Monday, January 02, 2006

Not Again......

Sadly the New Year has seen, almost inevitably another explosion and more innocent deaths in this part of the world. I say inevitably because the fractional violence which causes this sort of thing seems relentless and is fuelled by so many factors including religion. The much of international media of course are always quick to link these things back to George Bush’s global Muslim terror conspiracy which has to be kept alive to accomplish things like the Iraqi oil grab; sneer if you wish, but read this first.

CNN’s talking head announced the explosion and then went on to talk about Jemaah Islamiah, the Bali bombs and various other incidents, making, without any evidence, the implied link between the two. The Reuters story quoted in the Herald link makes it fairly clear that those who are a little more in the know think otherwise.

Talking of CNN, I noted with some amusement that they announced that Sydney was the “first capital city in the world to greet the New Year”. Whilst I hate pretty populist nationalism (Keith Urban left New Zealand when he was two years old for god’s sake, he’s an Australian anyway you look at it), even if you twist Sydney into being a State capital, the omission of the capital cities or towns of Fiji, Tonga, The Solomons, The Marshalls, and, indeed, New Zealand, is just bizarre from the global news behemoth.

And odd is this hypocritical little thing from Greg Sheridan, not one of Australia’s more reliable journalists but one who is portrayed by his newspaper as an Asia expert and a foreign affairs guru. His writings clearly indicate that he also sees himself this way and has quite a problem with his ego which gets in the way of his perspective. His tone of dismissal of those who may have an opinion differing from his is not at all unusual for his ilk, the implication being that those that opine otherwise are suffering from a lack a of pragmatic rationality.

Take this phrase from the above piece for example:

There is a sheer, unrelenting idiocy to this type of sentiment. Most Balinese want what most people want everywhere -- a decent standard of living -- and more of them get it from tourism than from anything else.

Hmmm…he admits he has never been to Bali before and after two weeks he has some sort of perceptive insight into the Balinese psyche. I’ve been here, if you add together the bits and pieces, over two years now, first as a tourist, then on business and then as a resident and I’m only now starting to get a small glimpse into the psyche and am confused and questioning. I’ve been to Melbourne some thirty times and would not dare to suggest that I understand the needs or desires of those on who spend their lives there, and I’m a westerner. Sheridan, in a culture which is alien to him in every possible way, understands after two weeks and accuses others of sheer, unrelenting idiocy. I would suggest the sheer, unrelenting idiocy is his borne of ego driven arrogance. His head is so firmly in his own sand I wonder whether he carries, in his car, as he is driven as a bulĂ©, understanding those he sees through the window, his own travel bucket full of the stuff to put his head in as required.

I don’t agree with the position taken that he is dismissing so ignorantly but in it there is more of an understanding to the Balinese dilemma than is reflected in Sheridan’s “all the world wants to be western” white raj response.

And through his car windows and walk through Ubud and Kuta (half an hour…I assume he jogged) he’s managed to discern exactly what Balinese think of Australians….despite his lordly pronouncements it is a love hate relationship but I’m not going to go into that here, but suffice to say that the statement:

The Governor of Bali, Dewa Beratha, tells Inquirer that in Bali all foreigners are identified as Australians.

is one of more bizarre things I’ve read in recent times and simply put, either he misheard or I think he’s lying.

Mr Sheridan’s unfortunate arrogance has, in the past been well signposted by his rather unfortunate and ill-argued attacks on New Zealand defence policy which just made him look silly.

I guess the sore point in Fergusson’s speech was for him, that unlike New Zealand, Australia is still subject to 'imperial subservience', but now to the USA and Sheridan is a largely complicit and unquestioning mouthpiece supporting this policy.

Then on that, he writes for The Australian, a Murdoch newspaper that often seems little divorced these days from rags like Newscorp’s NYC papers and FoxNews. I suspect that if FoxNews or the Whitehouse announced that Ms Rice was now a white male, Sheridan would immediately trumpet the news and accuse anyone who disagreed of sheer, unrelenting idiocy.

Then again, he is the man who wrote elsewhere:

I asked Wirajuda whether Australia's close support of the US and our continuing role in Iraq damaged us with the Indonesian Government or the Indonesian people. Not at all, he said

I am incredulous that someone, especially someone claiming to be a journalist and a foreign policy boffin could write something like that. Seriously, if this man could manage to extracte himself from Alexander Downer's car for less than five minutes he would know what complete drivel this is. Three minutes on any Indonesian Jalan would do it. I have trouble understanding how this man could in good conscience draw a salary as "Foreign Policy Editor" if he believes this.

I appreciate the sentiments concerning the Australian media overstatement and ugliness when it comes to Bali, and indeed, Indonesia, but the hypocrisy in that is that his newspaper has helped lead the way in the furore and, in portraying itself as a serious broadsheet, does more damage than some throwaway tabloid.

Indeed the implication in his first attack on the NZ Defence Policy (when the combat wing was scrapped) was that there was some sort veiled threat to the white man in Australasia from the hordes north of Australia and it was our duty as civilized nation to play our part in defending our way of life against the threat. The Australian government have loved this one for years, making the assumption, based on racism and arrogance, that for some reason, Indonesia’s under funded and internally absorbed armed forces would mobilise the 200 odd million to somehow cross to Australia’s northern coast, make their way across god knows how much desert, whilst under attack and overtake the civilized people around the southern coast. Its been a cornerstone of Australian Defence thinking for decades and remains a cornerstone of Sheridan’s as far as I can discern.

Yeah, but despite everything else I’ve written above, I am grateful that someone in Australia, whoever it is, in a position where they will be heard, is telling others there that this is isn’t the godforsaken terrorist haven drug planting hell hole that the rest of the media say it is.

And, yes, I appreciate Sheridan’s points about the relative safety of the island, the serenity and peace. It is gratefully received and pointedly timely. I live in a nation with a personal safety crime rate that most western nations can only dream about.