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Category: Australia

The Left Greens and Australia Day

Former Labor senator and minister Graham Richardson is on a popular (not to say populist) ride in his column in The Australian today, on the twin issues of the Greens and Australia Day. I’ve attached the text of column here for the benefit of the wider readership that it might therefore gain:

There was a time when the Greens were all that their name suggests they should be. They were passionate about our environment and they fought really hard to protect Australia’s forests.

I was proud to be their ally in the noble endeavour of protecting rainforests and old-growth forests. I placed more than 20 per cent of Tasmania into World Heritage and, despite resolute opposition from the Bjelke-Petersen government in Queensland, I managed to list the rainforests of the Daintree region and the far north on the World Heritage register as well. Sadly, it did not take too long for me to realise that I could never do enough for them. No matter how much I achieved, they were always disappointed.

The Helsham inquiry was set up to finally settle which Tasmanian forests were to be protected. Many learned conservationists were disappointed at its outcome and I set about undoing the ­inquiry’s final report. It took a three-day cabinet meeting that grew pretty heated at times before a very close vote overturned that report. I was ecstatic and raced to share the news of this huge win for Tasmanian forests’ preservation. I rang Bob Brown, who could only express his disappointment at the cabinet not going far enough. The Greens could never be satisfied. For them it was all or nothing.

Brown, despite everything, was a tremendous voice for the environment and by far the best leader the Greens have had. The Greens began their life in Australia as a mainly Tasmanian group. They were able to export their fervour to the mainland on the back of an environmental purist in Brown.

He was never seen as a politician on the make or consumed by personal ambition. He projected decency and Australians responded. The Greens were able to achieve a national vote of 10 per cent very, very quickly. The problem is that they have never been able to increase that number.

They are stuck at 10 per cent ­because they no longer have the Greens purity of a Bob Brown. Since they stopped worrying about the trees and adopted the mantle of the true party of the left in Australia, they limited their ­horizons and seem determined to remain a minor party.

Sure, they will win inner-city seats in the parliament and if the Liberals think that the short-term gain of Labor losing a by-election in the seat of Batman in Victoria is more important than keeping out a Greens member who believes in everything the Liberals don’t, then the Greens will secure that victory in the next few months. The Greens will no doubt trumpet this as a major win and predict they will march on to greater glories. They won’t, of course. As long as they lean as far to the left as they do at present, they will ­remain on the fringes of power. They can rattle their sabres in the Senate and have a minor role in shaping legislation but real power will continue to elude them.

As long as they are determined to push issues that not only alienate the bulk of Australians but ­infuriate them as well, then their campaigns will fall on deaf ears and blind eyes. One of the first ­indications that the Greens have fundamental difficulties in accepting the way the great majority of Australians live was when now-vanquished Queensland Green Larissa Waters took on the cause of changing the toys our children play with. She wanted to ban Barbie dolls because they were gender-specific. Little girls have played with dolls since the Son of God played on the wing for Jerusalem. I have managed to live my 68 years seeing absolutely nothing wrong with little girls playing with dolls. And even if I am ­accused of being a truly dreadful person, I readily concede that I would not have been comfortable with my son playing with dolls. Fortunately, he never did.

On the last day at my son’s school last month, there was a Christmas carols evening with a religious theme held at St ­Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral in Sydney. Silent Night still sounds like a wonderful song to me and the children and their parents had a terrific time. The harmonies, the musicianship and the most brilliant music teachers brought songs we had all been familiar with since we were children to life yet again. This was a great Christmas celebration following a great Christmas tradition. The Greens don’t want us to have these celebrations.

Tasmanian senator Nick McKim and a few of his mates drew up a non-denominational card to be sent out at Christmas. Why do these miserable bastards want to attack how we play and what we celebrate? The tradition of sending Christmas cards has been breaking down for some years. As a kid I remember my family ­received and sent a hundred cards. Now it is only a few. The Greens, though, should not read into the decline in cards anything about celebrating Christmas ­itself. That tradition is alive and kicking. The Greens can only stand outside the mainstream if they continue to deride it.

Today’s leader of the Greens, Richard Di Natale, surprised ­no one this week when, in line with the black-armband view of history they peddle, he called for Australia Day to be moved away from the commemoration of the landing of the First Fleet at Botany Bay. Again, he stands against what a huge majority of Australians want and believe in.

I was at the harbour in 1988 when the 200th anniversary was being commemorated. There were so many boats, from the workers’ tinnies to the billionaires’ luxury yachts, out that day that there was very little space on the water. Australians voted with their feet and came out in their millions to be a part of it. The Greens will never dampen the way we feel about Australia Day.

Di Natale said his party would take it up with their representatives in local government. As far as most of us are concerned, this will merely mean that a few nut­tier councils will lose their right to conduct citizenship ceremonies on this day. By the way, the number of people who seek to have their Australian citizenship conferred on Australia Day itself speaks volumes for the popularity of the day.

Australia Day can be a time when we celebrate the wonderful country in which we live and renew our vows to do better with indigenous health and education.

We cannot roll over and allow the Greens to tell us how to live and what to think.

 

Mountain Views

HECTOR’S DIARY

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

His regular diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

THE CAGE

Bali

Jan. 8, 2018

 

IT was rather lovely, we thought, that Mt Agung should choose to see out the old year and bring in the new with another minor eruption. It placed immediately in perspective the claims of various luminaries in these parts, from all points, including the risible foreign guru-seer sector, that the mountain and its risks had been blown out of all proportion. It sort of said that you shouldn’t argue with the precise though (like all science) still imperfect discipline of volcanology, which is a very sensible position.

Two Australians helped bring in 2018 in Bali by re-proving the theory that there’s nothing much more stupid than dumb Aussies with a death wish. The gentlemen concerned had climbed Mt Agung and told the police, who then detained them for having done so, that they hadn’t heard of the exclusion zone. Perhaps it is time to introduce an IQ test for adolescent tourists (no upper age limit: adolescence seems to last a lifetime in some people). It should be noted that French and German idiots pulled the same stupid stunt, so it’s obviously not just a cerebral version of the Coriolis effect.

Noah, Goer

WE spent the weekend at Petulu, near Ubud, the village famous for the white herons that live in the area. It’s a favourite spot of ours, for the natural environment of course, but mostly because a lovely French friend lives there. She likes long conversations and coffee, which is always an unbeatable combination.

The drive up from the Bukit on Friday was as uneventful as you could wish, if in Bali; the FPM (frisson per minute) rate seemed marginally lower than usual, and much of the two-hour, fifty-kilometre, trip was not as slow as it sometimes can be. It was still the usual strain on the brain, of course, and a useful test of your driving reaction times. Beneficially for several motor-scooter riders, ours apparently remain within acceptable tolerances. A particular difficulty at one point – it was at Lodtunduh, if any of the relevant authorities are interested in enforcing the laws against underage and unlicensed riding and that which makes wearing helmets mandatory – was that a whole squadron of sky-larking schoolboys on the way home from their regular brush with basic education chose that day to play loony tunes. It would have been fun to shout at them, but they wouldn’t have taken any notice; and anyway, as foreigners who might get voluble here are frequently advised, it’s culturally undesirable to point out local idiocy. Apparently, voicing such perceptions demonstrates a colonial mind-set.

