8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

Month: December, 2015

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Dec. 23, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences 

 

A Christmas Story

This week we observe the official birthday – though of course its date is wholly notional – of one of Islam’s leading saints, the nabi Isa al-Mahdi, whom Muslims also honour as the Messiah. In the Christian rite, it is Christmas, the nativity of Jesus, born of a virgin mother. To Christians, Jesus is the Son of God. To Muslims that very notion is anathema. To those of the Jewish faith, Jesus was a rebellious and schismatic rabbi with whom their religious leaders dealt expediently by getting someone else to do away with him. That is a practice that is still with us. Defenestration, actual or metaphorical, has an unrivaled place in political tradition.

Thanks to Mammon and his right-hand man Capital over the last century and a half, fuelled by the rise of rampant consumerism, Christmas has become an occasion for Bacchanalian excess. This secular Christmas has nothing to do with religion, or with faith except for the widespread belief that it’s the one time of the year when you might get something for nothing. Santa and his elves, like the timing of the feast itself, are borrowed at one remove from Old Europe’s pagan rites of midwinter. In the same way, Easter, which marks the death and resurrection of Christ, coopted the pagan spring festival of its original Greek and Roman times.

Neither of these occasions was religious in the terms most people of faith would accept today. Not to put too fine a point on it, they were occasions for a good deal of romping and a whole lot of rumpy-pumpy. And jolly good fun all that must have been. You could say then that the wheel has just about turned full circle, especially, as an instance, in tourist areas of Thailand where to suggest that the elves are merely outré would be to unduly favour understatement as a conversational artifice.

The same invitation to overlay a patina of sexuality on everything – perhaps this is the single most significant success, if such it be, of capital-fuelled consumerism – is seen well beyond the pagoda-strewn landscapes of Old Siam. Elves whose moral influence probably wouldn’t stand scrutiny are a commonplace in Bali’s overeat, overdrink and badly misbehave tourist precincts. They have even been known to appear in certain parts of Lombok, the island of a thousand mosques.

The birthday of the Prophet is a much more important Islamic date. This year, on the lunar Sunni calendar, it’s on Christmas Eve.

All-abuzzZZZZ

We’re spending Christmas in Australia this year, not because we want to but because there are some family matters with which we and other people must deal. It is the first time in ages that we’ve been in the Odd Zone when the customary somnolence of the place, which is hard enough to bear anyway, gives way to six weeks or more of summer holidays and to something that closely approximates catalepsy. To be fair, many continental Europeans do the same sort of thing in August – try getting pain au chocolat of any decent quality in Paris then (it’s difficult: everyone is août, and not just to lunch) – but the Aussies take leisure even more seriously over their own big sleep. Unless it’s cricket or tennis, or they’re murdering prawns on a BBQ or getting zapped by stingers at the beach, forget it. The confluence of Christmas and New Year with the southern summer makes this possible, and it’s no bad thing, unless you want something done.

There are some things we need to get done. But we’ll do these ourselves. Our aim is to get home as quickly as possible. We have to see where the roof has decided to leak this year. Since it has now been raining properly, El Niño notwithstanding, our return might be quite revealing.

Merry Christmas!

Hannigan’s Wake

Well, no, not raconteur and history writer Tim Hannigan’s. He surely has time for a goodly number of books yet, though we did hear from him of the sad event: the death in Malang on Dec. 13 of Benedict Anderson, the Cornell University scholar who became one of the most influential voices in the fields of nationalism and Southeast Asian studies. He was 79.

Anderson is best known for his 1983 book Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Its much-debated thesis is that nationalism is largely a modern concept rooted in language and literacy. Its publisher, Verso, says the book has been translated into more than two-dozen languages.

His early specialization in Indonesia gave us a near-forensic analysis of the 1965 coup – he wrote it with fellow scholar Ruth McVey – and led to him being banned from the country until 1999. The Cornell Paper, as it came to be known, suggested that the coup was not the consequence of an abortive communist uprising but of premeditated action by the army. Such assessments were not encouraged in post-coup Indonesia, and still aren’t. Perhaps Karma played a part in Anderson’s outlasting both General Suharto and his New Order regime.

Hannigan also writes on Indonesia, with a light style and a strong sense of narrative as the essential ingredient in popular reading. His latest is A Brief History of Indonesia (Tuttle, 2015) and it’s very good. His 2012 book on British bureaucrat-imperialist Stamford Raffles – Raffles and the British Invasion of Java (Monsoon Books) – should have earned him that year’s Really Stinky Rafflesia Prize from the British Society of Wholesome Hagiographers. That’s if such an outfit existed, which it probably should. Tiffin ladies?

The Great Game

While we’re in the mood for long shadows and long drinks, we should mention a little Facebook post we saw recently. It had been posted by Patricia Morley Brown on the Ubud Community page and told us this: “
Croquet time again on Monday at Dewangga Bungalows from 9.30. Snack n Chat about 11.00 and there’s talk that there will be birthday cake this week for someone who turns 71. This week’s pics of magazine covers from 1918 and 1920s.”

