Category Archives: Borneo

China’s BRI Could Save Destroyed Southeast Asia

Most of the people in the West or in North Asia usually never think about it, but Southeast Asia is one of the most depressed and depressing parts of the world.

It has been through genocides, wars and atrocious military regimes.

Then, those monstrous income disparities.

Jakarta beggars at night

According to The Bangkok Post, in 2018, “the 10% poorest Thais had 0% wealth.

50% of the poorest Thais (25 million people) had 1.7% of the country’s wealth while 70% (35mn) controlled 5%.” In the same year, 1% of the richest Thais controlled 66.9% of the country’s fortune.

Indonesia is not doing much better. In fact, if it were to provide correct, unmassaged statistics, it would easily overtake Thailand as the most unequal country on earth. But Indonesia does not even declare the precise number of people, as I was informed by my colleagues, UN statisticians. It still claims that it has around 270 million inhabitants, while in reality, even ten years ago, there were more than 300 million people living on the archipelago.

Except in the Communist Vietnam, super-rich Singapore, and (still) relatively wealthy Malaysia, poor people matter very little. Or more precisely, they do not matter at all. They do not exist. And poor people form the great majority in this part of the world, although you would hardly read it from the pages of official government bulletins.

Jakarta – smog and huge slums between skyscrapers

It is enough to see Jakarta, Manila or Bangkok from the air, to understand that the Southeast Asian megapolises are totally fragmented, so they can serve the elites. Skyscrapers, malls and enormous hotels are surrounded by miserable houses and slums. Terribly inadequate public transportation (corrupt governments have been regurgitating every year, for decades, great numbers of cars and polluting scooters wishfully called ‘motorbikes’, instead of providing decent massive public transit systems) has made Jakarta and periodically Bangkok, some of the most polluted and depressing cities in the world.

Crime is out of control. Thailand has, per capita, according to Interpol, a higher murder rate than the United States. In the Philippines, before President Duterte came to power, cities such as Davao and Manila were suffering from some of the most horrid crime statistics in Asia. Indonesia, again, has escaped scrutiny, simply because of the absolutely amazing ability to hide the truth.  Most of the crimes committed there, particularly sexual ones, are never reported, and if reported, not registered.

The modern history of this part of the world is perhaps the most brutal on the planet. Brutal, but hushed up. The education system in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand is geared not to educate the children and young people about the monstrous genocides committed on the territory of Southeast Asia.

To mention just a few ‘occurrences’, the West murdered several million people in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, during the so-called ‘Vietnam War’ and ‘Secret War’. It carpet-bombed poor Laos and Cambodia, while supporting the most atrocious feudal regimes all over ‘Indochina’. It also displaced millions of peasants. As a result, multitudes died from hunger.

Indonesia perpetrated three genocides, killing millions. First, during the 1965-66 one, triggered by the U.S.A. and its allies, murdered 1 – 3 million intellectuals, artists, teachers, Communists and members of the Chinese minority. The second was the U.S.A, U.K. and Australia-backed occupation of East Timor, which took lives of 30%-40% of the islanders. The third genocide is the on-going, horrendous occupation and plunder of West Papua.

Burma, broke and divided by British colonialism, is yet another story. And so are the monstrous Malaysian massacres, which took place in 1969. And various massacres of the opposition as well as of immigrants in Thailand. The Thai bombing of Vietnam and Laos, to impress handlers in Washington, and the U.S. massacres in the Philippines, as well as the brutal civil war there in Mindanao.

The list goes on and on. It is a brutal horror show, the never-ending awfulness of Western neo-colonialism, as well as the sleazy servility of local rulers.

The results are omnipresent: the beaches of entire countries are devastated. Whole enormous islands like Borneo, Papua and Sumatra are finished, scarred and poisoned by local and multi-national corporations. It is smoke and filth, clogged rivers, collapsed cultures, entire civilizations. No mercy, no compassion, no future.

Jakarta – smog and huge slums between skyscrapers

But it is all hushed up. Crimes are denied. Outraged, confused nations are called ‘lands of smiles’, or ‘’friendly and tolerant archipelagos’.

It is insane, but tens of millions of foreign tourists descend on this ruined part of the world, annually. They see nothing. Some like it. They only nurture their complexes of superiority here. They do not want to understand anything. They choose to be blind. Cheap sex, shitty alcohol and beach food, as well as monumental sunburns. They continue the demolition work which has been triggered by their governments.

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The mood is terrible. In Indonesia, foreigners and even locals get insulted in the middle of the day, just for being ‘different’. Whites are. Chinese are. Indians are. Black people are, with terrible regularity and brutality.

In Thailand, foreigners get killed and raped, for almost no, or very little, reason. The terrible occurrences are reported almost weekly by the local and foreign press.

Privatized Malaysian boardwalk – now for a fee

Poor people feel that their beaches, their cities, have been stolen from them. In Indonesia, on the Bali and Lombok islands, everything has actually really been looted from the locals.

Societies have crumpled. The plunder of the resources, of nature, of everything, was already taking place for years and decades, even centuries.

No one knows the way out of this nightmare. Most of Southeast Asia knows nothing else than this subjugation. And it is not even called a nightmare. In Southeast Asia, or in the West which controlled these societies for as long as one can remember, the horror is being glorified.

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And yet, yet… On the same continent, not far away, an enormous country, governed by the Communist Party, and professing ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ has been building a totally new society, defining and implementing an ‘ecological civilization’, pulling hundreds of millions of citizens out of poverty, constructing a great scientific base, the fastest trains on earth, massive transit systems in each and every city, first rate schools and universities, and stunning concert halls, opera houses and museums.

And all this with only a fraction of the financial resources, calculated on a per capita basis, of those of the West.

China… A country with 6,000 years of history and culture, with about 1.4 billion inhabitants, and with an absolutely, diametrically opposite economic and social system from that which was force-fed, for decades, to the people of Southeast Asia by the West.

A country, which, by 2020, as promised by her President Xi Jinping, will have no one, be it in the cities or in the villages, living in extreme poverty.

China, a country which is growing in order to serve its people. A country which is using capitalist companies in order to fulfill Communist and socialist goals. A country with a centrally planned and greatly successful economy. Where all land belongs to the government, and the entire future – to the people.

Beijing Egg – the biggest opera house in the world

Imagine this country, near the decaying colossus of the mainly miserable, oppressed Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia, with mostly failed systems which has forced hundreds of millions of human beings to live in filthy, destitute cities and in the feudal countryside.

And now, China, with its culture based on communalism and internationalism, is extending its hand, and basically saying: “Let us grow together! Let us help our people, let’s struggle side-by-side for a much better world. Let us save, liberate, empower your hundreds of millions of men, women and children; let us protect them from hunger, illnesses, functional illiteracy and the lack of a decent future!”

All this, despite the fact that in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and elsewhere, Chinese people were often treated like animals, killed and raped in pogroms, and kept away from the governments.

This extension of the hand is called “BRI” – “The Belt and Road Initiative.”

And it is, most likely, the greatest global and internationalist initiative in the history of humankind.

It is the most optimistic, truly socialist, vision for our planet, based on sharing and the genuine commonwealth of nations.

An enormous belt of high-speed railroads, roads, super-fast communication corridors, ports and airports, but also schools and universities, high-quality hospitals for all, of film studios and publishing houses, theatres and museums.

As this essay goes to print, China just inaugurated amazing, 4.300 km long railroad, cutting across Africa, from Tanzania to Angola. This project alone will save dozens of millions of lives. I worked in Africa, for several years. I know.

I have worked in more than 160 countries on this planet. I have seen a lot. But I have never encountered any vision so confident, so positively revolutionary, and at the same time, so kind.

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The West will fight. It will do everything in its power to prevent the BRI from succeeding.

It will not let Southeast Asia go without a struggle. As it is not letting Central Asia go.

Recently, I analyzed the so-called “Uighur Issue”, in my detailed report compiled in Turkey, Syria, Afghanistan and Indonesia – “March of Uighurs” it is called. The West and its allies are radicalizing, arming and militarizing the Uighur ethnic minority, doing all they can to sabotage the BRI, by attempting to destroy its important center – Urumqi – in Northwest China. This may slow the projects aimed at inter-connecting China, entire Central Asia, Iran, and even Turkey and parts of Russia.

The same has been happening in Southeast Asia. The West has unleashed a tremendous propaganda force; it has employed countless NGO’s, as well as thousands of local ‘academics’ and ‘journalists’, trying to smear all China’s attempts to pull the region out from slumber and above all, from the toxic dependency on Western colonialist powers.

I have been monitoring this occurrence, in among other places, the Philippines, where the administration of President Duterte has moved the country much closer to Beijing, and away from Washington, improving greatly the lives of the great majority of the Filipino people. President Duterte enjoys the support of around 80% of his citizens, but is brutally attacked by Western media and NGO’s. He calls China “the kindest nation on earth”. This can never be forgiven in the West.

The same can be said about Laos, where China is basically revamping everything; pulling this poor and historically ruined country back to its feet, by building a high-speed rail system, modern energy sector, while constructing hospitals, schools, and even brand-new cities. And what did West do in Laos? It fought a ‘Secret War’ here, a side-kick of the Vietnam War, basically carpet-bombing with B-52s, a big part of the countryside, killing hundreds of thousands of people, just ‘preventively’, so they do not become Communists. Washington and Thailand never even apologized for these crimes against humanity.

Now when China is rescuing its neighbor, a fellow Communist nation, the West is blabbing nonsense about the ‘environment’ and ‘debt-trap’. Anyone who bothers to travel to the Plain of Jars or other ruined parts of Laos, will discover minefields left after the carpet-bombings. People are still dying there, and Western companies which produced these monstrous cluster bombs do not even share technical specifications with the de-mining agencies. Great concern about the environment! Here, U.S. bombs are used as village fences.

A similar situation in Cambodia.

And several other nations in the region, including Burma.

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Nobody is laughing out loud, at those Western NGOs and propaganda outlets, mainly because the West and its servile local regimes have managed to sweep their crimes, genocides and economical plunder, under the carpet.

The downfall, or call it the near collapse of Southeast Asia, is not being defined as a downfall. Far from it.

Nowhere has brainwashing been so intense and so successful as in this part of the world. The great majority of local people are nowhere near to even beginning to comprehend what had been done to them. People do not know that they are the true victims, or that a different world is actually possible.

The Brits, Dutch, French, Portuguese and Spaniards, have all managed to get away with the plunder and murder, mainly because ‘education’ has been shaped by the local ‘elites’, read: shameless treasonous servants of the Western imperialism. Talk to ‘educated’ (pro-British) Malaysians; read the books of their contemporary writers (almost all funded ‘from abroad’). Then you will understand.

The United States is still admired in Indonesia, a country thoroughly impoverished and ruined by Washington’s greed and geopolitical ambitions.

But Indonesia with a quality of life equal to that of poor Sub-Saharan African countries, is not officially considered to be poor, or deprived, or fascist or even feudal. Nobody seems to be questioning its ridiculously perverted statistics. The Philippines, too, was not defined as poor and destitute, before the arrival of President Duterte, even as millions were fleeing to all corners of the world, attempting to make a living often under horrid conditions, in places such as the Gulf.

No one is laughing, because people were stripped off their ability to compare.

The glorification of capitalism and imperialism has been too powerful.

As has the smearing of Communism.

And as has been the professional and consistent attempts to discredit everything Chinese, first by the racist European colonialists, and later by Cold War warriors and propaganda gurus from Washington and London.

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China led by the Communist Party; socialist China with its own characteristics, is clearly misunderstood. The BRI is also, and absolutely, misunderstood. Not because it is not transparent – transparent it is. But because Western propaganda is, so to speak, constantly and professionally muddying the waters.

Everything about China’s success is turned upside-down. The biggest fear, total horror, of the West and its lackeys in the new type of colonies here, is that China is both Communist, and a tremendously successful nation.

I am not going to argue here whether China is Communist or not, and if it is, to what extent. To me, it clearly is. Both Communist and successful. As well as internationalist. That is why I am decisively on its side, and on the side of BRI.

What is indisputable is that the intentions of the West to discredit both the PRC and BRI have absolutely nothing to do with trying to find solutions to the horrid problems our world in general, and Southeast Asia in particular, are facing.

The West does not want to find solutions. It wants Southeast Asia to remain ignorant, divided and servile.

The intentions of the West are clearly self-serving. Their only goal is to keep control over this resources-rich part of the world. And to prevent China from gaining its rightful position in Asia.

For centuries, the West kept plundering, killing and enslaving Southeast Asian people. That simple. Full stop. The nightmare is continuing, to date. This time, local elites are fully involved, although, frankly, they were always involved, acting shamelessly as go-betweens for the colonialists and the enslaved people.

It is time to try a different approach, an approach which has already saved hundreds of millions of people from misery; by giving them new lives, education, health, culture and dignity. An approach which now puts ecology and the quality of life well above business and economic growth.

The people of Southeast Asia have to be informed about the choices they have.

It will not be easy, as there is no free, no alternative press there. The mass media and ‘education’ are controlled by the elites who, naturally, want to maintain the status quo.

But there are choices. For the first time in many years.

Once the people of Southeast Asia know the truth, colonialism will end. Rapidly, almost immediately.

China and its system are showing great example by their deeds, not just by words. Wherever China comes, new winds are blowing. New societies are beginning to grow. Rationality blossoms. Nihilism disappears.

Soon a new chapter of Asian history will begin. The continent will be united, by belt and by road, by solidarity, determination and a great revolutionary spirit which will lead to the unstoppable renewal of this part of the world.

• (First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook)

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

In Indonesian Borneo: Humiliate Native People, then loot their land

You will never read about it, but Dayak people, the “First Nation” of the enormous island of Borneo, are broken, robbed and brainwashed.

“Unity in diversity” it says; the motto of Indonesia. But it could be argued that the opposite is true. There is very little unity, and less and less diversity, as the country is controlled from Jakarta, an enormous, overpopulated stinky and sinking megapolis which is located on the island of Java.

Jakarta does not want to allow any dissent. For half a century it has made sure that everyone on this huge and unfortunate archipelago thinks the same, while desiring no improvement. Here, everyone is religious, everyone anti-Communist and fanatically pro-capitalist. The result is: the country collapsed, a long time ago, but ‘no one noticed’. While the Western media is paid ‘not to notice’.

“It is a modern-time colonialism”, I heard thousands of times. Java is perceived by many who are living on those proverbial thousands of islands (the Indonesian archipelago has over 17 thousand isles which are spread over a great area), as a colonialist, aggressive and morally corrupt entity. No wonder: after independence from Netherlands, the country was formed, generally, along the old colonial boundaries.

During the era of the progressive anti-imperialist President Ahmed Sukarno, Indonesia was at least a co-founder of the Non-aligned Movement. It nationalized its natural resources, while building an enlightened socialist motherland.

That did not last very long. Following the West-sponsored brutal military coup of 1965, socialism was destroyed, Communists and atheists murdered, and the US-style neo-colonialist rule managed to smash all hopes for a better future.

Ever since, most of the islands have been run as colonies: pillaged, and oppressed. The ‘transmigration’ policy has been turning local people into a minority, at least in the various ‘strategic’ areas. Those have literally been flooded with state-sponsored immigrants from Java, Southern Sumatra, and other densely-populated Sunni Muslim parts of the country.

Modern-day Indonesia has lived through three cruel genocides in its modern history: one triggered during and after the fascist coup (1965/66), then one that was perpetrated in (formerly) occupied East Timor, and the one, on-going one, in the conquered West Papua. But that is not all: terrible inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts have been shaking Indonesia for decades: from Aceh to Sulawesi, Ambon, Kalimantan (Borneo), to name just a few. Anti-Chinese pogroms have been common for centuries.

If there were to be a referendum, most of the islands, including the tourist island of Bali, would opt for independence. But that is a hushed fact, as it would never be allowed. The unproductive and depressingly over-populated island of Java virtually lives off the plundering of the riches of the entire archipelago. Indonesia’s ‘wealth’ mainly comes from commodities; from unbridled plundering of the outer islands.

Polluted waterways of Kalimantan

That, of course, is true about one of the biggest booty – the enormous Kalimantan.

Many of the filthy rich Javanese families are connected to the plunder. Their wealth comes directly from destruction of the archipelago. The five-star hotels surrounded by Jakarta’s slums, malls with overpriced European brand names, and tasteless villas in gated communities, are built on blood and robbery.

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The island of Borneo is the third largest island on earth, after Greenland and Papua. It is shared by Indonesia (where it is known as Kalimantan), and also by Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam. And it has, or more precisely, it used to count on all kinds of imaginable treasures, from oil to coal, gold, uranium and timber.

 

 

Entering Indonesian Kalimantan from Malaysia

It also used to be one of the most pristine and stunning parts of the world, covered by plush native forests, which grew all along the mighty and clean tropical waterways.

Borneo’s native people, the Dayaks, used to live in true symbiosis with nature. Whatever their internal problems were, they never tried to conquer other islands.

But this self-contained paradise had been brutally penetrated and eventually destroyed; first by the Dutch colonialists, and later by the legendary Javanese greed united with Western multi-national companies.

Today, Borneo, or at least its Indonesian part, is almost entirely ruined. Most of its forests have been cut down, giving way to the endless and toxic oil palm plantations. Rivers where gold is being mined both legally and illegally, are poisoned by mercury, while entire mountains are levelled by local and foreign mining companies. Coal mines are of tremendous proportions, and expanding.

Horrid palm oil

The wisdom of the local people is still alive, but only deep in what is left of the native forests. Most of the ‘modern-day’ Dayak people have been cannily incorporated by the regime into the system which thrives on plundering of the land and of all that nature holds above and below the surface.

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Mr. Krisusandi, the chief of “Dayakology Institute” located in the city of Pontianak, West Kalimantan, does not hide his frustration, when he sits across the table from us, in his office:

West Kalimantan has more than 150 ethnic groups of Dayaks. Each has its own language and culture… and that’s only in the area of West Kalimantan! To call them all by the same name – Dayak – is derogatory, inaccurate.

