It may be a dream afraid of waking up, or it may be a dream coming to realization in the next morning.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Restoring Justice

The laws are made to govern human's behaviors. If you're taught as a Muslim, you'd learn that no laws are perfect if they are man-made, and only the laws that are formed by God will have their comprehensiveness through places and times. But, the reality of this world is that the majority part of this world is practicing the kind of laws that are subjected to flaws and changes. And if you look closely too, these laws are very much made up on the concept of abstraction and technicality. Too sadly too that while we're obsessed with keeping up with this kind of law, true reparation is very little done in this world.

Luckily, when we're talking about criminal justice, there is a movement that is based on restoration rather than punishment and the need to conform to the technical procedures of laws. Restorative justice is the kind of justice procedure that holds offenders accountable directly to their own victims, which implies on the importance of victims' participation in the process. One way of establishing restorative justice is victim-offender mediation. This program brings offenders and their victims in the same room with a mediator. Both sides will be given their opportunity to express their feelings. The victims will be able to say what they feel throughout the event of crime and the offenders have the chance to explain their positions and apologize. The offenders, too, will be given a chance to 'restore' the victim's condition back to before crime.

Of course both the victims and the offenders must give their consent to want to participate in this program, and those who consented benefit in their own respective ways. Offenders are less likely to experience repeat crimes and victims rate their satisfaction highly on the resolution process. My personal opinion would attribute these benefits back to the communication process. Communication is the one thing that is simple but very much neglected by grudge holders in this world. Conflicts usually persists due to the lack of direct communication between the two parties involved.

Although it's not really about restorative justice, but there is a new show, "Fairly Legal," that talks about how important it is to not be stuck with the technicality of laws and the benefits of mediation in conflict resolution. Try to watch it, and you might have an idea of what victim-offender mediation program is, except this show extends it to conflicts that are not based on criminal conducts.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Danger of Labeling

What is the first thing that happens right after someone is released from a rehab center or prison? "Labels" start to be stamped on his forehead so the community or the people around him. One reason why we really much like to use labels to organize people around us is that it is easier to manage information about them. Humans are more likely to categorize and labels things because, well, it is more organized, isn't it? To some extent, categorizations and labels can be beneficial. It is a way to ensure the doctors give the right medication for different types of ailment (cold fever, sore throat, gastric, etc). It is a way to give different treatment to different kind of a teacher's pupils (demotivated, bright, active, etc). And many other instances where categorization and "labels" can help us in identifying how a thing works and how to respond to it.

But all this is provided if we use labels wisely and informatively. An ignorant way of using label is when this is going too far and to backfire. People in the community usually use labels to make it easier for them to know how to act around a certain type of people or things. They are more likely to avoid buying food from "the poor" because of the expectation on the hygiene. They are more likely to desire to be like "celebrities" because they are popular. They are more likely to think that security guards are "uneducated". They are more likely to say that a woman who marries someone significantly older because of "his money." They are more likely to prevent from socializing with an ex-con because he might "fall back into the same patterns all over again." (And a certain blogger uses a "he" as an automatic pronoun whenever talking about an ex-con).And bla, bla, bla, bla...

You see, in this condition, we see what we want to see, and labels work in the same way (which explains self-fulfilling prophecy). When you have a certain expectation toward a person, even if you try not to say it aloud, your body language and way of speaking can scream the same thing just as effectively. The other person, already smelling our 'expectations,' slowly acting in accordance to what we expect. So, if we think a person is nice, he or she is more likely to act nice around us, and if we think a person is bad, he or she is more likely to act bad around us. This is one of the contributing factors of an ex-prisoner and ex-addict to experience relapse. Because their thinking on all this is that "they already think that I'm bad, so just act bad."

If you know someone who has been in an institution, try to have an open arm welcoming him or her into the community. The question of "should be careful" should not arise because it's the same issue with everyone, be they ex-prisoners or not. Meaning to say, we have to exercise a certain level of security and wariness to everyone (but not to the level of paranoia). This can therapeutically help in preventing from the same mishaps. If it happens to us, aren't we desperate for a second chance?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Bandung: A Place of Tolerance and Smiles

For five days I went to Bandung for a Social Work conference beginning from 10th January until 14th. It almost seemed the same like how it is with Malaysia, except the attitudes and vibe spread throughout the entire place felt different. Let me describe to you how Bandung was (I'm not sure if this is generalizable to the other parts of Indonesia). The road was crowded with cars and motorbikes, added with the people crossing the roads, some others who tried to sell stuffs who came to stopping cars, and children playing at the side of the roads. But almost very rare, or it never occurred at all how it usually is in Malaysia. Imagine how we feel, and how it feels when it's jammed like it'd never end at our Malaysian roads. We'd hear angry honks and impatient drivers yelling. But, I didn't see that in Bandung.

