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On Self-Deprecation  

by on Monday, 6 August 20072 Comments | 1,071 views

Balinese in a conversation will frequently deprecate themselves. Self-deprecation is a part of Balinese strategy of politeness. An old saying which goes “don’t think you can, let other judge you” is still deeply rooted in Balinese mind. It is considered arrogant for someone to say about himself without deprecation of his quality or ability, the decision whether you have a certain ability or not is in the hand of others. Though you have proven your ability to others, it is wise to be low profile and give the privilege of talking about your ability to others.

When you ask a Balinese whether he can execute a task or not, you will rarely have a straight “yes I can” for an answer. Balinese will prefer to say “I will try” though he has capability to execute the task. If he has a slightest doubt in his mind he will say “no I can not.” If Balinese say “I will try”, it means that he has full capability and confidence that he can execute the task.

When entertaining a guest, a host will constantly apologize for the low quality of refreshment he serves and inadequacy of his home. He will mention that he is poor and cannot afford anything better, and he will regrets that the guest has to accept what little there is. The guest constantly praises the same objects for which the host apologizes and indicates how much better they are than those he himself can afford. It is a kind of game that all Balinese played but nobody takes it seriously.

In a conversation a Balinese usually try to make the one he talk to feel important. Balinese never say that he has to leave now because he has some other important things to do to the host. That would imply that speaking to the host is not important. One must not say that he has not stopped by for long time because he was very busy, because that means that the host must rank low in the order of important things that he has in his mind. Elaborate fiction must be made. Or else one just says that he is going and asked to be excused, without mentioning why.

Making others feel important and happy is the goal of politeness in Bali.

Some Materials for this writing are taken from Fred. B. Eiseman, Jr’s Sekala and Niskala Vol. II

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