Neo-colonials – the new birds of prey

fishbirdI dedicate this column to the Balinese and other citizens of this great country – Indonesia, who have in the past struggled against the Dutch and Japanese only to be confronted today by a new breed of invaders – neo-colonialists. These hi-bred specimens do not abide by any rules except that of self-profit.

In my inaugural column in The Bali Times dated Friday, August 10-16, 2007, I noted the words of my Landlord Wayan who referred to the act of foreigners buying land in Bali as ‘ekenomic colonisation’. He couldn’t have been closer to the truth.

One year later the scenario seems to have remained unchanged – the open season on Bali – just like the good old days when hunting season was declared in some countries allowing people to indiscriminately kill animals. Here in Bali the difference being that islanders are seduced with money in exchange for the land of their ancestors. If this carries on unabated there could come a time when the Balinese will become coolies and labourers on their land. I beg to ask the question – How many Balinese live in villas? And how many Balinese who have sold their land are working on them as labourers? The results of a census are a forgone conclusion.

As the Devil’s Advocate I have jotted down sixteen basic rules to follow to enable all prospective colonisers to successfully enslave the Balinese through a painless process called neo colonisation.

01. When you arrive on the island please do not bring a spouse. All you need to do is ask a resident coloniser who has married a person well below their age: the disparity and the children born from this connubial joy would be unacceptable in most western countries from whence these colonisers originated. But this should not worry you, as this is paradise, anything goes.

02. Once you have done the deed so to speak ensure you register the marriage. If you were previously married etc. you would need to present documents of divorce etc. before marrying a local lass. However, some colonisers have simply got around this by converting to Islam. You can convert if you don’t have the correct documents but continue to pretend to honour the Balinese and their culture by wearing their clothes, eating their food and going to their temples, while dishonouring two great religions of Hinduism and Islam.

03. With a little money and a bank account in your wife’s name you can start plying your trade. Some may talk of acquiring a Kitas, please ignore this advice. A business visa works better as one only needs to travel out of the country every six months. It helps one get a breather from family responsibilities and anything else lurking in the shadows. If in doubt ask any long time resident coloniser who is well versed in this field. There are quite a few floating around. It is heard in local watering holes that a Kitas is more expensive than a business visa for it has to be renewed every year. Further, after five years one can automatically attain citizenship – This is a frightening prospect for self-respecting long time resident coloniser who clings to his or her country’s passport.

04. Now if marriage is not on your mind and you are birds of another feather no worries, the island does not discriminate. It welcomes all who live within the law.

05. Buying land is a safer bet than leasing land in your name. As you cannot buy land in your name please do so in any Balinese’s name. You will have to give a percentage of the value to the person concerned. This is how you can own land that will never belong to you. If problems related to land acquisition arise, throw a few dollars and see things magically fall back into place – this advice you will receive from many an experienced coloniser.

06. If you want to do business always think in dollars but pay in Rupiah, preferably well below the minimum wage.

07. Another option is to be an English teacher. In the past, backpackers have taken it upon themselves to educate the masses, for a fee of course.

08. The essential dress code varies from place to place. It is imperative that you blend into the community by wearing thongs, shorts and a singlet. A tattoo strategically placed could add to the mystery. There are many permutations and combinations but under no circumstance wear a Balinese dress. Unless of course you are going to the temple to pray where there are a sprinkling of colonisers in attendance. You wouldn’t want anyone to see you honouring the culture, would you?

09. Do in Rome as the Romans do – hire a motorcycle and drive around without a helmet or driving licence on the roads and sometimes on the pavements during traffic jams. When caught cry foul and blame it on the police. Also, do not advise underage bikers not to drive carelessly. Though you wouldn’t want to instruct the locals on road sense, you are qualified to advise them on how to run their country.

10. Always visit restaurants and bars frequented by your ilk so that you can feel comfortable talking about the laws of Indonesia and other important things like sports and women.

11. You don’t have to learn Balinese. Bahasa is simple and easy to pick up. You can dress and ape the Balinese but speaking their language that represents their culture and all that they stand for is not required.

12. Joining a local hang out for colonisers is vital to one’s survival. Necessary information can be gleaned from any coloniser reclining with a draught.

