Sunday, October 05, 2008

Ego, Superego, Eid.

Well, the holiday season is finally upon us and not a moment too soon. As the globe turns to fiscal custard before our eyes I think we could all do with a few days of laughing, feasting and well earned breaking before the coming decade-long depression.

Perhaps this timely coincidence of religious ritual and capitalist free market meltdown has been pre-ordained by God himself in his greatness. If one can interpret tsunamis and earthquakes as divinely ordained punishment then why can’t global financial crises also be congruent with the Lord’s anger? Maybe Allah's on my side after all and is signaling his displeasure at the values of greed, over consumption and general pursuit of wealth forgetting all but self that our money obsessed generation have internalized.

Yes, maybe the Lord above yearns for a more egalitarian society too. Certainly ideas of financial fairness and a disdain for interest on loans and usury can be found in the holy texts. However this notion, as with so many other ostensibly moral religious ideas and precepts, has been subsequently evacuated of meaning and turned into the hollow hypocrisy of the Sharia banking system under which interest is simply renamed and re-categorized as service charges and the like.

If God wishes a more socially responsible and equitable society though he'll be waiting until the second coming (actually I may be getting my religions mixed up here). This week saw far right Republican freaks voting against Bush's bailout package on the grounds that it represented the first step towards some kind of left wing, socialist nationalization program.

The reality surely is that the transfer of hundreds of billions of dollars of public money into the avaricious mitts of private financiers with very few preconditions attached will only serve to bolster the inherent instability of our so-called advanced free market, roulette wheel of a system.

If any good comes out of this whole sorry bailout debacle it will be the public finally seeing that the emperor is wearing no clothes, seeing that the way our banking system socializes debt and privatizes profit is supremely undemocratic.

It’s a system that has now failed and just maybe the champagne swigging financial speculators will become similar objects of public derision and hatred as commies were in the West during the last century.

Can new political movements emerge from the rubble though or is our society just too atomized and technologically sedated to get its collective sh*t together?

Enough of the banking sector though. As the Idul Fitri holiday draws to a close its time to reflect and meditate upon the good that life has brought us. And if some poor Pembantu (maid) toiling away in Jakarta for a pittance can squeeze herself through a 2 1/2 inch gap in a train window and suffer temperatures approaching that of the core of Venus for 15 hours as she slowly travels back to central Java to visit a family that she only gets to see once every six months and can give thanks for the experience then I think we can all be jolly grateful for our lot in life. "At least I haven't got a mortgage," she is probably thinking to herself.

But enough of the preachy sermonizing. Perhaps I should feel lucky…unfortunately I don't particularly. However, I am willing to give unbridled thanks to the creator for blessing me with the bottle of vodka that sits in front of me right now. Admittedly it didn't descend from the heavens and I had to go and purloin my magic Aqua from a shop in Kemang, but perhaps it was divine guidance that led me there.

Jakarta has been blissfully empty this Idul Fitri of course, as it is every year. I say blissfully although in fact it's not that much fun seeing as so much is closed.

The idea of the Mudik (annual exodus home) is an interesting one though. I already discussed the treadmill of fasting and gluttony that takes hold here during Ramadan a couple of weeks ago in MM. After reading my scabrous and potentially blasphemous analysis, a friend told me that, in fact, death rates rise here during Ramadan as the cycle of fasting and scoffing takes its toll on the old and weak.

That's nothing though compared with some of these marathon journeys back to home villages. Car pileups, marathon overloaded motor scooter journeys, train carriages so full that passengers can't even fight their way to the toilet during the 20 hour trip, buses plunging into ravines, airport cancellations. These are Homeric odysseys of stamina and endurance. It can be no surprise that, once home, these weary travelers can't face the return journey to Jakarta for up to a fortnight later.

Anyway, happy New Year everyone. I'm off to clean the kitchen myself, what with the maid gone, impressive huh?