Thursday, September 4, 2014

An article on a site I use for news stories intended for ESL purposes stated that Nespresso is announcing ambitious new plans to make their espresso coffee machine company more sustainable. The name of the new plan is “The Positive Cup.” And it will “help” some of the world’s poorest coffee farmers in Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan. Hollywood actor George Clooney said that the 16 million dollars invested in the three countries will help farmers living in coffee communities.

Well then there’s really no more to this story, is there? Hollywood actor George Clooney supports it so it’s fine and dandy.

Let’s look a little deeper, shall we? This is a lesson I intend to teach, not from a “hooray for Nespresso” platform but as more of a “question everything” lesson. You see the “Nes” in Nespresso is because it is a company owned by Nestle. I recalled having watched a vomitus piece of putrid corporate politics from Nestle recently so I looked it up on Youtube and relived the horror. It’s a speech by their former CEO and current chairman, Peter Brabeck, in which he talks about Nestle’s great new corporate campaign to buy and sell the water of the world with Austrian finesse and debonair charm reminiscent of his countryman Adolf Hitler. If you investigate the details behind it, the message of subjugation and domination by the elite, who Brabeck says have never in history been so rich, is not far removed. I certainly cannot relate to the Austrian ivory tower from whence he speaks because the class to which I belong has definitely had more money. Do they have Austrian ivory? No elephants there I don’t think. Hmmm… Anyways, after WWII regular people were building cars for GM at a wage that equates to 50 bucks an hour nowadays. People had stuff and it was paid for! Seems like a distant memory don’t it?

The truth is there is a water war going on in this world and the only thing comparable to its dire importance is the incredible lengths the combatants in this war have gone to hide it. Very much like the GMO thing, and if you delve into the seedy underbellies of both, you will inevitably find that they are connected. In reality inseparable. GMO's need still water to grow. Until they mutate away that characteristic I guess. The hefty Aylmer’s glue that bonds them together is that ever-present entity that is at the heart of everything wrong with this world: corporate greed.

I could have said, “national greed,” since there are countries represented in this war but since countries are now corporations I felt the distinction redundant. Countries like France to give just one example, where water conglomerates Veolia and Suez hail from. What have these two evil entities been up to that the world knows absolutely nothing about? They hooked up with the World Bank and under the auspices of apparent debt relief they have offered places that needed financial help like Buenos Aires, Puerto Rico, Santiago and probably others this deal: privatise water and we give you aid. What you get is a situation like all over Africa where water is reserved for corporations who can buy it, then sold to the people who can’t afford it. Water is more expensive than Coke in Kenya, for example. And, the water I’m talking about is the only water available, Dasani, which is in plastic bottles and bottled by Coca Cola. A spokesman for Coke, Harry Ott, lied his ass off in the documentary, “Blue Gold” saying that the plastic bottles were more expensive and taxed more but in the background the prices of a litre of Dasani, 70, and a litre of Coke, 40, BOTH in plastic bottles, were shown.

Speaking of Kenya, there is another great example of the water war there. Roses are farmed around Lake Naivasha, using its water for irrigation of the rose crops, then they are sold in Europe. The World Bank has the balls to take credit for debt relief and proudly label these roses “fair trade” flowers even though there are locals dying of thirst around the lake that belongs to them but has somehow been BOUGHT by a company that they didn’t sell it to. Activist Joan Thorpe Root was assassinated for her attempts to save Lake Naivasha in case you think this is a bloodless war.

And while watching this informative documentary, hey, what do you know, there was a section on tea and coffee farmers in poor countries who are being “helped” by the World Bank. What is really happening is the farmers are growing the crop for practically nothing and the corporations are helping themselves to hefty profits that are not shared. “For every dollar of aid, corporations get $1.30.” Lawrence Summers – World Bank.

And back to Nestle, the largest foodstuffs corporation in the world, the 27th largest company in the world, what do you need to make coffee besides slaves in impoverished countries growing your coffee practically for free? You need water. Water that is a natural human necessity should be an inalienable right, but when despotic oligarchs like Brabeck see dollar signs, they get pretty creative with their bullshit. There’s the “heartfelt” message he delivers about some apparent misconceptions people have somehow gotten about his ideas about water in which he starts by saying he supports everyone’s fundamental right to water. But not for washing cars, filling pools or presumably watering lawns, (like the twenty acre, well maintained and watered lawn you see behind him).

If you watch the original, where people obviously got the idea that he does not support everyone’s fundamental right to water… BECAUSE HE SAYS HE DOESN’T,
you will see why I call this guy a monster. He calls the idea extreme. But what he means is it extremely limits his profitability. He explains his brain damage a bit later saying that any CEO has to concentrate on making profits. This, we should really use as a virtual finger crossing so that all the shiny toothed, mealy mouthing about creating jobs and helping solve the problems of the world he launches into afterwards can be seen as the absolute garbage it is and can be given its proper credence. Nestle wants to buy the Great Lakes for crying out loud! I may just be a bit extreme but I bet this genital wart in a suit wants to drain them, turn the surrounding provinces and states into deserts and walk amongst the withering inhabitants like a devil of a man spreading the burning sand with cool, clear, Nestle’s bottled water, (only 20 bucks a litre), like some guy from a Marty Robbins song.

But in case that doesn’t convince you, and here we are with the indelible linkage between GMO’s and water, he says that after 15 years of eating genetically modified foods there has not been one case of illness. Yet the same extreme people who are bellyaching about having to pay for the water that Nestle rightfully stole, are whinging on about wanting companies to stop infusing our food with genes that make the stomachs of insects who eat them explode. It’s just extreme to think something like that could ever harm a human being. Especially when it makes Nestle, (and ME), so much money.

Well, I’m paraphrasing. Folks, would you rather listen to this corporate trough hog or I dunno, perhaps a scientist who has studied this sort of thing? Like Pushpa M. Bharyava, a renowned biologist who after reviewing over 600 scientific journals on the subject, concluded that GMO’s are a MAJOR contributor to sharply deteriorating health. Since their large scale introduction into the food supply of America in 1996, people with more than 3 chronic diseases almost doubled from 7% to 13%. That must be a coincidence, right?

Do you suppose there has been not one case, not one study that showed illness due to GM foods because the studies just aren’t being done? Maybe this might have something to do with the colossally idiotic reality that Monsanto and other biotech companies are the ones in charge of determining the safety of the foods they produce?

The fact is there have been long term studies done only on animals and GMO’s do horrendous things to animals. But that’s no reason to assume they would affect humans in similar ways! Come on! Stop being extreme. Infertility, immune problems, insulin regulation problems, changes in organs, accelerated aging, and one I feel strongly I got from GMO foods, gastrointestinal system troubles. There has been a HUGE increase in gastrointestinal problems in North America in the last decade and I suspected GMO’s long before I read anything about it.

But this is nothing really solid is it? Geez I wonder why. And if you make up some genetically engineered drug like L-Tryptophan or something like that and say it’s responsible for 100 deaths thousands of sicknesses and permanent disabilities due to a deadly, fast acting blood disease it promoted that took over 4 years to identify, well the best scientists or doctors money can buy will tell you that’s just conspiracy theory. So I won’t say any of that.

