BALI CULTURE INFORMATION

 

 
 
The Island Of Bali, Indonesia

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THE MISSIONARIES

In 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 love.

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.

The 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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