OCEANIA

THE NEW PACIFIC

 

DEFENCE

From early times, life in the Pacific has been shaped by conquest and defence. Before the arrival of Europeans, the Pacific Islanders - Polynesians, Melanesians, Micronesians - were preoccupied with ritual warfare, constantly on the alert against attack when they were not themselves invading the territory of rival tribes. Headhunting and cannibalism were practised virtually everywhere in the South Pacific.

This Web site examines some of the changes up to 1985. Subsequent changes will be discussed in Part 2 of this Web site.

In the 16th century, European explorers brought in their wake missionaries, beachcombers and settlers, and before long the colonizers were to introduce new and more terrible forms of violence. Wars of extermination  were fought against island peoples. Many islanders were taken into slavery by 'blackbirders' and forced to work on plantations far away from their native lands. The Europeans introduced guns, liquor, and diseases to which the islanders had no resistance - measles, smallpox and influenza. Between 1820 and 1920 the number of Fijians fell from 200,000 to 85,000, the Marquesans were reduced from 20,000 to 3500, and the Easter Islanders from 4000 to 111. The population of New Caledonia was halved, and one race - the Morioris of the Chatham Islands - was wiped out altogether. Those islanders who remained were demoralized and apathetic, having been forced to abandon their gods and customs, cover their nakedness with preposterously impractical European clothing, and speak only the white man's language. Little pride remained to them - only a numbing sense of their own inferiority.

The end of the First World War brought many islanders a change of colonial master - under a League of Nations mandate New Guinea became Australian instead of German ; New Zealand inherited German Samoa; the Caroline, Marshall and Mariana islands of Micronesia, which had belonged to Spain and then to Germany, became Japanese. At the start of the Pacific War in 1941 Japan rapidly added Southeast Asia, the Philippines, and most of Melanesia to its empire, only to lose everything four years later. Micronesia then became a trust territory of the United Nations under the administration of the United States, and Indonesia achieved independence from the Dutch. 6 August 1945 marked the start of the nuclear age; Hiroshima heralded a new era of manipulation by the major powers. In the Marshall Islands, the people of Bikini and Enewetak were evacuated so that their homes could become testing grounds for nuclear weapons. Fourteen years after the final tests the people began to drift back to their islands, but in 1978 they were found to be suffering from radiation sickness and were evacuated once more to the small island of Kili, where they live to this day.

American nuclear devices are now tested in America - beneath the ground in  the Nevada desert. Many people have suggested that the French should test theirs in France - beneath Paris itself. But still the tests continue in the Pacific, deep within the basalt rock of Mururoa Atoll in the French Tuamotus near Tahiti.  Australia, Papua New Guinea and the majority of the smaller island nations are strongly opposed to the tests, fearing possible leakage from cracks in the rock and radioactive pollution of the sea which ocean currents would eventually carry to their shores. The French insist that the risks are negligible, and the admiral in charge has demonstrated his confidence by taking a swim in the lagoon. Doubts remain, even within the ranks of the French military; at Mururoa all food is imported - nobody eats the fish. The countries which condemn the nuclear tests at Mururoa are similarly critical of the Chinese program of atmospheric nuclear testing, and Japan's proposal for the wholesale dumping of nuclear waste in the Pacific.

     

They also envisage a nuclear-0free zone in their territorial waters from which they would attempt to exclude any ship which was nuclear-powered or which carried nuclear weapons. It is difficult for a country like Australia to turn away the ships of her allies. Britain and America, but conveniently the British and Americans have a policy of refusing to admit whether their ships are carrying nuclear weapons or not. The Australians will probably continue to give them the benefit of the doubt, just as Japan turns a blind eye in the direction of American warships suing its harbours. 

As the prosperity of the Pacific increases, so does its strategic importance to the major powers. In recent years Russia has added considerably to the strength of her Pacific fleet based at Vladivostok and Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam, and in reply, the United States ha built up the tonnage and sophistication of the Seventh Fleet. The location of US bases is related to that of potential flashpoints - the borders of 'Thailand and Laos and Cambodia, the border between South Kora and communist North Korea, the narrow straits between Japan and the Kurtle Islands, and those between Singapore and Indonesia through which come the vital oil shipments from the Arabian Gulf. America has a large army base and 40,000 men in south Korea, a Rapid Deployment Force of main islands, and a large air base on Guam, with 852 bombers on constant alert. Camp Smith, overlooking pearl Harbor in Hawaii, is the HQ of the US Pacific Command, the largest naval command in the world, extending from San Diego in the east of the Arabian gulf in the west. With the exceptions of Guam, and Johnson Island, a store for nerve gas, the only American military installation of any size in Micronesia is Kwajalein, the world's largest atoll. Nearly 200 miles of coral reef enclose a lagoon of 1200 square miles, and this is the target for missiles fired from Vandenberg Air Base in California, 5000 miles away. The people of Kwajalein have been relocated on the small island of Ebeye, three miles from the air-conditioned comfort of the American settlement there. Concern for their wellbeing and dismay of the extent of overcrowding on Ebeye, frequently referred to as 'the slum of the Pacific', have resulted to be three times higher than on any other Micronesian island. The Americans say the overcrowding is caused by people from other islands who come in search of easy money.