But I don’t think eating natural, non-GM foods is a “shibboleth” or an old-fashioned, outdated idea as Mr. Nestle tells us. I think it makes good sense to avoid GMO’s when you can.

Even the comment about the 35-hour workweek not working is something that should be questioned. I love working fewer than 40 hours! It works absolutely fine for me. And in France where they ran the experiment, there are laws that make it tough to lay off employees during slow times. So when they tried the 35-hour workweek there, more jobs were not created. Instead the work quotas were increased to make up for the 5 hours that were lost. So in reality the experiment was never conducted properly, making Brabeck’s comment that it was a failure just another of his obscenely skewed corporate ideas.

So let’s not break out the ticker tape and noisemakers for the Nespresso parade just yet. I have a funny feeling there might be some shady corporate profiteering going on behind the scenes of this new espresso machine venture that is too complex for even George Clooney to recognize.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Muslim, A Christian and an Atheist Walk Into a Bar...

Recently watching Hannibal the TV series and a line jumped out at me. Hannibal says, “When you stop trusting people you turn to religion.” Or something to that effect. Now usually the good doctor Hannibal Lecter is right on the money. There’s some really great philosophy amidst more guts and gore per episode than any other TV show to date. But the writers sometimes forget that you need to do more than say something in a mysterious monotone for it to be true.

I was chatting at my favourite watering hole in Jakarta, Eastern Promise, with my drinking buddy, Austin the other day and he asked me a question. What is the difference between a cult and a religion? I said it just depended on the number of members and he agreed. I am wondering what the difference between spiritualism and religion is. I think it’s the next step down. Or up, as it were.

Spiritualism, to me, is a personal thing, whereas religion is a whole bunch of people who think and behave, or at least are meant to think and behave, similarly. Religion – a lot of people, cult – a few people, spiritualism – one person. Wouldn’t it follow then, Dr. Lecter, that a healthy mistrust of people would lead to spiritualism, not religion? Religion is virtually BASED on trusting other people. A spiritual journey is undertaken alone, ideally with only one companion: God. And God, not being a person, can be trusted by someone who has lost his/her faith in humanity. The works of God are nature and nature is smooth, unchanging and dependable.

Alternately a person could come to the realization that there are bad people in any group. Indeed, the group mentality might be the source of a sort of mental pathology that causes bad behaviour. What was it Sting said in his awesome song? “All this time the river flowed endlessly to the sea.” Smooth. Unchanging. Dependable. In the same song there is the line, “Men go crazy in congregations. They only get better one by one. One by one by one. Yeah yeah yeah. I looked out across the river today….” And so on. LOVE that song! Maybe Sting is a bit of a pantheist like me.

At any rate, there are going to be some bad people in any group. And any religion has to be a group. They are many and varied. A guy who I often disagree with made some really good points about this. Sam Harris explains that there are so many religions they are almost like sports. Think of the wide variety of sports there are. Some are very violent. Hockey, one of my favourites, is among the worst. And badminton, well, if you get injured playing that it’s pretty embarrassing. Although, he has never seen my friend Ken Romney and I diving for the birdie in his back yard badminton court. You land on a tree root and you feel it lemme tell you!

Harris says that religions are many and varied too and that "religion" is almost a useless word. I totally agree! He goes on to say that you’d have to be “acrobatic” to try to UNconvince the Muslims Osama Bin Laden is teaching. Well I think the leader and the followers are both being given a lot more credit than they deserve here. First of all a major strategy in any religion nowadays is to count on the parishioners never actually fact checking your sermons. As always the easiest example, because they are more scrutinized whether fairly or unfairly, are the Christians. Take a gander at this article! HOLY! Christianity.com folks so you KNOW they're not going to be too hard on their own. And STILL the stats are staggering! Most Christians in the U.S. don't know more than a few of the disciples. 60% of Americans can't name half of the 10 commandments. But let's compare Christian Americans. To be fair, you wouldn't expect all the regular people in the U.S. to read the Bible even though it is a Christian country. 82% of Americans think that "God helps those who help themselves," is a Bible verse. Surely the Christians have to know better! Well, they do. Whew! Only 81% of American CHRISTIANS believe that that is a Bible verse. I'd love to ask what book it came from and see some of the answers. "Um Hezikiah?" "Jebidiah Simpson?" "Wasn't that Austin 3:16?"

Joan of Arc was Noah's wife? 12%. Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife? The Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham? You can't, you just can't make this up, folks!

And to give credit where it's due, all my atheist friends are going, "Idjits! Morons! Phillistines!" There is some debate as to whether more atheists have read the Bible than Christians considering a huge number of them are in countries that have limited access and VERY limited concern about the book. But studies have shown that Atheists tend to know a lot more about religion than do their Christian counterparts. I'm glad of that. I mean I wouldn't want anyone to disavow all religion until they've looked into as many as they can. Same as I wouldn't want to hear someone say they hate sports after only playing one or two and not liking them. There are LOTS of sports out there and in my mind there are some very important lessons sports can teach us. Teamwork, unselfish play, fitness, emotional control, negotiation with teammates and referees... cheerleaders...

But back to the point. You don't have to be acrobatic as a Muslim moderate to talk these extremists down. I'm telling you now, I picked up the Koran, or the Quran or however you wanna spell it because I live in a country where there are a bazillion people who follow its teachings. And in less than 10 minutes I came across a couple of verses that would seem to be pretty obviously telling Muslims to leave non believers the FRIG alone! This is taken from the first book of the Koran, the Cow:

[2.6] Surely those who disbelieve, it being alike to them whether you warn them, or do not warn them, will not believe.
[2.7] Allah has set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing and there is a covering over their eyes, and there is a great punishment for them.

Some people won't believe. Screw them. Don't warn them. Or do warn them. It makes no diff. And then the really important part to my way of thinking, ALLAH has made them disbelievers! Why he's going to punish them for a trait HE gave them? Well that's Allah's to know. And if you think just for a second that it could be interpreted that "there is great punishment for them" could mean that man should be punishing the infidels, just skip ahead 8 verses:

[2.15] Allah shall pay them back their mockery, and He leaves them alone in their inordinacy, blindly wandering on.

Talking about the same folks here. It would take some kind of acrobatic, sophistry gymnastics to get out of this wouldn't it? Leave the non-believers alone, I made them that way and I will deal with them. It's very like the "Vengeance is mine saith the Lord" verse that has stopped Christians from taking the lives of non-believers throughout history. Ahem...


But both examples illustrate my point. Both books, whether written by God, influenced by God or having absolutely nothing to do with God, have been totally violated by asshole humans who claim to be following them and only get away with it because their followers blindly take their word for everything without doing something as simple as devoting a few minutes to checking the scripture they are basing their decisions to kill, rape, behead fellow human beings on.

I stand with my atheist friends on this one. Numbskulls, knuckle-draggers, nose-picking mouth breathers! Hey, say what you will about Atheists but they don't kill people for not believing there is no God as far as I know. But I do not fully empathize with the atheist. I think it is unfair to blame any of this religious SHYTE on God. Be an antimantheist if you hate religion. Being an atheist is almost like saying God made these idiots do all this crap, isn't it? And if that's the case, how can you blame them?


