Some thoughts on civilization.
Bali Journal #2
We’ve never been in this territory before. It’s loud and overcrowded, there is construction everywhere. A steady flow of traffic is heading somewhere we can’t see. The new Ritz Carlton is going up where the monkeys used to dwell. The owners of the villa are a young Bulgarian couple who explain how the monkeys used to break into the house and eat the snacks, but sadly have moved on, somewhere away from the massive construction. They are sad.
Geckos made a nest with candy wrappers which rustle over my son’s bed in the downstairs room. He complains he can’t sleep as I listen to motorcycles race up and down the freeway—where are they going? It’s 6am on a Sunday. Roosters and birds are singing, not nearly loud enough though.
We’ve never been in Nusa Dua, it’s a tourist area of Bali. We’ve been in Ubud and Canggu, but never here. We vacated the last property due to noise, rats, and the feeling like the neighbors were yelling at us in our sleep—no insulation and a nightmare of noise. It’s getting hard to escape. I went online and the island was 93% booked for a three-bedroom villa, and those available were over $400-$1,000 US a night, not worth it, I thought. We settled on Nusa Dua as I’d been curious and the villa looked darling.
Last night, we went to the “Bali Connection” which seems to be all the rage here. Oye. It’s like Orange County California had sextuplets and then exponentially multiplied everything wrong with itself into a canned, inauthentic, open air mall geared for very rude tourists. I was embarrassed to be white. After the third or fourth white person yelled at a shopkeeper, I apologized. It’s the tenth or so time I’ve seen it happen on this trip. And then I went into the department store while Mia, Sage and Gerard awaited dessert to get hair ties and another white girl, maybe sixteen, was yelling at one of the women while her mom looked proudly on.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON’T KNOW IF THESE ARE THE LATEST HOT WHEELS?” She was huffing and puffing and was so pretty and monstrous I almost flew across the store to stick my hand in her mouth. She spat and yelled, rolling her eyes as her mom crossed her arms over her chest. I apologize for them, I do. Over Hot Wheels.
We’ve never been here before. Up until about two hundred years ago, there were only 500 million humans on planet earth. Now, we teeter on 7.5 Billion humans burgeoning and eating up the fish, flying in planes and stomping their feet over Hot Wheels. I see rich women throw fits and cry inside. What has become of us? So fast, so entitled, and so without a plan. This keeps me up at night. Along with the traffic here in Nusa Dua, which seems never to stop.
I perch on the balcony to get my morning meditation in before the kids wake up. I put earplugs in my ears and begin my mantra. I hear a bell and look over the edge of the fence and see a cow and her calf eating grass. She’s so beautiful. Her eyes are so alive, her coat a perfect tawny, her bell and babe swinging and following her lead. I love her. I want to pet her and hang out with her. I decide I need to go vegan again.
A white man in the warung the other night carried on a lively conversation with his date. He seemed like an expat? I was curious but focused my eyes and ears on Sage, as we were on a mommy and me date. Best Mie Goreng ever, we decided. As we ventured into Balinese traditional jelly tea territory the man behind us began to yell at the waiter. An eruption out of nowhere, a volcano spewing hot beer spit.
“WHERE IS MY CHECK?”
Dammit, they are so dumb. He said to his date.
GIVE ME MY CHECK, WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?
These Balinese move so slow, they are not getting a tip. I hate that they add the service fee into the bill, I won’t pay it he seethed.
The waiter who moments before was laughing with us over the weird jelly tea turned to the man and was so gracious my heart burst. The young man ran to the till and grabbed the check. It happened so suddenly, a beautiful night, a great conversation, then berating an innocent. Is this white privilege? Who are these people? I don’t know.
Sage and I left a tip for the rude man, and a generous tip for ourselves. But more so, we touched the young waiter’s hands and thanked him for one of the best meals of our lives. We looked him in the eyes and smiled with our hearts. We are sorry for what is happening. I’ve seen privileged women throw fits over their “too sweet” drinks, I’ve seen entitlement ooze from those I otherwise had respected. How did we get here? Who have we become?
Nusa Dua is a series of chain hotels. Chains to be sure. They are a link blocking the beach from locals and from those who clean the sheets and towels of those who stay in the massive resorts. I watch these behemoth buildings from the backside from our sweet little villa. I wonder how long the world, our earth, can sustain these exorbitant metropolis 300+ room hotels.
The Bali Connection feels dated although it’s shiny and new. It’s the end of our civilization all wrapped up in a chain link outdoor mall full of abused Balinese shopkeepers. Making eye contact with them felt like salvation of sort. I will go with you, I thought. I want to leave too. To rescue the locals from the mess we’ve made of the west is daunting. In my heart there is an escape route.
Where do we go from here when here has never actually been defined? How can the yelling, mean, single-mindedness of humanity be taught kindness? Grace? How can we give nature back her homes for the monkeys and birds and geckos? Would it ever be possible to harmonize our greed with their needs? How do we wake up en masse or do we even bother for those so far gone they will scream at a young woman over a Hot Wheels?
I live in a bubble. The person who reported me to the county over my yurt began to pop that bubble. Without my “safe space” I became untethered and started seeing the world in a more harrowing a point of view. I’ve always seen the trash on the beach, but now my safe haven in Ojai was busted. I’m an open wound of sorts, seeing my privilege and wondering how to share more of me in more meaningful ways. My insulation to the dregs of what we’re up against got removed. I am seeing what the world is playing at and I know it’s a deadly deadly game. We are on the brink of either a great awakening or the end of civilization. Because you can only get so rich, you can only have and hold so much. You can only stay at a fancy resort so often before you start to see what was lost in its wake. You can only wish riches on so many, while the population seeks food and shelter.
My driver from the retreat, Made, explained how his grandparents, rice farmers, are now so happy to be using commercial fertilizers as they can harvest their rice now every four months instead of six. He explains that the chicken growers are so happy they can use growth hormone and get a fully grown chicken in three weeks versus a year. He’s glowing with the information, he’s so happy his three-year-old can eat more now and that prosperity and food security has finally become his family’s fortune.
Who am I to tell him the dangers of his thinking? Who the hell am I, the one on vacation in Bali with a credit card and a lot of luggage? Who am I to explain organics and the importance of waiting a year for a chicken to feed your child?
We’ve never been here before. Uncharted. Untethered. Uncontrollable. While I wanted to believe humanity is on the brink of awakening, I see sometimes how naïve I am. Seeing these huge tourists eating huge portions of crabs, lobsters and downing Cokes, treating the servers with such disdain, it’s confusing to me. Have I fallen from grace or have I simply opened my eyes? Have I been catapulted into reality or am I being given a view of something I’m to help fix?
Because resources on planet earth are not meant to be open loop. Don’t run your air conditioning with the door open! Don’t drive when you can walk! Don’t waste so much food! Don’t fly to the meeting when you can use Skype! We are using it up. We are eating it like hungry ghosts.
Mia wakes up and I’ve used my alone time now to write this. I write because I can’t make sense of where we are without it. This is a new place, I’m worried and hopeful, I’m sober and awake.