The shape of the world a generation from now will be influenced far more by how we communicate the values of our society to others than by military or diplomatic superiority. William Fulbright, 1964

Sunday, April 01, 2007


OH SPEND, ALL YE FAITHFUL © Duncan Graham 2007

Next Friday recalls the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It's also a public holiday. So let's enjoy the long weekend, get out and about, experience the Great Outdoors, commune with nature, refresh flagging spirits and marvel at all Creation.

Where I come from this is the last opportunity to pack the kids in the car, to go camping, hiking or fishing before winter sets in, when chill winds and horizontal rains lash the coastal cities.

Where I live now this is yet another chance to venture forth with the family into the sunshine, to explore the world beyond the front gate where adventure beckons and new wonders wait to be revealed.

In other words it's time to visit an air-conditioned Shopping Mall.

For the ten per cent of Protestants and Catholics in Indonesia, attending church is an important ritual next weekend.

Once they've done their devotions they can join those of other persuasions to pay homage at the shrines of Indonesian consumption.

Which we will do in multitudes. Easter is not a good time for agoraphobics.

But it is a time to reflect. This is not so difficult. Changing rooms in dress shops have mirrors for just this purpose.

The ritual we follow is well known to social anthropologists as the Cult of Swipe. It involves the true believers gathering in large numbers where they make offerings of plastic cards.

Acolytes, clad in the sanctified Vestments of the Brand embroidered with the Sacred Logo, insert the proffered card in a small black box mounted on an altar. (In some denominations this is referred to as a 'counter' or 'check-out').

Here it is lovingly given a brief laying-on of the electrons before being returned to the communicant. Then the revered words of absolution are spoken: 'Please sign here – and have a good day.'

Good Friday is well-named for the retail industry. While followers of the Nazarene take time to consider the Resurrection and the Words of the Prophets, those who worship the doctrine of business contemplate the words of the wholesalers and the raising of the profits.

Like all religions, those who've been brought up in the complexities of one faith find it difficult to appreciate the beliefs of others.

So it is with Mallinity.

First you must understand the teachings that have raised Mallinity to its lofty place in this archipelago of mysteries. The mall is the modern equivalent of hallowed caves where Javanese seers in times past tasted the mountain air and calculated the most favorable lunar moment.

Making such a pilgrimage is now impossible because of the traffic, but worry not: Wisdom is to be found in the Food Court of a mall near you while sampling the Flavor of the Month.

After eons of research I can now reveal how the gallant youth of yore and the founding fathers got their ideas on boosting the economy.

Deep in the Constitution, and overlooked till now, is a clause saying that unity, the national ethos and the balance of payments are enhanced through the buying of things we might want but don't need.

To be a good citizen is to be a good consumer.

If you come from a culture where the soul is refreshed through encounters with the wonders of the Creator, you might wonder how the creations of mankind can excite such enthusiasm.

The answer is simple. Mallinity allows us the chance to commune through the exchange of rupiah for rubbish. It lets us express a primitive need to display our wealth before others, so they may witness and be moved by the depth of our piety and pockets.

Mallinity speaks a common language that bypasses Babel. It takes us to a place where all words are universally understood. SALE, BONUS and BARGAIN are three such examples, known to the devout as the Trinity of Trade.

Clearly the commandments of Mallinity break down the boundaries that divide. Verily, I say unto ye, when we all come together to shop in peace, under one vast neon-lit dome - whatever our backgrounds and beliefs, cultures and ethnicity - then this is a truly pluralist society.

Excuse me, I must break off now as I've just reached the head of the queue: "Yes, Miss, that is on credit."

(First published in The SundayPost, 1 April 07)



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