Monday, September 06, 2010

Isn't it Time to Reclaim our Lost Dignity?


By Jone Baledrokadroka

Shiga Shigetaka is generally known among scholars of Japanese intellectual history as the pioneering advocate of ‘kokusui shugi’ (maintenance of Japan's cultural identity). The theory called for spiritual solidarity in the late 1880s when Japan was facing increasing pressure from the West. In translating the Shigetaka philosophy to the Fijian preservation of our cultural identity, it goes something likes this: ‘noda i tovo vaka Viti’.

In 1886, after travelling through the Pacific and Fiji, Shigetaka warned against a too indiscriminate adoption of Westernization. His travels had reinforced his thinking that the Western culture had a demeaning effect in the South Seas. Shigetaka was also an anti-imperialist, who opposed Japan's march towards the "suicidal" World War Two.

After spending time in lengthy conversations with one of Fiji’s great pioneering Wesleyan missionaries, Reverend Fredrick Langham, the Japanese intellect found, “some similarity' between the Japanese and the Fijians. The common thread was this: both were ready and "willing to modernise, give up the barbaric practises of the past and alter their traditional national identity in order to become more westernized, while nevertheless maintaining their unique dignity and strength.” (Gavin, 2001:71).

Since the 2006 coup, Shigetaka’s tribute caricature of the Fijians quote, ‘while nevertheless maintaining their unique dignity and strength’ has been severely challenged by the military regime. More so since we have been told that resistance to instituted changes is futile.

What have we as a race done to deserve such culturally insensitive treatment from this misguided military regime?

Given our short westernized history, we have shown great adaptation to cultural and political change, something that once rivaled even the Japanese. Weren’t we once know as ‘the gentleman of the Pacific’ for being ‘noble savages’ from ‘fallen savages’ in such a short span of westernization?

I do not believe our politics is still so Machiavellian that we deserve to be rudely lumped together as extreme ethno-nationalists when our short westernized and extremely low ethnic violence history proves otherwise.

And why do we need a dictator who believes we need him to tell us what is good and what is not good for us? Where is our collective intellect when we have come to accept the misguided notion that authoritarian order will always suit us as a people and bring progress for Fijians?

Are we that scared and dumb that we are willing to sacrifice future generations with our docility? A docility that will keep you subservient like a commoner in our bygone chiefly system now forced to meritocratize with time.

Wasn’t it just four decades after the Christianization of our people that Wesleyan reverend Aminio Baledrokadroka and other native Fijian missionaries spread the faith to other islands of Melanesia?

Wasn’t it only a decade and a half after cession that we had trained native medical practitioners? Didn’t we fight in the great world wars against tyranny? Weren’t we part of a superior education system in the Pacific?

Didn’t we have the best colonial administration system of all the Pacific islands?

We have moved beyond colonialism to a postcolonial world of hybridity, quite smoothly despite our political masters. We have magnanimously bequeathed our land in trust for development to the benefit of all citizens.

So why do we need a military regime? To regiment us as has been done and shown to be ineffective and brutal in states of Communism, a system our forefathers died fighting against? And which the world has turned against as it came to know better?

Do you really believe civic resistance is futile to your false perception of an all powerful military regime? Mahatma Gandhi, in a simple loin cloth, led 60,000 followers in a peaceful salt march that brought down an empire.

So where is the courage of your conviction for democracy and dignity as a people in this modern era? And what is stopping us from exercising our rights and protesting for dialogue and democratic elections now?

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