13. When in need of spiritual healing please consult any self styled resident coloniser. For a few hundred Rupiah cash you can check your aura, have your fortune told and be shown ways to clear your bad karma. The Balinese do not know anything about these matters.

14. Dogs versus children. I suggest forget the poor children concentrate on the mangy street dogs. Fight for their rights to spread their communicable skin diseases. Feed them not the poor children. Do not follow the system in your home country where such animals are humanely put to sleep. This is good for your karma.

15. If you have a death wish or have no money or place to stay in paradise the law will be provide you with a lifetime of free board and lodging if you can present them with a few grams of banned substance as proof of your lack of understanding of the country’s stringent laws. Many before you are partaking of this unique hospitality.

16. Never consult the locals. They do not know anything about their country. The long time resident colonisers know better. Sit in any Warung frequented by these experts and you will get unsolicited free advice that should help you understand how to ‘deal’ with the locals.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om

The New Wave – Reverse Discrimination

A wacky friend from Oz told me that I was qualified to write on the following subject because I was a ‘brown skinned Indian’ and therefore could not be mistaken for a racist. I told him that racism has been alive and well in India for thousands of years with the help of the wretched caste system. Even Mahatma Gandhi could not get rid of it.

Often one is confronted with harsh reality even in paradise. People from far off lands arrive on these shores carrying the burden of their ancestors’ violent racial history. Why they do this is anyone’s guess. They are apologetic, nauseously politically correct and extremely sensitive to the plight of Aboriginals in Oz and ‘Blacks’ in the US of A. In essence these folk have sacrificed the innocence of the ‘Now’ generation by inculcating in their children the septic history of their homeland.

Frankly one is grateful to these people for they have inspired me to write about reverse discrimination.

One shall now don the robe of the devil’s advocate and delve into the subtle nuances of this new wave that has become all encompassing in Australia and U.S.A. These countries have been targeted because some family members living there have encountered this new age form of racism.

Reverse discrimination is when overzealous self-appointed guardians of history ‘over indulge’ the weaker sections to the point of discriminating against the ‘historical offenders’ the white people in Australia and USA. They do this in the hope that the vicious past would dissolve naturally in the minds of the people, made lazy by easy handouts. Reality has become the pallbearer of the true meaning of discrimination.

Visiting Australians have confided in me that their country is fast becoming a ‘State of the Ridicule’ where the Aboriginals are being destroyed not by violence but by unbridled aid.

Instead of empowering them to ‘handle’ their own lives the State has handed out ready-made houses to the Aboriginals who I am told often use the wood in the houses for fires and weapons in an impromptu fight. Sadly there exists rampant women abuse, incest, murder, rape by knives or sticks etc. which is the result of taking them out of their communities and attempting to ‘civilise’ them through acts of charity that are actually crippling them culturally.

Petrol sniffing and alcohol abuse are the fuses that light the exploding violence in remote communities. Instead of empowering these folk and ensuring they do things for themselves with all the support of the State; they are given everything on a platter as if this would wipe away the stain of the Stolen Generation – the cross that poor non-aboriginals in Australia have to bear. According to Joan, a teacher in Alice Springs, the opportunities for needy white or black kids who are not aboriginal is shocking; even white farmers crippled by years of drought find it hard to get any substantial help – hand outs being non-existent.

So is this the birth of an infectious form of racism – reverse discrimination? And will this be the seed from which will grow brave new generations of white or black supremacists? Joan told me that in her country political correctness has reached absurd levels. Society has imprisoned itself in an iron cast of dos and don’ts that has adverse effects. Nothing negative can be uttered about the Aboriginals for this would bring a swift response by society and the State. Even Aussie expats in Bali pontificate about the ‘white man’s burden’. I suppose talking is cheaper than getting off one’s butt and flying back to Oz to work at remote communities. Has anyone ever mentioned the poor non-aboriginal kids on the block and what is being done and not being done and what should be done for them? Probably these folks are being overlooked because no one wants to be seen to be favouring them for fear of being branded a racist, so I’ve heard through the grapevine.

In the US of A being black could possibly be an advantage. One can always cry discrimination in police custody, get away with murder and more importantly bag a job that one does not merit and leave it months later.

