Sunday, October 02, 2005


I have received the odd email about the wisdom of heading off to Indonesia mainly due to the Bali bombings of Saturday. All other news from Indonesia that has filtered to western news outlet in the past weeks has also been grim. To the threat of terrorism I can add the political unrest due to a doubling of the price of fuel and Avian flu. Bombers and rioters and chickens, Oh My.

Basically, I still think that going to Indonesia is a good idea for the following reasons:

Avian flu: People who have been infected are those with lots of proximity to poultry. Though I like the idea of seeing things that other tourists might not and pompously believe I will, visiting chicken farms is not my idea of going “off the beaten track” (if such a thing exists). When the virus mixes with human flu to start the pandemic, I will only be at risk slightly earlier than the rest of the world population. And if this thing is going to wipe out most of the world population, why would I want to be around to see that?

Political unrest: The Indonesian government has announced that it will end its domestic subsidy of fuel. This will lead to many people having difficulties in making a living, subsequent unrest and possibly the odd riots. Likely only in Jakarta and the provincial capitals. However, the situation is not as bad as when I went there in the late 90's and I was fine then. As with chicken farms, I tend to avoid angry crowds and twitchy cops or at least find a safe place to watch (always from the sidelines with a visible escape route).

Terrorism: Once again Bali has been hit by murderous nutcases. Once again the tourists that the Balinese need to make a living will desert the place, compounding the suffering of these people. I had never intended to go to Bali as I only have so much time in the country, for visa reasons, and I have to prioritise what I get to see. Australian surfers being low on the list, I had decided to forgo Bali. However, the whole of Indonesia will be affected by the loss of tourist revenue.

Terrorist strikes are unlikely to happen in the same place twice in short succession. When these vicious little bastards have attempted to do a repeat of whatever atrocity they have inflicted (as they tried in Madrid and London) they have failed. Also, they try to maximise damage by hitting places with high concentration of people. Bali was one of the few places in Indonesia where there is a very high ratio of westerners. I have a natural predisposition against crowds so I will rarely be in these high risk areas.

That's as far as the basic safety goes and I hope it reassures friends and family who might worry. More importantly there is a certain moral consideration.

First of all I believe the concept of safety is one that is fundamentally flawed. It consists of taking steps to avoid what is inevitable; death. The only thing to consider is the level of risk you are willing to accept and the rewards of taking said risk. The specific risk of the kind of attack that hit Bali is shared by Londoners, Parisians and the residents of Strasbourg (after 9/11 there had been rumours of a plot to attack the Christmas market). I am in a country that itself has been hit by a horrendous attack. If I was to get really paranoid I could worry about the fact that ETA have been known to let off the odd bomb in the neighbourhood to hit tourist revenues.

This is the moral bit. I have this notion that the best reaction to a bombing is the one Londoners had after they were attacked. They got on with it. This is a far better way of dealing with terrorism than pissing away civil liberties or attacking random Arab countries. Tony Blair and George Bush have shown us what not to do as they merrily dance to Al-Quaeda's tune like the jesters they truly are. Their ineptitude and delusions of grandeur boldly assist the primitivist lunatics ,that make up the ranks of the jihadis, edge us towards some “clash of civilisations” that both the bomb-belt crowd and the yank neo-cons so ardently believe in.

Gandhi defeated the might of the British Empire by ignoring any thing they could do to him and pursuing his objectives of Indian self improvement regardless. He knew that by letting the Brits set the agenda he would fail and hence removed them from the equation. The average office monkey who went to work on the Monday after the London bombing showed more determination and wisdom than most of the world's leaders, regardless how much they were aware of it.

In that vein I will not alter my travel plans. Not because I am some plucky Brit bravely sticking up two fingers to the heinous Saracen but because I cannot see any other course of action. Whoever planned this latest bit of utter fuckery will get his rocks off at the forthcoming speeches, resolutions and actions of governments. What will really piss him off is seeing Aussie surfboys downing Bintangs in Kuta. They probably see themselves as the fearsome warriors of the new Caliphate who freeze the hearts of infidels with mighty blows. Statistically, however, they are less dangerous to a backpacker than malaria or traffic accidents. Therefore, they should be entered under “things to consider” after mosquitoes and teenagers on scooters. Triumph through apathy.

Take care,



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