekankan pada waktu ini mulai implementasi konsep kasta sebagai alat politikal dan pengawalan sesebuah empayar. Ini dilihat sebagai hujah utama yang menyanggah bahawa konsep kasta adalah inheren di dalam ajaran Hinduisme. Begitulah secara asasnya pengenalan yang diterangkan oleh saudara Uthaya pada sesi tersebut. Kemudiannya perbincangan lebih berteraskan dua hala di antara hadirin/hadirat yang hadir bagi menanyakan lebih mengenai apa yang mereka fahami mengenai ajaran Hinduisme dan juga hubung kaitan ajaran ini dengan konteks rantau Nusantara. Menarik diperhatikan bahawa masih banyak hal yang tidak diketahui oleh kita secara umum mengenai ajaran Hinduisme dan konteks yang relevan di kawasan sini. Wujudkah harapan tentang suatu pemahaman yang mampu mengubah naratif yang selama ini wujud? Ini ditunjukkan melalui rasa ingin tahu yang tidak pernah kurang oleh orang yang datang menyertai sesi pengenalan ajaran Hinduisme.   Pihak Projek Dialog dengan kerjasama saudara Uthaya Sankar SB berharap agar inisiatif pengenalan terhadap agama-agama yang wujud di negara ini dapat difahami tanpa sebarang prejudis dan dikenali dengan niat untuk hidup secara harmoni dan bukannya dengan niat untuk menyanggah bagi berbangga dan berasa gah terhadap agama sendiri.                ]]>

An Introduction to Queer Theology (An interview with Joseph Goh)

Joseph Goh is a Lecturer in Gender Studies at the School of Arts and Social Sciences, Monash University Malaysia. He holds a PhD in gender, sexuality and theology, and his research interests include queer and LGBTI studies, human rights and sexual health issues, diverse theological and religious studies, and qualitative research. In this interview he talks to Ahmad Fuad Rahmat, a PhD candidate at the University of Nottingham Malaysia campus, where he researches the politics of Malay masculinity and its popular-cultural manifestations. (Sesi temuramah ini telah diterjemahkan ke dalam BM. Sila rujuk di sini)   Fuad Rahmat: Welcome to the show!   Joseph Goh: Thank you, thank you for having me.   Fuad Rahmat: I’m actually happy to finally have you because we’ve been corresponding a lot over the past year or so trying to find a time to have you on, and I know you that were working on your PhD at that point, and I understand. I’m trying to wrap it up soon as well, and it gets very hectic, but we are finally glad to have you.   Joseph Goh: Thank you very much. I appreciate your invitation and let’s get it going!   Fuad Rahmat: Definitely! So, you are a queer theologian. Now that’s a very interesting combination of terms, because we don’t often hear them together. Perhaps we can start with that – not just what those two terms mean, but how you came to combine them together. What inspired you to eventually move into this discourse?   Joseph Goh: When I did my graduate studies in the United States, I focused very much on traditional forms of theologizing. Basically, sacramental theology and liturgy, which in the Roman Catholic system, are very important elements of worship and how people relate to God materially. Eventually I realised that, while all that good work was going on, a lot of people were being left behind and side-lined, because they were seen as theologically invalid. These people mostly comprise the LGBT community, so we’re talking about lesbian women, gay men, transgender people, bisexual people, and other queer people. They had two choices: they could either leave the church and practise their lifestyles as they wish, and abandon their faith, or they could, for want of a better term, repent, be counselled, give up their lifestyles, and then be valid Christians. This was particularly strong in the Roman Catholic church and in other mainstream churches, and what intrigued me was that there were a lot of scholars who did not see sexuality and the discourse on God as separate and inimical entities. And what they sort of suggested was that, it was possible to live LGBT lives while having a strong relationship with God. That was probably in… 2008, 2009 when I first heard that and I thought, that must be a mistake, that’s impossible! And yet the more I read the more I realised that yes, queer theology fosters the idea that it is possible to be oneself and connect to God as oneself.   Fuad Rahmat: Now, that I imagine, was a very difficult move to make because even before the discussion on including sexual minorities there was still an ongoing discussion around making spaces inclusive for women, right? It’s going that far out; it must have been quite a daunting journey for you.   Joseph Goh: Oh yes. I suppose it was during that time that my theological activism sort of flared up and I realised that theology was just catering to the safe zones; it’s just catering to respectable people, decent people, who sort of fit the bill. But then, my theological training had informed me that theology, as Stephen Bevans says, is always contextual. There is no such thing as objective theology, if you like. There is no such thing as fundamental, official theology. If you look at the history of Christianity, it has always been contextualised. It started with this carpenter from Nazareth, so Christianity in the beginning was Jewish, and then it spread into the Greco-Roman world and became an entity that reflected the lives, the wisdom, and the knowledge of the Greco-Roman people. Then, over time it spread out to the rest of the world and now we have all forms of contextual theology: black theology, Asian theology, and environmental theology too. Eco theology is a big thing now, and also feminist theology, and now queer theology. What we’re looking at is the idea that queer theology is just one among many conversations happening in the theological realm.   