Radiohead and tire repairs

Wealth after all is a relative thing since he that has little and wants less is richer than he that has much and wants more.

~ Jean Cocteau

Many people in Indonesia are pretty much used to getting music and DVDs for almost nothing, so I was interested to see that
Radiohead have told their record label to get lost by making their new album only available via the band’s website – with fans paying whatever they like to download the 10 tracks.

How very ethical of Radiohead you might think, but it’s actually a rip off.

Cos while most fans are apparently choosing to pay around US$10 on average to download the tracks, that’s way more than Radiohead would have got in royalties from a CD sale (the CD may sell for US$20 but the record company, distributor and retailer all have to take their share). Radiohead proving to be even better capitalists than the ones they like to denounce. Or perhaps they are aspiring economists?

Not that there are times when you should choose to pay more than you have to.

Like I always do when my motorbike gets a flat tyre. Now in most places this is a real pain in the butt. But not in Jakarta. Cos wherever you are in this huge metropolis, you are never that far from a place where a guy has the necessary equipment to fix your puncture and get your wheels rolling again.

Tambal ban Jakarta

Now these tire repair guys are dirt poor of course (many sleep in tiny shacks by the road) and about as low on the social ladder as you can get. So it’s the decent thing to pay more than you have to I reckon. And strangely enough most of them are pretty honest as well - I’m well aware that the “street price” to get a motorcycle tire puncture fixed is only Rp6,000 but they don’t know I know that and could easily ask for more if they wanted to. But they don’t.

So imagine my surprise on Tuesday when some new Merc pulls up and after having his tires inflated the guy inside – obviously not “the driver” judging by the way he’s smartly dressed but the owner - hands over a 5,000 rupiah note (about 50 cents) and asks for change!!!

What a tight-wad! I truly find it beyond belief that these sorts of people drive around in one billion rupiah plus cars and are too mean to let some poor guy eking out a meager living in the streets have a few thousand extra rupiah.

And this is pretty typical. Now I’m not saying that all rich people are mean - prejudice against rich people is just as bad as prejudice against the poor - but a lot of them here in Indonesia obviously couldn’t care less about their less fortunate countryfolk.

And at the extreme end of the scale, there are people like Sukanto Tanoto, who despite having a fortune of US$1.3 billion, has understated his business group’s taxes by at least 1 trillion rupiah:

Indonesian plantation firms that are part of the Raja Garuda Mas International (RGM) group have understated their 2002-2005 profits and owe at least 1 trillion rupiah ($109 million) in taxes, a senior tax official said. The dispute involves 14 firms in Asian Agri, part of businessman Sukanto Tanoto’s RGM International, said Mochamad Tjiptardjo, head of the finance ministry’s tax directorate for investigations. Indonesia’s Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, who has led a reform of the country’s notoriously corrupt tax and customs departments, described the Asian Agri investigation as a “landmark case”. Globe Asia magazine ranked Tanoto as Indonesia’s sixth-richest man in 2007, with an estimated fortune of $1.3 billion. reuters

Now US$1.3 billion is a hell of a lot of tire repairs.

And as for the new Radiohead album? It’s a trip up to Glodok for me on Saturday…. Hahaha!


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