As we approached and prepared to skirt Guru Central – the new park-out /shuttle-bus-in / no parking arrangements there are going as well as anything organised by Gianyar regency’s department of bright ideas ever does, it seems – the sky darkened dramatically and a stiff breeze blew up. Shortly thereafter, the heavens opened. We mean, even worse than usual. Drainage and road engineering also being among the list of essential skills not applied in Bali, the road running up to Petulu swiftly became a raging torrent running down. We’re not sure, but we think we spotted Noah and his Ark trying to stay their course descending the rapids. Though it might have been just another Deadly Yellow truck aquaplaning with bald tyres and no brakes.

Fortunately we know the road and where its chief hidden hazards lie in wait for the unwary. The large forever uncovered drain opening in the road where we make our final turn to reach our destination was surprisingly easy to keep away from: a wave of surf-riding capacity made its position plainly visible. Nosing into the adjacent alleyway scarcely wider than our little car (we retract the wing mirrors to avoid causing neo-colonialist damage to the residential walls) was slightly more challenging than usual, owing to the possibility of unwanted floatation. But, hey, it was all good fun.

Chinese Chequers

TOURIST arrival figures for Jan.-Oct. 2017 show very clearly the impact of the new visitor demographics on Bali. Chinese tourists now account for nearly 26 per cent of foreign arrivals, a 57 per cent increase on the same period in 2016. Australians are now firmly in second place (just short of 19 per cent of total arrivals) and their numbers are continuing a slow decline, as are those for Singapore and Malaysia, albeit at far lower figures.

An interesting aspect of the latest official statistics is that “Other Nationalities” are running at nearly 13 per cent of tourist arrivals, totalling nearly 648,000, which makes this disparate group third in the order of magnitude. A breakdown of those figures by national source would reveal the extent of the so-called Islamic tourism sector’s impact on Bali. That impact is in no way a bad thing, since it reflects among other things the socio-economic facts of life with which Bali must live and from which it can choose to prosper.

Music Book

WE’RE reading The Memory of Music, the book by composer and broadcaster Andrew Ford, whose migration from Britain to Australia in the 1980s was certainly an Antipodean benefit. He writes well and in a chatty style – his broadcast experience shines through there – that makes the story he wishes to tell very readable indeed. The book contains some lovely anecdotes that may not please some, and which are therefore all the better.

Music has a capacity to wound the soul as much as balm it, but in a way that’s different from the written word, and arguably much more powerfully. Ford explains this phenomenon very well.

Several pieces of music bring wounding sensations to The Diary. Perhaps the chief among them is Samuel Barber’s Adagio For Strings, as we’ve noted before, and which he wrote in 1938 as the clouds of cataclysmic war gathered over Europe. It much later made an appearance as the musical score for the movie Platoon. It’s sad that many people probably only know it as that. It’s hard not to feel, sometimes, these days, now that the winds of change are blowing through the fraying relics of the American empire, that we’re headed for cataclysm again. One hopes not, and that cooler, more measured heads will win the day.

Last Trump

AMERICA’S internal politics, and the serial denouements that it is beginning to produce, are its own affair, mandated by the minority of the national popular vote that got Donald Trump into office via the dodgy business of the Electoral College. Its foreign policy, conversely, is directly everyone’s concern. It’s increasingly worrying, not less so, that this global outreach of American impact is being publicly conducted by kindergarten Tweetstorm from the White House.

It’s possible that Trump, whose grasp of diplomacy seems to flow from his experience shouting “You’re Fired!” at participants in his own TV reality show, is actually aware that tweeting is not the way to go. It’s just something he does, because he can’t help himself, and so that he becomes the news instead of the (hopefully positive) generator of it.

George W. Bush, the 43rd President (2001-2009), whose own grasp of the crucially cerebral nuances of policy and of the particular needs of foreign policy have been judged by some to be deficient, said after being present on the dais at Trump’s inaugural speech a year ago in Washington, “That’s some weird shit.” It was, indeed, whether or not you agreed with Trump’s campaign platform. It’s got weirder since.

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Chin-chin!

A Treasured Gentleman

 

 

RON WATSON

Died Queensland, Australia, Dec. 8, 2017

 

171210 RON AND TANIA from Tania's FB timeline 

Ron and his wife Tania dining out in style in Brisbane just days ago. (Photo from Tania Watson’s Facebook page, with my apologies for lifting it without first getting permission.)

 

RON Watson was a lovely man. We were never close friends. Life’s exigencies had taken us on divergent paths less travelled, though in recent years we had compared our fitness walk performances via social media. But when I had most to do with him, which was during the 1989-1996 Goss Government in Queensland, we profited from a shared insistence on getting things right.

Ron’s background was media – he was the Australian Associated Press political correspondent in Queensland for 10 years before joining the dark side. He wasn’t an apparatchik, though one felt that even if he had been, he’d have insisted on propriety. He had the mark of the true professional.

He was media adviser to Treasurer Keith De Lacy from 1990-1996, a job that required presentation of financial fact rather than the smoke and mirrors favoured in more political ministries. He did that well. He certainly made the job of an editorial writer with some divergent ideas much more pleasant than it might otherwise have been. The political-economic nuances of editorial writing are not all that different from those of partisan collectivism within a government that’s anxious to advance specific interests and its preferred narrative. We got along famously, especially since we could share, from time to time, in camera, the sort of journalistic frivolity that gets you through your day. Ron knew I was straight down the line and I knew he was. He made it easy.

Well, mostly. There’s an anecdote that deserves retelling. At this distance I cannot readily recall which state budget it was, or what the specifics of the media inquiry were, but that doesn’t matter. It was at a budget lock-up, one of those annual and arcane previews of the budget attended by the media and carefully monitored by Treasury boffins and ministerial minders, which used to be such a feature of the annual exercise and perhaps still is. I jumped ship more than two decades ago and don’t know, and don’t want to.

Because I was writing the next day’s leader in The Courier-Mail, which on the morning after budget day would inevitably be on the budget, I was in the lock-up. I kept to myself – editorialists are best when they are solitary creatures – confident that Ron and the boffins, and afterwards the Treasurer, would respond in a timely way to a furrow of the forehead or a raised eyebrow. Budgets of course are political documents and they hide things. You need to know what they’re hiding, even if you’re not going to let that particular emaciated cat out of the bag in print. Ron knew my thinking. He was good like that.

That time, however, the list of things the media might ask even if you’re totally surprised that they’ve even thought about it, proved deficient in one minuscule detail. By the time it was raised as a question, after the lock-up and in the area where you waited for the elevator, Treasurer De Lacy, his boffins and his media man had left the building. Only the Premier, Wayne Goss, remained amidst the media scrum. The question was put (I think by Mike D’Arcy then of Channel Nine).

