Living as a villager of East Java

Balearjo, 1952

With his recently married wife Darsi, Widjojo lived in a small hut, about the size of a garage, just across the road from our house. A modest start for one who destined for such a brilliant career. We visited them often, and noticing him attempting to do his lessons in the dark I gave him a pressure lantern. I told him we wanted to study a typical village in a crowded country side. Widjojo took over from that--he recommended the village of Balearjo near Malang in East Java as the site of our studies; he assembled a team of about four of his fellow-students, and we set our by car for a six-week stay in Balearjo. Widjojo was born in 1929 into the family of an official in Malang Thus he was about 22 when we started working together in this village close to his birthplace.

Another good student was Permadi, who called himself "orang ketjil", referring to his small stature, who subsequently became Director of the Bank Rakjat (People's Bank) set up to lend money to peasants who needed small sums for investment on their holdings. He was very capable and second only to Widjojo in leadership qualities. The Bank Rakjat did grow rapidly during the period of his Directorship. I remember him for his ready wit--wise-cracking is by no means common among Indonesians. I got to know him very well during the month or two that we lived in Balearjo. And am sorry to have lost touch in the years since, so not knowing if he is still alive.

When we got to Balearjo, after duly asking permission all down the line, starting with the Department of Internal Affairs in Jakarta, we were cordially received by the village headman, lodged in his best bedroom, and sat down to drink tea while he asked what he could tell us. We asked a few questions about his job, and then said that we had come to talk to the village people. He assured us that he could tell us about them much better than they could themselves. We finally got across the idea that we wanted to talk to the peasants themselves, to learn the detail of their way of life. At first he accompanied us in our interviews, but finally realized that our purpose was not sedition or in any way a danger to the State. We just wanted to walk around the village, take notes on what people were doing, and talk to whomever we saw in the fields. Preferably without any official present at those interviews, though that I left unsaid.

The team did a thorough job on the economic life of Balearjo and we went back to Jakarta with a raft of notes on the villagers and their ways of earning a livelihod. I did what teaching I could arrange on demography and social science, and after some uneventful months the year of my leave was over. The family and I went home by air, travelling over the Pacific, so completing the first of several trips around the world.

I had a call to do one thing or another in Indonesia every three of four years. Each time I came the language had departed further from the Indonesian I knew on my first trip, adding words of Sanskrit, Javanese, Dutch and English origin to meet the needs of the modern industrial state that Indonesia was becoming. Now I would need frequent frequent reference to a dictionary to read the simplest newspaper article. Over the half century ending in 1989 when I last visited,.movies, painting, literature, music--were rapidly shifting, the traditional forms merging with the current fashions of the West. Business people and tourists were filling the new hotels built to accommodate them. One could accept that, if with regret, if it were only accompanied by the prosperity of America. This departure from traditional forms has been most regretful for Bali, whose people in our time seemed to live for beauty in painting, music, and drama..

My visit of 1964 was the saddest. Sukarno was in his last days. The country was lapsing into poverty and people wanted him out. Wherever he went he had the protection of a tank or two. I remember going round to the back of the hotel to find my driver when I found myself face to face with a tank, the gun barrel pointed right at me. You can believe that I retreated quickly.

Sukarno planned a war with Malaysia to divert attention from the shortage of food and other essentials. He had young men marching up and down on vacant lots with wooden rifles on their shoulders. He had no idea whatever of how to get the economy going. Some kind of revolt was inevitable.

In 1965 General Suharto staged a coup, capturing Sukarno. There followed a carnage of the Chinese, who were widespread through the economy,and some 500,000 were said to have been murdered. To this day no one knows for sure what part Suharto and his new Government had in it. Was it sending out death squads, or trying to protect the Chinese against popular lynching? Probably neither; it seems that the military and police simply stood by until the killing wore itself out.

Such an event takes one back to Freud, whose exploration of the dark corners of the human soul found that the drive to hurt or rob or kill one's neighbor is part of the id, and within the id just about as strong as sex. The disaster of the holocaust of 1965 can be prevented with the education

that imposes community and civilization on the raw id.

Under the new government there was indeed order. There was corruption as before, but now it was centralized--Suharto and his family monopolized it. One rumor spoke of his wife, Madame Tien, as Madame Ten Per Cent, that being the family rake-off on all public and private projects.

