Tropical Horror Show

Long ago I signed up for a weekly news digest that spews out Bali’s most sensational gossip and items at one time. It’s often a conveyor belt of sordid stories, ripe with trauma & tragedy.

DSC02251The publisher tends to dish out the most cringe-worthy headlines first – tourist deaths and drownings, stabbings, arrests, corruption, disgraced politicians and royalty, massive illegal development forging ahead, foreign drug traffickers placed on death row, in effect, all the trappings of a tropical horror show.

The digest starts off with a veritable tsunami of bad news, so much so that I usually tend to delete the message before I’ve even finished reading the first paragraph.

It strikes me an odd tactic, because there are SO many good-news stories, so much beauty, creativity and doing-some-goodness, that when I somehow muster the courage to wade or skip through the gore and guck, I often do discover a few nuggets of good-news and happy travels, stories full of life, optimism, happiness and inspiring action: Donations to yayasans (NGO/foundations), music / art / kite festivals galore, community events, a local saving the life of a tourist (or vice-versa), etc. Dewaadi

Why not change your strategy, Mr Jack Daniels? (A longtime American expat, but as far as I know, not an heir to the whiskey empire!) Why not bring out the joy FIRST, and then leave the yellow-journalism-crud at the bottom…?

petugas-dkpAs it is, a tourist scanning this digest, would be hard-pressed to believe that this is the same Bali as the ‘paradise’ they’ve read about, dreamed about.

Last week’s digest was no different, except that in parts it was even stranger than usual. Not because Bali was hit with an above-5 scale earthquake (yes, the room I was in sure rocked!), but because of incidents that ( I’m prepared to wager) don’t make headlines in 99% of the world’s newspapers. Take a gander (even Mr Daniels had to remark about it):

In a freak accident, an armed chicken has killed a professional cock fighter in Bali… An angry Balinese member of royalty in Denpasar tied up a hapless 64-year-old street sweepecockfightingspurr to an electrical pole. And, a PDIP lawmaker whose Son was ticketed by police for driving illegally, incongruously scolds the police for being “irresponsible.” Trust us: We don’t make these stories up.

Pretty crazy, huh? Even if they are rare.

But this past edition was unique for another reason as well; to some degree, it brought to a close the whole era of those who’ve reached these shores, en masse in some cases, for the sole and singular reason of queuing up to see Ketut Liyer – the Ubud healer who became a local legend after he made an appearance in Liz Gilbert’s book (that which shall remain unnamed, lest I dredge up dogs ‘n deities best left asleep), aftKetut-Liyerer which he began charging a hefty fee to give the same shpiel(more or less) to nearly every seeker that came knocking on his door.

The digest editor, in a remarkably diplomatic way, put it this way: Ketut Liyer – the fabled Bali Holy Man made famous in the movie “Eat, Pray Love” has died at 100. (Oops, sorry, the digest editor squealed on the title.) RIP.

But for his turn to mass tourism, Pak Liyer and his ilk might very well had succeeded in keeping some of the sensational tropical horror show at bay.

Mr Daniels, if you’re reading.. please consider starting off your digest with more stories of hope and beauty. Surely you can find examples – even in the south? If not, I’d be pleased to share with you a few tidbits myself.



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