They Are Not
a Casus Belli
We assume (well, we hope) there is no risk that Julian Assange’s regrettable WikiLeaks organisation will cause us to learn that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – he’s been in Bali all week, by the way, opening prawn hatcheries and democracy forums – really does plan to become a dangdut star when he leaves office at the end of his current term.
Though such intelligence would, in The Diary’s mind at least, place Assange’s efforts in the correct perspective. It’s all a bit of a joke really. Leaked diplomatic and other confidential material purports to show that former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd – he’s now his country’s foreign minister - thinks force may have to be used if China won’t enter the world economic community in a responsible way. (He doesn’t, of course: that’s just another misinterpretation placed by the untutored on material that Assange’s silly little outfit has pricked with its leaf-stick. Though since Rudd speaks Mandarin, it’s a wonder his official note was not rendered in the finest calligraphy, or at least in Romanised Pinyin.)
There seems to be a belief that WikiLeaks, by using computer technology and internet facilities now widely available, has reinvented journalism. It’s done nothing of the sort. Professional journalism when practised with judgment – including “with Google” nowadays – does not simply acquire raw material and put it out unchecked and untested. Assange and WikiLeaks are not offering journalism. They are offering wheelie-bin loads of decaying chicken innards that don’t even qualify as augurs.
There’s nothing wrong with that, either, as long as those who read the stuff neither persuade themselves that what they’re seeing is “new journalism” nor that what they’re reading necessarily has any value beyond titillation.
There is a place for data-dump disclosure. WikiLeaks did everyone a favour by exposing the full horror of Abu Ghraib abuse and the Apache gunship murders (that’s what they were). These two execrable incidents underline the sad fact that the Americans have never lost their dreadful tendency to run amok and remain besotted by their Hollywood legend-style Frontier proclivities in which, for example, George Armstrong Custer is a hero instead of a thick-headed fool.
It might not suit the so-called global information community (comprising largely people who clearly would be much better employed getting on with their day) to even try to comprehend this, but there really are things that should be confidential. Among these - except when later analysed by historians able to view things from a distant perspective - are the marginal musings of a great many people.
Aggrieved national governments might be better drawing a line under the WikiLeaks business. Assange is a public nuisance, that’s all. Charge him with that. He should get off with a good behaviour bond.
Geoffrey Williams, late of Chamber Made Opera, which is widely viewed among modern operaristas as a legend in Melbourne, a very good place for indoor pursuits, has slipped very easily into Identity role in his new home town of Ubud. This week he was in conversation with Cat Wheeler, the Canadian expatriate who likes it to be known that she is an author, environmentalist, social activist, Reiki master and “remorseless optimist.” Golly, hope she has time for breakfast.
Their cosy chat was the latest in the Bar Luna Literary Circle series of feel-good events at the joint, one of the culinary colonies with which Janet de Neefe has dotted the map of Ubud and environs. Wheeler wrote something called Rice Cultivation in Bali. That might neatly pair with the fragrant variety, for which fellow writer De Neefe has many recipes.
It might under other circumstances have been fun to be there, to see at what point socially active opera and rice cultivation achieve confluence, conflate or, perhaps, confuse.
But Thursday night’s chat was always going to be cosy. In the close confines of Bar Luna, on the equally spatially challenged Jl Gootama, there’s barely room to swing a Cat.
Space for Rant
The Diary’s friend James of Jembrana, who once told us that if he wanders down to the wind-blown beach outside his des res and really squints he can sometimes just see the top of the Bukit, whereon of course is The Cage, Hector’s domain, sent us a lovely little email the other day with what he described as another rant. Well, we all feel like that sometimes. Diarists have it easy: a weekly rant in print is highly therapeutic, especially in Bali, where everything that shouldn’t go wrong always does.
He tells us – among a lengthy list of things about which we can only say, Sybil Fawlty-like, oh, we know – that the giant billboard cult has now made it to his previously unsullied part of the coast. He says he wonders why these excrescences are always placed precisely where they block the view and make a blind-spot out of a previously safely trafficable corner.
In fact, of course, he doesn’t wonder about this at all, or even about why doltish ministers in Jakarta sign administrative orders that seem designed to deter tourists from bothering with Bali, since their spectacles and mobile phones alone will rocket them instantly into the top level of the newly invented rip-’em-off customs duties said to be kicking in at an assessed value of US$250 on January 1; or about many other things.
There’s no point. It’s just the old syndrome so beloved of Indonesian bureaucrats and politicians. You think up a really bad idea and you put it on your “good ideas” list. The ILAND column on page 9 has some thoughts on the issue.
Jack Daniels, inventor of tourism promotion in Bali and provider to the world of the weekly Bali Update, wherein he promotes his tourism business and excerpts items from the local press, was a bit busy last weekend. He did have time to tweet about why this was so, however, so he can’t have been too pushed, poor fellow. He was off on a five-day business trip, you see, and was rushing to get his update updated in time to catch his plane.
Perhaps that’s why his judgment slipped so badly on one item he retailed – the sad suicide leap by an Irish expatriate from the cliffs at Uluwatu. “Leaving Bali for the Paradise to Come” sounds more like a poor-taste morticians’ convention one-liner than a sensitive and well-judged news headline.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with gallows humour, in an appropriate ambiance. Laughter does keep you out of the morticians’ hands for longer than might otherwise be the case. And that can only be good. So, at one remove, we might afford ourselves a little giggle over the fact that a reader on The Bali Times Facebook clicked “Like” on our report of the Uluwatu tragedy. That was headlined “Expat Throws Self off Cliff.” (Disclosure: The Diary propped momentarily at this, because we had no idea that British writer Will Self was even on the island or what he could possibly have done to annoy someone so much. Surely it couldn’t have been his wonderful fantasia Great Apes?)
Of course, Made Wirawan, of Bali Jeep Adventure Tours, who “liked” the post, and who one assumes must like expats, even if only for business purposes, might only have been relieved that one of his little happy-wagons hadn’t gone over the cliff along with the unhappy Irishman.
Readers will know that The Diary has a very soft spot for Lombok. This is not just because it is the other side of the Wallace Line, on the outer edge of the eucalyptus zone, and therefore carries faint echoes and occasional sweet odours of home. There are other attractions, among them the promise of delicious delights at Asmara restaurant in Senggigi where at Christmas owner Sakinah Nauderer traditionally offers something extra delectable.
This year you can enjoy a traditional German Christmas Eve dinner which offers Halfte langsam geröstete Ente mit Apfel und Zwiebel gefüllt, mit Rotwein Sosse serviert Rotkohl mit Gewürzen und hausgemachten Kroketten gekocht. Try saying that after a Jaegermeister or three.
Actually it doesn’t say that at all, even though traditional German occasions of all varieties tend to be conducted in the German language. Asmara’s Christmas menu is in English. You should have no trouble ordering half slow-roasted duck with apple and onion stuffing, served with red wine gravy, red cabbage cooked with spices and home-made potato croquettes. There’s a Christmas Day brunch on the schedule too, complete with guitar music, for anyone who wants to go back for seconds.
The order of the day is clear: Auffressen (Eat Up). Wish we could be there. Frohe Weihnachten, Sakinah.
Hector's Blog appears as The Diary in the weekly print edition of The Bali Times, out Fridays, and on the newspaper's website www.thebalitimes.com. Print editions are available worldwide through NewspaperDirect.