American interest in Micronesia has always been a matter of military strategy above all else. The Pacific War vividly demonstrated that he who controls this chain of islands effectively commands the Western Pacific, and the prime consideration of denying access to other nations has dictated American policy in Micronesia throughout its 38-year administration. Tragically, it has left the island peoples demoralized and in a state of abject dependency. Some believe they were '... the victims of a conscious American conspiracy to create a situation in which Micronesians could never stand alone and thus would be bound to serve the patron nation's strategic needs'. More likely, their predicament is the result of a lack of understanding of Micronesian culture and a genuine, if naive, belief that 'what was in the best interests of the US happily coincided with the greatest good for the Micronesian people'.

The culture of Micronesia is conditioned by the nature of the islands themselves - small outcrops of land in a vast and threatening ocean. Because land is so limited it is valued as life itself, and treated with awe, and reverence - hence the distress when an islander is deprived of his land. Lack of space on an island means that people must co-operate closely with one another if the group is to prosper, and this leads to conformity and decision-making by consensus. competitiveness within the group and individuality of the Western kind are not required - on the contrary, they represent a threat to group solidarity. In personal relationships, politeness and respect are essential to maintain harmony. Loss of face must be avoided at all costs. Difficult subjects for discussion are not approached head-on, but skirted with much attendant ritual. The worst punishment is to be ostracized or expelled from the group. (All this is equally true of the Japanese, themselves an island race.) It would seem that the mentality of the people of Micronesia is the complete antithesis of the American character, with its love of individual freedom and directness of expression. But the Americans acted in the belief that their wards had the same needs and priorities as themselves. In 1962 President Kennedy set in motion a programme of development which would, it was hoped, lead eventually to a voluntary alliance with the Stares at the end of the trusteeship some 20 years ahead. Emphasis was placed on health and education - schools were built on virtually every island, staffed by American teachers and Peace Corps volunteers. Education became the territory's largest industry. Unfortunately, no effort was made to build up the productive sector of the economy, so the only employment available to the graduates pouring out of schools and colleges was in government, which rapidly expanded to receive them. This in turn required more injection s of American money, and government grew and grew until it became a major industry in itself.  

Today, government in Micronesia employs some 9000 people, and their payroll of $35 million a year (1980 figures) is the backbone of the economy. Trust Territory government payroll dollars, funded by the US, pay for the opportunities of modernization that are to be seen everywhere in Micronesia today. The tape recorders and stereo sets, the cement block houses, and the new Hondas and Toyotas are all bank rolled in Washington, as every educated Micronesian knows full well. The educated Micronesian has been educated the individualistic, materialistic American way. He has bitten the apple of the 'Good Life' and his new values are in conflict with those of his parents and the traditional values of his people. He can indulge his material desires only by working for the government, but he realizes that, in doing so, his life is without purpose, meaningless. It might have been quite different - American aid might have been used to build fisheries, modernize plantations, introduce tourism, and generally bring the islands to a state of economic self-sufficiency which would have left the people some pride. But that would also have increased the risk of their becoming truly independent, and the danger that one day they might make friends with the Russians. The conspiracy theory may not be so ridiculous after all.

Today the distress of Micronesia is all too apparent: 'Each day we see the deterioration of modern life - the smashed vodka bottles, the rusty corrugated tin roofs of village shanties, the wrecked human lives. In many places one senses a brooding resentment which can so easily erupt into violence. 'Expectations in Micronesia have risen so far beyond the possibility of satisfying them as to destroy hope, and hope destroyed is the root of social misery. Thus grows the potential disaster which now faces America on these idyllic islands on the other side of the world, this angry, sullen, frightened paradise in the Western Pacific.' By the end of 1985 most of the islands of Micronesia will have received a new political status of their own choosing. The northern Marianas have already become members of the US Commonwealth. The Federates States (including Truk (Chuuk), Yap, and Ponape (Pohnpei) and the Marshall Islands (including Bikini, Enetwetak and Kwajalein) will, by a compact of free association, be virtually independent whilst continuing to receive aid and defence from the States in return for a promise of strategic denial to other powers. Belau (Palau) may also accept the compact but that is far from certain. Their terms would allow for American military bases there, and for storage of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, but the 1980 Belau constitution - adopted, ironically, under the aegis of the trusteeship - expressly prohibits this. The Americans see Belau as a key strategic position for the protection of supply lines linking their allies Australia, the Philippines, Japan and South Korea, but unless the Belauans find a way to change or circumnavigate their constitution, the compact is dead.  

COMMUNICATIONS

The New Pacific is a place of rapid and dramatic change, and nowhere is this more remarkably demonstrated than in Papua New Guinea. Only 22 years ago, the Wopkaimin people of Ok Tedi in the Western Highlands had never seen a white man, and they knew of no other way of life than their own. Enclosed and isolated by a harsh environment of precipitous mountains, dense jungle and torrential rains, they worshipped the spirits of ancestors, practised cannibalism, and warred constantly on their neighbours. They suffered from chronic malaria and malnutrition, the infant mortality rate was 2-%, and life expectancy little more than 30 years. Then, in 1963, first contact was made by an Australian-led government patrol sent to investigate this unexplored blank on the map, and within five years mineral prospectors had discovered vast deposits of gold and copper at Ok Tedi, contained within a single mountain, Mount Pubilan.

