Friday, December 28, 2018

There is No "Me" in Melanesian Culture, There is Always "Us": This is Melanesian Socialism

So many times, in so many occasions, so many people asked me this very question, "What do YOU think about....?" I put the word "YOU" in capital in order to emphasize the tone the person asking the question use. The tone goes up then pronouncing "YOU", which means they want "me" to know that they are particularly focusing on the Individual "me", not the "plural" me, that is us.

Well, I never tempted by them. I in fact I never changed my choice of word from "We" to "I". They tried many times, and I normally keep answering with the word "We".

For example. Question: "What do YOU think about the Freeport Mining McMoran Copper & Gold Inc. operations in West Papua since April 1967?" 
Answer: "As I said before, Freeport came to our place as a party that is uninvited and unwanted. Our lives destroyed. Our livelihood turned upside down. We have been suffering since their arrival. No single party in West Papua will declare they are happy with the presence and operations of the giant mining company.

Question: "Do YOU personally as a person agree with the Freeport Mining Operations?"

Answer: We are all unhappy and we all refuse Freeport Operations. No one is happy about it. It brings nightmare to us, not blessing. No one is enjoying anything that Freeport brings.

Question: I repeat again, please I am asking your personal experience, not for the whole group, but you as an educated man, you understand some benefits of the Freeport Mining operations, for example, you have been full sponsored by Freeport Indonesia during your study at the university until your graduation. So you should give your personal opinion on this.

Answer: The word "I" is absent in this life and in this mindset. Therefore, there is no reply for the word "I". The person answering your questions now is not a singular individual, it is a plural one. This person represents the "whole", not the One
This person that you are asking to is not an individual. This is a plural individual talking to you, so there is no choice to reply with “I” and “me”, but the answer will always use “We” and “us”.

Question: You have talked about “democracy” or a system of governance that is appropriate for Melanesian tribes. You call it “Melanesian Socialism”. Democracy advocates the votes of majority individual “I” that determines who rules. What about Democracy in Melanesian Socialism?

Answer: This is a very good question. Do you know in Christianity, as it is in Democracy, you emphasize “individuals” to repent, confess, and be baptized. Every single person should repent and make confessions before being baptized. I am talking about evangelical and Pentecostal concept  of “born again” doctrine. Do you know this? This never happened in the whole New Guinea Highlands. This is recorded in a book called “Torches of Joy” by John Dekker, an American Missionary to West Papua many years ago.
Now, we talk about democracy. Today in West Papua, there is a term in Malay called “Noken System” democracy. Noken is the traditional hand-made “string bag” of New Guinea. What happens is Only the Tribal Elders gather together, in front of their people, bringing the votes of their men, women and children, and put those votes into the “noken”, thus there is no need for individuals to go in and out into the ballot boxes.
This Noken System of democracy is more accepted than the “modern” ballot box system where people go in and out individually.
What is happening here?
Well, this is Melanesia in display. Bernard Narakobi, the only Melanesian philosophy we got so far calls this display as “The Melanesian Way”.

Question: I am taken away by your answer now. What is the connection between what Father Walter Lini, the founder of the Republic of Vanuatu said about “Melansian Socialism” and what you just mentioned about Narakobi’s “The Melanesian Way”.

Answer: The Late Father Walkter Lini is talking about the democracy system that is appropriate for Melanesians, which is one of the topics that Narakobi addresses in his “The Melanesian Way” papers. So, the “The Melanesian Way” contains more than just system of governance. What Narakobi is saying includes what is being said right now, “The concept of individual I is inclusive in the word WE, and therefore, when I use ‘WE’, I am actually talking about all of us, including myself.

Question: Do you understand what we in the West mean by “I” ?

Answer: Yes, we know it very well, indeed. But I hope you also understand what we mean by “us”, not “me”. This is because we are human beings, but at the same time, we are in two different worlds in the way we understand, accept and explain the world we have come to know so far.

Question: Yes, thank you very much. It is my privilege to realize that we are speaking across the world in our mind while we are physically in one this place.

Answer: We are starting this interchange. You will know better when we put this idea into papers or books.