More Than Money
Issue #34

The Art of Giving

Table of Contents

“Culture: Is There Another Way”

The following passage is excerpted and abridged from "A World in Balance?" by Bernard Lietaer, in Reflections, Volume 4, Number 4, ©2003 by the Society for Organizational Learning and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

We must bring balance to money, because our monetary system fuels and exerts the most profound influence on all other human systems. Such balanced money systems have existed during specific periods and exist today in some unexpected pockets of the world, with dramatic, encouraging effects.

Rather than argue from theory, I will use two tragic events as examples..

Exactly one year, one month, and one day after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a terrorist bomb in Kuta, Bali, killed more than 190 people. However, the global media have not covered the Balinese reaction to this horror. Two authoritative reports from Bali demonstrate an alternative way to deal with terrorism. From a police report a week after the bombing:

Lt. Col. I. Made Murda of the Bali police declared that, although hundreds of shops and restaurants had their windows blown out in the blast, not one single looting has been reported. Down in Legian, there are all these shops without windows and doors, all their wares there for the taking, but nobody has. There were also fears that there could be an instant reaction against the Muslim population in Bali, but no such thing has happened. What has happened is that there have been peace vigils and prayer meetings all over the island, and Christians, Muslims, locals, and foreigners working hand in hand in the relief effort (personal email, 2002). In contrast, in the U.S. after September 11, the FBI reported: Hate crimes against Muslims soared. by more than 1,600%: a jump from 28 in 2000 to 481 in 2001.. The overall number of hate crimes against all minorities in the U.S. increased over the last year by 21% to a total of 1,828 (Schevitz, 2002). The second Bali report is a speech by Asana Viebeke, the representative of the main local civic authorities in the area where the blast occurred. He delivered this speech in English on October 25, 2002. We the Balinese have an essential concept of balance. It's the Tri Hita Karana: the concept of triple harmonious balance. The balance between god and humanity, humanity with itself, and humanity with the environment..

Who did this? This is not such an important question for us to discuss. Why this happened-maybe this is more worthy of thought. What can we do to create beauty from this tragedy and come to an understanding where nobody feels the need to make such a statement again? That is important. That is the basis from which we can embrace everyone as a brother, everyone as a sister.. Why seek retribution from people who are acting as they see fit? These people are misguided from our point of view. Obviously, from theirs, they feel justified and angry enough to make such a brutal statement.

We would like to send a message to the world: Embrace this misunderstanding between our brothers, and let's seek a peaceful answer to the problems that bring us to such tragedy. Words of hate will not rebuild our shops and houses. They will not heal damaged skin. They will not bring back our dead. Help us to create beauty out of this tragedy..

The overwhelming scenes of love and compassion at Sanglah Hospital show us the way forward into the future. If we hate our brothers and sisters, we are lost in [darkness]. If we can love all of our brothers and sisters.we have already won "the war against terrorism."

Compare this statement with U.S. official policy of violent military retaliation. The contrast between such reactions raises these questions:

  • What explains how a similar horror spontaneously elicits exactly the opposite emotional reactions in a society?
  • What explains the Balinese exception?
  • How can we learn from it?

I happened to be in Bali on that fateful night. I had just completed four months of primary field research focusing on these last two questions. My key findings were that Balinese society maintains a balance between what the Taoist call the yin-yang world-views, or between the masculine and feminine perspectives, while the so-called "developed countries"-including the U.S.-are strongly dominated by the yang coherence. Furthermore, the collective power of money systems is an engine that continually maintains and encourages each worldview. Specifically, in Bali, a dual yin-yang currency system operates, while in Western societies, there is a monopoly of a yang currency.

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