Saturday, April 04, 2009

Diplomatic Dipsomania

Well, it would seem that there are just a few days left to go before this whole election circus comes to an end. The Indonesian electorate will soon be sallying forth to their neighborhood polling stations and placing ticks on ballot papers so large you could go camping under them. We'll then be able to resume our lives unburdened by campaign rally induced traffic jams and the looming faces of human rights violators and war criminals beaming down at us from 10 foot high billboards.

The newly elected politicians will then enter Parliament, sign the attendance register for the first (and last) time and make a sharp beeline for the exit before debates begin in order to get on with the serious business of fleecing the country. It's nice to see a healthy thriving democracy. "Get back in the knife drawer you're too sharp to live," I hear you complain although I think I should stress that I don't currently consider most Western democracies to be much of an improvement.

Perhaps things will get better for the country's great unwashed after the election, but what with the world facing its first ever decline in global output since World War II, I wouldn't put any money on it (or in the bank either, stuff it under the mattress is my advice). President SBY’s Democratic Party look set for an enjoyable week ahead though and I must say that I’m immensely looking forward to seeing both Yusaf Kalla and Megawati scowling into the cameras come April 10th.

However, let's leave the oppressed proletariat for a moment comrades. Allow me to instead elucidate on my first ever diplomatic function, an event that I was lucky enough to attend last Monday. The fiancée of a workmate of mine is in the gainful employ of the US embassy here in Jakarta and it was with some trepidation that I thus found myself accompanying the both of them to an informal dinner being held in honor of the new US press attaché.

After donning my crispest slacks and cleanest and most starched Sponge Bob Y fronts, my companions and I gaily sashayed up to the luxury Menteng apartment complex that was hosting the function. "This is it," I thought, "I've finally arrived at the top table!" My big chance to schmooze in rarefied diplomatic circles had come at last. The event proved to be a delightfully informal affair and I didn't spy any menacing American security muscle sporting black suits, buzz cuts and Aviator shades. The American Embassy bigwigs were even wearing batik shirts and the relaxed ambience generally seemed to reflect the post-Bush/hail Obama detente that has materialized after years of tension between the US pretty much the rest of the world to be honest.

In order to celebrate this new spirit of pan global cooperation, I immediately dove into a large gin and tonic and a huge plate of Thai food. After several more G and Ts it was time to ask our American diplomat hosts the big question, namely, "When the hell is Obama coming to town?" alas, no definite answer was proffered but I have high hopes that Mr. O will soon return to his old stomping ground of Menteng and deliver his JFK, "Ich bin ein Berliner" (I am a sausage) address to the Indonesian public. What would the Indonesian equivalent be I wonder? Aku setusuk sate? I would just love to see our man cracking a few bottles of Bintang and enjoying a some dangdut numbers but perhaps such behavior doesn't befit the dignity of America's head of state.

After more gin and tonics (alas, I drink to forget, Indonesians on the other hand generally forget to drink, which is probably a more healthy approach to life) I tried my hand at a bit of socializing. I met the lady who had put Hillary Clinton on an Indonesian chat show during her visit. I also met a local veiled embassy employee who revealed her great love of Formula One and Arsenal football club to me. Clearly this was a woman after my own heart although I'm not sure how this love of such anti-American sports goes down with her employers.

I was also introduced to a highflying young diplomat and Oxford graduate (just like old Slick Willie Clinton himself) who could talk the skin off a rice pudding. The presidency beckons for this young blade without a doubt. Finally, I was introduced to an Indonesian journalist who stroked his chin and said “Ahhh, you’re that horrible chap who writes that Metro Madness stuff”. “You’re obviously confusing me with me idiot brother Simon,” I explained, shaking his hand vigorously, “Wilberforce Pitchforth’s the name…”

It was clearly time to make tracks. The gin and tonics were beginning to take their toll and, not having attended finishing school in the Sorbonne, I decided to leave lest I cause some ghastly diplomatic incident involving a half bottle of Bacardi and a box of matches. I doubt very much that I'll be able to climb so high up the greasy social poll of movers and shakers this coming week however I promise that I shall return next weekend... provided that the CIA don't get to me first.