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.

The Sisyphus Factor

HECTOR’S DIARY

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

HectorR

 

Bali, July 6, 2016

The retreat of the resources sector is apparently hitting the accommodation and pembantu sectors in Jakarta, as well as business generally. For a country such as Indonesia, just as for Australia, depressed demand and sinking prices for commodities hit hard. It can have escaped no one’s notice that at the moment the global economy is not quite what it could be.

Bali is less directly affected by global economic factors, except in tourism, since its main industry appears to be creating bureaucratic bumf and impenetrable thickets of regulations that are sometimes enforced and frequently overlooked in return for brown envelopes.

But it is these ever tighter and ever-changing regulations that are impacting on Bali. These affect Indonesians too. Everyone’s tearing out hair in frustration. Toupee makers and retailers could make a killing. That’s if they could acquire the right permits. On that point (and see below for more) a song comes to mind: “There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza…”

Perhaps the provincial government doesn’t care that new and unrealistic demands for possession of a KITAP (an expensive five-year permanent stay visa) for the most basic of expatriate needs, such as vehicle ownership, registration renewals, even a local driver’s licence, are beginning to annoy people, and are making numbers of them have difficulty justifying remaining in paradise; especially since it plainly isn’t. It’s more reminiscent of poor, mythical Sisyphus’s problem with that rock he was condemned forever to roll up a hill (and on which the existentialist Albert Camus forensically intoned in his 1942 philosophical essay).

There’s more, but as this is both a moveable and a continuing feast, there will be time to come back to further comedy later. In the meantime, since the property market is profoundly depressed – in part by unrealistic asking prices, another constant in Mittyland – and because the benefits of bothering to stay are reducing with depressing regularity, the pembantu sector here should also be getting concerned.

Housework is not only an entry-level job in the real economy, but also a lifeline for people with very little money at all. Some evidence that the provincial government understands the principle of attracting residents who will employ such people would be a boon.

Fools’ Rules

We heard a sorry tale the other day. Someone – an Indonesian; as we noted above it happens to them too and far more often than it does to expatriates who complain but have overlooked the fact that here the best policy for foreigners is laugh or leave – went to a government office to apply for permit X. The answer? “Sorry, you must have Letter Y from the police station first. New rules.”

At the police station, they said: “Sorry, you must bring permit X to us before we can issue Letter Y. New rules.” Apparently there was stalemate, as both offices refused to budge because it was not their problem.

Perhaps someone should tell Governor Pastika, who might then tell President Jokowi, that Indonesia is never going to be Raya, except in popular imagination and by political paean, until this sort of bureaucratic idiocy is eliminated.

Singing in the Rain

It’s been raining in Bali quite a lot recently. The comics among us have noted that this must be because it’s the dry season. But lest this inclemency lead to more apocalyptic pronouncements from ignorant scribblers writing in tabloids, virtual and real, in Australia, where anything to bash Bali is apparently regarded as de rigueur, we posted a little Facebook note on Jun. 27 for them, and others, to read.

It said this:

It is raining here in Bali, musim hujan style when it is supposed to be musim kering. This is not because the forest spirits are angry with us, or that Gaia has had to put on a thicker facemask when she’s belting around in the pollution on her scooter. It is, by the look of it, the effect of a strong La Niña swiftly superseding a particularly feisty El Niño. Google it.

Brexit Strategy

We can all sit here in Bali – if we can find an empty seat while Jakarta, Bandung and Surabaya are having their annual holiday jamboree here over the post-Ramadhan Lebaran stand-down, or get through the traffic to where we’d like to plunk our posteriors – and say that Brexit is of peripheral interest only. And on one level, that’s certainly true. But the vote has shaken the post-war order, threatened the unity of the UK, undermined the EU as a visionary concept, and will have given the Putinists (or perhaps the Vladists) in the Kremlin ideas for all sorts of inventive mischief.

The referendum on leaving the European Community was apparently organized – though that hardly seems the right word – to engineer a Remain outcome. Instead the Leavers narrowly won, though not in Scotland or in London or in Northern Ireland. The unintended constitutional and economic consequences were not foreseen, and still can’t be fully discerned: it’s early days in what will surely become known as the Great British Cock-Up.

There’s a lot wrong with the EU. It is run by quarantined bureaucrats, not by elected legislators, and shouldn’t be. Globalization is everyone’s bête noir, though it too shouldn’t be. Instead, the world needs to limit corporate power. It has the political means to do this. It simply needs the will.

The British-Australian lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, writing in The Guardian after the Brexit vote, said this, which is worth pondering:

“Our democracy does not allow, much less require, decision-making by referendum. That role belongs to the representatives of the people and not to the people themselves. Democracy has never meant the tyranny of the simple majority, much less the tyranny of the mob (otherwise, we might still have capital punishment). Democracy entails an elected government, subject to certain checks and balances such as the common law and the courts, and an executive ultimately responsible to parliament, whose members are entitled to vote according to conscience and common sense.”

Among the chumps who came out shouting before thinking after the vote – we exclude the British prime minister, who quietly announced that he would resign, having finally worked out that his miscalculation was political suicide – was the Republican presumptive nominee for POTUS, Donald Trump. Arriving in Scotland the day after the Jun. 24 referendum that rocked the UK and may well trigger further political shocks, and apparently to open the latest of his hotel excrescences in the kingdom, Trump tweeted to the effect that he congratulated the Scots on voting to quit the EU.

Hopefully he is now better informed, though a cautious punter wouldn’t bet on that. But he should certainly now know a thing or two about Scottish humour. It is of the withering sort that would cause a toupee to combust at two hundred paces. The Scots probably invented humour. They needed it to go with the golf. Presumptive Candidate Trump immediately received a barrage of tweets in return. Try this: Scotland voted Remain, you tiny fingered, cheetah faced, ferret wearing shitgibbon. Ouch. There were others, even less kind.

Vin+ Indeed

It’s a trek to Seminyak, for those whose domestic quarters are sited on the breezy, cooler Bukit, but there are occasions when getting out on the Lemming Highway and playing dodgems for 90 minutes to travel 20 kilometres make the journey worthwhile.

So when our favourite Brazilian, Alexsander Martins Paim, general manager at Vin+, asked us along to a friendly four-course wine pairing dinner on Jun. 27 with cuisine by chef Arief Wicaksono, late of Métis, and wines by leading Chilean winemaker Casillero del Diablo, we were far from disposed to decline.

Had we foolishly decided not to attend, we’d have missed out in particular on the 18 Hours Tokusen Wagyu beef, which would have been a crime, and the P125 Dark Chocolate Parfait, which would have been complete idiocy. The wines were paired very well. Our favourite was the 2010 Concha y Toro Terrunyo Carmenere. It went brilliantly with the beef and with the chat around the table with Marian Carroll of Four Seasons and Bali-based British travel writer Samantha Coomber.

Vin+ is also doing a very affordable wine free-flow session from 4pm-8pm daily. The Lemming Highway might be getting more of a workout from the Diary in future.

We’ve marked our diary for Aug. 16, when Vin + has a sundown wine carnival with entertainment, fine food and great bottles of vin very far from ordinaire from around the world.

Save Our Oceans

Waterman’s Week 2016, the idea of Mike O’Leary of ROLE Foundation, is under way as we go to print. It runs from Jul. 1-10. Saving the world’s oceans and their precious marine life forms is not just a good idea. Without viable oceans the global ecology will literally sicken and eventually die, and so will we.

Think about that.

Hector’s Diary appears, edited for newspaper presentation, in the print and on line editions of the Bali Advertiser