Scattered Paradise

I never arrived early enough to find a morning newspaper. Somebody always got it first. What’s left behind is a local newspaper about business which is not really interest me. But then there’s Bali Times, a month ago edition, wrapping those new local newspapers. What interest me the most is the small picture of Paulo Coelho at the front page, he’s one of my favorite writers because he’s deep, spiritual and human. As I read through the pages, I found a very interesting article by Mark Ulyseas. The title was Paradox in Paradise : Chameleons (or ‘bunglon’ in Indonesia). It evoke some thoughts which probably hang about at the back of my head for ages.

Bali is the paradise or at least that’s what been said by foreigners who fell in love with this island. They came to Bali because of the Balinese way of life, its magic and mysteries, its people and the most popular reason: its ‘culture’. People can’t resist the charm of Bali, the myth, the festive, how they respect the nature surrounds them, how the Balinese express themselves totally in daily lives, all those trance in the name of ngayah, etc. Bali then become a number one exotic destinations, ready for those seniors longing for adventure, a one-thing-you-must-do-before-you-die thing. And Bali WAS expensive destination.

Years went by.. (with lots of question about Balinese identity in between)

Tourism today becomes the main source of economy in the island. People come to this island never again just to enjoy and respect the culture they once adore, but for more specific reason : money. People, who once came to Bali because of its rare beauty, now flocked to this island to try their best of luck. I knew some of foreigners who live in Bali for years and really think about Bali, respect the nature and the people, and even become ‘balinese’ themselves. But there are so many others who make a living here, but never really care about the island nor its people. People like this, always complaint that local people are slow or too many holidays for ceremonies, the bureaucracy complicates their business, and all, but still keep on taking from this island, keep on thinking what else can be taken in few years to come.

Shopping malls, multinational companies, international branded products, chained hotels.. Bali got it all. Bali is very adaptive, tourist will never feel far from home, there’s a Starbucks Coffee in this corner, Pizza Hut that corner, Sogo this way, Dunkin’ Donuts that way. I enjoy these places because that’s what I grew up with. For some it maybe a life-style and for others just a place to hang out or to eat and dine.. But that’s how things happened. It happened for every ‘exotic’ destination around the globe. Bali also provides these things for those who really accustomed to it. But this isn’t the hardest part.

Schools promote themselves as ‘international school’ once they have native speakers inside. Maybe it’s a gradual consequences in term of globalization, but as a society who have been colonized for 350 years, sometimes the unconscious mind still keep the way of thinking that foreigners (white-skinned) have better qualifications, more ‘civilized’, more powerful, brighter, etc. It happened everywhere for local people in any third-world country who often giving up under the name of global capitalism. The urgency of motivating oneself to become qualified in the world of globalization has been increasing from time to time. But the sad thing is, because some people still believe your qualification by the color of your skin, locals who really have the qualifications still facing the risk to be turned down by the company because the company choose to hire an expatriate or a consultant who will be paid thousands of dollars each year.

There’s an old sayings, “where the soil stepped on, there’s exactly the sky one hold high”. Sort of. So if you live in Jogjakarta-for instance- act like one. You don’t have to know every detail for being a Jogja-nese, just be respectful in every way. You can sometimes laugh about certain tradition that you find amusing or perhaps a bit silly for your logic mind, but respect their way of life, their various characters, even the stereotype around them. Moreover when one make a living there, one should be grateful. It’s so logic. But for some, it just didn’t ring a bell at all.

Everything in Bali is sale-able. I don’t know where those creative ideas in art came from. I guess Balinese just blessed with it, and must be got to do with all those DNA and Genom- thing. Not every Balinese is a craftsmen or artists. I can’t make any hand craft, can’t even dance a single dance- except when I was about 10 years old. But I’m quite grateful to know that I’m a human being who happen to be born as a Balinese and someday I have to be able to let go my Balinese-ness and just be a human being living in this wide universe. Sort of.

