BALI CULTURE INFORMATION

 

 
 
The Island Of Bali, Indonesia

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THE MISSIONARIES

The Balinese deserve a better fate; they are too proud and intelligent to be treated with the prevalent arrogance and patronizing attitude of colonizers who regard the native as a shiftless and treacherous inferior whose contact pollutes the " superior " whites and who regard those who show deference to the native as a menace to -1ie prestige - greatly menaced nowadays - of the often bigoted and insolent whites in the colonies.

The Dutch have been often called the best colonizers in the world, and whatever the verdict may be on the principle of organization, it is lucky for Bali that of the imperialists it is holland that rules there. The Netherlands Government boasts of a motto of " Rule with love and wisdom " and a policy of non-interference with the native life.

There is no doubt that these principles have been followed in Bali whenever their application did not interfere with colonial interests, and the native has arrived definite benefits from Dutch rule: land may not be sold or exploitation by strangers, the autocratic powers of the princes have been considerably curtailed, the Balinese have retained ; heir laws and their courts, and the troublesome missionaries were supposedly barred from the island.

Up to now the Dutch have shown a more humanitarian treatment of the people than most imperialistic colonizers and in many cases have sided with the people against the princes despite the fact that the old system of government of the Radjas was preserved. No more can the despotic princes enslave or exploit their helpless subjects, or as in old times kill or punish savagely someone for such offences as disrespect or disobedience.

Only two of the former Radjas, those of Gianyar and Karangasem, because of " loyalty " to the Government, retain their feudal rights - in a considerably limited wav, however - while the others are rulers only in name. The Dutch have also stopped the bloody wars between petty chieftains, and widows no longer kill themselves at the pyre of their noble masters. Taxation still burdens the habitually penniless peasants, although now at least they receive certain returns for their money in the form of protection, health services, roads, and so forth.

Dr. Korn (Adatrecht van Bali) has already pointed out that the problem confronting the Dutch in regard to Bali is the gradual incorporation of the Balinese into modern life from mediaeval isolation through a better understanding of their institutions. Fifty years ago, when Liefrink took charge of the administration of North Bali, he understood that it was best to leave things more or less as they were. But in South Bali the change came more suddenly; the ruling houses collapsed overnight and the Dutch had to reorganize the government of their new conquest hastily and without a thorough knowledge of the island's laws and customs.

In late years the Government of the Netherlands has commissioned scholars like Doctors Korn, Goris, and Stutterheim to make studies for a better understanding of the law, the religion, and the history of Bali. Perhaps through these studies those in charge of the colonial policy of the Netherlands will realize, in the first place, that the Balinese have a great culture that cannot be saved by the admiration of the outside world, but only by commanding the respect and appreciation of the Balinese themselves; that the native arts need no encouragement, simply because they are still vividly alive, but that they do need official recognition in the educational program of the schools that are now turning out hybrid Balinese with contempt for whatever does not come from the outside world.

Second, that the Balinese are agriculturists living in small communities in which clerks and middlemen have no place. Third, that their social organization not only is the best suited, but is essential to their manner of living. And last but not least, that their whole life, society, arts, ethics - in short, their entire culture - cannot, without disrupting the entire system, be separated from the set of rules which are called the Balinese religion. If this principle is disturbed, the foundation will be knocked from under the structure upon which the culture, the law and order of the Balinese are based, and social and economic chaos will eventually descend upon the happy and peaceful island of Bali.

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