Have you observed the American media constantly harping on the colour of Obama – the whitest black most suited for President of the US of A? If he is elected all ordinary white Americans without a strain of racism in them can heave a sigh of relief for no one can henceforth accuse them of being racist for they would have a ‘black President’. And finally the underprivileged white and other non-black citizens can look forward to being recognised as a section of society that also need help in areas like healthcare, jobs and education.

The question I would like to ask Obama if he becomes President is this, “Mr. President Sir, I understand that I could face imprisonment and/or be fined for calling a black man nigger. Would you enact a similar law protecting white and ‘other’ people from being called inappropriate names or do you think these lopsided laws are exclusively for the Blacks? ”

The truth is there for all of us to see – the Blacks and Aboriginals have endured hundreds of years of unimaginable pain and suffering, families and whole generations have disappeared into the rancid and festering mouth of racism. But times have been changing. People of all colours and religions have come forth to apply balm on these tortured souls. But in continuing to do so we are overlooking the ‘others’ thereby creating a schism that is slowly turning into mass reverse discrimination. There is a danger that this could become a full-blown problem in the near future, which will affect all including those living on this island paradise.

We must remove our pseudo garb of bleeding heart liberals and confront this issue head on – calling a spade a spade and not a rose, if you get the drift.

A close Aussie friend and his equally mad Californian girlfriend have suggested the airing of a live weekly TV program titled Racist. It would be a face off with words between dissenting groups to get all the poison of history out of our system.

Hopefully, this would help in creating a brave new world of endless possibilities like one law applies to all irrespective of colour, caste, creed, race or religion; equal opportunities for all and not based on inherited historical factors that have lost their significance and effectiveness in this day and age.

Reverse discrimination will continue to grow unless we decide to draw a line in history, to write-off past debts and to start anew.

Maybe this island is the answer. Maybe the multi-national force of expats will carry back to their homeland stories of harmony, peaceful co-existence and love. And maybe this could delay the onset of yet another round of racism – reverse discrimination – that is far more potent for it is growing in the majority community in most countries.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om

The Lies of Truth

This is a creative leap into the abyss of life.

“I smile when I’m angry

I cheat and I lie.

I do what I have to do

To get by.

But I know what is wrong,

And I know what is right.

And I’d die for the truth

In My secret Life”

–         Leonard Cohen

What is truth?

The lies of truth is plain to see for all. It mocks all things that represent beauty, love and spontaneous joy.

And why is this so? Is truth like a camera that never tells a lie? And is the picture itself a lie personified and that’s why it tells the truth?

One has heard on numerous occasions, ‘I speak the truth’. The echoes of falsehoods in emptiness are evident in these words for we all see, feel and ‘do’ truth according to our own conditioning. What is truth to one is a lie for another.

Let us ask ourselves this question – How often have we believed in truth only to be disillusioned by the looming spectre of half truths and lies intrinsically melded to fool even the most discerning truth seeker?

There are those among us who don’t want to know the truth. We want to live our lives devoid of the self consciousness that demarcates these two impostors – truth and lies. We translate thoughts, actions and pre-actions according to our own convenience while all the time our hearts and minds are jousting for a place in the only truth that exists – reality – what you see is what you get – much like a prostitute who knows who she is and what she stands for.

‘I shall love you forever’ – this is a momentary half truth that dissolves into an eternity of unintentional deceit for the words spoken merely pander to the moment in a lifetime and is then smothered in lies that we use to convince ourselves of our own selfish actions.

And when religion confronts us with truths that are presented as divine declarations how can we argue with divinity? Are these man made to convince the ‘faithful’ to believe in a truth that does not exist?

Truth has often been used to surreptitiously rape innocence, to intrude and colonise the inner spaces of our being.

Someone once said that if one told a lie long enough it would become the truth. Maybe this is the path to finding the truth.

Questions, questions and more questions, yet answers seem to be evading the reality of existence. As children many among us have been told ‘truths’ by our parents, teachers and peers only to discover later in life that they were not so!

To me one of the main culprits of this is organised religion and culturally fertile societies for they are breeding grounds for truth. Words of wisdom impregnate the truths and bring forth a rich crop of self serving half truths and lies.

