8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

Month: February, 2016

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb. 17, 2016

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Far Queue Again

The periodic struggle to get vehicles into and out of Ngurah Rai airport was worse than usual on Feb. 5, apparently. We weren’t there, which is probably a good thing. One hour-plus irritation a month already tests our toleration limit. It isn’t that we’re unsympathetic to local rites, religious or otherwise: far from it in fact, and far further than many might think. But of course we’ve only been here 10 years, much less time than many Resident Bules who clearly know a lot better, and that must be why we don’t really see the need to exponentially expand mayhem as a function of Bali life when it’s actually simpler not to.

In normal circumstances the absence of the phrase membentuk antrian tertib (form an orderly queue) from both everyday Bahasa Indonesia and local consciousness – to say nothing of whatever the equivalent might notionally be in Basa Bali – creates road conditions that are interesting. That’s in the old Chinese sense. It’s not just at the airport. The chaotic Mille-Feuille Roundabout on the By-Pass is a case in point. That’s where traffic dashes in, using an anarchic multiplicity of “lanes” from four directions, including the airport and the toll road, while the traffic police look on (in desperation, it sometimes seems, and we sympathise) and drivers ignore everything except their own apparently desperate need to get in front of everyone else. In lighter traffic this can work, as long as you have nerves of steel. And you can jag a dream run round that funny round bit in the middle if you’re there at 4am, though you still need to be watchful for idiots who are doing 80km/h, aren’t looking, and don’t have their lights on. It’s a bit like the flood drains we don’t have here. They’re a waste of space when it’s not raining.

The Feb.5 mess at the airport resulted from roads being closed for local ceremonies. The important Galungan (Feb. 9-11) festivities were coming up. Galungan is second only to Nyepi (Mar. 9 this year) for which the airport is officially closed. We’re told that on Feb. 5 it was taking vehicles an hour or more just to get into or out of the airport. The area resembled a parking lot. Leaving aside the issue of convenience for road users and the tedious matter of missing your flight, an unmovable traffic jam is a security concern in such a vital piece of public infrastructure.

Two things need to be looked at. One is the requirement for the airport operating company, a featherbed state corporation, to bother about its responsibilities beyond collecting money. It should look at the airport’s ridiculous car parking arrangements and the road layout, for a start. The other is for the Bali provincial government and local councils to work with banjars on a plan that will recognise and facilitate both the requirements of adat (custom) and traffic needs. Public thoroughfares are no longer the village pathways that once could be blocked off at no great inconvenience to anyone.

Hindu ceremonies are a crucial element of life in Bali. They must be protected and encouraged. They are the very essence of Bali and they’ll remain so even when Hindus become a minority in some areas, and even island wide, which ultimately seems inevitable.

Drink Up

We went with a lovely friend the other evening to the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel in search of dinner. The desire had been expressed for the sort of meat and three veg dinner that is traditional in certain cultures and which can be difficult to find here. We went where we went because the lovely friend thought that’s where she might have been once, when such fare was apparently on offer.

It wasn’t the place and there were no roast dinners – the Diary was not at all displeased – and we dined at the resort’s beachside Tamarind restaurant. The food was very good indeed, the intricacies of true medium-rare steak were clearly understood, a further bonus; and the Californian red zinfandel (a Berringer) was a very nice drop.

We had a drink before dining. That was a slightly more enervating process. It was Happy Hour, they told us, on the standard two-for-one plan. The waiter brought two drinks menus. The Diary pointed out that there were three of us at the table. Oh yes, um, OK. A third menu eventually arrived, with an expression that bordered a tad too closely on exasperation. We then ordered “one large Bintang two glass” (the usual Diary and Distaff deal) and the lovely friend asked for a Gordon’s gin and tonic. The waiter tried to give the Distaff the large Bintang and the two glasses. Maybe the Diary really is invisible. Or perhaps the training sessions there mandate that when two women and one man are ordering, the man is a Non-Presence; or is just along for the rides.

