The Basiometer: ‘Stale’ Bules

May 18th, 2010, in IM Posts, Opinion, by

How basi are you? Measuring signs for basi-ness in expats in Indonesia.


Friend,

We ever much talk about Bule (White Person) here. And just like Belanda (Holland) divide Indonesia into European, Asiatic and Pribumi, we must have way of classifying the Bule for when we rule his country.  We must also be able to rate his level of 'Basiness', or staleness.

I propose to you, IM friends, that to be scientific we must develop a 'Basiometer'.  Similar to a hubometer, tachometer, speedometer, thermometer, the Basiometer will allow us to gauge the level of expiration in a given Bule.

What is Basi ? We Asians are infinitely more subtle than our Occidental counterparts, a quality reflected in the hidden and symbolic messages in epics such as the Mahabharata. Thus does Basi elude precise definition as did Diponegoro slip away from the forces of Belanda. Thesaurus.com defines rancid as "rotten, strong-smelling", and...

bad, carious, contaminated, curdled, decomposing, disagreeable, disgusting, evil-smelling, feculent, fetid, foul, frowzy, fusty, gamy, high, impure, loathsome, malodorous, moldy, musty, nasty, nidorous, noisome,noxious, off, offensive, olid, polluted, putrefactive, putrefied, putrescent, putrid, rank, reeky, repulsive, sharp, smelly, sour, soured,stale, stinking, strong, tainted, turned,unhealthy, whiffy

Friend, some of that is ever too harsh. The Bule can be everyone from naive and well-meaning English teacher to the most wretched Blok M derelict.

I ever think stale is a better translation:

antiquated, banal, bent, cliché, cliché-ridden, clichéd, common, commonplace, corny, dead, drab, dull, dusty, effete, flat, fusty, hackneyed, insipid, like a dinosaur, mawkish, moth-eaten, out, passé, past, platitudinous, repetitious, shopworn, stereotyped, threadbare, timeworn,tired, trite, unoriginal, well-worn, worn-out, yesterday's, zestless

What about semi-Bules such as the psychic Mama Lauren? How can she be Basi when she ever help so much? (Better to just let her be Finance Minister and set interest rates, no need for fancy Bule degree).

Ashlee BetteridgeIn short, Basiness is that kind of icky feeling you get when you meet a Bule and you know and they know they've been in Indonesia too long. Ashlee Betteridge, a leading Australian journalist and commentator on Indonesia recently noted,

Jakarta Bar

I have no regard for what the boozed-up washed-up Blok M bule barflies of Jakarta think of me and I haven’t given a damn since… oh… right around the minute I stepped off the plane.

Now the Basiometer takes out all the guesswork.

At first, I think Basiometer should be from 1-10, but I think it needs full percentage. We'll skip 0-50% on the Basiometer, which means 'still fresh', and go straight to the fermentation.

1. Proto-Basi Warning Signs: (Men and Women) (50%-80% depending on severity)

  • Extending a first contract at the Jakarta Post or for teaching at an English school (50%+)

Friend, you're in danger. You've hit your comfort zone. The post-apocalyptic skies of Jakarta no longer make you crave a Xanax. You're blase and bored with the Singapore visa run. You start to think the job prospects or lifestyle is worth the macet.

  • Earnest opinions about corruption and Indonesia's problems, vaguely implying if you were in power you could fix them (50%+)

The confusing headlines and daily challenges are coalescing into a world view. Bule starts to get deathly dull now. If Sri Mulyani Indrawati fell afoul of the status quo after a successful five-year run, what chance would a washed-up stock broker or 30-something arts graduate from Scunthorpe have? (We'll cut uni students some slack).  Most Indonesians without their noses in the trough have been dealing with these problems their whole lives and don't have a passport escape route.

  • Complaining about 'inefficiency', 'jam karet', or poor job performance of service staff (50%+)

Speaks for itself.

2. Full Basi: 80-100 %

  • Been in Indonesia more than 10 years (100%)

Basiness reaches a zenith in those two wooden plaques in one of the Blok M bars, "they've done their time", either 10 or 20 years. It's hard to stay fresh if you've been in Indonesia since the 1990s or before. Such Bules usually have a predictable life cycle, starting from their 20s or 30s, when they first arrived to the onset of middle age, starting with enthusiasm and ending in bitterness and resignation.