The country settled down under the new arrangements. My onetime student, Widjojo, of whom I am very proud, has kept himself clean of all temptations to corruption. His probity and intelligence carried him to the highest levels of government. He was made Minister of Economic Affairs and then he went up from that to fill a new post: Supervising Minister of the three or four Departments of Government concerned with production and finance. He was Suharto's chief adviser. He represented the country in all international negotiations.. He used his high position as a moderating influence on the destructive forces--the corruption and the violence--in the country. How far the exalted title enabled him to keep these forces down I do not know. What I do know is that he protected and gave a job to the liberal Soedjatmoko (see below) when the latter had incurred the displeasure of the Government.But most important of all, with Widjojo at the helm, constructive policies were adopted to get the economy into motion, and annual increases were impressive.

On these subsequent assignments we were first accommodated at the home of the Papadimitriou's (Caecil and Alex), a large estate about 10 miles from Jakarta, and then were invited by the Widjojo's to their house in Pondok Indah, where we were given the second floor to ourselves, along with a Javanese cook who knew the whole wide gamut of local cooking. I can't imagine better accommodation, except for the traffic on the road between Pondok Indah and Jakarta. What should have been a 15 minute drive twice a day took well over an hour.

All in all I spent the equivalent of about four years in Indonesia. Those years were the richest experience of my 90 years.

Meanwhile despite all Widjojo's efforts, the economy has sunk to a low point. A CIA overview based on data for the last years of the 20th century says:

Indonesia, a vast polyglot nation, faces severe economic problems, stemming from secessionist movements and the low level of security in the regions, the lack of reliable legal recourse in contract disputes, corruption, weaknesses in the banking system, and strained relations with the IMF. Investor confidence will remain low and few new jobs will be created under these circumstances. Growth of 4.8% in 2000 is not sustainable, being attributable to favorable short-term factors, including high world oil prices, a surge in non-oil exports, and increased domestic demand for consumer durables.

I have to confess my ignorance of not only the present condition of Indonesia but of what went on before in the higher reaches of Government. What I do know is that there are indeed problems, but the prospect for the future is brighter than it is for the United States at the moment. Here we have corruption--crony capitalism--at the highest reaches of government, the Constitution has been trampled on, the dollar has lost almost a third of its value since 2000.

While once it was thought the United States was a model to follow, that is, at least for the moment, not true. As things are now going, the whole apparaturs of social security is being dismanteled. The Trust Funds, meant to be saved and augmented for the flood of old people who will claim benefts starting 2010, are being spent on arms and on tax remissions to the rich. Indonesia shows no sign of such a socially divisive policy, thank goodness..

Pak Widjojo and Indonesian History

Fridays on the McGill faculty

Montreal, early 1950s

Once back from Chicago I set myself to the serious pursuit of the doctorate. Having only three quarters of residence I had plenty to learn before I could face the prelims, examination on the vast field of sociology. Every available moment went into this. On one business trip to New York I was able to use evenings and a weekend at the New York Public Library. I bought books; I borrowed books from friends.

Once the prelims were taken and passed, I applied the same effort to the dissertation. It was submitted and there remained the oral examination with the Department. It looked as though a trip to Chicago was going to be necessary; that represented a not inconsiderable drain on my resources. But while I was brooding about this the DBS needed me to attend a meeting in Canberra, Australia. I phoned the Department and asked whether the examination could be set at such a date that I could take it on the way down. The Department obliged, and I not only did the hearing but managed to take in some final formalities on the way back. I received the doctorate in 1952, just ten years after John Robbins stopped me in the hall of the DBS and proposed that I write a letter to William Ogburn.

Once a certified sociologist, I was a property of some value. The first time this appeared was in 1955 when I was offered a once-a-week lectureship at McGill, in which I was to go down to Montreal on Thursday evening, and teach sociology in two courses given on Fridays. All this was planned by Carl Dawson, long-time chair, practically proprietor of the Sociology Department. I fell in with it enthusiastically, and the problem was to persuade Herbert Marshall, then head of the DBS. He demurred at first, but then consented, and the plan was in effect for two years.

