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Tuesday, November 3, 2015



Security is big in Indonesia. There is a boom gate to each shopping mall and government building. At a completely empty park, I counted six policemen guarding an entrance, though one of them was sleeping on a bench. At this shopping center, I saw three security guards on different floors talking to each other via walkie talkies. To snap this photo, I had to pick just the right moment and do it quickly. Here, a cop might just detain you to extract a tip. Earlier, I already tipped a cop.



Chuck Olroski said...

Linh: I am admittedly ignorant about Indonesian culture, history & politics, but given the country's dominant Muslim population, I figured there was heavy military & police action to keep the population in line.

In January 1981, I saw such "security" underway in Egypt, but in contrast to the sleeping cop in your observation, I did not see even one (1) Egyptian paramilitary agent take such siesta in Cairo.

Thank you for all the enlightenment.

x larry said...

hi linh,
what tip did you give him?
is your opinion similar to vltchek's on indonesia (if you've read it)?

x larry said...

i can almost smell the high prairies of south dakota

Olliver said...

x larry said
[I]s your opinion similar to vltchek's on indonesia (if you've read it)?

That's something I'd be interested in, too.

For those not in the know, here's a selection of articles by Andre Vltchek on that subject:
Horrid Carcass of Indonesia – 50 Years After the Coup
Indonesia, A Proudly Nazi Nation?
Racism and Sexual Violence in Indonesia


x larry said...

thanks olliver, i've read many of his indonesia articles in absolute horror, though i've too agreed with linh on at least some of his opinions on vltchek. he's worth reading, he's not worth reading, he's worth reading....

Linh Dinh said...

Yo x larry and Olliver,

It was no big deal, my "tipping" the cop. He manned the immigration counter when I got off the ferry. A couple hours later, he stopped his motorbike when he saw me wandering around. I had forgotten his face, so had no idea why he was acting so friendly. When he explained, I felt kind of bad, but I often forget faces if seen just one time. I said I was looking for a place to have a beer, which is no easy task in Indonesia. Bar culture is not big in this Muslim country. He said he knew where I could get beer, so I asked him if he had time to join me for a few beers. I hopped on the back of his motorbike, and within three blocks or so, he delivered me to this bar which I had had passed earlier but didn't go in, since I saw no one inside it. Interestingly, he stopped at an eatery just before the bar to grab me some tissues since I was sweating profusely. (I explained I had plenty of tissues on me, so this was unecessary, so we mobved on.) The cop was acting super friendly, in short.

At the bar, he said he couldn't come in but had to go back to work.

I said, "No conversation?!"

Suddenly, he said he was hungry, and actually pointed to his stomach.

I gladly tipped him a fairly generous ammount, enough for two lunches at least, or at least five beers, if he wanted to drink beer.

He asked for three times that amount, however, but I refused. I said I needed to save my money to drink beer, and we parted amicably.

Having lived in Vietnam as an adult, I'm well used to hustling cops, so this was not a real surprise. I should point out that although he eventually named a price, he wasn't pushy about it, and had I just walked in without giving the man anything, he would have just left, but that would be bad form on my part.

Two days earlier in Singapore, I had talked to Lefty Julian Kam, a Malaysian comics artist, and he told me Malaysian cops sometimes just pull a motorist over just to squeeze some money out of him. I said Vietnamese cops also do this.

This problem does not exist in Singapore, Japan or South Korea.

As for Indonesia, I was only there for a few hours. I just wanted to see the difference in Batam's street life as compared to Singapore.

There is a lot of construction in Batam, and it has a gleaming shopping mall right next to the ferry terminal. There's also a lot of bad planning, because I saw several recent commercial or housing developments that are already left empty.

I ate at a place without a menu, much less an English language menu. I went behind the counter and pointed to waht I wanted. If they overcharged me, it was minimal, since my meal of rice, vegetables and a small fish, plus a glass of mango juice, was only $3.