Local people used to inhabit some of the richest lands on earth, in terms of natural resources,” I suggest. Mr. Krisusandi agrees:

Precisely. And this is precisely the curse; the key to understanding why, compared to other indigenous societies, the oppression of Dayaks is the worst.

During Suharto’s ‘New Order’, the regime developed stigmas and stereotypes, belittling and humiliating Dayaks; like that they are ‘backward’, ‘primitive’ and ‘uncivilized’. The military, the fascists, got used to judging Dayaks as forest dwellers and destroyers. The result: Dayak society got discriminated against, losing its culture, independence, and even began feeling shame for being what it is.

Because of that shame, Dayaks have been lulled into converting to Islam, or to Christianity. And after that, they were not Dayaks, anymore! Consequently, they were forced to accept the centralized education system, which has been totally ignoring the local knowledge.

That was, of course, not all. The so-called ‘New Order’ of Suharto’s pro-Western cronies and collaborators, was determined to liquidate all left-wing beliefs. That’s what it was ordered to do by Washington. And Indonesian culture before 1965 was at least ‘communitarian’, if not out rightly Communist. The cultures of Dayak people were no exception.

Mr. Krisusandi confirmed, readily:

’New Order’ believed that it had hegemony on ‘modernization’. And they saw even traditional ‘longhouses’ as something ‘Communist’. They used to call them ‘filthy’, or even ‘fire hazards’. The regime was totally anti-Communist, and it branded all Dayaks as ‘Communists’. Actually, it went to such an absurd extreme that each and every person who refused to abandon his or her longhouse and traditional way of living, was branded as a Communist.

To be a ‘Communist’ was, for decades, synonymous with the highest crime, punishable by death.

It was terrible suffering to be a Dayak then, and in many ways, it still is now. On top of it, all this was accompanied by the theft of land.

As I mentioned before, most of the Dayaks were forcibly converted to Islam, or Christianized. For some, it was the only way how to get ahead. Those who accepted Islam were registered as ‘Malays’, and as a ‘reward’, some were even allowed to became government officials.

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Julia, a female activist and researcher from West Kalimantan, now a PhD student at Bonn University in Germany, gave a similar testimony as Mr. Krisusandi’s:

The marginalization and stigmatization of Dayak people in West Kalimantan during the New Order era occurred in a structured and in a systematic way. For example, at the beginning of the New Order period, there was a massive demolition of longhouses, Dayak traditional settlements, in West Kalimantan. Only few survived, and those that remained were only in the inland areas, such as Kapuas Hulu. Infrastructure facilities (mainly roads) to access Dayak settlements in remote areas were also very far behind, with the consequences such as the lack of access to education, health services, etc. The social stigma was created: Dayaks were perceived as backward, stupid, and primitive. Most of Dayak people have been feeling embarrassed to be associated with their Dayak identity. There were even attempts made to rename “Dayaks”, calling them “Daya”.

Ms. Fidelia, a retired schoolteacher, who lives in Singkawang, West Kalimantan:

Based on my experience as a primary school teacher during the 1980s, I felt that compared to the other students, my Dayak pupils found it relatively more difficult to grasp knowledge. Most of the Dayaks live in the interior of Borneo. For more than three decades, Suharto’s government made the conditions of the rural Kalimantan very tough; the interior of the island remained underdeveloped and very hard to access. Because of this isolation, people have been experiencing lack of basic services and facilities, such as education.

Misery in rural Kalimantan is widespread. Enormous palm oil plantations turned huge areas into monocultures. Local people who stayed, are now forced to basically import everything from outside. Life has become extremely expensive. Thousands of villages are literally surrounded, choking by commercial entities. The traditional, natural way of life is totally ruined.

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To obtain any substantial information in the cities and villages of Kalimantan, is almost impossible. That is why the tragedy of this plundered island is almost ‘undocumented’.

People are scared to talk, or they do not comprehend their own conditions and their position in the Indonesian and global context.

In Banjarmasin, Palangkaraya, Pontianak and in other urban and rural areas of Kalimantan, people who live in absolute destitution, are refusing to even admit that they are poor. The inhabitants of filthy and hopeless slums lacking almost all basic services, consider their life ‘normal’, and most of them describe their state as ‘pasrah’, which means ‘abandoning, surrendering their lives to fate and God’.

Just as in the rest of Indonesia, oppressive forms of religion (mainly Saudi-style Wahhabi Sunni Islam) have already managed to take full control over the population. Under such conditions, no rebellion is possible. This is, of course, a brilliant arrangement for savage capitalism and for the bunch of corrupt captains of the Indonesian regime.

Since 1965, the logic of pro-Western rulers was simple and effective: ‘Do not allow the arts, philosophy and creativity to ‘pollute’ people’s minds. Kill everything socialist and communist. Make Indonesian citizens simple, pious, uniformed, and uninformed. Smash everyone who is different.

Native people in the resource-rich parts of the archipelago (such as Kalimantan) were the most affected. They have been treated precisely as the South Americans were treated by their Spanish or Portuguese colonialist masters and tormentors: all the resources have been stolen, while local beliefs and languages smashed. Simultaneously, totally foreign religious concepts have been pushed down their throats. Those who were willing to collaborate, were given important government and academic positions, ridiculous titles, and at least some cut from the loot.

Monstrous mines in Borneo

The price was terrible: the destruction of both land and the original population. The ‘primitive people of the forest’ were actually much more advanced than their conquerors. They knew how to live with their nature, their environment. Before colonialism, rivers and forests, mountains and villages were intact and thriving. The destruction of local culture led to the collapse of the environment, and in the case of Borneo, of the entire island.

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I am making a long documentary film here: about this damaged culture, and about the whole island that used to be much closer to ‘paradise’, than any other place on Earth. As I film, in all the corners of Borneo, I feel terrified. What I see is indescribable. I have to use visuals, images, to prove the point. Words are not enough. It often feels that the destruction is unreal; that all this is just a nightmare, that I will wake up, that the horror will go away. But it is real; nothing goes away. People, their greed, are capable of ruining anything, even the most stunning places on our planet.

Mr. Krisusandi speaks about his Institute of Dayakology with pride:

We established it, in order to return dignity to our people.

Then he recalls the terrible on-going struggle:

In the beginning, when the destruction of the longhouses began, there was a fight. But the government was canny; it introduced so-called logging concessions. It also accelerated trans-migration from several over-populated parts of Indonesia, predominantly from Java. In the name of ‘development’, government took over all land, and sold it to companies that began planting palm oil, or introducing indiscriminate mining. Dayaks could do nothing. They became powerless; coolies on their own land.

During the so-called ‘reform period’, after Suharto stepped down, the situation marginally improved; but by then, the Dayaks had almost no intellectuals. And those who were ‘educated’ during ‘New Order’, had typical ‘developmentalist’ mindsets. They sold out; they even began oppressing their own people.

A prominent educator from West Kalimantan, who did not want to be identified out of fear of losing his job, clarified:

On my island, being so-called educated could lead to something negative. A Dayak person who goes through the formal Indonesian education system, could and usually would end up following only his or her own mercantile interests, and consequently do harm to both community and nature.

What he meant is that the person often chooses to work for the companies or the government, that are intensively ruining the Borneo island, while further indoctrinating and disempowering local population.

%22Communist%22 – the-longest longhouse in the world deep-in-rainforest

While deep in Borneo, one year ago, we visited a longhouse, where we were told by Mr. Paulus, the elder in a traditional Bali Gundi longhouse in the Putusibau area:

People who go to school; they get smarter and cannier and then they work for the government and companies, they forget to help their villages and hometowns. As long as they get money they do not care anymore.

Recently, President Jokowi decided to at least give some land back to the Dayak people. It was a symbolic gesture, but practically, nothing changed, and almost nothing was returned to the native people.

As confirmed by Mr. Krisusandi:

It is now actually almost impossible to give anything back to the people. West Kalimantan consists of roughly 12 million hectares of land. Concessions, those for palm oil, mining and other commercial activities, were already given 13 million hectares. With national parks, a total of 16 million hectares is already committed. So, just calculate: it is 4 million hectares more than total area of West Kalimantan!

I think about those once mighty and pure rivers, endless tropical forests, deep and ancient cultures of local people. I close my eyes, trying to imagine hundreds of already vanished species of fauna and flora. Then, I imagine the huge, repulsive, kitschy dwellings of local ‘elites’, in Jakarta and Surabaya. I imagine European and North American cities built from the loot of places such as Kalimantan.

Kalimantan Devastation

“Will Dayak people fight for their rights?” I asked.

“Maybe the next generation will,” comes the hesitant reply. “But not this one. Definitely not this one.”

In Palangkaraya city, we spoke to one of the most prominent Dayaks, an author J.J.  Kusni, a man who spent long years in France, but finally returned to his native land.

I filmed his long, passionate testimony, in which he expressed sadness, even outrage over the state into which the Dayak people were reduced.

“Philosophically, a Dayak is a fighter,” he said.

But the spirit of Dayak people was obviously smashed. Most of them have become victims, while others were convinced to convert themselves into collaborators. The entire Indonesian part of the Island of Borneo is now burned down, poisoned and logged out. There are few ‘protected parks’, but even in the middle of them, commercial activities are now detectable. Entire original cultures here are humiliated. People are confused. Most of them gave up, accepted, resigned.

Destruction and thorough ruin are being propagated as ‘progress’, by the Indonesian regime. Brainwashing is passed as ‘education’.

“Through the national and even village government structures established by Suharto, everything in Kalimantan became “Javanized”,” explained J.J. Kusni.

“So, what are the Dayak people doing?” I asked.

“They are crying,” he replied curtly.

First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

Southeast Asia Terribly Damaged but Lauded by West

Come to Southeast Asia and enjoy beaches, cheap sex and raunchy massage parlors. Hang around this part of the world in whichever way you like; wearing flip-flops, shorts and t-shirts. You were told that ‘everything is easy here, that things are cheap and people are friendly and happy’. Do what you want, as almost everything is allowed, especially if you are from the West, and have plenty of cash and some credit cards in your pockets.

That’s what your simplified perception of Southeast Asia is supposed to be. This stereotype has been created, refined and fine-tuned, then finally hammered into the subconscious of the people in North America, Europe, Australia and Japan. It has been done consistently, for many years and decades, until these lies, repeated a thousand times, have replaced reality. As a result, tens of millions of holiday-makers, sexual tourists, adventurers and single men on power trips, descend on Southeast Asia, annually. Most of them do not see anything, and they do not hear. Most of them leave for home after getting suntanned, a bit fatter, and much more confident. They come with clearly formed ideas, and they leave without learning much.

Most of the ‘visitors’ do not want to be disturbed by reality, because the reality could be extremely unsavory, even horrifying.

The ‘hidden’ and extremely uncomfortable truth is: most of Southeast Asia is actually absolutely unfit for tourism. It is deeply, and terribly injured, even, a broken part of the world which has never been allowed to leave its brutal, feudal system behind.

Its people are barely surviving in the straight-jacket of extreme capitalism. All sorts of imported rubbish, from brainless pop music to the lowest grade of Hollywood films, junk food, mass media and ‘fashion’ as well as ‘me-me-me habits’ have been put to work in order to irreversibly ruin their traditional cultures. Generally, people here are unhappy; often thoroughly confused. Societies from Thailand to Indonesia and the Philippines are becoming increasingly violent. At the same time, the politically ‘pacified’ population does not rebel against the rulers in the West or its own servile elites: right-wing political and religious extremism are often the only ‘answers’ to popular outrage.

The land of Southeast Asia is devastated, as it is nowhere else on our planet; in fact, it has been totally plundered by unbridled mining, logging, palm oil and rubber plantations. The extraction of natural resources is done in a monstrous fashion; often by poisoning rivers with mercury, by cutting most of the primary forests down or by flattening entire mountains. From an airplane, places like the island of Borneo or Peninsular Malaysia appear as nothing less than hell on earth.

This vast part of the world with a total population of around 650 million, does not count on any renowned thinkers or scientists, and with the exception of Vietnam (which is Communist and therefore to a greater degree different) on even one single globally renowned writer or a film director.

All this is not supposed to be discussed ‘like this’; in this fashion. Writers and filmmakers, local and foreign both, are discouraged from describing and documenting what is right in front of their own eyes.

But why? How come that Southeast Asia has managed to escape almost entirely all the scrutiny by the Western mainstream media?

Half-wreck of Southeast Asia

It is because what I have just described above is nothing else other than a result of the monstrous mass murder, plunder and destruction, which has been perpetrated by the West. It has been happening all over here; in all corners of Southeast Asia. The destruction has been so appalling and frightening, that almost no liberals in Paris, London, Amsterdam, Canberra or Washington are willing to acknowledge it, instead sticking to bizarre clichés and glorification of the state to which the victims have been reduced to; in which they are forced to live.

Entire teams of academics, notably those at the Australian National University (ANU), but also at several other institutions, continuously repeat the official Western dogma, which describes Indonesia as ‘a normal country’.

But isn’t this what the so-called Western ‘political correctness’ is all about? Doesn’t it work like this: “A country is attacked, left-wing government gets overthrown, corrupt leaders put on thrones; then natural resources get plundered, and extreme right-wing ‘elites’ fully subservient to the West quickly steal everything from their country and people, while dutifully sharing the booty with Western corporations. The population gets indoctrinated, totally brainwashed and the opposition either murdered or scared into submission. And then, and then, the West ‘shows great respect’ for that local ‘culture’ and for ‘local people’. Read: respect for its own Frankenstein; for its own creations.

It goes without saying that this gangrenous monster which the West first created and then ordered everyone to ‘respect’, has nothing to do with the culture and ‘the people’.

In the end, the victims themselves, get methodically conditioned with tools such as mass media, ‘education’, and continuous propaganda dispensed by the political regime. They stop being aware of their own conditions. They become resigned.They become religious, submissive. They blame and fight each other, but never the true oppressors; never the regime.

The victims often feel they are not well, but they have no idea, why?

*****

For centuries, Southeast Asia suffered terribly at the hands of the French, Dutch, US and British colonizers. For instance, at the beginning of the 20th Century, the US forces brutally massacred around 1 million Filipinos, in their Asian colony.

Official independence from European and North American colonial masters did not stop the suffering of the people.

After WWII, no other part of the world endured more Western massacres and terror than Southeast Asia. Not even Africa, the Middle East or Latin America. The numbers are truly striking.

The West’s lovely ‘holiday destinations’ inhabited by ‘friendly locals’, were carpet-bombed, and poisoned by chemical weapons. Millions of people were slaughtered; by injected military regimes, by monarchs, by elites and military juntas. Not unlike in Latin America, but with numbers astronomically higher, because the West never considered Asian people to be equal human beings (For instance: around 2 million Indonesians were slaughtered during the 1965 military coup of General Suharto. The coup perpetrated by General Pinochet in Chile, in 1973, took lives of 2-3 thousand people. Adjusted to the numbers of people living in both countries, Indonesia still lost approximately ten times more people than Chile).

Everyone knows about the suffering of Vietnam, under French brutal colonial rule, and then, during the terrorist war unleashed against the country by the US and its allies. But no one really knows, precisely, how many Vietnamese people died. The number of victims goes in to millions. At least 4 million Vietnamese citizens vanished.

 

Laos and the so-called ‘side-kick’ or ‘Secret War’ was even worse, on a per capita basis. Hundreds of thousands vanished in this sparsely populated country, which is inhabited by humble and gentle people. Strategic B-52 bombers were deployed against farmers and their water buffalos, using evil cluster bombs that are, to this day, killing thousands, all over the Laotian countryside. There was no reason for this brutal, monstrous genocide, except some abstract ‘concern’ in Washington that this poor nation could follow Vietnam’s example and ‘go Communist’ (it did, after it tasted true Western ‘democracy’, literally on its skin).

Cambodia – a country where the West nurtured corrupt and brutal elites in Phnom Penh, and then began the same monstrous carpet-bombing campaign as in Laos, against unarmed, desperately poor peasants, using B-52s, killing hundreds of thousands, and displacing millions. People lost their minds from the horrors of the bombing. They were also driven from their land, and began dying from famine. Dismal situation opened doors to Khmer Rouge, which the US decisively supported (on the battlefield and at the UN), even after this deranged murderous group got defeated by heroic Communist forces of Vietnam.

Thailand – country which has been choked by car industry and monstrous form of extreme capitalism, while upholding its backward feudal system. Thailand with countless military coups designed to sustain pro-Western monarchy. Thailand, which accepted on its turf part of defeated Chinese anti-Communist army, and ‘put it to work ‘almost immediately’, allowing it to massacre substantial part of its own left-wing movements. Thai state that massacred and raped its own students, and butchering thousands of Cambodian refugees. Thailand that technically attacked both Vietnam and Laos, by flying Air America missions against those countries, opening its airports to the West, while selling its own women in countless brothels in Pattaya and elsewhere, to the Western pilots and ground staff.

Indonesia, where the 1965 US and UK -sponsored military coup against left-wing President Sukarno and (then) the third largest Communist Party in the world (PKI), took the lives of between 1 and 3 million people, installing perhaps the most grotesque fascist extreme-capitalist regime on earth. Indonesia, where all the great artists and thinkers were killed, or imprisoned in the Buru concentration camp, and, where the West helped to install a totally brainless system de-intellectualizing the nation and forcing it back to the Middle Ages. Indonesia, where secularism is now collapsing, and where, during the upcoming April 2019 elections, voters will decide between an inept and weak pro-capitalist leader, and a truly fascist military mass murderer.

East Timor (Timor Leste) – a tiny country which was overrun by Indonesia in 1975, shortly after it gained independence from Portugal, under the leadership of the left-wing FRETILIN movement. The right-wing dictator of Indonesia – Suharto – declared that he was ‘not going to tolerate a second Cuba near its shores’, and got a big pat on his back, as well as full support from the US, UK and Australia. The result: around 30% of the entire population of East Timor vanished during the occupation. Countless Indonesian leaders, including the former President ‘SBY’, served there. If Indonesia was a ‘normal country’, these individuals would now be facing long jail sentences for genocide, or in some cases, a firing squad.

