HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb. 19, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Let’s Hear No More of Her

Schapelle Corby, celebrity jailbird by Australian media acclaim and blessed (though that’s hardly the word) with a scrofulous family, has finally been freed on parole. That’s a good outcome, far too long delayed but welcome nonetheless. The excessive jail term to which she was sentenced in 2005 will forever be an indictment of a judicial system that risks being seen as one that punishes defendants for the gutter prattle of their mothers and others and sentences them on the basis that their crimes have brought Indonesia into disrepute.

Anyone who watches Indonesia with an objective mind knows that the shenanigans that go on here 24/7 are the real embarrassment. There’s no need to co-opt photogenic teary-eyed little foreign “victims” to the cohort that damages Indonesia’s reputation. There’s a whole home-grown industry that already does that very well.

No need, that is, unless you genuinely haven’t noticed the rampant corruption and criminality, bomb-mad cloth-heads, law-exempt Islamic rabble-rousers, and the endemic social deprivation that blights the country.

That noted, we also note the improbabilities in Corby’s story when she was caught at Ngurah Rai in 2004 (“I didn’t know my boogie board was loaded” is a lame excuse even for someone with a “vacant” stamp on their forehead). We note that the marijuana is said to have come from South Australia, a prime growing spot because the state’s dry climate gives its weed a special zing. And while we’re noting, we should remember that Bali was (and still is) a transit point for drug smuggling. “Why send weed to Bali?” is not a legitimate question. Jakarta, Surabaya and other large Indonesian cities are the real drug markets here.

The post-parole fracas that Corby, her family and hangers-on, and sections of the Australian media engaged in covers them with something far less fragrant than glory. Corby in particular appears to have learned nothing. It is possible that she is so disoriented that she’s barely functional, and if so that’s a tragic shame. Those who care for her should help with her rehabilitation if that’s the case.

Her parole rules, of which she was advised last August, exclude unauthorized media interviews. An objective observer might conclude that the mob surrounding her still thinks it can play the Indonesians for suckers. That’s not just rude. It’s plain stupid.

 

No Fanfares, Just Results

It was nice to escape the distasteful scrimmage of the Corby parole freedom media event by focusing instead on something that’s really positive at Kerobokan Jail. It’s not a nice place, the prison, though none actually is, anywhere, since a prison is not meant to be a holiday resort.

But by Indonesian standards Kerobokan is better than many. That’s something else those fixated on the “Phwaar” rating of incarcerated foreign chicks with happy-snap blue eyes should think about now and then.

Lizzie Love – one of the feistier ladies who lunch around these parts (some of them are truly terrifying, but we seem to have worked out with Lizzie a comfortable way to get a lot of giggles) – tells us of another great scheme at the jail that should be up and running soon. It’s in addition to the wide range of benefits available to inmates who choose to take part.

These include education, skills building, welfare support and an innovative organic garden project supervised by the ROLE Foundation and Canggu Rotary designed to provide fresh vegetables for the prison.

The latest scheme augments existing animal husbandry facilities at the jail and is called the KK9 Inmate Assistance Dog Training Project. Kennels are being built. Organizers are looking for some dog-friendly assistance, which should be widely available given the strong presence here of animal welfare outfits.

We’ll be keeping an eye on that project in particular. From our perspective it’s one that packs plenty of woof power.

 

Smile, Please

There’s a fun evening with benefits at that fine dine and recline venue Cocoon, Seminyak, on Saturday (Feb. 22). Rotary Club of Bali Seminyak and the Smile Foundation (Yayasan Senyum Bali whose leading light is the redoubtable Mary Northmore) have organized a fundraiser billed Have a Heart to support the foundation’s great work with children who suffer disfigurement from cleft palates and other cranio-facial conditions. Harris Hotels is a sponsor.

The show, with music and both live and silent auctions, starts at 6.30pm with dinner at 8pm. Tickets cost Rp800K. It’s a great cause so get along there if you can.

