By Mark Ulyseas
For The Bali Times
I wish my editor William Furney, the staff and readers of The Bali Times, my son Kabir Andrew, Kamal and Sarita Kaul, family, relatives and friends like Sioned Emrys, Nia Williams and Jill Gocher, a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.Â I regret I couldnâ€™t find anything festive to write about. Instead I have spoken the truth, or at least I think I have. Humor me and read this piece; then if you so desire, promise yourselves that you will do your bit to make this planet, which is our only home, a little bit safer, cleaner and happier, with all the love that you can give. A little money on the way will help
This year is in its last days and then hope will begin for the New Year. So what will it be? More wars? Genocide? Child Abuse? Women-beating? Thereâ€™s so much to choose from. Itâ€™s like a supermarket out there, with all kinds of disasters available on the shelves; one has simply to reach out and grab one.
2007 is ending (at the time of going to press) on a note of promise, with the climate change conference in Bali. What happened to the good old days when we used a blanket instead of a heater? All this talk of saving the world is pointless. Everything is done half-heartedly. Letâ€™s make a resolution for the New Year to decimate the planet. Destroy all our natural resources, pollute the rivers and farm the sea to extinction. At least we would be doing one thing properly.
On one hand we talk of peace, love and no war. On the other, we bomb, rape, pillage, annex and subdue nations with our money power. So what will it be, folks? Anyone for a second helping of torture?
For instance, letâ€™s take a look at Afghanistan. The British couldnâ€™t control the tribes in the 19th century; the Russians failed miserably; and the American soldiers with their assorted comrades in arms, poor souls, are dying by the dozen. I suppose life is cheaper by the dozen. Hasnâ€™t anyone got a clue about what the Afghans want? Could it be conceivable that all they want is to be left in peace to manage their own country the way they think fit?
And what about certain parts of the Middle East and Africa? Do you think they will run out of people considering the number of killings that are taking place? Education there stems from the barrel of a gun. The pen is for signing death certificates.
Finally we come to the mother of them all, Iraq. The cradle of civilization is now a cemetery of lost souls. Violence has become as commonplace as breakfast, lunch and dinner. â€œSo how many died in car bombs today? And while youâ€™re about it, please pass the apple pie,â€ said Tiffany at breakfast.
Statistics are essential in war zones. They can always be rearranged to suit oneâ€™s perceived objectives. The little numbers represent people – mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, relatives and friends. A neat way to manage these numbers is to write in pencil so that an eraser can be used judiciously.
And while the death toll in war-ravaged countries rises, the world peeps behind the blood-stained bamboo curtain (Myanmar), watching helplessly as unarmed monks are shot in the streets to the chorus of voices threatening Iran not to go ahead with its nuclear program.
Oh Africa, the Dark Continent. What can one say about its peoples and their ancient cultures that has slowly been corrupted by large corporations and foreign governments meddling in the affairs of the states: buying and selling governments on mammoth proportions?
I like Robert Mugabe. Heâ€™s a nice chap. Sensible fellow who has kept most of the population of his country on the threshold of poverty.Â His public relations efforts appear to be working better than a lot of other countries. Recently his buddy from Senegal gave him a clean chit of health. Oh for the days of Idi Amin. Remember Entebbe and the bloodbaths? Everything is so quiet now – no excitement and drama. I suppose people are so hungry that they donâ€™t have the power to raise their voices. Can we give them microphones to help them be heard? Better still, we could sell them a few million. Any takers?
What is interesting now are the stories emanating from South Africa and Nigeria: street violence, robberies and bandits on the prowl. What happened to the days of the mafia when one couldnâ€™t refuse an offer? Thereâ€™s no subtlety or class left in all this violence. Killing has become so crass.
And what about my country? Do we still abort female foetuses? Burn our women who donâ€™t bring enough dowries? And are we still killing the remaining tigers in the wild and selling their body parts to the Chinese to be used in aphrodisiacs?
Forgive me, I missed that little country to the west of India, Pakistan. Poor chaps. Theyâ€™ve had such a tiresome year with the constant ebb and flow of political shenanigans and religious fundamentalism that possibly the common folk want to migrate to India. Canâ€™t really blame them. All they want is to live in peace to pray, work and procreate.
Now letâ€™s see who is left on the blackboard? Hummm … Chavez seems to be doing pretty well for himself. And what about Brazilians who are fighting a losing battle with the powers that be to stop the plunder of the Amazon rainforest, the green lung of Mother Earth?Â South America appears to be lost in translation. We never seem to get a lot of news from there except for the soccer.
Letâ€™s leave all this violence for some whale steaks. The Japanese are so considerate to the world at large. For a country that prides itself on rejecting nuclear weapons, it has a rather odd way of showing its respect for the environment. I am referring to the commencement of the mass killing of whales for scientific purposes. Actually, you must admire their concern. Ever considered the fact that they maybe ridding the oceans of monsters that take up so much space and are a serious health hazard to humanity?
I think Japanâ€™s neighbor China has the right approach. If any land is required for development in that country, bulldozers move in to clear out the poor people living on the land. This is good as it saves on court cases and human rights.
There are many countries that lecture China on its human rights record. Wonder who is keeping the record? The worldâ€™s last-imagined superpower? This same superpower has a democracy like no other in the world. You know why? Because itâ€™s the only country where democracy is alive and well. Further, the person who wins the maximum votes in an election does not necessarily win the presidency. Are we talking of an oxymoron?
Civil liberties are essential for the survival of a nation, and so is the health of its people. In some areas of society where commonsense has been the victim, nature has found a way of retaliating by inventing diseases like AIDS, infecting millions and helping to keep the population in check.
And once again, as we have done in the past, this Christmas and New Year we shall all sit down to sumptuous meals, drink whatever fancies our taste buds, shop till we drop and pamper our overweight children and pets. Itâ€™s the season of happiness, love and family, especially for the homeless on the streets of the New Year, injured Iraqi children in hospitals, missing women in Afghanistan, asylum seekers, political detainees and the fringe folk of the planet. They will surely be very happy and content with what they see, hear, feel and touch this festive season.
From democracy to environmental disasters, it has been a rollercoaster ride through many countries and peoples and cultures and religions. This journey will end only when we truly comprehend the reason why we have been put on this planet by a power far greater than we can ever imagine.
For me, Bali is paradise and the world a paradox.
Merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om