Fuad Rahmat: I was Jesuit-educated for a while, and one of the things I appreciate about the Catholic tradition is that it does have this rich legacy of discourse – intellectual discourse absorbing questions from the Arab-Islamic world. And really, the tome is canon. I found that very refreshing, but I often wondered, “why still stick within that frame, why not just go to say, the Anglican discourse which seems to be making waves in terms of inclusion?” One of the common responses I got was that there is this affinity to tradition itself. The idea that history makes the exploration richer, right? This makes it different from just finding a church that is already inclusive – perhaps not rooted to that discourse. How important is tradition in your journey, and this idea that you are part of a longer historical question?   Joseph Goh: I’m glad you brought that up. I want to start responding to your question, Fuad, by quoting something from Gayatri Spivak when she was here at Universiti Malaya. She said something that I will always remember. She started the talk by saying, “you need to ask what’s at stake, for all parties involved.” I think perhaps for mainstream churches such as the Roman Catholic church, there is a lot at stake, and you brought up one very important element, which is tradition. Many mainstream churches try very hard to preserve what they consider to be the canonical, pure discourse about God that we have inherited over the ages. Maybe to understand the idea of theology a bit further, I think it is important to go back to the basics and that is the idea that theology by and large has four sources. The first source is sacred scripture, the second is tradition, the third is reason, and the fourth is human experience. So that is what we call a quadrilateral source for theologizing. The problem is that, these elements… these components of theology, are often seen as static. The Latin theologian Orlando Espin has reminded us that there is no such thing as tradition. What you have is the idea of tradition-ing. Tradition is an evolution. It is a process and a journey which started at one point in time but never really ended. As tradition progresses, it is important to see how it impacts human lives. If tradition begins to oppress people, then the idea of tradition-ing has to loom even larger and make way for thought. You know there’s this idea that we want to preserve tradition. “It’s the Christian tradition, that’s what we’ve always done”, but the very idea that this is something that we’ve always done is false.   Fuad Rahmat: So tradition according to what you are saying is it is not this static thing; it is something that you constantly rediscover, reinterpret, recode, given its responses to contemporary challenges.   Joseph Goh: Exactly. So what are people saying now? How does theology speak to people, to actual human lives, and what are actual human lives saying to theology? There must be that ongoing conversation; there must be that ongoing tradition-ing.   Fuad Rahmat: Now I want to ask about how this is in dialogue with the broader discourse. Is this just an academic branch? I understand Catholic discourse can get very cerebral, and very scholastic, so is it just within that frame or is this being translated into practise?   Joseph Goh: Hmm. When you use the word ‘Catholic’, I think for a lot of people, especially for our listeners, the idea of ‘Catholic’ automatically translates into Roman Catholic. There are many forms of Catholicism. A lot of us would be familiar with Orthodox Christianity, Orthodox Catholicism rather, and Anglican Catholicism. At the moment, there is also a proliferation of old Catholic movements. The old Catholic movement, to which I belong, has no affiliation with Rome and is a movement of churches that hold fast to Catholic traditions but do not pay allegiance to Rome. They moved away from the Roman institution in the 19th century. When we talk about queer theology, yes it is cerebral, yes it is very much centred on the academia, and a lot of the early books talked about queer theology from an academic perspective. In order to understand queer theology, we have to remember that queer theology is not something that just fell from heaven onto our laps. Queer theology is actually a confluence of various theologies and ideas. Foucauldian thought is very big on queer theology – the idea of subversion and deconstruction, and if I would like to add, reconstruction. Feminist theology has a big role to play as well, not to forget liberation theology, and also lesbian, gay, and bisexual theologies. For a lot of people, queer theology equals lesbian and gay theologies. That is not true. Lesbian and gay theologies began around the 70’s with the gay liberation movement in the United States, focusing on a more apologetic approach to theology, by insisting that gay men and lesbian women had a role to play in the Christian economy – that they were worth something. A lot of it was to justify the presence of gay men and lesbian women who were both sexually diverse and active in their faith at the same time. The problem was that this movement soon gave rise to the idea that there is a lesbian world and a gay world. People started asking, “what about transgender people? What about bisexual people? What about practises that did not fit into the respectable forms of sexual diversity like polyamory and BDSM?”, and “why were these forms of sexual expressions seen as inferior to the more respectable forms?” Queer theologians like Marcella Althaus-Reid and Bob Goss began to move into the direction of pulling away from lesbian and gay theologies and working them into queer theologizing which was a lot more transgressive, a lot more inclusive, and opened the eyes of the theological world to the fact that there were other resources that had before this been side-lined. What we’re having now is this whole idea that God is present in the unfamiliar and the irreverent, and that’s nothing new. Because if you look at the life of Christ himself, where did he find God? Where did he preach God? He did so in places that are often considered as irreverent and immoral. Queer theology is actually a theological method of going back to basics and looking at the person of Christ himself, who was radically inclusive.   