Sun, 03 Sep 2000

Do we need magic to solve the crisis?

JAKARTA (JP): A "provocative" photo is making the rounds of the Internet. The picture shows the country's number one man, Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, wearing a casual shirt and shorts, sitting relaxedly. At his side is a young woman, clad in a sleeveless dress, who is smiling broadly as she drapes an arm around his neck.

The picture has spread along with the rumor of an extramarital affair between the President and the woman, Aryanti Sitepu.

Is the photo real? If not, how did the President and the woman come to be caught on film in what some take to be a compromising position?

If you are technology savvy, you know it's easy to create your own photos, splicing this one here, and cropping that one there. Want to pose with Bill Clinton, or Madonna, or the two of them together, in the buff and in whatever position you wish? The wonders of technology make it all possible.

There are other wonders, not of this world, which some claim are even more remarkable. Want to make your dream girl or dream boy, the one who will not give you the time of day, fall head over heels in love with you? A computer and a scanner will not be suffice. You need a love spell.

Or else you have experienced that love, but then aforesaid loved one -- spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend or favorite pet -- has abandoned you, and you want to get a little revenge. All you need to do is call on a soothsayer who offers black magic services (and some of them now have classified advertisements).

"Many prostitutes use guna-guna (love spells) to attract clients," a friend who likes to hang out in a five-star hotel bar vouched.

What he said might be true. I know an "escort woman" who regularly visited a paranormal in the Banten area to help her with her business. Unlike Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, she was not good looking and she liked to talk dirty although she was friendly. I heard that she was married to a rich Englishman.

My rich uncle has a tumor in his head. He regularly visits a surgeon in the United States but he also uses a spiritual healer in Tangerang. Needless to say, my uncle is no call boy or gigolo, but a respected general practitioner.

In fact, those who like to visit paranormals, psychics, faith healers, soothsayers or whatever you call them include well- educated people and high-ranking figures in the government and military.

Some have such deep faith in supernatural powers that they would carry out their trusted paranormals' instructions to the letter.

A few years ago, when Soeharto was still in power, an ancient temple in Central Java was reportedly destroyed by a group of believers in Javanese mysticism, including some then Cabinet ministers. Sources at the Directorate of Culture said the followers claimed they had to build their own headquarters on the site, as guided by divine revelations.

Perhaps the story is inaccurate, but there is no denying that there are happenings which do not fit any rational explanations.

Maybe Djoko S. Tjandra has special powers. That is what some people think after judges exonerated Djoko, the chief defendant in the Rp 546 billion (US$64.2 million) Bank Bali scandal.

It makes sense, right? After all, how to explain all the many corrupt, unscrupulous people who have left the country in a mess but still have the "power" to render the Attorney General's Office impotent to touch them. If only you could harness their special power and bottle it, you would make a fortune!

Yet we should not dare to speculate that Prijadi Praptosuhardjo, who did not pass the Bank Indonesia fit and proper test, used his own "love spell" to make Gus Dur like him and appoint him a minister. Or that Rizal Ramli, newly appointed coordinating minister for the economy, did the same thing, even though the rupiah tumbled after the announcement of the Cabinet less than two weeks ago.

You never know when a spell could come in handy. The government and the new Cabinet still have to work hard to find the solutions to the prolonged political and economic crises, which show no indication of ending soon. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other international organizations have shown their concern about the situation and they have also pledged to lend a hand, even though we all continue to come up empty-handed.

Maybe the government officials also need to consult those paranormals to strengthen their bargaining power or diplomatic wiles so that they are not dictated to by the IMF. Perhaps they need love spells to steal the hearts of those IMF officials, who would then lovingly write off the country's billions and billions of dollars in debt.

By the way, Aryanti may also use a love spell. Maybe she would be kind enough to lend it to the ministers before their next meeting with the IMF.

-- T. Sima Gunawan