نحمده ونصلي على رسوله الكريم
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
وعلى عبده المسيح الموعود
Urban Poverty and Anthropocentric Paradigm
Urban poverty, The Jakarta Post
“Hey, please give me the ball. Let me shoot and be you the keeper!” That was the command I said some time ago to a group of little boys playing plastic football on an incommodious street in the crowded district of Penjaringan, North Jakarta. Irrespective of all the limitedness they faced, they were looking very happy with the game. The dirty complex of houses happened to be just around them – those personified, in fact, their dwellings – were not to be a source of inaction. Likewise, the dim lamps of night stood out left and right were not to be a plea of lamentation. They, in sum, were joyous enough to try dribbling the ball beautifully as if they were Ronaldo or Messi.
Urban poverty, as the academics name it, is the correct phrase to summarise the entire scene I witnessed. Yeah, those children, of their plainness and innocence, were still allowed to gulp a small cup of happiness. Yet, in contrast, as it came to my sight, their parents were of painful megrim to the extent that the vigour of life almost disappeared from their faces. As quoted by Amato and Zuo in Sociological Quarterly (1980), one theory suggests that urban poverty is indeed more detrimental to people’s phrenic well-being than that of rurality. Higher rates of crime, psychological disorders, divorce, and many other social diseases constitute the backdrop. Heartbreakingly, in this Capital City of Jakarta, there are precisely 372,620 individuals who have to bear, by perforce, that burden of poverty, according to the released data of Central Bureau of Statistics per September 2018.
At this, I entered into a state of sadness. Why not to be dejected after discrying our fellow beings endure so much hardship in lieu of cheerfulness? I contemplated, however, and pondered, why they could arrive at such miserable edifice of fate. Then, it was conclusively settled that, in order for the phenomenon to transpire, no other major cause is there apart from humans’ natural greed and aggressiveness. These are the two traits that lead large numbers of villagers to big cities in hope of seeking more cherished earnings.
When they reach the destinations and gradually get exposed to individual-centered cultures yonder reigning, this, too, proves to excercise huge influence on them. This runs in perfect pursuance with Hermann et al. in PNAS (2010) who formulated that anthropocentrism is rather an acquired worldview than being something hereditary. Accordingly, once they do not succeed in finding settlements, they feel no regret to evict groups of trees on riverbanks, to grab public lands at the edge of railway stations, to saturate littoral zones near fish processing centers, or to erect dingy habitations under the vault of various tollways. Later on, upcoming generations inherit their parents’ initiative and even expand it as their needs grow bigger, resulting in more complex problems for the ruling government.
Anthropocentrism: Between the Constructive and the Destructive
Throughout the history, philosophers, theologians, and scientists have been attempting to understand the fountainhead of anthropocentrism.
Baruch Spinoza, for instance, proposed the cavemen story in his renowned Ethics (1677). He narrated that, upon observing all things of nature, early humans believed that there were governor or some governors of the universe who, endowed with human freedom, had attended to all their needs and made everything for their use. This misconception, he mockingly added, developed into superstition and became deep-rooted in the minds of men.
In a converse manner, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad put forward in his Arabic work, I‘jāz al-Masīḥ (1901), the idea of graded sacrifice whilst commenting on God’s attribute of al-Raḥmān. The essential meaning of His being so, to him, is that He has ordained the lower creatures as sacrifice for the higher ones. He expressed, “Do you not know that the camel-injuring worm is killed to save the former’s soul and then she is slaughtered so that men may take advantage of her meat and skin?” Therefore, it is his position that anthropocentrism has been God’s practice since the very beginning of humankind.
Similar to Ghulam Ahmad’s view, but in Spinoza’s scornful tune, Charles Dawkins opined in River Out of Eden (1995) that anthropocentrism is, no doubt, a natural way of thinking within human species whose waking thoughts are dominated by their personal goals, substantiated in, “The desire to see purpose.” Just as their pagan forefathers who questioned thunder, eclipses, rocks, and streams, Dawkins stated that modern humans clearly ask the same question when cancer, earthquake, or hurricane befall their children, saying, “Why do they have to strike our kids?” In consequence, they start scrutinising the matter and, thereafter, striving to solve and even conquer it so that the loss may see a decrease in the future.