Fuad Rahmat: What are your further thoughts on that connection before we move on to the more theoretical component?   Joseph Goh: I had previously mentioned the idea of the quadrilateral – the sources of theology – and one of the important sources of theology is human lives, or human experience, but for the longest time, that usually translated as heterosexual, heteronormative lives. What queer theologizing is trying to do now is to also encompass queer lives and LGBT lives, and to look at how LGBT people live not just human lives, but lives in connection with God. You know, queer theologians like Nancy Wilson and Marcella Althaus-Reid had always said that we need to begin not from any philosophical foundation for theologizing, but we need to begin from actual human lives and experiences and knowledge and circumstances. That’s very important. So that becomes the fundamental premise for queer theologizing, and as it comes from the people, it goes back to the people. Now, I admit, a lot of queer theologizing is really way up there, and it projects a lot of very interesting ideas that people probably can’t live out. What a lot of people are trying to do now, especially queer churches around the world is to make queer theologizing – the salient points in queer theologizing – palatable to the average LGBT Christian. Work has been done in churches like Free Community Church in Singapore and maybe the Blessed Community Fellowship in Hong Kong. The Queer Theology Academy in Hong Kong is also trying to make queer theology more liveable. A lot of people get inspiration from Patrick Cheng’s book as well, ‘Radical Love’, which is a very important and very detailed introduction to queer theology.   Fuad Rahmat: You know, a lot of these things I find interesting largely because there is this perception that queer theory outside its engagement with theology, while antinormative, tends to be antisocial, right? So one of the things I find curious is about the way you apply queer theory in this case. Community is so important, right? It’s presumed that that’s what theory is actually about. Now let’s branch into the question of theory and discussion: What does it mean then to be antinormative, to be transgressive in this regard? I mean on one hand there is inclusion. You are bringing this marginalised community into recognition, but then that sounds normative in a way, because you’re including them in the “fold”. So where is antinormativity in this project?   Joseph Goh: That’s a very important question. I think a lot of us are exposed to the rise of homonormativity in which gay and lesbian people, transgender, bisexual, and other queer people want to fit into mainstream living. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. I think that a lot of people need to be able to live. Using a Butlerian perspective, a lot of people are abjected, and because of that they fall outside the perimeters of liveability. If you’re not straight and you do not follow heteronormative lines, and you don’t fit into society therefore you are outside. You have less opportunities for growth and for flourishing as compared to your heterosexual, heteronormative counterparts. So it’s not necessarily a bad thing. On the other hand, I think the idea of being antinormative cuts way beyond the LGBT issue and right into heterosexual communities as well. Let’s look at it this way. How many purportedly heterosexual families live according to heteronormative lines? You could take two families together and they live very differently. In one family you could have the dad who likes to wear dresses at night and nobody talks about it, and you have another family where they’ve consciously decided that they don’t want to have children. So you might have heterosexual families who are still antinormative, so the idea of non-heteronormativity or railing against oppressive forms of normativity, is not just for LGBT people. It’s for everyone. That we have the fundamental right to live as we want to live, as long as we cause no harm to ourselves or to others.   Fuad Rahmat: Yes, sometimes we take the word ‘normal’ for granted as if we know what it means. When we look at it closer, very few things actually fit that criteria of ‘normal’, because there are many sides to us that we don’t necessarily feel connect well to our normal sides. There’s a side of us that is unconscious, that we don’t even know that we’re performing, and that can’t be classified easily. Let’s go back to the intellectual roots. You said that this began in the 70s. What was the text at that time that moved the queer theologians to say that, alright, this can be a good interlocutor for our project? You mentioned Foucault. Can you elaborate on that more?   