The Premier looked alarmed. Goss was a lawyer (a good one). He was not an economist. He looked at the ceiling. Sadly, he found no inspiration there. He looked around the crowd, somewhat in the manner of a kangaroo caught in a spotlight. His eyes fixed on me. “Richard, can you explain it?” he said, following this up without pausing for breath with a general statement to the gathered chooks: “Richard can explain it.”

Fortunately I could, at least to the satisfaction of the questioner and his colleagues. Ron and I had a good laugh about that later, in suitably discreet and private surroundings.

There’s another anecdote worth telling, this one from a Treasurer’s private dinner at Budget time. I arrived at the chosen restaurant on crutches, with one leg swaddled so tightly that even a Bethlehem manger baby might have complained, and hobbled up the steps to the door. Ron came to help me get in – he knew I was struggling but that there was no way I was going to miss one of Keith De Lacy’s chatty budget soirees – and whispered to me, “they’ll want to know how that happened.” He said this like a smiling assassin, though I knew he meant well.

I told the table, in response to the collective of raised eyebrows, that I had injured myself at home. That was perfectly true.

I just didn’t say that I’d done so in haste and panic a couple of days earlier when – as one did on balmier Brisbane mornings, in the privacy of one’s house – I was naked in the kitchen making myself another coffee before getting ready to buzz off to work when our cleaner, who usually arrived long after I’d left, opted that day to turn the key two hours early. I made it to the bedroom and managed to slam the door shut before I was seen. But I left a good bit of skin and tissue on the doorjamb and split my foot between the little toe and the rest in the process.

I never told Ron the real story. I should have. He’d have had a good laugh. So Ron, this one’s for you.

Vale, mate.

Turd World

HECTOR’S DIARY

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Bali Advertiser, Nov. 8, 2017

 

WALKING out of a restaurant without paying the RP3 million (around US$250) you owe is against the law anywhere. It’s foolish, among other things including selfish, dismissive of others’ rights, and a low act that reflects very poorly on the perpetrators. Mostly those who commit such acts are immune to conscience. They are citizens of what it is tempting to call the Turd World.

A recent incident in Ubud attracted attention, and the interest of police, after a group of foreigners reportedly staged a careful one-by-one disappearing act designed to dodge their accumulated cash consideration. A photo of the group and a report about their bill dodging was posted all over the social media. It would be nice to think that this exposure resulted in their eventual apprehension by the police (a possibility) or that it prompted a group attack of conscience (an improbability).

The problem with social media exposure is that it also provides an unedited forum for those with grotty as opposed to gritty opinions, whose mission in life is apparently to see things with one eye only and to avoid connection with the principle of non sequitur. Two wrongs do not make a right.

Crossed Wires

AMONG the many things here that cause outbreaks of mutual angst – “locals” on one side and “foreigners” on the other – is the thorny question of what actually constitutes “work” for visa purposes. It’s a hardy annual, forever popping up in some form or other. It usually creates a quite unnecessary furore and leads to all sorts of tin drums being banged in a very discordant manner. In large measure this because Indonesia, while it is beset by a tangle of rules and regulations, is also a place where anyone with connections and currency can bend or ignore the rules. It’s that sort of place. People are working on fixing that but it remains a work in progress.

An Italian tourist, Carmine Sciaudone, has just been released from jail in Bali and has gone home after more than year of incarceration. He had helped fix a projector on a locally operated party boat because it wasn’t working (no surprise there) and he knew how to fix it. That’s work, you see, if the authorities choose to decide that it is. And you can’t “work” on a tourist visa.

Interpreted very broadly, such rules also mean you can’t cut the grass, wash the car, mend a fuse in your house, or do anything much at all, on any sort of tourist of temporary resident visa. That’s because, notionally, it deprives an Indonesian of a work opportunity. It’s good that Sciaudone has been freed. It’s ridiculous that he was incarcerated in the first place.

Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic!

WELL, not quite as much, anyway. The authorities reduced the alert level for Mt. Agung to level three on Oct. 29 and the exclusion zone with it to six kilometres. This was on the basis of scientific advice, not that of political science.

The highest level alert, level four, implemented weeks ago when the mountain showed seismic and volcanic indications that an eruption might be imminent, led to the usual scaremongering in the Australian press. It also created difficulties – more logical and certainly far more soundly based – in relation to the 100,000-plus villagers removed from their homes and farms on the mountain’s slopes and to travel insurance for tourists, which in the way of the insurance world, suddenly excluded cover for pre-existing volcanic inconveniences.

The national and provincial authorities deserve credit for the way they handled the immediate situation, and the work of both government and local and overseas charities in alleviating the distress of removed residents has been exemplary. The emergency remains in place. It is a virtual certainty that the mountain will erupt. No one knows when that will be. Now is not the time to drop vigilance as a policy.

UPDATE, 27 Nov.: Mt Agung is now in full-scale eruption, and event that was also very creditably handled by the authorities. Among the local expats, and the wider Bali-focused expat diaspora, the eruption caused several renditions of The Boy Stood On The Burning Deck. Our advice: Cool it.

Kia Ora, Emoh Ruo

THE ins and outs of Australia’s particularly prosaic version of parochial politics are rarely of more than passing interest, even to Australians, but the constitutional shemozzle highlighted by the dual-citizenship question is perhaps worth more than just the usual response: a harrumph of tedium and a raised eyebrow of confected surprise.

This is not only because the High Court has ruled that seven parliamentarians – including the Deputy Prime Minister – were ineligible to stand for election because they held dual citizenship at the time. They are people whose second citizenships, in some cases unwittingly, reside either in Britain or the formerly British countries of New Zealand and Canada. The original proscription was meant to exclude citizens of foreign (defined at the time as non-British) dominions. This once desirable but later invidious distinction was then quietly forgotten by everyone from bureaucrats to senior counsel, as well as by politicians. It was not until after World War II that Australia moved in several ponderous steps to formalise the absolute independence that it had de facto enjoyed for some time.

The constitutional prohibition dates from 1901, when the continent’s fractious British colonies united – New Zealand was invited to the party but declined the invitation – to form the Commonwealth of Australia.  Stand-alone Australian citizenship dates only from 1986, when Canberra finally cut its last remaining constitutional ties with Britain, to that country’s great relief. (The Queen remains the Sovereign, but the head of state is the Governor-General: Australia is a crowned republic.)

The high-profile victim of his own inattention in the present case is Barnaby Joyce, the Deputy Prime Minister, leader of the coalition National Party. There is a by-election on Dec. 2 in his New South Wales electorate. Now Joyce has done the little rain dance that today’s embarrassing flag-waving and mawkish hand on heart clasping requires, and has formally renounced any claim to NZ citizenship, as he should have done long ago, he will almost certainly be re-elected.

Partisan politics aside, he should be. He was born in Australia. His mother was Australian. His father moved to Australia from New Zealand before Joyce was born. When Papa Joyce jumped the ditch (the Tasman Sea) he did so as a British Subject. He then married an Australian who was also a British Subject, like all Australians of that time. There were separate immigration controls in both countries, but effectively and legally no distinction existed. The legislative changes that made formal aliens of Kiwis (and the British themselves) in Australia were enacted later. And still today, New Zealanders have the right to live in Australia and Australians in NZ.