In West Papua – hundreds of thousands of people have already died, also under the Indonesian genocidal occupation, which is fully supported by the West, because Papua, like Borneo (which is known in Indonesia as Kalimantan) is getting thoroughly plundered by multi-national companies, of course, under the careful supervision of Indonesian military forces. Horrors like the state-sponsored ‘trans-migration’ policy, designed to make people of Papua a minority on their own island, are ongoing and relentless. The people, who have lost everything under the occupation, are forced to convert to Islam, and they are also forced to abandon their way of life and their land. What Indonesia does in West Papua is nothing less than genocide. It is not only the killing and rape, of which its military could be accused of.

The plunder of Papuan resources is as deadly for many other reasons; it is like if the force would be used to ‘open up’ vast parts of the Amazonia or Orinoco basins in South America – areas inhabited by indigenous tribes that have never come in contact with the outside world. Even the most insane right-wing presidents of Brazil or Venezuela (of the past), would never dream about such brutal genocidal undertakings (although this may change under the fascist presidency of Bolsonaro in Brazil). In West Papua, dozens of fragile cultures are disappearing. People who have never come into contact with the ‘outside world’ are being forced out of their rainforest, as trees are cut down and mining companies, backed by the Indonesian armed forces, ransack the land. Defenseless tribal people are dying from diseases and hunger, at the same time as corrupt Indonesian officials and businessmen are burning money in Jakarta’s overprized malls, as well as in Singapore, Macau and Hong Kong. And now, thousands of Western tourists fly into West Papua, to Raja Ampat, which is becoming an ‘in place’ for diving!

Malaysia had its own share of inter-religious conflicts, although never at the level of neighboring Indonesia. Nature in Malaysia, almost like in Indonesia, is totally devastated, due to massive palm oil plantations and mining.

The Philippines lived through horrific decades of US neo-colonialism, experiencing the similar extreme capitalism that has been imposed on Indonesia. Only in the recent years, sound social policies have been introduced, and a moratorium on mining, at least in some parts of the Mindanao Island, has been enforced.

Brunei, one of the richest exporters of oil on earth, is now governed by Sharia Law, which, at least in theory, allows amputations, flogging, stoning and other religious practices. Another place where such regressive brutality is officially allowed is in an autonomous province of Indonesia – Aceh.

*****

I worked in this apart of the world for decades. I covered countless horrors and conflicts in Indonesia. I used to live in Hanoi, and I covered in-depth the situation in Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Papua. I covered East Timor, during the occupation, and was tortured there by Indonesian forces. It happened after I exposed mass rape in Ermera town.

Right now, I am working on a detailed and shocking documentary film about the total environmental destruction of Borneo.

As a local (I actually feel like a ‘local’ in all parts of the world), I often look at the Western travelers visiting this part of the world, and I am wondering, sincerely: are they really so ignorant about the past and the present of Southeast Asia? Or perhaps, are they making sure not to know?

Are they ‘enjoying themselves’, surrounded by devastated nature, privatized and ruined beaches, and a deranged culture? Do they feel powerful, unique, superior, because their countries managed to destroy the entire Southeast Asia, bringing it into shameful submission? Is it, at least partially, why they are here?

Don’t they see? The Indonesian islands of Bali and Lombok have become thoroughly grotesque: everything has been stolen along the coasts, people forced out of their dwellings, and the culture has been fully ruined. Bali suffers from traffic jams and pollution, from over-population, poverty and filth. There is hardly anything pristine there, now. ‘Culture’ is only for sale!

The coastline of Thailand is totally finished. The once pristine islands are now dotted with mass-produced, low quality market towns, with makeshift bungalows and ugly concrete structures. There are standardized, repetitive ‘offerings’, most of them of extremely low-quality. There are Thai and Western ‘beach food’, bad old (Western) pop music, countless massage parlors and ersatz bars. There is almost nothing truly Thai left on the Thai coastline. Thai women, the poorest of the poor, many from the north of the country, walk in flip-flops and tasteless T-shirts hand in hand with Western grandfathers, some of them in their 80’s. What a sight!

Everything feels ‘forced’, unnatural, and in terrible taste: in Indonesian ‘resorts’, on the Thai coast, and in the bars of the Philippines, as well as in Cambodia.

In and around Phnom Penh, ‘genocide tourism’ has reached its peak. It is fueled and sponsored by countless Western NGO’s, which are literally pimping the terrible Cambodian past as ‘proof’ that ‘Communism is evil’. Not a word about the fact that most of people who died here, were actually victims of the Western carpet-bombings and consequent famines, and that the Khmer Rouge was in reality a US-sponsored band of freaks, who knew very little about Communist ideology (I spent substantial time talking to them, deep in jungle, and most of them admitted that they had no clue about Marxism or Communism, when they were in power). But to the Westerners, genocide tourism is something thrilling, it represents ‘something new’; ‘something they did not experience before’. It is good for selfies and for colorful pub stories back at home. And Cambodia is now making huge money out of all this, willing to twist its own horrid past, just to gain some cash. Go to the villages and talk to people: they know the truth. But almost nobody goes. Not even the Western media.

The West has totally stolen historic narrative, all over Southeast Asia. Academia in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand is deeply influenced, and manipulated from abroad. ‘Soft power’ is being used; scholarships, funding and invitations to the ‘academic exchanges’.

Both the academic narrative and the mass media in Southeast Asia, are now much more “Westernized” than in the West itself.

*****

Clichés about this part of the world are mostly incorrect, in fact, surreal.

Despite the fact that it is suffering from the horrid religious intolerance, racism and perpetual conflicts and tensions, Indonesia is portrayed in the West as ‘tolerant’. Not having one single political party that would represent the majority (which is poor), it is branded as ‘democratic’. A place where a Chinese, black, white or Papuan person can hardly make few steps without being insulted on the street, or being mocked for his or her appearance, Indonesia is described by the Western mass media as ‘friendly’.

 

Artwork at BACC, before Thai election

Thailand is the same.  A staunch ally of the West during the so-called Vietnam War, and ‘fight against Communism’, the Kingdom is portrayed as ‘Land of Smiles’. In fact, it has higher homicide rate per capita than the United States, and more female tourists are raped here, annually, than in South Africa. Smiles are reserved only for those who are ready to pay any price, without demanding much in return. Any confrontation here can easily deteriorate to violence. The West hardly ever criticizes outrageous capitalist models of Thailand or Indonesia, as well as collapsed infrastructure and inhuman city planning that is prioritizing motor vehicles and ruthless real estate developers over people. Bangkok and Jakarta are much more polluted than the Chinese cities, and Thai and Indonesian governments do almost nothing to change the situation. But, cliché says that it is dangerous to go to Beijing due to the air quality, while Bangkok or Jakarta are hardly ever mentioned.

*****

In Southeast Asia, deafening noise is often administered, in order to silence fear. Thinking is discouraged. It is considered impolite to discuss, to face terrible past and the present. Brainless banging into the phones is recommended. Social media is used here much more than anywhere in the world. While some countries like Indonesia have the lowest readership of books on earth, per capita.

In Hanoi:  Monument to Western Atrocities

Southeast Asia had been living through genocides, coups, and total submission to the Western masters and to savage capitalism. It has been robbed of its nature, and of natural resources. Its population has been ‘pacified’, forced into obedience and submission. Extreme religious concepts have been injected and upheld from abroad. Only in the Philippines is the situation now gradually changing. In Vietnam, the state is still strongly resisting subversion from the West, although the country had also been damaged to a great degree, by Western NGOs and social media. Elsewhere, it is getting much worse.

Laos is now moving closer to China, which is literally pulling this beautiful and sparsely populated nation out of slumber, building a high speed rail system, infrastructure, factories, dams, schools and hospitals. But the more China does for Laos, the more it is demonized by the West, by its press, academia and the NGOs. It is now one big battle over Laos. However, it is clear that the Laotian people are benefiting greatly from their proximity to China, after being literally ruined by French colonialism and the Western “Secret Wars”.

On purpose, here, I don’t mention Burma, as there, the situation is extremely complex, and ‘specific’. But later this year, I expect to publish a detailed report on the topic.

*****

Southeast Asia is clearly a victim. It is also an ‘untold story’. Deep, dark story.

With the exception of Singapore and to some extent Malaysia, it is a devastated, an impoverished victim. It is also a ‘time bomb’. People here are discontent, often desperate. Often, they do not know why. Unlike in Latin America and Africa, where the political awareness of the victims is extremely high, here the victims often believe that they are treated justly and that ‘this is the only way how the society can be arranged and governed’.

If someone travels here, searching for ‘culture’ and ‘new ways to understand life’, they should think twice. In most of Southeast Asian countries, the local culture was thoroughly uprooted. What they will see are some folk shows for foreigners, hardly ever attended by locals. Most of the native music venues, as well as theatrical and other art forms, have been replaced by the most vulgar Western entertainment, by video games and naturally, by social media.

Western men often feel good here. It is because in Southeast Asia, ‘they have won’. They are often ‘respected’ here, just for being both men, and white. They are respected, the same way as the French, Dutch and British colonialists used to be respected here, a century ago. Not loved, not admired, but esteemed for belonging to the race and culture that managed to conquer, destroy and then to give orders.

In fact, for those who want to relive those days of imperialist ‘grandeur’, this is the perfect place to visit.

Naturally, Southeast Asia is glorified by the West, with the exception of the Philippines, Vietnam and Laos (and Burma, for different reasons) — countries that are trying to get away from Western dictates.

It is because this part of the world is ‘perfect’ in the eyes of rulers of the Empire. Here, human lives are freely sacrificed for the profits of corporations, both Western and local, like when a pedestrian here has to wait until the cars pass by; entire villages have to give way to the mining venues and to palm oil plantations. Social services for the citizens are not something secondary, but tertiary, almost irrelevant. Profit is all that matters. The well-being of the citizens is hardly considered.

The West is almost never criticized here. Like in any ‘good’ feudal society, the West is seen as a ‘daddy’. It is severe, but always right. It beats its ‘children’, but gives directions. Religions help to reinforce this sort of obedience, which in many other parts of the world would be synonymous with the Middle Ages.

The local ‘elites’, in the meantime, are ‘having a ball’. They govern unopposed. They are only accountable to the much bigger, mostly Western, power. They can do anything they want with their subjects. They drive their super expensive sedans and SUVs, purchased with funds stolen from the poor, and the poor bow, and bend, prostrating themselves in great respect, fear, servility and admiration.

And they do the same in front of the West.

In brief: perfect societies, observed from New York, Canberra, London or Paris.

And in Bali or Phuket, women dressed in traditional clothes dance in 5-star hotels, roll their big eyes, and twist their slender arms. In order for the foreign visitors to say: “What a great culture!” While, of course, the true great culture was killed by the military pro-Western regimes; choked and murdered in the concentration camps and inside the army barracks.

The only victims of this ‘perfect’ state of things, are the poor; in fact, the great majority in Southeast Asia (no matter what the official statistics say). But who really cares about them?

*****

Did most of the Southeast Asian countries really gain their independence some decades ago? Were the famous merdeka shouts just a big farce? Is it true that Thailand was ‘never colonized’? Is this entire huge region still a de facto colony? And if it is, can the situation change?

These are not just rhetorical questions; they are real. And the answers to them are never simple.

The People of Southeast Asia were violated, robbed and then encircled by pseudo-reality; by lies about their past and present. They were told that they are well, happy, and that what they are experiencing is progress, freedom and democracy. They were also ordered to believe that what their usurper, the West, represents, is synonymous with ‘good governance’ and honesty. Many of them have never encountered any alternative views.

After burying tens of millions of corpses, and after having their rainforests, rivers and mountains thoroughly ruined, most of the Southeast Asians are still convinced that their tormentors are fully qualified to control the world.

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

Syria or Southeast Asia: The West Lied, Lies, and Always Will

Photo:  Andre Vltchek

I’m sitting at the splendid building of the Singapore National Library, in a semi-dark room, microfilm inserted into a high-tech machine. I’m watching and then filming and photographing several old Malaysian newspapers dating back from October 1965.

These reports were published right after the horrible 1965 military coup in Indonesia, which basically overthrew the progressive President Sukarno and liquidated then the third largest Communist party on Earth, PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia). Between one and three million Indonesian people lost their lives in some of the most horrifying massacres of the 20th century. From a socialist (and soon to be Communist) country, Indonesia descended into the present pits of turbo-capitalist, as well as religious and extreme right-wing gaga.

The United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Holland and several other Western nations, directly sponsored the coup, while directing both the pro-Western treasonous factions in the military, as well as the religious leaders who stood, from the start, at the forefront of the genocide.

All this information is, of course, widely available in the de-classified archives of both the CIA and U.S. State Department. It can be accessed, analyzed and reproduced. I personally made a film about the events, and so have several other directors.

But it isn’t part of the memory of humanity. In Southeast Asia, it is known only to a handful of intellectuals.

In Malaysia, Singapore or Thailand, the Indonesian post-1965 fascism is a taboo topic. It is simply not discussed. “Progressive” intellectuals here are, like in all other ‘client’ states of the West, paid to be preoccupied with their sex orientation, with gender issues and personal ‘freedoms’, but definitely not with the essential matters (Western imperialism, neo-colonialism, the savage and grotesque forms of capitalism, the plunder of local natural resources and environment, as well as disinformation, plus the forcefully injected ignorance that is accompanied by mass amnesia) that have been shaping so extremely and so negatively this part of the world.

In Indonesia itself, the Communist Party is banned and the general public sees it as a culprit, not as a victim.

The West is laughing behind the back of its brainwashed victims. It is laughing all the way to the bank.

Lies are obviously paying off.

No other part of the world has suffered from Western imperialism as much after WWII, as Southeast Asia did, perhaps with two exceptions, those of Africa and the Middle East.

In so-called Indochina, the West murdered close to ten million people, during the indiscriminate bombing campaigns and other forms of terror – in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The abovementioned Indonesian coup took at least 1 million human lives. 30% of the population of East Timor was exterminated by the Indonesian occupation, which was fully supported by the West. The Thai regime, fully subservient to the West, killed indiscriminately its leftists in the north and in the capital. The entire region has been suffering from extreme religious implants, sponsored by the West itself, and by its allies from the Gulf.

But the West is admired here, with an almost religious zeal.

The U.S., British and French press agencies and ‘cultural centers’ are spreading disinformation through local media outlets owned by subservient ‘elites’. Local ‘education’ has been devotedly shaped by Western didactic concepts. In places like Malaysia, Indonesia, but also Thailand, the greatest achievement is to graduate from university in one of the countries that used to colonize this part of the world.

Victim countries, instead of seeking compensation in courts, are actually admiring and plagiarizing the West, while pursuing, even begging for funding from their past and present tormentors.

Southeast Asia, now obedient, submissive, phlegmatic and stripped off the former revolutionary left-wing ideologies, is where the Western indoctrination and propaganda scored unquestionable victory.

*****

The same day, I turned on the television set in my hotel room, and watched the Western coverage of the situation in Idlib, the last stronghold of the Western-sponsored terrorists on Syrian territory.

Russia has called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting warning that the terrorists might stage a chemical attack, and then blame it, together with the West, on the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.

NATO battleships have been deployed to the region. There can be no doubt – it has been a ‘good old’ European/North American scenario at work, once again: ‘We hit you, kill your people, and then bomb you as a punishment’.

Imperialist gangsters then point accusative fingers at the victims (in this case Syria) and at those who are trying to protect them (Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, China). Just like in a kindergarten, or a primary school; remember? A boy hits someone from behind and then screams, pointing at someone else: “It was him, it was him!” Miraculously, until now, the West has always gotten away with this ‘strategy’, of course, at the cost of billions of victims, on all continents.

That is how it used to be for centuries, and that is how it still works. That is how it will continue to be, until such terror and gangsterism is stopped.

*****

For years and decades, we were told that the world is now increasingly inter-connected, that nothing of great importance could happen, without it being immediately spotted and reported by vigilant media lenses, and ‘civil society’.

Yet, thousands of things are happening and no one is noticing.

Just in the last two decades, entire countries have been singled-out by North America and Europe, then half-starved to death through embargos and sanctions, before being finally attacked and broken to pieces: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya to mention just a few. Governments of several left-wing nations have been overthrown either from outside, or through their own, local, servile elites and media; among them Brazil, Honduras and Paraguay. Countless Western companies and their local cohorts are committing the unbridled plunder of natural resources in such places as Borneo/Kalimantan or the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), totally ruining tropical forests while murdering hundreds of species.

Are we, as a planet, really inter-connected? How much do people know about each other, or about what is done to their brothers and sisters on different continents?

I have worked in some 160 countries, and I can testify without the slightest hesitation: ‘Almost nothing’. And: ‘Less and much less!’

The Western empire and its lies, has managed to fragment the world to previously unknown extremes. It is all done ‘in the open’, in full view of the world, which is somehow unable to see and identify the most urgent threats to its survival. Mass media propaganda outlets are serving as vehicles of indoctrination, so do cultural and ‘educational’ institutions of the West or those local ones shaped by the Western concepts. That includes such diverse ‘tools’ as universities, Internet traffic manipulators, censors and self-censored individuals, social media, advertisement agencies and pop culture ‘artists’.

*****

There is a clear pattern to Western colonialist and neo-colonialist barbarity and lies:

‘Indonesian President Sukarno and his closest ally the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) were trying to build a progressive and self-sufficient country. Therefore, they had to be stopped, government overthrown, party members massacred, PKI itself banned and the entire country privatized; sold to foreign interests. The overwhelming majority of Indonesians are so brainwashed by the local and Western propaganda that they still blame the Communists for the 1965 coup, no matter what the CIA archives say.’

Mossadegh of Iran was on the same, progressive course. And he ended up the same way as Sukarno. And the whole world was then charmed by the butcher, who was put to power by the West – the Shah and his lavish wife.

Chile in 1973, and thereafter, the same deadly pattern occurred, more evidence of how freedom-loving and democratic the West is.

Patrice Lumumba of Congo nationalized natural resources and tried to feed and educate his great nation. Result? Overthrown, killed. The price: some 8 million people massacred in the last two decades, or maybe many more than that (see my film: Rwanda Gambit). Nobody knows, or everyone pretends that they don’t know.