Joseph Goh: There are several seminal texts. They don’t come to mind immediately at the moment but I can easily talk about it later. Maybe just to focus on one or two, and since we mentioned Foucault. I think one of the more important interlocutors for queer theologizing as in the case of queer theorising, is Michel Foucault. His idea that power exists in discourse, but that power infiltrates every aspect, every nook and cranny of human life and incites resistance. His vision of radical subversion, and his vision of deconstruction has been pivotal in queer theologizing, because it has challenged Christian theological ideas that “we are doing what has always been done”, which is not the case. When you subvert and you deconstruct, you begin to see the cracks in queer theology and you realize that it’s not a perfect package that has been handed down from one generation to the next. There are fissures, there are interruptions, and there are a lot of situations in which theology has went through upheavals in order to arrive at where it is today. The idea of subversion and deconstruction also suggests that there is no real point of arrival for theology. Earlier I mentioned Espin’s idea of tradition-ing. So when I talk about queer theology, I’m also thinking about queer theologizing, which is a process that never really ends, because it is constantly being deconstructed. It is constantly being subverted, and these processes are happening because it is the human lives that appropriate and embody theologizing. And even when we talk about queer theologizing, it’s more appropriate to talk about queer ‘theologizings’, because there are so many ways to do it. What is important though, I think, is that it must make way for actual lives, it must absorb actual lives into its discourse.   Fuad Rahmat: Now, this is interesting to me for two things: the first is the notion of sin. What happens to that? Now I know we are going beyond the convention, so I’m starting to wonder, what happens to the notion… the kind of old school notions of sin, well, sin is always updated too and it’s always evolving too in that it is not old school, but I mean it is somehow so connected with our piety. There is this idea that we don’t want to be sinners, so what does it do to that impulse? And secondly, connected to that, is what happens to the body in this picture? Because when we talk about lived realities, we are embodied creatures, but at the same time, there’s something about, broadly speaking, the Abrahamic context. It’s very ambivalent about what to do with the body. Some would like to separate it altogether. You want to accept the body, or deny the body altogether; some try to live with it in this sort of very contradictory relationship. What does this discourse do with that notion of body and sin? In fact for the longest time, sin and body were connected – the seven deadly sins were mostly problems with the body. So what happens there?   Joseph Goh: Spot on. And you know, queer theologians have pointed out that it’s ironic that whenever there’s talk about sin, it has something to do with the body or sex. The idea of ethics becomes sexual ethics; the idea of morality becomes sexual morality. The idea of sex is so taboo in Christianity and yet at the same time it emerges in other places. It’s like what Foucault said about the idea that while you may oppress sexuality in one area, it sort of survives and projects itself in other ways. So this is something that is really human but people forget that. Yes, I think for the idea of sexual sin, we need to really go back to people like Augustine, people like Aquinas. Augustine, a 4th century bishop, had for the longest time struggled with the idea of sexual sin. Before he became a saint, he was not really a saint. He had a lot of sexual exploits, and he had a son outside of wedlock. For Augustine, sexuality and sex were a necessary evil, for want of a better term. He went as far as saying that sin is justified – though still sin – if men and women have sex because it brings about a generation of offspring. Aquinas who came centuries later also took up that idea and thought that if people are going to have sex, then they are going to have sex because they are going to have children. That’s a good thing, but it took a long time before mainstream churches realised that conjugal love, the conjugal act in and of itself, was also something good. So now most mainstream churches, I think, would agree that the generation of offspring as well as the conjugal act are both gifts from the divine. Having said that, it’s also important to know that something that’s officially proclaimed does not necessarily translate easily into how people live. In many parts of the world, the idea of the body is still very negative. The body is still seen as a vehicle for sin; the harbourer of inequity, if you like, and sexual sin. You know, all of us have gone through periods where, whether we’re Christian or otherwise, we were told we have to be very careful of how we conduct our bodies because it could lead you to perdition, and God would not be very happy with that. What queer theology is trying to do though, is to look at how the body operates, and see the body as fundamentally good – that the sexual, and the erotic, are gifts of the divine. And if it is channelled in constructive ways, even if it is constructed in constructive unconventional ways, it could still act as a conduit between the human and the divine. Queer theology has given rise to various forms of sub-theology such as, body theologies, erotic theologies, and sexual theologies. It is especially in erotic theology that we find lesbian thought. Theologians like Carter Heyward, Mary Hunt, and even my colleague from Hong Kong, Lai-shan Yip, and my other colleague Rose Wu, have talked about how the body is actually this very strong conduit that leads us to God.   