Today, Ok Tedi has been transformed by one of the largest and most elaborate mining projects ever undertaken in the South Pacific. In the last three years a workforce of some 3000 men, including many from Europe, America and Australia, has torn away the jungle and erected in its stead a modern town complete with hospitals, schools, pubs, sports facilities, and airport, and a complex system of roads and servicing facilities for the mine, which is expected to earn the Papua New Guinea government four billion dollars in revenue. In the rush to get the mine into operation the interests of the local people have not been neglected; they will receive a royalty on the profits in compensation for the loss of their land, and many of them already work for the mining company and enjoy the facilities of the new town whilst continuing to live in their villages. They lead a double life, shaped on the one hand by their language and the ancient customs which still govern their thinking and, on the other, by the imported miracles of modern technology. The spirit houses still stand, but nearby are the laboratories with their computers and spectrographs. The Wopkaimin continue to believe in sorcery and performs their ceremonies on initiation, but they also watch television, thanks to a satellite receiver of Ok Tedi which picks up live transmissions from Australia. Surprisingly, they appear to take these contrasts in their stride, skipping nimbly back and forth between the new world and the old with no difficulty whatever.

The tenacity of tradition is a feature of life virtually everywhere in the Pacific today, and it lends strength to developing countries in their dealings with the major powers. contrary to expectations, the weak have not been consumed by the strong - not yet anyway - but Pacific nations should remain on their guard, particularly where the electric media are concerned. For most islands of the South Pacific, television is a novelty made possible by an invasion of video recorders fed with pirated cassettes from Europe, the USA and Australia. Only colonial outposts have live television - American Samoa, Micronesia and the French territories of Tahiti and New Caledonia - but they all have cinemas. Tiny Nuku'alofa, Tonga's main town, has six (plus the King's own private cinema in the palace), Rarotonga has seven, whilst Noumea has nine, including three drive-ins and a couple specializing in blue movies. Some films originate in New Zealand, Australia, France and Guam, but the majority, two-thirds, come from America and a quarter from Hong Kong. The universal popularity of the Kung-Fu genre represents a breakthrough for Asian entertainment, but the industry is still dominated by the West.

In Fiji, at the University of the South Pacific, there are film and video facilities and a well equipped studio, but surprisingly little creative use has been made of these. In American Samoa, sophisticated video equipment remains from an ambitious but abandoned scheme of educational television. Today it is used for local news coverage and a more limited educational service, but relies on packaged programmes from Australia and the US mainland for 90% of its air time. In Micronesia, only the voices of announcers are added locally - the programmes themselves are recorded off-air in Los Angeles and packaged on cassettes, which then make a circuit around the islands. The company which does this, Pacific Taping, is accused of working for the CIA, but that is a rumour which is hard to substantiate. There is a regrettable lack of local production whether in film, video or broadcast television, and the native languages are rarely used - on Tahitian television, until recently, only short local news items were allowed to be read in Tahitian (a situation mirrored in schools where the native language was banned). In effect, the people of virtually every developing nation in the Pacific are watching films and television programmes for which the original target audiences were urban middle-class families in America, Australia, France or Japan. To some observers this is 'electric imperialism',. Foreign films offer a fascinating window on the world outside, they are usually of a high technical quality, and they often come cheap, but insofar as such films embody the beliefs of a foreign, commercially oriented culture, which may be totally at variance with those of the local people, they may be insidiously harmful.

The full extent of foreign influence through films and television is difficult to assess. It is undeniable that new media have a considerable impact on traditional societies - in the early days of radio in New Guinea a chief who was losing influence needed only to get his voice broadcast and he would regain his charisma. Nobody who has been to a cinema in the South Pacific will deny the power of a film to arouse the passions of an island audience, though some would say that islanders have an in-built safety device which enables them to disregard anything that seems irrelevant to their own lives. In the Central Highlands of New Guinea the village of Asaro was celebrated for its grotesque 'Mudmen'. The Asaro warriors were watching Brannigan, a cops and robbers movie filmed in London and starring John Wayne and Richard Attenborough. It was showing by special request (though they thought they were getting a Western), and by courtesy of a VCR 'borrowed' from a Goroka store by an enterprising Filipino employee. Unfortunately there were few parallels between Brannigan's world and the life of Asaro - there were no bows and arrows in the film, no jungle, and to the Mudmen the dialogue was incomprehensible. Not surprisingly, their reaction was unenthusiastic, but a very different response greeted a Tarzan film in another part of the Highlands - when the villain appeared, all the men in the audience hurled their spears at the screen.