Syria! The biggest ‘crime’ of this country, at least in the eyes of the West, consisted of trying to provide its citizens with high quality of life, while promoting Pan-Arabism. The results we all know (or do we, really?): hundreds of thousands killed by West-sponsored murderous extremists, millions exiled and millions internally displaced. And the West, naturally, is blaming Syrian President, and is ready to ‘punish him’ if he wins the war.

Irrational? But can global-scale fascism ever be rational?

The lies that are being spread by the West are piling up. They overlap, often contradict one another. But the world public is not trained to search for the truth, anymore. Subconsciously it senses that it is being lied to, but the truth is so horrifying, that the great majority of people prefer to simply take selfies, analyze and parade its sexual orientation, stick earphones into its ears and listen to empty pop music, instead of fighting for the survival of humanity.

I wrote entire books on this topic, including the near 1,000-page: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire”.

This essay is just a series of thoughts that came to my mind, while I was sitting at a projector in a dark room of the Singapore National Library.

A rhetorical question kept materializing: “Can all this be happening?” “Can the West get away with all these crimes it has been committing for centuries, all over the world?”

The answer was clear: ‘But of course, as long as it is not stopped!”

And so, A luta continua!

First published by NEO New Eastern Outlook

Borneo: Not Just Nature, But Also Great Ancient Culture Has Been Destroyed

Would you ever think of the third largest island on Earth – Borneo (known as Kalimantan in Indonesia) – as one of the cradles of the world’s democracy? Perhaps you wouldn’t, but you should.

This is how Kalimantan used to be

While Europe was engaged in myriads of internal as well as expansionist wars, in the once lush, tropical Borneo, people who belonged to the ancient local cultures, used to decide things communally, by consensus, or should we use the Western term, “democratically”. Judged by today’s standards, they were also living the lives of determined ‘environmentalists’, showing great respect for the nature around them – for all living creatures, plants, deep forests, wide rivers as well as humble creeks.

True, local people – Dayaks – were often marked as “headhunters”, at least by the European Orientalists. But that was only one of many features of their culture. Dayaks spoke at least 170 languages and dialects, enjoying complex fabric of cultures, customs and laws.

The bottom line is: in many ways and for many centuries, traditional Dayaks were able to co-exist perfectly well with their island and with the surrounding environment.

If left alone, that is what they would still be doing now – living their own lives, in their own place, and most likely, living well.

Unfortunately, that was not meant to be.

Borneo was attacked, colonized and devastated by European invaders. For a short period, the Japanese occupied the island, and then the Europeans came back again, before “independence” saw the island divided between three sovereign countries: Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam.

Things did not get much better. The brutality – almost madness – of the Indonesian plunder which took place after the 1965 Western-orchestrated military coup (backed by foreign mining and logging interests); the plunder of the natural resources of Kalimantan, has been legendary. For Jakarta and for its foreign handlers, the so-called transmigration made looting much easier, while turning local people into a minority and into serfs on their own land.

Dayak culture is now only truly ‘alive and well’ in a few untouched pockets in the deep interior.

There, people still remember and know how Borneo used to be. They also understand what should and could be done in order to save it. But no one seems to be willing to learn from them, or even to listen.

*****

The longest longhouse in the world, deep in the rainforest

Travelling through the so-called Heart of Borneo (HOB) is not easy. But it is possible, and while collecting footage for our documentary films and for the book, we managed to visit, in May 2018, several remote communities located between the Indonesian city of Putussibau, and the border with Malaysia.

Putussibau lies on the shores of the mighty Kapuas River – on its upper stream. Unlike other major cities in Indonesian Kalimantan, it is still mainly surrounded by untouched primary forests, as it lies inside the protected areas.

After the almost absolute devastation of Kalimantan that we have been witnessing in western and southern parts of the island for months, the HOB appeared to be remarkably pristine.

Dayak people surrounded by their environment

The inhabitants of various traditional ‘longhouses’ located tens of kilometers outside the city appeared to be very well-informed about the present state of Borneo, and even willing to fearlessly comment on the situation. They were also knowledgeable about the history and traditional cultures of their geographical area, and of the island in general.

Paulus Tulung Daun, a longhouse chief

Borneo native, Paulus Tulung Daun, an old Dayak man who is the head of a traditional longhouse, explained:

We, especially the Dayak Taman (the name of one Dayak sub-ethnic community living in  the interior of Borneo), have wisdom and traditions from our ancestors. We know how to live in harmony with the nature. That’s why here we don’t destroy the environment. Without nature, there is no life. We teach our young people, to keep this essential value in their daily existence, and we tell our children not to be easily influenced by the immigrants from other part of the country and from abroad; from those who are coming here and keep devastating Kalimantan.

We will also continue to live in this longhouse because we believe that there is wisdom in living in a longhouse, compared to conventional houses. Here we live in harmony with the entire community; we help each other and share our possessions. All important decisions are made after the consultations with the members of our community.

Palm oil companies came to us on many occasions, offering to buy our lands, but we always refuse because we know that palm oil would bring harm to the nature and to our lives. In other places, I think people are lured by money and promises from the companies, so they sell all they have, and as a result lose their forest.

A younger man, Hendri, joins the conversation. He is very enthusiastic; dreaming about working in the health sector and improving the lives of his community. It is soon clear that both generations are on a very similar wave:

Selling land to the businesses is not a good idea. First, there is never a clear MoU between the companies/government and the local people, so we do not trust them.

Second, the palm oil could maybe bring some benefits, but only for the short-term period. But what about our future generations? We don’t want our water to be contaminated, we don’t want to lose our forests – to rob our children and grandchildren of their future.

“What about the gold mining?” We ask. It is clear than in other parts of Kalimantan, the ‘illegal’ (although in reality fully protected and even sponsored by the government, police and the military) extraction of gold from the rivers and shores has already poisoned entire communities and waterways with mercury and other highly toxic substances.

Hendri (known only by his first name) does not hesitate:

We do not allow any gold mining here. In this traditional area, even when people cut down one single tree, without the permission of our leader, we will punish them using our customary law. So, we do not allow gold mining here at all, because we know how bad the devastation caused by the gold mining can get.

We want to know about the “democratic principles” that have been governing the local communities and dwellings (like longhouses) for decades and centuries.

Yes, in a way we live our own form of democracy, for many years and decades. But for us, it is just a natural form of life.

*****

Democracy. ‘Rule of the people’ in Greek. It is officially promoted by the West, but in reality, it disappears, is immediately blocked from being practiced in the places that are conquered and colonized by the Europeans and their offspring.

In Borneo, there was the LanFang Republic (Chinese: 蘭芳共和國).

According to the Lan Fang Chronicles (a multi-faceted project inspired by the histories and investigations of the 18th century Lan Fang Republic, which was founded by Hakka Chinese in West Borneo):

The Lan Fang Republic was the first democratic republic in South East Asia, set up by the Hakka Chinese in West Borneo. Founded by Luo Fang Bo in 1777, the Republic existed for 107 years with 10 presidents until its reigns came to an end with the Dutch Occupation in 1884.The Chinese first came to Borneo as gold miners and formed various clans grouped by the area of their origins. Originally known as Lan Fang Kongsi (Company), Luo Fang Bo united all the Hakkas in the area to form the Lan Fang Republic.

After the Dutch invasion, the descendants fled across the region to Sumatra, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Many scholars believe that one of the descendants later became the founding father of Singapore. While the Hakkas are a minority in Singapore, it is the Hakkas who played an important part in the establishment of Singapore as a cosmopolitan city-state today.

As quoted by various sources, including (Sarawak Museum Journal, Volume 19” 1971):

As Dutch imperialism encroached upon modern-day Indonesia, Luo established the Lanfang Republic in 1777 (with its capital in East Wanjin) to protect the Chinese settlers from Dutch oppression… The settlers subsequently elected Luo as their inaugural president. Luo implemented many democratic principles, including the idea that all matters of state must involve the consultation of the republic’s citizenry. He also created a comprehensive set of executive, legislative, and judicial agencies. The Republic did not have a standing military but had a defense ministry that administered a national militia based on conscription…

While I discussed this impressive republic, in Nagasaki, Japan, with a leading Australian historian Geoffrey Gunn, he expressed great admiration for its achievements: “Yes, it was enormously advanced. Not only politically, but also technologically – in terms of hydraulics, building dykes…”

Prof. Mira Sophia Lubis, a native of Kalimantan, who has been researching the island for many years, explained:

In Jakarta and elsewhere, many people believe that the inhabitants of Kalimantan are too simple, lacking knowledge and intellectualism. But let’s face what really happened here: the great and progressive Lanfang Republic was destroyed by the Dutch colonialists. The Japanese then murdered almost all educated people in West Kalimantan, many of whom were of Chinese descent. And then, in many ways, Kalimantan has been marginalized by the government in Jakarta, especially during Suharto era.

*****

We drove with Mr. Hendri all the way to Ensanak Village, some 200 kilometers from Putussibau. There, again, oil palm plantations are covering enormous sprawls of land. “Protected areas” are far away from here. As everywhere else in the Indonesian Kalimantan, the creeks passing through these plantations are dark red or black from the carcinogenic chemicals that are used by the companies.

Near Malaysian border, total destruction

Mr. Hendri wanted us to talk to his relative, Mr. Mawan, who used to be a true firebrand activist, fighting against the oil palm plantations. He even used to block the company trucks and to initiate legal cases on behalf of the local communities.

But after the long and arduous journey, Mr. Mawan was unwilling to speak about the terrible ordeal of the local people.

His tiny village was fully encircled by the plantations. There was no tiniest piece of pristine land left, in a radius of tens of kilometers. Yet he spoke about the benefits of the oil palm plantations, not about their devastating effects on the people.

“They bought him!”, shouted Hendri in the car, on the way back. “They keep buying our people.”

Back in Bali Gundi longhouse, chief Paulus Tulung Daun floated his important theory:

People who go to schools in Indonesia, they think they are getting smarter, but, in fact, they end up working for the government and private companies, and they do nothing to help their villages and hometowns. As long as they get money they do not care anymore. In brief: The more “educated” people are, here, the more they support corporations. They return from schools and begin promoting destructive activities. Political system here, too – is clearly destructive.

*****

Putussibau may be in a somehow better state than other provincial cities of Kalimantan, such as Sintang (a city badly devastated by nearby gold mining). But even here, the situation for the local people is pitiful. The collapsing giant – Indonesia – is still somehow surviving because of the unbridled extraction of natural resources from Papua, Sumatra and Kalimantan, but it gives very little (or close to nothing) back to the people inhabiting these islands.

According to Greenpeace:

Indonesia’s rainforests are a biodiversity hotspot, rich in endemic species, and vital in regulating the Earth’s climate. But these forests are being torn down for palm oil, pulp and paper plantations – making Indonesia the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter and threatening endangered species such as orang-utans with extinction.

Indonesia is now the largest producer of palm oil in the world (over 21 million tons), Malaysia being close second. This business generates incomes of tens of billions of dollars. Yet the native population in Indonesian Kalimantan remains dirt-poor.

In the evening, before leaving Patussibau, we crossed the river from the city center, to the area which was recently devastated by a landslide – Kedamin.

There we saw a parcel of land which literally broke in half, one part remained standing on the hill, while the other one collapsed and fell down to the river. The house was gone. There were only some debris left.

The owners of the house – a man and his wife Yeni – were sitting on a makeshift bench shaded by what was left of a tarpaulin roof.

A couple that lost the house in Patussibau

Dispassionately first, they recounted what happened to them two weeks ago:

The water of Kapuas River kept rising and it was moving with great speed. Suddenly it hit our house, at 3 am. Land facing the bank of the river suddenly cracked and fell down. Part of the house – the kitchen and the dining room – disappeared in the troubled waters. The remaining part of the house was reduced to rubble.

At one point, the woman began to cry. Now she and her family have to rely on the help of neighbors and relatives. One of the neighbors had offered them a temporary shelter.

As always in such situations, the government did close to zero. It did not asses the danger before the tragedy occurred, it did nothing to reinforce the shore. After the family became homeless, it only offered one-time ‘relief’ – a blanket!

Local people can count on nothing. There is no place they can turn to when they need help. Everything has been taken away from Kalimantan, but nothing is being given back, with the exception of some “infrastructure” – meaning roads, which are built in order to facilitate even the greater extraction of the natural resources.

Not far from where Ms. Yeni was sitting, a man was defecating into the water, crouching on the jetty behind his house. A few meters down the stream, someone was washing clothes, and then bathing.

Clearly, in the cities, not much is left of the former glory of Borneo, and of the deep and proud Dayak culture!

*****

Had it not been attacked, colonized and enslaved by the Dutch, British and Japanese invaders, had it not later been taken over by tremendous greed and Machiavellian politics streaming from Java, the island of Borneo would have most likely developed into one of the most traditional and at the same time, prosperous parts of the Southeast Asia.

Here, when left alone, both Dayak and Chinese people were co-existing peacefully. Both cultures had their own, democratic ways of governing. Both respected the nature. But both were too weak to fight the superior weapons and unbridled greed of the invaders. They were defeated, humiliated and forced into submission.

We know what followed. It is clearly visible all over the island: almost everything is burned, mined out and destroyed. The misery in which the people are forced to live, is appalling.

In the old longhouses, deep inside the forest, people still resist, by living their lives as they did before the occupation.

Inside those splendid longhouses, can be found the secrets of Borneo, as well as the answers to those countless questions, including the most burning of all: “why the disaster has taken place”.

There, in the minds and hearts of the local people – those people who are still able to resist the mainstream ‘education’ imposed from Jakarta and from abroad – may also lie solutions, the way forward and the salvation for this once most beautiful island on Earth.

• Photos by Andre Vltchek and Mira Lubis

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

Saudi Wahabbism Serves Western Imperialism

When the Saudi Crown Prince gave an interview to the Washington Post, declaring that it was actually the West that encouraged his country to spread Wahhabism to all corners of the world, there was a long silence in almost all the mass media outlets in the West, but also in countries such as Egypt and Indonesia.

Those who read the statement expected a determined rebuke from Riyadh. It did not come. The sky did not fall. Lightning did not strike the Prince or the Post.

Clearly, not all that the Crown Prince declared appeared on the pages of the Washington Post, but what actually did, would be enough to bring down entire regimes in such places like Indonesia, Malaysia or Brunei. Or at least it would be enough under ‘normal circumstances’. That is, if the population there was not already hopelessly and thoroughly indoctrinated and programed, and if the rulers in those countries did not subscribe to, or tolerate, the most aggressive, chauvinistic and ritualistic (as opposed to the intellectual or spiritual) form of the religion.

Reading between the lines, the Saudi Prince suggested that it was actually the West which, while fighting an ‘ideological war’ against the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, handpicked Islam and its ultra-orthodox and radical wing – Wahhabism – as an ally in destroying almost all the progressive, anti-imperialist and egalitarian aspirations in the countries with a Muslim majority.

As reported by RT on 28 March 2018:

The Saudi-funded spread of Wahhabism began as a result of Western countries asking Riyadh to help counter the Soviet Union during the Cold War, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the Washington Post.

Speaking to the paper, bin Salman said that Saudi Arabia’s Western allies urged the country to invest in mosques and madrassas overseas during the Cold War, in an effort to prevent encroachment in Muslim countries by the Soviet Union…

The interview with the crown prince was initially held ‘off the record’. However, the Saudi embassy later agreed to let the Washington Post publish specific portions of the meeting.

Since the beginning of the spread of Wahhabism, one country after another had been falling; ruined by ignorance, fanatical zeal and fear, which have been preventing the people of countries such as post-1965 Indonesia or the post-Western-invasion Iraq, to move back (to the era before Western intervention) and at the same time forward, towards something that used to be so natural to their culture in not such a distant past – towards socialism or at least tolerant secularism.

*****

In reality, Wahhabism does not have much to do with Islam. Or more precisely, it intercepts and derails the natural development of Islam, of its strife for an egalitarian arrangement of the world, and for socialism.

The Brits were behind the birth of the movement; the Brits and one of the most radical, fundamentalist and regressive preachers of all times – Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab.

The essence of the Wahabi/British alliance and dogma was and still is, extremely simple: “Religious leaders would force the people into terrible, irrational fear and consequent submission. No criticism of the religion is allowed; no questioning of its essence and particularly of the conservative and archaic interpretation of the Book. Once conditioned this way, people stopped questioning and criticizing first the feudalist, and later capitalist oppression; they also accepted without blinking the plunder of their natural resources by local and foreign masters. All attempts to build a socialist and egalitarian society got deterred, brutally, ‘in the name of Islam’ and ‘in the name of God’”.

Of course, as a result, the Western imperialists and the local servile ‘elites’ are laughing all the way to the bank, at the expense of those impoverished and duped millions in the countries that are controlled by the Wahhabi and Western dogmas.

Only a few in the devastated, colonized countries actually realize that Wahhabism does not serve God or the people; it is helping Western interests and greed.

Precisely this is what is right now happening in Indonesia, but also in several other countries that have been conquered by the West, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

Were Syria to fall, this historically secular and socially-oriented nation would be forced into the same horrid direction. People there are well aware of this, as they are educated. They also see what has happened to Libya and Iraq and they definitely do not want to end up like them. It is the Wahhabi terrorist fighters that both the West and its lackeys like Saudi Arabia unleashed against the Syrian state and its people.

*****

Despite its hypocritical secular rhetoric, manufactured mainly for local consumption but not for the colonies, the West is glorifying or at least refusing to openly criticize its own brutal and ‘anti-people’ offspring – a concept which has already consumed and ruined both the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. In fact, it is trying to convince the world that these two countries are ‘normal’, and in the case of Indonesia, both ‘democratic’ and ‘tolerant’. At the same time, it has consistently been antagonizing almost all the secular or relatively secular nations with substantial Muslim majorities, such as Syria (until now), but also Afghanistan, Iran (prior to the coup of 1953), Iraq and Libya before they were thoroughly and brutally smashed.