Feeling Bookish

A lengthy holiday in faraway places provides great opportunities for reading outside of one’s usual circuit. In Portugal we read The Operators, by Rolling Stone journalist Michael Hastings, the 2010 work that led to the resignation of the then American commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal. Over the break we also read Capote: A Biography, by Gerald Clarke. Capote has always fascinated, not least for his writing regime, mirrored by our own. He turned his life upside down and wrote at night.

These exercises, and the opportunity to delve into some of the material you find in the better class of in-flight magazines, sashayed naturally, if somewhat jet-lagged, into the 2017 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. UWRF is always a treat and this year’s was better than ever, on the theme of Origins.

The Bali Advertiser was well represented with three columnists doing the rounds and The Diary hanging around the perimeter, as diarists are wont to do. We were docked a couple of degrees on the media pass slung around our neck. The media organisers were clearly very busy, and must have confused six degrees of separation with those of latitude.

Next year Janet DeNeefe’s post-Bali Bomb therapy baby will turn 15, having quite properly grown bigger every year. That will be a benchmark worth noting.

Cheers, Monte

MONTE Monfore, the Californian swimmer who some years ago turned challenging ocean and lake excursions in and around Bali into great charity resources, has died. His body, with head wounds, was found on a beach on Rota Island, in American Micronesia, in late October, in unexplained circumstances. He was living there, it is reported, as a retired gentleman.

We had some dealings with Monte in the past, when we were wearing different hats. He was always pleasant, full of enthusiasm, and quite impossible to refuse. It’s very sad that he has left us.

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

END NOTE: This was the last Diary column in the Bali Advertiser, which advised shortly after its appearance that it had decided to discontinue its publication. Hector’s Diary, freed of the need to take account of publishers’ sensitivities, will of course continue to appear on this blog.

Pauline’s Peek-a-Boo

170817 PAULINE'S PEEK-A-BOO

~ image from Senate CCTV footage

 

PAULINE Hanson’s stunt in the Australian Senate on Thursday – for that is what it was, banal to its bootstraps – has caused an outbreak of comment. It also caused Attorney-General George Brandis to deliver to Hanson a condign rebuke in the chamber, for which he is due high praise, whether or not you like his politics.

The burqa is not banned in Australia, and neither should it be. It is a Middle Eastern garment unrelated to Islamic beliefs, rites and practices, except by human interpretation. For some people it is a confronting thing. Perhaps it is for the women who wear it not by choice but by law, in Saudi Arabia, other Arabian places, and in societies where misinterpreted patriarchy is all the go, and where the local time is Medieval. But perhaps it is not, for other women, in other places, who choose to dress that way.

For Hanson and others who see or for political reasons wish to boost the idea of pandemic Muslim intention to murder and cause mayhem, it is a handy tool for making a political point. That’s what motivated the leader of One Nation in her Senate demonstration yesterday. She had no thought for the offence she might cause among women in Australia who wear a burqa, or that parenthetically she was offending an entire religion by her act.

She didn’t care. That’s her stock in trade. It plays to the galleries she wants to impress: those who have been taught to fear a global Muslim insurrection; and those (astoundingly, given the dispossession that British settlement brought to the Australian people who were already living there in 1788) who seem to believe that settler Australia’s way of life is fixed in amber, and consists of beer, barbecues, and plumber’s crack.

It is entirely legitimate to question the principles of the burqa, on any number of grounds. It does not reflect the general attitudes or practices of modern western liberal democracies, for example, although where women are concerned the continued prevalence and domination of the Neanderthal male is probably a greater threat. It is – so it is said – a security threat, since the wearer is obscured from view. That’s largely tosh. Most terrorists are madmen – literally, mad men: “It woz me gonads wot dunnit, Yer Onner.”

None of the Islamic terrorists who have just killed 13 people and injured scores in Barcelona wore a burqa. None of their despicable companions in a second planned attack, who fortunately were found and shot dead by Spanish police before they could do any harm, did either.

The burqa is irrelevant to the terror threat, which is very real and which must be dealt with on the spot when a murderous outrage is committed or planned.

Hanson is trying to polarise an Australian constituency for views that support a notion of “exceptionalist” Australia, something else that’s been borrowed from the land of the free and grossly over-armed. But it’s a legitimate political objective in a democracy, even though it’s completely mad. Wrapping yourself in a flag and shouting slogans is apparently less offensive than being allowed to dress as you wish.

Belt and Braces

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His regular diet of worms and other non-religious fare

The Cage, Bali

Wednesday, Jul. 12, 2017

 

DONALD Trump made a remarkable speech in Warsaw ahead of the economic summit he attended later in the historic Hanseatic League city of Hamburg, where he demonstrated exactly why the Group of 20 is now the G19 + 1. It was a good speech, too, well crafted, though redolent of former times or perhaps vainglorious hopes for the future. To his credit, he stuck to the script. A juvenile tweet-storm it was not.

The world has been asking Donald for some time where his trousers are. So it was fun in a way to see him turn out in Warsaw in both belt and braces. He is six months into the most profoundly dysfunctional American presidency since, well, we can’t think when, as the forty-fifth holder of that elected kingship. His office was created by the Founding Fathers of the American revolutionary union and it has been causing difficulties ever since. We should never say that America is in no position to teach the world anything. Its system of national government, formed as it is on the basis of rival electoral bases (for reasons that at the time were completely understandable) is a prime lesson in how not to run a country.

Predictably, the preserved-in-amber Western triumphalist cohort got a fit of the rah-rahs when it heard what Trump had said. It was helpful that Trump for once stuck to the script. We wonder who wrote it. But while a good speech can be good politics, it’s not necessarily good policy. And that’s where it comes unstuck.

These are difficult times, and that’s not just because No. 45 seems to be stuck in a time warp of his own fake making and to be determined to reintroduce both American isolationism and the Monroe doctrine. These are elements that are applauded by the American right-wing columnist Mark Steyn – who is still a Canadian citizen and really should know better – and the flagship of Little England’s Brexit misadventure, the London Daily Telegraph, among others.

Sense and Insensibility

NICK Cater is a thoroughly responsible journalist with whom we once toiled, which was nice, and with whom we share a fondness for North China cuisine, which is lovely. He’s now executive director of the Menzies Research Centre, named after the founder of the Australian Liberal Party, which as current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reminded everyone this week is not a conservative party. Turnbull was speaking in London where he had gone after not being a headline act at the G19+1 summit, for talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May, whose party is Conservative.

Cater had a piece in The Australian this week (Jul. 11) in which he had a go at the good-thinking folk who would like to rearrange Australia, its workplaces, its pastimes, its society and its culture, by means of ethnic and other quotas, whatever Australians think about that. It’s a mad idea, we agree.

So he made a good argument – the piece was headlined “Curing our country of whiteness” – though it seems to us “whiteness” (whatever that is: last time we looked we were a sort of mottled beige) is itself a matter of subjective perception. We guess it’s banal code for “We’re Aussies”. That said, Australia does need as a nation to return to common sense and an understanding of what (beyond self-interest) really drives human responses.

