Balinese Ethos

The next step, therefore, is to ask about Balinese ethos. What actually are the motives and the values which accompany the complex and rich cultural activities of the Balinese? What, if not competitive and other types of cumulative interrelationship, causes the Balinese to carry out the elaborate patterns of their lives?

(1) It is immediately clear to any visitor to Bali that the driving force for cultural activity is not either acquisitiveness or crude physiological need. The Balinese, especially in the plains, are not hungry or poverty-stricken. They are wasteful of food, and a very considerable part of their activity goes into entirely nonproductive activities of an artistic or ritual nature in which food and wealth are lavishly expended. Essentially, we are dealing with an economy of plenty rather than an economy of scarcity. Some, indeed, are rated "poor" by their fellows, but none of these poor are threatened by starvation, and the suggestion that human beings may actually starve in great Occidental cities was, to the Balinese, unutterably shocking.

33 See M. Mead, "Public Opinion Mechanisms among Primitive Peoples," Public Opinion Quarterly, 1937, is 5-16.

34 As is usual in anthropology, the data are not sufficiently precise to give us any clue as to the nature of the learning processes involved. Anthropology, at best, is only able to raise problems of this order. The next step must be left for laboratory experimentation.

(2) In their economic transactions the Balinese show a great deal of carefulness in their small dealings. They are "penny wise." On the other hand, this carefulness is counter-acted by occasional "pound foolishness" when they will expend large sums of money upon ceremonials and other forms of lavish consumption. There are very few Balinese who have the idea of steadily maximizing their wealth or property; these few are partly disliked and partly regarded as oddities. For the vast majority the "saving of pennies" is done with a limited time perspective and a limited level of aspiration. They are saving until they have enough to spend largely on some ceremonial. We should not describe Balinese economics in terms of the individual's attempt to maximize value, but rather compare it with the relaxation oscillations of physiology and engineering, realizing that not only is this analogy descriptive of their sequences of transactions, but that they themselves see these sequences as naturally having some such form.

(3) The Balinese are markedly dependent upon spatial orientation. In order to be able to behave they must know their cardinal points, and if a Balinese is taken by motor car over twisting roads so that he loses his sense of direction, he may become severely disorientated and unable to act (e.g., a dancer may become unable to dance) until he has got back his orientation by seeing some important landmark, such as the central mountain of the island around which the cardinal points are structured. There is a comparable dependence upon social orientation, but with this difference: that where the spatial orientation is in a horizontal plane, social orientation is felt to be, in the main, vertical. When two strangers are brought together, it is necessary, before they can converse with any freedom, that their relative caste positions be stated. One will ask the other, "Where do you sit?" and this is a metaphor for caste. It is asking, essentially, "Do you sit high or low?" When each knows the caste of the other, each will then know what etiquette and what linguistic forms he should adopt, and conversation can then proceed. Lacking such orientation, a Balinese is tongue-tied.

(4) It is common to find that activity (other than the "penny wisdom" mentioned above) rather than being purposive, i.e., aimed at some deferred goal, is valued for itself. The artist, the dancer, the musician, and the priest may receive a pecuniary reward for their professional activity, but only in rare cases is this reward adequate to recompense the artist even for his time and materials. The reward is a token of appreciation, it is a definition of the context in which the theatrical company performs, but it is not the economic main-stay of the troupe. The earnings of the troupe may be saved up to enable them to buy new costumes, but when finally the costumes are bought it is usually necessary for every member to make a considerable contribution to the common fund in order to pay for them. Similarly, in regard to the offerings which are taken to every temple feast, there is no purpose in this enormous expenditure of artistic work and real wealth. The god will not bring any benefit because you made a beautiful structure of flowers and fruit for the calendric feast in his temple, nor will he avenge your abstention. Instead of deferred purpose there is an immediate and immanent satisfaction in performing beautifully, with everybody else, that which it is correct to perform in each particular context.

(5) In general there is evident enjoyment to be had from doing things busily with large crowds of other people.35 Conversely there is such misfortune inherent in the

loss of group membership that the threat of this loss is one of the most serious sanctions in the culture.

