“Where you from miss?” my taxi driver hollered as we rode over a particularly pothole-riddled stretch of "road".
“Oh. Australia. Why your government hate us? They tell people not to come here. We not all Bali bombers.”
“I’m not sure why, sir. The government is a bit stupid.”
I hadn't actually looked at the updated travel warnings the Australian Government issued for Indonesia after the execution of the Bali bombers.
But I was watching some CNN "doco" about "The Face of Terrorism" (cue dramatic music and graphics and montages of Al Quaeda training camps mixed in with people doing DANGEROUS traditional dances in Bali) and it told me all about how TERRORISM is the BIGGEST PROBLEM EVA in Indonesia and all people are LIVING IN FEAR every day.
So, I thought maybe I should check out the travel warning so that I can start living with a reasonable level of FEAR. Because Indonesia is apparently SCARY SCARY.
According to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs, the danger levels in Indonesia are ranked as "reconsider need to travel". Not the worst level, only the second worst. Worst is reserved for places with active combat troops.
Do you know what other countries you should "reconsider your need to travel" to? See here. Interesting that Indonesia is considered as dangerous as the Congo, where actual fighting is happening now, instead of just speculation.
The warning for Indonesia is LONG, about 5000 words. If you want to read it yourself, go here.
Let me summarize it for you.
If you live or work or are thinking about going to Indonesia you probably won't ever return to the fair soils of Australia because EVIL TERRORISTS are lurking everywhere. You should probably stay here in Australia where everything is nice and white (on TV) and the only dangers are random acts of violence, probably alcohol fuelled. Indonesians in general are Muslims and everyone knows that in general that means they are probably terrorists. It's also a bit sus because they don't drink shitloads of beer. And heaps of them are going to freak out because the Bali bombers got sent to their virgin-filled heaven so you should be extra careful eating at or visiting WHITE PEOPLE places because they don't like us and our democratic ideals. But don't eat at street stalls either or you will get gastro and DIE.
If you do decide to ignore our overblown warning, you should exercise EXTREME CAUTION. EXTREME! ARM YOURSELF WITH A MACHETE, BOMB DIFFUSER KIT AND DON'T SPEAK TO ANYONE. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES IDENTIFY YOURSELF AS AUSTRALIAN OR YOU WILL BE IMMEDIATELY KILLED. TELL THE EMBASSY YOU ARE COMING SO WE CAN IDENTIFY YOUR REMAINS.
That's roughly what it says.
It begs the question… have the people who write this shit ever been to Indonesia? If they have, have they actually mingled with any Indonesians or talked with them about these kinds of issues?
Why why why why why does Australia still have this massive fear of Asia? This warning isn't about terrorism at all. It's about the politics of fear, and I hoped now that Howard had gone and now Bush is practically out the door as well, that we would have gotten over that crap to some extent. Sometimes it feels like we haven't progressed at all from the Hanson years.
No one can really anticipate if a terrorist attack is on its way or not, same as you can't pick if you will be struck by lightening. Obviously the execution of the Bali bombers carried some additional risk, which any rational person could figure out. And embassies etc have to put out travel advisories. But this kind of over the top crap coming out of our government only adds to this irrational fear that a certain section of Australian society has about Indonesia and Asia.
It's so strange how Indonesia as seen from Australia and Indonesia as actually seen from Indonesia are almost two different countries… I've never experienced that with any other foreign country I have visited. Maybe it's just cos I haven't been to Bali yet…