HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, December 11, 2013

by 8 Degrees of Latitude

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Our Changing Face

New figures that show the rapid growth of domestic investment in Bali’s tourism sector and the skyrocketing numbers of domestic tourists here are very interesting for future-watchers. They show without a shadow of doubt that the characters of Bali’s leading industries – tourism and the related commercial and residential property sector – are changing in ways that ultimately might not suit Australian and European residents or holidaymakers.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Nothing in human history has ever been set in stone forever: Just ask Ozymandias, the real-life Barney Rubble of antiquity. Communities that readily adjust to change thrive. Those that fail to do so find at first that they are losing influence, then impetus; they become curiosities; and then they become extinct.

Bali’s exposure to tourism in meaningful mass-market formats is of relatively recent date.  The island has managed this impact remarkably well, at the human interface level, by parlaying a natural friendliness into an international reputation for being a nice place. It has done this in fact with consummate skill since the Balinese have no real interest in anyone else’s culture (see next item). It’s the money that matters – and that’s fair enough.

Statistics reported in the Jakarta Post’s Bali Daily wraparound on Nov. 29 show that 80 percent of commercial or high-value residential and resort property transactions in Bali are now by Indonesians and that foreign tourists make up only 30 percent of the total visitor footprint. Cheap airfares and low-cost accommodation heftily boost growth in the tourism sector but have also brought substantial change to it.

There will always be a navel-gazing niche market in Bali – centred on Ubud, where people organize ecstatic dances and other shamanistic things for the find-yourself set – but the bulk of tourism in Bali is the sort of stuff you can find anywhere. Booze and pick-up parties (for either gender) and pay-by-the-hour sex for those (ditto) who can’t score even at a party cater for a broad market. The family holiday is still the major sector but increasingly mum arrives wearing a jilbab and stays in it for the duration. And that too is fair enough.

Off the Wall

Made Wijaya, whose public invective has been of only a whispered or rumoured nature lately for those not numbered among his favoured courtiers, offered a rare public utterance the other day that had a bit more value than usual. He popped up on the Sanur Group page on Facebook to tell us this: “If you don’t know [scatological expletive deleted] because your Bali runs from the Arena to the Golden Snail, better to shut up and talk about the price of beer. I mean that in a caring way.”

Many expats know a lot about Bali well beyond those limits. True, none of them are world famous for jumping ship and swimming ashore through the phosphorescent surf decades ago to find that their shining presence has been eagerly awaited for eons by locals keen to see them set up shop as a landscape gardener.

The more modest among them do not regard themselves as legends even in their own lunchtimes. But be that as it may, many do actually agree with Wijaya on a lot of things. This shouldn’t surprise him, though apparently it does.

His advice in this particular instance is chiefly sound: He proffered it in this form:

“Last night at a popular beachside pizzaria (sic) I listened to a nice affable expat telling his Balinese girlfriend how ‘Australia has become like America and Bali has become like Australia’.  Now, while agreeing that certain corners of South Bali/Nusa Lembongan have become Boganville, there is a lesson to be learned here by those wishing to ‘integrate into Balinese society’. Advice: Do be warned that the radical Kuta Rightwing Nationalist movement has today launched a new logo ‘Love Indonesia or Leave it’ and soon will be hunting down sexpat bores on horseback. And note: Balinese only fake interest in our worldviews.”

Now that is a considered worldview. Bogans, bar owners, predatory business types and terminologically inexact real estate promoters should take special care to note it. But there are two other points that should also be noted, which Wijaya as usual ignores as irrelevant to the gospel according to Made.

One is that strong-arm “rightwing nationalist” movements anywhere, including in Kuta, are in fact the Bogans of their own communities. The second is that while the Balinese may not give a deleted scatological expletive about Australians or any other foreigners, they’re in the process of finding out that the Wegotalldamoney tribe from Java cares even less about them or their island home.

So Sad

It was very sad to hear that Kerry Prendergast, the Australian-born artist and singer who was a fixture in the Bali firmament, had died suddenly at a Sanur hotel on Nov. 25. She had been giving a singing performance. This was shortly after she returned with her husband Pranoto from two months in Western Australia, her home.

They had been showing their art in Perth – including in King’s Park, a favourite spot of the Diary’s – and were due to go back to WA in January for another show.

It is often said that only the good die young. No, that’s not Billy Joel (though his 1977 anthem to lust is very good). It’s the Greek historian Herodotus, writing in 445 BCE. Kerry Prendergast was only in her middle 50s. That’s far too young.

On Dec. 1 there was a gathering at Pranato’s Gallery at Teges Goa Gajah, Ubud, in her memory. Her art stays with us all as a mark of a life lived fully and well. It’s often said that you are not truly gone until everyone who knew you, or of you, has also departed. So she’ll be with her family and the rest of us in a very tangible sense for a long time yet.

Go, Socrates!

This is not about Socrate Georgiades of the delightful monthly Francophone journal La Gazette de Bali that is required reading at The Cage. It’s about the other one, the very ancient Greek. Specifically it is about his reported views, unquestionably soundly based, on the children of his day in Athens. This was that “children nowadays are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannise their teachers”.

A tweet about this fundamental truth on Twitter recently – it came from the U.S., where children are even more badly behaved – brought a riposte from Susi Johnston, who muses from Mengwi on many matters. Susi, who was once an American child herself though we’re sure a very well behaved one, said that was exactly what many Balinese parents were saying these days.

Those who read the adduced views of Socrates learn much. Plato’s Republic has many benefits. There was no fast food in ancient Greece, for starters.

Takes the Cake

We dropped by Biku tea lounge in Seminyak the other day – well virtually, via its Facebook page; it’s quicker than driving there from the windswept southern extremities where we live – and found a nice little message posted by fan Heidi Parkie.

Clearly Heidi is not one for controversy even though she’s from Lancashire in England, where they love an argument. She made this simple point: Marble cake makes everything better. Absolutely no one could disagree.

Biku, which recently celebrated its fifth birthday, is a Diary destination of choice. Asri Kerthyasa’s eclectic establishment began life virtually marooned in the rice fields. Today it is slap-bang in the middle of the ever-expanding urban sprawl.

But like its marble cake, it cannot be missed. Next time we trek up that way we’ll leave the packed lunch behind and starve ourselves for Biku instead.

Sting in the Tail

Every year ABC TV’s Insiders program, the essential weekly political centrefold show hosted by veteran scribe Barrie Cassidy and seen here on Australia Network, names its Matt Price Moment. The final Insiders show of 2013 – the silly season is now in full swing Down Under – went to air on Dec. 1.

And this year’s Moment is a classic. Tony Abbott (now prime minister but at the time opposition leader in the 2013 election campaign) at a press conference: “No one, no matter how smart, no matter how well educated, no matter however experienced, is the suppository of all wisdom.”

At least that’s one Abbott statement with which no one could possibly argue.

The Moment is in memory of journalist Matt Price, a lovely character from Western Australia who had a fine grasp of the completely ridiculous and hideously risible. This served him well because he worked in the press gallery at Parliament House in Canberra. Legislatures everywhere are places where you need to overdose on humour just to get by. He would have loved that one. Price died of a brain tumour in 2007, aged 46.

Hector tweets @scratchings