One of the few studies of the effects of new media on Pacific communities was made in New Guinea by the anthropologist Edmund Carpenter in 1970:

'In the Mount Hagen theatre, cowboy and horror films are immensely popular. No audience of New Jersey wrestling fans can equal the Highland audience for sheer frenzy; screaming, on their feet, most standing on seats.
'In one remote area I saw a tattooed, skewered-nosed, feathered, painted, armed audience, including one local beauty nursing a piglet, watch their first movie; one film was an interview with the British Foreign Secretary on the 1957 German Arms Treaty . . . I have no idea what these villagers thought of a film on elderly Australian ladies flying kites.
'But in a deeper sense it didn't matter. What mattered was that these media were changing the environment itself.'

The most popular films, he found, were those about New Guinea life, and in a village on the Sepik River, Professor Carpenter assisted the people in making a film of their male initiation rite. When the ceremony was over, the villagers announced that it would be the last of its kind - next year they would simply screen the film instead. New forms of communication change societies by their very nature, irrespective of the message they carry, but that is not to deny the need for controls to limit their use as weapons of propaganda and exploitation, and this applies to long-distance communications as much as to local entertainment.

Already the Pacific skies are studded with satellites. The INTELSAT system has two, with earth stations distributed throughout the region. PEACESAT has terminals in New Caledonia and at universities in Hawaii, Fiji, Guam, New Zealand, Australia and Papua New Guinea. It is used for medical consultation and a daily hook-up allows the University of the South Pacific, based in Fiji, to offer tutorials to distant students at one-fifty of the cost for resident students. In 1976 Indonesia became the world's first developing state to possess its own communications satellite system. It now has four satellites (including one launched recently by the space shuttle Challenger which failed to find its correct orbit), and they carry the telephone service and television to every corner of the nation. Three years ago, all advertising was banned on Indonesian television, and the ratio of education to entertainment was increased. But in spite of its apparent austerity, television in Indonesia has proved increasingly popular and is being held up to other developing nations as a model of its kind. China has plans for a similar system, using satellites which it intends to place in orbit with its own rockets. The impact on china's predominantly rural population will be as revolutionary as the cultural Revolution itself. Japan, similarly, is able to launch its own space hardware without help from others. Recently it placed in the sky a satellite for high definition television, a significant development which will greatly increase the amount of information which may be displayed on a television screen and thereby transform the communications industry - with Japan, in all probability, leading the world.

Though everyone stands to benefit from improved communications it is, as usual, the superpowers who stand to benefit the most. In the countries of the Pacific Third World, many people are apprehensive about the future use of satellites. They draw attention to the overcrowding of the geostationary orbit (GSO) - already b97 of the 375 available parking slots are accounted for an this figure does not include satellites for military use. Developing countries near the equator are claiming the GSO above their territories. They are concerned about the allocation of radio frequencies, a scarce resource monopolized by the major powers, and wary of remote surveillance and the possibility of space militarization placing killer satellites above their heads. Less threatening, but perhaps more insidiously harmful in the long run, is the likelihood of uncontrolled television broadcasting by satellite, which many nations regard as a violation of their sovereignty. The potential benefits of communications technology in the Pacific are limitless, but controls are urgently needed to allay the fears of the poorer nations.

'We are well aware that virtually all technologies have unintended harmful effects. Should we expect anything different from the communications revolution? The risks of unwanted social and cultural change are high.'

TOURISM

Probably the most powerful agent of change in the Pacific is tourism, already the world's No. 2 industry after oil, and perhaps the only industry with an almost unlimited capacity for growth. Fewer than one person in ten has yet had the opportunity to go abroad, and only one in a hundred has ever travelled by air. The newly affluent South Koreans and Taiwanese have joined the Japanese in their tourist invasion of the south Pacific, but it is a salutary thought that one day a billion mainland Chinese will possess the means to do the same. Ideally, tourism should benefit everyone by increasing international goodwill and understanding, but all too often the tourist hordes transform or even destroy the fragile exotic cultures they have travelled so far to admire. No longer is tourism regarded as a universal panacea for the economic ills of the Pacific's developing nations. governments are now well aware of the attendant problems - the double-edged sword of foreign investment; the threat to culture and environment; the immense cost of establishing tourist facilities which may be difficult to recoup if there is appreciable repatriated revenue; the insecurity of relying on an industry notoriously fickle in its preferences, and one so directly dependent on the price of oil.

For those countries still in an early stage of development, tourist dollars are especially tempting, but the dangers of social disruption are multiplied. The relationship between tourist and host is usually that between rich and poor, white skin and black skin, master and servant, and therefore perpetuates exactly those colonial attitudes which the profits from tourism were intended to eliminate. The outcome to humiliation and resentment, and an envy of the wealthy tourists living in luxury resorts and flaunting material possessions. Most tourists travel in large groups, stay in large hotels which cushion them from any real contact with local people, and dash around in tour buses which do the same. The only people they speak to are barmen, waiters, room cleaners, guides and bus drivers, whose behaviour is unlikely to be typical of the country was a whole. 'Ministries of Tourism launch "Be Nice" campaigns in which they instruct their citizens that tourists are of vital importance and must treated as friends - not as a group of rich, idle, white voyeurs who are, in the classic complaint, "over rich, over sexed, and over here".'

