Stung into action by Boyo's resumption of Anti-Danube, we continue the ongoing series with This Earth of Badly-Raised Twilight - Chapter 5 - March 1920
William of Orange Polder Windmill Rotterdam Pancake Li staggered back to his dormitory yet again, the taunts and half-bricks of his red-faced, long-nosed bullying Dutch classmates ringing in his ears. And yet again he felt forced to ponder - for the benefit of the reader - the cruel contrast between the illusory, cultured Holland he had grown up to love and the cold, harsh reality as described so searingly by someone who had never actually been there. It didn't seem to matter how hard he tried to fit in, the Dutch would forever look down upon him as a native and despise him. William, tears in his eyes, ran out of his Amsterdam school, through the coconut grove and along by the rice paddies. He looked up at the distant volcano and swatted away a mosquito.
"Curse the Hollanders!" he spat. "If only my father knew what he was putting me through! My eyes have been duly opened to the iniquity of the white men, and there remains little for me to do here except seek an early return to my native land to work for eventual independence. That and drink large quantities of cheap gin in backstreet dives with Surinamese ladies of negotiable affection, of course. Actually, come to think of it, there's no reason for me to go home immediately..."
Far away in Soerabaja, Min - the simple village goat-carrier-turned-dokar-driver-turned-satay-seller turned vice-president of Goodyear Tyres (Southeast Asia) division with responsibility for marketing - who still nursed within him a hopeless passion for the lovely yet cruelly mistreated Royabot was driving past the batik market in his chauffeur-driven car when his eye was suddenly caught by the careworn yet beautiful face of the woman for whom he had, with notable inefficiency, been searching for many years. "Stop the car!" he blurted out, causing a minor traffic pile-up involving four bicycles, a handcart, an old woman carrying a medium-sized restaurant on her back and three bullocks. He flung open the car door, knocking a malnourished child into a storm-drain, and stumbled towards the face's owner.
Raden Roro Royabot looked up at him, to see the kindly face that had filled her many flashback-musings about the essential goodness of simple village folk over many chapters.
"Min? Oh - I see you have a car now. The goat-carrying business must be booming."
"I am no longer a goat-carrier. It's a long story, for which I refer you to the previous three chapters. But I hear that you have left your cruel and exploitative husband."
"And become a batik seller in the market."
"And that you could possibly do me a chicken coconut curry with lemon grass on white bread."
"I beg your pardon?"
"They tell me you do Siamese sandwiches for sailors."
Royabot lowered her beautiful, dark eyes in shame and confusion. "I have much to explain to you, clearly. Possibly with the aid of diagrams"
"But first, we must fish my sadly malnourished son, Hayamwuruk Gamelan Komodo-Dragon Hopeless-Dream-of-Independence Batik Li, out of that storm-drain at once."
"Ah, yes. Sorry about that..."
"And if only we could afford food and a proper education for him."
"Royabot" he said gently, putting his arm around her shoulder, "I am but a simple village goat-carrier-turned-dokar-driver-turned-satay-seller turned vice-president of Goodyear Tyres (Southeast Asia) division with responsibility for marketing and know but little of these things, but it seems to me that if you were to marry a kindly and now sufficiently wealthy man - a simple village goat-carrier-turned-dokar-driver-turned-satay-seller turned vice-president of Goodyear Tyres (Southeast Asia) division with responsibility for marketing, for example - he could afford to feed you and your son properly and pay for his education at a pesantren (or rural Islamic boarding school for those reading in translation) where his native Islamic education as a santri or Orthodox Muslim Scholar will contrast nicely with his brother's sojourn in Holland and allow for some descriptions of the Muslim nationalist movement over the coming decades."
"Wah, Min - of course I will marry you. For your cleverness, you deserve this."
Wednesday, 22 February 2012
Over the years this blog has been in existence - on and off - I have generally tried to keep my personal opinions of other people's idiocy out of things. Unsuccessfully, I'll grant you - especially as regards Esperantists, cyclists who wear lycra, Italian leaders and Simon Jenkins - but there has been some attempt at least.
And I freely admit that this is partly because explaining my admittedly unusual (yet entirely rational) position as a church-going agnostic positivist takes a lot of time and is prone to frequent interruption.
However, there are times when one has to deliver the bitch-slap, with however heavy a heart, and last week was one of those times. Radio 4 had invited vacuous trendy vicar The Revd Giles Fraser to confront laser-guided Professor Atheist Angrypants Dawkins himself on some pointless survey or other about how many of the population are Anglicans (I answer "yes and no" to this one, myself; a position of which the C of E heartily approves and frequently takes itself).
Dawkins pointed out that a large number of alleged Christians cannot name the first book of the New Testament. Fraser then countered with an undergraduate debating-society cheapshot by asking Dawkins whether he could recite the entire title of Darwin's 'Origin of Species'. Dawkins promptly marched into the heffalump trap by saying he could, and then failing to do so.
Here's what he should - with the benefit of hindsight - have said:
"It matters not a whit whether I, or indeed anyone alive today, can remember the title of Darwin's 1859 magnum opus, nor even whether we have read it. And this is because science is not a religion, Darwin was neither prophet nor evangelist, and Origin is not a holy book. If you ask me to explain how we know evolution to be true, I would not start with a reading from Darwin, nor would I ask you to accept everything he wrote on faith. We would instead look at evidence. That is how science works. And furthermore, the best evidence we can show today was unknown to Darwin in 1859. Our understanding of the genome lays clear things that Darwin glimpsed but through a glass darkly. Thousands of transitional fossils are available in museums across the world which were still in the ground in Darwin's time. Christians, however, need the Bible because Christianity necessarily relies on revelations and faith. Without the book, there is nothing. Without Darwin's book, we can still show overwhelming evidence for evolution. So fuck off."