Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Filth and the Fury

Well lot of people seem to be getting so hot under the collar about life's more erotic side at the moment in Indonesia that it is perhaps a good thing that we've been having such a lot of unseasonable rain this year in order to cool the general population's amorous ardor or purple faced religious indignation, whichever side of the fence they reside on. We've had the home made porn of the stars recently, along with a rash of Busway gropings (if that is indeed the right collective noun), statues of women being torn down by Muslims and teachers checking students phones for smut.

And above this whole moral morass of fleshly lust sits the Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Tifatul Sembiring. A member of the conservative Islamic Prosperous Justice Party, Mr. Sembiring reckons he can stem the tsunami of Internet filth that has swept the world in a mere two months. In this, I believe, he has set himself an impossible task and will end up looking like King Canute himself (or some near anagram of that name at any rate).

Far be it from me to suggest though that all of this through the keyhole, curtain twitching, thigh wobbling titillation dressed up in the burka of outrage and scandal is a diversionary tactic to try and distract the public from continued rampant corruption. No Siree Bob, not me, there's no connection there at all, and you'd be a subversive and an atheist to even suggest such a thing.

Nevertheless, I thought I'd try and take Jakarta's erotic temperature this week though and so first headed out on the TransJakarta Busway in the hope that someone would give me damned good groping, or a gentle fondling at the very least. A plan to segregate the genders on the buses and in the bus stops has failed already, however uniformed anti-grope officers are apparently being deployed on the system.

I boarded a bus traveling the Kuningan-Ragunan Busway corridor and was immediately almost groped roughly by the badly designed automated rear door, which has the ability to flatten one against the glass partitions on the bus like a mosquito against a car windscreen. I surveyed my fellow passengers. Who were the most likely gropers? It was hard to tell by just looking. I mean it's always the quiet ones isn't it?

Rubbing and frotting are not the only problems though. Mobile phone cameras have spawned a new global phenomenon, namely the cheeky up skirt shot. Apparently, in Japan, the problem is so bad that all new mobile phones are required to make a sound when a photo is taken and the sound cannot be switched off, thus acting as a warning to potential up skirt victims. Well, what do you expect from a country that has vending machines selling used knickers?

The Busway stops now feature signs indicating separate waiting areas for both men and women, although everyone seemed to be ignoring them. A poster proclaimed, "I like Jakarta clean" however this was a literal, rather than a moral, affirmation. 

I disembarked from the TransJakarta and went in search of some DVDs and what do you know? Before too long, I was being proffered plastic bags full of quintuple X-strength movies, accompanied by a sly wink from the vendor. Old Mr. Sembiring may be trying to clamp down on the Internet naughties but Jakartans are vociferous consumers of pirated DVD pornography. Stemming the sleaze tsunami is seemingly impossible. We live in the postmodern, hyper real world of infinitely reproducible images, the ecstasy of communication, a million gadgets and computational devices accelerating our central nervous system towards an unknowable future. Real reality as we knew it ended years ago.

DVD-Rs, flash drives, Bluetooth, e-mails, the only way to stop the stuff these days would be for Indonesia to pull the plug and forcibly regress back to a bucolic, pre-industrial existence. I can see it now, the Islamic Amish of Southeast Asia. Cyberspace warrior Sembiring is perhaps barking up the wrong fishnet stocking, as most Indonesians have Internet connections so slow, if they have them at all, that DVDs are by far the best option for those looking to enjoy a quick session of family jewels polishing.

In fact, one very easy way to recreate the Indonesian dial-up Internet X-rated experience is to take the cover of one of these 'jazzy' pirate DVDs, cover it with a sheet of white paper and then gradually move the paper across the cover image at a rate of 1cm every five minutes. In fact, instead of filtering out porn sites, I’d prefer that local servers post images upside-down, so that we can see the most interesting parts first.

In a sense, it’s been argued, human sexuality is inherently pornographic. Human beings, uniquely of all animals, exist within the symbolic order of language and possess memories and the ability to fantasize, and so our sexualities are always inscribed by the images in our heads. Strip away the fantasy and sexuality disappears with it, and that’s not just some specious argument to account for the fact that I go through a box of tissues every two days.