We had a laugh on the way through a serious subject. Cater cited American academic Joan C. Williams’ belief – she makes a point of it in her somewhat dense book White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America – that cultured homosexuality began as transgressions among 19th-century European artists.

Sappho and a few other prominently ancient Greeks, not to mention Persians of equal antiquity, would be surprised to hear that.

Java’s Great

Well, drink up. Apparently two new international studies have found that coffee may prolong life. That’s good news for Java (coffee) as well as for people who apparently want to live forever. It may not be so beneficial for Bali’s oppressed luwaks, but that’s another matter. Two or more cups of coffee a day are said to reduce the risk of death by 18 per cent, if you’re male. At the rate The Diary drinks coffee, we’ll win the Methuselah Cup.

We quote from a rather breathless Sky News Australia item on the topic: “But the latest research bodes better for men than women with one study of more than half a million people across 10 European countries finding men who consumed at least three cups a day were 18 per cent less likely to die from any cause than non-coffee drinkers…Women, on the other hand, drinking the same amount benefited less but still experienced an 8 per cent reduction in mortality.”

Grammar Police Note: Bode is an English verb, of Germanic origin. It can bode well or badly. It’s unclear whether it can legitimately do so “better”, at least grammatically (although in that sense it may be “very unique”). But never mind, it was on Sky News after all, which so frequently proves its worth as a risible source of misinterpreted information and mangled language.

HectorR

Hector writes a diary in the Bali Advertiser newspaper. The next appears on Jul. 19.

It’s a Scream

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

 His regular diet of worms and other non-religious fare

The Cage, Bali

Wednesday, Jul. 5, 2017

 

THERE are many ways to judge a man’s character. The gender is specific in this case, and the point is pertinent to the activities of the current president of the United States and, in this instance, his Indonesian associates. These people are of course his corporate or commercial associates, not political, although given that the two polities engaged are America and Indonesia, the distinction is moot. Read on.

Donald Trump’s corporate mate in the archipelago, Hary Tanoe, was recently banned from travelling outside Indonesia pending inquiries into aspects of his business and financial affairs. Tanoe is engaged with Trump’s business empire, which isn’t in escrow while he’s in office, as you might expect of anyone with an appropriate view of public service, but is being managed for profit by his family. The Trump empire has two major projects on the go in Indonesia.

One is a theme park near Bogor in West Java – we’ve seen the concept drawings and done a Munch – and the other is the takeover of the property at Tanah Lot in Tabanan previously managed by Pan Pacific and now to be demolished in favour of some Trumpist excrescence.

The Bogor project is now back on track because the government has taken over the stalled project to build a toll road to the area, without which Trump said he wouldn’t proceed. The land value of his holdings has thus increased by extortionate proportions.

At Tanah Lot, where the Nirwana property has members with purchased rights to holiday accommodation whose entitlements are now under question because of the buyout, the issue is different. Trump’s proposed redevelopment requires more land, but local landowners are apparently holding out for better prices. The workforce at the property has been paid out – by what quantum is unknown – and the entire superstructure is to be demolished.

It is also unknown how Trump and Tanoe will deal with the issue of compensation for strata title owners. The precedent set by Trump in a similar instance, with his golf resort in Florida, doesn’t bode well. Basically, there, the members were screwed. That’s how Trump does business.

Which brings us back to the cautionary point: character. A quote attributed in 1972 to the magazine founder Malcolm S. Forbes is apposite. He said, “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” An aphorism published in 1948 by the novelist Paul Eldridge goes along the same lines: “A man’s character is most evident by how he treats those who are not in a position either to retaliate or reciprocate.”

Trump’s known business practices fail the “nice” test, and his personal behaviour breaches many of those implicit in the two quotations above. In Indonesia, some in the national business elite (and here in Bali in both the local and the expatriate business community) have a very well developed grasp of how to benefit themselves at the expense, if necessary, of anyone who gets between them and a buck (or a rupiah).

The Four Corners program on Australia’s national broadcaster the ABC this week screened an exposé of Trump and Tanoe’s business connections here. It didn’t say anything much that’s new, but it did collate the available material rather well and it was certainly compelling viewing. More character studies are indicated. 

Feisty Gal

MARA Wolford, who makes organic soaps and surfs a lot – she’s in the Mentawais at the moment – posted on her Facebook this week an item reprising the incident a year ago in a Bali bar that fortunately ended as well as it could have, but which could so easily have not.

Her drink was spiked. She’s sure it was Rohypnol, nowadays the spiking agent of choice of low-life men who can’t get consciously consensual sex from a woman their poisonously defective little minds have told them they fancy, or can’t be bothered trying to;  or whom, as she notes, have marked her as a robbery target. If it’s sex, it’s chiefly a power thing, not lust, and it’s a disgraceful element of male stupidity, sexual power, and arrogance. Those who do that sort of thing richly deserve a session with a sjambok. We do wish we’d never given ours away.

Wolford puts it this way:

“One year ago today, people I didn’t even know tried to kill me. They either wanted my diamond earrings or they wanted to gang rape me for several days, it’s up in the air. Two drinks double-dosed with Rohypnol nearly did me in. Dear friends, a strong constitution and a bit of divine intervention saved me. I made this event public, with 21,000 shares on FB. Mostly, I got called a dumb bitch for not knowing better. One thing I do know is that the last thing I am is a dumb bitch. Trusting, perhaps. Willing to believe in best intentions, certainly.

“I was absolutely furious that a man would feel the need to render me physically helpless in order to take from me what he couldn’t allow me to decide to offer, or not. I don’t know what kind spineless cretin would do that, and I don’t know what kind of world we live in when that is considered normal behaviour that I am expected to know to protect myself from.”

The bar in question was subsequently shut down by the police and – Wolford notes – another upside is that drink spiking has dropped off in Bali since the publicity about her case in Canggu last year. That’s great.

Dumb bitch, she isn’t. Feisty gal, she certainly is.

It’s such a shame that Rohypnol became the “date rape drug” in the hands of low-life losers. We used to use it back in the day as a travel pill, when it was legally obtainable. The Distaff, who did a lot more solo international business travel than the Diary, swore by it as her tailored sleeping pill. Quartered, a pill gave her two hours of sleep; halved, four hours; and the full monty, eight. It was just the job, she always said, if you had to leap off your plane at your destination fresh as a daisy and ready for work. Or, occasionally, play. 

Oh, Come On!

THE annual Walkley Awards may mean very little to anyone outside Australia – or even outside the Australia media – but they are locally valuable as recognition of excellence in journalism. Until now they have included an award for foreign reporting.

Given that global distempers now visit everyone’s lounge room via the gigantic flat-screen TV, when the footy’s not on, that’s good. Those who inform from dangerous places (or even just interesting ones) deserve recognition. And we know, by many means ranging from pub talk to blogs and even official government advice, that according to Australians the outside world is an alien and unquiet space.