Friday, August 29, 2014

Catching Up With Korea

I still have a few friends over in the once and aspiring hermit kingdom of Korea. And I must admit the 11-12 years I spent there makes me more concerned with the goings on there. You could say I kind of like the place I guess. Sometimes I find Korean stories while surfing and sometimes I get them from friends still there. The things I have been reading about this week, not all bad, not all good, are providing lots of chuckles and head shakes. The occasional tsk tsk at the parochial path Korea looks to be on that will lead them right back to their past. Sometimes it seems there are those in Korea who won't be satisfied until their citizens all resemble THIS guy:

Maybe I'm too harsh. You be the judge. I started the week off with this gem. In Korea there is a penalty for smoking pot of up to 30 years in jail and you can be busted for it even if the marijuana is consumed in a country where it's legal! You heard right, folks, the citizens of Korea are policed worldwide! So you can probably sense a little hysteria. What did they call it back when all this stupidity started? Reefer madness? A Korean publication known as No Cut News even posted a picture with their article about the evil foreigners trying to tarnish the Korean racial purity with their vices. Here it is:
There you have it, a bag of Korean Pale. You just GOTTA wonder about the accuracy of the article after seeing this pic!

I said to my Korean student here that it seems to go in cycles in Korea. A while ago they changed laws for foreigners after finding some Canadians with fake degrees teaching ESL. They instituted all kinds of degree verification laws. Later it was found that the foreigners had nothing to do with the fake documents but that their Korean recruiters had obtained them for the foreign teachers. No punishment for the recruiters, the foreigners were deported and the degree verification laws remain. And, oh yeah, when they started checking qualifications for EVERYBODY there were tons of Koreans found with fake degrees, some very high profile. So they stopped that.

Then came the sex scandal. Not going into the details but cameras were put up in schools all over Korea and, what do you know, they found more Koreans committing sex crimes than foreigners. So that anti-foreigner crusade relaxed a little too. But the laws were changed so that foreigners now have to get criminal record checks across the board and those laws not only remain but the added inconvenience of having degrees and criminal record checks stamped by notaries was introduced recently.

STD's, AIDS, foreigners are blamed and have to be fully fluid tested before going to Korea. And I would suggest that with the increase in sexual activity while maintaining some absurd stigmas about HIV that scare the locals away from being tested, they'd find these problems more prominent amongst Korean citizens as well.

Now the drug thing. What do you want to bet it will soon come out that the marijuana or Spice trade in Korea is largely handled by the natives? And the users? Mostly Korean. It's just that when you raid "all foreigner" clubs, as the above article stated, you tend to find foreigners with the weed. I've seen plenty of all Korean clubs but never one that's all foreigners, however, I DO know that foreigners are extra special targets in Korea. I lived there. If you doubt my personal experience, here's just one article of a bazillion you could find to support the argument.

But when blaming the foreigners for your problems doesn't work, who can you blame? Big, rich businesses! I had a good laugh when I read this article. Korea's favourite alcoholic beverage, soju, blamed for alcoholism? If you've been to Korea the number 26 would jump out at you. That's all? Only 26 people are blaming their alcoholism on soju? Wow! If they win their lawsuit, every third Korean will have a good shot at some free money. Or at least a few cases of suju on the comp. I just loved the excuse that "The health warning labels are too small to read..." ... when you're blind drunk on soju, yes, they probably are! lol

Next I read about the flooding in Pusan. When I read stuff like this I genuinely DO feel bad for the good people of Korea. I still believe the majority of them to be good. Wouldn't have stayed there so long otherwise. But I also tend to let my mind wander to the faults of the rest of Korea. I found myself thanking my lucky stars that I didn't choose to go back to Korea and teach, and came to Indonesia instead. Why? Well, I WAS in Calgary during the great floods of 2013. If I had been in Korea during the Pusan floods just a year later I feel it might have been just a little too big a coincidence for Korean waygook busters to ignore. I'da been deported on meteorological suspicions.

But the news wasn't all bad. I found this to be too funny to exclude: Korean franchise Paris Baguette has opened its first store IN PARIS! Korea's "bang"ing on the French bread market's door! It must be "pain" ful for the French. Ha ha ha ha. Bang=Korean for bread and Pain=French for bread. Aren't you "roll" ing on the floor laughing? Or was that a "crepe" y pun? Well you can't have your cake and eat it too.

Finally, on another positive note I read that the 10th Gwangju Biennale will start September 5th in Korea. I always liked the Biennale. There was lots to see and do. In fact I participated in the kimchi making contest one year. The foreigners division. I recall that the first and second place prizes were taken by two Japanese ladies who were married to Korean men, spoke Korean, had lived there for ages, had participated in the event before and had actually brought outside accoutrements with them to the contest. I had no idea that was legal! They garnished their kimchi with fancy mushrooms and sprigs of attractive seasonal foliage. I tried to make mine in the shape of a maple leaf, a strategy lost on the judges who snubbed me that year. If I were in Korea on September 5th I don't think I could help but enter the Gwangju Biennale Kimchi Making Contest - Foreigner Division. And I'd bring along a dimebag of my OWN accoutrements, if you know what I'm sayin...
See that green stuff? You KNOW what that is!!! Hoo hoo haa haaaa! The 30 years in jail might just be worth it. I'd get shtreet cred yo! Then I could join the burgeoning Korean rap industry. K-rap, they call it. ha ha ha.

Anyway, shout out to all my homies in the R to the O to the K!

Peace!

Monday, August 25, 2014

There's Hope in Ferguson

Russel Brand has become something of a voice of reason amidst the moral relativism we mentally manufacture in order to keep plugging away at our little lives without having to face world issues head on. His take on the Ferguson fiasco is a beautiful example of one of so many simple solutions available to the world that corporate, capitalist spin-doctors are earning their keep de-contextualizing and un-simplifying. He reckons the global question, not just the question in Ferguson, is this: “Shall we have a more equal society or shall we fortify and bolster our means for oppressing people?”

It IS as obvious as that but many are reminding us about race issues, unequal representation, slavery, etc. trying to turn a class war into a race war. Or into anything but what it actually is. It's a sign of the times that I needn't even mention the reasonable course of thought here that will enable us to cut through the bull shit. Follow the money. Who are these people and what is their agenda? Who prefers a race war to a class war and why? It's the people who seemingly will do ANYthing to stop the other 99.9% of the world from taking action to amend the social inequalities and the ever-increasing gap between the haves and the have-nots both in the U.S. and worldwide that has created the majority of the world's problems. In a nutshell, it's the haves. A friend wrote on Facebook recently, and I am paraphrasing, “The oligarchs did look out upon the plains of Ferguson and, lo, they did behold that it was good.”

Just after Michael Brown was shot and demonstrations started two things happened: Looting and an increase in police, military and weaponry presence. Though the looters may not have been consciously making a social statement, it was significant. When a white guy shoots a black guy if it had been perceived as a hate crime or a race issue, the obvious reaction would have been to kill a white guy. Now it could be said, maybe accurately, that the looters were looking for ANY opportunity to upgrade their living room electronics but that takes nothing away from the point. It could also be said that the police in Ferguson were looking for ANY opportunity to upgrade their weaponry and their presence in the community, and THAT takes nothing away from the point either.

