Archive for February, 2009
By Jennie S. Bev
Prior to Socrates (469-399 BC), there were the Monists and the Sophists. While the Monists subscribed to superstitious primitive beliefs, the Sophists were much more sophisticated. They taught and philosophized. Above all, they were well-versed in the arts of rhetoric and debate.
These sophists might still be alive and kicking today, far closer than we realize.
The arts of rhetoric and debate were called “sophistry” and those who mastered them would become advanced manipulators. In the hands of truth-seeking philosophers like Socrates, it was an effective tool. In the hands of politicians, it had the potential to make them charlatans.
Today, sophists might no longer exist officially but they are likely to remain within the realm of politics, particularly during an election period. The United States and Indonesia are no exception. George Eliot once said, “An election is coming. Universal peace is declared and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry.”
While Eliot was referring to particular side-tracked politicians, it is often inevitably true.
It might be true that Barack Obama, who sounded sincere, has been showing genuine interest in saving the world through his conscientious deeds, which started with the order to close the Guantanamo Bay prison within one year and meaningful talks with Middle East leaders. Yet there are also antitheses of Obama, those whose political platforms might ring with universal world peace but whose real intention is anything but.
In the United States, winning hearts comes by winning minds first, which is the other way around in Indonesia
In the 2009 election period, Indonesia has begun to see all kinds of political gladiators. As in high school, the most popular individuals enjoy high approval due to superficial, subliminal and not-so-intellectual reasons, and are likely to win the crowd and the votes. Among them are wild wolves and tame yellow Labradors, both of whom speak and behave quite similarly.
Sophistry is in full swing and constituents might not be able to determine which of the candidates are legitimate.
Ronald Reagan said humorously that “Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.” With a lot of respect for the people behind the “oldest profession” facade, selling is what both have in common.
Sophists were known for their notorious manipulative nature. In Indonesia’s political arena, many political gladiators have been positioning themselves to win people’s hearts by marketing personal piety through different symbols, flamboyant rhetorics and extravagant promises, mostly without any clear, quantifiable or measurable indicators. In the United States, winning hearts comes by winning minds first, which is the other way around in Indonesia.
It might be too early to use Obama as the poster child of the New Deal’s comeback. He did, however, raise the bar for all politicians. He has set an example that rhetoric and debate are not the only useful apparatuses in convincing voters and opponents, but so was the search for “the truth” and “the just.” He showed that the substance of an argument rings much louder than egotistical tongue-twisting assurance.
In the latest 2008 presidential election campaign in the United States, street-level euphoria, such as titanic banners and posters by traffic lights, were not found. Most campaigns were conducted indoors and in the media. Rage was kept to a minimum and whenever it occurred, intellectual fencing matches followed. This is believed to have reduced sophistry to a controllable level.
The 2009 presidential election campaign in Indonesia might not be a perfect democratic event, but at least it looks like one, sprinkled with sophists’ typical look-like-one-but-not-one logic of being a charlatan. Friendly and reliable-looking candidates are expected to receive more votes, regardless of their true character and capacity to make positive changes in society.
Among the less educated and somewhat naive voters, simple gestures of culturally induced politeness might even be key. Aesthetics and superficial customs are likely to replace ethics and morality. Japanese American novelist Kyoko Mori once referred to this phenomenon as “polite lies.”
As long as Indonesia’s politicians have not realized the importance of substance in their agenda, such as dignity and self-sufficiency instead of hoping for foreign assistance for most problems, “the truth” and “the justice” seeker will remain dormant. And they will keep sophistry looming among an unpretentious crowd.
Jennie S. Bev is an Indonesian-born author and columnist based in Northern California. This article was published by the Jakarta Globe.
Title: Sky without Limit: Fifteen Self-Challenges to Realize Your Visions
Author: Dr. Beni Bevly
Publisher: Afton Institute
Specification: 173 pages, 4.25″ x 6.88″, and soft cover
Price: $18.00 (BUY)
My tai chi master used to teach the way of life by telling stories. I remember one of them:
A long time ago, a very wealthy man and his family lived in harmony in the Far East Kingdom. On his birthday, he invited many people, including one renowned calligrapher who was also a tai chi master. He presented his calligraphy as a gift to that wealthy man.
