Bali and Singapore

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Flag of Indonesia  , Bali,
Thursday, January 17, 2013

Bali to Singapore:
Singapore is so 21st century if not 22nd Century. It has the biggest, tallest, largest, most numerous, newest, concentration of modern structural materialism imaginable, if fact it is unimaginable until you get here and see for yourself, its really real. The apartment blocks row on row, the malls that go on forever in many layers, the office building of striking design, an indoor air conditioned madena (a market in north Africa also called the casabah)  for 650 stalls, Orchard street is the miracle mile upon mile, expensive hotels and malls and more hotels and malls.  
Singapore grew up on this swampy island all at once in the last half of the 20th Century for the Chinese who did not want to be in Malaysia. It had been ruled by the British and became independent only in the 1960's.   It clearly is run by competent technocrats. The way of attacking traffic jams is to build a first class road system, an efficient metro SMRT, lots of buses, time related road fees ( a plan then used by the city of London), but because it is not democratic, the government can charge 100% duties on cars, limit the number of 10 year permits to own a car, (prices are bid on the market and average 10,000 SD) and it works. Cigarettes are over 10SD, because they is no popular political opposition, limited press freedom, government control of TV (they can't control satellites) but the foreign media doesn’t cover local issues. Most of the population does not know English to read the Straits Times which is mostly business and careful. Its a club and membership is required. AND I HAVE SEEN THE FUTURE AND IT WORKS..Upton Sinclair said about the Soviet Union in the 1930's. Everything is up to date in Kansas City..
Everything a real city planner could wish for and was starting in a fairly empty space the city state went  from almost nothing to 8 million in the last part of the 20th century and this part of the 21st it has a building boom, construction private and public drawing in a million guest workers. Now they are going to build a high speed train to Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur   The state and big thinking developers are married. 
Now Bali is a mess. Too many cars, too little road equals constant traffic jams with flocks of motor bikes moving in and out in what appears a very dangerous manner.  It is better on the north and east coast, far away from Kuta.  Places can look beautiful with layers of  rice fields inside a tropic forest and no mess. While Singapore has thousands of neat stalls many offering food, Bali has messy road side Comados ? ( The Puerto Rican little store, bar, cook out, etc.) Like in central America, not regulated and a blot on the roads.
Singaporeans are clearly industrious people, Balinese are not – they are extraordinary patient  in their traffic jams, there is no pushing or shoving, they are soft spoken, friendly, helpful if they can, and mostly honest. Now Singapore is no way as pushy as New York Paris or Rome and traffic is orderly. But in comparison with Bali they are in a hurry – not quite as rapid moving as I saw in China or Londoners who move faster that Spaniards - its an interesting measurement. 
What I observe in this are shadows on the future of technology and technocrats and big developments that have a sterility, being not very human in scale and reflecting a race to earn and spend – the global brands are much in presence here – you know who they are – Gucci, Prada, south beach, the grove,  Beverly hills, Michigan Avenue or Fifth avenue in spades etc. I don't know but everyone else does. And cell phones or personal devices are everywhere.          
Florida has its share of road side tick tack and Daytona Beach shows no signs of intelligent planning.  So I show my prejudice for Spanish small towns, rural Italy and France, quiet more human and quaint .. built like Sienna carefully over centuries and I  look upon a future of more Singapore like alien creatures with concerns – issues raised by Louis Mumford 50 years ago with the answer being green-way, new planned communities as functional towns, as in Finland, Sweden, new towns out of London, but there is not enough space in Singapore.
It's OK to be rich, much better than poor, its good to be efficient, its better to have things work than have lots of breakdowns -  BUT give me a break – can't cities be collections of neighborhoods like in London, most of New York – Chicago: Singapore has Chinatown and little India as tourist sites, neighborhoods are blocks with numbers such as building 28 of huge apartments houses like Soviet developments. Two thirds are state supported public housing which is then sold to the residences at near market prices, the state must make a killing. They look the same as private developments and are as well built. Socialism run rabid in a very capitalist state – like in China itself -   Maybe there is something in the culture of China that produces this synergy of shared benefits between capitalist and socialist planning. Surely this is massive State Capitalism without massive secret police. 
While Indonesia has state capitalism, military industrialism, it has not effected Bali except consumer goods (cars and motor bikes) and a few shopping centers in Kuta which is a Benedorm type  tourist city – not native. 
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