Place of refuge


Dear All

In front of the restaurant a young man is posted at a box with the menu. Open box so that people can have a better look, hand over a leaflet and smile. In earlier days they called it a ‘stoupier’, not really an exiting job. I read his face – or maybe I make it all up myself – and see dejection. Is it because of the stupid job, a lack of perspectives? Or is it because of the boss who, without even looking at the boy, throws his motor-keys and points at his helmet as in ‘do something about it’. Is he thinking about how to get it all arranged; a motorbike that’s sort of okay, a modern phone to be part of the gang, some modern clothes… I don’t know, it’s in my mind, maybe he has just a bad day and is usually the happiest man in Bali. It’s possible.

What I do know it that also here in Bali, Bali often called the island of the gods, there is a lot of stress. To live with the knowledge that ghosts and demons can strike any minute, that an angry neighbour could use black magic on you, and lots, lots of things that have to be done to keep the gods satisfied… And so much to do to be part of it all; of the community and of the modern times. And the ceremonies become more, bigger and more expensive because a Balinese also wants to distinguish himself – the difference with (too) expensive designer clothes or whatever nonsense is not that big really. Gengsi, that means prestige, is not uncommon here either. Is there life without a motorbike and without a smartphone? But also; is there life without being part of the community? Ever more valuable working-time disappears with ceremonies and ever more is needed; not joining means not being part of it. The neighbours close by, not very nice people by the way, managed to skip some upacara’s (ceremonies), they are not really part of the community anymore.

Bali in a balancing act.

Ketut, the son of ibu Putu from the restaurant where I eat quite often, won a fishing contest. A lot of practicing beforehand of course but it was worth it. Seventeen million rupiah (US$ 1700.–) and a bicycle. The money he shared with his friends and his mother – mankind plays, the way it should be. But that’s getting more and more difficult, also in Bali. Too many obligations and less and less time to talk, to laze, to do nice things. Life’s getting harder and one looks for a place of refuge. Here that’s often in even more offerings, even more ceremonies. Being a shelter for each other, just like that, with no offerings and such, would be an option too of course.

A depression is the inability to work on a future. If that’s true, and I think it is, the world is in a deep depression. Thinking about and planning for the future is rare. An economic system that’s rotten to the core and the only thing we do for years now is put on a bandage now and then. And by the time it starts to leak through we add another bandage, just on top of it. All sorts of bankrupt systems, but what to do about it? To see the whole picture, to understand the interconnection is increasingly difficult. And real steps towards a solution are so radical that hardly anyone wants to take them. So we’re looking for a place of refuge, there’s a thousand ways.

In Africa T. decided to welcome Jesus as his saviour and he’s going to change his life thoroughly and is happy with that. K. a young man from Africa also, has a rich husband now is what T. tells me. He’s driving a BMW and lives the good life but, that’s easy T. says, he’s using muti (a traditional medicine, here to be seen as magic). T. thinks it ended well after all because he thought K. would steal E. husband whom he liked a lot. No way, I say but T. is sure, with muti everything is possible.

In the Netherlands endless discussions about yes or no a ‘zwarte piet’ (black Peter, assistant of Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas is a sort of Father Christmas in the form of a bishop that visits the Netherlands on December 5. Black Peter is, the name gives it a away, black – usually a white person made black. There is quite some opposition against this figure since it would be racist. Dutch are quite attached to this celebration, people in other countries don’t understand …. of it.) Maybe it’s the distance but to me it looks like a joke, not to say stupid. ‘Our culture!’ So called experts that have their say, petitions, demonstrations, people that see their chance to put themselves in the spotlight with an aggressive approach – even a lady at the UN that has her opinion ready and thinks that the whole thing should be terminated, ‘one Father Christmas is enough’. No half measurements.

I am an experience expert and I cannot see black Peter as a person from African decent. But the story that many Dutch like to tell, as if Piet was black because he comes in the night through the chimney is not true, he came as the assistant of Sinterklaas and he is a Moor. And that there’s no discrimination in it… Not explicitly I think but a text like ‘Even though he’s black as soot, he means it quite well…’? Change that black as soot for whichever race or ethnicity… And that accent from Surinam Piet used to have when he came to my school?

Keep the story about the chimney although soon kids won’t know about chimneys anymore. Give Peter some black spots in his face and change those ridiculous phrases in some children songs. And the kids, there’s ben quite some moaning and complaining in their name, the kids won’t bother. As long as there is candy and presents, they’ll manage, I’m sure. On one of the Antilles the Peters have make up in all colours. ‘The ship of Sinterklaas passed under a rainbow.’ Kids can understand such a thing.

Remember that between and behind the big mouth in the news there are people that are hurt and insulted. The mirror that’s shown to The Netherlands tells that more tolerance, more forbearance and more compassion – more together – is badly needed. Culture? That seems to me a culture worth working on. Because this is no speech for Christmas, I can say all this just like that. (Recently it came out that the then queen of the Netherlands did see her speech for Xmas corrected three times by the primeminister – too much about tolerance etc.)

To look for a place of refuge or to be one?