We played croquet once. In about 1954 from memory, when we were just short of 10 and lodging temporarily, en famille, with an uncle in the Misty Isles who was the vicar of a lovely, leafy rural parish.

One Step Back … and One Forward

It’s sad to hear that the excellent organic garden at Sawangan near Nusa Dua and operated by Mike O’Leary’s ROLE Foundation has fallen victim to a land dispute, one of the more pernicious of the many social distempers endemic to Bali. ROLE is also seeking funding for new premises in Siligita. We’ll keep an eye on that. See them at http://www.rolefoundation.org.

On a much happier note, we hear that the non-profit charity Yayasan Solemen and a local company, Indosole LLC, along with the Bali Dynasty Resort, were busy in November giving a helping hand to the villagers of Waribang in Sanur. Indosole handed out rice and 50 pairs of adult footwear made from recycled tyres. Solemen distributed 111 towels and 50 bed sheets donated by the Bali Dynasty and transported to the village by Mark Tuck, founder and principal of Paradise Property Group.

The villagers of Waribang make their living by collecting plastic bottles to trade in for cash, which earns them Rp 3000 (about 21 US cents) per kilo. That’s something to think about while you’re enjoying your Christmas feast.

Solemen, whose leading hot-foot is the entrepreneurial Robert Epstone, regularly distributes food and clothing to needy villages around Bali and organize medical aid, physiotherapy and nutrition assistance.

If you’d like to help, visit www.solemen.org.

Write Stuff

Another Bali connection, the enigmatically alluring Jade Richardson who blogs with zest as the Passionfruit Cowgirl, has a gig going in the New Year that might interest any formative scribblers who are in Western Australia during the Long Sleep. It’s the latest in her Write of Passage workshops and the first one in Perth (though it’s actually in the port city of Fremantle, a good place to be in January when the searing heat of the Australian summer might otherwise be upon one).

Gentle Jade asks this question: Could this be the journey that changes everything? She tells us that this is her favourite workshop for aspiring writers and is designed for those seeking profound insight to their work in stories, a powerful shift in writing, and an understanding of creative energy.

The workshop is on Jan. 5, 6 and 8. Details are at www.heartbookwriting.com or you can email her at jade.gently@gmail.com.

Cheers to the Monkey

When the clock ticks over to 2016 the Diary will be in a very good mood. For shortly after that it will be the Year of the Monkey. We have plans for plenty of simian pursuits, a treat we award ourselves every 12 years.

See you next year!

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

 

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Dec. 9, 2015

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences 

 

You Could Cry

Animal fan Rhonda Lepsch has for two years run a great operation called Jet Set Petz – the name came from the jet ski operation in which she’s involved at Tanjung Benoa near Nusa Dua – but it will soon be no more. It will close on Dec. 15 and its useful Facebook page will disappear. This would be sad in any circumstances, since Jet Set Petz estimates it has saved or otherwise cared for 400 dogs in the area. What makes its closure shocking is that it has been brought about by the blind indifference to anything but immediate benefit and money-grubbing that so blights Bali today.

Lepsch lost a loved pet dog at the end of November, either poisoned or taken by dog meat traders. It was too much for her. Who could blame her for deciding that since her neighbours in Tanjung Benoa declared themselves uninterested in doing anything much at all, they were not worth bothering about? You could cry, really. Bali is the island of spiritual wholesomeness, or so the Balinese keep saying. Increasingly the evidence points in the other direction.

Lepsch says she knows of no rabies cases in Tanjung Benoa over the past two years that she’s been running the program. The dogs of the locality are healthy. So now they are the target of dog meat thieves and mean little people who poison other people’s pets because … well, because they can, because they have no conscience, and because no one in authority can be bothered getting out of their air-con to stop them.

Official policy, such as it is, now mandates mass killing of dogs to reduce rabies. It doesn’t work, of course, but it looks busy and it’s cheaper than doing the hard yards that would actually work, such as resuming the planned and implemented vaccination programs they abandoned when all the money ran away, and the sterilization schemes that were meant to run alongside it to humanely reduce dog numbers.

Where is the provincial government in all of this? What is it doing to educate people about their responsibility for animals in their care? Nothing. It’s off finding further excuses for indolence. Where is the Association of Veterinarians Indonesia (PDHI) of Bali? Perhaps its chairman, veterinary doctor Made Restiani, would like to tell us when the PDHI will be back from being out to lunch.

Bali’s spirited dogs would like to know, just as much as we would.

Dharma and Karma

Balinese Hinduism is different from the Indian variety. It is heavily influenced by syncretic elements from Buddhism and other faiths. But it shares many common points with its Indian originator and certainly emphasizes the same influence of Karma on human actions. So it was interesting to read the other day a scholarly outline of Hindu responsibilities for animals, their health and welfare, and their place in the world. It’s on the web at this URL if you’d like to read it, which you should: hinduwebsite.com/hinduism/essays/animals.asp.