Aghanistan-US-air-force-Bagrani-base

It is because the state, in which the KSA, Indonesia and the present-day Afghanistan can be found, is the direct result of both Western interventions and indoctrination. The injected Wahhabi dogma is giving this Western ‘project’ a Muslim flavor, while justifying trillions of dollars on ‘defense spending’ for the so-called ‘War on Terror’ (a concept resembling an Asian fishing pond where fish are brought in and then fished out for a fee).

Obedience, even submissiveness – is where, for many reasons, the West wants its ‘client’ states and neo-colonies to be. The KSA is an important trophy because of its oil, and strategic position in the region. Saudi rulers are often going out of their way to please their masters in London and Washington, implementing the most aggressive pro-Western foreign policy. Afghanistan is ‘valued’ for its geographical location, which could potentially allow the West to intimidate and even eventually invade both Iran and Pakistan, while inserting extremist Muslim movements into China, Russia and the former Soviet Central Asian republics. Between 1 and 3 million Indonesian people ‘had to be’ massacred in 1965-66, in order to bring to power a corrupt turbo-capitalist clique which could guarantee that the initially bottomless (although now rapidly thinning) natural resources could flow, uninterrupted and often untaxed, into places such as North America, Europe, Japan and Australia.

Frankly, there is absolutely nothing ‘normal’ about countries such as Indonesia and the KSA. In fact, it would take decades, but most likely entire generations, in order to return them to at least some sort of nominal ‘normalcy’. Even if the process were to begin soon, the West hopes that by the time it ends, almost all of the natural resources of these countries would be gone.

But the process is not yet even beginning. The main reason for the intellectual stagnation and lack of resistance is obvious: people in countries such as Indonesia and KSA are conditioned so they are not able to see the brutal reality that surrounds them. They are indoctrinated and ‘pacified’. They have been told that socialism equals atheism and that atheism is evil, illegal and ‘sinful’.

Hence, Islam was modified by the Western and Saudi demagogues, and has been ‘sent to a battle’, against progress and a just, egalitarian arrangement of the world.

Poster of radical FPI in Jakarta

This version of religion is unapologetically defending Western imperialism, savage capitalism as well as the intellectual and creative collapse of the countries into which it was injected, including Indonesia. There, in turn, the West tolerates the thorough corruption, grotesque lack of social services, and even genocides and holocausts committed first against the Indonesians themselves, then against the people of East Timor, and to this day against the defenseless Papuan men, women and children. And it is not only a ‘tolerance’ – the West participates directly in these massacres and extermination campaigns, as it also takes part in spreading the vilest forms of Wahabi terrorism and dogmas to all corners of the world. All this, while tens of millions of the followers of Wahhabism are filling the mosques daily, performing mechanical rituals without any deeper thought or soul searching.

Wahhabism works – it works for the mining companies and banks with their headquarters in London and New York. It also works extremely well for the rulers and the local ‘elites’ inside the ‘client’ states.

*****

Ziauddin Sardar, a leading Muslim scholar from Pakistan, who is based in London, has no doubts that ‘Muslim fundamentalism’ is, to a great extent, the result of the Western imperialism and colonialism.

Ziauddin Sardar and Andre Vltchek discussing Islam at Mr. Sardar’s club in London

In a conversation which we had several years ago, he explained:

Trust between Islam and the West has indeed been broken… We need to realize that colonialism did much more than simply damage Muslim nations and cultures. It played a major part in the suppression and eventual disappearance of knowledge and learning, thought and creativity, from Muslim cultures. The colonial encounter began by appropriating the knowledge and learning of Islam, which became the basis of the ‘European Renaissance’ and ‘the Enlightenment’ and ended by eradicating this knowledge and learning from both from Muslim societies and from history itself. It did that both by physical elimination – destroying and closing down institutions of learning, banning certain types of indigenous knowledge, killing off local thinkers and scholars – and by rewriting history as the history of western civilization into which all minor histories of other civilization are subsumed.

As a consequence, Muslim cultures were de-linked from their own history with many serious consequences. For example, the colonial suppression of Islamic science led to the displacement of scientific culture from Muslim society. It did this by introducing new systems of administration, law, education and economy all of which were designed to impart dependence, compliance and subservience to the colonial powers. The decline of Islamic science and learning is one aspect of the general economic and political decay and deterioration of Muslim societies. Islam has thus been transformed from a dynamic culture and a holistic way of life to mere rhetoric. Islamic education has become a cul-de-sac, a one-way ticket to marginality. It also led to the conceptual reduction of Muslim civilization. By which I mean concepts that shaped and gave direction to Muslim societies became divorced from the actual daily lives of Muslims – leading to the kind of intellectual impasse that we find in Muslim societies today.  Western neo-colonialism perpetuates that system.

*****

In Indonesia, after the Western-sponsored military coup of 1965, which destroyed the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) and brought to power an extreme pro-market and pro-Western regime, things are deteriorating with a frightening predictability, consistency and speed.

While the fascist dictator Suharto, a Western implant after 1965, was said to be ‘suspicious of Islam’, he actually used all major religions on his archipelago with great precision and fatal impact. During his pro-market despotism, all left-wing movements and ‘-isms’ were banned, and so were most of the progressive forms of arts and thought. The Chinese language was made illegal. Atheism was also banned. Indonesia rapidly became one of the most religious countries on Earth.

At least one million people, including members of the PKI, were brutally massacred in one of the most monstrous genocides of the 20th century.

The fascist dictatorship of General Suharto often played the Islamic card for its political ends. As described by John Pilger in his book, The New Rulers of The World:

In the pogroms of 1965-66, Suharto’s generals often used Islamicist groups to attack communists and anybody who got in the way. A pattern emerged; whenever the army wanted to assert its political authority, it would use Islamicists in acts of violence and sabotage, so that sectarianism could be blamed and justify the inevitable ‘crackdown’ – by the army…

‘A fine example’ of cooperation between the murderous right-wing dictatorship and radical Islam.

After Suharto stepped down, the trend towards a grotesque and fundamentalist interpretation of the monotheist religions continued. Saudi Arabia and the Western-favored and sponsored Wahhabism has been playing an increasingly significant role. And so has Christianity, often preached by radical right-wing former exiles from Communist China and their offspring; mainly in the city of Surabaya but also elsewhere.

From a secular and progressive nation under the leadership of President Sukarno, Indonesia has gradually descended into an increasingly radically backward-looking and bigoted Wahhabi-style/Christian Pentecostal state.

President_Abdurrahman_Wahid_Gus_Dur

After being forced to resign as the President of Indonesia during what many considered a constitutional coup, a progressive Muslim cleric and undoubtedly a closet socialist, Abdurrahman Wahid (known in Indonesia by his nickname Gus Dur), shared with me his thoughts, on the record:

These days, most of Indonesian people do not care or think about God. They only follow rituals. If God would descend and tell them that their interpretation of Islam is wrong, they’d continue following this form of Islam and ignore the God.

‘Gus Dur’ also clearly saw through all the tricks of the military and pro-Western elites. He told me, among other things, that the 2003 Marriott Hotel bombing in Jakarta was organized by the Indonesian security forces, and later blamed on the Islamists, who were actually only executing the orders given to them by their political bosses from the pro-Western military regime, which until now is being disguised as a, ‘multi-party democracy’.

In Indonesia, an extreme and unquestioning obedience to the religions has led to a blind acceptance of a fascist capitalist system, and of Western imperialism and its propaganda. Creativity and intellectual pluralism have been thoroughly liquidated.

The 4th most populous nation on the planet, Indonesia, has presently no scientists, architects, philosophers or artists of any international standing. Its economy is fueled exclusively by the unbridled plunder of the natural resources of the vast, and in the past, pristine parts of the country, such as Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan), as well as on the brutally-occupied Western part of Papua. The scale of the environmental destruction is monumental; something that I am presently trying to capture in two documentary films and a book.

Awareness of the state of things, even among the victims, is minimal or out rightly nonexistent.

In a country that has been robbed of its riches; identity, culture and future, religions now play the most important role. There is simply nothing else left for the majority. Nihilism, cynicism, corruption and thuggery are ruling unopposed. In the cities with no theatres, galleries, art cinemas, but also no public transportation or even sidewalks, in the monstrous urban centers abandoned to the ‘markets’ with hardly any greenery or public parks, religions are readily filling the emptiness. Being themselves regressive, pro-market oriented and greedy, the results are easily predictable.

In the city of Surabaya, during the capturing of footage for my documentary film produced for a South American television network TeleSur (Surabaya – Eaten Alive by Capitalism), I stumbled over an enormous Protestant Christian gathering at a mall, where thousands of people were in an absolute trance, yelling and lifting their eyes towards the ceiling. A female preacher was shouting into a microphone:

God loves the rich, and that is why they are rich! God hates the poor, and that’s why they are poor!

Von Hayek, Friedmann, Rockefeller, Wahab and Lloyd George combined could hardly define their ‘ideals’ in more precise way.

*****

What exactly did the Saudi Prince say, during his memorable and ground-breaking interview with The Washington Post? And why is it so relevant to places like Indonesia?

In essence, he said that the West asked the Saudis to make the ‘client’ states more and more religious, by building madrassahs and mosques. He also added:

I believe Islam is sensible, Islam is simple, and people are trying to hijack it.

People? The Saudi themselves? Clerics in such places like Indonesia? The Western rulers?

In Teheran, Iran, while discussing the problem with numerous religious leaders, I was told, repeatedly:

The West managed to create a totally new and strange religion, and then it injected it into various countries. It calls it Islam, but we can’t recognize it… It is not Islam, not Islam at all.

*****

In May 2018, in Indonesia, members of outlawed terrorist groups rioted in jail, took hostages, then brutally murdered prison guards. After the rebellion was crushed, several explosions shook East Java. Churches and police stations went up in flames. people died.

Destroyed Aleppo

The killers used their family members, even children, to perpetrate the attacks. The men in charge were actually inspired by the Indonesian fighters who were implanted into Syria – the terrorists and murderers who were apprehended and deported by Damascus back to their large and confused country.

Many Indonesian terrorists who fought in Syria are now on their home turf, igniting and ‘inspiring’ their fellow citizens. The same situation as in the past – the Indonesian jihadi cadres who fought against the pro-Soviet government in Afghanistan later returned and killed hundreds and thousands in Poso, Ambon and other parts of Indonesia.

Indonesian extremists are becoming world-famous, fighting the battles of the West as legionnaires, in Afghanistan, Syria, Philippines and elsewhere.

Their influence at home is also growing. It is now impossible to even mention any social or god forbid, socialist reforms in public. Meetings are broken up, participants beaten, and even people’s representatives (MP’s) intimidated, accused of being “communists”, in a country where Communism is still banned by the regime.

The progressive and extremely popular Jakarta governor, Ahok, first lost elections and was then put on trial and thrown into jail for “insulting Islam”, clearly fabricated charges. His main sin – cleaning Jakarta’s polluted rivers, constructing a public transportation network, and improving the lives of ordinary people. That was clearly ‘un-Islamic’, at least from the point of view of Wahhabism and the Western global regime.

Radical Indonesian Islam is now feared. It goes unchallenged. It is gaining ground, as almost no one would dare to openly criticize it. It will soon overwhelm and suppress the entire society.

And in the West ‘political correctness’ is used. It is lately simply ‘impolite’ to criticize Indonesian or even the Saudi form of ‘Islam’, out of ‘respect’ for the people and their ‘culture’. In reality, it is not the Saudi or Indonesian people who get ‘protected’ – it is the West and its imperialist policies; policies and manipulations that are used against both the people and the essence of Muslim religion.

*****

While the Wahhabi/Western dogma is getting stronger and stronger, what is left of the Indonesian forests is burning. The country is literally being plundered by the Western multi-national companies and by its local corrupt elites.

Extremist attacks against Indonesian churches

Religions, the Indonesian fascist regime and Western imperialism are marching forward, hand in hand. But forward – where? Most likely towards the total collapse of the Indonesian state. Towards the misery that will come soon, when everything is logged out and mined out.

It is the same as when Wahhabism used to march hand in hand with the British imperialists and plunderers. Except that the Saudis found their huge oil fields, plenty of oil to sustain themselves (or at least their elites and the middle class, as the poor still live in misery there) and their bizarre, British-inspired and sponsored interpretation of Islam.

Indonesia and other countries that have fallen victims to this dogma are not and will not be so ‘lucky’.

It is lovely that the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke publicly and clarified the situation. But who will listen?

For the Indonesian people, his statements came too late. They did not open many eyes, caused no uprising, no revolution. To understand what he said would require at least some basic knowledge of both the local, and world history, and at least some ability to think logically. All this is lacking, desperately, in the countries that have found themselves squashed by the destructive imperialist embrace.

The former President of Indonesia, Abdurrahman Wahid, was correct: “If God would come and say… people would not follow God…”

Indonesia will continue following Mr. Wahab, and the capitalist dogma and the Western imperialists who ‘arranged it all’. They will do it for years to come, feeling righteous, blasting old North American tunes in order to fill the silence, in order not to think and not to question what is happening around them. There will be no doubts. There will be no change, no awakening and no revolution.

Until the last tree falls, until the last river and stream gets poisoned, until there is nothing left for the people. Until there is total, absolute submission: until everything is burned down, black and grey. Maybe then, few tiny, humble roots of awakening and resistance would begin to grow.

• First published by New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

Southeast Asia Getting Killed by Logging and Mining

When an airplane is approaching Singapore Changi Airport, it makes the final approach either from the direction of Peninsular Malaysia, or from the Indonesian island of Batam.

Either way, the scope for natural disaster under the wings is of monumental proportions.

All the primary forest of the Malaysian state bordering Singapore – Johor – is now gone and the tremendous sprawl of scarred land, mostly covered by palm oil plantations, is expanding far towards the horizon. The predictable plantation grid pattern is only interrupted by motorways, contained human settlements, and by few, mostly palm oil-related industrial structures.

On the Indonesian side, the Island of Batam resembles a horror apocalyptic movie: there is always some thick smoke rising towards the sky, and there are clearly visible, badly planned and terribly constructed towns and villages. Water around the island is of a dubious, frightening color. The environmental destruction is absolute. Batam was supposed to be the Indonesian answer to Singapore. Indonesia was dreaming about a modern mega city with a super airport and port, dotted with factories, research centers and shopping facilities. But the turbo-capitalist country hoped that all this would be created by the private sector. That was,  of course, unrealistic. What followed was an absolute disaster.

As it is now, Batam is nothing more than a series of ‘Potemkin Villages’, complete with several potholed four-lane roads that lead nowhere. As for the research: there is hardly any science even in Jakarta or Bandung, let alone here. After several attempts to ‘save face’ and to cover up this massive failure, the island has been allowed to ‘sink’ back to where it had already been for several decades: a huge whorehouse for predominantly Singaporean and Malaysian sex tourists; a cheap shopping district selling mainly counterfeit goods, a place notorious for lacking even the most basic public services.

No heads were made to roll for this monumental and thoroughly stupid set of failures. The obedient business-owned media is hardly ever critical of the Indonesian regime and its business ‘elites’. But the impact of the ‘Batam experiment’ is enormous – there is no intact nature left on the entire island.

*****

What goes on in the Southern Part of Southeast Asia?

Is nature of absolutely no concern to the Malaysian and especially Indonesian governments, business conglomerates and society?

The problem here is that everything above and below the ground has been, for years and decades, viewed as a source of potential profit. It is only valued if it can be exploited, if there can be a price tag attached to it. No sentimentality, no thoughts about beauty! Here, greed has already reached insane proportions.

Unbridled logging on Mahakam River, Kalimantan

Like in the West, big companies in several Southeast Asian countries are now running and selecting the governments. They are also controlling the mass media, infiltrating social networks. To criticize great logging and palm oil companies in Malaysia is lethal, literally suicidal, and almost no one dares to do it. In the past, some did, and died. The same can be said about ‘illegal’ gold mining, logging and other extraction ventures in Indonesia, where much of the unsavory mining and logging enterprises are in the hands of the police, military or of government officials (the interests of all three branches are also often intertwined).

*****

Places like Borneo and Sumatra are finished; almost all of their legendary wildlife habitats are devastated. Hundreds of species are gone or almost extinct. The once mighty, primary forests are squeezed into a few national parks, and even those are often being used for commercial farming, and also for palm oil plantations.

It is not just an issue of ‘disappearing beauty’ and biodiversity. Borneo (known as Kalimantan in Indonesia) used to be on par with Amazonia, functioning as the lungs of the Earth. It is the third largest island on our planet (and the largest one in Asia), and it is fully and some would now say irreversibly plundered. In Indonesia, deadly chemicals used on the palm oil plantations are killing tens of thousands of people with cancer, although you’d have to work deep in the villages to figure out the truth, as no reliable statistics exist and the issue is highly ‘sensitive’, as is everything that is horrible and sinister in this part of the world. Many rivers, including Kapuas, contain ridiculously high levels of mercury, the result of illegal but openly practiced gold mining.

Monstrous coal mine near Samarinda, Kalimantan

To see some parts of Borneo from the air is like observing an enormous, nightmarish and rotting wreck of a ship: black scars, brown scars, and dark zigzagging open veins of what used to be, a long time ago, tremendous and proud, as well as pristine, waterways.

What has been done to Indonesian-controlled Papua by Indonesian companies and by Western multi-national mining conglomerates is indescribable. Apart from committing genocide against the local population, the entire half of this tremendous island, which used to be inhabited by hundreds of local tribes, is now being ‘exposed’, forced open, and literally raped. Of course, as an anti-Communist warrior and obedient pro-business client state, Indonesia is almost never criticized by the West. The genocides it has been committing since 1965 are either sponsored or at least supported from Washington, London and Canberra.

Malaysian and Indonesian logging and mining companies do not stop at committing crimes at home – they go far, to other Asian countries, but also deep into Oceania, places like the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea (PNG), where I witnessed on several occasions the full destruction of both nature and human cultures; a nightmare which I described in detail in my book Oceania.

*****

I am relentlessly documenting what is happening to Southeast Asia in the books that I am writing (alone and with local authors), as well as in my upcoming films. I’m in the middle of producing a film about the fate of Borneo island, a place which is becoming dearer and dearer to me, the more devastated it gets.

