the meantime, while the controversy rages on, the shrewd
missionaries are steadily gaining ground. At present a Catholic
priest and a Protestant missionary are stationed in Den
Pasar, and another missionary, a Catholic, is stationed
in Buleleng, all three undoubtedlv discreet but tireless
in their efforts to " save " the Balinese.
But Bali is certainly not the place where missionaries could
improve in any wav the moral and physical standards of the
people and it is hard to believe, knowing the Balinese character,
that they will succeed. Religion is to the Balinese more
than spectacular ceremonics with music, dancing, and a touch
of drama for virility; it is their law, the force that holds
the community together. It is the greatest stimulus of their
lives because it has given them their ethics, culture, wisdom,
and joy of living by providing the exuberant festivity they
More than a religion, it is a moral philosophy of high spiritual
value, gay and free of fanaticism, which explains to them
the mysterious forces of nature. It is difficult to imagine
that it will ever be supplanted by a bleak escapist faith
devoid of beautiful and dramatic ritual.
The little island of Bali, now famous for the beauty of
its people, its intense religious life, and its colourful
arts, music, and theatre, is still one of those amazing
nations that we shall never know again, one of the so-called
primitive countries. It is obvious that the Balinese are
by no means a primitive people, although we use the term
to differentiate our own material civilization from the
native cultures in which the daily life, socicty, arts,
and religion form a united whole that cannot be separated
into its component parts without disrupting it; the cultures
where spiritual values dictate the mode of living.
Perhaps of even greater importance than the fascinating
artistic development, and, in all probability, the factor
that motivated the artistic impulse of the population, is
the unique manner in which they have solved their social
and economic problems. Bali presents the amazing spectacle
of a compact nation of over one million hard-working, cultured
people living in a deeply rooted, well-co-ordinated form
of agrarian socialism, that has, perhaps because of its
elemental directness, until recently, minimized the social
and economic evils that today afflict the less fortunate
rest of the world. The primitive Balinese socialism flourished
parallel to medixyal feudalism despite five centuries of
domination by an aristocracy that with all its ruthlessness
could not break down the inherent unity and co-operativism
of the Balinese communities.
nobility met with insurmountable passive resistance to any
encroachments upon the autonomy of the villages and had
finally to content themselves with the collection of tribute
from their " vassals." The common people tolerated
the princes, but even today they consider them as total
outsiders and in most social and administrative matters
the villages renlain entrenched against all interference
from the noble landlords, now appointed as go-betweens between
the people and the Dutch Government, mainly to the same
office to which the threat of boycott reduced them in the
past - the collection of taxes.
We have seen that the Balinese are fanatics about organization.
From childhood to old age a Balinese joins all sorts of
societies, from the clubs of " virgin " boys and
girls, of actors, musicians, and even squirrel-chasers,
to the great agricultural, fishing, village, and ward associations
that control the internal government of the communities.
Every one of their activities is managed, not individually,
but communally, with every active member having a vote and
a voice in every enterprise.
Naturally, individualism did not develop in the strict communalistie
society; individual names are hardly ever used and they
call one another " brother," " father,"
" teacher," or " grandfather." All art
is anonymous and only recently have painters begun to sign
their works, owing entirely to the influence of Europeans.
This, however, did not kill individuality of expression;
it is easy to detect the authorship of a certain ~painting
or a sculpture if one is familiar with the author's work,
every notable actor or dancer has his own unmistakable way
of performing standard dances or improvising lines for a
play, ~and no two orchestras play alike.
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