Then Marshall said that this must stop, and he arranged an increase in pay in compensation. All this time I was thinking in terms of the depression, though it was long over, and hesitated to do anything that would lead to my departure from the Bureau--even though in fact jobs were plentiful, and I could have easily found another if I had dropped the Bureau..

It tells something about bureaucracy that Marshall wanted my whole time. I really did not have much of a function even during the four days of the week that I was present in the Bureau, but it hurt him not to be in full charge of my office time. To divide me, his property, with McGill was an offense to his full ownership of the Bureau.

So what did I do in my Fridays at McGill? I had a small but very good class, including Elise Boulding, wife of Kenneth Boulding, at McGill for a year or two. Open discussions with no holds barred were a new experience to me. Oswald Hall was a close friend, and rare was the Friday when we did not lunch at the McGill Faculty Club, a new kind of institution for me. I got to know Burton Keirstead, and Ben Higgins in the economics department, people in political science, in mathematics, in English. Every moment of this academic life was new and exciting.

I typically returned on the fast train of Friday evening, that made it back to Ottawa in two hours. On one occasion I got to talking to Nicole (whose surname I do not recall), a charming young Francophone and invited her to our house. She had a boyfriend by the name of Jones; the only thing I remember of him is that having gone upstairs to relieve himself he tripped on the stairs returning to our living room and came down much faster than he intended.

My psychoanalysis and a dream

Ottawa, 1952-57

Late in my years at the DBS, after I had my doctorate, I went through a full psychoanalysis--three hours a week for all of five years--by Mrs. Martha Wasserman, a student of Jung and fresh from Vienna. For what it was worth, I was attracted by the thought that being analyzed by Mrs. W. would put me close to the great Freud--he analyzed Jung, Jung. analyzed Mrs. W. and if I committed myself to her I would be the third generation down from Freud. At 90, sixty years later, I am one of the very few people alive that close to this formative influence on the 20th century.

Mrs. W. was the widow of Jacob Wasserman; whose Christian Wahnschaffe (The World's Illusion), one of the most popular novels of the day, I had read and enjoyed. She herself was a novelist of some standing. No longer young, but with an elegance that I associate with the elite of the capital city of the Hapsburg Empire where she was brought up.

We were enormously impressed with cures by Mrs. Wasserman of two friends who were conspicuously neurotic. Jimmie Henderson was an alcoholic, who by bad luck held a job testing alcoholic spirits in a customs laboratory. He was entirely out of control. His wife Anne told us that he hid drinks all over the house--she even found a bottle inside the toilet tank. After an extended analysis he was entirely cured. Unfortunately the analysis smoothed out the jagged parts of his personality, making him a less interesting person than before he became an alcoholic and before the analysis. Mrs. Wasserman was aware of this effect and did her best to avoid it but in this case that was not possible.

One can surmise what it was that drove Jimmie to drink. I knew him well, sharing a room with him in Mrs. Kronk's boarding house. Of Glasgow Scottish ancestry, first generation born in Canada, and intensely anti-Catholic. He never tired of talking about the wickedness of a Church that could reduce your mother's stay in purgatory by 5 years, but wouldn't ever tell you how long remained.. And then he married Anne, Catholic and a beautiful redhead. Is it possible that this clash of religions was responsible for his neurosis? I don't know enough to say. What I do know is that there never was a more sympathetic and devoted wife than Anne, who rose to heights of heroism under the strain imposed on her by Jimmie's alcoholism. (I know another case, Leo Goodman, one of the great statisticians of our age, whose wife, also called Anne, left him when he was threatened with a fatal cancer. He survived and is still flourishing, but no thanks to Anne.)

And then there was Clarence Barber, an economist of some distinction, who was also cured of minor neuroses by Mrs. Wasserman.

I had already read Ernest Jones and other writers, and was interested in psychoanalysis. With that and her successes with Henderson and Barber I was persuaded that Mrs. Wasserman was the real thing.

And so began my five years on Mrs. W.'s couch. In preparation for that I did some free association on a typewriter, turning out dozens of pages, and passed them to Mrs. W. in the hope that these would jump-start the analysis.

The analysis took up many trifling matters, and a few serious ones. Beatrice said as I was leaving the house one day for my regular session, "Ask Mrs. Wasserman why you don't have you hair cut." And sure enough the matter came up in my free association, though I don't recall what answer emerged.

