Paradox in Paradise – Watch this Video

Beauty cannot exist without ugliness
Therefore paradise cannot be free of paradoxes
The truth is that wherever we may be
Paradise will always be somewhere else
Regret the sound quality 🙂
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om Presentation by Mark Ulyseas of his photographs on Pecha Kucha Nite for Haiti at Gaya Art Gallery, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. Part of 200 cities worldwide – live streaming of event. 2010. Soundtrack Copyright Saavn LLC

Wake up and smell the Kopi Bali !

An open letter to the Governor of Bali, I Made Mangku Pastika

Om Swastiastu Bapak Pastika,

Why is Bali, the island of the Gods, on sale?

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.

01. Education

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.

02. Employment

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.

03. Health

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.

The continuing Rabies  problem that has killed over a hundred Balinese has yet to be brought under control.

And latest reports reveal that Bird Flu is on its way back to haunt the island.

04. Agriculture

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?

05. Environment

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.

06. Yayasans

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?

07. Infrastructure

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.

08. Property Development

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’.

09. Banjar/Desa Adat

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.

10. Hinduism

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.

  1. Electricity comes from Java.
  2. The Pornography Law 2008 applies to Bali, too, in spite of the resistance put up by Bali’s politicians.
  3. 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

Thank you Ubud Polisi Bali !

Thank you Ubud Polisi, Bali, for apprehending the thieves who burgled my home in Ubud in April 2010.
And thank you for recovering my laptop that contains my writing and photographs of the last five years.

I must also add a grateful handshake to The Bali Times for publishing my letter about the theft.

Unsolicited advice to all ‘visitors/long stay folk’ – you must register a written complaint with the Bali Polisi if your things are stolen. And make sure you keep the written acknowledgment of your complaint that the Bali Polisi gives you.

Matur Suksama

Merry Christmas!

fishHow many graves of innocents will be dug on Christmas Day?

Christmas has come again

Trudging along through the rain

Wiping its bloody feet

In the Nativity scene

Hypocrites and Gentiles

Gather around to pray

To the rhythm of the bells

That are tolling for the dead

Mothers are gone

Fathers are gone

While children genuflect

Knee deep in the graves

Why is Christmas as it is?

When all we have is this

Killing, raping, pillaging for God

And putting a price on sin

Merry Christmas to our brothers and sisters in Blood.

Remembering the Dead at Christmas.

flower(For Raghubir Prasad, Helen Yeats, William Harding, Dolores Gonsalves, Noel Eric and Theodora).

Merry Christmas to all those dead people who were an integral part of our growing up years; who made past Christmases memorable with their culinary delights, laughter, clinking of wine glasses, warm hugs, messy kisses, smudged rouge lined faces and a happiness far removed from hatred, angst and pain.

Carols sung by family and friends, the Christmas tree blinking in the corner with colorful glittering presents piled at its base ready to be opened by breathless children wearing new clothes and smelling of the sweet joys of Yuletide – all these pictures fading into sepia remain, thankfully, indelible images of the dead who now celebrate Christmas elsewhere!

Let us pause for a moment, fold our hands and send kisses of love to the dead.

Let us embrace in our minds and hearts the remembrances of a time when simple pleasures were greater than wants; when sharing, family and belief were sacrosanct. And then when we sit down to Christmas lunch or dinner or whatever let us talk about them as if they are present.

This is a time for love, peace and happiness. Most often we crave for material things during this festive season – family and other loved ones being together, partaking of forgiveness, devoid of deceit and filled with delightful oneness.

This year we must include our dead and invite them into our homes by hanging their photographs on the Christmas tree along with the bells, stars and angels; And sing hymns with them in our hearts with love and respect.

Those ‘alive’ today will be dead on the ‘morrow’ for the cycle of Life never stops; it’s unrelenting except for Christmas, which is the vestibule that connects the two worlds of living and the dead. It gives us an opportunity to reach out and be touched by the dead who had nurtured our minds and bodies. What we have done with this nurturing is for the dead to decide.

Merry Christmas to all the dead and let the warmth of this season of passion and revelry prevail for ever and ever. Amen.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om

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