The man thought it must be a very valuable gift, so he unwrapped it in front of his guests. However, he and the guests were shocked when they read:
Grandfather and grandmother die.
Father and mother die.
Then grandchildren die.
Of course the wealthy man was angry. However, the tai chi master explained, “What if I wrote instead: First, grandchildren die. Second, children die. Third, father and mother die. And last, grandfather and grandmother die. Wouldn’t that be very sad? Because the younger people die first. But if the older people die first, then followed by the younger, that would be a natural and happy family.”
In this book, you will find a lot of words, sentences, and challenges that are as blunt as this story. But behind the bluntness lies a proven method that will drive you to realize you visions.
If you want to find the easy, instant, and comfortable way to realize those visions, this is not the right book for you. Please close it now and put it back on the shelf, because through this book, I won’t be showing you an easy and instant way to become a successful person.
Instead, you will be asked to challenge yourself to do things you don’t want to do, and even to create a rival for yourself. Behind all these challenges, basically you will be driven to become the best person you can be and to live out your visions for your life.
In many publications, the authors use the word dream to describe a lifelong wish and aspiration in doing and becoming. Here, I refrain from using dream because I will be talking about how to work towards your goals by doing. Doing itself is an action based on perseverance and endurance, not a passive and simplistic activity such as dreaming.
As we make this journey together, I will often tell you what you don’t want to hear, I will show you what you don’t want to see, and I will ask you to do what you don’t want to do. You will be challenged along the way to do more than you now believe you can, and you will begin to find in yourself the courage and commitment to make your life into what you now only wish it could be. By learning to meet these new challenges, you will find in yourself greater power that you ever imagined.
Why do I challenge you instead of acting like a traditional coach who encourages you with a pat on the back and leads you along a predefined road?
First, because I have learned from my own experience that challenging works better than coaching. Presenting you with a challenge lets you explore your own power to achieve your goals instead of depending on someone else to keep motivating you to do better. When that other person isn’t available, your motivation can disappear too, because it’s being fueled by someone else.
Second, our society teaches us all independence from an early age, which explains why many of us aren’t so coachable. Some people hire coaches to help them succeed, yet the results aren’t very pretty because there’s a conflict as to who is in charge of your independence.
An external coach can become a crutch to lean on, creating dependency and resentment—not to mention the belief you need help to succeed. Instead you should want to learn how to motivate yourself and to see what you can achieve under your own power. In this book, I’m going to show you how to be your own coach and rely on yourself for the motivation to succeed while challenging you to fly alone.
As we explore new challenges together, you’ll receive far more than just encouragement to fulfill your aspirations. Instead, I’ll be your personal guide, showing you how to challenge yourself. By meeting these challenges, you’ll develop the ability to coach yourself to success. You already have inside you the strength and will to make yourself a winner—and to realize your visions. I’ll be with you as you learn how to tap into that power and use it for yourself. It won’t always be easy, but the rewards will be great.
In the following chapters, you will challenge yourself to:
1. Walk through fire to pursue what you passionately want.
2. Do what you do not want to do to accomplish the important things that you must do to pursue your visions.
3. Declare your success by creating a statement of your goals.
4. Create your own inner rival so you can measure how you are doing.
5. Create your next rivals so that you can achieve more, above and beyond your present goals.
You will learn that the sky is not the limit—the only limit is yourself. And you will learn how to remove all your limitations, then create a sky without limit by:
1. Killing the dragon within, becoming selfless by eliminating arrogance.
2. Giving more without selfishness, gaining the power of giving and teaching.
3. Walking endlessly, showing determination and perseverance instead of quitting.
4. Being militant about what you want, learning that there is no in-between—there is only doubt and compromise or total confidence.
