Bali – the word conjures up a vision of idyllic beaches, perfect surf, and terraced rice fields set to the backdrop of a rich Hindu culture. This fabled island was at the top of my list of desired destinations for many years. And in November I was fortunate enough to spend three weeks on the island with my new wife. She indulged me as I dragged her from one famous surf spot to the next. And in between my search for waves we explored Hindu temples, trekked through a rice field to find an organic restaurant, and ended our trip diving on the reefs off the island of Lombok.
But what we experienced on Bali was not a perfect island of exotic cultures and tropical beaches. It’s an island drowning in its own success. Its infrastructure is struggling to keep pace at the same time as the area is speeding towards becoming just another mass market holiday destination. The results seem almost inevitable with annual visitors to the small island topping two million. This influx of tourist dollars has become a doubled edged sword: the Balinese people enjoy the highest standard of living within Indonesia but are saddled with a grotesque boom of development. Traffic congestion and an epidemic of garbage are the two most visible problems but even more troubling is how the tourist industry dominates much of the southern Bali. For the locals the money that can be made in the tourist industry is far greater than that of almost any traditional avenue of employment. So tourism is king, around every corner and from each doorway a vendor is hawking something: “Boss, you want taxi?” “Yes, massage,” “Drink special.” The problems are beginning to get attention both in the media and by local officials. Hopefully this will lead to change, smarter development, better infrastructure, and a preservation of the unique culture found on Bali.
To steal from someone and not feel bad, you either have to be a sociopath or view the act differently. One way is to remove “Someone” from the equation. You’re not stealing from a person. Big companies do a lot to help people view them as less than human. I heard a speech by Noam Chomsky who said that corporations are like super humans. They cannot be hurt like a human can and they never die. They are not susceptible to scrutiny or accountability. This makes them more profitable. If companies want to enjoy these benefits to some degree they have to live with what else comes with being not human. You miss out on compassion, forgiveness, camaraderie, empathy, trust all kinds of shit.