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, January 20, 2013


A dry argument to boost the nation’s morals
Reports that Indonesia will consider banning booze and jailing drinkers is excellent news.
The US tried prohibition for 13 years last century but like the First Gulf War didn’t go far enough.  You couldn’t transport or sell liquor but you could consume.
There are no such wimpy provisions in the draft Indonesian law now fermenting.  One sniff and Hi Kerobokan! This is all the way with SBY.
The war on drugs has been won and corruption conquered.  Poverty has been defeated. Big tobacco is in retreat. Time to let the Booze Battle commence and clean the archipelago of the demon drink.
The economy is already on a high – now it will get really woozy.  Apart from health workers, job seekers should also rejoice. 
Pinched minds have cruelly condemned the proposal from the Government’s coalition member Islamic Partai Persatuan Pembangunan (PPP - United Development Party), claiming it might put the hospitality industry out of business.
Moonshine!  Thousands of teetotallers will now flock to Bali attracted by the lack of hotel mini-bars and the devilish temptation to try a nightcap.  The Gideon Bibles should also be thrown out at the same time – those old testaments can be intoxicating.
Our tourist intake should soon rival neighbor Brunei, Southeast Asia’s Mecca for fun and where hooch is haram.
Anthropologists and doctoral candidates will rejoice as Bali returns to its pristine past before the invasion of the awful Okkers.  Kecak will be danced for delight, not dollars. 
The locals will place morning offerings on vomit-free sidewalks. There’ll be no more arak so no danger of getting revved up on battery acid.
The tourism industry can change its slogan to Visit Dry Indonesia 2013 and stand by for a doubling of desirable visitors, not the cashed-up slobs from the Pilbara mining camps gasping ‘I’ll die without a Bintang’.  Now they can.
But where will the jobs come from, I hear you cry above the cheering?
Stand ashamed, ye cynics; in the law enforcement industry, of course.  Manufacturers of scanners detecting airline criminals carrying 101 millilitres of make-up outside a clear plastic bag will now make more machines, employ more pseudo cops.
These police college rejects owe their income and careers to Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 terrorists.  Now security services can expand using their sniff-o-bomb probes on firewater.  A tweak or two should make the body scanners detect any rotgut in visitors’ tummies. Then you can exchange bar life for a life behind bars. 
The politician who brewed up this bill, Ahmad Kurdi Moekri, 71, has been reported in the Australian media as saying it’s all about character building and “to safeguard the nation’s morals.”  Nothing to do with religion. 
This I accept in the same spirit that the former religious court judge and sharia expert understands that this column is free of sarcasm and irony.
The lawmaker also said his plans fit the mandate of Indonesia’s Constitution.  Absolutely.  So does pluralism, religious freedom and welfare for the poor.  Doubtless they’re in the Bill’s appendices
Good luck, Sir.  If you succeed please bring your talents to my homeland where we have alcohol abuse problems that you could never imagine, responsible for more than half the crimes and appalling domestic distress. Around 240 drunks and 182 thugs were arrested in Victoria on New Year’s Eve; the police reckoned behavior that night was “good”.
But let’s press PAUSE for a reality check.  Where I live in East Java there’s a better chance of finding a Methodist in a mosque than spirits in a supermarket.   Should I encounter one cringing in a corner (the bottle, not the Protestant), paying the 75 per cent luxury tax plus hefty excise would induce sobriety.
So why the urge to purge?  Surely this isn’t one of those political distractions used by the Machiavellian to divert attention from the real issues?  Nicotine kills 500,000 Indonesians a year – why not target tobacco?  Or is the industry too formidable a foe?
Pak Moekri, I salute your plan’s potential to create an Australian-free Kuta, Paradise Island rediscovered.  For this I’d propose a toast – if only I could find something to put in the glass. DG
First published in the Sunday Post, 20 January 2012DuncaFirstGraham

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