Approaching the date of my birthday this year reminds me of how I should be thankful to Life that is blessed upon me. I have been living on this earth for 35 years old. I am, indeed, growing from time to time. I feel that I am getting older, and I hope that I am getting wiser at times passing by. The year of 2020 signifies two major notes for my reflective post, with a few additional small notes, of course. I write this post in the sense of sharing my perspective. It does not have any relation at all with anyone. It is simply my thoughts. The two major notes relate to meanings of social status and the existence of social care. Within each major note, I add a few facts and examples from what I observed and experience so far, to reach the sense of reflective life experience.
The first major note deals with the meanings of social status. A person who has a certain social status has also, indeed, a certain degree of responsibility over the social status. As a person who is growing up in Indonesia, I noticed that for the most part, the highest social status can be seen in the form of being a rich person – having the luxury of life. It connects to the notion of American standard, the Western standards in particular. Unfortunately, when the conflicting issues on corruption, collusion, and nepotism arise, I begin to realize that being a rich person is good on the surface. At that point, the degree of responsibility emerges. For example, the case of Edi Tansil – the most wanted corruptor in Indonesia in the past ten years – shows how insignificant it is to be rich while being rich is derived unlawfully. I learned that having a social status is, therefore, about having a certain degree of responsibility and demanding tasks. When such responsibility cannot be met and the tasks were completed in lawfully wrong ways, then the meanings of social status become questionable. It needs to be approached contextually.
Furthermore, the higher a person has the social status, the higher the responsibility that the person has. I have a solid experience in this regard. After eleven years working as a permanent English lecturer since 2009, how would I knew that eventually I was forced “conditionally and situationally” to end up that working in the middle of 2020? Being a lecturer at a college in Indonesia, to me, is a high social status. Everyone recognizes that I am teaching. If I calculated the numbers of students I had taught, it could reach more than 1000 students. Most of them have graduated. Besides, I also published quite many research articles. I also completed community services to nearby communities. Dozens of activities that I enjoyed working. In 2020, I was forced to end it. I stopped my explanation ‘at this point’. How amazing isn’t it to see the word permanent can be changed? When I linked this real life experience to the notion of having social status, I can frankly state that, absolutely, I have accomplished that social status with better service and responsibilities. Perhaps, that will be a sign for me to receive a higher social responsibility later on? I would say, “Thank you, Covid-19! You open the door to see the other side of having social status” I smiled.
Being a leader of a community means that the leader should know the strength of the power of being a leader; at the same time, being a leader also means that recognizing the limits of being a leader is important. The two words, strengths and limits, signify strong awareness to the existence of power. Now, let me bring you to a real life experience of mine. I would replace the word ‘I’ into ‘he.’ He was working as a worker, a teacher to be precise, for eleven years. Unstopped. He worked diligently until he could obtain achievement as one of the best teachers at the college where he worked. One day, the college had disputes with the board of the college. Usually, these two college elements both worked well, until the most respected person in the board passed away. The number of students was getting limited due to Covid-19. Without proper checking and balance, the leaders of the college selected him to be put ‘out side,’ simply because he stood neutral. He knew pretty well that he was a scholar. His main concern was to adjust the scholarship endeavours. He did not pick any side. He stayed in balance. He focused on his work. What condition that he had to pay for being neutral in a conflicting situation? The answer, in fact, lies within the leaders of where he worked. If being a full of achievement teacher does not help him stay to be employed compared to many other teachers, then the question goes to the leaders who make such decisions. Do the leaders know their strengths and the limits of their power? To possess power with too much strengths without having certain limits will end up being dictators. I am sure that nobody loves to work under dictatorship conditions. Or, do you?
The social status that someone possesses, though it might be temporarily, it needs to be taken seriously to the acceptable normal standards. The normal standards are made in line with the local cultures / local wisdom, but the standards need to be in accordance to the legal law and constitution. In my case, I completed my tasks as an English lecturer well. Evidence and related documents were available. There is a two sided story at this point. My perspective as a worker and the perspective of the leaders. Both sides would claim that they are right. Under the regulation of law, especially laws that govern the scholars and academia of Indonesia, there should be fair and balanced decision. Since I completed my work before I was forced to leave ‘conditionally and situationally’; thus, I could argue that for my part, I achieved the best work performance to the acceptable normal standards. Financial compensation payment is the key at this point. If Covid-19 is used as a mask to avoid this sort of responsibility from the leaders’ side, then it clearly becomes the evidence that the leaders are unfair. Therefore, they were not serious to achieve the acceptable normal standards.