The lack of any real social contact is especially pronounced in the case of Japanese tourists, who create the impression that the world exists primarily as a background for a group photo. Japanese tourists are the most group-conscious of all; they tend to wear identical hats, and badges, and follow a group flag held aloft by their guide. They are also the most energetic and fast-moving. In Hawaii, an enterprising photographer has found a spot which provides a fine backdrop of hotel-laden Waikiki, and there he photographs Japanese tour groups at an extraordinary speed. A coach arrives, the tourists bustle into position, the camera clicks, the tourists return swiftly but in orderly fashion to their coach, and are driven away. About four minutes have passed. Nobody but the photographer has taken a picture, nobody has paused to admire the view.

For an interpretation of the group photo ritual and certain other features of Japanese tourist behaviour, For example, a Japanese at home belongs to a variety of groups - his family, his former classmates, his work group and his immediate neighbourhood being the most important of these. When he travels he joins yet another group - the tour group - but usually leaves the other groups behind. He goes, in effect, as their representative, and this places social obligations on him and on them too. At a farewell party he will be given gifts, senbetsu, by those who will not be travelling. There will be money, luggage perhaps, or an alarm clock, and also omamori, good luck charms. He makes a note of everything he has received, and everywhere he goes is mindful of those group members, because each one of them will expect a gift, omiyage, on his return. The omityage must coast approximately half the value of the senbetsu given, must be culturally accepted symbol of the place visited, and must be tailored to the taste of the senbetsu donor. The presentation of the omiyage takes place, with appropriate ritual, at a welcome-home party.

In Japan there is a generally recognized hierarchy of tourist destinations and each has its meibutsu, 'the things for which it is famous' - a particular shrine perhaps, a hotpool, or a remarkable tree. It also offers a number of kinen, sourvenirs which are taken home as proof of one's visit. Until recently travellers carried a set of papers, which were stamped at each culturally approved site, as a form of kinen. Now, however, the camera does the job. Photographs may be used as kinen and a omiyage too: 'Japanese tourist photograph is a form of legitimation and confirmation of the touristic event. Tourist photographs must contain evidence of the central meibutsu, the famous features of the trip, plus evidence that the travelling group was there. Thus a key form of tourist photography is to have a picture of oneself in front of the tourist site - the kinen shashin, memorial photo. . . . A mere photo of the site without the individual or members of the group renders any photo invalid as kinen.' The pattern of behaviour is related to domestic tourism but it is equally true of Japanese foreign travel - in place of a famous shrine there is the view of famous Waikiki or the collection of Japanese guns marking the Last Command Post of the Imperial Army in Saipan. And in place of the sourvenir stalls which line the approach roads to Japanese shrines and temples, there are the duty-free shops of international airports and hotels, all of them stashed to the rafters with potential omiyage.

The senbetsu-omiyage tradition stems from feudal times when travel in Japan was both dangerous and costly - hence only one or two pilgrims would make the journey as representatives of their neighbourhood group. The custom persists because it diminishes the threat to group cohesiveness, and also because it is a form of duty which others may respect. Spare time, hima, and the concept of play, asobi, have negative connotations of selfishness - one of the reasons why factory workers often take less time off than their due. Adding the obligations of senbetsu-omiyage to someone's pleasure outing serves to make it socially acceptable. Providing he fulfils those obligations, the Japanese tourist suddenly finds himself free of the usual social constraints the moment he leaves his home environment. This is expressed in the old saying which is still used: "tabi no haji wa kakisute", meaning "you can litter the path of your trip with any shame" - i.e. the evils and pollution that you may get tempted into carrying out while on a trip, far from the eyes of family and neighbours, can be left behind on the trip. Perhaps this goes some way towards explaining the atrocities of the Pacific War committed by men far from home. The Japanese religions, Buddhism and Shinto, do not burden their followers with the sense of guilt and the conscience which are characteristic of Christianity. As a result the Japanese are eminently pragmatic and adaptable people, but since their thought and actions are so powerfully dependent on the expectations of Japanese society, their behaviour may be quite unpredictable when they are separated from it.

Ten years ago the same was true of Hawaii, then receiving some 300,000 Japanese tourists a year; as a result of considerable Japanese investment in hotels, tennis clubs, yacht harbour, swimming pools, golf courses and holiday condominiums, a high proportion of Hawaii's tourist business was Japanese-controlled. The oldest hotels in Waikiki, the Royal Hawaiian and the Moana, and many of the newer ones were the property of one man, the Japanese millionaire Kenji Osano. Advertisements in Japanese-owned newspapers stated: 'Instead of being a foreign country, Hawaii can be said to be one of Japan's resort areas. When you enter your room, you will lose the feeling, that you are in a foreign country. You can bathe in a Japanese furo. don't worry about your meals - Japanese and Chinese meals are served in restaurants in the building. We order our food from Japan so it will suit your taste.' Though Japanese investment inevitably did provide employment for local people it was the Hawaiians of Japanese ancestry who benefited most. More recently, official guidelines have asked that employment opportunities be extended equally to local peoples, and Japanese managers do not limit their contacts to the Japanese community, but even today the evidence of my own eyes suggests that Japanese tourism in Hawaii is still firmly controlled by Japanese or by Japanese Americans - which perhaps is inevitable considering the unique character of the Japanese way of life.