One incident left a permanent impression on me. On arriving at her apartment I asked whether I could use her bathroom. She indicated the way, and for a while this happened regularly. (Since I had just come from home there was no reason for it.) Then one day she answered "No". She had grasped the symbolism of my request, and found it offensive. She never explained why she said no--she didn't have to. Just an example of my unconscious talking to her unconscious, she understanding what was going on and I at first not understanding . I had a piano teacher at one time, who went to the toilet after arriving at our house for a lesson. I interpreted it as Mrs. W. had, and got rid of that teacher--who was teaching me very little anyhow. .

When I started I had the naïve idea that the sessions would have some of the character of lectures on the theory of psychoanalysis. Nothing of the kind-it was I who did the talking. When I slowed down Mrs W. said something to stimulate my further expression. She often did react to what I was pouring out, perhaps with surprise, perhaps with disgust.

Writing some decades before Freud, Nietsche said that when we talk about ourselves we are not really trying to reveal, but rather to conceal the facts and ideas of our life. Getting the subject to break through that barrier in a way frames the task of the analyst.

My experience of psychoanalysis by Mrs. W. is entirely positive, or at worst neutral. But that was not true of all analysts. My much admired friend, Bert Hoselitz, mentioned elsewhere in this memoir, an inmate of Concord House, started to have headaches, and he consulted an analyst. After a considerable period under analysis, the headaches became worse, and the analyst told him it was because of the effect of his home and due to his wife, Gunhilde, as fine a person as I have ever met,. You wll have to divorce her, he said. He did but still loved her dearly, and kept coming back to see her. One evening when he called, Gunhilde said that unless he promised to see a neurologist the next day she would not let him in the house. That was enough. The neurologist diagnosed a brain tumor, and proposed operating. When it was done Bert gradually came back to normal. He first recovered Hungarian, which was the first language he had spoken. Then German came back--at which point I could talk to him, even though my German was at that time execrable. And finally he was speaking English, with the same accent that we had known well in his college days.

Bert was an economist, but a Viennese economist, far broader than the economist of the English-speaking world. He founded a magazine that under the editorship of Gale Johnson still goes on--called Economic Development and Cultural Change. It was devoted to showing that there was more to economic development than making the GNP grow; that it needed a cultural underpinning without which healthy competitive markets would not come into existence. Instead, as in the case of post-Soviet Russia of the 1990s, the economy would degenerate into the crony capitalism of President Yeltsin's era, in which the vast wealth of Russia, its forests, furs, oil, were simply given away.

But back to Bert and his analysis. The great musician George Gershwin had a similar brain tumor that was first diagnosed as mental, and like Bert had terrible headaches. When he got to a brain surgeon it was too late--he died on the operating table. A genius cut off at the age of 38, and unnecessarily.

Nothing so dramatic in my life. But the analysis did cure me of at least one troublesome habit, one that wasted a great deal of time and nervous energy. I was certainly of a calmer disposition. And later on I was better able to engage in Zen-type meditation than if I had never been analyzed. (As Mrs. W. foresaw.)

What I cannot tell is whether this supports Freud's theories, that require the patient to lie on a couch in such a way that he cannot see the analyst, who comes to him as a disembodied voice. Would the companionship over tea each day of a cultivated and sympathetic woman, for whom I had great respect, have had the same result? I cannot tell.

Meanwhile I can tell friends that am the fourth generation down from Freud Thinking of that quasi kinship I made a pilgrimage to the very source from which psychoanalysis sprang, the place that contained the couch on which it was born, the spacious apartment at 19 Bergstrasse, in downtown Vienna. Now open to the public with its furnishings intact.

The primacy of Freud is challenged by my one-time colleague Professor Ellenberger of the Université de Montréal. We visited him in 1963, and over dinner he explained that psychoanalysis was really due to Charcot in France, known to and respected by Freud; who treated patients on what we now know as psychoanalytic methods. But Charcot's patients were prisoners and others of low status and low capacity to pay an analyst. According to Ellenberger Freud is well known because he invented a machine to support psychoanalysis financially--he found his patients among wealthy women in Vienna, who had lots of money and lots of time. The movement traveled around the world riding on similar means of support.

