Om Swastiastu Bapak Pastika,
Why is it being desecrated by unbridled mindless development?
Has Bali lost its way in the maze of international trade and commerce; Or has the ethics of a vibrant ethos been put on sale to the highest bidder/s ?
Every sphere of island life, including the environment, has been infiltrated and contaminated by the pawning of family heirlooms, all for a dollar. And in this disgraceful gold rush, the majority of ordinary Balinese have been ‘overlooked’.
Here is a brief survey of Bali today.
School children must buy their textbooks from their teacher.
There is no standardization of textbooks.
In government schools tuition fees are waived for all students till Class 6. But the overheads like uniform books etc. have to be paid for.
Many children drop out after Class 9 (on completing SMP) because their families cannot afford to pay the tuition fees etc. for Classes 10 onwards (SMA). One can see them working in warungs and other businesses at the bottom rung of the workforce.
Unsubstantiated reports reveal that Bali has a shortfall of 9,000 teachers for the Balinese language and Hindu religion.
The minimum wage is often not paid to thousands of Balinese workers. And interestingly the majority of their employers are ‘Indonesian’.
Basic costs like the increase in price of cooking gas and food grains etc., has created a piquant situation whereby workers are now spending a higher percentage of their earnings on food; Added to this is the stark reality that the basic minimum wage (US$ 73.66 to 86.56) is not paid by many commercial establishments in Bali even though there is an existing Law. Many employers in the Tourist industry pay around US$ 40 – 60 and sometimes add ‘food’ as a perk.
Free health service is for a minority. Many Balinese on the lower rung of the ‘social’ ladder have to make do with the ‘local’ doctor. Clean drinking water and basic hygiene is lacking in many rural areas. This has resulted in skin diseases and even leprosy. Furthermore, the burgeoning tourist industry has directly contributed to the increase in HIV/AIDS on the island. In the documentary Cowboysinparadise unprotected sex appears to be the rule rather then the exception.
Subsistence rice/other farmers are starving. Suicides are believed to be common. Their land is slowly being ‘sold/mortgaged’ for villas of vanity. And yet there is no one to help them. They pay water charges to the Subak Authority, the government taxes them and the Banjar takes a slice of the harvest. Who protects the farmer?
Garbage appears to be a problem. Media reports continue to spew out data of the seriousness of the problem including skin diseases, breathing problems, eye and stomach infections and contamination of food etc.
The cutting of trees has caused denudation resulting in the rise in surface temperature, depletion of natural water sources and contamination of underground water.
Plastic and other waste are thrown into sacred rivers, into the sea and/or simply discarded by the roadside. The ubiquitous plastic bottle is now a tourist attraction. The Balinese have become so lazy that they don’t even remove the cellophane packing on sweets before offering the same to the Gods. In this way through religious acts tons of garbage is produced.
All supermarkets and other outlets are promotional centers for the use of plastic bags.
Great business and an easy way to deflect cash to ‘other’ projects. Yayasans are proliferating in Bali like cancerous growths. Many have been set up merely to ‘earn’ money and not to provide charity service to the less fortunates. Who checks these NGOs and audits their accounts? Is there a Freedom of Information Act that helps a citizen to view their accounts and activities? Or, is this area (Yayasans) reserved for a privileged few who have the ‘right’ connections?
Congratulations soon Bali will have another airport, rail system, a South-North highway…so even more tourists can travel comfortably across the isle. As for the Balinese, no problem they can give their under age children motorbikes to ride to school; many of whom die under the wheels of vehicles, but who cares? The dollar is most important not the lives and welfare of the citizens.
The property market in Bali is infested with carpetbaggers who hawk land in Bali any which way. Their offices dot the isle like fleas on a dog’s back. They have seduced the Balinese with money and surreptitious deals which has resulted in unplanned, rampaging construction across the isle which interferes with the Subak system, does not adhere to the basic concepts of Asta Kosala Kosali (Balinese architectural code). More importantly the age old Balinese rule that did not allow any building to be built taller then the nearest coconut tree in the area has been dispensed with.
Of course you are aware of the now defunct international hotel that was being built at Padangbai where the whole face of a seafront hill was cut away destroying the ecosystem in the area: and the new Korean project that appears to be coming up in Karangasem (part of the property is in a ‘protected green zone’) !
The ownership of properties, the power of attorney and other twisted land deals are often given protection by Heads of the local community. So no ‘honest’ government officer dares ‘investigate’.
The Banjar system and the Desa Adat have failed miserably in containing the rapid dilution of Balinese culture. Very soon Balinese ceremonies will be reduced to theatricals devoid of any spirituality.
The dollar has infiltrated Balinese communities where women vie with one another to spend enormous sums (often borrowed or obtained from sale of land) on offerings (with expensive imported fruit), costly kebayas; while children race around on new motorcycles and/or fiddle with the latest brand of handphone (they too need to keep up with their friends).
The Balinese language as we know it is going out of fashion. It is not cool to speak Balinese. Bahasa Indonesian ‘Jakarta’ street jargon is ‘in’.
The Balinese ‘joint’ family compound/unit is being torn asunder by consumerism. Young married couples are now frequently setting up home away from these units. Apparently they want their privacy and do not want to share their personal wealth with the extended family.
It is said that the Javanese sell Bakso to buy land and the Balinese sell land to buy Bakso.
Balinese Hinduism has survived the Dutch, Japanese, Sukarno, Suharto regimes and the horrible terrorists attacks. However, there appears to be an insidious attempt to ‘short circuit’ the Hindu ethos of the isle through the continued process of purchase of land by ‘other’ Indonesians who bring with them their own brand of Islam. The mushrooming of mosques in the West of Bali towards the North, Gilimanuk, the growing number of Muslims flooding the isle, many illegally working in Bali is cause for concern. Now I am not suggesting a communal approach but consider this – If the Balinese continue to be at the receiving end of tourism then they will have to pay the price which is dilution of a culture, infiltration by non-Balinese into all aspects of life on the isle (if this has not happened already) and being relegated to second class citizens.
And this can happen because Bali does not have a say in Jakarta.
- Electricity comes from Java.
- The Pornography Law 2008 applies to Bali, too, in spite of the resistance put up by Bali’s politicians.
- And more importantly a large part of Bali’s revenue goes to Jakarta.
The future existence/survival of the vibrant ethos of Hindu Bali is at stake here and who will come forward to protect it?
And will Bali continue to prostitute itself for the sake of the greater good of Indonesia?
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om