Many look at Ferguson and see something different than I do. All I see is what Walt Whitman called people being demented with the mania of owning things. Is it demented, maniacal to kill or die to “protect” the things we perceive to belong to us? I say emphatically YES! Yet it's almost a knee-jerk reaction, isn't it? How has it come to this? This is what gives rise to the compulsion in Uncle Walt and myself to just get away from the lunatics who call themselves “normal human beings” and live with the animals. But Whitman was no dummy. He knew that even doing that would require some precaution. “Falling asleep on the gathered leaves with my dog and gun by my side.” Ahhhhhhh...

But rather than escapism, what other alternative is there? There's just no possible way to change our human nature is there? Again, give your head a shake. It's the work of capitalist socialization that makes us think there is any creature in existence that would consider greed on the scale exhibited by humanity natural or normal. It's not normal. Well, how can I say that. If it's not normal then surely there must be people on the earth living in a state of relative equality. Where are they? What jungle tribe or igloo dwellers actually live in a sharing society? Please! That doesn't exist, does it?

Actually while the greedy, or as we euphemistically call them, “developed” countries have been busy bottlenecking their assets to smaller and smaller groups at the top, there HAVE existed several countries that were quite happy, well-educated, healthy and wealthy while maintaining systems of relative social equality. In countries like Canada or the U.S. we just don't learn much about them in our schools or on our media because it could be considered detrimental to the social fabric of our nations.

“And,” says the corporate spin-doctor, “I suppose you are going to say they have no violence and that there is NO chance of anything like Ferguson happening in those countries.” Well, no and yes. In fact I'll attempt to show you.

In 2013 there was a similar situation in Stockholm, Sweden known as the Stockholm Riots. The riots were not caused by any single incident, but rioters were expressing their general discontent with unemployment levels, standards of education and the police force, drawing parallels with the 2011 England riots. A local political group, Megafonen, had proclaimed at the start of the riots that their cause was a police shooting of a knife-armed 69-year-old man in Husby a few days earlier. A psychologist asked about the riots named Sarnecki dismissed this idea, saying that it was at most an excuse. Psychologist Arnulf Kolstad argues that the riots are an understandable and necessary reaction to marginalization.

And what about those England riots? Same situation there. Sparked by the killing by police of Mark Duggan, a black man. Disadvantaged areas, social inequality, again many write off the ensuing rioting and looting as inevitable behaviour that just needed an excuse to be carried out. There are lots of examples worldwide of similar things happening that have not lead to race riots or further violence, rather to a general admission of inequalities that need rectification.

Recently in Iceland had an incident in which a cop shot and killed a citizen. The first since its independence in 1944. They don't need any rioting or looting, nor do they need to bolster their police presence. Why? Just check out the state of education, social programs, average income, health care and social welfare in Nordic countries. That might be your explanation. Now see where they rank on any list of happy countries around the world.

Check out Australia or New Zealand, countries that have followed the Nordic model for more than just prostitution. People are just too happy to kill each other.

It's my, (and Russel Brand's), guess that more rioting will ensue in the States until things are put right. But it will not be easy to convince the hoarding 0.1% to pry themselves away from their extra trillions. If a person has a house packed to the rafters with, I don't know, Styrofoam burger boxes or bottle caps and can't bring him/herself to part with a single one of them, it's understood to be a serious mental dysfunction. You don't need all those bottle caps and burger boxes you've just developed a dementia that somehow makes you believe you do. Demented and maniacal behaviour. How are the super rich different?

It's going to take some of their extra money therapeutically donated to help equalize the people of America. I have no love for those rich scumbags, and although I just said that they are mentally disturbed, I have a really hard time showing compassion to them because they are much like people who commit crimes while drunk. I believe they were in a state of mind that contributed to their crime, but nobody forced them to drink either. Nobody forced the ultra rich to keep hoarding more and more money far past the point of gross excessiveness. And if somewhere along the line they lost all touch with values and the social responsibilities of wealth, well boo hoo. Stop your whinging and donate a billion to the poor and maybe then I will see you making an effort to help yourself.

But in actuality is any significant portion of the ultra rich in America truly so demented. I think a lot of them become rich through security companies, alarm systems, offshore hiding places for money, military equipment, for profit prisons, weapon manufacturing, weapon black marketing, the list could go on and on. These are all industries that will dramatically nosedive in the remarkably crime free environment that inevitably comes with equality. I think you have to look pretty hard to find a person worse than one who looks at cops beating people, race riots, looting, over-incarceration, general chaos and sees dollar signs. Maybe those who look at unstable governments, war, religious conflict, rapes, beheadings, suicide bombings, and see profit. Yes, they are worse and you don't really have to look all that hard to find them. But I would suggest they are part of the same hypocrisy, just on national and global scales respectively. The U. S. of A. needs to reign these buggers in, not treat them like the heroes of their economy. It will be an awfully difficult thing for them to do.

Forget all the ice bucket challenges that we see all over the media these days, I hereby nominate America to take the Ice LAND challenge and try to implement some social programs, funded by the astronomically rich of course, that will bring the rich closer to earth and raise the poor out of the muck. Bernie Sanders recently mentioned a couple things that I like to refer to as Bern burns on America.

“What kind of nation are we when we give tax breaks to millionaires but we can’t take care of the elderly and the children?” Sen. Bernie Sanders asked on Monday. He was reacting to a new report that more than 18 percent of Americans last year struggled to afford food. Republicans in Congress, meanwhile, are calling for deeper and deeper cuts in food stamps, a program that provides help mostly to children and seniors. We are living in “a very ugly moment,” the senator told the Rev. Al Sharpton.

But, as they say, the opposite of progress is congress. THEY are the representatives of the massively rich and it will take some doing to take down the intricate political machine that has created the situation as it is. But, against my nature, I think a guy like Bernie Sanders could help! I hope to see him as the next president of the U.S. I think events like Ferguson, if portrayed in the media as what they actually are, can bring about social change. I suppose we'll see what happens.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Aw KEMANG!

It's going to be a day of many firsts for me today. I've just been woken up from my first night's sleep in my new kost by a really confusing call. It was from the place where I buy minutes for my phone here. In my groggy phone fumblage I somehow managed to pick up, hang up, then return the call. Then I heard, with not a hint of accent whatsoever, "Good morning. XL telecom. How may I help you?" For some reason I panicked and started slamming numbers with my half asleep thumb managing to give the girl on the other end with the shockingly good English an earful of bleeps followed by a dial tone. Do they still have dial tones? They don't do they? I'm still not awake.

So then what do you do? If you're like me you sit there rubbing your eyes to hasten lucidity and clarify the paranoia as it sets in asking yourself if there is any possibility that she was someone you shouldn't have hung up on. And dreading the social awkwardness that will ensue if she happens to call back. But all I could think of was the highly unlikely scenario in which she was a member of the North American fledgeling XL Telecom company calling me up as an English speaking XL client to ask if I wanted a six-figure advertising contract as their spokesperson in Canada. Or something equally as absurd. So I'm pretty comfortable, not 100% but a solid 80% comfortable. that I didn't hang up on anyone important. But that 20% gnaws away at the brain as I sit at my much nicer desk in my much nicer desk chair drinking my first morning cup o' tea in my much nicer living quarters.