The Walkley organisers have announced that they’re dropping the international category from the awards. It’s one of four categories cut as part of a review of the awards. It’s an odd decision, because while it’s certainly true that journalism is rapidly changing, so too is the impact of international affairs on Australia. These certainly need to be covered with an Australian perspective, and (reasonably) to be recognised in the country’s premier media awards. Doubtless, as the organisers say, international coverage can still be nominated within other categories. But given the parochialism that thrives in Australia, to its detriment, it might be hard for carnage in Aleppo to beat best pumpkin at the Bega Show for a gong.

We’ve added our voice to the chorus suggesting that the Walkley people should change their mind.

Training Runs

WELL, not runs, really. We mean our morning walks on the Outanback Track, the rudimentary road that notionally links The Cage with the rest of the limestone Bukit. It’s a rough trot, our “road”, and steep in parts. There are two nasty inclines on the outbound leg, which we’ve pinned on our smart phone map as Little Dragarse and Big Dragarse. After a glass or three of premium Aga Red the evening before, as is our custom, they’re … difficult.

We’re trying to get walking-fit for a forthcoming European sojourn that will take us on footpaths and other public utilities of the sort that are rare in Bali, and at rather more length than the modest 2400 metres that form our usual morning gasp.

Never mind. It’s worth it. We think.

HectorR

Hector writes a diary in the Bali Advertiser. The next appears on Jul. 19.

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Statuary Declaration

HECTOR’S DIARY

His regular diet of worms and other non-religious fare

HectorR

Candi Dasa, Bali

Wednesday, Jun. 28, 2017

 

TEN days in the blissful zephyrs, beside the azure briny you get in the better parts of the archipelago, can do you a power of good. Such a break provides time to read books – or re-read them – instead of wading through 24/7 news reportage and grim analysis suggesting that Armageddon is next week, and all sorts of other things that would turn your hair grey if you had any left. We tore ours out long ago.

We read, among other things, Us, a novel that dissects marital and other human disorders, by David Nicholls; The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai (which we should have read ages ago); and a fast-paced and thoroughly predictable American crime novella written in the “this is a film script” mode so popular in the pulp fiction market these days. It was called Beyond Suspicion and was by someone named James Grippando, of whom we hadn’t heard.

The environment suited reading. We were at Sea Breeze at Mendira, a lovely spot and much to be recommended, where we breakfasted daily in the al fresco fashion beside the pool and then retreated to long chairs under umbrellas to contemplate the sea view, or the universe, or anything else to hand. There is statuary present that falls into the latter category and which several times brought to mind a Florentine garden, or possibly – traversing Italy at upper thigh level (it’s so much more fun than lower down) – one of the more outré among the Venetian renaissance master Titian’s supposedly recorded thoughts as he was mixing rose madder while his model reclined on a ladder.

There are several stone maidens who might easily be Titian’s models around one of the pools at Sea Breeze, in very decorative states of dishabille. Their daily task is to continuously pour water from the bowls they carry back into the pool. This makes a lovely tinkling sound, which is probably designed to be cooling. Among the more mature within earshot, however, it is a frequent prompt to revisit the facilities.

Tidy Town

CANDI Dasa has always impressed us as a place where the words Bali and rotting rubbish do not necessarily go together. The place is an example that many others could follow and should, perhaps especially those in the crowded south where the bonds and discipline of traditional settlement have weakened, injuring civic pride and sensibility.

Mendira, in Sengkidu a little towards the Pertamina fuel facility at Tanah Ampo, and Padang Bai, has really got the business down pat. Our morning walk route has been a joy: four kilometres of it because it’s flat and there are properly made roads to walk along, with space to get properly onto the verges if something with more than two wheels comes along. We’ve barely seen a carelessly discarded lolly wrapper, far less stinking piles of over-stuffed plastic garbage bags. It’s been great to be able to gaze at the lovely banyan trees as we pass them at a brisk trot without having to worry about stepping in anything.

Haloumi Heaven

NO visit to Candi Dasa can be regarded as complete unless it includes Vincent’s, the eatery and jazz bar named for that fellow Don McLean sang about, the guy who painted irises and other things and then cut his ear off before topping himself. Many artists are troubled, but relatively few go all the way with Vincent van Gough.

There’s live jazz at Vincent’s every Thursday evening.

On our visit this time we dined at the bar. It’s near the door, where smoking is still permitted, and close enough to get the full flavour of the jazz action. There’s no smoking in the main restaurant area, which is a good thing, and while the garden area at the back is great, it doesn’t suit on live jazz nights or if it’s raining.

Aside from the Haloumi, there was a special unscheduled treat on this occasion. A visiting troupe of jazz performers from Yokohama (where they are well known it seems) turned up with their instruments and played a very lively set, complete with a lissom performance dancer whose interpretation of Balinese dance was … interesting. It was all a delight. Also delightful was the broad smile that lit up the oboist’s face when after the performance we waylaid him as he returned to his seat and said “Domo arigato”. It wasn’t quite a Midnight Diner moment, but it came close. And it was nice to say thank you.

Coffee and Ice Cream

WELL, what could be nicer, especially if you’re on a seaside break? Mendira House, conveniently en route to Lu Putu’s desirable garden restaurant from our hotel (it’s a 13-minute walk: we timed it) is open from 8am to 8pm. Its coffee is not to be passed up, its ice creams are divine, and the gift shop is full of stuff you’d buy as a tourist – though we aren’t of course – and a handy source of bric-a-brac you might pack in your bag to take to relatives when you next travel.

Lu Putu has great food; it’s home cooked by Lu Putu herself. It also has a lovely, quiet garden restaurant area we’d recommend to anyone who wants the real deal.

There are many gems in the Candi Dasa area. These are two you shouldn’t miss.

Jailhouse Blues

FOUR prisoners left Kerobokan Jail recently on self-awarded tickets of leave, via a drainage tunnel that took them conveniently underground and out of sight the fifteen metres to the street outside. Two were recaptured in Timor Leste, whence they had fled. The headline act of the foursome, an Australian of questionable human value and of clearly criminal character by the name of Shaun Davidson, was still on the run when we scribbled this diary. A Singaporean convict was also still on the run. Davidson had only seven months of his sentence left to serve and the theory was that he didn’t want to return to Australia. The police there are keen to chat with him about skipping bail and the drugs charges on which he had of course obtained bail in the first place.

The incident provided another of those welcome comedic breaks you get here. The prison governor said the prisoner concerned had recently grown a beard and a moustache, perhaps to alter his appearance. No shit Shakespeare! The chief of police said it was thought an international crime syndicate had had a hand in the escape. By this we assume he means they had outside help, as opposed to inside assistance. A torch had been found in the tunnel, close to where there was access to the street. It must have been the light at the end of the tunnel.

Kerobokan is vastly overcrowded. It was built for around 300 inmates but these days it houses 1,300. Only 10 guards are on duty at any one time, because of staffing restriction, and none of them was in the watchtower that overlooks the spot where the escapees would have emerged and where he might otherwise have been able to point his trusty weapon in their general direction and shout “Surprise!”

#44 … The Man

THE expatriate bit of Bali does agog very well, being celebrity-fixated. And so it was when Barack Obama and family arrived here for a little downtime at the Four Seasons Sayan. The Ubud hinterland is good for the soul, and of course Four Seasons provides very comfortable digs for those whose wallets stretch that far.

