ANOTHER VIEW FROM BALI
My good friend and maskmaker
extraordinaire Newman winters in
Bali where he lives and works with
local carvers and mask makers. He
is quite close to Nusa Dua, the
peninsula where the big UN-IPCC
conference is now being held.
I asked him to "file a report".
I can tell from your blog that this conference is
very important to you and the work you are doing
in Brazil, indeed on the planet. By comparison I
feel a little sheepish about my own connection with
world affairs. I do not have a clue of what is going
on in this most important of arenas; since as part of
my meditation here I refrain from paying any attention
at all to current affairs/media news.
So although I am only a few kilometers from the
conference; I have no idea what is going on there.
Indeed, you for sure know much more than I do.
My reflections then are coming from a different space.
I realize this might not be what you had in mind from
your "man on the spot" but perhaps another view from
Bali can also be part of the global picture.
The conference is being held on a sandy peninsula
at the south of the island. This area was scooped up
a few decades ago by mega corporations since it boasts
perhaps the finest beaches in Bali. It is now home to
the likes of the Hyatt regency and Club Med. It is without
doubt the most energy greedy part of the Island; air
conditioning, electrically generated endless hot water
(solar hot water heaters are amazingly absent from this
sunny place), huge swimming pools and more cars per
person than the rest of Bali, or the rest of Indonesia for
The Balinese themselves see little financial gain from
the millions of dollars that pass through this place except
for very low pay for mostly menial jobs. I'm talking US$50
per month for working ten hours a day seven days a week,
cleaning rooms that rent for hundreds of dollars a day.
The land itself was bought from the Balinese either by
wealthy Javanese or foreigners. No doubt the delegates
will think they are in paradise and they are; but it is rather
a walled off conclave for the wealthy at the edge of that
The Balinese themselves live in quite densely populated
villages surrounded by unbelievably beautiful terraced
rice padis, sculpted into the volcanic slopes that comprise
this place. They have very highly developed community
structures that govern all aspects of life and are woven into
their spiritual life. I have never come across a people who
spend so much time praying to ensure the balance of the
So far the contributions of western culture to this mix have
been the introduction of pesticides and chemical fertilizers
for agriculture, motorized vehicles, and that consumer itch
that is generated and fueled by the hypnosis of television
and advertising. The results of western tourism to Bali have been....well very western. More jobs, more pollution of the
air, water and land and epidemic physical illness. Diabetes,
heart attacks and cancer are rife now, where they were
virtually unknown before the 1970's.
Amazingly the Balinese have not given up on praying;
indeed for them, more income often means more
elaborate ceremonies. The people wear the beauty of
their spiritual dedication in their open hearted gaze and
their happy demeanor. If you can get away from the tourist
ghettos, Bali is a beautiful place. It must seem somewhat
ironic then to these people, that the very "advanced"
westerners who brought all this trash and sickness to Bali,
are now gathering at the edge of the Island to try to figure
out how to get out of this mess.
I'm pretty sure the consensus among the Hindus of Bali
is that the rest of the world just doesn't pray enough.
Their solution?.... Pray more to make up for it and
trust that a balance will be achieved in this way.
I have been wintering in the hills around Ubud for
20 years. I've never been to Nusa Dua, the peninsula
where the conference is being held. I'm not drawn
to go there.
Love to you my friend.
PHOTO UPDATE FROM BALI
Elaborate offerings to the gods for a tooth filing ceremony
where young Balinese have their pointed canine teeth filed
flat to symbolize their journey into higher consciousness.
Newman's assistant on her wedding day.
Next generation of Balinese
Newman in Bali.
There are some fine examples of Newm's work at
Newman's Commedia Mask Company.