And then there are the oppressed and repressed societies that brainwash unsuspecting people by frightening them with the horror of the wrath of god if they didn’t follow the ‘laid down truths’.

How does one define the truth? What is it made of? How does it react when it comes in contact with people and their perceived gods?

Truth is like an amoeba in its ever changing form. It is made up of lies and delusions and when it comes in contact with people it morphs into a religion and then becomes the truth that all believe in for fear of the unknown.

There are people out there who specialize in ‘speaking’ the truth. They risk their personal and professional lives in this belief. But is their truth the ‘real’ truth or is it a symptom of hallucinations that reside deep within and tortures the soul prompting it to spew out the truth which in essence could be a lie for someone else or worse still, an assumption. Probably this is why these people are not welcome in a society that thrives on ‘conditioned and synthetic’ truths.

Truth has been handed down from generation to generation. Sometimes there has been a hiccup followed by revelations extinguishing part of the truth and adding another dimension to it.

Truth is constantly being taken for granted. In fact, we refer our beliefs to what we hear, read or see on the pulpits or in the media. ‘I know it’s true because I saw it on TV’.

Through the ages, the merchants of spin have controlled the lucrative social, cultural and religious set ups with deliberate intent to manufacture the ‘truth’ that is a palatable intoxication which is then fed to the benign bovines (people). Hence, we move around in a herd ruminating on prayers and living within a frame work of rules replete with superstitions and interrupted by births and deaths. This is like a rope slung through the sensitive nose of a cow. When it is pulled by perceived ‘truths’ we follow in its direction. Thus to walk an independent life is highly unlikely for it brings pain, the pain of unbelonging. As humans are pack animals a different path is often taken only by courageous people who believe in a truth which is sadly based partly on doubtful inheritances of the truth.

Some seek the truth like blind people looking at a rainbow. They cannot see it and rely solely on what is being described to them by someone else. Others create the truth out of their own fantasies and peddle this spurious brand to all and sundry.

Reality is the only truth – what you see is what you get. Attempting to translate this warps our perceptions and addles our values and reasoning. Let it be. Let reality be the ‘electric cow poke’ to prod us on our way towards death. Let us take one day at a time and live life to the fullest with hearts bent on peace, joy and togetherness.

And when the time is nigh, truth will show itself, one day.

Till then let us continue to co-exist with the lies of truth.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om

Made Boy and the Goddess of Toye Masem

What started as a journey to escape the confines of one’s own mind turned into an enlightening encounter with a young Balinese man and an enchanting tryst with the goddess of Toye Masem.

Everybody’s talkin’ at me

I don’t hear a word they’re sayin’

Only the echoes of my mind

People stoppin’ starin’

I can’t see the faces

Only the shadows of their eyes…

Everybody’s Talkin’ (Echoes) by Fred Neil

He began the night drive to Amed feeling like the protagonist from the movie, Midnight Cowboy, on his ‘end’ trip who reaches his dream destination only to arrive dead.

The following morning, after a sleepless night in his favourite room at Wawawewe, he walked down to the beach to catch a fishing boat out to sea. As he sat in the vessel in the warm glow of the sun waiting for the fisherman to check the motor and sails, thoughts of madness echoed in his mind. The agitated sea taunted him by rocking the boat and the errant wind blew his cap into the air.

Suddenly he heard, above the raucous wind and sea, a shout, “Useless…Mark Useless”. Striding purposefully towards him along the pebbled shore was Made Boy.

“Made says you not go to sea. Also, sea take you…you wearing green. Today full moon, you come with me to Toye Masem near Bangle Village. My wife prepare offering with chicken especially for you. Come brother we make offering and do meditasi”, he said breathlessly.

Made Boy is a friend. He runs a small shop selling semi-precious stones and sacred stones, and assorted pieces of silver jewellery. He is married to a pretty Balinese woman and is the proud father of Putu, a five month old boy. Made’s long black hair, lithe body and goatee beard gives him an air of serenity personified. This soft spoken individual’s pronouncements on Hindu Dharma and the all embracing Karma to visitors who chance upon him, endears all to him.

Reluctantly, Useless followed Made back to the hotel and put the offerings into his jeep. Then they drove into the hills to Toye Masem.

