Saturday, May 16, 2009

Some folk's got a vision of a castle in the sky / And I'm left wonderin' why

Seth Godin's lecture, as caught here, entitled Broken, is woth a watch, even if it's a little long. It's a fairly humourous look at things we encounter day to day which are broken, and why they are broken. Here in Indonesia the word is rusak. And the lecture is funny for rather different reasons. It's funny, sitting in Indonesia because so many of the things that raise a laugh in the lecture hall in the USA are rather normal here and would not, to the mass, be considered rusak. Take the line about the illogicality of getting around in the West Village. In Indonesia street numbers don't run in sequence...that's how rusak it is. I'd love to be able to navigate a map in Indonesia as easily as I could find an address on Carmine.

In fact pretty much every thing in Indonesia is rusak. The police are completely rusak; the courts are rusak; the banks are rusak; the internet is rusak; the education system is rusak; the roads, rails and airways are rusak as are the air and sea ports; the waterways and air quality are rusak; the health system is rusak; the shops and supermarkets are empty and rusak (unless you head to the Jakarta mega malls for the wealthy of course). It's pretty hard to think of many practical things here that are not rusak (okay..the food and the Bluebird Taxi company get a big tidak rusak tick)

The first round of the of the current election cycle was pretty much rusak, but given decades of massive and accepted corruption and fraud at every level, it's hardly surprising that electoral cheating was endemic, and with that in mind it actually went quite well.

Round two is coming, and the whole point, at least for the educated middle class and many of the urban generation coming of age, is to elect a president who is going to solidly push ahead with the de-rusaking of Indonesia, thus realising it's latent potential.

To that end there are three contenders.

Two, Megawati and Kalla, representing the last gasp of the very bad old days when keeping Indonesia rusak was the key to the power elite they represent maintaining their grip on power and the profits from one of the world's biggest economies, at the expense of those that most need it.

But, unless we are somehow transported back to the parallel universe these people still live in, they all look likely to be trounced by the current incumbent, SBY, ironically a former Suharto General, albeit one who may be, at least as far as anyone can tell, less tainted and dirty than the others, and with a vision to make the nation kurang rusak, in a very slow and steady way.

Indonesia may still be throughly rusak but there are glimmers from down the end, around the curve, over the hill and via a long tainted tunnel, that there is some hope.

But before we westerners get too smug about this, look at the USA right now. Essentially, over the past decade or so the United States of America, at it's core became more and more rusak. Sure, compared to Indonesia the infrastructure and the day to day life of the nation is infinitely less rusak, but the the banks are rusak, the manufacturing base was and is rusak, the self perception of it's role, rights and obligations to the world was rusak, and the moral core of the nation politik was utterly rusak, especially as defined by those it elected to defend that morality.

So, the people, like Indonesia, decided to elect a leader who promised to lead them down a jalan kurang rusak (a road less broken) and they, or at least 53% of the 60 odd percent who vote in these things, elected Barrack Obama. The world was overjoyed and a bright new future less broken than the the previous eight (or one might reasonably argue the past 20 or more if you were so inclined) loomed,

Or so it seemed.

But are we really so surprised that, despite huge movements in the right direction with regard to the environment, relations in South and Central America and less confrontational, paranoid (although it's hard to let that paranoia go) face to nations like China and Russia, the US still teeters on the edge of the wrong side of the precipice that leads to or from becoming a good global citizen.

For every handshake with Chavez there is a slip back towards the Bush-lite-isms that increasingly seem to define America's utterly confused and mixed up, with disastrous and tragic results, War on Terror, or whatever it's now been renamed.

The revival of the globally despised military tribunals, the massive civilian death toll in Afghanistan and Pakistan which the US military is still able to simply lie about, and the increasing slide into another quagmire in that part of the world which threatens to dwarf the mess in Iraq. Obama's failure and unwillingness to date to define exactly why the USA is different from the bad guys underlines just how completely rusak the USA's world view has become.

The credit crisis will blow over, but how Obama handles these other factors will define both him and his nation in the years to come...right now he's flagging an F.

To quote Glenn Greenwald :

We're currently occupying two Muslim countries. We're killing civilians regularly (as usual) -- with airplanes and unmanned sky robots. We're imprisoning tens of thousands of Muslims with no trial, for years. Our government continues to insist that it has the power to abduct people -- virtually all Muslim -- ship them to Bagram, put them in cages, and keep them there indefinitely with no charges of any kind. We're denying our torture victims any ability to obtain justice for what was done to them by insisting that the way we tortured them is a "state secret" and that we need to "look to the future." We provide Israel with the arms and money used to do things like devastate Gaza. Independent of whether any or all of these policies are justifiable, the extent to which those actions "inflame anti-American sentiment" is impossible to overstate.

Am I disappointed in Barack Hussein Obama? Yes. Am I surprised? No, not even slightly. Semua rusak..... Let's see what Cairo brings this week.

