A few days ago, I had a guest from the United States named Gregory G McElwain. He is Assistant to the Press Attaché of the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta. Wearing white batik shirt with floral motifs, this man looked so calm. He spoke slowly and steadily. After talking more about the press industry as well as advances in the information technology causing a lot of the media industries in the world to be marginalized or even go bankrupt, Greg, as he familiarly greeted, asked a lot of questions about Bali and its condition so far.
Claiming to first come to Bali around 1995, Greg saw many rapid and fundamental changes on the Island of the Gods. “Obviously, Kuta is very populous and crowded. Hotels are built in various places. I see a rapid change here in Bali,” he said. As an official directly getting in touch with the press, Greg also got a lot of information. For example, it was about the plan on the development of a new airport in Northern Bali.
Perhaps he has been ‘infected’ by the culture and climate of Indonesian people so that Greg looked hesitate in expressing his opinion about the current situation on the Island of Bali. Nevertheless, I captured clearly if this American man held some sort of concerns. Though being expressed implicitly, I could feel it. He did ask for my opinion, as a Balinese and journalist to see the condition objectively.
To me, Greg is probably just a representation of some people who has a concern about Bali. Some people express it explicitly, while the others do it on the contrary. Actually it is a feedback for the government and tourism businesspeople to think clearly about the current condition of Bali tourism sustained by Hinduism, Balinese culture and its people.
It is an endless reflection. Unfortunately, not all policy makers, tourism players and even the community are able and willing to do that. Now, everything is stuck into the culture of hedonism and in pursuit of something that can someday lead to a nightmare for the survival of the tourism itself. It has been frequently talked about and discussed but the follow up is unclear. Where are the results of discussion going to be taken to?
Back to the implicit objectivity expressed by Greg, according to him, the American people actually very much loved Bali, a human entity along with the unique and appealing culture. Unfortunately, the distance of Bali to the mainland of Uncle Sam is so far away, so that they turned their tourist destination to elsewhere, located closer, and of course cost cheaper. (Gde Palgunadi / palgunadigde@ yahoo.com)