Sunday, December 23, 2007

What's Another Year

The holiday season is upon us and this year there's double fun to be had as the coincidence of Christmas and the Muslim holiday of Idul Adha gives all of us a chance for a nice break. Alas, in our house, the absence of traditional Christmas aromas such as mulled wine and turkey stuffing has been complemented by the pungent aroma of cattle and goat dung wafting across from the nearby market as the livestock are fattened up ready for the ritual slaughter. Mind you, in the West, a lot of turkeys will also be buying the farm about now.

And so another 12 months limps dejectedly to a close and the joys of 2008 will soon be upon us. What delights will be in store for us this year I wonder? An increasing series of environmental disasters perhaps? Further attacks on science by the forces of religious atavism? The rich/poor gap widening a bit further possibly? A bird flu pandemic that decimates the world? The further disintegration of our cultural heritage into five second attention spans soundbites and online social networking flotsam? Maybe there'll be an all-out, internecine Sunni/Shia war in the Middle East and if we're really lucky, Iran will build their Shia bomb to match Pakistan's Sunni nukes, and we'll all go up in a puff of isotopes. Er... okay sorry, I'll stop now. 'Tis the season to be merry and all that.

I trust that most of you have managed to escape the city, if only for a day or two, and are currently soaking up the sun somewhere gorgeous. As a Jakarta resident you owe it to yourself. So that was 2007 hey? Another fine year in Jakarta, Indonesia. We've had biblical floods in the capital, plane crashes, new busways causing chaos, a new governor elected and a climate change conference. The year has also just been rounded off by Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare, Mr. Bakrie, being declared the country's richest man. Although he's not rich enough, it would seem, to yet compensate victims of his company's mudflow disaster in central Java. Ho-hum, business as usual then.

But the negative nature of the newspaper headline and the TV bulletin is very much the nature of the news culture beast. The happy stuff comes at a more personal level. This year, I've managed to see more of Indonesia's stunning scenery by visiting Borneo and Sumatra. I've enjoyed lots of good food, quaffed some fine beverages, indulged in some hot lovin' and generally made hay while the sun shines.

I trust that many of you have also laughed in the face of world and national events and can tell tales of personal endeavor, victories both small and large, marriages, new friendships, sexual athleticism, interesting holidays and monumental hangovers. Suddenly life doesn't seem so bad ay?

Hopefully there'll be more room for fun and self-improvement next year. I've never been one for New Year's resolutions however. Most people who make them seem to regress from their good intentions and lapse back into old habits by about January the 11th. With this in mind, I managed to dig out a few quotes from the literary greats regarding the false light of optimism that beams around the planet at the dawn of the New Year.

Mark Twain once said that, "New Year's is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls and humbug resolutions." A bit of drunken promiscuity once in awhile is no bad thing I reckon but each to his own. Back across the Atlantic, good old Oscar Wilde said of New Year that, "Good resolutions are simply cheques that men draw on a bank where they have no account." Very witty Oscar.

Back to the present day, that incorrigible and still very much alive old goat P. J. O'Rourke once said that, “The proper behavior all through the holiday season is to be drunk; this drunkenness culminates on New Year's Eve when you get so drunk you kiss the person you're married to." The final word, however, goes to the less well-known 19th-century English diarist and critic James Agate, who once said that his New Year's resolution was, "To tolerate fools more gladly, provided this does not encourage them to take up more of my time."

Happy holidays one and all.