Sunday, January 04, 2009

Fungal Frolics

Spurning Jakarta’s cardboard buglers and Dionysian-vodka-and-Red Bull-fueled New Year’s Eve parties, I ventured forth to Lombok’s Gili islands over the holidays, determined to see out 2008 set adrift from the capital’s urban war zone.

Lion Air eventually managed to slingshot me over Java and Bali after a two hour delay, although I’ll probably get sued by the airline for such slander. Lion Air flights are no longer “delayed” you see, but “retimed.” There’s little that one can do to counter such forces of Orwellian corporate speak, although I did consider standing on my seat, urinating into one of the overhead storage bins and announcing to the stewardess that my visit to the toilet had been “relocated due to adverse tissue conditions.”

After a 90-minute boat journey I found myself on Gili Trawangan, the largest of the Gili islands, mixing with a cosmopolitan selection of fastidious divers, rotund tourists and bronzed local Bob Marley enthusiasts intent on selling magic mushrooms to passersby.

I entered a bamboo bar, ordered up a local gut-rot cocktail and reflected a little on 2008 and on the collapsed finances and deflated economic hubris that promise to make 2009 so much fun.
What’s it all about, huh? We’ve built our muscular system of greed and consumption and paved our road to success with heads, but are we any happier for it?

Do we believe that we’ve discovered a more authentic human experience in all of this, toasting our material wealth whilst gulping down antidepressants by the truckload? Has the notion of a life lived for its aesthetic and intellectual riches been buried under late capital’s avalanche?

When I get in these fin de siecle moods (invariably on New Year’s Eve and despite the fact that it’s already eight years into the new century) I like nothing better than to tuck into a glass of Psilocybin Al Fungi and set sail into the sunset.

The ancient wisdom of the Gaian biosphere was blended up with some pineapple juice for me by a long-haired, tattooed Sasak gentleman who was clearly hoping that I’d become too smashed to remember how many beers I’d drunk.

After a while the massive Mount Rinjani darkened as the sun plummeted below the horizon in a mist of pink. I briefly became convinced that I could see the late Ibu Tien Suharto playing Frisbee with an ocelot on the beach and knew that the ride had begun. I felt like I’d sipped nectar from the cocktail glass of the Gods. Forget imported booze, I say. Keep those containers impounded at Tanjung Priok Port.

Who needs the numbing alcoholic throb of social conviviality when you can be whisked around the galaxy by hyper dimensional beings from the planet Arturus before being safely plopped back down on a bar stool hours later.

After traversing light years of interstellar space the problems of the world’s largest archipelago didn’t seem so intractable after all. There’s nothing like a good few hours musing on the fact that we’re all one giant consciousness experiencing itself subjectively to put domestic issues in perspective.

Admittedly, it hasn’t been much of a “we are all brothers and sisters” year over here. Gus Dur, that most Buddhist of Muslims, noted as much when he said recently, “I hope that next year our politicians pay more attention to issues that threaten our heritage of pluralism.” The new antipornography law and severe restrictions placed on the Ahmadiyah sect have definitely put tolerance and human rights on the back foot here. It’s all rather a shame really as I’ll now have to put my plans to establish a breast worshiping cult in the jungles of Borneo on indefinite hold.

Still, on the positive side, at least top corruptors are starting to get banged up in jail. Also, democracy has been consolidated here through the abolition of the priority list of candidates set by political parties. The number of votes cast is now, as it should be, the only criteria involved in securing a parliamentary seat. That bodes well for this year’s election, provided of course that it’s actually fought on substantive issues this time.

And so the financial black hole of 2009 has landed on our doormat like an account overdrawn letter from a particularly nasty bank manager. We’re all just going to have to tighten our belts, batten down the hatches and eat Indomie three times a day from now on. Also, if you’re a maid or a bajaj driver you should consider diversifying your investments so that you have a mix of stocks, bonds and cash and don’t look for big returns during the slump. Good luck with riding out 2009 dear readers and if all else fails, simply burying your head in the sand and pretending that the recession isn’t happening should help a lot. Happy New Year.