The Eastern culture which is very contrast in the way of thinking with the Western culture creates kinds of misleading interpretation regarding to habitual activities of both sides. Undoubtedly, the two cultures are met in the process of Archipelago colonization. In The Counselor, a short story written by Herman Jan Friedericy, we can see the political and cultural condition of southern peninsula of Sulawesi in the late Dutch colonization era. Moreover, this paper will discuss on how the story displays the image of the native Archipelago people on the perspective of Dutch and its significances.
The first example of the strangeness is when Tuan Petoro met his djongos (male servant) when he carried in Tuan Petoro’s luggage and called him batman. In fact, the servant just wore a “dark blue uniform with orange trimming, black velvet kupiah and bare feet” (p. 128). Tuan Petoro called him batman because of his ability to work under dark environment. I assume Tuan Petoro thought that his servant had a magical ability so that he didn’t need any lights. Also, the appearance of his servant was unusual for Tuan Petoro, because he wore black velvet kupiah and bare feet, which, I think, Tuan Petoro scarcely saw that and then Tuan Petoro imagined that his servant is like a bat. In addition, the Dutch’s way of dressing was totally different with the batman, at least in the way of wearing footwear, because I assume that the Dutch should wear footwear wherever they are, especially in outdoor. Note that although actually Tuan Petoro acquainted the batman formerly (because actually he was Tuan Petoro’s servant in Watan Soppeng), the first impression when Tuan Petoro looked at him was his similarity with batman.
Also, when Tuan Petoro discussed about the organization of Gowa with Tuan Anwar, Tuan Petoro’s counselor, it was portrayed that “the organization of Gowa was a mess” (p. 131). Then, it was described that it was all because the government applied the clergies as the top persons in the government. As Said states, the Western defined themselves by defining the orientals, like their laziness, irrationality, and so on (1978). The depiction of the unorganized native archipelago people was came into being in this story. However, by stating that the Gowa government was unorganized, the Dutch felt that they must eliminate it. So, here we can see that how the political power of Dutch affects the local government so that it can reform the governmental structure of the existing government. Besides, the option to choose the clergies as the lawmaker signs that the society was still bounded by the divine law. As we know, the European has left the concept that the religion is the basis of law since Enlightenment era, because it creates suppression by the clergies in the name of God. That means there is a gap of thinking between the native and the Dutch. The natives are left behind the European in the viewpoint of governmental constitution.
On the contrary, the Dutch were depicted as the protagonist. In the story, it is mentioned that “[t]he slaves had been freed by the Dutch government …” (p. 126). The Gowa nobilities still committed slavery in their princedom, but the Dutch government abolished it. Nevertheless, the slaves kept living with their masters because the master had a great power. So, the Dutch, or the European in general, divided the property in the world into something like theirs and ours. Like in the Treaty of Tordesillas, the European can judge unilaterally whether the new discovered land is owned by Spain or Portugal. The cultural arrogance of the European leads them to govern their colonized land, like the Archipelago in this context.
In addition, the amok events which happened occasionally create a strangeness image of Archipelago people. Although this habit harms many people’s life, Archipelago people particularly Makassar people still commit it consciously or unconsciously, because sometimes the person who runs amok acts like possessed person, so he doesn’t realize that he has kill someone. Moreover, amok becomes tradition among Makassar people. When one is killed, the family of the victim usually revenges it. It is also interesting to see the native’s perspective, Tuan Anwar, regarding the death. Tuan Anwar said that there was no point to fear the death, since sooner or later, everyone will face it. Different with Tuan Petoro, he was trembling and cannot sleep after he saw the amok incident. It could be happened because Tuan Petoro thought that people should not kill each other, as Bible said. But here in the Indies he saw something very contrast with his culture, so the strange feeling came up in the mind of Tuan Petoro, indicated by his question considering the death penalty which he asked to Tuan Anwar.
Moreover, the strange imagery of the Archipelago people comes in the naming of a baby, like the person in the court when there was held trials for some cases. The court was interrupted because someone had announced that his wife was just given birth to a daughter. Then, the father named his daughter Base Kantoro, “because she was almost born in this office” (p.152). It is a ridiculous reason to name a baby with a name “Kantor” or “Office” in English because the baby just nearly born in the office. It can be said that the native doesn’t think about the aesthetic part when giving a name or the concept of the aesthetic is quite different with the major people.