From these three excerpts, we can summarise that anthropocentrism has been connate since the emergence of human race, regardless of whether it is a kind of misunderstanding or, contrarily, divinely designed. I am not saying that it is a genetic trait being passed down from parents to their offsprings. I am explicating, instead, as stated above, that it is a latent and delitescent character which will openly manifest subsequent to stimulation received. Depending on the stimulant, anthropocentric realisation is categorised into two different types, namely constructive and destructive. Unfortunately, the one at which we mostly look and encounter in our daily lives is the latter. This is also the anthropocentrism that operates in the context of urban poverty.
Logically speaking, the best way to alleviate urban poverty, based on the aforementioned premises, is replacing the destructive paradigm of anthropocentrism with the constructive. We are made cognisant in the early paragraphs that it is people’s greedy and aggressive faculties that entice them to move to big cities and establish here infeasible encampments when no place is available for them to reside in. Thereupon, my suggested solution for this issue is providing more access to education for the residents of small cities and villages, be it in terms of practical skills or scientifically conceptualised system of learning, in the order of controlling their inner migration flush and transforming them, as well, into better ever more functional local inhabitants. In other words, it is the constructive anthropocentrism that radiates.
By the tutoring of practical skills, I mean so for those who are no longer at the school ages or no more possible to attend any classroom, but still lie within the range of the productive ages. As far as I am concerned from my experience in Bogor, for example, there are many teenagers who, having been dropped out of their schools, turn into migrants and unemployed buskers on the streets of Jakarta. I believe that, if these young ones are trained and coached with skills conforming to their homegrown potentials, they and their local government will yield so much profit.
It is certain that every district in Bogor has their respective superior products. In Dramaga alone, by way of illustration, sweet potatos emerge for the development of which big lands spanning 122 hectares have been prepared, penned Ekha Rojiah in her undergraduate thesis (IPB 2015). In case the Government of Bogor takes heed of this simple yet huge prospect to educate the youngsters under discussion to be capable farmers, many social, economical, and environmental problems they are facing at the moment will greatly be resolved. Furthermore, a significant quantity of West Java’s comers to Jakarta will also be reduced dan subsided. For, it is alarming that, with 58,236 individuals annually relocating their livings to the Capital City by 2015, this region comprises 36.34% of such migrants in total at the national level, second to none among those of the other provinces.
Afterwards, I intend the scientifically conceptualised system of study for those who are currently enjoying school chairs. It has been one of my deepest concerns that there are so many school-aged teenagers of Central Javanese origin working as transportation drivers, bus conductors, ticket brokers, and rough labours in Jakarta. Having ruminated on the case throughoutly, it appears to me that the reason behind this lies in the incorrect teaching and learning method of our present educational framework.
Most teachers today put too many assignments and homeworks upon the shoulders of their students without giving them the basic and solid as well as logical and philosophical background of the subject they teach. I am taking into account my personal impression of Biological lesson in a Jakarta-based international state-owned senior high school. When we learned about cell, all that the tutor explained before the class was a mere instruction to memorise what nucleus, mithocondria, chloroplast, and other organelles were. We were not informed of what the evolutionary origins of these cellular components were, why organisms stood in dire need of them, and what the recent advancement being made in this field was. As a result, my fellow students became less enthusiastic about Biology, whereas it was essentially very intriguing and attractive. The only thing they cared for was conversing with each other.
We can all, hence, imagine the educational system transpiring in rural and underdeveloped area. As a matter of fact, this is the foundational structure underlying the construction of the townspeople’s migratory mindset. They prefer to end their incriminating student lives in order to search for jobs – regardless of their inferiority – in big cities like Jakarta. For this reason, I am prompting that more conceptual ways of teaching and learning should be formalised and materialised.
Indonesian students, enounced Clara Davis from USAID Indonesia, in a meeting at Pacific Place Mall three years ago which I attended, have been proving to be of the word’s brightest brains. So, if a milieu is created for these people to get accostumed to the dialectics of both natural and social sciences from early educational period, they will positively evolve into terrific academians, intellectuals, researchers, inventors, and discoverers of world-class caliber after pursuing undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, instead of professing low-paid jobs in the already populated Jakarta. In consequence, not only the Capital City will be relieved from a great measure of her load, but it is also my firm conviction that only through such educational system will our beloved country march forward to the enumeration of prosperous nations.