At Bangle Village he parked the vehicle on a narrow hill road and carried on foot. Nyoman, an acquaintance of Made’s from the village, joined them on the trek to Toye Masem., where there is a shrine and five holy springs.

They walked along a dusty path strewn with boulders, across dry stream beds, rice fields browning in the sun and under overhanging bamboo trees creaking in the wind. The land lay expectantly for the rains like a virgin anxiously awaiting the night of the nuptials.

When they reached the small shrine of the goddess, Nyoman swept the area in front of the shrine of dried leaves and chicken feathers (remnants of previous offerings). Useless at the bidding of Made washed his face and hands in the small spring. Made then poured spring water into a glass and gave it to him to drink. “You take this and sit quietly. Take all bad feeling you have and throw away. Don’t keep them,” he said in a whisper as if not to disturb the deity. Useless drank the sour tasting water like the wine he had sipped while serving mass at the Carmelite Chapel in Calcutta. The water tingled on his skin and in his mouth. He felt a sudden urge to weep. And he wept uncontrollably. He remembered that the festival of lights. Diwali, would be celebrated on October 27th by his son, once again without him. The Laxmi Puja, the silver coins on Paan leaves and the colourful sweets were now ethereal images. He could not smell, feel or touch them anymore. He could only dream them. The past had become the future continuous. Tomorrow would never come in this lifetime.

“Useless it is good to cry. If you don’t you will carry all the sorrow in your heart and it will kill you one day. What you want from life? Tell me now so that when we begin to place offering before the goddess I will speak on your behalf in Balinese,” he said with his hand on Useless’s shoulder.

Then they sat down in front of the shrine. Made handed Useless a Sok Kasi (a woven square basket filled with fruit, Bukakak Siap Pangang (a specially prepared chicken), flowers and burning incense sticks and told him to place it on the altar. After he had done this, he sat cross legged beside Made who began to chant a haunting prayer to the goddess asking her to favour him. The urgency in his voice, the folded hands, the gurgling of the spring and the intermittent thumping sound of ripened cashew fruit dropping to the ground from the surrounding fruit trees cast a comforting cloak over Useless. Ever so gently the goddess had touched his soul. He felt comforted by the gentleness that permeated the air around him. Shakti slowly began creeping into his sinews.

“Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om”, sang Made as he ended his prayer for Useless.

Then he got up and threw spring water over Useless and placed flowers from the offering on his head. The spiritual encounter had ended for he could feel the goddess departing from him leaving behind the beginnings of kindness, love and forgiveness.

Made, Nyoman and Useless sat on the nearby Bale and ate the chicken, fruit and sticky rice in silence.

After the ‘feast’, Nyoman disappeared into the trees and returned with a handful of sweet, succulent cashew fruit and gave it to Useless to eat. He sucked on them reminiscing of Goa and the foul smelling highly potent Fenny (liquor) that is made from this luscious fruit.

As the sun set and shadows emerged from the enveloping darkness the three men returned to the vehicle.

That night , when Useless sat beside the infinity swimming pool gazing out at the full moon cleansing the sea in its silvery light he felt the goddess of Toye Masem pass through him. He was not afraid for he knew then that the path of his life had finally changed course to the sublimity of loneliness..

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti om

Am I my father’s son?

“He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened” – Lao Tzu.

I dedicate this column to my father, Noel Eric, a dashing flying instructor and big game hunter in the 1950s. In his twilight years he made peace with Nature and his Gods. However, he overlooked the need to show his son how to navigate the blind turns in life, booby trapped with unfulfilled longings, remembrances and misconceptions.

This year would have been my twenty forth wedding anniversary. Sadly it is not for I was divorced four years ago. What went wrong after all those years of sharing one’s life with a fabulous woman? This question has haunted me in the ensuing solitary years on the road, while I have been writing for posterity the dreams of others lost in life. The recurring nightmare had infiltrated three affairs which, in truth, ended on the very day they began.

Am I a loser? Do I blame this on the collision of cultures or shifting values of society for failing this individual? The answer was yes until I met an enlightened writer from Byron Bay, Alan Close, at Napi Orti, a reggae bar on Jalan Monkey Forest to confabulate on why so many men are unsuccessful in relationships.

