The Bali Two, and profiting from human misery

21 Feb




In his piece on Thursday in The Drum, Jonathan Green asks what of the victims of heroin traffickers Chan and Sukumaran, had the two succeeded in smuggling their product into Australia?

Green points out that the traffickers made a “Faustian” pact, the reality of the death of others against their own enrichment: the most brutal and callous entrepreneurship imaginable.

There’s no contesting that fact. Yet if we’re going to discuss profiting from the misery of others, more than half the human species will be found guilty of that Faustian pact. If these millions (billions?) of guilty face the fate of Chan and Sukumaran, the planet will be drenched in blood, a good deal of it the exsanguination of people in high places.

While it’s de rigueur to focus attention on the drug trade as the cause of suffering and death from which others make enormous financial profit, the list of such businesses is long, many of them are legal and many of them are state sanctioned, from the war machines of the Western world, to the liquor outlet that sells more alcohol to the already drunk who then get in a car and kill innocent bystanders.

And this is only thinking in terms of profiting from death. What about the myriad other forms of misery inflicted on one human by another for profit that results not in death, but in a tormented life? Then think about what we do to other species in the unrelenting search for profit, and the prestige, comfort and power profit brings.

That Chan and Sukumaran should be singled out from all the rest for execution makes little sense.

It is one of the awful realities of victimisation that justice is rarely commensurate with the crime.

Chan and Sukumaran chose to deal drugs, knowing that fatalities would result. Users choose to buy and use them, knowing the risk they take with their lives and the lives of those who love and care for them. These ghastly transactions take place in a society that is wilfully blind to its own stupidities in the matter of illegal drugs, such as how that illegality is determined and on what prejudices it is based, and the resulting  failure of that society to combat both the trade, and its devastating effects on so many lives.

In other words it is a systemic failure, and the system as it currently functions enables a marketplace for the plying of the deadly business.

I have no truck with celebrities unconvincingly claiming “I stand for mercy” in the matter of Chan and Sukumaran. Not because I want those two young men to die such ghastly deaths. I don’t. But as Green points out, where are the celebrities when thousands are put to death in the US, China, Saudi Arabia, and where are the celebrities when foreign nationals are tied to posts for execution in Indonesia?

And where are the celebrities when yet another user dies a solitary death because a government refuses safe injecting rooms, and needle exchanges, and  leaves its young to die alone in filthy gutters?







26 Responses to “The Bali Two, and profiting from human misery”

  1. Geoff Andrews February 21, 2015 at 9:17 am #

    If 20,000 people die from tobacco related diseases in Australia each year, there must be at least 250,000 die each year in Indonesia. Executives of tobacco companies in both Australia and Indonesia fit the same criteria being applied to the dead men walking: they did it for profit and they know that their highly addictive drugs caused death to a proportion of their willing consumers.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. paul walter February 21, 2015 at 9:45 am #

    The story is complicated by the fact that the Australian authorities could have busted them on their return to Australia with the smack.The drugs were intended for Aussie consumption rather than anywhere in Indonesia.

    As to the Bali Nine, I think youthful naivety was their downfall. They’ve, really, deserved the strife they are in, but just the same you could hope for some milk of human kindness to temper the justice, in the end.

    I also beleive the system is stuffed and Geoff Andrews comment illustrates it well.

    Finally what gives with Abbott’s morose interference in Bishops attempts to mediate for the two?
    He never “gets it”, as to trying to thug the Indonesians, or any one else.

    What a mangy bastard he is.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jennifer Wilson February 21, 2015 at 9:57 am #

      Now we learn this morning he wanted to unilaterally invade Iraq with 3500 ground troops. Ah well. Abbott’s midlife crisis Churchillian fantasies. More like Biggles, really.

      Liked by 1 person

      • paul walter February 21, 2015 at 10:56 am #

        So, the thing is, busting him out this treacherous mindset, this carapace within which he exists. It puts the nation at risk and can do him or people close to him little good either.

        Just thinking, if male menopause is a prerequisite for being PM, I
        could have been there and who knows, done no worse a job than him?


        • Florence nee Fedup February 21, 2015 at 1:11 pm #

          Abbott denying story, but know one seems to be listening to him. Why would one believe him?