The bar makes its own beer, and I had two excellent lagers and a dark, with each costing only $1.50. In fact, when I dropped some money on the floor, one of the men who were associated with the bar picked it up and gave it back to me with a big grin. The teenaged bartender laughed.

I was the only customer. There was an old lady watching TV. She was probably the bar owner's mom.

As for Indonesians, I met a group of its writers in Berlin 10 years ago, and they were uniformly impressive. Serious and professional, they represented their nation very well at each event.

In Singapore this time, I met Laksmi Pamuntjak. She has become an international literary star and writes a column for the Guardian. Her latest article there, "Censorship is returning to Indonesia in the name of the 1965 purges."


Linh Dinh said...

Yo Chuck,

Indonesia has over 13,000 islands and its people speak 726 languages. Only a handful of those, the Chinese dialects, are not indigenous to the area.

Like most other Southeast Asian countries, it has an authoritarian government. Resisting this are the dissidents and, until very recently, armed rebels, but they're not fighting because they're Muslims, but merely because they find their government intolerable.


Chuck Olroski said...

"Indonesia... 13,000 languages & 725 languages." Yikes! Based upon those physical stats, I suppose Indonesia's authoritarian government has an easier time with dividing & controlling its subjects in comparison to US authoritarians who need & get lots of support from oligarchs, corporations, schools, and the MSM.

Thanks for the education, Linh ... having looked at your Batam mall pic, it looked a bit like Steamtown Mall's (empty) storefront colorful facade. This year might be the 1st year since 1993 that the popular Steamtown Santa Claus will be out-of-a-job! Was surreal how we met Santa while he wandered around empty mall & told us about inhabitant winos and a rape in the basement parking garage.

O, before I forget, a Scranton businessman is kicking in $4 million to renovate and reopen the customer-less theater located across from Steamtown! Jack Reese summarized this dramatic business plan quite well, he said, "The fucking guy must have cut the check while loaded, & after he watched too many films where Never-Neverland becomes Disneyland."

Linh Dinh said...

Yo Chuck,

I think they have the opposite problem. It's not divide and rule, but how to unite so many disparate peoples and give them a common purpose. Like all other S.E. Asian countries save Singapore, the government is also super corrupt, so this causes a lot of anger.


x larry said...

thanks for the long response, linh.
i've only read part of the article you suggest (just the guardian typeface and logo etc make me queasy). it is quite a different picture than the one painted by vltchek. his writing style is, in a word (perhaps like my own), bombastic. i've frequently been insulted by what he says of americans, i've sometimes liked what he's said of europeans (though once more, i thought of it first), sometimes not. his recent diatrab (and not the only one by the way) about the czechs comes to mind. his ego, like anyone's who's remotely famous, is very inflated. he seems to earnestly believe that he and a few noted friends (like chomsky) are trying so hard to save the world but no one else is doing shit, and moreover they just really don't care. nader, though i pretty much like him, also comes to mind--'americans just don't seem to want much of anything', etc. celebrity--out of touch completely, though he doesn't seem to be. i don't sense much sympathy in many political writers--paul craig roberts comes to mind. 'dumb fuck americans' etc.
i feel mainly, and strongly (this again hit me yesterday as if for the first time) that we have completely sunk into the deepest darkness, and that all is lost. but, we're supposed to always SMILE and put on a good face, and not be so negative. i'd frankly like to doze on heroin for the rest of this miserable life.


About Me

Born in Vietnam in 1963, I came to the US in 1975, and have also lived in Italy, England and Germany. I'm the author of a non-fiction book, Postcards from the End of America (2017), two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), six of poems, All Around What Empties Out (2003), American Tatts (2005), Borderless Bodies (2006), Jam Alerts (2007), Some Kind of Cheese Orgy (2009) and A Mere Rica (2017), and a novel, Love Like Hate (2010). I've been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007, Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology (vol. 2) and Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around the World, etc. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013). My writing has been translated into Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and I've been invited to read in London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Halle, Reykjavik, Toronto, Singapore and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.