The Life Beyond the Mask

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The Life Beyond the Mask

Reza A.A Wattimena

It is said that Abraham Lincoln, once president of the United States of America who pioneered the legendary abolition of slavery, was a shy person. He was lack of association with his families.

He often shut himself in his room, reading books, struggling with his science project which is not yet clear what will it become. He did not have many friends.

However, when he saw there was something wrong, especially about others, he can immediately turn into fierce, assertive, and not compromise. He is also known for his ambitions.

He can change in a flash, 180 degrees, to become a figure that is completely different than before. Maybe that’s why he wanted to become politicians, and then became one of the greatest presidents in the history of the United States. We never know which of the original Lincoln, could be the president, could also be the shy child who almost did not have any friends at all.

Mrs. Dewi, a mask dancer from Cirebon, suddenly changed, when she wore a mask to perform mask dance which has been her profession for a lifetime. She instantly became the role which given to her, namely the role that matched the mask.

In the blink of an eye, she immediately united with the mask. Although she is old, she was instantly transformed into a young, energetic, and even pounding, like a crazy horse (Ajidarma, 1997).

Of course, it is only temporary, because as soon as she took off her mask, she returned to the original Mrs. Dewi, which is an old, wise, and gentle person. Once the mask is opened, the dancer returned to the old personas.

But, that is not the main problem.

Your Mask

Apparently, everyone always wear a mask which has been selected for themselves. There are various masks that can be selected, ie, masks a good husband, good wife, a girlfriend, or just whatever they think is best and right for themselves.

However, is there any true self which is exist behind the mask? Apparently, we’ll never know.
Imagine, every person has a collection of masks that are hung on their hangers just behind the exit door. Well, they can choose what masks they use, if they want to get out of the room.

There are people who choose to wear a mask factory workers, other times he became the society leader, other times he became the badminton player. Not only that, if he is bored, he can go back to the room and change the mask. Good lover and intimate person can turn into a fierce boss in the blink of an eye.
However, among so many masks that hung idle on clothes hangers, which one is the original face?

Indeed, in everyday life, we do not see the mask, but we see the faces of those we meet. In other words, the people always seemed to wear their own faces, and never the masks.

Deep in our hearts, we always knew, the faces that we met were basically just a mask.
This fact is reflected in depth by Ellias Canetti, Bulgarian philosopher, in his book Crowds and Power (1984). For him, human beings are, as well as a caterpillar and a butterfly, is a creature that can changed.

Humans are creatures who constantly changing, which is not consistent to a single identity, but fragmented in the multiple layers. With this ability, humans are not much different from animals in their ability to ‘cheat’ the enemy.

Soldiers who wear clothes, that resemble the surrounding environment to deceive the enemy, just like a chameleon who always adapt to the color of ground they occupy. The tribes of primitive hunters often equate their self-identity with one of the animals they admired. The hope is clear, so that they can be as strong as the animals.


Then, is it possible that one of the mask, which hung on a hanger, is our true face?
Are we really have a true face?

Every moment of our lives, we are always given a certain role. That role could have been voluntarily, or by compulsion. The role always change.

A director of an international company, famous fierce in his office, could turn into a kind and gentle person in front of his daughter at home. A professor of chemistry at the university can seem helpless in front of his beloving wife.

Whatever mask we wear, we have to perform the role, whether like it or not. There are people who wear a certain mask not because of his own free will, but because coercion from others. That is indeed a pity.

Then, when people really being themselves? Or, can a person be his or her self?
Can someone be him or her self, if it turns out, the crowds do not like it? It is sad, if we can not be ourselves.

Often, we are not allowed to be ourselves, because we will be disturbing the interests of the COMMUNITY (Ajidarma, 1997).

I, and of course you are, would often see people who wear a particular mask in order to please others. If there are top 10 chart for the most miserable people on this beloved earth, these people fit into the top.

Maybe, if we let go of the mask we wear, we will not find anything in our faces. We are the masked men, but don’t have face…

Perhaps, too, we have been mistaken for one by making a mask that we use as our own face … Whatever it is, as written Seno Gumira Ajidarma nearly 10 years ago, "if you looked in the mirror pal, make sure, that you are not wearing a mask "(ibid) ….

