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

Gaia Waives the Rules

 Hector’s Bali Diary

HectorR

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

June 22, 2016

 

This seemed to be the consensus among the worriers, at least, those who observe ephemeral climatic events as a message from someone or other (and of course, themselves) about the dangers of human environmental iniquity.

But climate is cyclical as well as seasonal, warming and cooling in response to all sorts of things, even sunspots. That’s why people were able to grow grapes and make wine in England in the early Middle Ages and then a couple of centuries later could ice-skate on the Thames every winter. It’s why millions of years ago there was a natural episode of global warming – we call it the Carboniferous Period – that produced worldwide rainforests that later turned into the coal with which we are now polluting the atmosphere

The problem today is that you can’t say these things without being buried under a chorus of criticism because you’re denying global warming, or worse, are possibly one of those ghastly dinosaurs who hold that man has no influence on the atmosphere and the climates that result.

For the record, we are not among that challenged cohort.

We do need to stop polluting both the atmosphere and the planet’s surface, stop breeding millions of mouths we cannot adequately feed, and stop chasing economic growth as the be all and end all of human progress.

So, to the point at issue: The recent high tides and big ocean swells that hit Bali were unusual, though far from unknown. The coincidence of lunar cycle high water, the continuing effects of a powerful El Niño event, storms in the Indian Ocean and big Antarctic lows generating huge swells was spectacular. Tragically, as always with such events, there were human casualties. Despoilers of the beaches for profit found that indeed they had built upon the sand. Silly, shortsighted chumps will always collide with karma. It was the same in faraway Sydney.

The moral is that the ocean is for fish and the beach is to visit. We are a terrestrial species. Perhaps, eventually, Governor Pastika and Benoa Bay non-environmentalist Tomy Winata will note this and grasp the good sense of Tolak Reklamasi. Both should be familiar with that term by now.

Make a Splash

Waterman’s Week 2016, which is coming up in July, has many events at many venues designed to honour the marine environment and raise awareness of its human-made problems.

There’s fun to be had that’s not too energetic, as well. One of the sponsors of the week, Island Mermaids, is staging a Miss Mermaid Bali 2016 Photo Shoot Contest. So if you’ve ever dreamed of being a mermaid (and are female and over 13) this is your chance to become one of the mythical creatures and help save the oceans too.

The idea is that mermaids need clean oceans. Well, no one would argue with that. Doing so would certainly set the Sirens off. All funds raised from the contest will go to the new Zero Waste to Oceans Education and Demonstration Centre being built by ROLE Foundation at Nusa Dua.

Details are available at www.island-mermaids.com.

Tea and Sympathy

Ross Fitzgerald, professor of history and erotic writer, has just enjoyed a short sojourn in Bali. He was here with his wife Lyndal Moor and stayed at Puri Saraswati near the royal palace in Ubud.

He and the Diary repaired to The Melting Pot on the Queen’s Birthday Australian holiday (Jun. 13) via a nice light lunch at a nearby warung, to watch the Melbourne-Collingwood AFL match that day. Fitzgerald was a very disappointed man; his team Collingwood got thumped by 46 points. The Diary didn’t care. We get our own doses of disappointment from St Kilda.

But in between groans, and speculation about the very large rat we’d seen running along the top of the wall behind the bar, we had another chat about his candidacy for the Senate from the state of NSW for the Australian Sex Party. We’ve mentioned that before. There’s an outside chance that we could soon be chums with Senator Fitzgerald. The Sex Party’s not all about, um, that. It has some very progressively sensible social policies too.

Fitzgerald told us he had recently debated the Rev. Fred Nile, a NSW state MP of, shall we say, rather rigid Christian views, at a little soiree organized by The Sydney Institute which is run by another old friend, Gerard Henderson. It would have been fun to be there.

He told us another tale. On his Garuda flight up from Sydney the happy arrival video they screen included advice that you’d have to pay $US 35 for a visa on arrival. Um. That was scrapped a while ago. Perhaps the world’s best airline for cabin service would like to update its AV primers? They should also have a chat with their cabin staff. Those on Fitzgerald’s flight didn’t know either.

Ramandhan Special

The official thuggery visited upon a poor food seller in Semarang, Central Java, who dared to keep her little stall open during Ramadhan fasting hours, is a prize example of many things. The woman has debts she needs to pay, and apparently customers who wish to eat, presumably not being required by their religion to fast.

The incident caused a furore. President Joko Widodo, familiarly called Jokowi, gave the woman Rp10 million to compensate her for the food that overbearing religious instructors and heavy handed public order police had stolen from her. Regional police chiefs have now received advice that they should not allow this sort of vigilante action.

There’s a verse in the Holy Quran that seems apposite.

“Their [acceptance] of guidance is not your responsibility. It is Allah who awards guidance whom He wills. And whatever wealth you give away (as charity donation) goes to your own benefit. It is not appropriate for you to spend but for Allah’s pleasure alone. And whatever you spend of your wealth, [its reward] will be paid back to you in full and you shall not be treated unjustly.” (Al-Baqarah 2:272).

Festival Time

Among the panoply of festivals and celebrations that these days grace Bali – or otherwise, depending on individual taste – is the annual Bali Arts Festival, the doyen of the stable, which has been around now for 38 years.

This year’s, now under way, was officially opened on Jun. 10. President Jokowi dropped in for the show and the street parade of thousands of Bali artists. The annual month-long festival showcases Bali’s traditional arts. It coincides with the school holidays, which gives the kids something to do in their down time. That’s always a good idea.

The President made a speech. He began with greetings in Balinese, to loud cheers from the crowd. And then he said this, which is worth absorbing:

“I feel very happy this afternoon that I can be here, on the Island of the Gods, Bali. For me, the Bali Arts Festival is not merely a people’s party or an arts festival. It is an event that has not only cultural and educational functions, but also a function as a driving force for the economy, especially the Bali community.”

Indeed. Indonesia has a rich and hugely diverse cultural heritage. This deserves protection from those who would turn its cities into lookalike Legolands. And properly appreciated, facilitated and managed, it is itself an economic driver.

Up the Poll

Some may have noticed that Australia is having a federal election on Jul. 2. It’s a rare double-dissolution election for the House of Representatives and the full Senate. If you’re a registered Australian voter here you can cast a pre-poll vote in person at the consulate-general in Renon up to Friday, Jul. 1. You won’t be able to vote there on polling day itself.

You’ll need to show your Australian passport or your current Australian driver’s licence to get into the consulate to vote. They won’t let you in without it. The consulate is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm.

Applications for postal votes, which are an alternative way of avoiding a fine for not being ticked off on the bean-counters’ defaulters’ list, close on Jun. 29 via the Australian Electoral Commission website.

Harley Man

Former Bali boy Ric Shreves, now firmly established in Portland, Oregon and working for a worldwide charity doing things that have recently seen him in Turkana, Kenya (that’s a little different from Bali) has acquired a new toy.

It’s a rather tough-looking Harley Davidson hog: Happy riding, Ric.

Surf to Save

The Bali Animal Welfare Association recently got a wonderful offer from visiting American surfer Tommy Michael – he would organize a fun surfing school, Surf2Save, and direct the proceeds to BAWA. The event, on June 4 at one of the Bukit’s famed surf beaches, went so well that BAWA is looking for someone to run another.

Michael’s inaugural event was strongly supported by the local surfing community, which has always been very community minded. He’s now returned to Costa Rica, where he lives and does similar things for local charities there.

Hector’s Diary, edited for newspaper publication, appears online and in print in the fortnightly Bali Advertiser.