Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Holidays in the Sun

Hopefully, all of you are currently on holiday, windsurfing, hiking, having candlelit dinners, getting ripped to the tits on Shiraz and generally giving thanks to Allah for this break from having your souls crushed to dust beneath the relentless pounding of life's hammers.

I have also managed to skip town and head off into the wide blue yonder for some much needed rest and relaxation, more of which next week I shouldn't wonder. If you're still in Jakarta, then enjoy the relative peace. I stress the word 'relative' however as it's not as if tumbleweeds start blowing down Jl. Sudirman during Idul Fitri. Some respite from the 10 million plus souls that sardine can themselves into the capital every day is most welcome I’m sure though.

Thank the lord that the spell of work has been broken for a while and I can crawl off to reflect upon my own mortality and really get to work on those hangovers. Many of you may be thinking about turning over a new leaf after the holiday, however I somehow doubt that Indonesia as a whole, or indeed the rest of the world will manage to pull itself back from the brink.

It’s perhaps a myth that we all buy into, to a greater or lesser extent, that somewhere there’s a group of bureaucrats ultimately in charge of things and that the world is following a well thought out master plan. SBY, for example, is currently being berated for letting the country slip out of his control, but does anyone really believe the media sound bites and unctuous concerns of the world's politicians anymore? Do we really believe that they have any meaningful long term plans for us beyond five year economic cycles?

It's like the classic Santa Claus scenario. The parents don't believe in Father Christmas but do it for the kids, the kids don't really believe in Father Christmas after a certain age but keep the ritual going because they're afraid to say something and enjoy the presents. A whole belief system is sustained, without anyone actually believing in it.

This is how I feel about modern governments and democracies, but possibly many of you are a good deal more optimistic than myself. Alas, personally, I find it hard to square the sickly, Hollywood, feel-good ethic of wistful, crypto-Zen environmentalism and caring, global village philanthropy that we're all force-fed and told to aspire to through the media and movies, with the corporate machine currently chewing up our world for fun and profit. I’ve lost all faith.

It seems to me that you can't be a politician in these tricky, propaganda filled times and combine conviction (in official ideology), intelligence and honesty together in one package. If you believe and are intelligent, then you're not honest. If you are intelligent and honest, you're not a believer. If you're a believer and honest, you're not intelligent. Such is the malaise of our age and I doubt that SBY will be able to do much to reverse this sorry state of affairs with the political tools he has at his disposal. This is perhaps strange though, considering that the Indonesian parliament is simply full of political tools, as far as I can tell.

But never mind, this holiday has at least propelled me outside Jakarta’s preposterous urban frenzy and given me a good look at the rainforests of Southeast Asia, whilst there are still some of them left. Getting a ticket proved to be tricky however. The mass exodus out of Jakarta includes all flights and supposedly Bali is rammed with Idul Fitri holidaymakers this week, who are no doubt currently turning the Island of the Gods into the Island of the Sods.

In fact, the only flight I could manage to find out of Jakarta to the Southeast Asia area, that wasn't triple or even quadruple the normal fare, was an AirAsia jaunt over to Kota Kinabalu up in Borneo's northernmost Malaysian province of Sabah. I snapped up the ticket and then learned a couple of days later that the Indonesian and Malaysian governments would be having a peace conference in this very same city before my arrival. Hopefully the conference went well and ended with an agreement to cap faecal embassy lobbings and fishermen arrests at an acceptable level.

For my part, I aim to report back from KK for next week's column, and perhaps offer a comparative study of the Indonesian and Malaysian tourism industries. All being well, I'll also be climbing the famous Gunung Kinabalu, which is supposedly Southeast Asia's highest peak (if you discount the island of Papua, which is cheating a little I know).

As of now however, it's Wednesday afternoon and the rain is bucketing down on Jakarta once again, dampening my holiday spirits and generally annoying the hell out of me as I'm wanting to pop round to my local mini mart for a few cleansing beverages. Chin chin everyone, and don't pray to hard, you may just get what you wish for, and nothing’s worse than that.