The more I witness and the more I document, the more hopeless I often feel. It is because there seems to be almost no place which is capable of resisting the onslaught.

I am writing this essay on board Malaysian Airlines flights. The first one took me from the city of Miri (a state of Sarawak in Borneo, Malaysia) to Kuala Lumpur, the second from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok.

Serawak Malaysia, as it used to be

After filming on several occasions in the totally violated Indonesian Kalimantan, I hoped to see something optimistic in Malaysian Sarawak; something that could be used as an inspiration for the future of the incomparably poorer and much more corrupt Indonesian part of the island. This time I drove all around the city of Miri, and then I crossed the border and drove further into Brunei. I flew inside tiny propeller planes over the jungle, or what is still left of it. I took a narrow motorized makeshift canoe.

Yes, I saw few beautiful national parks and traditional longhouses. And I was surprised to find out that the filthy rich but politically and religiously oppressive sultanate of Brunei Darussalam, with its brutal and extreme implementation of Sharia Law, unbridled consumerism and worshipped oil industry, is actually doing incomparably better job than Indonesia and even Malaysia, at least environmentally. It is at least protecting its nature, including the rainforest. Brunei’s untouched, pristine native forest begins just a few miles from the coast, from its oil wells and refineries.

Pristine Brunei prime forest … a small propeller plane

But when I rented a narrow shabby longboat, deep in the interior of Sarawak, I encountered total misery and devastation. The road was great, most likely constructed precisely for moving quickly and efficiently, both timber and palm oil fruit. Several schools and medical facilities looked modern. But most of the locals do not live near the roads – they dwell, traditionally, along the rivers. And there, the situation is totally different: people residing in poor, primitive shacks, children and adults swimming in desperately polluted waterways, while stumps of trees ‘decorating’ stinking, muddy shores.

*****

Some would say that Southeast Asia is not alone. In many ways, the West already ‘rearranged’ its nature decades and centuries ago. In densely populated countries like Italy or Netherlands, very little of the original nature is left today. In the United States, the original meadows and pristine grasslands gave way to commercial fields; to agricultural mass production.

What shocks in Southeast Asia is not the fact that people want to make a living out of their land. It is the brutality of the systematic destruction of majestic mountains and hills, of mighty rivers, lakes, shores as well as the irreversibility of the changes that come with cutting down almost all native rainforest, replacing it with chemically-boosted palm oil and rubber plantations.

Most of those who would be allowed to see those monstrous coal mines dotting Indonesian Borneo would be terrified. Endless sprawls of palm oil (and literally imprisoned villages, squeezed by it as in a straight jacket) could perhaps outrage even the most hardened pro-market fundamentalists, who would bother to visit from other parts of the world.

Or maybe not… The multi-national ‘mining horrors’ that are being described to me by my friends and colleagues, who are presently working in Peru, are somehow comparable. What I saw in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) shows the same spite that many Western companies and governments have for the local people.

What I find truly ‘unique’ in Southeast Asia, is the totality of destruction. The number of animal and bird species that are already gone, or are disappearing or have been simply hunted down, or the number of hopelessly polluted rivers; the forests and jungles that are stolen from the native inhabitants.

The speed is yet another shocking factor. It is all happening extremely fast. No wonder that Green Peace put Indonesia on the list of the Guinness Book of Records as the fastest destroyer of the tropical forests on Earth.

What is left of the Indonesian forests is being either logged out or is systematically burning. Thick smog travels, periodically, from Sumatra to Singapore and peninsula Malaysia, creating a health hazard, shutting down schools and tormenting people suffering from asthma and other respiratory problems.

But Indonesia is big, the fourth most populous country on Earth. It does what it wants, and it appears that it cannot be stopped. Or more precisely, its rulers and business elites are doing what they want. And, as long as it fits into the agenda of their Western handlers (and it usually does), the country is enjoying almost total impunity.

Of course, those who are suffering the most are the local people themselves, as well as countless defenseless species, be they animals, birds, fish, trees, or plants.

Soon, nothing original will be left here. Billions of dollars will be made by those very few rich, and the poor majority will be stuck with the coolie’s jobs. The plundering of the environment is creating dependency syndrome and very little advancement for the society. The money flows, but not where it is supposed to flow.

Like in the Gulf, almost nothing or very little is being invested into science, technology, the arts and creative sectors.

Ruined islands and peninsulas will keep producing ‘blood fruits’. Land owners, corrupt politicians, middlemen and traders will keep getting outrageously rich. But the great majority of people will have to get used to living with a polluted and totally unnatural environment. They’d be stuck, in fact, most of them are already stuck, in some sort of depressing concentration camps surrounded by unnatural, hostile crops, and by the chemically-contaminated land.

Those beloved oilwells of Brunei

All this will continue until who knows what terrifying and bitter end, unless, of course, the people of Southeast Asia will finally wake up, and instead of accepting this present turbo-capitalist model, begin to think and dream about the “Ecological Civilization” and other marvelous cutting-edge philosophies that are flowing out from China and other non-conformist parts of the world.

• First published by New Eastern Outlook

In Almost all Western Colonies no Alternative Views Allowed

Her name is Cinta, which in Bahasa Indonesia means simply Love.

Cinta in pink shirt

She lives in a tiny village near Sukadana town, in Indonesian West Kalimantan, otherwise known as Borneo – the biggest island in Asia, the second biggest in the world – now totally destroyed by unbridled logging, palm oil plantations and mining, perpetrated by countless, and due to corruption and savage capitalism, unregulated local and multi-national companies.

Nearby Sukadana there is a national park, Gunung Palung. It is vast and by Indonesian standards, well guarded, although even here, at its edges, several desperate local people are beginning to burn the ancient forest, while engaging in various other nature-destroying commercial activities.

I talked to them and soon I understood: they actually have no choice. Nothing is given to them by the state, and they have to live. They have to survive, somehow.

Cinta’s mother

I talked to Cinta’s mother. She has no money, and no mobile phone. She has been to the nearby city only once in her entire life, and it was when a relative of hers got seriously ill. After talking for several minutes, mother begins to cry; desperate, humiliated and helpless.

I asked her whether the family realizes that the political and economic system in her country is thoroughly rotten. She nodded.

I asked whether she knows that in many other countries things are very different. She has no idea. She stared at me, blankly. This remote village was her entire universe. She never heard anything about socialism or communism or even about stuff like social democracy. After the great massacres of the leftists and intellectuals after the Western-orchestrated 1965 coup, even the word ‘Communism’ became illegal, as a prominent Indonesian historian Asvi Marvan Adam told me. Banned also were words like ‘class’, just in case anyone would like to ignite ‘class struggle’.

Cinta’s family thinks, and they say that they know, that Western multi-party ‘democracy’ is a total farce. With dozens of competing political parties (all owned by Indonesian businessmen and right-wingers), local poor people (the great majority of Indonesia’s inhabitants) have absolutely no power, no say in the way their country is being governed.

It is not only in Indonesia, of course, although Indonesia is an extreme, almost grotesque case. I was told several years earlier by a Cambodian peasant near the border with Vietnam:

Vietnamese have only one political party – Communist – but their people participate in governing their nation much more than we, Cambodians do, despite the fact that we have several political parties. When we get sick, we have to cross the border to Vietnam and we get help. When we get hungry, we do the same. You see; you cannot eat political parties, no matter how many of them there are…

The peasant at the Cambodia-Vietnam border knows intimately two totally distinct political systems, because he lived just 500 meters from the borderline. But even in the capital, Phnom Penh, where anti-Communism is something resembling a new religion and has been already converted into the best ‘prerequisite’ for getting a well-paid job at an international NGO or at a foreign embassy, the situation is thoroughly different. There, conveniently, nobody knows anything. The only way is the Western way, with its clichés and pre-fabricated simplistic slogans.

*****

The West is manufacturing simplistic, uniformed and one-sided ‘pseudo reality’ for all of its colonies and client states. It is one-type-fits-all sort of ‘pseudo reality’, intended to sustain collaborators and their regimes and to make the voices of people who are tormented, completely irrelevant. In fact, those who are robbed of everything are not supposed to even realize that they are being bled.

Actually, the majority of people who live in the neo-colonies are fully aware of the fact that they are suffering, but do not understand why. They tend to blame themselves, or each other: for being too lazy, too irresponsible, for producing too many children, or simply for not knowing how to compete or to get ahead.

Moreover in some countries where the propaganda is too extreme (like in Indonesia), many do not even realize, anymore, into what deep shit they have been thrown.

A few years ago, when I was filming the documentary film “Surabaya – Eaten Alive By Capitalism” (for the Latin American network TeleSur), I literally stumbled over a woman who was living in a slum, washing her dishes just a few steps away downstream from a place where a child was naked and defecating into the same polluted waterway. She had no electricity, no clean water, and her ‘house’ was made from rusty metal sheets. I asked her how she felt about being so poor, while just a few steps away rich people were burning money as if there was no tomorrow in a luxury mall. She looked at me for a few moments, then grabbed a broom and chased me down the gangway, screaming like possessed:

How dare you insult me like that? You called me poor? I’m not poor!

A few months later, in the enormous Mathare slum in Nairobi, Kenya, a gangster with the nickname Fire, literally cried in front of my camera:

I’m 32 year old, but I feel so old… I had several friends but they are all dead; I’m the only one who is still alive.

My friend gangster “Fire” Mathare, Nairobi, Kenya

Fire worked with me on a film, as my guide and a bodyguard. I liked him a lot. I trusted him. He was a good man who had made many mistakes in life, but then tried to correct them and find his way out of the terrible trap and vicious cycle of poverty and violence. He was aware of his condition and of the condition of his fellow slum-dwellers. However, living in Kenya, a country which became a neo-colony of the West, as well as some sort of a ‘service station’ for the US, UK, Israeli and other militaries and intelligence agencies, he was never told that there are different political, economic and social systems than the one in which he grew up – a savage capitalism and total subservience to the Empire.

He wanted to ‘make it’, to ‘help his slum’, to change his life and the lives of his neighbors. But he was not aware of the fact that some great and fundamental change could come from a revolution, from a radical change. All his life he was told that the only way forward was some sort of personal ‘improvement’, because the system in which he had been living was essentially right and just.

In that system, of course, the great majority of people are living in misery – they are terribly abused, exploited and unprotected. The violence, terribly low life expectancy and hopelessness are just logical by-products of a brutal neo-colonialist and turbo-capitalist system; they are not the results of shortcomings of a specific group of people or of some individuals.

Fire was very intelligent. I told him then, personally, what I’m writing here now. He understood. He understood well. But when we were parting, he said:

I agree with you, but people here were never told any of these things. Almost nobody comprehends what is going on in our slums. We are only taught how to blame each other. Nobody here would ever blame the UK or the US. We were all told that our misery is fully our own fault.

*****

In Northern Kenya, not that far from the border with war-torn Somalia, I once visited a neat wildlife preservation facility. There were cute orphaned rhinos being taken care of by well-trained staff, as well as other protected but endangered species. The facility was owned and administered by a British family, and there was a very high fee charged at the gate.

After the visit, when I drove out, right outside the gate, which was manned by two robust dudes armed with submachine guns, I spotted two humble crosses. As I drove further down the dirt road, there were more and more crosses on both sides of my car. I stopped at a local deprived grocery store and asked about what I saw. A wrinkled woman explained to me in her broken English:

There is a draught here… a famine… People die while they try to get away; they drop dead… Villagers have no strength to carry them back; they just bury them on the spot.

In Kenya elephants are protected — if only people would be

Protecting animals is often very good business, an excellent commodity. Animals are cute, and they look (and often really are) defenseless. People who are starving are rough, unrefined, and scary-looking. Those who are dying from hunger or disease are far from enchanting. Saving their lives is often not such a good business.

I asked a food seller: “They feed, wash and shrink animals, but not people?”

She had no idea what ‘shrink’ meant, but about the other things she was sure:

We are worth nothing. We are poor.

I asked her whether she was angry, whether she found this system insane, beastly, in short: absolutely repulsive?

Her big hands were rough, carved with deep wrinkles. The wrinkles looked like those dry rivers around Nairobi. Then I saw her eyes and I realized: she was most likely younger than me, perhaps in her early 30’s. She looked 60 or older. She looked like she will most likely not live much longer.

She looked back at me:

Angry? Why? It is all in His hands.

She looked up.

I looked down. ‘That’, I thought ‘is definitely not going help you’. Then I bought five cans of condensed milk that I didn’t need, and some crackers.

I drove away; angry like hell, going 100km/h on narrow dirt tracks, a cloud of dust behind me, rising towards the sky.

Later, my Ugandan friend, a leading left-wing politician Arthur Tewungwa, wrote to me:

The animals roam on land that has fuck all to do with Kenyans, per se. Madness! Lord Aberdare owns 300,000 acres, Cholmondely the same etc. Elephants, rhinos, hippos are pests to poor villagers and they can’t anyway afford to go and see them as they are shuffled across the border by “beaters” depending on which side tourists are. Comedy!

But it is a comedy, which ruins tens of thousands of human lives, while nobody dares to protest.

*****

It is often simply unbelievable, how people who have been robbed of everything, are fooled into believing that in this wide world there are absolutely no alternatives and no better arrangements for society. Or they were taught not to think at all along these lines.

Samoan man – he served in the navy and keeps blaming himself for something

Religions help to keep poor and plundered people in submission, of course, and the West has historically both been implanting and then supporting the most radical forms of religion, in virtually all of its colonies. Not just one sort of religion, but all of them, the more extreme and fundamentalist, the better.

For three full years I lived in the South Pacific, where I wrote a book, I believe the only one of its kind, describing the terrible plight of Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia – a part of the world which is being literally liquidated by the various cruel geopolitical and military interests of the US, Australia, New Zealand, UK, France and Taiwan. The book is called Oceania.

There, some island nations including Tuvalu, Kiribati and Marshall Islands, are literally disappearing from the face of the Earth, or more precisely becoming uninhabitable because of climate change and the rising of ocean levels.

People are forced to evacuate their countries. But are they blaming imperialism, unbridled capitalism, and Western selfishness? Far from it! All the newspapers and media outlets are to some extent controlled by the foreigners, through ‘foreign aid’ or through the ‘educating and training’ of local journalists abroad. The education system is dependent on foreign funding as well. Consequently, capitalism is never questioned. Western imperialism is hardly ever mentioned.

The streets of Apia, the capital of Samoa, or of any other capital in Oceania, are no strangers to tall, blond young men wearing white shirts and black name tags that read Jesus Christ. They are ‘ambassadors’; they belong to all sorts of extremist religious movements and fundamentalist Christian sects based in the United States, from Jehovah Witnesses to Mormons.

Churches in Oceania are brutally exploiting most of the poor and helpless citizens. They are literally blackmailing parishioners into paying unreasonably high dues. There is constant fear of sexual abuse and rape on their premises, but there is also the tremendous pressure of local ‘cultures’ to force all islanders into religious straight jackets. There is also absolutely no criticism of these practices from the West. Why? The answer is simple: extremist religious practices keep people in total ignorance and full obedience towards religion itself, towards the feudal family structures, but also towards the economic and political regimes. And all the political regimes of Oceania are corrupted and upheld by the Western powers and lately by Taiwan.

And so, the West (US, UK and France) have been blowing up their nukes in this part of the world, essentially experimenting on people, but there is hardly any ideological challenge that Europe, US and Australia have to face here, perhaps with the certain exception of France in its colonies.

The US shoots long-range missiles from California to the center of the largest atoll in the world – Kwajalein on the Marshall Islands – but no one is taught that it is all an absolute insanity. ‘Kwaj’ proper is off limits to almost all people (it is fully controlled by the US military) who are only allowed to work on the base as manual workers, commuting by filthy ferry from the horrid and overpopulated nearby island of Ebeye. Around 90% of the people on Ebeye are suffering from diabetes, because they are literally forced to eat shit, as the country, like most of Oceania, has become (already some decades ago) a dumping ground for the most unhealthy food produced in the US, Australia and New Zealand.

Ebeye – Pollution from nearby US military base at Kwajaein, Marshall Islands

Both the former Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands, Tony deBrum, as well as the Paramount Chief Mike Kabua, once told me how outraged they were, but do common people realize what has been and is being done to them?

First the monstrous nuclear experiments and destruction of Bikini Atoll, and now, these bizarre star wars in the middle of the once pristine atolls. And on top of it, the nation is facing global warming and almost inevitable demise. The Compact of Free Association with the United States” (in reality, an agreement which allows the US to colonize, ‘legally’, a great part of Micronesia) is never challenged and very rarely even questioned.

As elsewhere in the colonized world – the rich are profiting, while the poor (great majority) are plundered and destitute. While being looted, the have-nots are smiling or even dancing. They never heard from their TV sets or at school (if they ever went to one) that they are actually the victims. Living in misery is their karma or fate, or punishment for something they committed, by something supernatural. It is a truly great arrangement for the religious leaders, and especially for the Empire. For Washington, London and Paris it is simply: mission accomplished!

*****

For hundreds of millions of girls like Cinta, it means: their lives will never change. It will be the same as the lives of their parents and grandparents, and it will consist of near slavery, of no security, of bad but unbreakable marriages, endless religious rituals and absolute ignorance about the fact that there are many alternatives and countless other ways how lives could be lived.

Not only that the Empire is spreading nihilism to all of its colonies; it is also censoring all people-oriented and revolutionary alternatives.

It is incredible how successful it is! It really is, so far. Only so far… It cannot continue like this, forever.

One day in the not so distant future, girls like Cinta may finally wake up; they will break their shackles and with newly discovered pride and hope, depart to the mountains to fight for their nation. Ciao Bella Ciao style!

How does one give them the impulse? How does one make them see, to realize their condition?

At night, in the city of Ketapang, I could not sleep. I was tossing and turning, thinking about the girl named Cinta. I had to go back before leaving Borneo. I had to talk to her and to her parents: to tell them it was all totally wrong, and that there is another life possible.

I went to a local shopping center. I bought her a green bear and few small gifts in a Japanese store. In the morning, instead of continuing my work in an area that had been destroyed by mining and palm oil plantations, I instructed my driver to go back to Cinta’s village.