David Jardine is a freelance writer who by his own admission landed here in 1987, and has been writing for the Jakarta Post, and defunct publications such as the Indonesian Observer ever since. Jardine is also a denizen of Jalan Jaksa and has been spotted carrying plastic bags full of beer from the nearest Circle K (24-hour mart) nearby. How Basi is Jardine? You decide.

  • Ayams (hookers) recognise you at malls (100%)

We can't blame the Bule for succumbing, now and then, to the temptations of Indonesia's sultry tropical nights. But when every second Ayam-made-good at the malls knows you by name, the Basiometer hits at least a 10: full Basi.

  • For men and women: Gleeful appearance on dumb TV programs (90%)

Dale Andrew Collins-SmithIt's one thing when JakTV news accidentally catches the Bule, say, at the airport. Appearing on shows like 'Bule Gila', or even worse - having your own show like that annoying 'Wahyu' guy, (formerly Dale Andrew Collins-Smith), launches you into hard core Basi territory. Wahyu, reports the SMH, had an 'unsatisfying' career as a flight attendant, moved to Indonesia 15 years ago, and starred as a cross dresser in the soap opera 'Toyib Minta Kawin' before becoming 'close' to a Satpam at his house.


Wahyu Suparno Putro in "Rahasia Sunnah"

  • Too much inside knowledge

Bust out too much gaul (hip) slang? Bahasa Indonesia too good? Know too many short cuts on an ojek? Sorry, pal: time for the compost heap. (That goes for long-term regulars on Indonesia Matters too). In China or France, you'd be applauded, even expected, to master the local language. Here, we tend to assume you learned it from bar girls. If you know the best way to get from your nearest CBD home through numerous back streets and kampungs, maaf. You've met too many taxi drivers for your own good.

Here are some other signs of Basiness, but feel free to add your own ideas:

  • collection of old batik shirts
  • Iwan Fals tapes
  • appearing in Indonesian Tattler/Jakarta Java Kini
  • Writing letters to the Jakarta Post
  • Still have a first-generation internet address you got here
  • Correct locals on history or politics
  • Get invited to a Kemchicks checkout chick's wedding/marry a Kemchicks checkout chick

58 Comments on “The Basiometer: ‘Stale’ Bules”

  1. avatar David says:

    What about semi-Bules such as the psychic Mama Lauren? How can she be Basi when she ever help so much? (Better to just let her be Finance Minister and set interest rates, no need for fancy Bule degree).

    We need another candidate now, R.I.P Mama Lauren, died last night.

  2. avatar Oigal says:

    Gee I wonder if she saw that coming?

  3. Oops, Sorry Mama Lauren. I certainly didn’t see it coming. Patung can you certify you had the piece before she passed ?

  4. avatar David says:

    Does it matter? I checked, she died pukul 21.37 WIB last night, but I only just saw the news.

  5. Well, no disrespect intended, but people are in mourning. Anyway, RIP Mama Lauren.

  6. avatar Rambutan says:

    Other sign of basiness:

    Speaking in fond terms of the good old Orde Baru times.
    Singing Chrisye songs.

  7. @ Rambutan,

    Give me permission to love you.

    And don’t disturb national stability.

  8. avatar BrotherMouzone says:

    Making crap Bahasa Indonesia puns like “Sop Pantat” and “Remote Ko***l”

    Bickering over an insignificant sum because “It’s not the amount involved, it’s the principle”

    Posting on Indonesia Matters

  9. avatar Geordie says:

    DS

    We already have a list of symptoms that indicate when the level of our bassi(ness) and you can find them in this site:-

    http://www.expat.or.id/

    I suppose even knowin where find thses kinds of lists shows the level of my own bassitude, my present location notwithstanding.

  10. avatar NegBuster says:

    So when are you not ‘basi’? I guess in your eyes, if you are not a noob to be looked down on, then you are ‘basi’ and to be looked down on. So much condescension…

  11. @ Geordie:

    Bassisitude. Like it !

