A Piece of Advice for Bules!

By Anand Krishna

First of all, forgive me for the provocative title.But let me assure you: to me, bules (white people) are as much descendents of the Aryan race as I am – so we are the same. You can call me a black or a brown bule – whatever; I do not mind it.

Please beware of collective consciousness. It’s like a virus: it can infect you before you realise it.

So while in Bali it will be in your interest if you take good care of your general wellbeing, not only against various kinds of tropical influenzas, and rabies – but also against the Balinese, or rather, typical Indonesian collective consciousness.

First, our collective consciousness on traffic regulations. We are not only good, but also experts at breaking them. What are rules, regulations and laws for – if they are not broken?

So do not follow us!

Lately, I see more and more Westerners in Bali not adhering to the traffic rules and regulations. This is sad, for I never stop promoting your road discipline whenever I am back from a trip to the West.

The Singaporeans have a very high sense of road discipline, too. If they see another vehicle coming out from a lane before them, they will always stop to give way.

This does not happen here.

Seeing another vehicle coming out from the lane before us, all our glands are activated. Our hormones shoot up. And we are provoked to increase our speed to make sure that the poor fellow remains in the lane. We pass him by with a winning smile.

But the poor fellow is not poor, too.

Given a chance, he does the same. This is collective consciousness. And quite unconsciously we all are part of the consciousness.

The other day I saw a Westerner – yes, a bule – doing the same. I was more startled to see that he was driving a good car, not an ordinary Suzuki, or Daihatsu, available at the rentals. Perhaps he owned the car. So I guessed he must be a resident of Bali. Too bad that he was a victim of our collective consciousness.

That experience, however, prompted me to pay more attention to see if there were more bules like him. I did not have to drive long before encountering another victim of collective consciousness.

Then the third and the fourth.

All within half an hour, and the last three of them were clearly driving one of those rental cars. Most probably they were not residents but tourists.

To make my point a bit clearer: If I am driving very slowly, and you are driving right behind me – blow your horn, or give me a sign that you would like to overtake me. I get offended; I increase my speed to make sure that you do not overtake me.

I forget that I am driving a 1000cc car, and your car is above 2000cc. There is no way for my vehicle to match your vehicle’s speed. But, still, I am adamant. I refuse to follow you – you follow me. This is collective consciousness.

If you are a resident here, then God bless us together, and forgive our trespasses! We are victims. We have fallen from grace. But if you are not – if you are a tourist here – then you better be careful. How will you behave on the road when you are back home?

This is just one example of how soon we become part of the collective consciousness. And traffic is just one issue. There are several others.

Do you know that the English word “amuck” comes from the Malay word “Amuk,” or “Amok”? The lexicon meanings “in a frenzy to do violence or kill,” “in or into a jumbled or confused state,” or “in or into an uncontrolled state or a state of extreme activity” do not do justice to this powerful word.

Here in the archipelago – and that includes Malaysia, too – amuk has other siblings, like ngambek and tersinggung.

Of the three, tersinggung is the first-born, and the softest, the mildest. Yet it is not as soft or as mild as its English – “getting offended.”

For ngambek – I can hardly find any English word. I consulted a linguist friend and he suggested, “Holding a grudge.” Well, not really. Ngambek is a lot stronger, a more powerful word!

So amuk, or its slang ngamuk, ngambek and tersinggung – they come in one package. You invite one, the others follow. Normally, it starts with tersinggung – you are offended over something. And it can be just about anything.

We can be tersinggung over very little things. The way you stand before me, or you sit, can make me tersinggung. You do not have to say or do something to offend me.

And our tersinggung is superior to the Western “offence,” in the sense that when we are hurt, we are hurt holistically. It is not just the mind, or the heart – our soul is hurt, too. So with us tersinggung is a very, very serious affair.

We do not easily forget, or forgive those who offend us. We are good at remembering such things.

And be careful: We do not react immediately. We work on our feelings for some time, until we are joined by tersinggung’s sibling ngambek. Now there is a deep, deep sense of resentment, feelings of respite, hatred and God knows what else within us.

Yet we are not easily angered. Anger is too precious – we hold it for the right time.

Amuk is the third of the trio, which comes at the right time. Once they are together, then no one can hold them; no one can hold us. In the recent times there have been three collective-amuk events. The 1948 Madiun massacre, the more widely spread 1965 coup and the 1998 riots.

Why am I telling you all this?

Believe me or not, I have met several bules – living in Bali for years – very easily getting tersinggung. They are no longer expressive, which is very un-Western-like. They hold on to their feelings. I have seen them promoting themselves to the next stage of ngambek, too. God forbid if they upgrade to ngamuk.

This is especially true with Westerners married to natives, Balinese as well as non-Balinese. Collective consciousness – beware!

In fact we are trying to work on these, we are trying to change this. Help us if you can, but, for God’s sake, do not get infected by us…

I wish you well; hence these notes.

The writer is a spiritual activist and author of more than 130 books, several in English (www.aumkar.org, www.anandkrishna.org). His organization runs Holistic Health/Meditation Centers, a National Plus/Interfaith School, a Charitable Clinic and a Public Reading Room in Bali. For more information, call Aryana or Debbie at 0361 7801595, 8477490.

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Anand Krishna

2 Responses to “A Piece of Advice for Bules!”

  1. Baso Darmawan Says:

    Well, Anand got carried away a little bit, not all Indonesians are like this.

    I saw one “bule” behaved badly on the road when I went to Maryland, I know the Indians (a.k.a native Americans) being hunted and killed that, in order to recover the population, the government need to put them in reservations. I’ve seen Indians (yes, from India) killed their brothers who were not praying to the same god(s). It’s all over the world. And it’s our choice to see things negatively or positively.

    So what if “amok” came from Bahasa Melayu? I mean it is easier to pronounce than “berserk”..

    May peace reigns on earth.

  2. Stefano Notarbartolo Says:

    As an Italian who has been living in Indonesia for almost 10 years, I have to say that we Italians and Indonesians share the same way of refusing to respect any road discipline. It’s fact, traffic in Italy is a mess compared to Switzerland or Germany, like Jakarta looks like hell compared to Singapore. Not all of us (a collective “us” for Italians and Indonesians), of course, but it’s enough to have a 40% of unruly drivers to make the situation a mess.

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