Although the roads were crowded like you never could imagine. Vehicles came from every side of the street, and cars were an inch from each other before getting scratched, but no, the cars were flat clean, and no accidents occurred. All this was because the people were tolerant and patient, an obvious but very frequently ignored important characteristic by many drivers in Malaysia. We still heard honks, but only to tell the driver in front politely that the road was clear for him or her was clear to driver forward.

Not to mention that the people were never exhaustible of smiles. There was a welcome party on the first day of the conference and while the food was amazing, the treatment by the local people was warm and endearing. At one point of time, I thought and wondered if they all had been in a training of hotel hospitality, but no, I don't think that kind of training would yield that kind of results, and it seemed natural, I mean not something that is trained, when it occurred to many people rather than just one.

It's definitely a nice place to go, plus the things to shop are very cheap compared to the similar stuffs in Malaysia. I'd recommend you to go there, provided you already have an Indonesian friend to accompany you there, because the street hawkers might jack up the price of the normally cheap things (although the jacked up price would even still be cheaper than the price counterparts in Malaysia).

My last word for this entry is, I really appreciate and thank you, Bandung people who treated us like a 7-star hotel with warmth and unending friendliness. Hope we see each other again.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What Happens On Movies

You guys who have reading my posts, must have noticed that in December, I have reviewed some movies. I not just stated what's good or bad about the movies, but I also tried to relate it to how real human life works in the similar pattern too. If you realize, there is a common flow how almost every movie works from the beginning till the end.

1 - The main characters (usually a boy and a girl) will get something that makes them happy. Like Dale Denton and Saul River get their new drug in Pineapple Express, or Kate Holbrook and Angie Ostrowiski get to be a mother and money respectively in Baby Mama, or Melanie Smooter and Andrew Hennings get engaged in Sweet Home Alabama. The beginning storyline acts as the way to introduce the concept of the movie.

2 - A building (or many) storyline gets in. Like Anna Brady is stuck with a cynical Irish man, Declan O'Callaghan in Leap Year, or Robert Kearns is starting to feel like successes are in his hands in Flash of Genius, or when Travis, Barris and other subjects of an experiment are finally split into being prisoners or prison guards in The Experiment. This storyline is important in directing how the lives of the characters will go, but usually there will be....

3 - A conflict. Usually the main characters will get some sort of conflicts that cause them to rift apart. Like Travis and Barris start to play out their own prisoner and prison guard role very nicely against each other, or Dale Denton and Saul Silver fight over their own different attitudes about how drugs should or should not still be used, or when Rebecca Bloomwood's boss, Luke Brandon realize that the former cheats in her job. I'd like to focus on this part. You see, whenever these characters get into trouble, the usual writing would be one or two or all of the main characters will opt to get out of anything they have between them. Couples decide to break off, spouses file for a divorce, friends vows for enmity, and family members disown each other. However, if you look closely at these movies, you will realize that usually the causes of the break-up are either manageable or tiny, like Brooke Meyers is angry at Gary Grobowski over untidy house in The Break-Up, Alison Scott is mad at Ben Stone for his overly casual and dimwitted attitude in Knocked Up, or even an eventual break-up of Anna Brady with Jeremy Sloane because she thinks that his fiancee chooses matierials over her in a fire emergency. These little things are just enough to make them realize that they should not be together.

4 - The making amends begins. When all these conflicts happen, these main character will undergo some time not being together with the other. But of course these movies need a happy ending, so Anna Brady chooses Declan O'Callaghan as her partner for life, Ben Stone and Alison Scott get married, Kate Holbrook is pregnant and is getting her own child. At this stage of the movies, one of the main character will go out of his or her way trying to win the other over again. Melanie Smooter calling off her wedding with another guy to be with her husband, or Tom Bailey riding a horse across a lake to get to his love before she gets married with another guy in Made of Honor, or the Travis and the prisoners fight for their survival by running amok. The movies end with a little sparkly smile in the end showing that everything turns out good.

Ok, I'm getting to my point, pardon my long excited movie again-recaps. My point is, if you forget these movies and come back to reality, do you see that most of humans' stories in this world end at stage #3 above. Have you seen people who just give up without trying? Who end things without communicating? Who just stop without fighting for it? This is really a reality of our lives that need an opened eye. We always depend on bad events to decide that things end that our sensitivity to those are increasing day by day. Have you ever wondered, or waited, that your new partner will screw up in his assignment to break off the teamwork? Or have you been trying to look if your new husband will show an imperfection to file for a divorce? Or your roommate to be a jerk for you to move out?

Very rarely we try to see these things as a challenge for us to deal with, rather we just escape because we think it's better to stop now than to suffer later. My very point is we feel safer, apparently, by NOT being in a commitment. So, I'm calling all of us and me to have a little fight for what you really  need rather than what you want, because what we want is usually not reliable to begin with.