In The Time Of Madness ...
... we all behave in seemingly irrational ways.
In existentialist terms, I don't trust what I read or see in the media. This dates from too many years ago for me to compute when I was lying in a sick bed being tended by nuns in Beauvais, France. I was given four or five British newspapers to read and all had the story of a plane crash, but none could agree on the number of fatalities.
On April 27th I posted a review
by Miko, a long-term reader of Jakartass, of Richard Parry's book, In The Time Of Madness
. Richard, then the correspondent in this part of the world for the UK Independent
newspaper, wrote about three distinct phases of violence in Indonesia's recent history: the ousting of the Madurese from Kalimantan by the indigenous Dayaks in '97, the 'abdication' of Suharto in May '98 and the events in East Timor from '98 - '99.
Miko's review generated a lot of comments
and, such is the power of the internet, responses from Richard Parry
, now based in Tokyo as the Time Newspaper Asia correspondent. He was kind enough to send me a copy.
"If you want to read it, you can, and form your own opinion. If not, it might serve to prop up a wobbly table leg somewhere ..."
Well, I have now read it and it would have to be a really appalling piece of writing to be used as a furniture prop in Jakartass Towers. It's not great literature but it is worth reading as a personal account of those Times of Living Interestingly. It's a travel diary padded out with good research: he acknowledges the writings of 21 other regional or local journalists and commentators. He also lists editorial help, erstwhile employers and editors along with family and friends who presumably gave him the time, space and advice to produce the book.
However, it is not great reporting and, to my mind, his account of his actions at that time betrays a lack of perception about the reasons for the build up of the resentment which led to those events."Lloyd Parry is brave. He encounters headhunters on the rampage
But they weren't ever going to eat him, unless he too trampled on their cultural beliefs. The Madurese had, consistently, yet they too would feel that they were already victims in that they had been 'transmigrated' to a land populated by 'primitive' people by a distant central government intent on imposing Javanese values throughout the archipaelego.
In May '98 Richard was in Jakarta and witnessed the mayhem. And so did I and a lot of you.
Miko was disappointed that Richard Parry didn't "report what is happening and convey the scene on the ground in precise objective terms."
To some extent, I am too. If you want to know about the emotional turmoil
being endured then my diary of those days, with links to other personal accounts is online in my May '98 archives
. As residents, we can be expected to offer totally subjective viewpointsThe Mandarin Hotel, just across the road from the
(British) Embassy, was general HQ for the hordes of journalists and camera crews who had descended on Jakarta. I called in there every morning for breakfast, picking my way over battered aluminium cases and coils of slithery black cables to snatch what food was left at the buffet. Journalists, I reflected, have exceedingly healthy appetites. Sadly, their appetite for getting in close to the street action didn't seem quite so keen.
My impression, from the conversations going on around me, was that a lot of them were more concerned to find some local bigwig to posture in front of a camera and pontificate on what was happening, rather than get into the thick of the action and see it first hand.M - a friend
who hasn't read Richard Parry's book.I had begun to feel nervous in my small, cheap hotel, so I moved to the Mandarin Hotel where most of the foreign press was staying. My room was on the eighteenth floor. From the window, late in the afternoon, dozens of columns of smoke were visible in every direction.
In The Time Of Madness p.141
It has been suggested to me that I should expand my account into a book. Well, thanks for the compliment guys, but it has been done for me. I wasn't going to go where journalists were expected to go, not with Our Kid (then only eighteen months old) in tow. I'm not a journalist and the only resources I now have are those provided by the internet. The only editorial help I have is mine.
So I can't improve on Richard Parry's book, which by a strange happenstance is the only 'pay' I've ever received for my blogging.