Friday, July 24, 2009

Brunch Crunch

I thought that I'd have a fun filled saunter down to the world's latest Ground Zero site last weekend. It's all been such a shame seeing as the country had seemed to be in its best shape for over a decade after weathering the global bust amazingly well and peacefully re-electing a president. Tasteless gags about Man. City supporters being responsible aside, the fact that the Islamo-fascists have absolutely no general support in the country only goes to highlight the fact that it only takes one or two shiny eyed, brainwashed loons to cause such tragedies.

One of the very first Jakarta columns that I ever wrote was filed from a holiday that I was taking back home in London. After being in Indonesia for the Bali bombs, the 7/7 tube bombings occurred during my trip (actually I hope there’s no connection and that terrorists haven’t secretly been pursuing me around the world all these years). Anyway, at that time, even the paranoid Big Brother surveillance camera society that the UK has become couldn't prevent the attacks and so perhaps we shouldn't be too critical of Jakarta's security. As the IRA said after trying to blow up the British cabinet in Brighton in 1984, the security forces have to be lucky all the time whereas they only have to be lucky once. Fundamentalist terror is a world problem now and I think everybody accepts that.

On the other hand though, I've become convinced that the various security gates that I pass through in Jakarta have been set to go off when they don't detect something rather than when they do, so often have I been waved through after sounding the alarm.
"On your way Mr."
"Er... but your machine just went beep didn't it?"
"No, that's okay Sir."
"But I may have packed my shoes with Semtex like shoe bomber Richard Reid. I may have prosthetic metal buttocks filled with TNT. Aren't you even going to slap on a pair of rubber gloves and..."

Security has been stepped up a few notches again in the wake of the latest bombings of course. On the Sunday after the attacks, one hotel security guard frisked me so thoroughly that I thought we’d end up checking into a room together. Thankfully he didn’t find the old hip flask though…

Down at the Ritz/Marriott Ground Zero last Monday, it was all go. TV crews filmed reports and scores of policemen lined the Mega Kuningan circle. Plenty of local sightseers were also present, some took pictures of the blown out windows of the Ritz Carlton's Airlangga restaurant, a place where I'm sure more than a few of you have pigged out before. Others left floral tributes saying things like, "You don't scare us, you only make us stronger". As I surveyed the scene, a smiling local grabbed me for the obligatory, "Hello Mr." grinning photograph set against the backdrop of the shattered windows, which I explained to the poor fellow was a bit weird of him.

Further round the far side of the Ritz, an American Fox News reporter with the regulation big hair and retina singeing lip gloss was speaking earnestly into her microphone, endlessly retaking her minute long report: "The question remains as to why the bombers chose a restaurant where American businessmen were having a meeting." Hmmm, perhaps she'd been living in a cave for the past decade.

Regrettably, alongside the victims of course, two toothsome Sunday brunches have been taken off the Jakarta menu for the time being. Perhaps that was one of the bombers' intentions. The recalcitrant stain of terror that lingers on the fabric of the modern world is essentially Puritan in character and decadence in all its forms, be it sexual or even gastronomical, is its enemy. As HL Mencken once said, "Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere is having a good time."

The ball is clearly in SBY's court now. With his strengthened mandate he shouldn't be so inscrutably coy about dismantling the unconstitutional sharia-ization that has besieged various Indonesian provinces. Such religious favouritism only breeds intolerance and the kind of obdurate mindset that makes it easier for prime bombing suspect and public enemy number one, Noordin "Head Voices" Top, to recruit and brainwash more suicide murderers.

The sun set over Mega Kuningan and I headed home. Switching on the computer, I found various ‘Tweets’ and ‘Status Updates’ condemning the bombers to hell. Fundamentalist or moderate, a belief in hell is the hallmark of those of faith that most baffles me. The contradictions inherent in the concept of eternal hellfire are hard to resolve, from the sign above Dante's hell that says, "This place was created by eternal love," to Thomas Aquinas saying that among the chief pleasures of heaven will be the opportunity to watch and enjoy the torments of the damned in hell (and in the meantime we live in faith and humility). Is this really what spiritual enlightenment is about?

Well, I seem to have strayed into my familiar infidel territory but that's what having to make my own brunch will drive me to. I'll see you in hell…erm…I mean Hero.