We chatted and drank our drinks, enjoying the tropic ambience and browsing through the dinner menu. Then we called for our Happy Hour second round. Oh no, they tried to say, Happy Hour ends at 7pm. But we ordered before 7pm, the Distaff and lovely friend advised. The Diary remained silent, since he was apparently invisible. A manager appeared and tried to reinforce the too-late rule. He eventually conceded defeat and scurried off to get the bevies. The gin wasn’t Gordon’s. This was noticed. What a surprise! It got sent back.

Desert Island Slipped Discs

Very little is more ignorant than breathless tabloid TV and the Australian sector of this disinformation industry is probably well up there with the worst. It’s often well meaning, Aussies being, you know, good blokes. Unless they’ve inadvertently trodden on their bonnets and got bees in them, but that can happen to anyone. So we were not surprised to see a promo for an item on the Seven Network’s Today Tonight show about Aussie couple that had gone to Bali and built a jungle resort on a deserted island.

Suna and Joe Cavanagh, of Perth, have built Castaway resort on Lembongan, towards the rugged western end of the island where the Indian Ocean swells crash spectacularly into the low rocky cliffs. The resort, which is locally managed, looks fabulous and is on the Diary’s list for an unannounced visit. It’s on the sheltered coast away from the rollers.

Lembongan is a beautiful spot. But it is not deserted – the Islanders alone number around 5000 – and neither is it by any measure jungle. Still, as Suna Cavanagh advised fans on Facebook, that’s TV.

Rule of Lore

No doubt it will be appealed all the way to the Court of Final Shemozzle, but the recent decision of the Indonesian Supreme Court to uphold a ruling in a lower court last year to award use of the global IKEA trade name to a furniture outfit in Surabaya is worth a belly laugh, albeit it a hollow one. In a majority decision – there was one dissenting judge, apparently the sentient one – the Supreme Court said that since IKEA had not used its trade name in Indonesia for three years it had forfeited its right to do so. There’s no need to pause for applause. It’s just how they do things here.

The law the judges (minus the dissenter) decided in their wisdom to apply is designed to regulate the bottom-feeders, those who in the usual fashion here have mortgaged their companies to the White Elephant franchise and gone out of business. Foreigners do this too – we’re not making an invidiously focused point.

But the Swedish company IKEA is a global operation. It hasn’t gone out of business. Its Indonesian operations might need a makeover – if so, it’s far from alone in overlooking that imperative – but its global brand name is extant. Its headquarters are in Leiden, The Netherlands, not in Surabaya, East Java, where Intan Khatulistiwa Esa Abadi plies its trade.

Life of George

These things happen, but it can be a little embarrassing when they do. A chap we know who calls himself Richard got a note the other day from George Wright, national secretary of the Australian Labor Party. That wasn’t unusual. George writes to Richard regularly, about this and that and sundry other things.

There was a twist, however, in this instance. The missive that the virtual postman dropped into the virtual mailbox was a little apology, on which George, bless him, had tried to put the best spin possible. A recent message he’d sent, it said, had addressed Richard as Riley, and he was writing to say he knew Richard was Richard and wasn’t Riley at all, and he was sorry about all this. He signed himself off as “George (not Riley)”. We thought that was a nice touch.

Automated mail programs can be painful. They make you think of all sorts of things with which to complete a distempered exhortation that begins “R for…”