Just strolling around art market in Bali. You’ll find so many different kind of art-craft, so many different designs. Some may inspired by the style of Jogja, Asmat tribe in Papua..some even inspired by Native American (Colombus insisted to call them ‘Indian’- just because he arrived in America instead of India where he wanted to find spices). Very colorful. And nobody complaint, nobody claim to have certain design and forbid other people to produce art-craft by that design. Everybody live happily ever after. That’s how things work in the OLD Bali. Nobody can tell for sure, who has all the right for one single design. For example, if a one craftsman decides to make a ‘knocked down’ small wooden banana tree, everybody in the village will produce it, exactly the same. Nobody complaint, it’s their way to make a living together, a conscious mind that everybody has all the right to make a living because they happen to live side by side in the same little village. No shitty cheats. But money has changed the old Balinese way of life of doing ‘business’. Balinese have been trapped by the huge global capitalism, or in a simple way : a capitalist minded businessmen (or women) who actually make a living here in Bali but never give a damn care about Bali as a whole.

Money. Copyright. Never ending nightmare for any ‘traditional’ society who have their own rich culture and civilization but have been cheated under ‘international law’. Balinese designers are under threat. People from around the world, flocked to this island, legal or almost legal, illegal but made to be legal..etc. Trying to make a living here with their various amount of capital. Various motives, various attitude. Bali is the sugar and these people are ants. So, at this point, it’s still reasonable.

But then things become absurd. These people –without meant to be racist but there’s a significant amount of foreigners- begin to produce anything, market everything, busy with their own life.. living a very comfortable life because rupiahs is so cheap compared to their money. I really don’t mind people have a nice life of their own, maybe they really deserve it, maybe they’re a hard worker, or to keep it simple : because they have a good karma. I just concern a bit, didn’t people realize that they will create a bad karma for not giving by the time they take almost everything from this island? And the most threatening condition appeared : these people begin to register a patent, claim a copyright for OUR art-work, OUR design. They actually bunch of pathetic thieves but do it in a ‘legal’ way, with a logic mind of a pure unethical businessman who doesn’t got a clue about what a karma means.. So it works this way : these people claim they have all the rights to certain Balinese design, because they’ve already make a patent out of it, under their so-nonbalinese name. These designs, have been known by the Balinese for ages, but as the time goes by, the basic designs have many additional ‘new design’ here and there according to Balinese state of creativity- which is FINE, everybody agreed they share the same basic design from their ancestors. Nobody claim for such rights to keep it for their own.

But then some people came with this shitty idea to patent it not in Bali or Indonesia, but abroad, maybe their country of origin. By doing that, Balinese or any other ‘native’ design in any other traditional society around the globe, facing the same threats: their culture can be stolen for the sake of money. The value/ price of the products have been sky-rocketed. The production cost might be no more than 300.000 rupiahs, maybe. But when they put it in a high class gallery in their country, the price tag can be hundreds of dollars! It’s all about money. An independent craftsmen might protest, might continue their art-work although they can be sued because then it considered a piracy. And to face the ‘owner’ of this patent in court (international court), winning is almost impossible. And for those Balinese or local people who works for them, will defend “their Boss” with all they might, meaning they will take a stand against their Balinese fellow. What to do, a lot of mouths to feed. Well then, global capitalism reveals its evil side.

I mean, how can people be so greedy? I wonder what kind of person these people are, what kind of stories they will tell to their sons/ daughters/ grandchildren about being a success businessmen? Will it be : “my dear children, follow my footsteps reaching to the top by fooling some native tribe in a tiny island called Bali, stealing their heritage and patent it under my name, so then I can make a good money out of it.” ? What a nice story.

How can we say that we OWN something in this world? What is really OURS? Nothing. Our thought is a flowing energy, none is ours. We’re all connected like a computer network. Everything inside our head, is not our own, it might be somebody’s opinion, somebody’s idea, somebody’s memories, collective memories.. repressed consciousness.. unconscious mind.. etc you name it. We take it here and there, make a resume, a conclusion and call it our own. I think this idea of copyright is just absurd. Unless you make an invention, a new invention like what Thomas Alfa Edison or Graham bell was doing. May be. But designs? It only makes one head bald. Have local government do something to protect their people, locals? Nope. What about Indonesian government or any other so-called ‘third-world’ countries, do they have any solution for this? Nope. What about the UN? I think they will protect the LAW, as usual, although in this matter, the law of patent is seems so absurd.

Welcome to the jungle of globalization!

 

 

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Mark Ulyseas
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 06:01:33

    A very interesting piece. Keep writing.Shukreya (thank you in Hindi) Mark Ulyseas

    Reply

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