Cool Aid Needed

HECTOR’S DIARY

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Titbits from his diet of worms

 

Ubud, Bali

Saturday, Apr. 7, 2018

 

 

IT should surprise, though of course it doesn’t, that Indonesia’s pique Islamist bother boots brotherhood, the FPI, has taken issue with a poem written nearly two decades ago and recently recited by Sukmawati Sukarnoputri. It laments the way Middle Eastern inspired (and funded) perceptions of Islamic religious probity are taking root in Indonesia and displacing archipelagic ways. Sukarnoputri is a high-profile collateral target – being the daughter of founding president Bung Sukarno – in the political war the FPI is waging against modernising Indonesia. They want her jailed for blasphemy, like the Christian former Jakarta governor Ahok, who foolishly made a political point and paid for it with two years in the pokey. Sukarnoputri has apologised and the moderate Islamic organisation the MUI suggests that this should be enough. It would be, for anyone but a hot head with a political agenda to prosecute.

Matters of dogma within faiths – all faiths, not just irredentist Islam – should be left to their adherents to adjudicate. They are no one else’s business. But many religions – Islam and Christianity are to the fore in this – are also very active social and political forces, and there, what they say and do is legitimately a matter of public interest. The FPI seeks to fully veil Indonesia in the cultural attire and social precepts of the Middle East. It is entitled to propose and promote such a policy. And it is for Indonesians as a whole to decide their response to this. It wants a more strongly Islamist president in the Istana Negara. That is also a political objective. Its street demonstrations fuelled by modest emoluments and nasi bungkus should be understood in that context. There is a presidential election in 2019.

Time may not be on the side of Indonesia’s hard-line Islamists, however. The modest reforms commenced in Saudi Arabia, where women have been given the green light to drive motor vehicles and cinemas have reopened, have already subtly changed the shape of the religious wave the FPI hoped would assist them in swamping the archipelago. The petrol dollars are also running out. Sharply curtailed largesse from Arabia and its littoral will surely follow. Indonesia rightly wants to be Indonesia – the leading power in South-east Asia. That is a nationalistic aim, which the Chinese will probably choose to support, though they will do so to advance China’s profit, not the Prophet. In that secular scenario, matters of religion are for the mosque, not the cabinet table.

In a Paddy

WE’RE enjoying a long weekend at Petulu, near Ubud, where the famous white herons live and wisely try to evade touristic cameras. One was in the rice field next to our lovely friend’s villa this morning, a lone forager by choice perhaps, or maybe it had argued with its mates and flocked off in a huff. It made a pretty picture in reflection in the recently planted water-field. Such images, prosaic though they may be, are good for the soul.

They help alleviate the irritation of hearing about events such as that which befell Ubud resident Darsih Gede this morning. Her two much-loved Bali dogs disappeared from her home, stolen by a person or persons unknown.

On the island of the Gods, there are a lot of devils.

Crocodile Rock

WE won’t be going along, sadly. There’s a probably an upper age limit for croc hunters and we’re sure we’re well past it. And anyway, they snap at you. But there’s a crocodile catching opportunity tomorrow night, which you can join for a fee, and which we heard about from Rex Sumner. The trip is out and back from Serangan, in Benoa Bay.

Among the many things you’re always told by those with cosy touristic stories to tell is that Bali doesn’t have Crocodylus porosus, the estuarine or saltwater crocodile. Magically, they are said to have created a special zone around Bali, which is otherwise right in the middle of their habitat range from Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean to the Marshall Islands in the North Pacific, and all points in between. They are reportedly no longer present in the city-state of Singapore (they don’t like crowds) and Thailand claims their absence too, though you wouldn’t want to bank on that. But of course, we know they’re here. People keep catching them in the riverine and tidewater mangrove environment that fringes Benoa Bay.  Apparently the biggest caught has been two metres long. That’s not so big, in salty terms. They’re the world’s largest reptilian predator, if left alone to live out their allotted lifespans without accident or human intervention, and have been recorded at more than five metres, as well as far out to sea.

