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Conversation with a Balinese driver
On Covid, vaccines, and the Indonesian government
I met an intelligent and articulate young man on one of my longer drives when I was in Bali just recently. We talked about many things, but mainly Covid vaccines, and the Indonesian government mandates. He expressed concern about discussing these things for fear of being reported, so I will be careful not to reveal any identifying information. I will call him K.
K has not had Covid yet. He is double-dosed because it was a government requirement for working.
He doesn’t think the vaccines probably do anything much, but he got it so that he could work. The way he said it, ‘it’s like 50/50’ whether it helps with anything. K knows the vaccines don’t stop you from getting Covid but he thought in some cases it can help lessen the illness. He said that he doesn’t pay much attention. He seemed to think Covid is a non event. He said it’s on the news all the time, but he didn’t have much experience of it in his own community. Either people had it, but it was just a regular type of virus and testing is lax and so no one noticed, or people hadn’t got it yet. He doesn’t know anyone who died from Covid.
On government and media comms about vaccines, he said they are, “mixing truth with lies”.
K told me that several people in his community have died from the vaccine. I asked how he knows that it was the vaccine that killed them. Was there an autopsy? He said well, they were injected, then they got very sick and died within 2 weeks. He said that they all died of different symptoms, but the trajectory was the same. Injection, very ill, death.
I asked how he knows about these vaccine deaths. Were they reported on the news? K said no, the deaths were not reported on the news, but Balinese communities are tight-knit, and when something like this happens to someone, everyone in the community knows about it. He did say that early on in the vaccine rollout, there were some vaccine deaths reported on the news, but not so much now.
I asked, well if people are dying from it, maybe some people don’t want to take it. What happens if you don’t take the vaccine? K said, “that is not possible.” Why not? First, he said because you cannot work without it. I said, what if you find a way to live without working? K said no, then the government will send people to your house to inject you. I asked if this happened to people he knows? K said yes. Ok, but what if you still just say no to the people when they come to your house? K said then you go to jail, so it is simply not possible to say no. I asked if K knew anyone who had been taken to jail. He said no, because everyone is too scared and so they capitulate in the end. We discussed this a bit more and arrived at the idea that jail is a threat moreso than an actuality, but as people are too afraid to test the threat, it is highly effective.
K said that that he was nervous to discuss vaccines with me. He worried that someone might report him. Someone in your community? No, the foreigners, he said. I promised not to report him.
I asked how he felt towards the government for making people take the vaccines in order to go to work. He said it is normal in Indonesia, that most people don’t think, they just do as they are told. He said that people don’t really trust the government, but they just don’t think about it. He said that there wasn’t choice between different vaccines – they had to take whichever one was being offered in their local area.
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I was curious to see if K’s views were typical of Balinese sentiment, or were just his own.
Here are a couple of other conversations that were had in different regions, with a salon worker and a hospitality worker.
T, a salon worker
T has had 3 doses because she needed to work and to go back to Timor to see her family. She cannot do either without being vaccinated against Covid. T was very scared of getting the vaccine at first. She said she felt very bad. I patted my tummy – like a bad gut feeling? Yes, yes. She said she felt like it was an experiment, like after 4 or 5 or 6 doses maybe, “we will turn into chickens.” T didn’t get vaccinated at first, but when members of the local government came to her house to check on her vaccination status, she was spooked and made her appointment. I asked, what would have happened if you didn’t get it? Would you go to jail? T shook her head, not jail, but you cannot work or travel to your family. T seemed to be very bothered by the government workers visiting her house. That was enough for her to roll up her sleeve and get on with it.
When I questioned further about penalties for not getting vaccinated, T said that if you don’t get the vaccine, you are not eligible for government assistance. She said that during the lockdown periods, many people were unable to work and so had no money and very little food. The government issued food subsidies such as packets of rice and eggs, but only to people who had received the required doses of vaccination. So, with the combination of lockdowns and vaccination mandates, the penalty for not receiving the vaccine could be starvation if you were too poor to buy your own food.
B, hopsitality worker
Noticing that B’s colleague was wearing a mask, I asked if she was trying to avoid Covid? B gave me a wide grin. No, he said, she is cleaning the kitchen with chemicals – the mask is to protect against chemicals. I laughed, oh ok. Have you had Covid yet? He snickered, “I don’t believe that.” Don’t believe what, that Covid is real? “It’s not real, all made up, if you’re sick you’re sick.” He laughed again and I was on my way.
Regarding K’s comments on vaccine deaths, perhaps there is wisdom in the simplicity of interpretation. If a number of healthy people get injected, then immediately get very ill and die shortly after, chances are that whatever they were injected with is the problem. In Australia, medical professionals seem hell-bent on finding any other number of unlikely reasons. Many of the people I interview for Jab Injuries Australia whose symptoms started from 5 minutes to several days after the injection get hustled off to all manner of specialists to look for mystery reasons that could have caused their illness. Health professionals are generally reported as being highly reticent to attribute any post-vaccination illness or deaths to the vaccine.
This has filtered down to public consciousness too. The husband of my friend became partially blind in one eye after his first Pfizer. On alerting the doctor to his sudden blindness, the doctor confirmed that this is not uncommon in coeliacs receiving the Pfizer, and that his partial blindess was an unpleasant side effect. In fact, the doctor said, he has observed this happen on numerous occasions, and the attendant nurse confirmed this. (This man is still partially blind 8 months on, by the way. Also, note that informed consent was not given. No one thought to ask if he was a coeliac before injecting him with the Pfizer vaccine.) On telling a friend about the situation, she countered, “but maybe he had an underlying condition, you don’t know it was the vaccine.” Pause and think about the absurdity of that statement. Multiple coeliacs would all have to have the same underlying condition that had previously never presented. These unusually similar coeliacs would then suddenly experience presentation of their underlying illness with same kind of blindness, immediately after being injected with the Pfizer, but the Pfizer had nothing to do with it, the timing was just sheer coincidence. The doctor and nurse’s professional opinion that the Pfizer injection caused these coeliac patients to become partially blinded would have to be an incorrect assessment of what is perhaps the most stunning coincidence in their career.
K’s explanation seems more logical (occam’s razor).
The disparity between K’s and T’s perception of penalties for not taking the vaccine may be due to differences in local government. They are from different areas. It seems that in K’s area, local government officials threatened jail for vaccine refusal, while in T’s area, the threat was harassment, and being cut off from government assistance.
If you’re unvaxxed and hoping to travel to Bali as I did, you may find the below guide useful to prepare for a fuss-free entry to Indonesia:
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