But she was gone. Her entire family was gone. A neighbor informed me:

They went to far away fields, to work on a durian plantation. They will not return for several weeks.

I left the green bear in the village. I cursed imperialism and modern day slavery, and then I left.

Once again, the Empire had won. But we are not helpless either. Now my readers, on all continents, will learn about that little girl named Cinta. The stories of enslaved people are the same, all over the world. There are Cintas in Honduras, in Uganda, in Yemen, in Marshall Islands.

Imperialists should know: we are documenting, we are watching, day and night. We are connecting the stories of their victims, on all continents. We are connecting real people. And El Pueblo Unido, jamas sera vencido! ‘United, people will never be defeated!’

Alternative views can be censored, at least for some time. But the ability to dream, the capacity to hope, is eternal. And it is stuff consisting of dreams and hopes that is the most frightening enemy of the tyrants.

*****

• First published in New Eastern Outlook

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

New Year’s Message and Warning from a War Correspondent

Sometimes it is useful to take a break from news bulletins and newspapers, and even from ‘friendly’ Internet publications.

Occasionally it is good to realize that there are actually two parallel realities that are constantly competing for the ‘hearts and minds’ of people living all over the world. There is real life and ‘fake life’. There is reality and elaborately manufactured pseudo-reality, which is designed to appear more real than the reality itself. It is like that chemically produced green apple shampoo that smells more authentic than the fruit itself.

Periodically I disappear into some jungle or a war zone, in Afghanistan, Southern Philippines or in the middle of plundered Borneo Island. When I return to what some people would readily describe as the ‘normal world’, and a news bulletin unexpectedly confronts me at some airport lounge, everything suddenly appears to be bizarre, grotesque, totally surreal, at least for the few initial but excruciating moments.

It is because most of the mainstream news communiqués and analyses are produced in the plush comfort of an armchair, or at a mahogany writing table, thousands of miles from shrapnel, sweat, torn flesh, blood, burning forests, polluted waterways, and the other horrors which are, in fact, nothing other than the true reality for billions of human beings inhabiting our planet.

Remembering how things really feel, taste and smell I get desperate. I don’t recognize places described by the mass media. We are talking about two different universes; yes, about two absolutely opposite realities.

*****

If mainstream reporters go to the field, they are well equipped with bulletproof vests, helmets, with 4×4 vehicles (some of them also bulletproof), with excellent life and health insurances that include airlifts and other evacuation clauses, as well as with hefty salaries and other compensation schemes. On their chests and their backs, it says loudly and explicitly “PRESS”.

So what am I bitching about? Is it wrong to compensate people who are risking their lives, or to try to protect them?

No, it is not; of course, it is not wrong.

Author at Goma War Zone, DRC (2009)

Except, there is that one tiny ‘but’… You can never, ever get ‘too close’ to anything real, this way. You cannot turn yourself into a buffoon or a walking media Rambo, and expect to uncover something hidden, something important, and something thoroughly groundbreaking.

If you over-protect your life, over-insure your each and every step, you’d build a thick wall between yourself and the real life.

If you go into the field looking like this, you will be spotted and questioned, and you will need all sorts of permits and stamps. It is almost like declaring: “I’ll play by your rules, I’ll not rock the boat, and I’ll let you monitor each step that I take”. Imagine arriving while being decked out like that and attempting to cover genocide in Papua! Good luck, really. About official permits, if you are from a ‘friendly’ mainstream agency, you can get them almost immediately. Yes, of course, organizations such as the BBC or CNN could easily supply you with all the necessary credentials. You could even count on an official government armed ‘escort’, or you could count on an escort supplied by friendly (to the West) ‘rebel groups’. Not to speak of all those ‘all you can eat’ press briefings.

However, the chances that real people would talk to you would be slim. But would you care about hearing from real people if you work for an official mainstream newspaper or a television channel? I doubt it. Real people could, God forbid, say real things, instead of what you are ordered to ‘discover’ in such places as Bosnia, Rwanda, Syria or Afghanistan. In the end, you’ll hear what you came to hear and report, and your writing and clips would be mainly in accordance with the established stereotypes.

Then what, how? Who could do it; who could describe reality, and actually stay alive?

In a brilliant film directed by Oliver Stone, Salvador (1986), one of the main characters declared:

You got to get close to the truth. You get too close, you die.’

He died, but what he said – that is precisely it! There is this invisible, imaginary line, in the air or on the ground, somewhere. You never see it, but if you have worked in many war zones before, you sense it, and it is what actually saves your life. It saves it often, most of the times, but, of course, not always. Those who usually die are men and women who make crucial mistakes during their first attempts, before developing their instincts. What I’m talking about cannot be taught; it is not logical – it’s just ‘there’.

To get as close to the truth as possible, one has to work fast, decisively and with certain precision, avoiding obvious blunders.

People around you have to trust you, and you yourself have to know whom to trust and from whom to hide.

You are on your own, or at least most of the time you are.

All this guarantees nothing, but these are some of the basic preconditions, if you want to understand a conflict, a war.

Working in devastated places is very emotional, very deep, and sometimes you get overwhelmed, and sometimes your glasses get blurry. You make mistakes; hopefully not too many. Occasionally you go after a particular story, or you know generally what you want to find and a story bumps into you, or you stumble over it, or it just hits you frontally, brutally and at full strength.

If it is good, it is never just ‘reporting’. It is much more than journalism, or it is simply shit. There must be some poetry in what you are doing, there has to be also philosophy and humanism, as well as plenty of context and ideology and passion.

There can be no ‘objectivity’ in this work: objectivity is just an illusion, a fairytale dispersed by mainstream media. But you should never lie: you witness and say what you have to say, the way you believe it should be said, and while you do it, it is your obligation to inform your readers and viewers where precisely you stand.

As a human being, as an artist and thinker, you should always take sides. But your position – on which side of the ‘barricade’ you stand – has to be clear and honest. Otherwise you are a liar.

*****

The bitter but essential truth is: Even if you put your life on the line, even if you get badly injured or psychologically exhausted, do not expect much gratitude or support.

After US bombing near Mosul, Iraq

Many local victims – people whom you came to defend – will suppose and even tell you straight to your face that ‘you came to get rich using their suffering and misery’.

Your readers in wealthy countries will imagine that you are being generously funded. They were conditioned to believe that there are no altruistic individuals, governments and countries left on this earth.

The reality is quite different: if you work independently, if you refuse to repeat lies and take orders, to merge with the mainstream, if you go against the interest of the West and its allies and ‘clients’, the chances are that you will get zero financial support, no protection whatsoever and absolutely no perks.

You may get millions of readers, of course. And you can recycle your reports in your books and films, as I did in my more than 800-page long Exposing Lies Of The Empire and Fighting Against Western Imperialism. If your writing is good, your books will sell, somehow, even if they attack the establishment frontally. But don’t count on any support from ‘friendly governments’ or wealthy but ‘left leaning individuals’. There is no Engels around, these days. You are really on your own. Trust me, you are.

You and your determined work may save several villages, or if you are very good, you could make a difference on a global scale. Your writing or your films may help to stop a war. But never expect any official recognition, any practical backing or even mercy from your readers. In 2015, after making several films and writing books about several particularly horrid war zones, mostly in Africa, I totally collapsed. For several weeks, I was not able to move. I thought it was the end. There was no help at all coming from those millions of my readers living in all parts of the world. At that time I made my condition public. Still nothing. Few letters of ‘moral support’ arrived. Few: “Be strong, the world needs you!” In the end, it was my close family circle that literally pampered and rescued me and put me back to my feet and into fighting order.

This is not a reproach, just a warning to those who are getting ready to fight for the survival of humanity: “You will be totally on your own. You will most definitely collapse on several occasions.”

At a war zone

Still, I know no other way how to live meaningfully. I would never trade my life with the life of anyone else.

*****

There is another very important and revealing piece of information, which I’d like to share with you, my readers.

In 2017 I worked in several extremely dangerous parts of the world, including Afghanistan, the Pakistani-Afghan border during the exchange of fire between the two countries, on the Turkish-Syrian border in Euphrates area during the Turkish invasion, in the war-torn southern Philippines, in Lebanon and in the fully devastated (by logging and mining) Indonesian part of the Island of Borneo.

I drove all around Afghanistan, with no protection, no security and no one covering my back. My friend who doubled as my driver and interpreter was the only man I could count on. Sometimes I held the wheel myself. We even made it into the Taliban controlled territories and drug-infested slums of Kabul. All in a 20 year old, beat up Toyota Corona.

Afghanistan Soviet Tanks Cemetery

In all these places, I did not see one single Western mainstream reporter. Not one!

Where were they, all those media superstars?  I don’t know, but most likely they were holed up somewhere at the NATO headquarters, or at least in the only remaining plush hotel in Afghanistan – Serena. The same can be said about the southern Philippines, although there, to be ‘objective’, one Aussie colleague actually got hit by a sniper’s bullet, just a couple of days before I arrived.

Do never trust those who write about the suffering of others exclusively from the safety of their living room couches. It is fine to write from there, of course, but only after you have actually seen the people you are talking about; after you have seen them at least once, for a substantial amount of time, after you have listened to their stories, to their desperate cries, and after you have got very dirty and very scared yourself, and truly desperate.  In short: after you have got right there, near that invisible line which separates life from death, and after you have tasted the water of the proverbial river Lethe.

*****

But back to where I began.

Imagine: I leave the places where people are fighting for survival, or where they are fighting for true freedom, or against imperialism. I hardly have time to take a deep breath, to recover from food and air poisoning, to change into some presentable clothes, and it all hits me directly in my face: I see some news bulletin, I read articles published by mainstream media, and while doing it, I absolutely don’t recognize the world, which I have witnessed in all its rainbow of colors, with all its glory and its misery.

I feel ‘out of place’.

I know, some call it ‘Vietnam Syndrome’. There are many other definitions for these feelings, or for this outrage, or desperation, or whatever you want to call it.

You suddenly feel it, you know it: somewhere far away where you had been living and working just several hours ago, there is still what could be defined as the ‘real world’, inhabited by real people. And then, right now, there is this other world, which over imposes, almost fully covers (and even dwarfs) that real one, by using its mainstream clichés and false mass-produced certainties.

*****

This year – this ‘departing year’ 2017 – has definitely not been a good year for our planet.

A group of nations, which has been controlling the world for already several centuries brutally and shamelessly, is pushing us, our entire human race, closer and closer towards complete disaster, towards a showdown, towards a confrontation that may abruptly terminate millions of innocent human lives.

I’m concerned. I’m very concerned. I have already witnessed indescribable calamities in so many places. I know, I can perfectly well imagine, where all this could lead.

Colonialism is always wrong. Imperialism is always wrong. Cultural, religious or economic supremacy theories are wrong, with absolutely no exceptions.

If a group of nations from one relatively small continent has been continuously usurping the entire world, shaping it to its advantage and enslaving people of other colors, beliefs and values, it is all unmistakably wrong.

But the world is like that – brutal, unjust, and controlled by one aggressive, greedy, sly and arrogant minority. The world is still like that. Once again, it is increasingly like that.

And I cannot stand such an ‘arrangement’.

I don’t want it to be like that. I’m tired of covering grief, pain, horror and violence. I’m exhausted of filming or photographing perpetual destruction and downfalls.

That’s why I’m writing this, at the very end of the year 2017. Perhaps it is just one more futile attempt to stop something inhuman and unnecessary from happening.

Perhaps it is almost impossible to cut through the pseudo-reality manufactured by the mainstream media, academia and ‘culture’. Or maybe it’s not impossible. I actually believe that ‘it is never too late’, as I believe that nothing in life is truly ‘impossible’.

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2018!

Let me inform you that the world is totally different, actually much more beautiful and diverse than you have been told. Even most of those places that are now in flames are beautiful. And if left in peace, they’d thrive.

The world is worth fighting for. It is worth defending.

Gaza Intifada 3

Don’t ever trust the “news” and “information” which is being disseminated by those who are continuously trying to loot and enslave the world. Trust only what you see and hear, and what you feel. Trust people who are in love with this world, if you manage to identify them. Trust your own senses, your inner logic, and your emotions.

Do not vote for bombing or putting sanctions on any foreign country, anywhere on Earth, before you see it with your own eyes, before you are really convinced, before you talk to its people, and before you truly understand what they are saying. Do not make decisions or conclusions after staring at the television set only. Remember: pseudo-reality kills! And it wants you to participate in this murder.

Go!

Discover!

See for yourself. I hope to encounter you, at least some of you, in Syria, in North Korea, in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, Russia, China, South Africa, Cuba, and Eritrea – also in hundreds of other great places, which have been brutalized and smeared by those who are dreaming about making this entire world thoroughly banal, consisting only of a few super-wealthy nations served and fed by all those “others” that have been reduced to slavery.

After seeing the world with your own eyes, after understanding it, I’m almost certain that you will agree with me: right now there are two parallel realities on this planet. One consists of true human lives and human stories, the other one only of trivial but manipulative interpretations of the world. One (true) reality is longing for progress, kindness, optimism and harmony; the other (fake one) is constantly spreading uncertainty, nihilism, destruction and hopelessness.

It is not only what they call “fake news”, it is an entire ‘fake reality’ that has been manufactured by the establishment and upheld by men and women with helmets, bulletproof vests, 4WD’s and prominent PRESS insignia.

Once again, HAPPY NEW YEAR 2018!

Happy Discovery Of The World!

Happy Struggle For Survival Of Our Precious Planet!”

Year 2018 will be crucial. Let us all join forces in order for Humanism and that beautiful lady called ‘The True Reality’ survive, to prevail, and to triumph.

• Photos by Andre Vltchek

Capitalism Reduced Indonesian Cities to Infested Carcasses

From Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, Samarinda and Pontianak

*****

Several years ago, a prominent Indonesian businessman who now resides in Canada, insisted on meeting me in a back room of one of Jakarta’s posh restaurants. An avid reader of mine, he ‘had something urgent to tell me’, after finding out that our paths were going to be crossing in this destroyed and hopelessly polluted Indonesian capital.

What he had to say was actually straight to the point and definitely worth sitting two hours in an epic traffic jam:

No one will be allowed to build comprehensive public transportation in Jakarta or in any other Indonesian city. If a mayor or a governor tries and defies the wishes of the ruthless business community which is in fact controlling most of the Indonesian government, he or she will be dethroned, or even totally destroyed.

These ‘prophetic’ words are still ringing in my ears, several months after the complete destruction of the progressive Jakarta governor, known as Ahok (real name: Basuki Tjahaja Purnama), who tried very hard to improve the seemingly ungovernable and thoroughly destroyed city, constructing new mass transit lines (LRT), restoring old train stations, cleaning canals, attempting to build at least some basic net of sidewalks, as well as planting trees and creating parks.

After Ahok’s first and extremely successful term in office, the opposition consolidated its forces. It consisted mainly of the Islamists, big business tycoons, and the military as well as other revanchist cadres (almost exclusively pro-business and pro-Western individuals) that are still controlling Indonesia.

‘Ahok’, an outsider and an ethnic Chinese, patently lost.

Instead of coming to his rescue, several ‘prominent’ but corrupt city planners and architects, most of them enjoying funding from abroad, shamelessly joined the bandwagon of ‘Ahok bashing’.

But even defeating Ahok was not enough. He had to be punished and humiliated, in order to discourage others from trying to replicate his socially-oriented example. Already during the election campaign, charges were brought against him, alleging that he had ‘insulted Islam’ during one of his public appearances.  It was total nonsense, disputed by several leading Indonesian linguists, but in a thoroughly corrupt society (both legally and morally) it simply worked.

On May 9, 2017, ‘Ahok’ was sentenced to two years in prison, and unceremoniously thrown into the dungeon.

Since then, many of his projects have stopped totally, or at least were significantly slowed down. A disgusting filth has once again began covering Jakarta’s canals and rivers.

For those who still believed in miracles, all hopes died.

Those ‘city planners’ who still conveniently believe that one can ‘work with’ the present regime (they call it ‘government’) correctly assumed that it was once again ‘business as usual’.

As ‘Ahok’ was being thrown behind bars, huge sighs of relief were almost detectable all over this misfortunate archipelago! Everything has returned to ‘normal’, at least for those who have been benefiting from the collapse of Indonesia and its cities.

The clock of Indonesian history was turned back. It is now almost certain that at least for several upcoming decades, all Indonesian cities will remain what they are now – a living hell, the worst nightmare, and indisputably some of the most horrid urban areas found anywhere on Earth.

But readers abroad are not supposed to know all this. Indonesian people are not supposed to understand the situation. It is now all biasa – ‘just normal, just fine. Everything is fine. Read those ANU (Australian National University) papers and you will learn that ‘Indonesia is now a normal country, like Brazil or Mexico’. Nothing extraordinary is taking place.

*****

In reality, everything has collapsed. The cities have.

Not metaphorically, not hyperbolically, but concretely, practically.

A renowned Australian artist, George Burchett, who now resides in Hanoi, Vietnam, once visited Jakarta. For several weeks we travelled together all around the Indonesian archipelago. He was shocked and depressed. Before departing, he declared:

I saw many cities, all over the world. Cities are built for the people. For the first time in my life, in Indonesia, I saw the cities that are actually built not for the people, but against the people.

It is because Indonesian cities are fascist. They do not serve the needs of its citizens. On the contrary, they are designed to extract that little which is still left in the possession of the common Indonesian folks; extract and give it to the local rulers, as well as to the multi-national companies.

*****

Excerpts of the most common definitions of ‘failed states’ are stated in the Encyclopedia Britannica, and can perfectly apply to both Indonesia in general, and to its cities in particular:

The governing capacity of a failed state is attenuated such that it is unable to fulfill the administrative and organizational tasks required to control people and resources and can provide only minimal public services… A failed state suffers from crumbling infrastructures, faltering utility supplies and educational and health facilities, and deteriorating basic human-development indicators…

Governor ‘Ahok’ tried to change the situation. Crowds cheered. Millions watched, in all the major cities of Indonesia. Hope was born, at first fragile but soon blossoming.