It is also said, by some of those who say they know, that the Benoa mangrove croc community comprises former zoo inmates which escaped or were let out when their unpleasant prison became yet another victim of the White Elephant Syndrome that so afflicts business here. Perhaps. Or perhaps these poor dispossessed animals simply augmented an already existing population. South Bali is fairly densely populated, something that would have reduced endemic numbers over the years.

The capture program is designed to relocate the animals to natural habitats far away, where it is thought they will be happier and possibly better fed, and won’t worry the tourists and lead to further travel advisories from foreign governments. They are far from uncommon in Flores and West Timor, not to mention Raja Ampat and the Indonesian half of New Guinea. In Darwin, Australia, if you go sunbaking at the beach you’re likely to do so behind a croc-proof fence. Apparently that trumps them, but then, of course, they’re not Mexicans.

180407 HECTOR ILLUSTRATION

These are alligators, and elsewhere, but the message might be apt. It came to us from a keen spotter of idiocies.

Cake With All The Extras

LUHUT Binsar Pandjaitan, the coordinating minister for home affairs in the Jokowi cabinet, was in Bali recently, on a trip that was loosely connected with the proposed North Bali Airport, that on again, off again project that so excites the Bupati of Buleleng and others.

The northern airport is on, according to Minister Luhut, rather than off, which had been the preceding announcement from some other office at chaos central. Furthermore, the network of toll roads to connect the south with the north and the northwest would also proceed, along with expansion of Ngurah Rai International Airport in the south.

This box of expensive tricks was flourished, we’re sure, because there are provincial and districts elections this year, and the presidential election next year already referred to above, and naturally everyone wants to have their piece of the cake. Having got it, they’ll then eat it, or their friend will, and then they’ll want more.

It must be a very rich fruitcake indeed.

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Chin-chin!

 

A Dog’s Life

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His regular diet of worms and other non-religious fare

The Cage, Bali

May 13, 2017

 

THERE was a revolting instance of animal cruelty in Denpasar this week, which thanks to quick-thinking and wonderfully caring local people swiftly swamped the social media, where it attracted an immediate chorus of shock and shame. The event and its tragic aftermath – the poor dog that was the victim died not long after being reunited with its distressed local owner – was videoed. We’ve seen the footage. It makes us wish we’d never given away the rhino-hide sjambok that we possessed many years ago, in a previous life, on another continent. (There’s an Indonesian connection, from cambuk, imported into South Africa along with Malay indentured workers in the 1800s.)

Two men on a scooter hooked the dog with a wire lasso in Jl. Teuku Umar in the dark of the pre-dawn morning and dragged it away behind their bike. It was plainly intended for the dog meat trade. They were chased and brought to a halt and eventually agreed to hand over the bloodied dog. Its rescuers comforted the animal while others found the owner. This incident should be instructive both for illegal dog meat hunters and the authorities. Indonesians don’t like it – it’s not just nuisance foreigners who complain.

It is not illegal to eat dog meat in Indonesia. It’s just disgusting. But it is illegal, and subject to criminal sanctions, to practise animal cruelty. It is that area of the law that most urgently needs to be enforced. Governments at all levels need to do that.

Unkind Cut

THE language of the gourmet chef world is a little beyond diarists who live in garrets they call The Cage and who exist on bread and water – well, not quite, but you’ll get our drift. So living vicariously is fun now and then, as a leavening, so to speak, and what better way than to virtually attend the annual Ubud Food Festival? It was held this week.

After the opening night feast on Thursday we saw a note on Facebook that told us the prawns prepared by Locovare (an excellent restaurant, by the way) were decimated. We were intrigued by this intelligence, since decimation was a Roman military method of reducing legions, for fiscal and other administrative reasons, and sometimes for tactical purposes. Every tenth man was removed from the ranks.

We inquired whether nine prawns were served instead of ten. It seems there was no printed menu from which to check this, though Cheflish, an interesting language garnished with misapplied superlatives and drizzled with inventive gourmet-speak, may have given decimated yet another meaning. What that might be eludes us, but presumably it does not refer to the sharp decline in prawn stocks in fisheries around the globe.

