Monthly archives of “February 2014

You Don’t Need Jesus, ‘Till You’re Here

I was listening to Ben Rector’s When A Heart Breaks this morning when I thought he mentioned something about Jesus. See if you can spot it…

If my ears serve me right, I’m hearing the phrase:

…and you don’t need Jesus, ’till you’re here.

Maybe it’s just another line in another sad song about love and heart breaks, but something else caught my attention. Literally, Ben Rector’s telling us that he thinks we don’t need Jesus until we experience a heartbreak.

Or do we?

I take this as a reminder that we humans tend to forget our Creator when we’re happy. We then come crawling back when something really bad — like a heartbreak — happens to us. Only then — when we realize the gravity of our situation, our state of helplessness — do we acknowledge that we need something or someone greater than us to lean on, which in the case of Christians is of course Jesus.

So, do we really need Jesus — or God, for my brothers and sisters who embrace a faith other than Christianity — only after we encounter a heart-breaking experience?

Hostile Takeover

A few decades ago, it was common for institutions of higher education to provide affordable housing options for its staff. The common practice would be for the campus to buy a huge piece of land, break it up into lots, and then offer them to its staff at a very attractive price. This was the case with UGM, where my aunt was lecturer and where I got my bachelor’s degree.

Long story short, my aunt got married to an American, and is now living on the other side of the earth from here. Thus, the plot of land that was allocated for her is no longer of any use. So, she decided to hand over the deed to me. So about a year ago I went to campus and met with some of her old friends, and they pointed out the directions for me. About a month after  that, my mom and I decided to have a look at its site. Boy, were we surprised.

The locals hadn’t heard from my aunt in ages (like, 2 or 3 decades), so they decided that the plot of land was vacant, and decided to build an off-road grass track that cuts right in the middle of it. Even the boundary markers were gone.

Now, this is also a common practice in my beloved nation: anything that hasn’t got a label on it, belongs to no one, and anybody can claim ownership of it. This is the model of thinking that has Jakarta’s rivers flooding.

How, you ask?

A lot of low-income and non-educated households dream of making it big in the metropolitan city. So they leave from villages all across Java, move in, and build makeshift houses from sheet metal and leftover wood pieces. They start littering the river with their household waste, throwing away everything from leftover food to broken refrigerators. Now, when the Vice Governor of Jakarta asks them to leave and occupy the many low-cost apartments he built for them, they refuse. They claim that it is their God-given right to live there and evicting them would be a violation of human rights.

Well, damn!

This also happened recently to UGM, albeit in a slightly different situation. UGM owns a vast area of land in the northern part of Yogyakarta. This includes the network of roads and streets crisscrossing between the hundreds of buildings. On Sunday mornings a part of this property called Lembah UGM (The Valley), around Notonegoro St., is bustling with commerce. Sort of an impromptu market where people can buy anything from cheap hair accessories to traditional food. This is great for the economy, of course, and provides an excellent place for citizens to gather in a public place to jog, bike, relax, have breakfast, do some light shopping, etc.

Now UGM wants to reorganize the place to better support the environment. For this reason, the authorities have prepared a relocation site for all 784 “tenants”. Now, I’m not really sure if “tenant” is the right terminology, but sources say that the sellers pay a fee from $0.50 up to $1.50 to fund the cleaning services afterwards. This is of course very, very cheap compared to the amount of funds UGM is prepared to spend for the relocation.

Of course, being the Indonesians we are, the tenants furiously refuse the relocation plan, reasoning that the new place costs more ($2.00), the place is smaller, and so on and so on. Bottom line is that the plan will cost them money, and they won’t leave without a fight.

They even requested legal aid. This baffles me. If anyone has any information on how exactly the deal is between UGM and these tenants, please let me know. As far as I know, however, UGM has every right to evict these tenants after the contract is over. I mean, it is a contract, isn’t it? It surely has a time limit, and it will have no legal effect once it has expired and both parties have fulfilled their obligations.

If that is how it is, then this, ladies and gentlemen, is a hostile takeover of the rightful property of Universitas Gadjah Mada.

Of course, I could be wrong, and I might have not researched the topic thoroughly enough. In that sense, any corrections are welcome.

UPDATE (24/02/2014):

Some friends have informed me that the current “tenants” pay a hefty fee of about $400 to secure their lot at the Sunday Morning market. This fee is payable to the “previous tenant”, and is valid until it is “sold” to the next tenant. I’m making a wild guess that this is where the term “grandfathered” originated.

Let’s forget for a second now that this deal is “for life” and puts UGM at a ridiculous disadvantage, and focus on the deal itself. Are there any valid legal documents proving that the deal even existed? Who signed the documents? Are UGM officials involved in this? Will the deal even be considered in the court of law?

I find it curious that I can’t find any sources online that can verify my friends’ story. If anybody has any info about this, by all means, please share it with the rest of the world.

Some other reading material:

  3. Will add more links as they come…

Scarcity Bias

Not long ago I consulted with an old friend on the best strategy to pay off the mountain of debts I had just acquired, which I need for payment of a piece of land I’m trying to buy. Because he needed to evaluate based on hard data, I conceded to giving him all my numbers.

He was stunned.

My debt service ratio was way higher than what most banks would recommend or require for approval of credit, not to mention that my emergency fund was in a pretty ugly shape. He asked what struck me so bad in the head that I had the audacity to proceed with my purchase.

I explained to him that I’ve been searching for years, and I was stuck on another island for too long that even when the right offer popped up I was unable to seize it because of how long it would take and how expensive it would be to immediately close the deal. Now, I’m in a very good position, both geographically and mentally, to seize a deal. Not so much so financially, and this is what raised his flags.

This, my dear friends, is what he called the scarcity bias.

I was too happy to finally find a piece of property that is very appealing, very strategic, and frankly quite a bargain. I was willing to look the other way when hard data suggests that I do not have the financial capability to generate that certain amount of money within that certain amount of time. I was even willing to overlook some of the obvious drawbacks of the property.

This is what he compared my situation with: You’re a grumpy old single person who hasn’t had a girlfriend in ages, has failed at dozens of attempts at getting a girlfriend, and you’re in a community where people show off their spouses and how happy they are and look down on you for being single. Now, this girl comes up to you and shows a genuine interest.

You’d feel like she’s the one, the angel from heaven who descended upon the mere mortal that is you.

After a while you’d realize that she’s not that divine. Not at all. Eventually the entirety of her dark side comes into view, but you choose to close your eyes, because you don’t want to wake up to the reality that she is not the one who can make you happy.

That’s quite a dramatic analogy, but it kinda hits the spot.

So there you have it, a random post about a curious little thing called Scarcity Bias.