He also dropped by a Bukit haunt that’s on The Diary’s Most Favoured List, El Kabron on the cliff at Bingin. It was an unscheduled and brief visit, we hear, but it’s the best place to sample Catalan cuisine and hospitality that we know of in Bali.

We didn’t join in the “I saw Barry” parade. He’s the former president of the USA, speaks quietly and with consideration, tweets rather nicely, has a functional family, and deserves to be left alone. These are all qualities his successor in office, #45, does not possess. Ah well, that’s Electoral College democracy for you. How sad. Never mind. Carry On.

Old Friends

ONE among these told us recently she’d missed us at a reunion of journalists and photographers and held, amidst much reminiscing, at the Pig ’n Whistle in West End, Brisbane. It would have been nice to be there.

Our informant tells us there were 60 or so Formers present, and much grey hair. Time waits for no man, as it is said, while the hair changes colour or falls out. It reminded us that in three months it would be 21 years since we left a note for Rupert on our desk saying, “Gone to the Dark Side”, or words to that effect.

We didn’t add, although we might easily have done so, a line to the effect that a rude letter would follow. Judging by what has taken place in the print media world since we furled our News Ltd quill and took off, we think we made the right decision in a timely fashion.

HectorR

Hector also writes a diary in the Bali Advertiser. The current rendition was published on Jun. 21. The next will appear on Jul. 19.

Hit Parade

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

Bali Advertiser, Jun. 21, 2017

 

IT’S always good fun to read the local Bahasa language press, as well as informative. Some people like to criticise the media – well, no, everyone likes to do that – and that’s no less common in Indonesia than anywhere. One of the things about critics is that they always know how it could have been done better, or that you’ve missed the real story, possibly on purpose. In an earlier life, one of the Diary’s jobs was to write back to critical readers and gently massage their egos while telling them politely to go get a life. It was often a challenge and helped to fuel an addiction to caffeine from which we know we shall never recover.

For those accustomed to western newspaper reading – a dwindling band indeed – there is also the issue here of upside-down stories. Telling the story in the first eight paragraphs is essential for western readers. Most won’t even get that far these days, of course. But Indonesian journalism is far more circuitous. You often find the story in the last eight paragraphs.

So it was interesting early this month to read Radar Bali and other media on the great Akasaka Club drug raid. The police found 19,000 Ecstasy pills when they swept into the premises on the afternoon of Jun. 5. They had previously swept into the premises, on Jl. Teuku Umar in Denpasar, on several occasions to far less effect. But this time it was the real deal. The police chief, Inspector-General Petrus Reinhard Golose, said no one was above the law. This will have come as shocking news to the people who operate the Akasaka Club and those who, on all the evidence, have hitherto been protecting them.

It’s good news for everyone else, though, unless they’re also running drug dens. It’s a sign that Bali is no longer the un-policed bad lands of the drug-wild west, or at least that this is the intention.

One of the fictions that some people here are fond of circulating is that the drug abuse epidemic is a tourist thing, or at least that, like the rubbish used to, it comes from Java. It’s nothing of the sort, of course. It’s an element of modern Indonesian consumer life that, like the poor, will always be with us. But it can be curtailed by effective police intelligence and action, and certainly should be. Pill-poppers are not all low-life adults. Some of them – foreigners and locals alike – are basically still children. That’s where to stop it. This requires parental supervision of offspring as well as official deterrence.

It’s true that the misbehaviour envelope in shaped rather differently in Bali, given the island’s transient overburden of tourists and its unpleasant overlay of a cohort of expatriate residents who are here gouging money because they couldn’t make a buck (or anything else) in their own countries. So cutting out the supply chain, or at least radically reducing it, makes sense.

Bali’s circumstances also make the island a convenient staging post and supply centre for drugs destined for other places in Indonesia. It’s probably always going to be that way. But at least the Akasaka action will signal that open slather – the situation up to now, which everyone who could be bothered to know about knew about – is no longer something that will be just winked at or tolerated.

Four people, including the club manager, have been arrested and police investigations are continuing. Take a bow, General Petrus.

Giddy Aunts and Others

THE Bali DIVAS’ lunch at Cocoon, Seminyak, on Jul. 9, seemed to go off with the verve and pizazz we’ve come to expect of that décolleté collective. We weren’t there but some of our favourite ladies who lunch tell us MC Kerry Ball was on his best and most restrained behaviour. He is reported to have said “oh my giddy aunt” a couple of times, we gather. But that’s an expression that flies well below the social sound barrier. It won’t have shattered any windows.

Entertainment was by Sydney drag queen Polly Petrie and a friend, Marzi Panne. We’re told that Polly mislaid his eyelashes at one point, but you expect a bit of ungluing on lively occasions such as these and we’re sure he recovered his customary discomposure quickly. It’s the sort of thing for which giddy aunts, and drag queens, are renowned.

Debbie Amelsvoort tells us it was a fabulous day full of fun, laughs and – most importantly, as she puts it – incredible generosity from divas at the do. That’s what it’s all about, after all. The event was to raise funds for the village of Songan, at Kintamani, where a landslide in February killed 12 people, including two children.

The money will go towards long term improved education opportunities in Songan.

Well done, ladies. Christina Iskandar can feel justifiably proud of the DIVA enterprise she started and which now has an international dimension. A Gold Coast DIVAS do was held on May 26, cementing the Queensland holiday resort city into the DIVAS’ Australian charity catchment, which also includes Sydney and Melbourne.

No Show

WHAT a shame President Joko Widodo was unable to open the 39th Annual Bali Arts Festival on Saturday, Jun. 10, due to other commitments, that always- utilitarian spanner in the works. It must have been chucked in at the eleventh hour. News that the presidential abort button had been pushed became public knowledge on Jun. 10. Maybe he couldn’t find his udeng. He sent minister Puan Maharani instead.

It must have been by coincidence that around the same time the presidential office released a lovely little map of the archipelago showing all the places where he’d dropped in – and apparently left a pin, Google Maps style – on his unscheduled blusukan visits.

It brought to mind a song written by Australian Geoff Mack in 1959 and later made famous by Johnny Cash, among others. I’ve been everywhere, man.

Top Aussie

A NAME that most Indonesians probably wouldn’t naturally associate with Australia, if they heard it at all, since it’s not Brett or Bruce and doesn’t come with a Bintang singlet, a stubby-holder, and a sharp (or slow) drawl, got an honourable mention in the 2017 Australian Queen’s Birthday Honours List released on the official make-believe birthday of Her Maj (her real one’s on Apr. 21) on Jun. 12: Professor Mohamed Hassan Kadra. He got an AO (Officer of the Order of Australia) for distinguished service to medicine in the field of urology as a surgeon, clinician and mentor, to rural and remote medical education, and to literature as an author and playwright.

Professor Kadra is a leading Sydney urologist, but his interests are far wider, including in an enterprise that trains people in IT in other countries where their circumstances might not otherwise give them that opportunity.

