sexta-feira, 12 de julho de 2013

A Look at the Timorese World and Political Trend


(by Fr. Cancio, sdb)


In this article I just want to highlight the characteristics of the Timorese anthropology and society. I try to identify the real Timorese core, the enchanted world, the ontological conflict, and the political trend. The main challenge in the society is how to unveil the enchantment that reigns the mental attitude of the people. Another challenge is to reconcile the ontological conflict within the society. In order to become fully a rational society we have to struggle to disenchant the world of traditional society.

The Timorese core

To know the foundation of the Timorese mental orientation is fundamental in order to grasp the meaning of their world. For they are oriented by the way they see things and themselves. The philosophy of life, which characterizes the people, is deeply rooted in the collective convictions and beliefs that lead them to union with Nature. It is clearly seen in the traditional society. There we could encounter the real Timorese core. We cannot find this in the city or towns as usual for all other peoples. The collective convictions and beliefs are center of people`s behavioral expressions. They are oriented by these collective values moving towards cosmic union. However, the traditional society still has remarkable influence over the Timorese people even in this modern age. For the people is still living partly in an enchanted world. They are dominated by fearful motivation in most traditional religious and cultural activities. Joining in the traditional huts to pray or hamulak and tunu is not just an obligation, however, more than that it´s moved by the feelings of afraid of getting any harmful experience. Members of the clan or tribe that belong to the same uma lisan are obliged to join in this ceremony otherwise they will get sick or misfortune. This is what Charles Taylor called as enchanted world. Tribal or traditional leaders, together with their beliefs and perceptions, still have influence over the people. We need to grasp the meaning of the cultural expressions all over the country.

The enchanted world

This enchanted world is englobing tribal unity. Family spirit is deeply rooted in this mental orientation. Life is a celebration, though poor they might be. The term crisis is not in their vocabulary. In this point our people is sharing with the Asian pacific peoples, most especially the Melanesian mental attitude as well as the Malayan people. Mutual help among the relatives is mostly required in order to avoid any harmful experience or disaster even natural calamity. Therefore, they keep closed to one another. Another sign of enchantment is matandok (seer) and lulik or the sacred (objects and places). Commitment towards community is highly observed, however, less rationally motivated. Even the dowry, or whatever is related to the traditional customs, is considered as endorsed by the lulik (sacred) and matebian (the spirit of dead relatives). Thus people are forced to follow the requirements although it´s open to negotiation. Everybody is linked to the larger life either by natum or by integration.

The ontological conflict

Another point that I want to highlight here is the ontological conflict among the people. This ontological conflict is natural for any human being. Conflict begins within the individual person then expanded to the larger life or community. The basic ontological conflict is body and soul inclinations based on each own contrasted characteristics. Our natural tendencies and impulses are against our rational orientation towards higher values as social and spiritual being. National interest is in conflict with tribal interest. Democracy promotes freedom that gives more space for this conflict. This freedom is sometimes against the enchanted world created by the cosmic vision of the traditional world. To be free from the enchantment is the tendency of democracy with its rationalization, which tends to disenchant the society. Today tribal orientation is sometime changed by political trend of regional mental oriented. However, this trend could never eliminate tribal affinities of uma-lisan and fetosan-umane. These traditions of uma-lisan and fetosan-umane link together all tribes all over the country even beyond. There are some major tribal affinities that need a deep investigation. The interactions among the tribes are interesting to highlight their characteristics in terms of affinities and distinctions.  Tribal cohesion is strong. They are Fatuluku tribal, Makasae tribal, Mambae tribal, Terik tribal, Baikeno tribal, Waima´a tribal, Midiki tribal, Galolen Tribal, Bunak tribal, Tokodede tribal and Nau-ety tribal and other smallest tribes. Each of them remains very strong in their own stands and very difficult to assimilate any another strange cultural elements. Even some of them find hard to mingle with others from different tribes, hard in using common language like Tetun. These are part of natural conflict within a plural society.

However, this tribal cohesion does not isolate each tribe from the others because they are also strongly linked by the traditions of Uma-lisan and Fetosan-umane. They never cut off their relationship from their origins, either maternal or paternal. Though they belong to the Fataluku tribe they never cut themselves off from the Makasae tribe or whatever tribe they came from. If there would be a traditional ceremony that obliges them to be present among the Mambae tribe they should do so in order to gain blessing and strength. By doing this they keep united with their relatives of other tribes. This is the great thing the Timorese people have.   

