Possibly the saddest and strangest story I have read for some time, and don't ask how I came by it. The gist of it is this, gleaned from several news articles: after a recent solar eclipse, a young fisherman from an isolated village in Indonesia found an angel or an angel child in the sea, and brought her home. His family cared for her, providing clothing and a new hijab every day, and even took her on outings. News of this find spread, until the local police investigated. They found that the angel was in fact a sex doll, and the took it away in order to avoid distress among the villagers. They don't have the internet, the police chief explained, they don't know what a sex doll is.
Sex dolls have been around much longer than the internet. The title of this post comes from Roxy Music's 1973 song 'In Every Dream Home a Heartache', a sinister and desperate love song to an inflatable doll: 'I blew up your body - but you blew my mind'.
So what were the villagers thinking? What did they see? The news articles all emphasize the simplicity of the villagers, who seemed to think the doll was an angel and who somehow overlooked her obvious orifices. Were they such ingenues?
Indonesian spiritual and religious ideas are layered and complex. Local animism became overlaid with Hindu/Buddhist and then Muslim beliefs. These villagers seemed to be at least nominally Muslim. but they may have had local spiritual expressions as well. Religion is often syncretic, and as I have said before, the gods of the old religion become the demons of the new, or they become diminished. Perhaps there was a myth, of the arrival of a silent beautiful woman by sea? There are other myths in sea going cultures about mermaids or kelpies who marry fishermen. Did they mean an angel in the Christian or Muslim sense, or were they thinking more along the lines of our fairies or nature spirits? An eclipse is often a time where the veil between the worlds is thin, and if the villagers saw it as a time of portents they would not be alone.
The story interests me because it illustrates an imperial hangover that is almost quaint. Our news sources portray Indonesian villagers as savages, living somehow untouched by the internet or the modern sex industry. They are almost completely othered. We reduce them. We can't relate to them at all. We think of the digital age as complete, global, and homogeneous where it counts. Anywhere it doesn't touch must be truly bizarre indeed.
I have no idea why the villagers took in the sex doll and cared for it. Any attempt to work it out would doom me to the usual reductionist fantasy of savages and simplicity. I do think there is a basic drive to anthropomorphism, and I want to call the doll 'her'. I also feel obscurely moved by the fact they they treated her well, as if I ascribe feelings to her. Perhaps she was a sort of Velveteen Rabbit - made real eventually by kindness.