Most media interest centred on the AC (Companion of the Order) given to the actor Cate Blanchett, but veteran economist Ross Garnaut also got a very well deserved AC, the highest award now that the Aussies have again dropped that daft Knight of Australia thing. The AK – it’s a gong, not a gun, and there aren’t quite 47 of them – was resurrected as a “captain’s call” by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and quietly pushed off the track and back into the ditch by his successor, Malcolm Turnbull.

Leading lawyer and death penalty abolitionist Julian McMahon, who is locally of Bali Nine fame, also got an AC, and former Labor Party minister Robert Tickner got an AO for distinguished service to the community through leadership roles with the Australian Red Cross, and to the Parliament of Australia.

The full list is here for anyone who’s interested.

Candi Dasher

REGULAR Diary readers will know that the Diary has a soft spot for Candi Dasa, and this scribble comes to you from that fine little seaside town in Karangasem. We’re having a break there again, this time at Sea Breeze at Mendiri Beach in Sengkidu. Wearing another of our hats, we have some serious writing to do. And lovely views of Nusa Penida and the Lombok Strait (rippling Wallace Line included), delicious ice creams just up the road, and a selection of fine little eating places handily close by, are helping tremendously with that project.

We’ll drop in at Vincent’s in Candi Dasa itself at some point, quite possibly on one of their live jazz nights, for another go at the Haloumi.

HectorR

Hector’s Diary in the Bali Advertiser appears every fourth Wednesday. The next is due on   Jul. 19. He writes an occasional intermezzo diary here at 8degreesoflatitude.com between times.

Beggaring Belief

 

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His regular diet of worms and other (usually) non-religious fare

The Cage, Bali

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

 

FAITH is a personal compact between a person and his or her deity. The faithful, of any ilk, should be honoured for their commitment to a life beyond secular concerns and for the higher calling that this condition imposes. Those who study their religious texts and who seek to live within the strictures these impose, are honourable people.

In the secular west – fundamentally these days a godless society – these things, and the various deities in whom a great many people believe, are often scoffed at or made the topic of comedic intervention. That is wrong, when the objective is only to get a cheap laugh. It’s possible – or it should be so in a rational society – to debate the existence of God. It’s plain rude just to slag off at people who believe, if you yourself don’t.

The three Abrahamic religions, each of which sprang from the Levant or its contiguous desert interior without any intervention from Europeans until after their invention (a seminal fact that Europeans should note and really should try very hard to comprehend) share syncretic theologies, a melange of mythologies, and, in the Old Testament, a common liturgical origin. Yet each has historically been at war with the others (and often with themselves) forever, philosophically if not actually.

That’s a rather cursive way to get into a matter of current concern in Indonesia, but it’s necessary to set the parameters of debate and to avoid stepping unnecessarily on possibly angry toes. Of course, the problem is far wider than just the archipelago. Islam’s sectarian schism leaves the former fatal fractures within Christianity for dead, so to speak.

In Indonesia, where, except for Aceh, Islam has traditionally adopted a Southeast Asian rather than an Arabian face over the half a millennium of its establishment here, a more fundamentalist mind-set is taking root. That cannot be denied. Neither can its future risk to the integrity of Indonesia if it flourishes.

The proselytes of Indonesian Islamic fundamentalism assert that theology is the driver of their intentions. It’s perfectly possible to encourage deeper religiosity in the faithful, and to prescribe firmer and more restrictive patterns of social behaviour for them, from a philosophical standpoint. It’s when the boys with the bother boots take to the streets that problems emerge. There’s very little that’s philosophical about a mob armed with sharpened sticks and intent on enforcing their own interpretations of Ramadan rules, after all. These actions may be clothed in Islamic cloth, but their purpose is political – it is to manoeuvre government policy – and thus is plainly secular.

There’s an interesting article in The Diplomat, written by Benedict Rodgers – for context: he’s East Asia team leader for the human rights organisation Christian Solidarity Worldwide – that illustrates the point. He instances a broken long-term friendship between two fifteen-tear-old girls at a Jakarta high school, one Christian, the other Muslim. Rodgers reports that the Christian girl got a phone call from her Muslim friend telling her: “We can no longer be friends. My God does not allow me to be friends with people like you.” It sounds almost apocryphal, or would if the messages that are coming out of the mosques weren’t couched in similarly simplistic and fundamentally threatening terms.

There’s much more than this to Rodgers’ article, which is very readable. He cites the conviction and imprisonment of now former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok), a Christian Chinese-Indonesian, for blasphemy; and Aceh, church burning, death threats and other signals of restrictive intent. He warns that Indonesia could become Pakistan.

That’s a bit dire, and Rodgers says so himself in the article. Indonesian culture is very far from those of the sub-continent and (like anywhere else) Pakistan is what it is because of its own cultural mix, not someone else’s. But it’s understandable that other Islamic sects, moderate Sunnis (the great majority) and other religious communities should feel deep concern.

The real risk, and the real warning that needs to echo through the rainbow archipelago, is that doltish insistence on Islamic exclusivity will ultimately risk fracturing Indonesia. Political figures whose vision fails to extend beyond the next convenient deal and endless machinations to buy votes should consider that. Seriously.

That said, there is some brighter news. Rizieq Shihab, head of the Islamic Defenders Front (the FPI), faces arrest when he returns from Saudi Arabia if he fails to answer his third summons from police – he ignored the first two, of course – to answer questions about alleged breaches of the anti-pornography law. He wanted the porn laws and he influenced their scope. What an interesting case this will be.

It’s That Man Again

THE unedifying spectacle of Donald Trump shoving through the throng and shouldering lesser leaders out of the way to get to the front of the photo opportunity at the NATO summit last week, and then posing, Mussolini-like, complete with superior grin, is further evidence that real-estate shysters and reality TV hosts do not necessarily make good leaders.

They said of No. 45 that he probably needed time to become presidential. Time was not the only thing he needed, as events and growing awareness that they’ve been duped among many who voted for him last November now show. Some character would have helped. H.L. Mencken, who in the 1920s predicted that profane and populist politics meant that America would one day have an imbecile for its president, would be rolling his eyes if he were not rolling in his grave.

Trump still has a cheer squad, of course, not all of it confined to America where he’s making things grate again. We saw an Asia-based Australian observer’s view this week that suggested his hard line on NATO funding and self-reliance had paid off, because German Chancellor Angela Merkel had said publicly that America’s allies needed to do more.

They do. You get what you pay for. But the obverse of that coin, for “the leader of the free world” (whatever that is) and his country, is a proportionate reduction in America’s clout within NATO. That mightn’t be quite what the master of the universe is looking for, but it would be no bad thing, since the Custer gene remains ascendant.

Sent Home 

SCHAPELLE Corby, 39, the Australian woman who was convicted of drug trafficking in Bali in 2005 and spent nine years behind bars before being paroled three years ago, was deported from Indonesia on May 27. Immigration authorities put her on a plane to Australia. That is all.

HectorR

Hector writes a diary in the Bali Advertiser. It appears monthly. The current diary was published on May 24 and the next will appear on Jun. 21.