I think maybe I'm a bit more phone fearful today because of a call I received yesterday. You see I moved from the Kuningan area of Jakarta to an area called Cipete. I have two main, uh, friends who I meet regularly for non-commercial English conversation, ahem, in Kemang. Kemang is within walking distance of Cipete where I am now. The only conversation partner I have in Kuningan is Mr. Lee but we only talk two hours a week whereas the two in Kemang make up the bulk of my hours. 16 between the two. So I thought it was a wise decision to move closer to my main English conversation sources, so to, um, speak.

Several days back I started packing up a bag at a time and bringing them to appointments with the two guys close to my new kost. I'd tell the taxi driver to go first to the kost and wait while I ran up to my room, emptied the bag, brought it back down, empty, to the cab and proceeded to meet with whoever I was going to meet with. Yesterday, Monday the 11th, was my last bag of stuff. You know, fridge stuff and bathroom stuff that you save till the end of a move. It was 4 PM and I had a meeting with Herry, my colourful new language exchange partner. Heh heh heh. Herry's a hoot! You shall read about him in this blog I'm positive. Anyhoo, I was supposed to meet him at 7. It normally takes half an hour from Kuningan to Kemang, maybe an hour in heavy Jakarta traffic. As I got into the taxi I got a text from Herry postponing our meeting until 9 PM. Which was fine. I could unpack the bag of stuff and put it away before our meeting. The weather was a bit rainy so going was slow but nothing to make me suspect that the trip would take more than 40 minutes. Until we got close to Kemang. It started to rain harder. A lot harder. I started getting more worried. A lot more worried. Traffic started moving slower. A lo- it just stopped is what happened. I actually had packed a big, canvas bag, two plastic grocery bags with food in them and my backpack into the trunk of the taxi. I thought many times, completely without hyperbole, that even carrying all that I would have made better time if I'd walked. But then I would have been soaked and the plastic bags would have filled up with water and burst, my computer would have gotten soaked, etc. etc. I HAD to stay in the cab. I was trapped! SOOOO frustrating!!!

To make matters worse, because, remember, this is me here, the taxi driver had the flu, a cold, Malaria, Ebola, I don't know, some kind of ague that had him coughing violently and often enough for me to doubt he was going to be able to make it to our destination. What is the only thing worse than being stranded in traffic? Breaking down in traffic and giving that insufficient facial explanation and shrug to every jackass who punishes you for their lost time as they drive by with a horn honk and angry look. Maybe some angry words. It's happened to me before and it's about the worst feeling in the world. I was a bit panicky thinking that my driver was going to pass out forcing me to try out that look and shoulder shrug and see if it translates to Indonesian. Because, of course, it's all about ME! The tragedy was not my dying driver, it was the time and social comfort he could cost me. What a jerk I am, eh? ha ha ha.

My driver pulled out a tube, squeezed some salve onto the tips of two of his fingers and shoved them right up his notrils. The taxi started smelling like eucalyptus. Whatever was in the tube seemed to work. My driver's coughing downgraded from tubercular to manageable while I was in the back seat chanting mental mantras, "E pluribus unum, cogito ergo sum, ohm mani padme hum..." Traffic, however, remained unchanged. We spent easily 15 minutes negotiating our way through a major intersection snaking our way to one side and completely to the other in tiny cracks between cars and motorcycles that developed an inch at a time. Meanwhile the traffic lights above us changed dozens of times completely unheeded.

However, the journey was not a complete waste. I have already been in the taxi in traffic often enough to wonder how it happens. I mean there is not a single motorist who doesn't want to keep going yet the exact opposite is happening. Why? I saw a couple things that day that went a long way to explaining that to me. At least as far as Jakarta is concerned. One is this insanely optimistic piece of municipal mismanagement they have all over Jakarta that I can best describe as a traffic X. It's an intersection without lights and whereas a normal intersection is more of a + with vehicles crossing at angles more easily seen, these suicide traps have traffic crossing at oblique angles often in motorists' blind spots. You know, the kind of things designed by little boys with Hot Wheel tracks. Two streams of traffic going the same direction. Let's see what happens if we CROSS those streams. Hoo hoo haa haaah! It's worse than Ghostbusters.

But the traffic X could probably be workable if not for that old failing known as human nature. As I saw, (experienced first hand thanks to Mr. Consumption, my taxi driver), they are excellent character tests these traffic exes! When traffic is not moving or moving by the inch, as it was yesterday, and you come to the X, you have two choices: 1. you can leave the width of a car between you and the motionless car in front of you so that traffic can cut in front of you through the X letting many others reach their destinations more expediently, or 2. you can nose up to the car in front of you gaining yourself and others in the car with you exactly NO time but blocking many, MANY other motorists. Guess what my driver's choice was. If I had any language ability I would have called him on it between his bursts of coughing but instead I had to suffer the humiliation of being the plug in the traffic bottleneck and having a hundred horns blown at me. I knew the fogged up, raindrop covered window I was behind was opaque enough to maintain my anonymity, and I was well aware that I was not the selfish driver who had made this decision, but I still felt the burning of blocked drivers' glares across the X axis. I dunno, maybe I just FEEL too deeply. I'm just too nice. Har har!

Anyway, around 5 PM I text Herry something like, "It's a good thing we changed to 9 o'clock because I'll probably be stuck in traffic till 7. It's crazy out here!" This was an outrageous prediction, I was well aware, but just a little levity to hopefully ease my tension in the back seat of a stranded taxi. I reached my new kost at 7 PM. I was RIGHT! 3 hours it took me to make a half an hour trip. I'm so glad taxis are cheap here! In Canada that would have broken me. Here it was 14 bucks. Still, it's usually only 5 on a bad day. But these were extraordinary circumstances.

I'm not sure where the pic in that link was taken but that is exactly what Kemang looked like. Knee deep water and roads closed. That's why traffic was so slow. But I didn't know till I tried to go to the pub. You see, Herry had meetings at work all night so he ended up just cancelling our meeting. As it turned out I needed the extra time. You see I am fond of a pub here called E P. That's Eastern Promise. It's where I met all the guys from the Jakarta Gentlemen's Club, and still meet them regularly there. It's where I watch Aussie Rules Footy on Saturdays. It's where I've met the majority of my friends here in Jakarta. It's an easy place to spark up a conversation with a stranger.

Well it's their 25th anniversary and the owner, Lens, has a promo going in which a lucky card recipient, (I got one!), gets a stamp every day for 25 days just for going in to E P and having himself a free beer. I've already got 6 stamps. If you miss a day, you lose the challenge, but if you make it the 25 consecutive days you get a 25 million Rupiah bar tab. That's $2,500.00. That's an extra good month of work for me! I can buy a lot of curry and beer with that! On Monday I still hadn't gone into E P to get my stamp and by the time I got to my new home I had only 5 remaining hours in which to do so. I figured I had better get a move on.