Also inevitable is the increasing involvement of Japanese gangsters, yakuza, who worked in the sex tour business in Hawaii from the early 1970s. In Japan until recently yakuza enjoyed a life of privilege. They were well connected in high places, rendering assistance to politicians and businessmen alike when it came to dealing with unwanted opposition. Many a rowdy stockholder meeting has been 'pacified' by the intimidation of yakuza employed by company directors. With their flashy suits and arrogant swagger, and their vivid tattoos, they made no effort to disguise their identity. Their profits were considerable; '... the yearly take from their operations in prostitution, narcotics, pornography, gambling, and extortion has been estimated to be as high as $5 billion'. In the late 1970s gang wars alienated public opinion and strained police tolerance beyond its limit. Thirteen hundred yakuza were arrested: 'Things just got too hot for them in Japan. They started thinking "Hey, the cops are watching me all the time, they're looking at my bank accounts - maybe I would take my money and put it somewhere else for a white", and the place they put it was Hawaii. Hawaii was useful also as a place where they could shoot to their heart's content, and for gun running - much ingenuity with golf bags and cans of pineapple was employed in smuggling guns back to Japan, where they were illegal and could fetch a high price. Today it is impossible to estimate the extent of yakuza investment in Hawaii's tourism and property business but it must be considerable: '... attempts to trace that money have been lost in a haze of Japanese bank laws and international misunderstanding. But no one denies the money is there.'  

A tourist enterprise which, one must assume, has no criminal overtones is that of an American missionary who runs a highly profitable business in Honolulu uniting Japanese couples in Holy Matrimony - the Christian Way, as against their customary Shinto. He marries one couple every 30 minutes; in a small chapel leased from the Salvation Army the operation is planned with such military precision that no one couple is aware of any other. They have the illusion that they are the only ones to be married that day, little knowing that as they are swept away, man and wife, by a gigantic limousine with darkened windows (part of a fleet managed by the missionary's son), another identical car will appear at the chapel steps, cued in by a CB radio. Each ceremony is recorded on video, edited on the spot, prefaced by a jazzy tourist sequence of swinging Honolulu, and presented to the couple as they leave - a charge of $100 extra to the $300 they have paid already, apart from their fare. It is a venture which appears to satisfy everybody; the missionary, his son, the organist and the Salvation Army make their contribution towards the US Balance of Payments, and the young Japanese couples are content to have saved their parents $30,000, the price of a traditional wedding in Japan. 

In spite of seeming increasingly Asian, Hawaii remains the fiftieth United State. The majority of its tourists or, 'visitors', are Americans from the mainland and most of them appear to be satisfied with their vacation. Certainly Hawaii has a great deal to offer - the scenery is mountainous and magnificent; the beaches are idyllic and pollution-free (once you have escaped Waikiki); the heat of an ever-present sun is tempered by cool sea-breezes; the young people are strikingly beautiful and they wear very little, thanks to that glorious climate. In fact Hawaii very nearly lives up to its own tourist brochure image, with its promise of sea, sand, sun and sex. The population of Hawaii is only one million, but in 1983 the Hawaii visitors Bureau claimed to have had 4.3 million customers; 2.58 million from the mainland, 730,000 from Japan, 990,000 from the rest of the world. For the HVB this represents a triumph and a cause for celebration but for many other residents who do not get a share of the profits, life in Hawaii reveals the pernicious effect of tourism. Local people complain of overcrowding, high prices and the erosion of the traditional lifestyle. Environmentalists draw attention to the dangers of sewage pollution. Anthropologists deplore the commercialization of Polynesian culture, which has produced souvenir carvings of gods who never existed, and has bastardized traditional dances by sacrificing authenticity to spectacle: 'Our stereotyped conception of the Hawaiian is one more variant of the Lotus Eater - Noble Savage - Child of Nature theme - incarnated as "bronzed, pidgin-speaking natives, laughing men and women with flowered muu-muus split up the side". ... We should remember that the original population of the archipelago was decimated by syphilis and tuberculosis in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today there are a few thousand pure-blood Hawaiians left, and perhaps 100,000 of mixed Hawaiian blood. The rest of the population is Caucasian, Chinese, Japanese or Filipino. The remaining Hawaiians occupy the bottom of the social scale; when not occupied in being picturesque figures for the tourist they are "relegated to clapboard ghettos behind the floral curtain". They have been dispossessed, in every sense of the word, they and their ancient folk culture have been institutionalized and industrialized . . . their culture is reduced to two principal aspects - hula and aloha.