Another example is came up when Karaeng Manudju gave his ten-year-old son as a gift for Tuan Petoro when he prevailed to cure Karaeng Manudju’s mother. Suddenly Tuan Petoro was confused by the gift, because he unexpectedly became father. Desperately, he didn’t know what he was going to do, and at last, Tuan Petoro gave the kid to Abdulkadir, his young assistant, so he didn’t need to take care of him. The problem is the exchange of Karaeng Manudju’s mother medication and the kid is clearly not equal, because I think, it is hardly to measure the price of the kid for Tuan Petoro. However, Tuan Petoro could not say anything but thanks and accepted the gift, although in the end the kid ran away and expected to come back home to Karaeng Manudju. Regarding the runaway, Tuan Petoro did nothing, because he thought that the kid should back to his parents, not to be owned by him, because he had no family relationship with the kid.
The most visible instance of the native peculiarity is their belief (or fear) about the metaphysical things. The metaphysical things include ghost, setan, the sacred waringin tree and the evening before Friday. People, as Tuan Petoro said in the story, are easily scared. Like when Tuan Petoro, Tuan Anwar and other natives found strange sound from the leaked engine and the old waringin tree, the natives perceived it as a cry sound from a ghost. However, Tuan Anwar, who had worked for years with Tuan Petoros, was the person who realized that the people are exaggerated with those things. That means, Tuan Anwar had become more realistic in viewing the phenomena. In contrary with the native (except Tuan Anwar), “Tuan Petoro wondered if his old wish would be fulfilled and if he would finally see a ghost” (p. 153). In this part, we can see that the the way of thinking of Tuan Anwar had started to follow the Tuan Petoro’s that is more logical than other natives.
The belief of the myths, the society who governed by the clergies, or the perspective toward the death become the devices to represent the image of the Archipelago people. The distinction of the Western and the Eastern becomes clear from the view of mythical belief. The law of the society is constituted by mythology. Since the orientals were really publicized in the European world especially through literary works (Said: 1978), it creates stereotypes that the orientals is illogical and irrational on how they govern and create the law for the society. Also, it seemingly becomes a must when people want to be well-educated, they have to study in Europe, or the familiar Kartini’s case. It creates an image the European nations are the centre of knowledge. It means that there is a desire of the Archipelago people to shift the mindset from the mythical-based thinking to empirical-based thinking to get a better life. For example, the son of Tuan Anwar, Musa, who studied in Leyden. At last, Musa’s fate gradually changed after he studied in Leyden from a boy who lived in rural area to a prominent person in the country which later became well-known Indonesia.
The education gap also affects to the dependency of the natives to the Dutch. Although the natives had a leader (e.g. the karaengs in the princedom level), they were still governed by the Dutch. I assume it is all because the Dutch mastered many disciplines of knowledge, such as social science, medicine, economy, military and the fundamental one, education. In this short story, it is told that the best education came from the Dutch school, for instance, the Karaeng Manudju’s son which was promised to get education in Dutch school as well as the son of Tuan Anwar. The natives thought that by studying in Dutch school, it can raise their class to be in the same level with Dutch.
However, the distinction of the Western and the Eastern here is not about whom the good or the evil is, but who makes more sense. In this story, the Dutch is not always acting as the protagonist, like the abolisher or something. The Dutch also depicted as the corrupter, like in the characterization of the cashclerk Kelwyk. The depiction of Javanese, which is said that they are more progressive, also signs the shift of the conservative tradition to more modern tradition. The struggle against the Dutch also came from the Javanese by the Indonesian Communist Party (Partai Komunis Indonesia) initiative. This shift leads the native people to get their independence.
To conclude, the differentiation between the Eastern and the Western cultures makes cultural shock, particularly it comes from the Dutch side as the colonizer of Archipelago. The Dutch saw the habit which is normal for the native seemed strange and irrational. This image creates many conflicts, for instance, the dependency of the native, and the greatest impact is the viewpoint of the Dutch to the native Archipelago people in general. As the literature depicts this stereotype, the perspective commonly disseminates to the Europeans.
Friedericy, J. H. Two Tales of the East Indies.
Said, E. (1978). Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books.