My analysis included again and again exploring a dream I had had the previous night. While on the couch I was asked what was the first thing that came into my mind when I thought of that dream. When things went well I could by such free association reveal the meaning of that dream.

Today psychoanalysis is little heard from. Is it possible that toleration of lower ethical practices is what has brought it down? Unless the analyst has high ethical standards analysis is positively dangerous. If the analyst is just running a business, sets as his object extracting as much money as he can from the patient, he could harm the mind as well as the pocket book. I spoke apologetically to one of these types about my being analyzed when I had nothing seriously wrong, thus depriving some person who was suffering with genuine neurosis. He expressed astonishment, as though to say was I so simple minded as not to know that the purpose was the income of the analyst?

In summary, the psychoanalyst used to be a professional in the sense that a doctor is a professional; is he now a professional in the sense that a courtesan is a professional?

The object you seek is somewhere else

Cambridge 1995

One of my habits that the analysis uncovered and dealt with was misplacing things. Absent-mindedly I would put some object in an unusual place where it would be difficult to find, perhaps saying to myself that I did so because it was particularly important. A few days or a few hours later, when I needed it again, I would not be able to find it. I had hidden it from myself.

Mrs. Wasserman devoted several sessions to this habit, using the Freudian technique of free association. It turned out that my inability to find the article caused me much grief.. I went about the house mournfully looking in every possible corner, racking my brain. It became plain to me (as it evidently had been to Mrs. W. from the beginning), that this masochistic wallowing in grief and frustration was the object of putting the thing in an unfamiliar place. I was just hiding it from myself.

Once the process became clear, which it did in the course of a few weeks of analysis, then my conscious could take over. Full protection against my unconscious is provided by my mother's "A place for everything, and everything in its place:"

But there are other tendencies in my psyche that were not cured or even treated in the 5 years. Beatrice has noticed that in taking a test I have to think that the worst will occur. (This could be anything from a blood-pressure measurement today or a school examination 70 years ago.) If I thought the result would be good then the gods watching over my action would punish this arrogance, so to achieve the best outcome I must be humble and anticipate the worst. At a conscious level I accept that what I anticipate will have no effect on the outcome, but that is not good enough for the unconscious, that thinks of the omnipresent gods, so jealous of hubris in us inferior beings. .

One current example. When my children wanted to celebrate my 90th birthday a few weeks ago, I asked them urgently to defer that celebration until the 29th of June. Even though a few days before would have been more convenient.

My constantly saying that I am not capable of doing such-and-such, I am willing to try but it will not succeed, gives my friends and relatives the impression of extreme modesty. .Evidently I am out of tune with my age, just out-of-date. For in the current etiquette, let us say of basketball or tennis, one shouts victory, one acclaims himself. Any one our age remembers with nostalgia how the winner would console the loser with words like "Better luck next time." Such an expression is not to be heard today.

A dream

I was in a huge building, up and down whose corridors I wandered. It was a kind of meeting place, perhaps a hotel in which a great conference was taking place. whose with many stories, and crowded with people, young people mostly. meeting and talking, about what I didn't. I had been assigned a room, and I wanted to get back to it so that I could go to sleep, and I could not find it. I went into one of the rooms facing on the corridor of the 6th floor, and asked a young man whether he had a list of the people in the building. I told him my name and he looked up his list, and said "You are listed as in room 610." I thanked him and looked for room 610 figuring it must be on the 6th floor and that was where we were. But even given the room number I couldn't find it. There were all sorts of discontinuities in the numbering--as though it had been devised to confuse me, yet all the young people understood it well.

I had been trying the previous evening to figure out how to scan a document and failed, and was much frustrated...I am afraid that many things in computing that for young people are perfectly natural, and for me are a struggle. Surely that is what the dream is telling me.

But enough for my unconscious.

India with JBS Haldane

Calcutta 1956

The DBS released me for three months to work in the Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta in 1956. Strictly it is not in the city at all, but considerably north of the city on the Barrackpore Trunk Road. The Institute, that Professor Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis.(1893-1972) founded and still headed, was set up like a research university, with buildings splayed over a large campus. Mahalanobis was close to Prime Minister Nehru, and seemingly could get anything he wanted. It seems safe to attribute some of Nehru's planning to Mahalanobis, planning that has not always worked out.

