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Scribbles from the Ivory Tower

Le’ Notes #35: Political Philosophy – The Apology by Plato

This post covers Plato’s Apology and its relevance to political philosophy.

“Mankind can hardly be too often reminded, that there was once a man named Socrates, between whom and the legal authorities and public opinion of his time, there took place a memorable collision.” – John Stuart Mill, Essay on Liberty

J.S. Mill referred to the Apology, a speech delivered by Socrates prior being sentenced to death in an Athenian court. It is considered one of the fundamental texts that make up political philosophy (at least the Western canon) and asks some of the foundational questions that make up political philosophy.

We’ll look at what the Apology covers and why it is important to political philosophy.

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A letter to me in 2016

Dear me in 2016,

You enrolled in this MSc Strategic Studies program hoping to be able to contribute to your country’s national security. You thought you would become a strategist, someone who could help Indonesia in its time of doctrinal stagnation. You had high hopes for yourself that you would come home and be there for your country, even when they rejected you twice.

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Le’ Notes #34: In search of political legitimacy

This post discusses Weber’s and Alagappa’s theories of political legitimacy.

The centrepiece of any political system is legitimacy. Political leaders who do not possess legitimacy, well, are deemed unworthy of assuming any political authority. At the surface, it is simple to relate the two. A legitimate leader has authority; an illegitimate leader has no authority. However, what exactly is “legitimacy”? Where does it come from? What does it consist of? How can it be lost?

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Le’ Notes #33: The bureaucratic polity and consociational democracy

This post takes a look at two political systems which once described several countries in Southeast Asia: the bureaucratic polity and consociational democracy.

Introduction

The political development of countries in Southeast Asia began after a long period of colonisation. Except for Thailand, after escaping from colonial rule, the newly decolonised countries had to devise their own political system. The way they achieved them differed significantly from one another. Although many of these countries practice some form of democracy — say, Malaysia’s consociational (or some may say, ethnic) democracy — the type of democracy is shaped by unique cultural, social, and economic factors.

This time, I’ll look at two political systems that have been present in Southeast Asia: the bureaucratic polity, which once described Thailand and Indonesia; and consociational democracy, which once described Malaysia.

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THOUGHTS AND COFFEE #11: In a trial of tolerance, Indonesia fails

The Ahok trial has come to an end. The judges ruled Ahok guilty of blasphemy and sentenced him to two years in prison. The sentence was higher than the prosecution’s demands — 2 years of probation and 1 year in prison if Ahok reoffended — and was considered an unfair decision by many of his supporters and the general public following the trials.

Justice has failed. If Ahok’s trial did anything positive, it showed the world that Indonesia’s blasphemy laws belong not in a democratic and plural society.  It also showed that Indonesia may as well fall into extremist clutches.

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THOUGHTS AND COFFEE #10: Jakarta changes leadership

The quick count results of the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial elections show that Anies-Sandi has secured the majority vote. As shown below, Anies-Sandi is in the lead with 58%, leaving Ahok-Djarot behind with 42%. As history may show, quick count results tend to not be that far off the mark. So, Jakartans will have to welcome Anies-Sandi as their new governor for the next period.

 

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As seen on Jakarta Post website

 

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Le’ Notes #32: Intelligence, the basics

This post covers the basics of intelligence: what it is, why it’s important, and how it works.

What is intelligence?

James-Bond.jpg

When the word “intelligence” is brought up, you might have vivid images of a savvy English spy, drinking a martini (“Shaken, not stirred”) and conversing with a drop-dead beauty while surreptitiously listening in to the big bad mob boss on the other side of the club. Most likely, the word is associated with espionage and sabotage, the work of CIA spooks in third world countries like Jason Bourne (Bourne series) or Michael Westen (Burn Notice). But that is often the exception, rather than the norm. Most of the time, intelligence analysts are quietly sitting behind a computer and staring at a screen, occasionally yawning and adjusting his buttocks, waiting for a ping to come up. Covert action, like depicted in Hollywood movies, are also included in the activities of intelligence, but they arguably make up a very small piece of the overall pie.

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Le’ Notes #31: Theoretical interpretations of Indonesia’s politics

This post discusses the theoretical interpretations of Indonesian politics from the New Order to the ongoing Reformasi era.

The first leg of my journey starts with understanding the different theoretical interpretations of Indonesia’s political system. Most of the scholarly work on Indonesia is focused on the New Order: its genesis, peak, and violent crumble. The market for Indonesian history is practically saturated with New Order stuff with a bit of Sukarno on the side and the colonial and ancient times (the lattermost nobody really cares about at this point, but is slightly important nonetheless). In this summary, I’ll go through the various schools of interpretation, which were mostly conducted by Western academics.

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Reading science fiction in an age of political turbulence

Lately, I’ve found myself reading more classic science fiction. I went through Asimov’s entire Foundation saga, and am currently reading Clarke’s Odyssey series and his Rama series. The science fiction of old reflected a time of general optimism for space travel and colonisation. One day, we’d escape our cradle, Earth, and settle throughout the galaxy. We may or may not encounter other intelligent life-forms; even Asimov thought humans would be the dominant space-faring species in the Milky Way (but he hinted, at the end of Foundation and Earth, that Andromeda may host a new form of life we’ve yet to encounter).

The main enabler for us to engage in space travel would be technology. As we sailed the seas with ships and aircraft carriers, so too will we travel the stars in advanced starships like the USS Enterprise. At this moment, we’re taking baby steps towards the development of space technology, slowly and clumsily crawling towards that dramatic breakthrough or “revolution” that would propel us into the future. But, Asimov’s dreams of humans establishing a galactic empire tens of thousands of years into the future maybe under attack.

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