Alan Close is the author of: The Romance of the Season (1989); The Australian Love Letters (Dramatized biography of Raymond Chandler, 1995); An anthology of short stories, Men Love Sex (1995); And the latest book, Before You Met Me – a memoir of one man’s troubled search for love (2008). He has also written for newspapers on men’s issues and has recently conducted a writing retreat in Ubud – Writing and yoga Interplay.

The conversation that transpired with Alan was a series of revelations that kicked one in the solar plexus and knocked all preconceived notions on how relationships work and why they fail so often. He began the evening encounter with a quote from Carl Jung –

“What isn’t said in a family home sinks into s child’s bones like a poisonous viper”. In essence it means that children learn what their parents aren’t saying to each other and that becomes their lesson on how to live.

“We choose a partner who embodies the part of ourselves that we disown and we want to be made whole by this person and yet no other person can make us whole. So we very quickly grow to resent the very thing we are attracted to,” said Alan.

Apparently in Australia nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. The children invariably end up staying with their mother. According to Alan, these are some of the contributing factors:

-We have lost the gentle art of putting our own needs second.

-We abandon the rules of marriage and instead are left to our own devices and therefore without rules it is difficult as most people do not possess the awareness and self responsibility.

-Usually women put their needs second. This normally works but it makes them lead unhappy and unsatisfied lives.

-It takes men to acknowledge that women need fulfillment…by doing things both ways.

-We’ve lost the subtle art of accepting people for who they are. Men want women to be different and vice versa.

-And is fidelity an issue? Yes, men need the license to ‘feel’ the freedom to roam socially and not be trapped. Women are scared that if men don’t do things the women’s way they will automatically want to leave them.

In the 1970s, the rise of bra burning women libers reflected the need of the hour. The familiar chants still resonate throughout the feminine world; All men are bastards; All decent men are married or gay: I wanted to have a child (sob!) not marry one!

The 40 plus white women in particular were the first generation of feminism and they had to fight hard battles to gain choices – the pill, control over fertility, and abortion. Individual men bore the brunt for the crimes of their forefathers. The attitude of these women is based on the assumption that men don’t know how to be adult.

In his latest book, Before You Met Me…, Alan has attempted to understand why he was always in distress in relationships. He had to unravel his assumptions and this he did by retracing his life back to his family, recalling his childhood and how his parents related to each other.

“My father was a pacifist, my mother domineering, angry and frustrated. This is what I knew as ‘normal’ so when I grew up I put myself in such relationships. I didn’t know how to ask for what I needed. I probably choose women who didn’t know how to hear a man ask for what he needed. I took to writing as a cure. It has taken me ten years to arrive at where I am today – in a healthy, stable and fulfilling relationship. The truth is women know how to do relationships and men don’t”.

On hearing the last sentence one can’t help but recollect the many ‘arranged’ marriages in India. How these men and women have ‘accepted’ each other’s frailties and have striven to create a life of comparative contentment.

So how does one make a relationship work? Here are a few pointers from Alan Close.

-Respect for each other.

-Both parties must be committed to examining and unraveling their expectations and assumptions, especially those that disempowers either themselves or their partners.

The complex simplicity of relationships has befuddled me. Alan’s analysis of relationships and suggestions based on his personal life, in some way, irons out the creases in one’s perceptions of how a relationship should be conducted to ensure a significant, lasting continuance.

There have been moments in the past when one has been accused of being too passionate, too intense, of living on the edge of sanity, thereby overwhelming a partner and searing her life with fiery emotions. Is this a manifestation of my childhood impressions of my parents’ relationship? According to Alan, who is privy to a glimpse of my personal shenanigans, it is apparent that I am my father’s son for my father was precisely this and my mother, a docile, gentle loving woman.

So where does one go from here? How does one reinvent the wheel?

Maybe a way out of the cul-de-sac of egocentricities and warped inheritances is to follow in Alan’s footsteps by beginning to purposefully unravel the past and to reshape oneself on the ‘potter’s wheel of failed relationships’.

This could be successfully attempted, I suppose, provided one embarks on this mind bending adventure with the premise echoed in the words of the Greek philosopher, Socrates – “I know that I know nothing”.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om