Dress is “semi-formal”. According to the Diary’s new style adviser Lizzie Love, that means the guys where nice shirts and slacks. The ladies will all dress to kill as usual. It’s a girl thing. We’re grateful to Lizzie for this sartorial guidance. Where we come from, semi-formal means you wear matching thongs (flip-flops).

 

Say Hello

We were doing our day job the other day, out in the cyber world, when we chanced upon Linda Coles, content and relationship marketer, speaker and author of a useful social entrepreneurial self-help book named Start With Hello. Well, we said hello and it worked.

Coles is a very positive person. She bills herself as living and working in Sunny New Zealand. Perhaps Auckland gets out from under that long white cloud now and then. No, seriously, NZ is a great place and it’s brimming with entrepreneurial people.

Well, that’s probably brumming, come to think of it. But no matter: Kiwis might all say yis instead of yes and spend a lot of time wishing they were down at the bitch ketching fush, but they’re OK. That’s if you can forgive them for always beating the rest of the world at rugby. It’s a shocking crime that the best part of the match, if you’re barracking for the others, is the Haka before kick-off. Still, we’d like to see more Kiwis here. Nowadays as we’ve noted before it’s possible – Yis! – for more of them to get to Bali without an unnecessary (and often unnecessarily lengthy) stop on that other big island that lies between us and them.

It’s worth dropping by bluebanana.co.nz. Coles’ primers on social networking (she has also written a book titled Learn Marketing with Social Media in 7 Days) are very useful.

 

Have a Nice Stay

A little statement finally fluttered from the office of the Australian minister for foreign affairs on Feb. 11, one on which the Diary, the soul of discretion, had been waiting for some time. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced the appointment of Majell Hind as Australia’s new consul-general in Bali and noted she had already taken up the post. So welcome, Ms Hind. Have a nice stay.

Hind is a career foreign service officer, most lately of the Australian Embassy in Kabul. Bali is, on balance, a softer posting. It has its own special conditions though, including a consistent stream of Aussie travellers who have come to grief somehow or other (they never seem to know why, themselves, which is a big part of the problem).

Her predecessor, Brett Farmer, left the fortified building on Feb. 5.

 

It’s the Money

As is traditionally the case in arguments over land being alienated for development, Bali’s predicament has yet again been laid at the feet of outside investors. The rector of the National Education University, Professor Gede Sri Darma, has lately felt compelled to join the rising chorus warning that this poses a threat to the people of Bali. He says they risk becoming a landless underclass on their own island.

The professor has a point. But sadly it’s a moot one. It would be relatively easy to control land sales in Bali if anyone took any notice of the laws. Zoning restrictions can be very useful. Foreign investment controls are sensible (though an increasing component of property investment here is Indonesian and is driven by the rapacious Wegotalldamoney tribe).

Clear division of regulatory powers would be a great idea. The poor Governor is still trying to get the regents to acquire some common sense. The regents are heads of local governments and should be subordinate in all respects. Their tastes quite naturally run in the other direction. Unfortunately national legislation on devolution gives them every reason to argue that way.

Then again, if Balinese landowners really don’t want to lose their land, they only have to tell acquisitive buyers to go take a running jump. But it’s the money, you see. Bali’s real problem is that it is now a monetized entity. Traditional values always take a back seat in those conditions.

 

Enduring Sole

Browsing through LinkedIn, as he does, Hector’s helper chanced the other day upon an employment advertisement placed by Nike, the fast-shoe-shuffle people. It was for a Senior Sustainability Consultant – Energy in Jakarta.

Hector is on Twitter @scratchings

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, December 11, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Our Changing Face

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

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

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

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

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

Off the Wall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Sad

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

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

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

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

Go, Socrates!

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

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

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

Takes the Cake

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

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

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

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

Sting in the Tail

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

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

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

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

Hector tweets @scratchings