Wanting to be as self-contained as possible Mahalanobis established his own guest house (in which I was comfortably lodged), a print shop, and a farm on which much of its food was raised, . I used to go up on the guest-house roof with a portable typewriter and type my daily letter to Beatrice back in Ottawa.

I often went for a walk of exploration through the surrounding countryside. One day I was rewarded by seeing twenty or so vultures, each two to three feet high, grimly standing in a circle. Apparently a sheep had fallen dead, and its body was being torn apart by wild dogs. Vultures are not built for fighting and they awaited their turn on the carcass at a respectful distance. Once the dogs were sated they left the scene, and the vultures closed in.

On another occasion I passed a peasant woman of the lowest caste efficiently carrying on her head a basket of dung cakes. I stopped her and by means of signs asked the price. I didn't know the market price of dung cakes and she undoubtedly did; in any case we negotiated by signs and came to an agreement; I paid her: she took down the basket and motioned to me to take it. There was nothing I wanted less than those dung cakes, so I motioned her to take it back, and she went happily on her way to sell it again.

It so happened the great English biologist J. B. S. Haldane (1892-1964) was also in the Institute. It was 1956; the Egyptians had taken over the Suez Canal, and Prime Minister Anthony Eden, then being coached as the successor to Winston Churchill as head of the Conservative Party,tried to retake it by force. The United States, backed by France, reminded him forcefully that the colonial epoch was now past, and the British Empire could no longer enforce its historic domination. Eden resigned, his political career finished. Eden came of the best family, had gone to the best schools; neither of these weighed in the democratic temper of those years..

Haldane made a public declaration that he couldn't live in a country that would try such a thing, and on the invitation of Mahalanobis moved out to the Barrackpore Trunk Road along with his companion Helen. He had been invited and was now warmly welcomed by Mahalanobis.

But by the time I got there the two men were not speaking to one another. Neither saw any virtue in being diplomatic, Both were uncompromising academics, guided by immutable principles.

One of the matters on which friction developed was the Journal of Genetics, founded and at the time edited by Haldane. His vast ego was bound up with the Journal, and in accord with the agreement made before he came he brought it with him. It had to be printed on proper paper--paper not available in India, so Mahalanobis had to go to the trouble and expense of importing the paper at a time when foreign exchange control made this no easy matter. The first issue was to be printed in the little print shop in the Institute. It was one of the facilities that Mahalanobis to make his Institute self-sufficient.

The type setting was by a method that must have gone back five centuries to Gutenberg. Type bars for individual letters were selected from trays and when the page was complete a string was put around it and it was ready to be inked and the paper pressed on it. The trouble in this case was that one evening an unlucky type-setter dropped the type for one of the pages and it scattered over the floor. He spent the whole night reassembling it and made a fair but not perfect restoration, a considerable achievement considering that he knew no English. When the issue of the journal loaded on an office truck was wheeled in to Haldane, he looked it over carefully, found the few misprints, and rejected the whole issue.

That was bad enough. But Haldane, after making some insulting remarks like "We don't want this to be Indian work--we want it to be right," started all over again, but not in the ISI print shop. He went into Calcutta and found a commercial printer and insisted that Mahalanobis contract with him. This time the work turned out to be acceptable, but one can imagine the rancor that it left behind, not to mention the expense.,.

With the two men no longer on speaking terms Haldane found ways of annoying Mahalanobis. Once when the latter had a party, which I attended, we guests saw Haldane, dressed in a quite inappropriate dirty white Indian costume, carrying books on his head, striding through the crowd of guests.

Beatrice had a biologist cousin living in England, Ursula Philip, at Cambridge where she collaborated with Haldane, and who suffered greatly from his treatment of her. For him, as for some other upper class Englishmen I have known, the lower orders were fair game for the scornful treatment that comes naturally to the scions of Empire. In the end Ursula could stand it no longer and gave up a good prospect at Cambridge to go to Newcastle.

Yet quite aside from his scientific achievements, Haldane was enormously talented. He translated a piece of Persian poetry for me; told me the biology of wild flowers we encountered in a walk through the countryside and never ceased to be informative and entertaining.

My three month leave came to an end and I returned to my family and the DBS. Haldane left the Institute and went to Bihar Province, where soon after he was diagnosed with cancer, lived courageously through a painful illness, and died in 1964.