HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Aug. 19, 2015

by 8 Degrees of Latitude

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Let’s Make a Mess of It

We do try very hard – really we do – to find little political or bureaucratic triumphs to lighten the load of otherwise observing serial dysfunction and give us something positive to write about that has emerged from government. But it’s hard. Since Australian beef imports were slashed – someone had heard the stirring beat of that nationalist drum again and had convinced himself that Indonesia Raya was self-sufficient in that variety of essential protein – local prices have shot up by 180 percent because (and we won’t even bother pausing for effect) supplies were now short. The government has said it will import 50,000 tons of Australian beef to meet the shortfall, or perhaps to fill in the gap in its mind.

We’ll move along to the next little upset apple cart. This is the invidious effect of steep rises in tariff charges on imported wine and spirits, which (to no one’s surprise except the sentient) have caused a conniption in the drinks industry – it’s worth rather more than a snip at US$300 million (Rp Something plus far too many zeroes) – especially coming on top of this year’s ban on beer sales through mini markets. From Jul. 23, importers have been paying 90 percent of import consignment value on wine and 150 percent on spirits. The industry says this will lead to retail price rises of between 15-100 percent. It fears, somewhat naturally, that this may have a negative impact on sales.

It is true of course that observant Muslims are forbidden alcohol – it is haram – and that premium wines and spirits are only ever so rarely found in your average Indonesian household whose occupants, if they have jobs, earn derisory wages that are flat out putting nasi bungkus on the meja. Cheap hooch is widely available and – as we have just seen again in Bali in a separate criminally stupid or criminal profiteering case – is highly likely to have been adulterated with methanol or other dangerous substances. Most Indonesians are unlikely to be affected by prohibition-style, speakeasy-level prices for imported drinks they will never consume.

But there is another aspect to the alcohol issue that should worry a great many people. It is that the drive to suppress consumption is coming from the hardline Islamist push in the legislature and the government. Consuming alcohol is not prohibited for many people who profess Indonesia’s other religious faiths. It is a commodity that the tourism sector must provide to meet the expectations of their markets. There are plenty of other places for tourists – or rich Indonesian elites – to go if they want a drink at a reasonable price with their holiday dinners, after all. This factor is critical to Bali, where tourism is the single most important economic driver. It’s quite clear that Islamic legislators in Jakarta – a world city in which alcohol fuels the metropolitan entertainment sector – have given little thought for the deeper ramifications of their campaign.

Drinking is not compulsory. It is elective behaviour of the sort that sensible, secular states permit (properly regulated) on the basis that people should be free to choose to indulge in lawful, pleasurable activities and ought to be facilitated in these pursuits. Too often when fanatics get into the act all sorts of things are proscribed because it is suspected that somewhere, someone might be having a good time.

Island Faces

There’s a lovely photographic exhibition at Lestari Art Space in J. Drupadi, Seminyak, called The Island’s Faces and featuring an eclectic range of local dials. The photographs are the work of Ayu Swarie. They have been acclaimed by many as emblematic of our island and won deserved applause from the crowd at the opening on Aug. 7.

The Diary could not be present on opening night because of a prior engagement (see below). But the exhibition runs through to mid-September and we’re not going to miss it. The works are for sale.

Beach Style

A good friend, filmmaker and photographer Adithio Noviello, and his bride Adita Dwi Putrianti chose a sunset beach setting for their wedding on Aug. 7. It was a lovely occasion, especially because it was a celebrated with Muslim rites in front of a gathering whose own religious beliefs encompassed Islam, Balinese Hindu, Buddhist, Judaism, Christianity of various sects, and a goodly component of those whose religious practice exists only as an entry on their ID cards. It seemed a delightful allegory of the real world, the one that exists away from Those Who Like to Bother You.

It’s always a pleasure to hear Arabic spoken or sung at religious occasions and, in the old days before loudspeakers took over from the solitary muezzin who intoned from the minaret, the call to prayer was a mellifluous affair. It’s also rather nice to hear Qur’anic Arabic that’s not being spoken or sung by a native speaker of the language. In that respect, it shares qualities with the Latin one used to hear in Christian churches: unintelligible to most and quaintly pronounced.

We said this, at the party at the Holiday Inn Baruna Bali at Tuban, to a fellow guest whose provenance is Jewish, and added that when such occasions bless the ear it is for us very much like listening to Hebrew. Shalom Aliechem.

Noviello recently produced a short film on the under-threat Bali Dog – it was launched at a function at the Mercure Bali in Sanur the week before his wedding – and auctioned the centerpiece work from his brilliant exhibition of still photographs in aid of BAWA, the Bali Animal Welfare Association. One of his other photographs now resides at The Cage, courtesy of the charge-card facility at the show.

From Vulcan’s Lair

Our favourite local blogger, Vyt Karazija, had a lovely take on Mt Raung’s lengthy effluence in nearby East Java that has lately caused distress to airports, airlines, and especially airline passengers who have no idea of the dangerous properties of volcanic dust except that it must be someone else’s fault. That episode had abated at the time of writing – though one should never wholly trust Vulcan not to return to bother us again shortly – but it gave all sorts of people an opportunity to fulminate.

Karazija fulminates quietly, in his own erudite way. He noted on his Facebook one day that his newly cleaned motorbike had acquired a dull sheen of dust – debu in the local parlance – and he became quite lyrical about this. He wrote that it was wondrous that minute particles of Inner Earth had been expelled by pyrotechnic flux and had floated free for the first time in four billion years, seeing the Sun and all the other wonders available above the crust. It was pleasing, he noted, that some of these microscopic and newly free entities had chosen to grace his motorbike.

This is sort of poetic prose that can bring a tear to eye of an old diarist, someone from the dark side who has seen the English language mangled by many for whom it is their native tongue and who unaccountably have been paid to write in that language. We did have a briefly lachrymose moment. But Karazija, while he is light with the virtual equivalent of a pen, is also a practical man. The rare dust that had blessed his bike, he finally decided, might actually be debu from the rampant construction and deconstruction, licensed or otherwise, that takes place round the clock in South Bali.

Then again, we ourselves mused, it could merely have been particulate-laden smog, that other constant in the atmosphere above the murdered landscape of Denpasar, Badung and parts of Gianyar and Tababan. We daily see that dreadful pall – beneficially, this is from a distance – from The Cage in our still mainly wooded and freshly aired bit of the Bukit.

See You in Sanur

The tenth Sanur Festival will be held from Aug. 26-30. Its theme is “Decade”, which is accurate at least, if not a natural crowd-puller of a slogan. Along with the usual mix of such events, including kite flying, a food festival, fun runs (on Aug.23), beach cleanups, turtle hatchling releases, a photographic competition and other entertainments, this year’s festival includes nightly showings of films from the 2015 Bali International Film Festival, which itself takes place from Sep. 24-30. For those more actively inclined there are Village cycling tours; and the Sanur Open golf tournament will be held at Bali Beach golf course on Aug. 29-30.

Sanur Festival chairman Ida Bagus Gede Sidharta Putra makes a good point. “If we do not have a flagship tourism activity, Bali tourism will stagnate and slowly it could be abandoned by tourists.”

Festival details are on the festival website.

Hector tweets @ scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and online editions of the Bali Advertiser http://www.baliadvertiser.biz