Aloha means literally 'to face the breath of life' and implies reverence for the fact of life itself. For Polynesian Hawaiians it had a profound significance: 'The aloha spirit of freely giving for the pleasure of giving without thought of return is peculiarly identified with the ancient Hawaiian folk culture in which property rights were to a considerable degree communally held and therefore readily shared. "Aloha today is identified instead with the profit motive - with airline hostesses, tourist guides, hotel managers, and the comperes of Polynesian "spectaculars". None of these gives without the thought of return, and none is likely to be a Polynesian Hawaiian. Aloha has become a bad joke. As Hawaiians have been dispossessed of their culture, they have also been deprived of their land. In recent years they have formed their own nationalist movement, Kolua Hawaii (help Hawaii), and organized demonstrations of civil disobedience to make their voice heard. They have played their part in the current revival of Hawaiian vulture - canoe racing, language studies, the ancient hula - but their numbers are few and their island temperament of easygoing give-and-take leaves them ill equipped to compete with the energetic and single-minded Japanese, Koreans, Chinese and Vietnamese, who are the New Hawaiians. It must be expected that their frustration and anger over loss of land, poor jobs and poorer prospects will find expression in increasing violence. Hawaii may soon have cause to re-examine its proud claim to be the only American state with a successfully integrated multi-radial society.

The situation of the Melanesian people of New Caledonia is similar to that of Polynesian Hawaiians. They too have been made a minority in their own land, but in their case by the French. Few Melanesians live near the capital, Noumea, and few derive benefit from tourism, which again is increasingly run by Japanese for Japanese. Young Japanese couples flock to Noumea, too, to get married, but here the wedding certificate is in French and the ceremony, in the Mairie, is presided over by a portrait of President Mitterand and a bust of Napoleon. Here, too, the people cling desperately to the vestiges of a culture which has been almost destroyed by the more aggressive cultures of Europe and Asia. The future promises violence, as the people become increasingly impatient for an independence President Mitterand promised before his election but has never delivered.

Tahiti, another French territory, shares with Hawaii the responsibility for creating the erotic-idyllic image of Pacific Paradise: the islands of Moorea and Bora Bora are a magical sight when they appear over the horizon, their peaks swathed in swirls and cloud. But though Tahiti is different from New Caledonia in many ways - native Tahitians are still in the majority, and the high standard of living has emasculated the cry for independence - the lives of the people are not at all as they used to be: ' . . . the old days of free and natural love are over, the arrival of thousands of hungry French males, from naval cadets to members of the Foreign Legion, accompanying the technicians preparing to explode their bomb in Mururoa, have given the wahine a western idea of their value. Now love, or sex, is something to be paid for, with money, jewellery, an automobile or even a marriage certificate. Japanese sex tours have not yet arrived in Tahiti, but the French military has prepared the way for them, just as did the Americans in Bangkok and Manila, their Rest and Rehabilitation centres during the Vietnam War. 

those in search of a truly exotic destination will find today's Tahiti disappointing. For a holiday with a difference they should go instead to Papua New Guinea. In 1972, 20 British tourists were taken to the New Guinea Highlands by Thomas Cook Ltd. The tour involved walking for 100 miles through difficult terrain, including dense jungle in the rainy season. Also included were visits to tribes who have had little or no previous contact with white people - among them the Biami, a cannibal tribe with a war-like reputation. . . . Mr and Mrs Cyril Rayment were among the party; Mrs Rayment remarked: "We could have bought a new car with the money, but we would not have had the memories!" Mr Rayment, a forty-eight-year-=old tool-maker with a computer firm, explained that they were going on the (optional extra) cannibal excursion because the Biami "might be a little more interesting". Miss A. Scargill of Wetherby, Yorkshire, considered that the dangers of encounter with the Biami had been grossly exaggerated since, in her words, "The last recorded killing of a white man was last Christmas". Nevertheless Papua New Guinea is still exciting enough to offer a change from the predictability of Holiday Inns - only two years ago a bus load of tourists was attacked in the Highlands. Escape involved driving down an embankment, but the assailants followed the bus into Mount Hagen and raid the hotel where the tourists were staying.

Concerned with the lives of their guests, as well as the preservation of their culture, the Papua New Guinea government has done little to promote tourism, leaving that to a handful of Australian expatriates, but in one area at least, the Sepik River, tourism is well established, and it has had a profound effect on the lives of the people and on the art they produce.

ART AND IDENTITY

The Sepik River has long been world famous for the quantity and quality of its woodcarvings and for the imposing architecture of its Haus Tambarans - spirit houses. Traditionally, art in the Sepik was created in the service of magic, myth and ritual. Spirit houses. Traditionally, art in the Sepik was created in the service of magic, myth and ritual. Spirit houses were lined with shields decorated with the faces of ancestors, mythical beings and nature spirits, whose likenesses appeared also on masks, suspension hooks for food, and on the pillars which supported the great soaring roof of the house. Ritual cannibalism was practised as a means of protection against the spirit of an enemy killed in battle and for capturing his physical and spiritual powers.

A Spirit House, Haus Tambaran, on the Chambri Lake,
Sepik Region, Papua New Guinea.

