Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Through The Godless Hours (15)

It had been a slow morning at the newsstand, with just a handful of opportunities for Anath to strike up conversation. Apart from the tense encounter with the Captain a while earlier, there had been little to stir him from a state of mild apathy. On days like this, he spent much of his time poring over the various newspaper sections and magazines that he would later sell, in an effort to further educate himself. Now twenty-four years of age, Anath was still plugging the gaps that had been left unfilled by his inadequate schooling in the Kampung.

In today’s business section of The Jakarta Post, he read an article about the capital markets that had begun sprouting up in some of the country’s major cities. And whilst he understood their mechanisms, Anath was struggling to comprehend their absolute lack of philanthropic intent. To him, it was inconceivable that so much energy, organisation and, ultimately, currency could be invested in an activity that achieved nothing more than the material enrichment of but a few, most of who were scarcely in need of extending the staggering fortunes they had already amassed. To Anath, the capital markets appeared to do nothing for the country, or even humanity taken as a whole – indifferent as they were to progress or innovation, and opposing charity in any form.

Reading on, he came across another business story, this time concerning a deliberate curtailment in the distribution of a potentially life-saving drug, the supply of which was being restricted temporarily to cause increased demand and, perversely, an improvement in the financial forecast – and share price – of an already massively traded local pharmaceuticals stock. Despite his limited knowledge of such matters, it seemed to his innocent mind that far from oiling the cogs of the economy, the impact of the markets was often to choke the natural progress that might otherwise be made. Notwithstanding his irritation, however, and whilst he would never be able to concur with the manipulative ways of the city, Anath was at least gaining a far greater insight into the habits and aspirations of modern trading than he would ever have glimpsed had he remained confined within the horizons of his rural past. He was, then, comforted by the knowledge that this exposure was of certain value to his development: that he was continuing to learn, even though his own market sentiment could be classified as negative. But to where, he pondered, in final reflection of what the Post termed ‘business’, had the spiritual content of life fled? Was that particular God now resting, to return when some ancient cycle permitted? Or had this benign aspect of humanity been lost forever, killed by the twin Gods of commerce and greed?

Exasperated, Anath turned to the section devoted to national news, which today focused on the endemic corruption plaguing his country’s government. It sickened him that those who gained office through pledges of a better education for the children of the masses, a fairer distribution of the country’s rich oil and mineral wealth and accelerated national economic development were brazenly lining their own pockets with illicit gains, earned through the abuse of privilege. These supposed ‘pillars of society’ appeared to feel no sense of shame when laundering their black money through the purchase of yet more luxury homes and cars while – adding insult to injury – they sent their children abroad to study. Meanwhile, the vast majority of the population was finding it harder each day to scrape enough Rupiah to just eke out a menial existence. How can our people improve themselves when they are living a day at a time, on a hand-to-mouth basis? he asked himself, testily. For Anath was incensed that corruption seemed an accepted national joke no one was prepared seriously to challenge. He hoped desperately that he would someday be given the opportunity to play a role in changing this unacceptable state of affairs. Seeking to conquer his frustration, the young man’s thoughts now turned to his mother – a gentle guide who would always find a way to soothe his discontent at moments such as this, during their days together back in the Kampung. Anaaath, her purring pitch would softly rise, and a few well-chosen words of wisdom would then leave him smiling and relaxed.

A devoted son, Anath had written to her unceasingly since his arrival in Jakarta, noting down at night the events of each day and mailing off a week’s worth of anecdotes every Monday. He had also managed to send a regular supply of money: something he knew she would rather refuse. But having trained himself to get by on very little – living as he did in cheap lodgings, and completely without vice – his meagre earnings were sufficient to support this noble deed. Anath also hoped that, as well as contributing to her daily needs, some of the money he sent his mother could be saved. For whilst at present unsure of his future direction, this resolute young man was nonetheless convinced that his lot as a simple purveyor of news was not the end of a particular road, but the beginning of what would prove a fantastic journey. This was a test of patience that had been ordained by some higher authority, he believed. One that he was required to pass, before being given the chance to move on. And when a better opportunity did eventually arise, he was determined to avoid the need to resort to the world of modern commerce he so loathed, and not be forced to borrow any seed capital required from the sharks that ruled its murky waters.

posted by Kirk at 11:31 pm  

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