Then suddenly: a tremendous blast, full stop, and collapse! The man who dared to inject several socialist elements into the sclerotic, brutal system, ended up behind bars.

And it is now all back to the old ‘failed state’ scenario. Life is once again thoroughly empty and predictable.

There is hardly any difference between the Indonesian cities. If you put a person in the center or a suburb of Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, Semarang, Medan, Makassar or Pontianak, he or she would have no idea, which one is which.

All major streets are choked with traffic jams. There are no sidewalks, and even if there are some pathetic and narrow ones, they are overtaken by aggressive and smoke belching scooters, as well as by unregulated and unhygienic street vendor stalls. Thugs are everywhere, controlling the streets. Almost all side streets have open sewage system. When it rains, entire neighborhoods get submerged under filthy water. Tiny carts, pulled by unclean and underpaid men, collect garbage. All the cities face the same problems, and all the cities look precisely the same.

Sanitation, water quality and garbage recycling facilities are at similar levels to those of the poorest sub-Saharan African countries.

With food and fuel prices up many Indonesian children are forced to work

Slums are omnipresent – huge and brutal. In fact, most of the neighborhoods of the Indonesian cities, called kampungs (‘villages’), could easily fit the international definitions of slums.

*****

A few years ago I was invited to speak at the University of Indonesia (UI). Various students asked me: “Why? Why is all this is happening in our country? And is there any solution?”

I replied that, of course, there is a solution: “socialism and central planning. But it would also have to be determined and real, and it would have to include a full-hearted anti-corruption battle, as well as a decisive ban on selling all natural resources and utilities to foreigners.” I added: “And tell your professors to stop salivating over-funding from the West, and flying to Europe in order to learn about ‘administration’, ‘good governance’ and city planning from those who have been robbing your country for several centuries.”

I believe that students liked the sound of what I was saying (not sure they were still capable of understanding the meaning of my words). However, predictably, I was never invited to the UI again.

*****

Indonesian cities are like open sores. Everything has been stolen from them and as a result, what makes life bearable is clearly missing. Only what the ‘elites’ do not want, is what has been left for the people.

Hungry and Homeless in Jakarta

There are hardly any public parks in Indonesia, at least no parks of any significance. Cities have no river or seafronts, in a striking contrast to South American, Middle Eastern and even African urban areas (not to speak of tremendous and beautiful public spaces, parks, promenades and exercise areas in China).

Dirty, clogged and polluted driveways are called ‘streets’ and ‘avenues’. There are no sidewalks, or if there are, they are just one meter wide, with broken tiles or deep potholes. Where sidewalks are not really needed, there may be actually some built – along one or two streets in the very center and in front of some government buildings, connecting basically nothing. This clearly shows that nothing is actually designed for the people.

It is important to understand that the government of Indonesia, on all levels, is not actually an institution that consists of men and women who are determined to improve the country and to serve its people. On the contrary!

In Indonesia, a great number of politicians belong to or are somehow affiliated to the military, which has ruled the country brutally since the 1965 Western-backed military coup. That coup destroyed everything socialist and Communist, banned Communist ideas, and murdered between 1 and 3 million people, including almost all the progressive intellectuals. On top of it, most of the politicians are businesspeople, tycoons and oligarchs, and the great majority of them of unsavory reputations. They have been robbing the nation and its people for more than half of a century, and there is absolutely no reason why they should stop doing it now, or anytime soon. For these individuals, to grab the top political positions is nothing more than about maximizing the profits.

‘Indonesian democracy’ which the West loves to glorify (no wonder, as Indonesia de-facto functions as an obedient colony, plundering its own citizens and resources on behalf of the West), consists of countless political parties, of which not one of them is from the left, or defends the interests of common people. Moreover, a great majority of the ‘civil society’, of the NGO’s, are subservient to Western economical and political interests. Many, if not all, of these organizations are directly funded from Washington, Berlin, London or Canberra. (I described the situation in my latest novel, Aurora.

Indonesian companies and its government are one single entity. And they are decisively and in unison plundering the entire archipelago of its natural resources. The 4th most populous country on Earth produces almost nothing. (Read my book Archipelago of Fear in English and in Bahasa Indonesia).

The ‘philosophy’ of this unbridled plunder is then applied to ‘urbanism’; to the way Indonesian cities are governed and basically abandoned to the markets. Not even in Africa where I lived and worked for several years, is there such absolute and shameless theft of urban land by the elites (of which members of government are part).

Once all this is determined, to understand the reality of Indonesia and its cities becomes much easier.

Once this is defined, Indonesian cities ‘begin to make sense’.

*****

In reality, there is not much that could be called ‘urban’ in the Indonesian cities. Be it a city like Pontianak with 600,000 inhabitants, or Jakarta with 12 million (28 million including the surrounding cities and suburbs).

Wherever one goes, profit over people is taken to the extreme.

Like those logged out, mined out and polluted islands of the archipelago, Indonesian cities are designed in a way that brings maximum income to the extremely small group of individuals and businesses. The price has to be paid by the impoverished, often ill, badly-educated, and literally choking majority.

The tremendously low level of media outlets, education, pop entertainment, as well as constant religious encroachment and feudal family structures, are purposefully spread and upheld, so the population does not think, does not doubt and does not rebel.

The results are shocking.

Indonesian cities are like palm oil plantations or open-pit mines, with some elements of military barrack colonies (of course, there are some special quarters for the overseers, with large and kitschy houses, like those that dot South Jakarta).

Here, nothing is constructed to make life great, colorful, ecstatic, meaningful and happy. There are no permanent concert halls, no theatres, and no grand public museums (one that recently opened is private, and serves to further politically indoctrinate people, this time targeting the ‘urban middle class’). There are no pedestrian neighborhoods, and no free and public seafronts.

Not one architecturally valuable structure has been constructed in any Indonesian city after the 1965/66 military/religious coup.

In Indonesia, a ‘public area’ is synonymous with a mall, in fact, with countless malls of various sizes and qualities. Inside the malls, there are chain eateries and chain shops, as well as cafes. There are also a few cinemas, showing mostly Hollywood junk or local horror films. On the weekends, there are bands playing old Western and Indonesian pop tunes, offering absolutely no variety. Some 50 songs are recycled again and again. The most favorite is, predictably: “I did it my way”.

There is nothing ‘extra’ in the Indonesian cities. Here everything is stripped to absolute basics: you somehow survive on your meager salary (with prices, at least for the food and consumer goods being as high or higher than in Tokyo or Paris), you somehow move to your workplace and back, sitting for hours every day in horrific traffic jams as there is no public transportation even in such cities with 2-3 million inhabitants, like Surabaya or Bandung. You cook and wash your dishes and clothes in terribly polluted water, and try to save on outrageously high electricity bills. There is absolutely nothing to do in your neighborhood. There is, of course, always a mosque nearby or sometimes a church, if that’s what you fancy. There are no parks, no playgrounds for children. There is no sidewalk to walk to a cafe, and so, if you want to actually go to a cafe or to a bookstore (all the bookstores in Indonesia are increasingly poorly stocked and heavily censored), you have to jump onto your scooter or into your car again, if you have any strength left.

The chances are – you have no time for anything, anyway. A 3-4 hours long daily commute, your exhausting work, and all you have time for is to collapse in front of the television set and get indoctrinated, neutralized and idiotized even further.

You learn to smile when you actually want to die, or at least to shout. You sense that nothing could ever change for better, and that your life is finished, perhaps at 25, or even earlier.

Eventually, some people do it sooner than others: you become religious, and you become traditional, conservative and ‘family-oriented’. There is nothing else, really. The cities of Indonesia will make sure that there is nothing else. They are the perfect machines, manufacturing obedience, extracting everything from human beings, and giving nothing in return.

*****

I often describe the coup of 1965 as a “Cultural Hiroshima”. While in Japan, the US openly experimented on the health of millions of human beings, in Indonesia the experiment was of a totally different nature. The area of interest to the Empire was:

What would happen with a progressive anti-imperialist nation that counts on a complex and diverse culture, if it is bathed in blood, if its theatres and film studios are shut down, 40% of teachers get murdered, women from left-wing organizations get their breasts amputated, writers are locked in Buru Island concentration camp, and urban planners are thought to design cities like Houston, Dallas or LA, but in a country with salaries that are 10% or less than those of the U.S.A.?

The answer is simple: “It would turn into Indonesia. It would become Jakarta, as it is now”. For the Western demagogues and the imperialist planners, “Indonesia” and “Jakarta” are not only the names of the country and the city: they are names of the concept, of a model.

This model, forced on the colonies, is perfect for the West and its interests.

Jakarta: One of better public sidewalks

It is also perfect for the Indonesian ‘elites’, who are often getting dirty at home, plundering all they can, but do relax and play and often evacuate their entire families to Singapore, California, Australia, Hong Kong and many other ‘safe and clean’ places.

It is the cheapest; the most efficient of concepts designed to plunder, and to royally fuck a nation. Not surprisingly, the West has tried to replicate this ‘successful Indonesian model’ in many parts of the world.

It even tried to inject it into Russia, after the USSR was first mortally wounded and then destroyed. It tried to force it on Chile… My much older friends in Santiago told me that before the 9-11-1973 coup perpetrated by General Pinochet on behalf of the West and its companies, several people around President Allende were threatened by the right-wingers: “Watch out, Jakarta is coming!”

*****

Jakarta came! It is here, all over Indonesia, in all of its cities, and to varying degrees in most of the countries that have fallen under the Western neo-colonialist boot.

But what does it really mean, ‘Jakarta’? Is it just a name or is it also a verb, an infinitive? “To Jakarta…”

It is ‘to take everything away from the people and to give nothing back’. ‘To Jakarta’ is to lie and to loot and to convince human beings, through long decades of indoctrination, that everything is just fine, and as should be. ‘To Jakartize’ the nation is to make almost the entire population irrelevant, to deliver the loot on the silver trays to both local and foreign rulers, leaving only dirty and polluted rivers and canals behind, as well as tremendous traffic jams, smog, bizarre overpasses with no escalators, and broken tiles along the driveways.

Even filthy beach in Jakarta is for a fee

The ‘Jakartized population’ is obedient, explosively violent, edgy, but not towards the regime, turbo-capitalism, corrupt elites and their Western masters, but towards each other, as well as towards the minorities.

Jakarta gets very little criticism from the official mainstream Western and local media, and almost no genuine analysis from academia. No surprise: to attack the reality of the Indonesian cities is like attacking the entire Western neo-colonialist system imposed on various parts of the world. To tell the truth would destroy any journalistic career, as it would torpedo almost any chance for a well-remunerated university tenure!

Very often, all that one could expect in terms of a realistic description of the situation in Indonesia, are random exclamations overheard on board departing airplanes, or some ‘anecdotal evidence’ from the pages of travel magazines and blogs. It appears that what normal people see with their own eyes is in direct contradiction with what the mainstream media and academia presents as ‘facts’.

On 17 September 2017, a Malaysian newspaper The Star wrote:

Based on a real-time air quality index uploaded to the Airvisual application at midday on Friday, Sept 15, Jakarta ranked third as the most polluted city in the world… In mid-August, the application showed that Jakarta was at the top of the list, followed by Ankara, Turkey and Lahore, Pakistan.

“Escape Here” magazine ranked Jakarta as the No1 city in its report “The 10 Worst Traffic Cities in the World”:

It happens to be the country’s capital and one of the most poorly designed cities in the World, a combination that makes getting around here a disaster. An ever-increasing number of car owners that come from the expansion of suburbia that surrounds this mega-city are to be blamed for the 400 hours a year that citizens spend in traffic. It is actually hailed as being the worst traffic in the world. It doesn’t seem like there is any solution for this mega-city as the infrastructure here falls into the hands of the local government and contracts are renegotiated annually; which means long-term projects are pretty much impossible. An average trip in this city takes about 2 hours…

On 2 September 2015, even the official propaganda English language newspaper of Indonesia, the Jakarta Post, re-published the survey ranking the horrendous Indonesian capital as the 9th ‘un-friendliest city on Earth’:

Jakarta, the Indonesian capital notorious for gridlocks and bad air pollution, ranks 9th among the world’s least friendly cities this year, a recent survey by an international travel magazine shows. Readers of the highly regarded luxury travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler included Jakarta for the first time on its ’10 unfriendliest cities in the world’ list this year. In the survey, one of the readers said Jakarta was ‘the scariest place I have ever been to ‘with its congestion and aggressive locals.

The ‘scariest place’: but, of course! What could one expect from the capital city of the country that in the last half a century has committed 3 monstrous genocides (against its own population in 1965/66, against the people of East Timor and an on going genocide against the people of Papua)?

What could one expect from cities that have been totally robbed of green spaces and, in fact, of everything that could be called ‘public’, where the arts have disappeared and where absolutely everything has become commercialized; where everything and everybody is now expected to be the same – behave the same way, look the same way, sound the same way, taste the same way.

Try to look different, and if you are a Papuan, Chinese, African, or white, just try to walk on those broken tiny sidewalks of Surabaya, Jakarta, Pontianak, or Medan. You will be shouted at; you will immediately become the target of naked racism. People will stop and point fingers, or worse.

A few days ago I filmed from a boat sailing on a polluted river passing through Pontianak city, on an island in Borneo. Two children on the shore immediately raised their middle fingers and began yelling: “Fuck you!” Just like that: with no warning and for no reason. And this is, of course, not the worst that could happen. If I was Chinese… were I an African… Everybody knows it. Nobody speaks about it, nobody writes…

According to Western ‘analysts’ and academics, Indonesia is a ‘democratic’ and ‘tolerant’ nation. The deeper it is sinking, the more oppressive and intolerant it becomes, the more devastated it gets, and the more it is glorified.

Lies are piled up on lies. “The Emperor has beautiful clothes’, everybody shouts, as in that old children’s tale. But, in fact, he is naked!

It is clearly “political correctness” at work. One is supposed to be ‘sensitive’ to the local ‘culture’, religion, and way of life. The only defect of this approach is that in countries such as Indonesia, the local culture, its way of life and even the extremely aggressive religions, are all the direct result of the fascist regime that was directly imposed onto this nation by the West after the 1965/66 slaughter.  Had the socialist pre-1965 course be allowed to naturally flow, Indonesia would now be a truly normal, socially-balanced, secular and tolerant nation, and its cities would serve the people, instead of the other way around.

Just a normal river in Jakarta

Here, the ‘political correctness’, is once again, protecting the crimes against humanity that have been committed by the West, by the local elites and the military, as well as by the religious leaders. The local ‘culture’ is not being protected at all, as it is actually dead, murdered.

The cities are dead as well. Their carcasses are stinking, horrifying, monstrous, stripped of all hope. People living in them are choking, humiliated, marginalized, unwell, and constantly robbed by the system.

Bizarrely, it takes an elitist magazine like Conde Nast to notice… It takes random travellers to speak out… One would never read such comments in the reports coming out of the Australian National University or on the pages of the New York Times.

*****

Just outside the city of Surabaya, the second largest city in Indonesia, on the Island of Madura, several enormous ships are being manually cut into pieces and sold for scrap by destitute local people. Periodically things explode, collapse, and people lose their faces or limbs. It is a horrible sight: truly haunted, disturbing. Just like in Bangladesh, although here, it goes almost unnoticed.

In many ways, I believe that the Indonesian cities resemble those ships, and those polluted coastal areas where the ships are broken into thousands of parts and then sold. Once proud, they are now humiliated, in pain, being torn to pieces while still alive.

Only real fascism can treat its citizens this way; only a regime that has lost its marbles, and gone thoroughly insane.

Indonesia cities… What do they really consist of? Well, they are made of those tiny and crammed homes, filthy canals, potholed driveways, of indescribable pollution, of mosques and churches. Then there are a few office towers in their centers, countless shopping malls and several luxury hotels where the elites can escape and take some rest from the daily nightmare, which is ‘normal life’ here. Golf courses everywhere, but no decent public parks, as even those few green areas have been already thoroughly privatized.

*****

Now the former governor of Jakarta, ‘Ahok’, is in jail for daring to change things; for building public transportation, cleaning the rivers and building a few tiny parks. He is in jail for relocating squatters to public housing, and for trying to serve the impoverished and humiliated majority.

His clearly socialist deeds were immediately smeared and discredited by the elites, by the Western-funded NGO’s and by corrupt city planners. Even when this could not stop his determination and zeal, religion was unleashed. Most of the religions are, after all, regressive, pro-business oriented, and ready to support any fascist regime.

*****

How much deeper can Indonesian cities sink? When are they going to become uninhabitable?

People are already dying; thousands are, unnecessarily – from cancer, from stress, from respiratory diseases.

Millions of human beings are wasting their lives. They are alive, but it is only a bare existence, not really life: they are moving mechanically, cutting through the filthy air on their scooters, eating junk food, constantly surrounded by decay and ugliness.

Why?

For how much longer?

The forests of Borneo, Sumatra and Papua are burning. All over this archipelago, everything is logged out, consumed by mines, ruined by monstrous pollution. The extraction and looting of natural resources is the only real economic ‘engine’ of today’s Indonesia.

The cities are not faring much better. They are actually not faring any better at all.

It is time to wake up, or it could get too late. But the nation appears to be in a total slumber. It does not notice, anymore, that it is really in freefall. It was conditioned not to notice. It was made to accept, even to celebrate its own collapse.

Those who forced Indonesia into all this will not tell. As long as there is at least something left, something that can be extracted, utilized, looted, they will be cheering this great Indonesia’s ‘success’ and ‘progress’.

I encourage all those people from all over the world who would want to see the true face of neo-colonialism, of savage capitalism and right wing disaster, to come to the Indonesian cities! Come and see with your own eyes. Come and take a walk; don’t hide in your comfortable cities full of leafy parks, concert halls, art cinemas, public transportation and theatres.

This is real. This is a warning to the world!

Come and see how cities look like in a country where Communism and socialism are banned, where a colony does not even realize that it being colonized, and where everything is served on huge silver plates straight into the gullet of that monster called fascism.

Ketapang, West Borneo, Indonesia

• All photos by Andre Vltchek