Culture

Dear All,

The Dutchman I meet in a restaurant is in the mood for talking. “It’s my first time here and I must say, it is much better than I thought with all those Muslims here.’ ‘First time in Indonesia?’, I ask. ‘Yes, first time in Bali, two weeks in Ubud.’

‘You know’, is my answer, ‘I don’t see a problem with the Muslims either but that is in Java then, here in Bali the majority is Hindu.’

‘Oooh’. For him it’s clearly an “Aha Erlebnis”. ‘Well, whatever, we don’t need more of that shit now do we? I really hope that they won’t attack that gay walk thing in Amsterdam.’ A not too controversial point of view I think. I tell him that I, and probably almost everyone, think the same. ‘That’s what you would hope. You know, another one of those attacks and I’m done. Nice, very nice to do something for the refugees but if this is what we get as a thank you, it won’t work. Sorry, they’ll have to go home, there is no other way. Our culture will be ruined otherwise.’

I let the conversation go because arguments like ‘they don’t have a home’ or ‘lone wolfs and the majority’ won’t work, emotion easily becomes a fight. It’s the dilemma that proper thinking, good willing people encounter. Even when we do our homework well and we do understand, if we want to be compassionate and stand for the values we say we stand for, there is still a lot of work to do around us. Simple when the weather is all sunny, more difficult but also more important to defend our values ever so strong when there is pressure. No looking away, not coloring the reality in rosy hues but also, never put people on whatever grounds in one box. The way through myself, the way to the other. I was never promised it would be easy, I have learned though why it’s a necessity. That our culture wouldn’t be able handle the coming of people that beg for refuge with us is an hilarious underestimate of the intrinsic value of our culture. The real pressure on our culture comes from the other side, from those that say they want to defend and at the same time skip value after value because it doesn’t suit them in their ‘struggle’ to defend. Or would it be their struggle to grab power at any cost?

“Supplying dreams to people that have little or nothing, is the art of the successful demagogue.”                 Ian Buruma.

Along the roads in Indonesia lots of salespeople are selling red white flags, banners and other stuff. The first groups of marching children – children marching the military way with the bully of the group up front, shouting orders – are there again. August seventeen is coming up and Indonesia will be independent for seventy-five years then. I’ll buy a flag and connect it to the gate; respect for the host. The marching children make me less happy, specially the fanatics up front make me shiver. At the same time, there is something funny about it too. It looks so very disciplined and that’s so very not Indonesian.

At the post-office the limit was reached. Standing in line turned out to be impossible for many, there were always hands or complete bodies next to you that ‘just wanted to’, when it was your turn. They’ve done something about it, there are numbers now. What an improvement! In the past one would wait in the cue – with all the hands and all the people and all the irritation that came from it – for ten minutes max. Now the pressure on the people working in the post-office is totally gone. They sit behind the counter for a minute, chat a bit, maybe help someone and then they’re gone for another fifteen minutes to… what do I know. To post a letter or a parcel: count two hours.

Of course, for all of us there are things we are not really good at. As long as no one rubs it in, we will freely admit. This week it had lasted long enough, I still didn’t find a cleaning person for the house so I decided – a first in about forty years I admit – to clean the house myself. Dusting was a lot of work but it went well, mopping the floor, I did realize that myself too, was not my forte. Nevertheless, after a full day of working and sweating like mad, I was quite satisfied with myself. The next morning, boy was I happy, a candidate applied for the job of cleaner. Relief and was I willing to agree on anything? Yes. When do you want to start, I asked. She looked around and said ‘tomorrow right away I think. This place is so dirty, it really needs to be mopped.’ Look, I know I’m not good at everything but does she really …?

Love,Frank

 

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