Anyway, never mind. The food festival – another initiative of Ubud luminary-in-chief Janet DeNeefe, whose Bali recipe book has just been reprinted, and who is also founder of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (Oct. 25-29 this year, don’t miss it) – is an excellent show. Selamat makan!

Chump Towers

IN World War Two the embattled Brits entertained themselves with a wonderful radio comedy show called ITMA (It’s That Man Again). No Names, No Pack Drill, but a clue: It wasn’t Charlie Chaplin; it was a far less funny little fellow with a ridiculously tiny moustache and a Führer complex.

It may be time to reinvent the show, as we trudge unwillingly ever deeper into the swamp that Donald Trump has no intention of draining. He wants to divert its sludge to his own purposes. We know, from a series of earlier incidents it would be nice to forget we’d ever heard about, that Trump is a prize chump. Nearly everyone says so, to amend the sort of comment he likes to make about himself whenever he’s had another brain-snap.

In an interview with The Economist – he could perhaps have got away with it in the Dry Gulch Clarion, which is required reading in the Republican congressional caucus these days – he decided it would be nice if people believed he had invented an economic theory, pump priming, which is 78 years old. This might astonish, if we weren’t all living in that alternative universe where a rapacious property tycoon and low-grade impresario was last year elected the 45th President of the United States. He’s 70 (and will be 71 on Jun. 14).

Perhaps among his yet to be disclosed elements of unquestioned genius is the fact that he invented time travel, scripted Dr Who, and was Galileo’s first tutor. We did hear a rumour recently – it was from the locker room, naturally, where lairs like him like to hang out in the hope that their embellishments will attract acclaim – that he very nearly got into hot water in Athens once. Apparently he’d tried to get into the bath with Mrs Archimedes.

Top Marks

WE heard the other day from a friend, François Richli, a lovely story about the Indonesian health system and how it works efficiently, effectively and cheaply to take care of people who are sick. Two tourists – an American and his Portuguese wife – were visiting Borobudur when the woman was struck down by a bacterial infection. They got themselves to Yogyakarta and went to a local hospital.

There, to the great surprise of the tourist from Donald Trump’s America, where they are busy dismantling affordable health care in the interests of corporate profiteers, the hospital immediately admitted his wife, put her on an IV drip and conducted a series of blood tests to determine whether her condition required treatment with antibiotics. The blood test results were done in 15 minutes and indicated that antibiotics were needed. These were administered and she was able to leave the hospital less than two hours later.

It all cost US$23. Says the grateful American tourist: “I have never experienced such fine health care anywhere and the entire staff were sweet, attentive, extremely capable and oh-so-efficient. I was amazed. Sad that this can’t happen in the USA.”

Blunder Zone

MEANWHILE, from that largish island to our southeast, the one that’s that special biosphere we’re always being reminded about, though sometimes it seems more like a sheltered workshop, we hear that the blunder bus has been about again, causing chaos.

It seems that a consignment of irreplaceable plant specimens imported from France for scientific research was destroyed by the quarantine service – the guys who glare at you and growl “got any fruit mate?” when you’ve finally retrieved your baggage from the arrivals carousel – because an email address didn’t match the documentation. Plainly picking up a phone is something else that’s in the too-hard basket there these days.

An inquiry has been ordered, now that it has been confirmed that the stable door was open, the horse had bolted, and that the lights were on but no one was home.

Say Cheese!

THE Diary’s preference is to ignore most reports on things that’ll kill ya, ya know; those that later research invariably suggests won’t. Life eventually kills you anyway. Enjoy the scenery on the way to your destination seems to be the best rule.

So it was pleasing to read that new research shows consuming cheese, milk and yoghurt – even the dreaded full-fat versions, which some say will strike you down almost on the spot – does not seem to increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Of course, the researchers could be quite wrong. We’ll ponder that possibility over our next cheese platter or three.

Hector writes a diary in the Bali Advertiser. The next appears on May 24.