Tuesday, 10 February 2009

A nightmare

I have not heard from you for a while. I hope all is well.
I see that J has commented her chat, ‘Our cat is dying.’
I wanted to send a sympathetic message to her but I don't know if she remembers me. I've tried to say, ‘Hello,’ before but she has never answered.
All life is precious and the pain or death of any creature is a pain and loss to us all. I always feel anger when humans arrogate the superiority of their own sentience and derogate that of others. But, even more than that, those four words speak eloquently of J's own pain. Please tell her I feel and I care.
Last night we went to see a couple of friends and we were talking, among other things, of Aceh, which they had visited.
The Boxing Day tsunami which devastated Aceh brought with it another destructive flood which is still reaping damage in Indonesia and, in my worst nightmare, could engulf the world.
At first sight there was a silver lining to the cataclysm in that it enforced an agreement between the GAM (Free Aceh Movement) and the central government. Aceh gained a high degree of autonomy, while remaining in the Indonesian Republic and retaining its status as a province. There was a lot of international pressure on the government to do so because there had been some pretty awful human rights abuses by the Indonesians in their efforts to contain the secessionists. The aftermath of the tsunami opened this hitherto closed and controlled area to the international community and provided them with a lever to enforce a solution. This was a huge mistake.
Indonesia is, or is supposed to be, a unitary state, not a federation. It is administered through provinces, regencies (counties?) and cities but these are essentially different layers of local government. In the early days of the Indonesian independence movement there were attempts, through the Dutch and British, to establish a federal structure but these were seen as essentially attempts to divide and rule. The fact is, despite all the conciliatory waffle about Bhinneka Tunggal Ika[1] and Satu Nusa, Satu Bangsa, Satu Bahasa[2], Indonesia is a Javanese empire. The discrepancy in wealth and population between Java and the rest of the archipelago is just too great.
Aceh is, effectively, a state within a state. It has its own sharia laws and a sharia police responsible for making sure, inter alia, that no female hair is visible. That is not possible within the unitary state's secular constitution. And yet Aceh remains a province, not an encapsulated autonomous region as Hong Kong and Macau are under China's ‘one state two systems’ fudge.
What that has meant is to give a green light to dozens of other local administrations outside Aceh – not even provinces – to ‘enact’ their own sharia laws in total defiance of the constitution and, one can say with justification, treasonably. What Indonesia has become is a cantonised state with local ‘bylaws’ and penalties varying from place to place – even street to street. There have been calls for the government and the constitutional court to declare these so-called bylaws ultra vires but they haven't got the balls to do so. Everybody is too busy worrying about his or her seat in the forthcoming beauty contest/election and is anxious to prove their Islamic credentials.
In the meantime, of course, the government themselves have enacted ridiculous pieces of inconsistent twaddle which neither conform with the constitution nor with simple logic, such as the anti-Ahmadi decree and the anti-pornography nonsense which grants a licence to anyone to take the law into their own hands.
The most worrying aspect of all this is the Hizbut-Tahrir movement and their ilk who want to establish a Caliphate. The awful events in Gaza (no one pays any attention to other awful events, such as in Sri Lanka) have generated another rallying cry for pan-Islamism.
The nightmare of the present times is a repetition of the nineteen thirties and it is all too easy to imagine how it would pan out in this neck of the woods. So far things are not too bad here. But they will get worse as export markets dry up and the banks begin to crash. It is amazing that, even though the Royal Bank of Scotland is apparently on its knees in the UK and credit has dried up in the west, RBS are running huge advertising campaigns here for their credit cards. The housing boom seems in full swing. No one seems to know or care what is happening elsewhere. The government are making everyone happy by repeatedly reducing the cost of petrol.
Come election time in April people will, presumably, be starting to feel the pinch and blame the western banks and, since this is the way of things and Meine Kampf is a best seller here, the evil conspiracy of ‘International Jewry’ and so on and so forth. Whoever wins the election will be expected to deliver with ever more ridiculous shariaesque laws. Jealousy against Chinese always seems to erupt whenever there is a crisis.
What I really fear is an Anschluss[3] or Ένωσις[4] (or whatever the Malay equivalent is) with Malaysia and calls for lebensraum with southern Thailand and Muslim parts of the Philippines. The Maldives are sinking and they too want a place to live and will have their eyes on India and possibly Sri Lanka. I can imagine the Organisation of the Islamic Conference effectively seceding from the UN as the economic collapse deepens and coastal erosion as a result of global warming hits in. If Malaysia and Indonesia really do join up then they will want to swallow Singapore as a ‘Western/Chinese’ infidel parasite in their midst. Growing shariaisation will particularly hit the Chinese communities in Singapore and Malaysia and China itself could get drawn in.
In the meantime the Obama surge in Afghanistan/Pakistan could go badly wrong. Pakistan is already ungovernable and Iran could get drawn in on her Eastern border – which no one is really expecting. Pakistan, of course, has nuclear firecrackers and could decide to co-operate with Iran: thereby giving Israel an excuse to intervene. Obama would be so bogged down that the US wouldn't be able to object and would have to get involved in the same way that the Chinese would have to get involved to save the overseas Chinese. The OIC countries may see this as their chance to finally ‘solve’ the Israel problem.
And in the meantime anything could happen in Taiwan and Korea.
And then there is Russia and her gas wars and even her continuing border dispute with China and even Japan. Don't forget the thorny problem of Kaliningrad and access over EU territory.
The CIA seems to think that the most dangerous countries are North Korea and Iran. Malaysia and Indonesia combined could be a hell of a problem too.
I hope my nightmare is just that. As you know, most of my political predictions have been duds (e.g., Falklands/Malvinas negotiated solution; no second Gulf war; ‘discovery’ of planted WMDs[5] in Iraq) but that is because of a ridiculous belief in the rationality of political leaders. This nightmare is based on the historical cycle of boom-crash-war: the bigger the crash the bigger the war. This time it is also based on the irrationality and greed of political leaders and the rouse-ability of the mob.
I desperately hope I am being paranoid.