Fuad Rahmat: You know, that to me has lessons, potentially or not, to even non-religious attitudes towards the body. Lauren Berlant makes this point: She uses the word ‘erotophobia’ a lot and this is something that even liberals tend to assume whether they realise it or not, that even when you secularise the body, you’re not necessarily more open to the sensations it yields, especially in the more erotic context. In the age of liberalism, after Sex and the City, there is this idea that it is just sex… there is this implicit reduction of what it is. “It’s just biological, it’s just your choice.” But it seems to me that there is an insight to your discourse that says, “no it is not just that.” It tries to rescue the body in a lot of ways from the reductions of liberalism that just sees it as chemicals and synapses in your brain, and the discourse in more conventional religion that sees it as a problem. So it says, “no, there is a lot of mystery here, there is wonder here, there is a kind of communication that is happening.”   Joseph Goh: Yes, absolutely. I think what queer theology in all its various forms is trying to do is to, maybe in a way, theologically democratize the body, and to allow the body to be appreciated for what it is, whether it is the straight body or if it is the queer body. It adopts a non-reductionistic form of appreciation for the body, and this is nothing new actually. It is a recovery of something that’s always been there. If you look at the book of Genesis, what does it tell us? It tells us the story, in a metaphorical sense of course, of how human beings came to be. So you’re talking about a God, a creator God, who chose to express love in a very material way. So right from the beginning, materiality was good, and is good. So when we talk about the theological origins of the body, and how God saw all that God had made and that it was very good, we are actually allowing people to look at their own bodies as they are. Their bodies with their expressions, with their particular embodiments, and to say that it is good. And anything that is good, is godly, and connects to the divine. So I think queer theologizing has a pivotal role to play in helping people, straight or otherwise, to appreciate their bodies as they are, and to live as they wish to live in everyday life and in their connections with God.   Fuad Rahmat: I have one last question and then we can wrap up. That’s interesting, and perhaps before we end – unfortunately we have to wrap this up soon – I want some insights on what happens to those traditional categories like guilt, sin, and shame. I don’t want to make this move where we get rid of those things completely because I think they can be of good use. I mean, if I don’t recycle I should feel ashamed. Or if I litter everywhere I should feel guilty. There’s something about our conscience that we can articulate and relate to in a healthy way. And there are ways that destroys us when we feel too burdened by self-resentment or shame. So what happens to those traditional categories in this picture?   Joseph Goh: Queer theology has sort of reworked and reread the normative historical notions of sin and guilt, and Patrick Cheng in his book, ‘From Sin to Amazing Grace’, really talks about it at great length. He says that for LGBT people, sin is not to be LGBT; sin is a denial of who you are. With this he brings about a more theological traditional idea of creation in which human beings are created by the divine in particular gender and sexual expressions. So he talks about homophobia, internalised homophobia, and internalised transphobia, as being sin. He talks about the failure to recognize one’s worth as sin. So there is already that reworking, and I speak as a queer theologian. When we talk about guilt, what’s the purpose of guilt? Guilt is a knock on the door to say “hey, something’s not right, so can we not shift rather, from seeing guilt as something that ties us down and oppresses us and makes us feel bad about ourselves, to something that helps us to be more responsible and accountable human beings?” For the longest time, I have made the decision that in my own life, guilt serves no other purpose than to help me avoid making similar mistakes in the future. So guilt is a phase. Guilt should not stay on the table for the longest time. It should be there just to help us take stock of how we’ve not been living constructive lives, how what we’ve done has not been life-giving, and then to move on from there. I think that queer theologizing also helps us to realise that we do make wrong choices in life, especially in terms of our bodies, but they’re not there to stay.   Fuad Rahmat: Interesting. Unfortunately, that’s all the time we have left for this episode, but we do end typically with recommendations – books, articles, or even films that you feel can be useful for our listeners to pursue the questions further.   Joseph Goh: But, I think that Patrick Cheng’s ‘Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology’ is an easier insertion into the world of queer theology. Apart from that I think a lot of people, especially our listeners out there who want an even gentler introduction could look at the website of the metropolitan community churches and see resources that help parents especially, understand their LGBT children. I am currently working on a book called ‘Living Out Sexuality and Faith’ so hopefully that would be out soon. There are many other books out there. I’m happy if people want to email me to ask for recommendations, I’d be more than happy to suggest a few books.    ]]>