Tag: culture

The Point of Popularity

This past week, Chris Gavaler came to speak with us about the origins of superheroes. While we spoke at great length, both during and after class, my response to his ideas on transgression and the literary tradition of eugenics in Superheros will be intertwined with my final essay. As for this post, I want to address his idea of a ‘point of popularity’ in relation to my ongoing development of the tree of origins.


If you have read any of my previous posts (you most likely haven’t), you may notice my fascination with the organization of origins. Specifically, I believe that each origin is a node on a hierarchical tree of all origins. The parent origin is unknown to us, but we can see how the origin of American short fiction traces to the origin of fiction writing which traces back to the written tradition of literature etc. etc. Gavaler mentioned something new to this theory: perception of origins construed by popularity. His theory is that we, as consumers and the uninformed, see Superman as his own entity. In reality, the origins of Superman is actually the summations of previous fictional characters, eugenics, and American diction circa 1938. We, as the uninformed consumer, do not notice the cultural influence, and instead focus on the cultural significance — we forget everything that led to this point.


I argue that this bottleneck of sorts fits into my hierarchical model quite well, and that we have a rather limited view of the tree of origins. For example, we are so struck by the invention of computers that we fail to recognize its predecessor: Alan Turing’s Bombe machine. Of course, with the creation of ‘The Imitation Game’ we ALL know that story. But what about the distant predecessor of computers? We often forget the importance of Ada Lovelace and diagram for the computation of Bernoulli numbers. Lovelace is credited by some to be the original ‘computer programmer’, but her work is often — dare I say, rightfully — overlooked, because… well… computers! That is to say, we — and I repeat –, as the uninformed consumer, are only aware of an impactful origin as long as it’s popular. When the next great thing rolls around, we are quick to move on. Granted, we all see the name Nintendo and think of the N64; but can we name all the summands that led to the creation of the SNES… probably not.


Of course this has a great impact on the public perception of the term ‘original’. In previous posts, I have noted that the ‘original’ is actually only the first origin — the thing which has been around since the beginning. Yet, if we lose sight of the influential factors of an origin, as Gavaler argued, we understand that lone origin to be the original. Take a moment to look at a term in pop culture: ‘OG’ or ‘original gangster’. Often times, OG refers to Tupac and Notorious B.I.G., but that’s because society has largely moved past Lucky Luciano and Bugs Moran.


If you’re looking for a grand conclusion, which I’m sure you are, take away this: nothing (except one thing) is the true original. Everything we interact with every second of every day, is a summation of predecessors and past influencers. Everything (except one thing) is an iteration.

Origins of Southeast Asian National Identity

Professor Arnout Van der Meer came to our class to speak to us today about the Indonesian nationalism. Van der Meer talked about how the Southeast Asian countries are overlooked but considers these countries such as for as Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Borneo, and etc…as one of the most diverse and crucial areas for trade, religion, and culture. Various religions, cultures, technology, and commodities from the West, the Middle East, and East Asia came to all one place which was located in the countries that were bordering the Java Sea. Professor Van der Meer mentions how colonialism was the start of how it made the Southeast Asian region a multi-cultural hub.

In the lecture, Professor Arnout Van der Meer talks about the national identity of Indonesia from colonialism. He talks about Soemarsono, as an instrumental figure in looking at Indonesian identity. He famously said that lighting the oil lamp represents Indonesia. Wick is like our Buddhist Heritage. Lamp oil is like Islam and Islamic modernism. The lampshade is like Dutch Wester culture (Science & Technology). He says we need to one last thing which is too light the oil lamp which represents regaining Indonesian national identity. Soemarsono was the one who sparked the socio-political emancipation of Javanese. Soemarsono’s revolt overhauled the system of cultural hegemony. This sociological revolution can be considered the origins of national awakening in Indonesia.

Personally, a fascinating part of the lecture was Soemarsono’s biography and how he came to embody his own metaphor. He helped spark the national awakening in Indonesia. He also comes from a well-respected, wealthy, and well-educated family. He was from an aristocratic family of the Javanese. He is also a practicing Muslim. Soemarsono surprisingly had a western education, and he was one of four Indonesians to go to a foreign international school of high privilege. Soemarsono grew up with foreign and Dutch students. Soemarsono’s political ideology for Indonesian national identity is the Asian Modernity, which is to maintain own traditions rooted in Hindu-Buddhist past meanwhile, adopting western science and technology. The second was to have Islamic morality which is a proper form of behavior such as, no alcohol, opium, and gambling. Finally, he believed in democracy and equality and a modern form of government. Later on, he ended up having a civil service career in Batavia, Indonesia.

Professor Arnout Van der Meer mentions that “The Onion Theory, ” can explain for the national identity and culture of Indonesia. The Onion theory states that layers of cultural identity can be stripped away to pinpoint the core and the root of the national identity of the indigenous people, however, this theory doesn’t account for changes in time. Professor Arnout Van der Meer, again, mentions that the Dutch colonialism and the religion of Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism all created layers of that mixed through the Indonesian national identity.

The view of having new layers of culture to make it your own culture is indeed a plausible theory. However, the theory must consider changes in tim., There will always be a root for every national identity, and every nation should have the right to protect their core national identity. However, through time and history, new layers of culture and religion will be added on and with changes in time these new layers of culture and religion will be added to the root of the national identity and other cultures that don’t fit with the core national identity will be discarded.