  12. avatar timdog says:

    I now, for the first time ever, have a very faint inkling, a whiff, a hint of a theory about who Dikkiman is (and I don’t mean Achmad Sudarsono). I’m far, far to fond of the character to risk damaging it by mouthing off, so I won’t.

    This piece is, without doubt, a return to form, though I would have preferred it from the original and best rather than the acolyte…

    Mas, could you add a footnote about liberal self-hating basiness?
    This would be defined as the point when a certain level of basiness begins to creep in, but being earnest and well-meaning the bule in question is tormented by the dark thoughts that enter his mind. Perhaps he finds his liberal world view prodded by the awful suspicion that some negative stereotypes might have some basis in fact, or while going over unreconstructed 19th Century colonialist screeds finds him self chuckling and muttering “so true!” before realising what just happened and being obliged to batter himself over the head with the collected works of E. W Said for penance…

    Not that I’m anywhere near that point, obviously; fresh as a daisy me…

  13. Mr. The Timdogs,

    Fire away. This is a collaborative effort. I ever had ideas for Basi-o-meter today.

    Based on:

    – Theory of basiness
    – Phases of basiness
    – Extensive list of symptoms
    – Self-diagnostic online quiz

  14. avatar Geordie says:

    So when are you not ‘basi’?

    Depends if bassi is comparative or a superlative, I would suggest. All things that can get stale, do and therefore we all at various stages of bassi[er] [est] as DS inferred in his post.

    Just a thought.

  15. @ Geordie:

    Spoken like the Buddha, the King James Bible, the Koran, all the great spiritual classics !

    @ Mr. Timdogs

    Or Somerset Maugham !

  16. avatar ET says:

    (That goes for long-term regulars on Indonesia Matters too).

    True. Although its symptoms can be temporarily circumvented by changing nicknames or avatars.
    On the other hand this basi phenomenon isn’t Indonesia-specific and can be applied to any given location or even job.

  17. avatar diego says:

    I don’t find the ‘indonesiannes’ list in expat.or.id / livinginindonesia.org funny / amusing.

    It’s like “indonesians this, indonesians that, bla bla bla, whine, whine, cynicism. Etc”.

    It’s like the authors feel forced to live in Indonesia, showing innate hatred toward indonesians. Racism. Yeah, i said that.

    On the other hand, this post from dikki / achmad is funny, because it only makes fun of the bules, not indonesians.

    *taking the stick out of my @$$*

    Ah… Hola amigous!!!

  18. avatar venna says:

    It depends on who say it or posting it.
    Indonesians dream about rice = funny (if Indonesians who say that) = racist (if bules that mention it).
    Bules = funny & amusing (if western people who say it) = racist (if “I” say it)
    Wetback = funny (if Carlos Mencia who say it) = racist (if white or black people say it)
    Don’t be such a Jews! = (funny and sometimes I take it as a compliment) = racist for some of my jews friends (I’m not a jews, I’m an american!!)

    I don’t see pak Dikki’s posting is funny. Or I call it much less funny than celebrity deathmatch or his humor on Bakrie and Mulyani.

  19. avatar Odinius says:

    Diego said:

    I don’t find the ‘indonesiannes’ list in expat.or.id / livinginindonesia.org funny / amusing.

    It’s like “indonesians this, indonesians that, bla bla bla, whine, whine, cynicism. Etc”.

    It’s like the authors feel forced to live in Indonesia, showing innate hatred toward indonesians. Racism. Yeah, i said that.

    On the other hand, this post from dikki / achmad is funny, because it only makes fun of the bules, not indonesians.

    *taking the stick out of my @$$*

    Ah… Hola amigous!!!

    Did you miss the point of why I posted it? The posts themselves are examples of basiness

  20. avatar Oigal says:

    Timdog is in a real moral fight for his liberal bed wetting sole. Deep down he can feel himself sanking across and joining us liberal conservatives (or as they call them in England now, the CONDEMS), shortly after that joining Ross looking for red, gay mexicians under the bed.