Love, Frank

Difficult problem. Social media, the world cannot do without anymore. I also have a page on facebook, not with friends and all that stuff but as a public figure. Funny expression but that’s how it’s called. I announce exhibitions, show some new work, a bit of Bali and announcements of the new blogs. That Mr. Facebook had a Victorian sort of morals is something I knew. A bare breasted women, regardless the context, is removed immediately but my nipples are okay so what do I care? Well, it’s like this. When it is about violence Mr. Facebook is very lenient, immorally lenient. A recent video about a beheading of a human being may be published, it’s within the rules. A woman’s nipple – No. A beheading – Okay. Add to that their habit of spying on people and invading their privacy and it’s time to wonder if I want anything to do with Facebook at all. I don’t have an answer yet but arguments like ‘it’s so handy’ don’t hold water.   


How do I look at things

ImageDear All,

My blog is late again, way too late. For weeks I had dear friends over. I was busy but it was nice to be together again and interesting and educational to join eyes that hadn’t seen Bali nor Lombok before. (Unpleasant side effect; thanks to the kilo’s of chocolate and litres of Whisky they brought, the Adonis-like body I promised you is postponed. Note; not my fault.) What do you see, how do you look, how do you want to look at things; that there are many ways was proven once again. Good if you can just absorb all experiences and enjoy without making disturbing comparisons, positive or negative, with what you’re used to. What do you encounter along the road and are you brave enough to be happy with it or would it be better to just stay home? I see quite some tourists in the latter category, they are happy to see something new but it should fit in the same mould they are used to at home. All that exotic stuff is nice and well, the low prices are welcome but sometimes… Yesterday there was a lady next to me in a coffee shop who got her cup of coffee served with the handle of the cup on the wrong (left-hand) side. Fortunately the lady did see it and made a remark. ‘They’ have to follow ‘our’ rules, of course.

That won’t happen.

Enjoy the journey – on vacation or in a broader sense – and be happy with the fact that things are always different again. Welcome the strange and the stranger, smile a bit about the sign ‘bitches muesli’ at the buffet in Lombok and admire the guys that sell stuff and whom, at sunset, disturb the view on Gunung Agung in Bali a bit; they are looking for an honest way to make some money. Buy something if you can use it but bargain cleverly. Different is not the same as stupid, these guys are masters in tawarring (bargaining) or better, masters in making you efforts to bargain a fruitless exercise. Very friendly salespeople in Lombok, that’s a fact. Even in Sade, a traditional Sasak village that used to have a reputation of unfriendly and extremely intrusive, things were arranged differently; friendliness allover. ‘Thank you for visiting Lombok’ says a boy of about 18 when we walk to the boat back to Bali. Bali is beautiful and interesting, so is Lombok. And for me it was a special experience to see Bali during the sunset and to know, that’s where home is.ImageImage

On October second in India, 65 years after his death, many followers of Ghandi celebrated his birthday. They protested against corruption and consumerism and through all of the country tens of thousands of children, dressed as Ghandi in a white piece of cloth and glasses made of iron wire, went to the streets. A bit more Ghandi in our world, it would be very, very good. Recently I red in an interview ‘iving together with vulnerable people helps to humanize a society and prevents it from speeding on in its highest gear’. I don’t think it’s often seen that way. For those that are vulnerable an icy wind blows through the world. If we don’t act now we will hurt them and to a great extend ourselves dramatically.Image 

Again more than 80 people died because a boat with refugees sank near Lampadusa. Eufemisms as ‘economic refugee’ can only fool those that don’t want to see, the situation is dramatic in the eyes of anyone that has a love for people. We will all have to do our darned best to work towards a humane world. In the meantime the USA is shut down is what I read.  Certain politicians cannot step over their own shadow and now the country is in s..t. Unbelievable, surrealistic. In what it calls itself the richest country in the world it seems impossible to create a decent health insurance for all people. Rich country, poor country. Each for himself and god for us all. How god is supposed to manage things without a  staff on the ground, no one tells.

Evening on the terrace a soft happiness about what is. Cecilia Bartoli sings and poors her healing flowers out, life is a gift. In the silence I find we. All is well. Sometimes the road makes it inevitable that a longing for the inn emerges. If looking back one sees miraculous, wonderful views, mostly from tops that seemed impossible to mount. It’s all about the road, not about the inn. I was lucky. There were people in my life that developed my feel for art, the probably most important person in my life taught me to listen to music… I got ear and eye for what really counts, to know where happiness chooses to live.  Not much is done to teach young people about the importance of culture, on the contrary. It is an astonishing conclusion that it seems that no government knows where real happiness is found. And if a political party did think about it, it’s at the bottom of the list, to never be seen again.  Culture, nature and connectedness are doomed because of no value for economy. Stupid short-sightedness keeps people thinking it’s about the money. Connectedness might even cost money. Mr Apple eg knows this very well. Here in Indonesia two islands, Bangka and Billiton, are being ruined. The tin-mines there are a disaster for nature, environment and people. Where other phone and computer manufacturers – under pressure of action groups – disclosed where there tin comes from and pledged to bring funds in place to improve the situation, Mr Apple keeps his mouth. Wonderful products of companies too rich with too little scruples. While I type this blog on my MacBook I think about difficult choices. I was lucky: Cecilia Bartoli sings, the moon is almost full, the croaking of the frogs fits remarkably well to it.

Love, Frank