Studies in Moral Accounting (Bali Nine-One-One)

It’s been such a heavy two weeks,

The Bali 2 executions, the many that drowned in the Mediterranean Sea, the Nepalese Earthquake that devastated thousands… and so much more. As a helpless bystander and a vicarious consumer of such devastating news; it is definitely disheartening to hear such things constantly barking at you. News of hopelessness, of destruction whether natural or man-made, of things where conquerors embellish their power on those that were used as tools to demonstrate their power and possibly the lack of accountability they feel for those. Why feel for a hammer that’s broken when you could always buy a new one?

The saddest tale of them all actually comes from the symbolic implications. Life, whether human or non-human life has a frequent, decaying sensibility that converges both physicality and philosophically. When reading where the predominate themes include corruption, death or manipulation really showcases the diminishing worth of life when it correlates to the unforgiving effects of nature and institutions which actively promise to protect us, yet fail so miserably like a perpetual betrayal.

There’s no doubt that all of us will die at some point, but the Bali executions significantly polarised two schools of thought which both have their merits with concern to the situation.

A) The role of justice and cultural acceptance – Although this framework of mind usually comes with the crass nature of “the two deserved it because of the crime”. This mentality, although lacking compassion was actually a quite popular one while perusing the Internet with the hundreds and thousands of comments that I paid close attention to while observing the attitudes present in the virtual world. Interestingly, this was a very strong sentiment that was present when the Bali 9 were captured and prosecuted back in 2006.

People saw their actions as a egotistical act that went on the motivations that either consciously neglected the laws of Indonesia and thus deserved punishment. They also are strongly conscious about the impacts of drugs and that drug trafficking had the potential to cause ramifications that were more deadly and dangerous than the execution of the two people.

Is the solution to the problem clearly the death sentence? Indonesia’s tough death penalty laws are carried out for the exact reason that there is a massive drug trafficking problem and the nation takes it as a serious offence to those that either contribute or are a part of such a rather dangerous and shady industry. However these laws haven’t been introduced just yesterday, so do they actually work?

One of the interesting things about the people who share this sentiment also state that Australia had wasted plenty of resources that could have been used for other things and that this, plus the scare tactics, reckless decisions and declarations made by both the opposition ideologically and those that are in political power are an act of glorifying criminals. Interestingly, this sentiment isn’t new in Australian culture. Where Australia Day could be seen as glorifying the white settlers who went onto their way of a multi-ethnic cleansing of the many Aboriginal people living here in which such scars and ghosts of such an incredibly devastating history still remains in the conscience of their victims. Or the glory given to Ned Kelly and the bush rangers. Australia, by precedence has always had a way of glorifying criminals. Now that ACU had dedicated a scholarship to the two who were recently executed, those who share in this sentiment can properly cement this kind of phenomena as part of a corrupt, twisted sense of recognition.

It is fair to say that those in this frame of mind are less compassionate in comparison to their opposition, but there are a few crucial points that they raise. Such a hardline approach is somewhat justifiable considering that is true one must be respectful of laws of other countries.

The interesting part of such argument is the frequent use of “deserved”. Is it really our position as bystanders of an event that has captured the attention of our nation and the international community to be suggesting who “deserves” to live and die? The easy answer is yes, considering that was the punishment delivered to those that cross Indonesia’s strong no drug policy, but to simply just say yes and move on would imply that the death penalty is a flawless approach to solving the problem. However it is not. Researchers have frequently suggested it is not a real deterrent to a very real problem.

Our globalized world has made us more aware of the happenings of our world. This, in a sense due to more awareness, has made us more critical of social events and in turn much more vocal about what we consider injustices. In opposition to those that are strong-minded about the “rules are rules” mentality, governments and leaders aren’t immune to criticism from others and should not be. To close critical analysis and discourse is promotion of systematic oppression, the only difference is that we have multiple diverse oppressors in the forms of countries and their leaders. Why is it that we can criticize America for poor decision making but when it comes to others with deeply rooted “foreign” legislations and practices it’s taboo? To close the door on those that aim to be persuasive towards discussing alternatives towards the death penalty does not simply help the solution.

However such violent and provocative actions such as the Australian government such as calling back the Indonesian Ambassador, vehemently condemning Indonesia with scare tactics and disapproval is diplomatic oppression. Such that, with discourse it is a form of imperialism that undermines the complexities and histories that makes up with the views and values of the Indonesian people and their leaders. Such a tactic is a shot to the foot, and I wouldn’t be surprised that such an act would heavily compromise Australia politically, and all due to putting votes on the champions of such strategies due to their visible but superficial motivations of appearing as compassionate leaders.

One problem I have with the “deserved” part of the discussion is, it undeniably speaks and showcases a rather primal, unforgiving stance of the worth of a human life. Unsurprisingly, those who have this mentality bare little mention about the rehabilitation processes, the families involved and how they are affected and the purpose of a justice system to begin with. The death penalty being the ultimate be-all-and-end-all solution, really disregards the numerous reports of successful rehabilitation and the positive influence these two men had on their communities. And justice stops being justice once a bullet has been fired on another person.

