Economics and its discontent

Just recently listened to a lecture by one of my favorite economist, Professor Jefferey Sachs, on economics and theology. There are  couples of interesting reflections that he delivered.

First, the issue nowadays is between morale and material pursuits. Not long ago, he said, economics study was taught under the moral or philosophy subject. Yet, since the 19th century, I guess since the start of industrial revolution, the moral side has been abandoned. As the result, many of our problem nowadays is not on economics  issue (such as optimization), rather, it’s a morale question. He took an example of the difficulty of a senior health organization officials in securing financial support from the white  house for a global health project. The fund raising has been very very difficult even though the amount is only 1% of 1% of US economy, or equivalent to what Pentagon spend everyday.

Second, he cited Easterlin paradox, that is a paradox between happiness and material well-being. Professor Easterlin found that even though the wealth of american since 1950 to 1980 has increased, their (reported) happiness has remained unchanged. Thus this puts deep question on the material pursuit that we’re on.

Lastly, he cited how the material pursuit of human being has destroyed the nature at unprecedented level; and this destruction has brought considerable change to our lives, yet people aren’t care about it.

As an economist wanna be, I think this reflection should be well-noted. Professor Sach has the credibility to make such reflection, as he is one the greatest economists at the moment. It is somehow sad for Professor Sach and the people alike to finally come to this sort of conclusion, something that Muslim has taken it for granted. As a muslim, we has been taught that life in this world shouldn’t be based on material pursuit. We’ve been taught that we have to protect and sustain the nature, rather than to destroy it. We have been taught to spend zakat, charity, waqaf and other forms of givings to reduce poverty and inequality. But I guess it’s easier to say rather than practiced. We know that material pursuit, destruction on nature, inequality among people are bad things. Yet, we’re still on the blind eye to pursue it. I believe this is the test that Allah specifically designed for us who live in 21st century, when the temptation to worldly life is just irresistible.

This, I believe, should be reflected in Indonesia’s economy. We’re currently maybe in the most booming period of our country economy. I believe we should stop and ask, is this really what we want? Is destroying nature, exposing our lives to endless material pursuit, and widening inequality the one that we really want?

Prof Sach ended his speech by stressing that economics is (and should) not (be) a pure science. It should be combined with morale philosophy again. I wish he will get hidayah soon and understand that the true morale guidance can only be found in Islam, the final cut of Ibrahamic religion. May we’re not included in those who know the truth but do nothing to follow it.

You can watch the complete lecture here (it starts on around minute 45).

Man jadda wajada

I really appreciate an Arab’s quote: man jadda wajada; those who persevere will excel.

Undoubtedly, a lot of things to be improved in our country. Education, health, social challenges, and many others. The good news is we know what it takes to solve it: education. In addition, as noted earlier, one key in education process is perseverance. In Indonesian language, we call it bersungguh-sungguh or bekerja keras or willing to step take up for the challenges. Believing with this saying keep me optimistic in learning many things (read: difficult things) that I haven’t understand yet. I keep reminding myself, insyaallah, after a lot of works, I’ll understand and master it.

I remember my days in senior high school. I was very happy spending my time at the school’s library. Even though not many people really visiting the library, I was very happy to learn many things, discover many things, and aspiring for big things in the small library. Had it not because of such positive attitude, I think I won’t have big passion to strive and learn since my university period. Limitation in financial condition I believe won’t be big burden (even though to some extent it still is, as in Laskar Pelangi movie), as long as we have a strong will to learn, insyaallah, we’ll get there.

In developing a country, I think social scientist, such as economist, political scientist, and others are supporting tools. They are the one who will make sure a supportive environment or good social order so that innovation can flourish. Clear example is how the collapse of Rupiah (economics field) triggered great panic and profound negative impact to our country; but still, I think the main driving actors are natural scientist. I don’t know whether I understand it wrongly, but based on my observation, in Japan for example, the development is driven by advancement in science and technology. Again, in Japan’s case, many of Japan’s legendary companies such as Sony, Toyota, Hitachi, Panasonic and others, start from the scratch. With curiosity, spirit to help others and entrepreneurship, they were able to build such great companies. Thus the bottom line is continue to aspire bigger and higher; plus never give-up spirit, insyallah will achieve higher and bigger. I promise myself to be a great economist, the one who is able to manage this country’s economic policy process. I know I can’t do it alone, but I am determined that I’ve got to be one of the team. So set your target. May Allah always bless and guide us.

Yoyogi and Nearby Parks

I think Allah has put three places to be very close to my heart: masjid, university, and park. I’ll elaborate more on park. I think park symbolizes harmony and sincerity. When I am enjoying my time in park; either reading Qur’an, reflecting, writing, or something else, I feel that I am joining the harmony of nature.

One of my favorite activities is to read Qur’an in the park. Somehow, I feel like the grass, the soil, flowers and everything are very happy and join me in celebrating Allah’s greatness. I know that they are, with or without me, are praising Allah all the time. Having such time brings great relieve and clearly rejuvenate my spirit. I am very eager to find places where Qur’an might not be recited before, such as parks in Tokyo. Somehow, I feel the grass, flowers and others are quite grateful to me, that they can hear Allah’s words; meanwhile, I am deeply happy to do so too =)

I think park also symbolizes sincerity. It is so pure that it will show us whatever it gets; without any fake appearance. It’s just park, it’s just natural. As human being, who is tasked to preserve and develop this earth (khalifatu fil ardh), we’ve got to learn from them; learn from their harmony and sincerity.

Lastly, I know that in Indonesia, public park in the city is something which may not be available; nonetheless, as a country blessed with beautiful landscape, I am 100% confident that it’s relatively easy to nature in surrounding area. Spending some time in nature, I believe, will help us to back to our fitrah. We’ll realize that we’re only part of Allah’s creations, which in the short time will be back to Him again. May Allah always refresh our iman and we can refresh our spirit to worship Him. May Allah always guide us.

Below are some pictures from this weekend =)

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One moment that I’m terribly afraid of

If there were one moment that I really afraid of, it would be the day when-with whatsoever reason-I become so much away from Allah. The day, when I-with whatsoever reason-accept the notion that Allah is not my creator. I can only pray to Allah to save my religion, to save myself from the stupidity that I might be doing. May Allah always guide us in this path, in Allah’s path. In this path, Allah has chosen and honored us. In this path, we’ve became different from others; we’ve been guided, and we can see beyond what eyes can see. All of these are only possible because of Allah’s hidayah (guidance) to us. Allah, please strengthen our heart to hold onto your guidance; and to keep remembering you. Allah, please give us Qalbun Salim, Qalbun Muthmainnah, hati yang selalu bersyukur kepada-Mu.

It’s just never enough to thank Allah

Alhamdulillah, all praises and thanks to Allah, the lord of the world; the one who has created us and this entire life. How I really feel that thanking Allah will just never enough; too many ni’mat that Allah has given to us. May we always be someone who always remember the ni’mat from Allah and are able to maximize it. May we also be someone who feel very dependent on Allah; yet at the same time understand that we have to work hard in all aspects in this life. May Allah always guide us in this life, to be someone who has big ‘amal (ahsanu ‘amala).

Best wishes for your activities!