Among other things, it makes this point: Hinduism is a compassionate religion that treats all living organisms as aspects of god with souls of their own. Hindu scriptures encourage the devout to treat all animals with respect, not to harm them, and not to subject them to cruelty or to kill them. Sacrificing animals for religious purposes is seen in Indian Hinduism as a prehistoric rite that no longer has a place in society.

There is, you might say, food for thought in that.

Many religions formulate the same Karmic rule, unfortunately too often observed in its breach. Among these, Christians are reminded in their scripture that you reap what you sow. Karma’s a tonic, or possibly a poison. Or to put it even more plainly, if you’re a right berk, one day you’ll pay.

Pack ’Em In

It’s good to see that La Gazette de Bali, the monthly newspaper for the Francophone community, is right behind the longstanding efforts of Tabanan-based PT EnviroPallets to reduce the footprint of non-reusable packaging and the plastic that is its chief component. La Gazette is required reading at The Cage. It’s always interesting, runs lots of material you mightn’t otherwise see, and is especially useful as a foil to the English-language dominance of information (not only in Bali).

So it was slightly odd to read a three-year-old Jakarta story recycled on one of the virtual print platforms serving the local Anglosphere that might easily have been misunderstood as suggesting EnviroPallets is a new venture. We hadn’t seen the piece ourselves and were alerted to its presence by that inveterate reader of everything, Philly Frisson, The Diary’s international cultural attaché and a girl who loves a giggle.

Speaking of oddities, we were amused to read elsewhere, in the Googlish print media, the reported view of the local weather bureau that it’s been hot because the temperatures have been high and dry because it hasn’t rained. Ah, the delightful perils of instant on line translation. Still, one needs to smile, especially when the flying ants that always presage big rain are apparently still in hiding and refusing to come out to play.

Don’t Bank on It

We had a chat the other day with Susi Johnston, who remains as feisty as you’d expect a graduate cum laude of Bali’s school of hard knocks to be. The issue was land law and property ownership – it’s her specialty of course, in her case because of a criminally unfair situation – and a daylong seminar held in Kuta on Nov. 28 attended by 120 to hear about the thorny matter of foreign-owned property.

Some good came from it, though nothing of immediate substance. Among things in the pipeline are possible moves to create a Hak Pakai title available for people who are in Bali only to live – retirees for example – and it’s clear that the authorities desire at least to try to clear up the mess here. Not using a nominee would be sensible. Using a Jakarta lawyer might be a good idea. These ideas will upset the perfumed, flash shirt and shiny pointed shoes brigade here. Oh dear, how sad, never mind.

A Good Result

Mike O’Leary of ROLE Foundation tells us the 2015 ROLE Models Charity Dinner on Nov. 21 brought in around Rp 300 million to boost funds that ROLE outlays on its groundbreaking Bali WISE effort to educate and empower marginalized Indonesian women. The event was attended by 180 and held at Rimba, hosted by Ayana Resort and Spa.

Bali WISE gives students from Bali and other Indonesian islands skills education so that they may secure a worthwhile job with a fair wage to support themselves and their families. The program, which depends on corporate support from the business and hotel sector, has been running for nearly a decade. So far 762 students have graduated, 90 per cent of them finding jobs afterwards.

The 180 guests at the function, who turned out in a colourful collection of Across the Archipelago traditional attire, were welcomed with cocktails at Rimba’s Orchid Tea Lounge before a five-star dinner was served in the ballroom. The Bali WISE student choir and well-known Indonesian performer Lisa Soul entertained the crowd. A silent auction offered prizes donated by sponsors and attracted enthusiastic bidders. The after party was at Unique, the property’s scenic rooftop bar.

O’Leary tells us the evening beat its fundraising target. If you’d like to learn more about ROLE or lend a hand, browse www.rolefoundation.org

Fatally Unplugged

The Indonesia Air Asia Airbus A320 that crashed into the Java Sea on December 28 last year, less than halfway into a two-hour flight from Surabaya to Singapore, had a flight control computer that had malfunctioned 23 times over 12 months and four times during the fatal flight.

How that problem can have been left uncorrected in the normal maintenance cycle is for others to say. Whatever is now said, the Diary says this: From our point of view the accident resulted from inexcusable negligence; it indicates a corporate attitude to a duty of care on a par with its fatally cavalier attitude to aircraft airworthiness; and Indonesia Air Asia is now on our no-fly list. We’d rather walk, thanks.

The Indonesian crash investigation report, released on Dec. 1, found that crew action caused a loss of control and the stalling of the aircraft. All 162 people on board were killed. The report said flight crew action resulted in inability to control the aircraft. The situation caused a prolonged stall condition that was beyond the capability of the flight crew to recover.

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