    Of course, a sign of his mental health is to try avoid his bassitude is goign to England to drink good wine and one assumes makan padang.

  21. avatar Garry says:

    Morning all,

    I am one of the 20 years plus people – origin: Australia, home address: somewhere in Central Java (no, not Yogya/Solo).

    Why does one have to define oneself at all in the terms being paraded in this blog? I am relatively fluent in Indonesian although my Javanese is poor, yet I do almost all my reading in English. We speak Indonesian / Javanese / a little English in the home. I live in a kampung yet have little to do with the neighbors. I walk with my dogs every morning yet do not stop to chat or ‘ngopi’. I despise Indonesian soap operas but don’t mind dangdut although I would like to see some more variety in the genre. Other music forms here suck but then western pop does too. The food is fine – beats Big Macs hands down for mine. As with most of us living here (as in people) I have as little to do with bureaucracy / police / officialdom in general as possible. The Jakarta Post may not be the world’s greatest paper but then it defecates over Sydney’s Daily Telegraph. My religion is my own business and what I tell others has nothing to do with me at all. I don’t mind some of the stuff on this blog although the quality varies and there is a hint of Islamaphobia. All institutional religions should be taken with a major dollop of salt for mine. Note the difference between spirituality and institutional religion.

    Life is not about being special or being different. It is not even really being about Indonesian or foreigner or Islamic or Buddhist or whatever. It is about being what you want to be – dissenters from the world of tolerance please take a seat at the back of the theater. Actually, please find another planet and leave most of us alone

  22. @ Garry,

    Thanks for sharing.

    D.S.

  23. @ NegBuster

    I will ever open a business selling books on the ‘power of negative thinking’ and ‘negative affirmations,’

    like:

    ‘I make a conscious effort to suck all the positive energy out of any situation I’m in.’

  24. avatar Geordie says:

    Garry said:

    It is about being what you want to be – dissenters from the world of tolerance please take a seat at the back of the theater. Actually, please find another planet and leave most of us alone

    Garry mate, if you’re beign provocative that’s fine but if you’re actually seriously hypothesisng that tolerance has limits, that is, to view points that jibe with your own, then isn’t that, in an of itself, somewhat intolerant?

    For myself, I’m actually highly intolerant of many, many things; orthodoxies cheifly amongst them.

    You see, I’m prejudiced against anyone who reckons they have the inside track on virtue, religion, atheism even tolerance because even cursory examinations of their statements, in my experience (which is all I have to go on, ultimately) show flaws either in construction [framing of the argument], logic or both.

    Am I bassi then? Who among us can’t see a little bassi (as described thus far), in themselves? Could it be that those who argue against this labeling are the ones who (uncomfortably) feel they most comply with the standard as defined by DS?

  25. avatar BrotherMouzone says:

    @Oigal

    Timdog is in a real moral fight for his liberal bed wetting sole.

    Why would Timdog be fighting to have a left-leaning flatfish in his bed? Confused….

  26. avatar Geordie says:

    Diego said: –

    It’s like the authors feel forced to live in Indonesia, showing innate hatred toward indonesians. Racism. Yeah, i said that.

    On the other hand, this post from dikki / achmad is funny, because it only makes fun of the bules, not indonesians.

    Wholeheartedly agree with you, in terms of the point of view the lists are written from but could the lists be construed as bassi per se, if viewed through a lens other than from whom they orignate?

    In short, is it a case of not what is said but more of how it is couched or phrased and from where did it originate? In your terms, is it that if one feels compelled to live in Indonesia then bassi becomes racist and, conversely, if one wants to be there then do similar qualities denote true bassiness?

  27. avatar Odinius says:

    Oigal said:

    is goign to England to drink good wine

    Don’t think we ever got a clear explanation for this one.

  28. avatar wildrosewood says:

    yth dikkiman,

    Elo kaleee yang basiiiii

  29. avatar Ross says:

    Nice pic of the girl in the bar, but who’s the geezer? What is this about? Aghast to learn that my insitnctive loathing of that Wahyu is entirely justified.
    Wierdest topic ever. Congrats, Achmad, I’ll buy you a beer on Jaksa next weekend.

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