So I put all my belongings away and set out for E.P. I knew it would be a bit of a walk, like maybe 45 minutes, but I needed the exercise after sitting in the cab for 3 hours and I knew there was a refreshing, free beer at the end of the journey. The place I live is in a bit of a labyrinth of residential roads, sideroads, alleys and offshoots. I hadn't really done much recon since moving in. Another reason I was champing at the bit to get out there. So I decided to kill two birds with one stone. I knew Herry's place was close and it was on the way to Kemang so I decided to try to find the route to Herry's and then continue on to Kemang where E.P. is. I got lost. I mean really lost. It was a beautiful, post rainfall fresh smelling evening to get lost, however, so I didn't fret too much. And this is the kind of butt puckering I seem to thrive on when I'm not in my home country. I just kept walking. I had found that to be effective when lost in Thailand, Philippines, Cambodia, you name an Asian country, I've likely been lost in it. There weren't many taxis driving by so I figured in a big city I'd come to a big road eventually and I could catch one. Sure enough after about an hour of wandering I saw what looked to be a busy street up in the distance. A cab pulled up behind me and blew its horn. I waved it down, got in and said, "Kemang." The driver waved his hands, shook his head and after uttering a few phrases in Indonesian that I didn't understand he said, "Water too much." I understood that to mean Kemang was flooded. So I showed him a piece of paper with the exact directions to my kost written on it. He again waved his hands and gave me a confused look. I really DO live in an out-of-the-way corner of Jakarta I guess. So I got out of the cab and walked to the main street. It turned out to be Fatmawati. I had gone the opposite direction I was supposed to have. It happens a lot to me. But taxis were driving by every few seconds and it was no problem to flag one down, then another, then another, then another. NONE of these people would take me to Kemang because, I ascertained through multiple charades, it was flooded, and not a single one of them knew where I lived.

From my severely undependable sense of direction I calculated that the main road leading to my area, Jalan Abdul Majid Raya, couldn't be too much further down Fatmawati and I was pretty sure I could find my place if I made it to Abdul Majid so I started walking. I turned onto one of the unmarked streets that went the direction Abdul Majid goes hoping it was in fact Abdul Majid. Luckily the road had gates and, (here they are again!), YES, security guards! I asked in my paltry Bahasa, "Ini jalan Abdul Majid ada?" I'm not even sure how accurate that is but I think it's approximately, "Is this Abdul Majid street?" There were about five of them and they hopped right to giving me directions. One of them spoke some passable English and told me I had to go back out to Fatmawati and go another 200 yards to reach Abdul Majid. I thanked them profusely relieved to no longer be lost and still have a shot at getting the stamp for the day.

I found Abdul Majid and was able to get back to my area. It was still only 8:30 so I started out in the opposite direction than the one I had taken. After another half hour of walking I was lost again. But I just retraced my steps and got back to the kost. I went into my place and called E.P. One of the bar girls answered and told me it was indeed flooded and I couldn't reach the bar, but that they were still open and, she said, I guess you could walk from the main street. So I asked one of the guys who works at my kost to call me a taxi and ask if they could take me to Kemang. He was nice enough to do so. I was surprised that he was so fast about it. I guess it's the advantage of speaking the language.

At about 10:30 the taxi arrived and the driver said he could take me to Kemang. I started off for the third time to get my beer at E.P. But we got to the road that leads to E.P. and it was blocked off. I just paid the taxi driver and got out. When I walked just a little way down the road I saw the river below the road flowing dangerously fast washing debris down it and almost reaching the height of the bridge itself. It reminded me a lot of the Calgary flooding of last summer. I walked just a little farther and the road and sidewalks disappeared. They were under water. I'm talking water as deep as the girl in the above picture. It was dark but it looked like this:

What could I do? I was a block away from my goal. I just walked right through the knee deep water right up to the front window of E.P. where one of the girls gave me a smiley wave and pointed me to the door. I got inside the bar and noticed that most of it had ankle-deep water on the floor. This might cost Lens some renovation money. The first thing that went through my selfish mind was, "Oh no! Maybe I won't get my 25 mil!" But I got my beer anyway. It was now around 11. The girls told me they were about to close down for the night but I asked if I could wait till 12:01 so I could get my free beer for Tuesday as well. They said that would be okay. So I played pool, had a few beers and left at 12:05. I took an ojek, (motorbike taxi), to my place. It was ridiculously easy to find. I have no idea how I could have gotten so lost so many times!

And, oh yeah, the call I received in the taxi that I completely got sidetracked from telling you about was from the Japanese embassy. There is a dude there who would like to practice his English with me. Maybe I can practice my Japanese too. Apparently we had arranged a meeting weeks before that I had totally forgotten about. If was supposed to have happened at about the half way point of my 3 hour taxi ride. So I had to reschedule my meeting at the Japanese embassy.

Life just keeps getting interestinger over here!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Kill, Rape, Pray

I'm not going to submit any claims here to more than an average understanding of what is going on in the world today but I have studied many spiritual philosophies and religious texts so I think I have a pretty good handle on that area. At the very least it's good enough to say with utter conviction that if you ever find yourself beheading a child and/or raping a woman for your god, you are a drooling, Pavlovian, classically conditioned extremist and you had better give your head a good shake, floss your brain, and, maybe for the first time, think independently about your spiritual walk and the people who are pitchforking you down the road you are on.

Just give it some thought. Think first about where that road is leading. I can certainly not tell you but if you are of the belief that it will lead to a heaven in which you will have 72 virgins with “swelling, pear-shaped breasts,” “appetizing vaginas,” and you sporting an “eternal erection,” that's not heaven, bro! The maximum you will get is 72 virginal lays. That's not complicated algebra. So let's say that with your raging woody and 72 women who belong to you, you only get it done once a day. That's not even 3 months of heaven!

But that's only IF you can manage once a day. I guess the attraction to virginity in a woman is the same attraction there is to ownership of one: the fact that you and only you will ever enter her “holy of holies.” They're rare here on Earth but I have known a few virgins of the age where sex would not be inappropriate and there were good reasons for all of them to have remained carnally unblemished. Though they may have had swelling breasts and appetizing vaginas, most or all were either socially stunted, mentally unbalanced, horribly disfigured, plain in appearance, aggressively bitchy, scared of sex, or gay and had not had heterosexual intercourse. A lot were a combination of two or more of these.

There are always reasons why women remain virgins and you, my frightfully optimistic friend, will have an eternity to wrestle with the complications that come with the hardened and habitual confirmed virgin. 72 times the complications! 72 times the sexual turn-offs and turn-downs and all the while you will have a throbbing and thoroughly unsatisfied sexual member. Unless all these girls have 24-hour hymen regeneration and the only reason they are virgins is because they were all waiting for you and are perfectly willing to share you with 71 others, (and you need some off the charts faith to think that that's possible even in heaven), you have a situation, at least in my mind, much more accurately characterized as hell.

And forget about that, think about it this way: is that what it's all about? Life? Is it all about sex? Putting your penis in a woman's vagina? A pleasurable feeling, yes, but only for a short time and I would put forth the suggestion that it's best that way. I mean riding a roller coaster is fun but riding one for all eternity? Maybe the exact opposite.

