Covid-19, Business and Checkmate
“Pawn to F5, Queen to H5”
Yesterday, I had a little conversation with Sabrina, The CEO of Mediarumu. She has a unique way in seeing how the world works and that changed my way of perceiving philosophy. Today is my second day working here and I can say that I’m in the right place and I’m grateful for it. She asked me to talk with her in her room at the office. At first, I thought we were about to discuss about the workflow, clients, and whatnot. But yup, that was a misunderstanding.
We talked about why she wants me in her team. She asked about philosophy — she then described herself as a human being and how she functions in the society. She talked about why and how she built Mediarumu, leading to a conversation about Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud. She also discussed about how the political system in this country sucks, and lastly, we talked about religion. I mean, what the fuck. I never thought that I would work for people who had interest in philosophy, especially in Indonesia. This is because for me, having interest in philosophy in this country is like throwing yourself into a marginal group. Many people in this country interpret philosophy in a crooked form, like it is illegal, atheistic, haram, and so on. Quite funny. The question that I often face is “What kind of job that you can acquire after graduating as a philosophy student?”. But now, I know that being a philosophy student doesn’t limit me to having a “real job” — as to what they say. Pardon my reels, let me take you back to the conversation.
She told me that she is invited as a speaker on a huge event called Digital Summit SEA. It’s an event where several companies in South-East Asia discuss about a particular issue. The upcoming topic is “Advertising in the Pandemic: How Companies Used Covid-19 as Marketing Tool”. The first thing that came to my mind when I heard that was: “damn, this event has a similar topic with my final essay”. With philosophy, you can talk about anything. Sex, religion, politics, human, animal, plant, even your grandma’s underwear. In this case, I talked to her how I interpret Covid-19. I volunteered to open up the conversation by asking her first.
In our conversation, I concluded that she interprets Covid-19 as a blessing, while I interpret Covid-19 as a power. She argued that Covid-19 has brought lots of progress in the business world, although many were also destroyed. She tends to look on the bright side. This is because she views business as a game of chess. There are strategic steps that must be played in order to win the game of chess. As with any business, there are strategic steps that must be followed in order for your business to succeed.
Quite different than hers, I interpret Covid-19 as a new power that destroyed the prior power like capitalism, systems, even the strong existence of religions. Go check the stock market in the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Almost all of the global companies and capitalists were ruined because of the pandemic. Also, many systems were destroyed by the emergence of Covid-19, such as mobile restrictions — the reason why you can’t have sex with your crush anytime you want. What really surprised me is that the Covid-19 pandemic somehow made it to the top of the tier, beating God in the hierarchy. Moslems couldn’t go to mosques and all churches and many temples are closed. This phenomenon leaves a big question mark to myself as to how does a pandemic could prohibit people from worshipping their God — at worship places. Even changed some of the interpretations of the holy book, such as decreasing the density of rows during congregational prayers for Moslems. Doesn’t this condition acclaim that it has a higher power than God? Hold up, I need to burn my fag. Thank you.
If Sabrina defines business as a game of chess, based on her interpretation, then I will define Covid-19 as her opponent. Covid-19 appears like a new Magnus Carlsen who beats a lot of old great chess players. Those who are in checkmate situation will lose their business and may not get back up. While others, who managed to avoid the Covid-19 checkmate, will continue to develop and even discover something new that they haven’t found before. This demonstration illustrates how companies that can survive, bounce back, or even become better have taken strategic steps in carrying out their chess pieces.
In this case, I use the deconstruction method to see how business is during a pandemic and what kind is the meaning behind. Deconstruction is a method in philosophy popularized by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida. Although Derrida is not the first to use the term deconstruction, in academic literature, the term deconstruction refers to him a lot. Broadly speaking, deconstruction is a method to achieve a new meaning. This new meaning means that we don’t use the previous or old meaning about the object that we want to observe.
In this case, I use the deconstruction method to see how businesses run during this pandemic and discover some information out of it. Deconstruction is a method in philosophy popularized by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida. Although Derrida is not the first to use the term deconstruction, in academic literature, the term deconstruction refers to him a lot. Broadly speaking, deconstruction is a method to achieve a new meaning. This new meaning means that we don’t use the previous or older meaning about the object that we want to observe.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, many companies was ruined as I mentioned before. If we talk about companies, surely, we talk about business. What kind of business that they do, products that they sell, and problems they solve? I assume that many companies went bankrupt during this pandemic, but the downfall of their companies is not because of the pandemic itself. However, their downfall is due to the fact that they hold onto the old “meaning”. For instance, Blackberry’s failure in 2016 was not due to the presence of Apple or Android. However, their failure is because they want to stick to the old values and refuse to follow up with the innovations and adaptations. Blackberry was not wise in playing their chess pieces. Hence, next thing we know is they are stepping out of the game.
The old values and meanings refer to foreknown company systems, bureaucracy, workflows and business strategies such as marketing. For example, marketing strategies used several decades ago was probably media-printing such as brochures, newspapers and magazines. However, nowadays, such strategies are outdated and many have switched to using digital platforms to implement their marketing strategies. This is where deconstruction plays its role.
Business may be interpreted as a deal, money, or opportunity. I see this as an old meaning of business because historically, this was the foundation of its meaning. Deconstruction is not fixated on the foundation, yet, creating a new meaning.
Humans are dynamic creatures. It’s human that gave life a meaning. Therefore, a meaning must also be dynamic and not objective. If you are convinced by a meaning, then the perspective of that meaning will not change. Thus, you become a tyrant because through your position of meaning, you define other sub-meanings. Derrida tends to say that a meaning is indeterminate. Interpretive activity happens without foundation. For example, if you want to explain the origin of green tea, you need to explain that green tea is from China and the origin story behind it. The meaning of green tea tends to be determined by its history. Now forget about the origin and define a new meaning of what green tea means. The scent, let’s say, that we interpret for ourselves and do not need to be dictated by its original meaning in the past. If there is a foundation of meaning, then all activities of interpretation have a foundation. The foundation dictates various interpretations and according to Derrida it is not an interpretation, but the repetition of meaning in another form — mere reproduction. Derrida rejects the foundation in interpretation.
How about using pandemic as a marketing tool? For me, this question also means “Instead of defeating Magnus Charles, why don’t we use him as our teacher to better ourself as a chess player until one day, we can overthrow him and find new better strategies?” I remember my lecture once said: “You can’t direct the wind, but you can adjust the sail”. You can’t break the power, but you can use the “power” as your instrument. Instead of saying “Fuck this pandemic, my business collapsed and it’s better if I die”, try saying “This pandemic is a blessing. We can use this as an opportunity to grow our company, equipping it as our marketing strategy”. You want to give up and then blame the situation. Well, I can say it’s because your vision is covered by your old foundation of meaning when the meaning itself has a dynamic nature. Adaptation and Innovation. Deconstruction as the art of seeing meaning. I may not a business analyst or development. But philosophy can always find its room, don’t you think?
Edited by Yosua Prandiaswara