My uncle said so


My uncle said so

May 18, 2015
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September 2014

My uncle said so

Every morning the young man warmed up the car. It took him around fifteen minutes before we could go. Those were fifteen minutes of contribution to the air pollution around the small village we stayed, just outside the city Yogyakarta (Central Java, Indonesia).

After few days and several warming ups, I told him, a graduate of the secondary technical school, that it was not necessary for new cars due to technological advances. He was shocked almost insulted by my remarks even more since I am not a mechanic. He replied irritated that his uncle told him to do so. I repeated my instruction to no avail.

Few weeks later a couple friends stayed at our place for one night. They drove by car from Jakarta to the most eastern city of the island Java. Jogyakarta is fairly in the middle between these two cities. The next morning at breakfast the husband heard the motor of our car running. He, a graduate of the technical university, majoring in machine construction, said that it was not necessary to warm up the car since it is a new one. I told him what the young man said. Then he got up and went to tell the man that warming up was needless. After few minutes our friend came back repeating the same advice of the uncle.

I said to our my friend what would be the reaction if a “bule” (the common impolite denomination for white people) would give the advice. My friend lifted his arms saying “bule are gods”. This remark is pertinent. Numerous Indonesians still have a sort of complex towards westerners although Indonesia is almost 70 years independent and many Indonesians have contacts with foreigners (in business and as students, scholars and tourists in western countries). Many western tourists are visiting Indonesia. 

After breakfast our friends went to their car to continue their trip. He switched on the motor of their two years old car and drove directly without warming up. The young man looked perplexed at the event since he knew the car was a new one and those friends drove very often from west to east Java and back. Finally the young man stopped warming up the car at the insistence of my wife.

The reason why he followed his uncle’s advice was and is the tradition. Tradition is very strong in the Javanese culture and even more in the area of Yogyakarta. The province Yogyakarta is a sultanate and the sultan is even the governor of the province. One should follow the advices of people from a higher ranking and elderly persons especially if they are members of the family. This kind of tradition is hampering indeed development and progression.

For this young man there is another reason why he should follow the advice of his uncle which is not merely tradition. This uncle taught him to drive a car until he could get a driving license. Next he bought a driving license as almost all persons did and are still doing. No exam but just buy or in correct English bribe an official of the organization procuring driving licenses. After he got this precious certificate he rent a pick-up and earned his money by delivering goods from one place to another. His uncle, an older family member, did not only teach him driving but provided the young man a lifeline enabling to earn a living. So, the young man has reasons to follow the advice of and to be grateful to the uncle, backed up by tradition.


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