Or here's another way to look at it: who are these people who are telling you that you will be rewarded in heaven with 72 virgins if you rape this woman and behead her son? Are they leaders of your church? Clergymen? Are they leaders of a group trying to amass enough wealth to take down the financial strongholds that the enemies of your faith have established in this world? Well then they are more like salesmen or CEO's. Or are they just advocates trying to represent Islam like lawyers? On the list of top 10 occupations to which psychopaths are attracted, clergy is #8, salesperson #4, lawyer #2 and CEO is numero uno.
Psychopaths, people who lack empathy, are highly egocentric, persuasive and goal-oriented, and tend to have the superficial charm to get what they are after, are the very kind of people who just might look at a virile, young population of men and ask themselves how they could be persuaded to do things like fly planes into buildings or strap bombs to their person and detonate them in highly populated areas? What do virile, young men want most? A parallel question would be what do horny, young men think about once every 7 seconds?

That's right young man who is simultaneously raping, killing and praying, if you can go without jackin' it long enough to read this, (but, no, please, clean the pipes first so you can maybe read it objectively), you just might see a shadow of doubt creep across your moral relativism that you never saw before. That shadow should translate into something like, “What am I STUPID?” The answer is yes. Yes, you are stupid. But all is not lost. There is yet hope for you. You see every man, young or old, with more blood flowing through his wiener than his brain is stupid. The good news is it should be only temporary.

If the 72 virgins are not your motivation then it might be something like your friends or family were raped or killed by someone and you should repay them in kind. But that is most likely what the people who raped or killed your loved ones were thinking about while they were doing it. If not the virgins.

This is how rape and killing last forever. I have made light of this a bit thus far but it's no joke at all. Right now in Syria, Iraq, Gaza, and all over the world people are witnessing another generation of revenge being justified. More killing and rape will serve only to perpetuate more of the same. It will be empty revenge at best. I've seen pictures of men with their young sons holding disembodied heads of non believers. I actually saw a video that I hasitated a long time to view. I wrestled with the morality of viewing a video that showed a Christian man on his knees with hands tied behind his back being forced to renounce his faith and testify to a forced belief in the faith of his executioners. He did so and his "reward" was to not be killed with a bullet. Rather his head was sawed off with a sword. Not in a fast painless way. While this was happening the surrounding soldiers, wearing masks, began manaically shouting their OWN forced faith in their god because they'd rather be the guy with the sword than the guy under it. It's going to be awfully hard for a little education to overcome violent beliefs you were raised on or justified fear of believing, or practicing what one knows is right. I say "justified" because as I watched the video, (and I am not going to share it here. I'm sure you will be able to find it if you want to lose your last meal), I imagined myself as a bystander and I was scarred by it. The fact is I would probably do the same thing as the other bystanders did, "YEAH! I TOTALLY SUPPORT THE FUCKING PSYCHO WITH THE KNIFE!" And maybe I am more gutless than most, but maybe not. Maybe most would do the exact same thing. Maybe the people in North Korea don't really believe Kim Jong Il got 5 holes in one his first time golfing. Maybe they only eat if they profess this belief. Maybe they have used all of their mental power to force themselves into a GENUINE belief in his golfing miracle. Maybe there are only a tiny number of genuine Muslim extremists who commit such attrocities for any other reason than just plain fear. And maybe all they are waiting for is the prospect of safety, or just survival before they will live the lives they want to live.

I live in a country full of good Muslim people. The prospect of killing Muslims is idiotic. Most are not extremist murderers and rapists. In fact a lot of the ones committing the murder and rape are probably not murderers or rapists at heart. But throughout history there have been small factions of extremists within groups that have made life worse for us all. Charismatic psychos with powers of persuasion instead of empathy. Do you think all the Nazis were genuine Nazis? Do you think all of Lenin's followers or the supporters of the Chinese Communist Party or Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge actually didn't know they were all full of shit? I have a hard time believing that. I believe almost all of us know what is right and wrong. Yet, we almost all sit by and watch from positions of safety. Which is worse the violent, extreme minority or the impotent majority who does nothing about them? I can't say that I'd have even half the balls to stand up to the scumbags who are forcing scared, young men to kill and rape for their god. I only wish that someone WITH balls would tell them, "Don't be either the insane minority or the inactive majority." That's the kind of teaching that I think will stop the attrocities. There must be a generation of thinkers who can stop the insanity. And a generation of thinkers begins with just a few. Be one of the few.

That is all.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Prabowo a No-No

My recent posts have been, (mostly), about my adventures in my latest country of residence, Indonesia. I have had some wild and crazy experiences so far but nothing as unexpected and completely out of character for me as my inexplicable interest in politics. I can only guess that it may have something to do with my disenchantment with politics in my own country, which is absolute. Well maybe not absolute. I am a bit interested to see whether Harper will be able to sell all our fresh water to France before it gets contaminated by fracking and/or oil and bitumen spills. Harper is a sell-out but I am not convinced we'd be in better shape with any other of the corporate sycophants that people the political landscape of Canada. I think it was Bernie Sanders, (who just might be a good president some day, (me and Phil Donahue both like him)), who said recently that no governmental decisions can be made in the U.S. without corporate approval. Same in Canada.

It's an interesting situation. This article is a pretty concise explanation. This whole mess that America is in started with the 14th amendment to the American Constitution. Not even! Just a note written by a court reporter, a former corporate leader, (railroad president), who took it upon himself to write an addendum to a case that was being tried to decide on proper taxation of the Southern Pacific Railroad. He wrote that the court had decided that corporations are people under the 14th amendment. In actuality the supreme court had ruled only that the state that charters a corporation has the right to tax it. They didn't actually make a ruling on the peoplehood prefix at all. So it did not constitute a law, but it became a matter of legal record and was subsequently used as precedence. The 14th amendment was mostly to ensure that recently freed, (by the 13th amendment), slaves would have the same rights as eveyone else in America. The corporations have fiendishly used it to usurp undeserved rights and freedoms that have significantly added to their power. That's how the American people got, ahem, railroaded into the state of corporate oligarchy that exists now.

I guess I'm interested to see if politics in Indonesia are as much a case of Mammon worship as in North America or not. As the man says, "May you live in interesting times." Things are getting quite interesting. Here in Indonesia it's a two horse race between Prabowo Subianto and Joko Widodo, nicknamed Jokowi. Election day came and went and as near as anyone can tell right now the election was a tie. Early indications show that Jokowi was the winner, but anything can happen. In North America we all know that the person who loses the election, or is found to have cheated can still be the leader of a country. We all know what happened with Bush but a lot of people don't know about Harper's election shenanigans in Canada. He cheated in 2006 to first become PM. He spent more than allowed on advertising. Not such a bad sin but still against the rules. But then in 2011 he won with 39% of the vote. That's right 61% of Canadians had had enough of him by then. But there's more. There were these mysterious automated phone calls that directed voters to the wrong polling stations. This lead to an investigation into Canadian voting procedures and the conclusion that there were rampant procedural errors made by polling officials. The election is still disputed but we kept Harper anyway. So what do you do if you're Harper? A couple years later you cut the election watchdog's budget by 8% to make sure that this MAY happen again. That's the office whose job it is to straighten out rampant procedural errors. Sounds a lot like the rampant procedural errors in Florida, (governed by Jeb Bush), during the 2000 election in the States doesn't it?