5. Becoming “Achilles,” acting courageously instead of being fearful.
6. Being antiestablishmentarian, turning crisis to opportunity.
You will also be asked to forget the typical notion of the American Dream because we’ll redefine what it actually is: not just a dream per se, but more about committing yourself to talk loudly about what you’re going to do and to act upon it. In so doing, you’ll find out that there is more than one road to success.
You’ll also learn the lesson of a volcano: choosing the right moment and the right place to make the greatest impact, one that nobody will ever forget.
Finally, you will push harder and live stronger in every aspect of your life.
In the words of Joyce Wycroft:
To know what you do not know, you must go where you have not gone, see what you have not seen, do what you have not done, and be what you have not been.
Because, after all, success is not a destination—it is an adventure to realize your visions.
Are you ready? Let’s begin.
Dr. Beni Bevly is an analyst Overseas Think Tank for Indonesia, Northern California. His educational backgrounds are organizational leadership, marketing, and political science. His proven organizational and management skills have propelled him to management positions in one of Fortune 500’s corporations. He is a life coach, a certified fitness trainer, a specialist in martial arts conditioning, and an international martial arts black belt holder.
Oleh Dr. Beni Bevly
Akhir pekan lalu, dalam perjalanan ke Sacramento, ibu kota negara bagian Kalifornia di Tanah Seberang, saya berhenti di Burger King. Saya memesan satu cangkir kopi dan french fries. Setelah bayar, waiter-nya memberikan satu cangkir kopi seketika kepada saya.
Saya menunggu french fries yang saya pesan, tetapi setelah kurang lebih lima menit berselang, tidak kunjung datang juga. Lalu saya tanya ke waiter tersebut. Ia menjawab, “Oh gosh, I totally forgot. Forgive me.”
Dengan terburu ia mengemas dua paket frech fries dan memberikan ke saya sambil berkata, “Because it is my mistake, I am giving you two french fries.”
Pada keesokan harinya, saya menghadiri appointment saya dengan beberapa partner bisnis saya di Espresso Bar Nordstrom dekat tempat tinggal saya di kota Pleasanton, Kalifornia. Kami pesan dua kopi, dua teh dan makanan kecil. Tak lama kemudian siaplah miniman dan makanan kami, kecuali satu cangkir teh yang kami pesan. Kami tidak menanyakan hal itu kepada waiter segera, kami berpikir mungkin teh yang satu itu akan dibawakan kemudian.
Beberapa saat berlalu, teh tersebut belum juga datang. Akhirnya saya menayakan hal itu pada waiter. Ternyata pesanan kami tidak tercatat di note pad-nya sehingga mereka tidak menyediakan teh itu. Waiter itu berkata, “I am sorry about that. We will not charge you for this tea. It will be ready soon.”
Di tengah krisis Ekonomi di Tanah Seberang yang oleh banyak orang dilihat sebagai akibat kerakusan sistem kapitalis, ternyata kedua kasus yang sangat kecil ini merupakan dua tetes air segar yang menunjukkan kejujuran dan kebaikan hati karyawan mereka.
Mungkin sebagian dari kita bertanya, “Ah, itukan hanya tindakan karyawan mereka. Lagi pula merekakan berhadapan muka secara langsung dengan pelanggan. Bagaimana dengan bos besar yang duduk di belakan meja dan perusahaan yang tidak bersentuhan langsung dengan pelanggan? Bukankah mereka sangat rakus dan menerapkan sistem kapitalis murni?
Memang pertanyaan di atas tidak bisa dipungkiri. Memang banyak yang seperti itu, akan tetapi tidak semua pelaku bisnis, termasuk bisnis raksasa di Tanah Seberang. Ambilah contoh Google yang kini telah tumbuh menjadi search engine terbesar di dunia maya.
Saya mulai mengenal Google secara akdemik pada tahun 2005 ketika saya mengambil summer course Building Products through Customer-Driven Innovations di Stanford University. Di situ saya diperkenalkan dengan satu konsep yang cukup asing di telinga saya pada waktu itu, yaitu: “Don’t be evil.”