(6) It is of great interest to note that many Balinese actions are articulately accounted for in sociological terms rather than in terms of individual goals or values.36

This is most conspicuous in regard to all actions related to the village council, the hierarchy which includes all full citizens. This body, in its secular aspects, is referred to as I Desa (literally, "Mr. Village"), and numerous rules and procedures are rationalized by reference to this abstract personage. Similarly, in its sacred aspects, the village is deified as Betara Desa (God Village), to whom shrines are erected and offerings brought. (We may guess that a Durkheimian analysis would seem to the Balinese to be an obvious and appropriate approach to the understanding of much of their public culture.)

In particular all money transactions which involve the village treasury are governed by the generalization, "The village does not lose" (Desanne sing dadi potjol). This generalization applies, for example, in all cases in which a beast is sold from the village herd. Under no circumstances can the village accept a price less than that which it actually or nominally paid. (It is important to note that the rule takes the form of fixing a lower limit and is not an injunction to maximize the village treasury.)

A peculiar awareness of the nature of social processes is evident in such incidents as the following: A poor man was about to undergo one of the important and expensive rites de passage which are necessary for persons as they approach the top of the council hierarchy. We asked what would hap-pen if he refused to undertake this expenditure. The first answer was that, if he were too poor, I Desa would lend him the money. In response to further pressing as to what would happen if he really refused, we were told that nobody ever had refused, but that if somebody did, nobody would go through the ceremony again. Implicit in this answer and in the fact that nobody ever does refuse is the assumption that the ongoing cultural process is itself to be valued.

(7) Actions which are culturally correct (patoet) are acceptable and aesthetically valued. Actions which are permissible (dadi) are of more or less neutral value; while actions which are not permissible (sing dadi) are to be deprecated and avoided. These generalizations, in their translated form, are no doubt true in many cultures, but it is important to get a clear understanding of what the Balinese mean by dadi. The notion is not to be equated with our "etiquette" or "law," since each of these invokes the value judgment of some other person or sociological entity. In Bali there is no feeling that actions have been or are categorized as dadi or sing dadi by some human or supernatural authority. Rather, the statement that such-and-such an action is dadi is an absolute generalization to the effect that under the given circumstances this action is regular. 37 It is wrong for a casteless person to address a prince in other than the "polished language," and it is wrong for a menstruating woman to enter a temple. The prince or the deity may express annoyance, but there is no feeling that either the prince, the deity, or the casteless per-son made the rules. The offense is felt to be

36 CiNaven, pp. 250 if,where itwas suggested that we must expect to find that some peoples of the world would relate their actions to the sociological frame.

37 The word dadi is also used as a copula referring to changes in social status. I Anoe dadi Koebajan means "So-and-so has become a village official."

against the order and natural structure of the universe rather than against the actual person offended. The offender, even in such serious matters as incest (for which he may be extruded from the society)38 is not blamed for anything worse than stupidity and clumsiness. Rather, he is "an unfortunate person" (anak latfoer), and misfortune may come to any of us "when it is our turn." Further, it must be stressed that these patterns which define correct and permissible behavior are exceedingly complex (especially the rules of language) and that the individual Balinese (even to some degree inside his own family) has continual anxiety lest he make an error. Moreover, the rules are not of such a kind that they can be summarized either in a simple recipe or an emotional attitude. Etiquette cannot be deduced from some comprehensive statement about the other person's feelings or from respect for superiors. The details are too complex and too various for this, and so the individual Balinese is forever picking his way, like a tightrope walker, afraid at any moment lest he make some misstep.

(8) The metaphor from postural balance used in the last paragraph is demonstrably applicable in many contexts of Balinese culture:

The fear of loss of support is an important theme in Balinese childhood.39

(a) Elevation (with its attendant problems of physical and metaphorical balance) is the passive complement of respect.40

The Balinese child is elevated like a superior per-son or a god.41

(b) In cases of actual physical elevation42 the duty of balancing the system falls on the supporting lower person, but control of the direction in which the system will move is in the hands of the elevated. The little girl in the figure standing in trance on a man's shoulders can cause her bearer to go wherever she desires by merely leaning in that direction. He must then move in that direction in order to maintain the balance of the system.

(c) A large proportion of our collection of 1200 Balinese carvings shows preoccupation on the part of the artist with problems of balance. 43

The Witch, the personification of fear, frequently uses a gesture called kapar, which is described as that of a man falling from a coconut palm on suddenly seeing a snake. In this gesture the arms are raised sideways to a position some-what above the head.

The ordinary Balinese term for the period before the coming of the white man is "when the world was steady" (doegas goemine enteg).

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