The Covid-19 pandemic season shows a vivid lesson of how significant a social status is, but the pandemic season also teaches how far a leader may make a rationalistic-and-humane decision. At this point, nobody can live alone in any society. Everyone is connected in many layers and through many forms. However, someone needs to be aware of the existence of others. For example, the case of reducing the number of lecturers at a private college. When such decision was taken without any legal jurisdiction, then the social status of the leaders could be provoked to a lower level. Covid-19 has shown clearly about which type of leadership that lasts in this difficult times and which leadership that may fall onto dictatorship. There is an old saying, ‘there is always a positive side in every situation.’ That might be true, but that exists only in stories, full of imagined life situation. Today, someone may be rich. One day, that someone may lose the rich. If being rich is the only social status to be prevailed, then everyone must have to be rich. Thus, the rationalistic-and-humane decision can only be achieved when the leaders pay attention to the rules governing all aspects of social life to be with one purpose: fair and balanced.
The second major note of this post is the form of ideas on the existence of social care. Social care is the system that works to protect everyone during the difficult times, such as this Covid-19 pandemic season. The best plan to have for the future, for any society in the world, is to have some preparation to face different challenges in the future. Social care is the legal concern from the government. Its purpose is to care for members of the society. For example, Jiwasraya insurance is a well-known insurance in Indonesia. Since 2012, I was entitled to this insurance by the board and college where I worked. My salary was deducted Rp. 50.000 / month. It is equal to $5, if $1 is Rp. 10.000. I thought that everything would be fine. At the end of 2019, I proposed a claim to withdraw the insurance money. After working as a lecturer for eleven years, it’s time to take mine, but the reality shows the contrary. It will be transferred to my bank account, but the time is unpredictable. That kind of situation, therefore, needs a valid and obvious action in the form of social care.
Social care is linked to providing social protection to people. In a corrupt working environment, social protection to the workers is a rare condition to exist. Following what I have informed earlier, social protection for lecturers can be in the form of providing compensation money after leaving job without self willingness. Corrupt leaders may try to find excuses and reasons in order to show public that they make sensible reasons and decisions. The authorities at this point need to track the chronological event to break out the truth of what is actually going on in the workplace. When money is too powerful to feed on the hungry officials as the authorities, then it might not be called as corrupt environment any longer. It is called as failed working environment. Social protection is a deserved thing for everyone. My mind goes back to the case of black Americans in the United States. There are heated conversation taking place. The answer to the dillemma of the United States is, indeed, social protection, that everyone is equally protected in the eyes of law and fair government.
A society that has lack of social protection for its members seems to having a lack of quality leadership. Everyone might agree that leadership means to have actions to lead people. If the leaders are only capable of giving directions, and subconsciously, pointing fingers at their employees, then it might be true to say that demanding social protection is a dream comes true within this sort of leadership. Leaders who are easily to be offended when the employees make a few statements to criticize their leaders’ decision concerning the employees’ life existence, for instance, may be subject to be called as dictators. In many different parts of the world and even in many literature, the good leaders who protect their members of society and the fair-and-balanced leaders who make rationalistic-and-humane decisions are always wanted by any type of society, regardless the place and area of where it may be located. “I may continue to live my life”, as one might say after being mistreated or trapped in the workplace. “I have to continue my life, perhaps by working in a better college or university?”, says someone who still have hopes for a better future. When there is no financial compensation, no social support to protection as a worker’s rights to earn his or her dignity after giving the best s/he can, then that workplace is, in fact, deserved to be labelled as a mentally corrupt working environment. If one day this sort of workplace finally decided to give the worker’s rights, it actually has not erased the earlier unfair decision.
From my description, or a little argument above, I conclude that social status is a valid key to see someone’s success in the society, but that can only be seen from what the person is doing to the society itself. Meanwhile, the existence of social care needs to be seen as the strong foundation for the society to provide relevant care and protection to its civilians. Social care can be given in the form of social protection to all members of the society. The social status and social care are connected both ways. Leaders of a particular society determine their social status and, as a matter fact, their success can be measured from the social care they provide and construct for the society. To say fair and balanced as well as justice above all is easy, but to put them into practice is another story. To be the villain or to be the heroes is, indeed, our decision to make. To be the chronological victim, a victim that is really a victim due to the abusive power of the leaders, is never an option for everyone who is morally sensible, beyond religion or faith. The meaning of social status lies within ourselves: what have I done as a member of my society? my community? my family? is it fair for them? is it morally good for everyone? is it kind to people? if I believe in God, is God looking at what I did as good? Covid-19 pandemic seasons has indeed provided real life experience to another dimension.
Happy Birthday 🎈🎂 to myself. Turning 35 years old. ☕ Where would be the next journey? Wallahu’alam bishawab.