Google didirikan pada tahun 1998 oleh Larry Page dan Sergey Brin. Mereka memulai usahanya di ruangan kos di Stanford University dengan menerapkan philosophy don’t be evil. Kini, perusahaan ini telah memiliki lebih dari 10.000 karyawan worldwide.
Dalam philosophynya, Google menemukan apa yang mereka sebut “Ten Things Google Has Found To Be True.” Di antaranya disebut secara explicit disebutkan “You can make money without doing evil” atau “Kamu bisa mencari uang dengan tanpa berlaku seperti iblis.”
Seperti kita ketahui bahwa keuntungan terbesar dari Google adalah melalui iklan. Sebenarnya, dengan program canggihnya, dengan mudah mereka bisa tergoda untuk menawarkan produk culas supaya mendatangkan lebih banyak uang. Contohnya, menarik bayaran yang lebih tinggi dari pelanggan mereka supaya nama mereka bisa tampil di baris pertama ketika di-search oleh pengguna internet walaupun tidak berhubungan langsung dengan topic yang disearch.
Atau mereka bisa menawarkan harga lebih tinggi supaya iklan pelanggan mereka bisa tetap nongol di layer computer pemakai dan berkelap-kelip. Tetapi mereka tidak melakukan hal itu. Salah satu yang mereka lakukan adalah megindentifikasikan secara jelas bahwa iklan adalah iklan.
Tepatnya Google mengatakan, “Advertising on Google is always clearly identified as a Sponsored Link. It is a core value for Google that there be no compromising of the integrity of our results” (Iklan pada Google selalu diidentifikasi sebagai Sponsored Link. Adalah keyakinan utama Google untuk tidak mengkompromikan keintegritasan dari produk kami”).
Mereka menambahkan, “We never manipulate rankings to put our partners higher in our search results. No one can buy better PageRank. Our users trust Google’s objectivity and no short-term gain could ever justify breaching that trust” (“Kami tidak pernah memanipulasikan ranking untuk menempatkan parner kami di posisi yang tinggi dalam hasil pencarian di Internet. Tidak ada orang yang bisa membeli PageRank yang lebih baik. Pengguna jasa kami mempercayai keobjektifan Google dan tidak ada keuntungan jangka pendek yang bisa menjustify pelanggaran kepercayaan itu”).
Dalam penggolongan philosophy lain yang mereka sebut “Ten Principles that Contribute to A Google User,” terdapat satu prinsip yang sangat mendukung philosophy “Don’t be Evil”, yaitu: be worthy of people’s trust.
Dengan perinsip ini, di antaranya, Google menghormati para pengguna/pelanggan untuk memiliki dan mengkontrol data sendiri. Mereka tidak pernah memberikan informasi para pengguna kepada pihak lain tanpa izin dari pengguna mereka.
Produk mereka juga mengingatkan jika terdapat insecure connection, perbedaan private policy pada website yang lain, tindakan yang mungkin menyusahkan pelanggan karena spam.
Menurut Google, semakin besar mereka, semakin penting untuk menjalani philosophy “Don’t be evil”.
Tentu saja kita berharap Google tetap bisa mempertahankan philosophy ini dan menjadi contoh bagi perusahaan lain bukan hanya di Tanah Seberang, tetapi juga di Tanah Air bahwa adalah sangat mungkin untuk mencari keuntungan dengan cara don’t be evil.
Supaya philosophy ini bisa diterapkan dengan baik, bukan hanya para executive dan pemilik bisnis yang perlu memulai, tetapi karyawan biasa juga mempunyai andil besar. Hal ini bisa dimulai dengan memperlakukan pelanggan seperti yang saya alami pada pekan lalu.
Seperti kata Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Dan Max Lener mengingatkan untuk selalu menghindarkan perbuatan yang bersifat keiblisan dengan berkata, “When you choose the lesser of two evils, always remember that it is still an evil.”
Dr. Beni Bevly adalah penulis buku Managing For Profit Organizations in the Flatter World. Ia bisa dijumpai di www.overseasthinktankforindonesia.com. Artikel ini diterbitkan oleh majalah Duit!