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

Saturday, October 22, 2016


Abandon reason all ye who enter here
May the Deity’s goodness bathe your brow and trickle down your shoulders.  Oh blessed one, my most excellent friend, you who are so fortunate, to be reading this edition of J-Plus. 
As foreseen with my third eye you are special above all, chosen by the celestial spirits with whom I commune.  You alone will share in great riches and marvels beyond imagination.
Now follow these instructions carefully. Go to the bank and buy a thousand dollars, ten $100 uncreased bills. Borrow from your neighbors if you can’t afford, they’ll raze, sorry, praise you later.
Put the notes in an envelope for my courier to collect.
Within ten days he’ll be back with a parcel for you containing – wait for it – fifty $100 bills.  What will you do with all that wealth?  Friends and family will bless you forever.  Your name will be sung in paddy and palace, chanted in market and mosque. 
Farewell.  I go hence to my mountain retreat, meditating with seven nubile handmaidens. I await my messenger. Peace.
US pollsters and academics wonder why few facts feature in the presidential campaign.  The reason is simple; journalists winnow the past for grains of truth among the chaff, but the candidates dwell in a separate fact-free universe: The future. 
This is an unexplored land. 
American electors who’ve convinced themselves there’ll be jobs for all in a booming economy fenced off from Muslims and Mexicans simply by filing a ballot-paper are little different from the clients of Indonesian cult leader Dimas Kanjeng.
His followers don’t call themselves Democrats or Republicans but Padepokan.  They’re not centered in Washington DC but Probolinggo, East Java.  Apart from the names and geographical distances they’re still in the same business – planting dreams in the desert of tomorrow.
Despite a lack of yellow hair Pak Kanjeng is a stand-out figure in spotless white, slashed by a sash of authority secured by a broach of mysticism, all topped by a regal turban.  Magnificent!  A headdress needs to be spacious to contain the brains beneath.
Like ‘Make America Great’ the message must be clear and simple:  ‘You will get rich – life will be better.’  Don’t ask how – details are for disbelievers.  Believe in me. You trusted your Pop when a toddler - didn’t he have all the answers?
Small wonder scientists have problems explaining global warming.  Will rising seas drown my house?  ‘On the balance of probabilities, maybe. The modelling tends to indicate a trend.’
We planned an exclusive interview with Pak Kanjeng, 46, who was educated at an Islamic University in Malang. Unfortunately he recently moved from his luxury mansion to a down-market address. 
He’s actually a guest of the authorities who allege – along with charges of murder and blasphemy – that he’s filched Rp 1.5 billion (US$115,500) from his devotees.. 
He did this, say the cops, by convincing around 3,000 credulous citizens that he could multiply money. Investigators claim they confiscated 500 bars of gold, each of one kilogram. Total value - about $21 million.
Hopefully  this evidence is safely secured ready for the trial, not like the mysterious cyanide crystals at the center of another legal event. 
Along with the bullion was local and foreign currency made in a ‘magic box’. Its dimensions are similar to a ballot box.
Kanjeng, like Clinton, Trump and all other guarantors of glory has, his accusers claim,  mastered the ancient arts of alchemy.  One it was turning lead into gold.  Now it’s the transmutation of ticks on slips into a fantasy world our life experience and native instinct says cannot exist.
Then add the gnawing logic which asks:  If these guys really know how to make the  poor rich why have they waited so long? If they’ve found the Eldorado why share with strangers? 
When I’m handed the elixir of life be sure I’ll first be fermenting a brew for family and friends before the formulae goes on Creative Commons.
Pak Kanjeng will be answerable to his critics in a few weeks time, Ms Clinton and Mr Trump on 8 November. Here’s a promise that I guarantee: At least one will be heading for a four-year sentence. Trust me.
First published in J-Plus, The Jakarta Post 22 October 2016

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