There remain two worlds in contrast. Traditional values are threatened by foreign invasions thru the process of globalization. Customs and cultural perceptions are against modernization, even the Catholic orientation regarding certain moral and ethical questions like dowry demands and polygamy in certain traditional community. Hurts and deep wounds are in a permanent tension with the Catholic faith and moral demand of forgiveness and reconciliation. Dignity of a wounded people is tending against political clemency. Thus there is an urgent need for the development of reason in order to reconcile these ontological conflicts. The existence of the country remains vulnerable if there is no concrete effort to channel and to integrate these contrasted mental orientations. It does not mean that there should be a fusion of these all. However, it just needs an orientation in order to create an environment to promote justice and peace from within. Justice should be done in order to heal these wounds.

All ethical views are based on the collective convictions. An act is justified by such convictions, not based on the morally right as Kant taught. Common good prevails all personal interests. A communitarian sense is very strong in the traditional society. Catholic moral teaching has a great influence in the shift of moral and ethical life of the people. However, since the invasion of the western democracy, which brought about freedom, there is building a new horizon too. Many have opted the individual desires and personal impulses as the object of moral decision. Even today the politicians and the academics do not really assimilate what the democracy offers. Anthropologically the Timorese are still living in two contrasted worlds. 

Political trend

It is really amazing if we look at the Timorese view of man and society. They are more communitarians with a wide social outlook. In my opinion, the Timorese political orientation is naturally moving towards communitarianism, not communism. It´s wrong to adopt the leftist ideology with its radical view of man and society. We can consider the Indonesian democracy of Pancasila, or the democracy based on the five principles that unite all the Indonesian ethnics, as more or less relevant to the Timorese reality or to any other Asian country. The people of Timor Leste share with this paternalistic orientation. The only thing we should empower is the people including all political agents.

In the new era as an independent country, the Timorese people are struggling to build up democracy. However, what kind democracy we should adopt? Social democracy or pure democracy is not matter. I think we need to build up a democracy of our own, based on the mutual respect and collectivity. Above all sense of humanity, based on love and solidarity, is needed although democracy does not speak about love in the service for the common good. It is not right or left party that would solve social problems, nor even center party. All political parties should bow to the collective values and convictions of the people, not to any ideology either right or left. In reality what happen in the world is that those parties who won the elections to govern are defending their ideology rather than their peoples. This political trend is not communitarian but sectarian nor even democratic as well.  

Communitarianism is closed to what we should opt for. It was formulated by Dorothy Day in the 20th century as a philosophy based on the connection between the individual and the community. It is not even as defined by John Rawls “A Theory of Justice”, who presents the image of man as atomistic individual. However, the dependence of the individual upon the community is typically meant as descriptive. It does not mean that individual should accept majority belief, such as historical belief of slavery is acceptable, he will do so for reasons that make sense within the community itself, example based on the man as the image of God. It does not mean a collective ownership of all properties as claimed by the communists according to the logical interpretation of Marx´s theory. I think communism in some cases is incompatible to the Timorese mental orientation. The notion of private property is the major challenge for this doctrine that tends to eliminate it. Unity does not mean fusion. Marx´s concept of socialism is more relevant than communism itself. Paul Tillich described socialism of Marx as a resistance movement against the destruction of love in social reality (Protestantische Vision, Ring Verlag, Stuttgart, 1952, p. 6.), this can be adopted.

What Marx intended to show was just a struggle of classes in the society. He meant that Capitalism will collapse by itself as consequence of what it created. As the result of this tension he concluded that there will appear a new society without class. In order to understand his ideas we can fallow Raymond Aron´s description on infra-structure and superstructure of Marxism. The powers of production not only depend on the technical instruments for production but they also depend on the organization of the common work, which in its part, depends on the laws of property as juridical dominion.  Here he described the individual right of property and the development of the technics of production as contradictory. The amplitude of the powers of production is becoming impossible for the maintenance of the individual right of property. He even shows factories of Renault do not belong to anyone else but to the state (abstract because of no one); Péchiney not belongs to anyone else but it belongs to the thousands of stakeholders; General Motors belong to the hundreds of thousands of stakeholders who maintain juridical fiction of the property. It is from this context that Marx wanted to reveal that private property was in the way of disappearing and typical capitalism was transforming itself. However, the communist founder “Lenin” interpreted Marxism differently according to his political propaganda as revealed in the “Manifesto”. He and his followers (communists) opted in the radical way through a violent revolution moving towards a classless society. At the end they covered up the misery of majority of people.  

Short conclusion

The only thing we have to do is to liberate the people from all kinds of enchantment that weaken our reasons as rational being, or in the Catholic belief as the image of God. Thus we also need to assimilate all positive aspects of any ideology that could bring change for better in the Timorese society. What we should consider in the national development is the spirit that unites us all, reconciles all existing conflicts, liberates us from the enchanted world. We cannot give up such a spirit that binds us together. We are compatible to one another because of this spirit, forming a larger life from many contradictions within us and among us.

The author is living in Portugal  
FEIRA, 29 of June 2013
Publika Forum-Haksesuk, 12 Julho 2013
Titulu A look at the Timorese World and Political Trend

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