No one deserves to die, but we do. Such an ideology where others can become armchair critics over a complex event irritate me. The concepts of karma and God’s path and plan irritate me. They disgust me because they too diminish the worth of life, putting simple band-aid solutions to such horrific events. So I suppose the Nepalese people deserved it too? It was God’s plan for all the people in the Mediterranean Sea to drown? Funny you can say that because you weren’t involved. But that’s another story all together.

B) The other side of the spectrum is the more compassionate bunch, the protectors of justice and the morality brigade which are strongly opposed to the death penalty. I can speak on behalf of most people I’ve communicated with and with observations of forums and the virtual world that a lot of people actually oppose the death penalty. Why? The death penalty in itself dramatically diminishes the purpose of life all in the name of justice which is fallible and can be easily manipulated leading towards corruption. The sadness in particular towards this case study is that it was an act that diminished life and potential. One life is potential. We are all made up of energy with the power to influence, be role models and it is such a privilege to be alive, to have such a cruel and reckless (critics suggest “state approved murder”) way to handle such problems is fundamentally inhuman.

The compassion sparks from the fact that it is rooted and destroys any denial about our own mortality and the care for another’s well-being. We’re all going to die, but we want to die well. But journeys don’t end like they do in movies or books, the fantasy of our deep rooted desires. They end abruptly, with no narration and no warning. We need to come to terms with the fact that it can happen anytime and anyplace (sorry to use the Janet Jackson reference here). But when it becomes challenged, it becomes a cause to be naturally rebellious to things that hold power over us.

At this point, I understand. I personally don’t agree with the death penalty (as if it wasn’t obvious already) and that the world, in it’s cruel abyss of isolation and judgments; compassion is a commodity rare, beautiful and valuable. However as stated from my last post about terrorism and the Sydney siege, there is a genuine hypocrisy and danger that comes with the compassion cohort. And it comes from this one image.



Where was the compassion in the past? I remember distinctly there was such condemnation for the actions that many were actually in Camp A of how to feel in this situation. What caused the change of heart?

Reading the comments associated with that picture, a lot of good theories came out. The most popular was that the people merely followed what the media wanted them to think. This comes at a convenient time where there’s a massive stigmatization of the Muslim people and Indonesia happening to house the biggest population of Muslim people in comparison to any other country. Isn’t that odd? First we were happy that people got their justice and “now we’re against the Muslims, so they have to be bad.” Now I’m not promoting that people who are part of the compassionate cohort are all racist, but it does spark some very strong suspicion why the media and Australia finally decided to bring this news into national attention at such a convenient time.

All kinds of propaganda is dangerous. It insidiously creeps into your mind like advertising and has the potential to become the zeitgeist, a defining part of any culture. So with this theory in mind, is the compassionate actually a fabricated, easily tangible and does it reek of ingenuity? The one thing that shocked me was that people rarely bring into the attention about time and place, showing that this had been an effective practice.

People are easily to be manipulated by triggering their emotions rather than rationality.

Now at the end of the day, I’m not implying that one side is better than the other. Really both sides have completely failed to really promote this important, crucial part of the discourse. The problem merely does not just relate to the Indonesian government or the people who were executed. It lies with the middle man. The Drug industry.

One of the startling things when socially observing attitudes is that no one seems to bring this up. Why are we just pointing at the actors of this play, the characters of this story, when the real situation and solution lies with dealing with the themes and plot. I use this narrative structure because people have a pretty amazing ability to dissect stories and compartmentalize complexities in simple categories (good and evil, etc.). Why is no one actually talking about solutions about what motivates people to drug smuggle and why aren’t we studying up on ways to stop it?

The Australian Government in particular has a great talent to deflect such crucial questions. The asylum seeker/refugee crisis ring a bell? It’s great that you “stopped” the boats but now there’s a bigger issue of human rights violations and people stuck on islands who are living in extremely poor conditions because of YOUR misguided strategies. Own up to the fact that all you want are the votes and do a better job. Things are not black and white. And therein lies another problem, lack of transparency and explanation. And we as the people shouldn’t settle for anything less than the truth.

The media plays the events like a story as well. The good in this case were the fallen heroes who died as positive, rehabilitated influences. The bad being the Indonesian government and the death penalty. The themes, not even discussed apart from “death is bad, therefore throw stones at those that do it”. Why is the discussion not even about the drugs, or helping Indonesia with their drug problems? Instead why is it about Australia threatening to cut foreign aid with one of our biggest trading partners? Why is Indonesia just painted as the bad guy when what our government is doing is basically being completely retaliatory and pretty much the same as they are?

Solving problems with problems isn’t a way to make more solutions. It just makes more problems. And this, is why we’re all missing the big picture of this argument.


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