Am I a colonizer, a human or a tourist?

You are a tourist!


“Tourist, tourist!!”, I heard the kids shouting, while they were walking in the carnaval to celebrate independence day, in the heat of the middle of the day. They poked each other, pointed at me, laughing and shouting: “what your name, sir?” We were driving by, with open window, to admire the carnaval: me and my three Indonesian friends. By now I don’t take ‘sir’ personal anymore: every tourist is sir, male or female. But with ‘tourist’ it is a different story. Yes I know: I am tall, big, my hair is white both on my head and my arms (“why is it white, sir?”, I had been asked regularly). But I don’t feel like a tourist, certainly not these last few days staying with the Sasak people in Sembalunbumbung. Maybe because I don’t want to be seen as a tourist, maybe because we were so much welcomed in the village as…friends, fellow humans. I know some people will find this hypocrite and I understand. Ever since 1994 (when I started working for KLM), I have travelled the world intensely…as a European tourist. After nice new adventures, exploring new cultures, people and nature, seeing a lot of beautiful and miserable things, I always came and come back to one of the most wealthy countries in the world. To my home, my family, my car, my friends, my work, my sports and all the other nice stuff that comes with my life. I am very much aware of that.

Guilty as a colonizer…


But I am so fed up with blaming and shaming! Recently there is a lot of discussion in social media around the status of the globe and who is to blame for it. Colonialism is getting a big part of the blame. I understand people are angry, frustrated, desperate.., but what is the use of blaming Europeans for something their ancestors did, like three to four generations ago? Does it help navigating towards a new narrative? Not that I don’t feel responsible, I do. I remember very well when I first landed in South Africa, 25 years ago, how I felt responsible for apartheid. After all, it were my ancestors that played a big role in that. I have felt that guilt in a lot of countries: South Africa, Surinam, the dutch Antilles, Indonesia… It has taken me a long time to understand, that guilt is as destructive and ‘of the ego’ as blaming. It is a disclaimer for taking responsibility. To find a place of acceptance, understanding and even some forgiveness for all that happened, without denying what happened, while not taking all the shame for it, that is taking responsibility, in my view.

Private chat with the king


In this matter, our talk with the chief of the Sasak village has been so inspiring and even healing for me. Here is this 85-year old king, who has lived with Dutch colonizers. As a muslim, you can imagine it will not be everyday that he welcomes two women in his village: one from the East and one from the West…Balanda, Holland. Not only did he welcome us to stay in his village, he invited us to gather in the community room to share stories about the history of the Sasak people and Lombok. Wow: for five hours on end, we sat with him and about 10 youngsters within the community. I am still a bit overwhelmed and humbled by it. Papu was so open to us, so compassionate about the history, so innovative towards the future, wow….! If we could all stop the blaming and shaming and find the space in our heart to forgive and look ahead of us instead of behind us, what could be possible?

I am because we are…human


This morning I learned, that aboriginal people haven’t been considered human until 1967. What!!!? I had tears coming immediately when I heard this. They were regulated under the law of flora and fauna…can you believe that? I sure couldn’t. Somewhere we’ve lost it, was my first reaction, as humans. And then I realised I was doing exactly what I don’t like in the social media at the moment: trying to find someone to blame for something I couldn’t get my head around. I decided to stop that route, make an offer (being in Bali, in a ‘western balinese with the best intention’ kind of way ;-)) and pray. Yes, sometimes it is f…ing hard to understand what we, humans, do. Let alone find forgiveness and compassion. Yet, I do believe this is the only solution to heal whatever happened. ‘If you heal yourself, you heal the world’, came very strongly in my meditation, my prayer. It is said by one of the earth keepers in the movie ‘Down to Earth’. More and more, I understand this as a truth. Ancient wisdom holds so many truths what it is to be human.

So, whether our motto is the African ‘Ubuntu’ (I am because we are) or the Eastern ‘Saudara’ (we all have the same blood) or the Native American ‘Aho Mitakyue Oyasin’ (we are all one), imagine what the world could look like if we all start understanding the truth of these mottos…

I’d sure like to consider myself as just another human being trying to live a truthful life.