Traditional Thursday


 A week ago, Bali’s new governor Wayan Koster issued a governor’s decree stipulating what I have translated as “Traditional Thursday”. He has declared that every Thursday all Hindus at government offices and schools must wear customary dress and speak Balinese (not quite sure how that is enforced). It so happened that on this day, Trash Hero Kertalangu (my wife is the leader of this chapter of Trash Hero) was invited to a meeting at a government office so we got to witness the implementation first hand. Our kids also had to wear traditional dress as my wife’s family is Balinese ‘Hindu’.

What struck me was the speed of the implementation – I read about it in the newspaper

a few days before, and then in the same week it happened – no questions asked, no

comments, no complaints. I’m guessing because most Balinese are proud of being

Balinese and proud of wearing traditional dress (this wasn’t the case about nine years ago when I took a large gamelan troupe overseas and they voted against wearing traditional dress on the plane). Being an environmentalist and being constantly shocked by the

Balinese love affair with single-use plastic, this got me thinking: if we have Traditional Thursday, could the governor implement a “Tumbler Tuesday” or “Waste-free Wednesday” for example? He could declare one day of the week free from single-use plastic cups or bottles by forcing government offices and schools to make people bring their own tumblers every Tuesday, every Wednesday to not use any single-use plastic whatsoever.

My feeling is that culturally this would be a lot harder and would receive immediate

resistance, particularly from the lazy. The reason why enforcing people to wear traditional dress or even speaking Balinese one day a week is a lot easier is because it has cultural (and in Bali, therefore religious) identity, whereas caring for the environment or one’s health (plastic is after all a potentially toxic and therefore hazardous substance) does not.

In this sense, improving the health of both Bali’s environment and therefore the health of the people of this island must be approached from a socio-religious angle if we want to create massive social change quickly with the least resistance possible.

 

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