Often, the head was not eaten but painted and hung in the doorway of the spirit house as a symbol of prowess, and to bar entry to women and the uninitiated. Today the people of the Sepik are Christian, and although a superstitious belief in the spirit world still persists, cannibalism remains only as a memory in the minds of old men. The spirit houses still stand, and they are crammed full of carvings, but now these are made for tourists, not for ancestors, and few of them have any ritual significance whatsoever. consequently, the aura of magic they once possessed has vanished, and there is little evidence of the skills once lavished on the masks and shields which now adorn the walls of museums in Europe and America.

This does not seem to worry the tourists, who scoop them up by the sackful and carry them back to their air-conditioned cruise ship. Nowadays anyone can call himself a carver, and the pieces he carves are no longer defined by traditional values but reflect instead the tastes and preferences of the outside world. There is no dark-coloured wood in the Sepik, but tourists expect black, 'primitive' people to make black, primitive objects - so the carvings, in white wood, are rendered black with the aid of stain or boot polish. A few termites then help satisfy the demand for the 'antique'. There is distortion, too, of size and shape - large shields are scaled down in order to fit into suitcases, small pieces are 'improved' by being made larger and grotesque features are exaggerated in order to catch the attention of the tourist obliged to choose between 50 versions of the same thing, and to satisfy a craving for the 'exotic'.

'We have called primitive man forth from his retreat, reclothed him as a Noble Savage, taught him to carve the sort of art we like, and hired him to dance for us at lunch . . . this search for the primitive is surely one of the most remarkable features of our age. It's as if we feared we had carried too far our experiment in rationalism, but wouldn't admit it and so we called forth other cultures in exotic and disguised forms to administer all those experiences suppressed among us. But those we have summoned are generally miss-suited by tradition and temperament to play the role of alter ego for us. So we recast them accordingly, costuming them in the missing parts of our psyche and expecting them to satisfy our secret needs.' Many people deplore the degradation of an art style which had been universally admired. Others point out that change is inevitable; that it is meaningless to sustain a traditional art form when its spiritual motivation has disappeared; and that the tourist trade, tawdry though it may be, at least provides a livelihood for people who have few other commercial opportunities, and gives them some pride and a sense of purpose.

In this controversy the position of the missions is an interesting one, since it is they who were chiefly responsible for bringing about the present state of affairs. They began by encouraging the people to burn their idols and spirit houses, abandon cannibalism, and generally to adopt the ways of the white man. Having so nearly achieved their aims they are now more tolerant of those aspects of traditional custom which are not in direct conflict with Christian belief - Highland warriors may now enter church clad only in feathers and foliage, their womenfolk bare breasted. The burning of idols was soon replaced by their confiscation, once it became apparent that much money could be made by selling them overseas. Today, now that most of the good pieces have left the country, the missions have become dealers in tourist art. The Catholic Mission on the Sepik has been among the largest and most efficient art dealers in the country; rumour has it that they buy the stuff by the ton.

A genuine antique carving from the Sepik can fetch a high price these days - anyone who can sneak a post from the Kanganaman Haus Tambaran and smuggle it out of the country may well find himself the richer by $30,000 or more when he reaches New York. The government is trying to prevent such things by making it illegal to export any artifact made before 1961, and by offering money to villagers to dissuade them from parting with their treasures. Neither measure is likely to be wholly effective - it is impractical to subject every departing traveller to a baggage search, and the amount of money which every departing traveller to a baggage search, and the amount of money which foreign millionaire collectors can offer villagers will usually outbid government funds distributed by an overworked National Museum. It must be expected that few old pieces will stay in the country indefinitely unless they are actually bought and preserved by the museum itself.

But the outlook is not entirely bleak - there are signs of a new and confident art style which combines the technical skill and consistency of traditional work with the sale-orientated rationale of tourist art, while taking advantage of the new tools and materials now available. An example of this is the decoration of the new parliament building by craftsmen working for the National School of Art. The building has the form of a Haus Tambaran but is built in steel and concrete. It contains wooden totem poles with traditional motifs, and its high front carries an elaborate mosaic of panels depicting the everyday life of the country. Men who have worked on such a project may be expected to return home with new pride and new standards. Under their influence, villagers may be persuaded to hang on to what little remains of their past whilst adapting their skills, more thoughtfully, to the needs of the future.

Voyage of Commitment

Pacific Islands Radio

Subscribe!
Please enter your email address for your free Pacific Islands Radio Newsletter!

 

Hosted By Topica

COUNTRIES

LINKS

MYTHOLOGY

RESOURCES

POSTCARDS

RADIO

HOME

MELANESIA

MICRONESIA

POLYNESIA

JANE

TRIBAL ART

TATTOOS

CHATROOM

 
Join
Jane's Oceania Home Page Newsletter
to get the latest news, information and Web site updates!
Please enter your email address below,
then click the 'Join' button
for your free Newsletter!
topica
 Join newsletter! 
       
     
Google
Search Jane's Oceania Travel Page Search the Internet

Oceania Time Zones
Oceania Weather

Back to Jane Resture's Oceania Page

Back to Jane's Oceania Home Page

(E-mail: jane@janeresture.com -- Rev. 15 January 2009)
 
eXTReMe Tracker