They Really Don’t Like Us, on the Roads or Anywhere
By Novar Caine
The inflatingly furious man jumped out of his car and with haste told a fellow Balinese ahead of him, “It’s a stupid foreigner.” The irate man tried to shoo a group of tourists on motorbikes so that space could be made for the offending foreigner’s car to reverse, thus ending the traffic jam on a hook-nose bend on a thin lane – Nightmare Alley – that’s used as a road in Canggu.
Only it wasn’t the foreigner at fault, but the Balinese. Midway through executing the turn, on a curve that had been clear for exit, the foreigner was met with a near rush of metal. There was nowhere to go except a drop into a rice field a few feet below.
Seeing pale skin behind the wheel, the darker-skinned one sensed a one-upmanship chance, even though it was his vehicle that was blocking the mini-road – it’s the one linking Batu Belig with Canggu – and causing a tailback behind the foreigner.
“Could you move back, please?” the foreigner inquired, knowing, from the scrunched up face and searing eyes opposite, the response. “You move back!” it came. The foreigner tells him he has no room to back up because the space is filled with motorbikes and a long line of cars, and that there’s nothing behind the Balinese, so could he kindly oblige?
The colour red. The man jumps down from his van-like vehicle and begins an on-site show of force. The foreigner consciously stays silent, hums, backs up a bit, slowly squeezes past the Balinese and drives away. There is no need to say a word.
There could have been violence. There had been before: a Balinese driver equally in the wrong gets out of his car, picks up a rock from the roadside and prepares to lodge it in the other man’s windscreen. Not a word had been said, no time for tempers to flare. On another occasion, passing Balinese in an open truck pounded and lashed out at the foreigner’s car because they could not get their way.
The message with these harmless incidents is shriekingly clear: This is my land and you don’t belong. Make way! The sudden, unprovoked fury over nothing of substance tells a story of instinctive rage against the white man.
Notwithstanding Indonesians’ distrust of foreigners over centuries of foreigners ruling them, in Bali the mix is more stark. We’ve taken over their town, you see, with our villas and shops and factories and hotels. We’ve put up roadside signs and advertisements in English and we’re loaded. We’re arrogant and conceited and rude. We’re demanding and crude. And brash. About the only thing a foreigner is good for is cash.
The Balinese view: They don’t bother with our language; they trample on our customs; and they booze it up in our temples.
Road rage takes on a novel overture in Bali. Emboldened by horsepower, the wrath is unbridled. That foreigners are perceived as entitled creates a well of pressurised covetousness that seeks to burst out. How can they have so much when we have so little?
Running riot against the émigré in Lombok is what we have seen in recent months, with foreigners’ homes trashed because they dared to take a stand.
Indonesians who marry into foreign blood are often regarded with suspicion, while there’s no such mistrust among the family of the outsider.
At official level, expatriates are tolerated; just that. And if you insist on staying here, by God we’re going to going to make you pay. There really isn’t any other way. You can train-up our workforce, then leave. You can invest your money, then grieve.
In Bali there is little hope for an end to the latent seething as long as the rape of the land continues. Where for centuries generations of Balinese lived and worked now are popping up vast communes of expatriate dwelling. The corner shop has been replaced by a deli, where no Balinese can afford the imported fare; there’s a country club here, and an international school there; and when we’re not busy denuding the land we’re opening another playground or club or fancy bistro.
Is it any wonder there’s resentment of the invading foreign devil?
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