Annual Fundraising Appeal

Here’s an important message to CounterPunch readers from
BARBARA EHRENREICH…

BarbaraE

Here at CounterPunch we love Barbara Ehrenreich for many reasons: her courage, her intelligence and her untarnished optimism. Ehrenreich knows what’s important in life; she knows how hard most Americans have to work just to get by, and she knows what it’s going to take to forge radical change in this country. We’re proud to fight along side her in this long struggle.  We hope you agree with Barbara that CounterPunch plays a unique role on the Left. Our future is in your hands. Please donate.

Day8

Yes, these are dire political times. Many who optimistically hoped for real change have spent nearly five years under the cold downpour of political reality. Here at CounterPunch we’ve always aimed to tell it like it is, without illusions or despair. That’s why so many of you have found a refuge at CounterPunch and made us your homepage. You tell us that you love CounterPunch because the quality of the writing you find here in the original articles we offer every day and because we never flinch under fire. We appreciate the support and are prepared for the fierce battles to come.

Unlike other outfits, we don’t hit you up for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it.

CounterPunch’s website is supported almost entirely by subscribers to the print edition of our magazine. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads.

The continued existence of CounterPunch depends solely on the support and dedication of our readers. We know there are a lot of you. We get thousands of emails from you every day. Our website receives millions of hits and nearly 100,000 readers each day. And we don’t charge you a dime.

Please, use our brand new secure shopping cart to make a tax-deductible donation to CounterPunch today or purchase a subscription our monthly magazine and a gift sub for someone or one of our explosive  books, including the ground-breaking Killing Trayvons. Show a little affection for subversion: consider an automated monthly donation. (We accept checks, credit cards, PayPal and cold-hard cash….)
button-store2_19

or use
pp1

 To contribute by phone you can call Becky or Deva toll free at: 1-800-840-3683

Thank you for your support,

Jeffrey, Joshua, Becky, Deva, and Nathaniel

CounterPunch
 PO Box 228, Petrolia, CA 95558

In the aftermath of the bomb attack on a disco in Kuta Beach, Bali a number of journalists wrote about the loss of innocence in that exotic isle. They must have been overcome by another spasm of the historical myopia that afflicts the scribes of today. Maybe they received their information from Colin McPhee’s best-selling […]

Bali Mon Amour

by ILIJA TROJANOW

In the aftermath of the bomb attack on a disco in Kuta Beach, Bali a number of journalists wrote about the loss of innocence in that exotic isle. They must have been overcome by another spasm of the historical myopia that afflicts the scribes of today. Maybe they received their information from Colin McPhee’s best-selling account of his enjoyable stay on this island, called A House In Bali: “In the afternoon and evening Bali grew unreal, lavish and theatrical like an old-fashioned opera scenery.” This was as much an invention as the earlier perception of Bali, defined by the colonial invasion and onslaught which began in 1846. “The Balinese are fierce, savage, perfidious and bellicose people, loath to do any work, and so they dislike agriculture,” a Dutch visitor had written some hundred years earlier. Only after conquering and domesticating these ‘bellicose savages’, a task completed in 1908, did the Dutch authorities and other Westerners start to appreciate the locals and their culture. Less than a generation after Dutch troops had massacred 4000 locals in a puputan, a fight to the death, Bali was on its way to becoming a major tourist destination, marketed as a gem of purity and innocence, of beauty and delicacy.

By initially attracting the glitterati of the Western metropolitan centres ? glamorous people like Noel Coward and Charlie Chaplin as well as other aristocrats, artists (among them musician Colin McPhee) and actors ? the island established itself as the site of paradisiacal innocence in the tropics. Several Hollywood films were shot (Bali, The Last Paradise!), several best-sellers set in Bali were written. Any cruise liner worth its dime would include this fabulous island on its itinerary. By the ’50s, Bali was a dominant image of South Sea Romanticism, as if created by Rousseau and Gauguin and choreographed by promotional experts from New York. Many fell for the fake charm. Even an intelligent and reflective man like Pandit Nehru, first Prime Minister of India, was lured into calling Bali the “Dawn of the World”.

This packaging remained intact, even after Independence. Now Bali was the Indonesian candidate for Paradise, a role that fit snuggly into the nationalistic designs of the two successive ruling generals, Soekarno and Soeharto. However, Soeharto made life difficult for the ad agencies when, in the aftermath of his coup in 1965, around 50,000-100,000 supposedly Communist Balinese were massacred by their brethren. The ’70s saw the advent of mass tourism: the untouched beaches were transformed into clearing houses for the escapist dreams of Australians, Americans and West Europeans. Hotels still advertise with slogans like: “Paradise hasn’t changed for thousands of years, except to get better.” Or: “Paradise begins and ends in Bali. Bali’s greatest asset are the Balinese themselves, a serene, harmonious people, spiritual in a pure and delightful way.”

Little wonder that Bali’s culture became a reflection of the image of tourism agencies. Merchants, hotel owners and artists have a common interest to preserve this profitable, streamlined culture, which reliably offers what the visitors expect. “Nobody on Bali could seriously think to challenge the idea of Balinese culture. Even those people who oppose tourism and see themselves as defenders of tradition are supporters of the idea,” writes anthropologist Adrian Vickers. Even if this culture were to perish, one would take its death mask and use it as long as the sweet grimace on the mask conjures the image of an idyll for the innumerable tourists. As far back as 1971, a World Bank expert came to the conclusion that Bali’s cultural expressions would soon disappear. But he was not unduly worried: “Bali can still retain its romantic image and be thought of as a green and sumptuous garden.”

The true history of this Garden of Eden was, however, human, all too human. In the 17th century, Bali was an important exporter of slaves, who were shipped not only to the different ports of the Indian Ocean, but all the way to South Africa and beyond, to the Caribbean. Business boomed, until the first complaints found their way to the Indonesian Archipelago. Seemingly without reason, the Balinese slaves had run ‘amuk’. They had even dared to seize a whole ship and to maroon the crew ? what humanity, though: instead of throwing the slavers into the sea, the Balinese had dropped them ashore! The Dutch East India Company continued to receive so many complaints, that they forbade the import of Balinese slaves in 1688, in an ordinance whose language is reminiscent of the EU decision to restrict the import of English beef. The term amuk initially referred to a highly ritualised form of confrontation between clans, in which the two best warriors fought one another without any restraint. For Balinese society had never been peaceful or idyllic. A multitude of greedy princes sought reassertion in small but bloody skirmishes. The court literature is full of romantic war legends, which describe in hyperbolic detail how the corpses of the enemy were heaped up in mountains, how the flowing blood formed an ocean. There were too many masters and too many wars.

This historical excursus has, of course, no bearing on the gruesome inhumanity of the recent crime, but it does put it into perspective. The violence of terrorism is not the Original Sin, but the latest in a series of horrors perpetuated on this beautiful island. The murderous bomb blast did not destroy the innocence of Bali, it damaged a successful trademark. ILIJA TROJANOW is a German novelist, and Special Correspondent for the Suddeutsche Zeitung, and currently lives in Bombay (India). Trojanow can be reached at: ilija@bom5.vsnl.net.in