Right now it looks very much as though something like this could happen here in Indonesia. Here is quite a scary article that shows quite clearly what I'm talking about. Quick counts after the July 9th election all favour Jokowi. All the legitimate ones that is. But according to the article there are some quick count agencies, known for innaccuracies in the past, who have claimed Prabowo won the narrowest of victories.

Now watch this: where a BBC reporter reads the stats to Prabowo and he says, "No no no no. It is completely the other way around." He says the sources cited are partisan in favour of Jokowi and not to be trusted. Part of a "grand design to manipulate perception." And then the statement that gave me a chill, "Let us rely on the legal institutions of Indonesia." This looks a lot like the tried and tested political manouvre, (or manure however you spell that word...), that I like to call the "I know you are but what am I" ploy. Recognize that you suck, pinpoint your shortcomings, then accuse the opposition of exactly those problems. What I'm saying, and what the previous article is saying, is that perhaps Prabowo, not Jokowi, is guilty of grand designs to manipulate perception in Indonesia. Probowo calls Jokowi a "product of a PR campaign" and a "tool of the oligarchs." I have a feeling I know which candidate is the bigger TOOL here. As for the PR campaign I read an article written by an Indonesian who can understand the speeches he gives in Indonesian and that writer characterized them as hyper-patriotic, jingoistic rabble rousing in which he has made flamboyant entrances on horseback and spectacular exits via the stage dive. He also says that the Jokowi supporters are the violent ones and HE, the former Lieutenant General in the military, is preaching peace. And I just LOVED his response when asked what he will do if he loses. "WHAT?" He has been quoted as saying, "Losing is not an option." That worries me. And in a more famous quote from 1998, the year of Suharto's fall, when the riots were happening and he allegedly ordered kidnapping and torture, he said he was willing "to drive all the Chinese out of the country even if that sets the economy back twenty or thirty years." Maybe this is what he means when he says in the interview that he is fighting for a "clean" Indonesia.

In evasive answer to the reporter's question about allegations of human rights violations he committed in 1998 during the Suharto regime in Indonesia, he states that he leads a coalition that is comprised of two thirds of the voters in Indonesia. How could they be so stupid to support me? Not even a minute later he mentions that Indonesians have been considered a stupid, lazy people. Then he evades the second request for him to unequivocally comment on human rights violations he has been accused of and he uses another political tactic. I HAVE! Many, many, many, many times. Check the record. This means I may or may not have actually answered this question in the past, but I'm not going to answer this question NOW. The statement about relying on the legal institutions of Indonesia is chilling because I have been here only a few months and have already had plenty of first hand experience with what the whole world knows about Indonesia's legal institutions: they are corrupt. A long lasting remnant of the Suharto government to which Prabowo has strong ties.

He was a high ranking, very important military officer in Suharto's Indonesia. He actually married Suharto's daughter though they are now divorced. I recently read a rumour that Titiek Suharto will get back together with him if he wins the election because a traditional muslim country prefers a married president. But apparently this was just a rumour. Couldn't have hurt him in the minds of the incredulously fond reminiscers of the Suharto era. Who vote, by the way. Just read the article. An estimated 73 billion bucks of Indonesia's money passed through the Suharto family's hands. Suharto killed an estimated half million rivals to his "presidency." Who knows how many he imprisoned? Prabowo and Titiek are still incredibly wealthy today because of the Suharto years of violence and corruption. Yet still today there are many who speak of Suharto in almost god-like terms.

After Suharto stepped down, Prabowo demanded that his successor, Habibie, put him in charge of the army. Instead, Habibie demoted him. Furious, Probowo stormed into the Presidential Palace with a sidearm and some military trucks. He was blocked, but it's no secret what he was about to do. When he says in this article that his family has always "served the country, served the people, served the society" it is mind blowing that any of the country, people, society of Indonesia can take that seriously let alone a MAJORITY of them! Read the article, please. The death of two of his uncles on the same day in '46 during the war of independance against the Dutch inspired Prabowo's military career. Sounds more inspiring before you figure that this was 5 years before he was born. He never knew those uncles. Racial slurs endured as the only Asian in class while studying in Switzerland, the U.K. and Hong Kong? First of all, boo hoo. Studying in Switzerland, U.K. and Hong Kong. Poor fella. Secondly the Swiss and the English are not the first nationalities that would come to mind if I were pondering anti-Asian sentiment by country. And thirdly, I doubt very much he was the only Asian in a class in Hong Kong or he was subjected to racial slurs there for being Asian. Here's a theory and there's really no way of knowing, but maybe, just maybe he was a child of privelege with a PERSONALITY that people didn't like, not a race. He has a notorious temper and as the article says he thought of his teachers as stupid.

Here we are back at that word again: stupid. Prabowo is fond of furthering the myth that people think Indonesians are stupid monkeys. Where did he get this from? One of my fellow expats here posted this article on facebook today. As you read that article did you think for an instant, "Okay, a power tripping soldier uses his uniform and position to extort less than five bucks from a guy who is parking at the prime cultural site in all of Jakarta ostensibly to absorb some culture. The guy won't pay so the soldier goes through the unthinkable process of dousing him with gasoline, (for all we know more than 5 bucks worth), lights the guy on fire and for doing so COULD serve jail time! That must be a perfect example of how all 237 million Indonesians think. They are all stupid monkeys." I hope you didn't. Because THAT would be stupid.

But Probowo seems to think that there is a perception of Indonesians as stupid, lazy monkeys. Another theory here: given the life this guy has lived, the corruption he has benefitted from, the harm he has already brought to Indonesia, and the fact that he fully expects to win this election, this may be another one of those "I know you are but what am I" situations. Not that HE is a stupid, lazy monkey, but that he may be the one who views Indonesians in this way. In fact he may be depending upon it.

I think if he somehow becomes president it will almost certainly be through unscrupulous means. I wonder if his tactics will resemble the North American election thefts or if he'll just storm the Presidential Palace again. I doubt he'll reunite with his ex wife but there is a real danger in Indonesia that the Suharto regime will be renewed along with the corruption, government enrichment and citizen impoverishment characteristic of it. I don't know much about Jokowi but it seems to me there's nowhere to go but up from here.

Am I wrong?

Addendum: Today is July 23. The official count is in and it's Jokowi with 53% of the votes so the reputable quick count agencies were, once again, right on the money. Prabowo is, of course, challenging the voting process as "unfair" as he said he wouldn't in the BBC interview. I suppose the very fair process of demanding a political position and if refused assassinating the refuser, (like Prabowo attempted to do with Habibie) is preferable. Incidentally, the link I used with the quick count stats showed up on my compose blog screen properly but on the blog site when I clicked on the link it went to the wrong page. I just changed it and hope it works so you can see the accuracy of the quick count agencies Prabowo said were partisan and tools of the oligarchs. The agency that had him with 60% of the vote is now being violently silenced by members of the Jokowi camp I guess. Indonesia dodged a bullet here. I have little doubt that Prabowo would have been a terrible president. It will be interesting to see how long it takes Jokowi to be corrupted. I'm a complete cynic when it comes to politics. Oscar Wylde said about cynics, "A cynic knows the price of everything but the value of nothing." I can't find much, if any, value in politicians but I DO see the price the whole world has paid for this elitist sport. I'll probably go back now to pretending I'm ignoring it.