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

Full Speed Ahead and Damn the Moral Turpitudes

I generally agree with Gerard Henderson, director of the Sydney Institute, whose Weekend Australian columns customarily offer sound – if sometimes arguable – political and policy advice. He sends round a missive on Mondays (“In case you missed it”) as a prompt to those who might have. I don’t agree with his views in his column in the Weekend Australian of Feb. 13-14. And here’s why. (There’s a link to the column at the end of the post)
Yes, Gerard, I missed the boat on this one. Sorry, must pay attention.
Except (perhaps) for occasional abseilers, most people who object to the principle of offshore detention do so from a moral and ethical position that recognises the fact of informal population movement as a function of 21st century global politics. The phenomenon won’t end until the source countries of “boat people” create societies in which masses of people don’t want to leave.
In other words, don’t wait up.
I don’t think anyone seriously believes that the Australian authorities, or even the private contractors that they use to run offshore detention centres, actively set out to torture people. But the effect of isolation can be, and often is, mental torture. I don’t want people I have to vote for, or be fined for not doing so, to rattle populist drums and ignore the benefits of sentience. Nor do I want them to be bastards.
The “wave of reffos” that the political rhetoric used by those who support exclusion suggests is threatening Australia, is effectively a trickle. We’re very good at jumping at shadows and in persuading ourselves that it’s unfair to be fair.
There’s no doubt Australia faces a political and policy problem. Its near neighbour Indonesia has no real national interest in stopping the trickle of unauthorised migrants who would like to go on to Australia.
“Stopping the boats” is a rhetorical flourish. It’s ending the wider problem that Australia and the region needs to work on. Rather urgently. That will require intense diplomacy and expenditures by Australia – which doesn’t want this “unauthorised human flow” washing up in the Special Biosphere. At that end of the deal it’s Australia’s problem. No one else actually cares very much. Oh dear. How sad. Never mind.
In that situation, creating a bureaucratic excrescence that ships people off to isolated ill serviced islands and then tries to resettle them in Cambodia and other places is offensive. Well, it’s offensive to me (as generally a Liberal voter) and to a lot (though not electorally enough) other Australians.
It’s shameful, morally and ethically. That’s the bottom line. Max Weber notwithstanding.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/columnists/gerard-henderson/comedic-stunts-aside-soft-borders-cost-lives/news-story/4abb229d463bc01f9336f0155b15ff6a

 

 

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb. 3, 2016

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious matters

 

Load of Pit Bull

Bali’s attractions as a resort for western tourists (that distinction is becoming more and more important) have taken a hammering lately. It was interesting to see that this received notice in the Jakarta Post on Jan. 27. Or perhaps not a hammering: It might have been a whipping with a flip-flop, if we are to believe the preferred version of an instance of animal cruelty involving pit bulls being transported in inhumane conditions that was seen and videoed and photographed in the middle of Seminyak in Bali’s premier tourist precinct. The truck stopped and the driver got out and caused further distress to a caged dog that had panicked and had blood around its mouth.

There are things that go on here that lie on the debit side of the excellence ledger, though this is apparently a continuing surprise to many people who prefer fiction or fairyland, or simply accept what they deem to be culturally inevitable. These debits are of no consequence either to those caught breaking the law or failing to enforce it, to people not doing their jobs or picking your pocket, the latter either literally or figuratively, or to louts of any class shouting gratuitously offensive go-home advice at outsiders. It’s their country, so the loudspeaker patois of popular nationalism says.

Bali is unique, and it’s a great place to live. But sometimes, you know, you see things that warrant comment that won’t rate on the preferred Bali APP Scale (APP = Automatic Paeans of Praise). On Mon. Jan. 18, the Bali Animal Welfare Association posted a report from one of many witnesses to the scenes of Friday night. There were photos with it. These went up on BAWA’s English language and Bahasa Indonesia Facebook pages.

There was an immediate outcry. The report went even more viral on BAWA’s Indonesian page than it did on the English one. Someone in the Bali bureaucracy who is capable of lateral thought (yes, we know) should have a think about that. They already know – although of course they won’t concede this publicly – that a lot of Balinese people are angry about the cruel, indiscriminate and counter-productive killing of dogs including vaccinated animals as a pathetic non-response to the rabies outbreak, now in its ninth year because the authorities royally messed up.

Pit Bulls are used for dog fighting, a popular and lucrative illegal betting industry which as well as breaking national laws that prohibit all gambling also contravene the (disgracefully inadequate) national animal cruelty laws. Not every pit bull is kept for this purpose. And we’re told that the ones in the Seminyak incident hadn’t been at a fight. They’d been somewhere preparing for a non-dog-fighting event to take place at a later date. Etc. Blah.

On Wed. Jan. 20 BAWA received visits from delegations that repeated previous advice that the event had nothing to do with dog fighting. It’s just unfortunate, apparently, that the event they hadn’t been to and the inhumane transport conditions so upset the dogs that the truck driver felt it necessary to stop and remonstrate with one of them in a rather physical fashion

Later that day BAWA posted something on its Facebook that it called “Update on Monday’s Pit Bull Post”. The original post disappeared, swept under the carpet by someone or other. The Bully a Bule SOP had kicked in. It is applied every time a foreigner sees something offensive and dares to say so. Buckets of whitewash are essential if you’re planning a snow job.

