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Archive for July, 2011

South East Asian Politics, why do we not care?

Posted by cegan on July 31, 2011

As I begin thinking about my research for my Masters on Malaysian Politics I wonder why Australian’s, West Australian’s are not interested in the politics of our near neighbours. There was over 200 arrested in Malaysia recently when they protested against Malaysian electoral irregularities, front page news in Jakarta, ignored in Perth. Do we choose to ignore the history and political realities or does it stop the tabloid medias fear factor that sells papers?

I think its more than that, its a battle of complexity. Malaysia and Indonesia’s democratic process is enlivened, passionate and strong, it has to be for the government to be held to account in the world of corruption.

If you don’t speak up, your children are left to defend for themselves, if you don’t speak up racial barriers will be used to spark political division, if you don’t speak up the nation will be mired in what many academics classify Malaysia as an ‘authoritative democracy’, which benefits those associated with the government rather than anyone else.

This view of being a government worker is expressed when I gave my local rider 50,000 rupiah (about 4 times the appropriate rate, but 50,000 rupiah buys me less than it buys a local motorbike rider in Bali). He asks me where I work and I say “Government” – Good job, good job! he says.

I wonder whether he would have any reality of the ACCC in Perth that restricts government corruption after the Burke days of power? Would he have any belief that government corruption could end?

But what excuses do we have as a developed economy that cares little about what our neighbours do, I include New Zealand in this mix. The Election later this year barely rates a mention, we love our ANZAC cousins, but its politics – eh, its all good bro!

Of other developed countries around the world such as the US and England they have media that envelopes conversations happening in their neigbouring countries. Histories are shared, politics overlaps, decisions in Mexico/Canada have implications on the US. Eg stepping up the war against drug gangs or the refusal to send troops to Iraq.

However it doesn’t explain our ignorance of the 20,000 who marched on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, the internet revolution in Malaysia (which I am going to look at further in my master proposal and its implication on Australian politics) and the massive growth in the Indonesian economy that will foster Australia’s next expansionary phase after the China boom.

Outward thinking opinion columns directing our attention to the South East Asian sphere is needed, you can be sure that those in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore gaze their eyes on Australia more than you can imagine.

An example of this was a trip to Indonesia in 2008 and to Tembilahan, Riau Province Sumatra.

“Why is it Australian’s love Bali so much”
“What do you think of Kevin Rudd”
“Why don’t Australian’s want to come to Tembilahan”

As an Australian increasingly feeling part of the Asian sphere and fascinated by South East Asia, if we want to have direct influence on our neighbours to implement more functioning and less corrupt practice, our population and media need to start to interact with South East Asian communities.

I doubt 1% of the population of Perth would even know that Indonesia has a President not a Prime Minister, let alone ask a question on their views on the Indonesian president. But in a town of 150,000 people this knowledge was being sought after.

In many ways our democracy is weaker in spirit and less outward thinking than those of our near neighbours. We have much to teach each other, let us hear their news and views.

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The cultural erosion of Bali’s ‘Golden Mile’

Posted by cegan on July 30, 2011

It’s been a while folks, but I had to write about my second visit to Bali in 12 months.  Recent tourist statistics show tourism growth to Bali is being solely met by my fellow Australian’s. If you are looking at June statistics, growth in Australian arrivals increased  35% compared to an international arrival stats of around 9% from June 2010.

I could tell you all about statistics that show that 30,000 a month head to Bali from the western capital and smashes the 40,000 month barrier during peak periods, but that was my last post, a real issue is what tourists from my country are imposing onto Kuta Legian.

An alcohol binged holiday trying to make it the Ibiza for Australians, particularly the young and restless from Perth and Darwin. The pubs show the Friday Night game between Eagles and Geelong live (game was shown on delay in Perth). Its packed, the eagles song gets screeched out into the Legian streetscape. Barely an Indonesian recipe is on the menu, the order of the day is to sing for Western Australia’s most popular side.

This has been the biggest change, the growth in the Aussie Sportsbars in Legian/Kuta in the last two years and the results of this would be akin to the Spanish experience in Alicante where they find that the British have recreated little Britain in culture and attitudes.

“Gday Mate” is spoken to you in the most crocodile dundee accent you can find, ‘Aussie Beef Pie’ has suddenly found its place on the culinary palate of the local restaurants and I ask, how do the Balinese feel?

Tourism is not meant to be like this, tourists go to experience another culture rather than imposing their culture onto another, indeed the Bali I see and ask about  poses a question “Are we this nationalistic?”

Nationalism has been in fashion in recent decades, led by John Howard and its imposing history wars regarding the ‘blackband’ history that was dismissed in favour of celebrating our fabled narritives. But I struggle to see the everyday position of nationalism, particularly in the winter months when Australia’s interest is divided in 3 between Union, League and Aussie Rules.

I come to the conclusion that I have not the opportunity to judge nationalistic sentiment, but are we? We don’t deliver any celebrity based culture to PMs, care about where they live, demand them to be christian or muslim or even believe in anything…

But the love of Bali is different, Australian’s claim how great they are and then impose their love and desire onto the people and due to numbers, business and economics respond.

Indeed it was so much at home when walking in Legian I saw “Chef wanted” in a sign outside of a shop. Ahh, back home I thought in skill shortage Perth, the plethora of Australians are definitely bringing economic joy to the masses.

As I gave my motorbike rider on the last day 50,000 rupiah (5.50 AUD) for a 10 min journey back to Legian, I tell him where I went. Klungkung, Candidasa and Tangaran…”Real Bali he tell’s me”. I then go on my rant about the imposition of Aussie culture on Bali, he agrees with me. The hidden words not being said to tourists, not being said in travel pages…but its there. Balinese want tourism, but don’t want the cultural imperialism that is advocated by so many Australian tourists by what they eat, by what they do in Bali and how they spend. I tell him to “make sure you annoy those Aussie tourists for me”

However as my last post has said, the Real Bali is still there. Around the corner from the hustle and bustle of the upmarket Seminyak, I discovered paddocks with rice farms and a big juicy cow in the paddock. I preach what I say, I went and visited the Court of Justice in the old capital and went to traditional indigenous village that only allows people to marry within the village and is largely shut off from the experience in Kuta/Legian

As progress goes full throttle ahead and as we continue to improve the economic circumstances on Bali, lets make our cultural legacy on Bali one that fosters the historic island’s culture rather than aids in the development of Australian and to some extent West Australian cultural imperialism. You’ll find a fascinating experience and you will be redirecting money to outlets that enhance Balinese culture rather than erodes it.

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