Right now Indonesia doesn't seem quite so rusak.

Update: Obama said, when refusing to release the detainee torture images this week:

And I want to emphasize that these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the painful images that we remember from Abu Ghraib.

I'm not sure what his definition of sensational is, but these turn my stomach. Joan Walsh says:

For the first time in his presidency, I had the sick feeling that Obama was lying

Yes...its an ugly moment.

Move to the left / Move to the right....

Die, die, die....

Crocs lost $22.4 million in the first quarter. They expect losses to continue. Revenue fell 32 percent last year. Can they survive? For the sake of feet everywhere, we hope not.

[From The Slow Death of Crocs Continues -- The Cut: New York Magazine's Fashion Blog]

we can but pray.....

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Oh shit! There goes the charabang / Looks like I'm gonna be stuck here the whole summer

We went across to KuDeTa for Mother’s Day (and no, that's not us). Yes I know a few weeks back I swore that was it, and I’d never return after we’d been charged ludicrous amounts for very substandard cocktails in the company of wannbe property developers from Perth and bar girls from Jakarta. And, yes, that was the way I felt the time before and the time before. And the time before…

But the thing is you do go back because the view is quite magnificent, plus it’s a rather easy place to meet those less than familiar with the quagmire that calls itself the Bali roading system, and thus you compromise. And the compromise we made this time included the proviso that we were only to do breakfast there. Because, at US$5.50 for a three course breakfast, including pretty good coffee, I can think of worse places to sit in the sun, watch the surf roll in and pass an hour or two.

So for Mother’s Day we took our Brigid and found the best table on the beachside deck free.

Lucky us.

I‘m never phased by the beach touts..they’re just doing their job and really are nowhere near as aggressive as the horror-show hawkers up country at places like the grim volcanos. No, they’re fine, so sitting within their hailing distance is not really an issue and it allows one to watch the goings on. And the goings on, as usual on this stretch of Seminyak Beach are often somewhat intriguing.

I’m not one to leap into racial stereotyping (he says hoping to divert the flak) but the Russians are always worth watching. They come dripping in gold and silver, in labels and they flaunt. The old gangsters bring their trophy girlfriends who try and make the most out of what inevitably will be a short window of Amex bending opportunity before Boris gets bored and moves on. If you’ve ever wondered who buys that gruesome Versace tack..look no further.

I liked these two the most.

Russian Hookers

The one with the short Helga styled pigtails had a ridiculously brief bikini when seen from the back, covering just the bit between the cheeks, and then only in a very token way. And she wore, to compliment that, until just before she went into the water, very high gold heels with twisty bits on them (I tried to get a shot but these boys carry guns). She seemed to find regular reason to bend right over, backside facing the boys on the beach who come in bus trips from Java, just to look. Not to excuse anything, but it’s often occurred to me that those boys from the fundamentalist Madrassas in Jawa Tengah, who later blew a few tourists sky-high, must have though they’d wandered through the gates of Sodom when they first arrived in Bali. Or the gates of heaven……

Moving on from the odd mix of Eastern Bloc hookers and Islamic terrorism…. I wonder about the European, mostly Italian, parents who allow their kids to swim, unattended, outside the flags...often indeed directly in front of the large red skull warning flag. That flag was missing today but these two, aged 4 and 7 I’d guess, spent much of the time we were there floating towards a very obvious rip as their happy parents ignored them..chatting, having a fag and a lager, looking at the Russian hookers, that sort of thing. You see it every day, and not in the ones or twos, but the many dozens.

Over 100 people drown on this beach every bloody year. It’s almost as dangerous as the roads.

Then we had the two, I think, Italian girls who asked the sarong hawkers if they had any cloths in a ‘French Colonial Style’. Dear, they can, of course, instantly be in any style you want if you have the money and the touts on this particular stretch of the beach, much in the tradition of KuDeTa, take some pleasure in the ease at which they can overcharge, grossly, tourists who want to be seen as moneyed or beautiful.

These two paid over Rp100,000 each for their ‘French Colonial’ sarongs. They could’ve got 4 for that price in a market but who are we to intervene? As I said..I quite like the hawkers here and if they can get away with it, so be it. P.T. Barnum/Sucker/Minute.

And that’s the name of the game along Seminyak Beach, which is why KuDeTa fits so well there….everything they serve is priced at about triple the going rate. Even the formerly very well priced brekky has jumped 100%, and wasn’t that good. Hell, it used to be the only edible thing on their bloody menu.

And it’s full of those Perth property developers because the beautiful people have long since scarpered (although I’m not quite sure where to…..those budget fares from Wagga Wagga and Geelong are doing some damage to the style factor here with even the travel agents and hotels complaining that nobody spends any more).

I’m never going back.

Too hot up here....

I'm probably way behind everyone else on this, but wow...

I wonder if James asked Michael for the Moonwalk back