          Liked by 1 person

          • Jennifer Wilson February 21, 2015 at 1:36 pm #

            I’m amazed that it’s The Australian who’ve outed him on this. He really is making enemies in high places. They’ve turned on him!


    • hudsongodfrey February 21, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

      We’re being expected to believe that when we defer to the Indonesian legal system that’s justice for the exclusively Australian potential victims of the crimes these men attempted to commit.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. thevenerable1 February 21, 2015 at 1:08 pm #

    I’m a bit confused by your post today, feeling as if I haven’t quite grasped what point is being made. Forgive me: this whole disgusting business makes me sick. The two-facedness of the Indonesian govt is nothing more than outrageous …

    Liked by 1 person

    • paul walter February 21, 2015 at 1:19 pm #

      They are no worse than our lot.


      • thevenerable1 February 21, 2015 at 1:26 pm #

        Oh, I agree. It’s just that the issue here is lives.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson February 21, 2015 at 1:39 pm #

          It always is. I’m completely opposed to them being slaughtered by the Indonesian state. There are far more others I would sooner see in front of a firing squad.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Jennifer Wilson February 21, 2015 at 1:37 pm #

        They are no worse than Haliburton, John Howard, Tony Blair, and all the rest who profit from human misery.


    • Jennifer Wilson February 21, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

      We have our own two-facedness: Drug trafficking is only one of the business ventures that trades on human misery & has blood on its hands. Yet it’s the one we go to first as an example.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. hudsongodfrey February 21, 2015 at 1:42 pm #

    There’s no real moral equivalence between state sanctioned murder and the indirect consequences of heroin importation no matter how confident one feels in drawing a line between the smuggling and drug related fatalities.

    If you do draw such a line against drug importation then of course a case CAN be made for something approximating conspiracy to manslaughter. So it is that the appeal Australia makes to Indonesia is not asking for a full pardon but for their executions to be stayed in favour of a long prison term.

    I make no quibble whatsoever over the equivalence between intent and realisation of consequences to others had they succeeded. I do think it is a gaol-able crime! I disagree with the harshness of the sentence as I do with the death penalty in all cases because I draw another kind of equivalence; that between us and them when we sanction the state stooping to the criminals’ level.

    The moral turpitude of a State apparatus that thinks two wrongs make a right, and kills or tortures to project a credible threat is beyond reprehensible. Made more so by the fact that in this case it clearly appeals to political populism at the expense of not just these two, but sixty or more others in similar situations.

    How many deaths do their have to be before someone realises in Gandhi’s words, “an eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blind.”

    The State as a supposed moral actor is mandated to heed such appeals in a way that stands opposed to the kinds of immoral positions criminals take. To be moral we have to be better, not just equal and opposite.

    As for the whether we identify too much with these men as victims, yes there are some such phenomena well documented in compassion fatigue, whereby the perceived engagement with those we find relatable seems greater. But isn’t it also pertinent if there’s seen to be something we can effect that we would intervene to change their circumstances? Do Australians also share culpability with the AFP for delivering these nine would be smugglers into custody of a legal system where their lives may be forfeit? Are Indonesia’s penalties are in line with this community’s stance against drug importation? If there is to be some equivalence then I think we must answer those questions.

    Let’s be clear that this importation would ultimately have impacted upon Australian drug users. Not that using drugs is by any means without some component of choice on the users’ part. But when we’re critical of a perceived double standard for our criminals as compared with those from other nations subject to the same horrendous Indonesian sentencing laws we should be looking to the consequences in thinking about who justice serves and whether those naysayers to Australia’s opposition are similarly exercising a double standard that allows them a loophole to indulge their bloodlust upon the condemned, thus dehumanised, “other”.

    There’s also an equally repugnant and insidious psychological game afoot whereby the positive reporting of these men?s rehabilitation makes them more relatable and therefore the threat of capital punishment ultimately more present as a deterrent. Those of us increasingly repulsed by the way this story is being manipulated probably also feel somewhat inclined to reject and deflect that brutalising mindset by denying the haters their victims.