Indeed, as argued by Canetti, the changing process in the human nature have no boundaries. The limits of the changes are the limits of human imagination itself.

Ah, is this indicate that we almost do not know anything about ourselves?

Between Law and Justice

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Between Law and Justice

By: REZA A.A Wattimena

The process of interpretation and application of legal formulas always invite a dilemma. If applied strictly in accordance with the existing formula, it is likely to violate a sense of justice in society. However, if interpreted too far from the legal section for adjustments to the sense of justice, the law becomes useless, because it no longer has the authority to be obeyed. The ideal law is the law that was at the point of balance between legal positivism (a strict interpretation by reference to the provisions of law), and sense of justice (morality and norms of a society which is considered as fair).

Problematic interpretation of the Law

Just as the texts of Scripture and philosophy, legal provisions were not a dead text, but a formula that needs to be interpreted in accordance with the changing world.Therefore, on the one hand, the law must be detailed enough to accommodate all aspects of human life that need to be regulated to prevent social harm (social lost). On the other side, the law need to be flexible enough to be interpreted by reference to the principles of justice which is higher than the provisions of the law itself. The failure of law enforcement cases related to corruption indicates a lack of legal authority (less detail in the application of legal formulas).While the case of the arrest of a 55-year-old grandmother after, she stole 3 cacao beans, really bother the sense of justice that exist in society (the law does not refer to the principles of justice).

Andang L. Binawan argued that law and justice are two different things, though not be separated. (Binawan, 2004) Justice is an ideal value that becomes the direction of human life. While the law is a human creation that since its formation process carried injustice. There are three things important enough to note in the process of legal interpretation. The first is about the impossibility to sit down as a free and equal subject to formulate legal provisions. The second is about the weakness of language in the articles of the law. And the third is about the space and time that separates the legislators from the people. (Binawan, 2004)

The legislators of the law were not free and equal. There are power relations that affect them. There is stronger legislators which have the ability to argue. He or she affects the law-making process significantly. There is also a weak legislators, he or she was not able fight for his constituent. On the other hand, the interests of political party, social class, the paradigm of the dominant discourse in society, and economic interests have significantly influenced the course of the legislation.

The second, according Binawan, legal language is human language, and human language since the beginning has always been reduction of reality. Language is a symbol to capture and convey meaning. In the process, direct language reduces the meaning of the symbols to the alphabet, which also means automatically reduces the actual meaning of justice to be accommodated in the language of law. Language and meaning are two different things, but can not be separated. The meaning is something much richer than the language. In the matter of legal interpretation, the justice is the value that wants to be accommodated in the language of law, but will never be identical.

The third, according Binawan, the legislators formulate the law in the context of a particular time and space. Often the context is different from the present context. There is distance of space and time far enough, which separates the legislators (assuming he wants to realize the ideals of justice) and the community as its affected by the law. Therefore, a definition of law is often no longer relevant to the situation. Law is not relevant is an unfair law. And unfair law is not law at all.

Where is the Justice?

In all this problematic interpretation of the law, where is justice? The good legislator is they who sensitive with all threes point that has been formulated by Binawan above. They are aware of the language barrier, the distance of space and time, and the impossibility to formulate ideal law. On these limitations, they think and act wisely. The same is true for people who work at law enforcement. They also need to realize, that the law is not something absolute, but rather something that already from the beginning need a human touch to achieve its purpose, namely justice.

In his book entitled The Force of Law, Jacques Derrida insists that justice is ‘something that will come’. (Derrida, 2004) Justice is a moment that need to be hoped and strived for. Justice is always a moment away from the grip of the law, though to realize justice, human needs the law.The legislators and law enforcement in Indonesia need to be aware of this, so that in doing their job, they have the courage to give a personal touch to ensure the realization of justice.

But we also have to realize, that human life is not a mathematical formula. So the balance between law and justice is more of an aspiration than a fact. Similarly, justice will never be perfectly realized in the real world, precisely because the human world is not an ideal world, but the real world. This fact can not break our spirit to fight for justice. Instead all efforts must be made to bring the law closer to the principle of justice. Justice is a moment that will come, as long as we, humans, willing to fight for it.***