Wrap it Up

Plastic is not fantastic, as everyone should know by now, especially in Bali where it litters the landscape – and will do so for ages, since it is practically non-degradable – and continues to be used for wrapping throwaway rubbish. In the practice of this island, plastic then handily stores whatever it contains for foraging dogs and vermin, and as blockage material in the rivers and streams into which they are dumped from which in due course a deluge will release them into the ocean where their remains kill precious marine life or wash up on beaches, bothering tourists.

There was a TED Talk in Bali on Jan. 30, about plastic waste that broke new ground because it featured Indonesian teenagers talking about getting rid of non-biodegradable products. Proper environmental care is a matter of education, like many things. Activist teens such as Bye Bye Plastic Bags co-founder, Isabel, who features in the TED Talk show, are a real bonus in that situation. They have peer appeal, for one thing, and for another will carry their message forward into their adult lives and really make a difference. Online Rotary Club member Clare McAlaney kept us up to speed with the event.

Not a Good Idea

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who was deposed in a party room vote last September and who said then that he would consider his future, has now done this. He has decided to re-contest his Sydney parliamentary seat of Warringah at the national elections due later this year.

He’s entitled to do so, of course. Almost anyone can stand for office in Australia, even certain classes of lunatics. It’s a fully functioning democracy, a fact that is of unquestionable benefit to Australia and its neighbours. But in considering his future, Abbott appears to have overlooked a number of things. He is not unintelligent, so unless hubris has informed more of his judgment on his future than is wise, he will be aware that staying around will destabilise his party.

His successor, Malcolm Turnbull, is a social liberal and rather more inclined to take the view that this is the Twenty-first Century. Abbott should be aware that the fossil energy resource policies he likes to boost might (that’s debatable) be profitable in the short term but are not economically, scientifically, environmentally or socially sustainable in the long term. He should have noticed, too, that many people who customarily vote for his Liberal party do not support his regressively conservative social positions. Australian secular, democratic politics occupies the middle ground and it is from there that governments are formed.

Abbott is 58, still a youngish man in an Australian context. He has many years left in which to perform public service if that is his desire, or to do something else if that suits him better. It would be more productive of him to reassess his demerits rather than rely on the supposed upsides he and his factional friends promote. He was gauche in office as prime minister. He is personable as an individual, as is his similarly demagogue-dogmatist Labor predecessor Kevin Rudd. He might be better writing dissertations.

All Inclusive

Eastern philosophies have had more influence on those of the west than many suppose. This enlightenment is not merely a product of easy travel in the last half century and the invasion of other peoples’ thinking spaces that was its natural corollary. It is a function of the symbiosis of humanity, of the free flow of ideas and inspiration that has always taken place. This process is quicker nowadays and no longer something reserved for the educated elite or politically well placed.

This Diary was written in Ubud, local seat of the modern fad for worshipping self-selected gurus. Ubud is more than that, of course, and it seems appropriate to mention the 2016 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival as a forthcoming attraction toute force. The dates have just been announced: Oct. 28-Nov. 1. Put those in your diaries.

The theme this year is Tat Tvam Asi, the Sixth Century Hindu philosophy that says in basic shorthand, “I am you, you are me.” As Janet DeNeefe noted in her latest UWRF update, the Roman playwright Terrance once wrote, “If I am human, then nothing human is alien to me.” He was on the money.

The power of words is inestimable. That’s why dictators burn books and knuckleheads ban publications. Words make it possible for each of us to construct our own – possibly parallel – existence. They are the ultimate freedom.   

Here’s Cheers

Happy New Year, Chinese style! As noted previously, the Diary is looking forward to the Year of the Monkey, which starts on Feb. 8 and ushers in 12 months of special time for those of us fortunate enough to be Monkeys ourselves. It only happens every 12 years, so forgive any out of left field ambient frivolity between now and early in 2017.

It’s also Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14, though this of course happens every year. It’s a great time for red roses and chocolates, and for profit, for those who can spin some business off St. Val’s feast day. Valentine was a martyred Third Century Roman priest who from the Fourteenth Century became associated with the European tradition of courtly love. That’s the no-nooky, perfumed token variety.

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