    So sure I cringe a bit at celebrity activism, pondering as we might that it isn’t slightly less authentic given its source, but for so many other reasons I hope it works. I hope in effect that we can show ourselves to be evolved enough to prevail against state sanctioned homicide! The means does not justify the end, but nor can I see how it would taint a positive outcome that merely commutes an execution by putting things in their proper perspective.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jennifer Wilson February 21, 2015 at 3:51 pm #

      Everything you said HG. How you unpack a situation!

      Of course there are Indonesian politics at play and this is likely the most significant factor.


  5. paul walter February 21, 2015 at 9:24 pm #

    On a second read, Jennifer Wilson is also absorbed with a latent issue, some thing HG also has in the back of his mind when he speaks of “compasson fatigue”: the ubiquitous phenomena of “othering”, something massaged by politicans and media here for what seem not be wholly pure motives.

    It’s been mentioned here and elsewhere, the curious role of “spectacle” in maintaining or reproducing an imperialist zeitgeist. I think Herbert Marcuse identified it as part of what he described as the apparatus of repressive tolerance (as against naked violence) as mode of ordering within late capitalism and example-making in our era.

    It goes with the Roman Games, the example most often cited as to hoe spectacle works.
    This scenario has the authorities demonstrating their bonafides to the plebs and fidelity to the Narrative in inflicting crude dispatchings of barbarian “others” , some times resistors, identified as external threats to natural order. The very name barbarian is an insult, since barbarians are baa-baas, foolish, unpredictable and unmannered wild sheep from the boondoggles on the margins.

    There seems a tacit agreement betwen plebs and oligarchics in colluding to discover and punish outsiders to the benefit of those within and part of it seems to do with a non recognition of those patsied, so it seems a very ethnological thing.

    I can see now that some might identify a racist overflow to the Bali 2, who have exposed their ethnic otherness by being in the tropics and fooling with drugs, thus becoming less worthy subjects for sympathy than even say Schapelle Corby, although Corby was1/ an attractive young woman 2/ only tampering with a peripheral component of drug vice, cannabis (her neck was saved but only after she had to perform her role within the ongoing spectacle, weeping at court then confined in a scungy jail, all a sort of soap opera only equalled in duration by Blue Hills.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson February 22, 2015 at 12:35 pm #

      Spectacle. Yes. Our Prime Minister is entirely dedicated to it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • paul walter February 22, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

        Best personification yet, Gerard Henderson on Insiders, if you watched you’ll know what i mean.

        Morrison in brown shirt mode not far behind.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson February 22, 2015 at 12:47 pm #

          I did watch!! I thought he is so far past his used by date he’ll give us all botulism


          • paul walter February 22, 2015 at 6:16 pm #

            His stuff was irrational concerning food labeling and little better on a couple of other things that escape my mind.

            I think the other panelists were embarrassed for him.


    • doug quixote February 22, 2015 at 3:48 pm #

      If you can call organising and enforcing a heroin import/export scheme “fooling with drugs”.

      These two were the ringleaders, organising, this time, seven mules to carry the drugs, whilst they sat back and counted the money. Chan was the brains and the organiser; Sukumaran was at all times ready to “enforce” his and Chan’s will (ie kill anyone stepping out of line).

      Whilst I oppose the death penalty generally, these two are amongst the least deserving of our sympathy. I won’t cry any tears for them.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jennifer Wilson February 22, 2015 at 4:06 pm #

        I don’t feel sympathy for them, I feel a kind of horror that they will be put to death in such a way, as I do when people die of drug use in awful circumstances. I don’t want people to die in terrible circumstances that need not be.

        I would rather these two spent the rest of their lives incarcerated for their crimes.


  6. paul walter February 22, 2015 at 6:27 pm #

    They are amongst the most unlovely and foolish people to ever face a firing squad.

    But they were very young and had they been busted here, would they be out of jail yet?

    They have done ten years “can” and maybe should do more, although not for the rest of their lives. Enough, forces people to tamper with drugs and if dealers know what penalties to expect, surely people who experiment with heroin and more lately ice, know the risks also.

    Let them do another five or ten, then send them home.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson February 23, 2015 at 7:51 am #

      There’s also the assumption that everyone who does drugs is hopelessly addicted and has ruined their lives, but that isn’t true.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. paul walter February 23, 2015 at 10:40 am #

    The ways are myriad, Jennifer Wilson. If stuffing things up were a money making trait we’d own the multiverse.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: