Friday, April 21, 2006

Our various identities

from Wendy

The Vice President of Fiji, Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi speaks with clarity about Fiji as a multicultural society. He speaks with idealism amidst a variety of views as we look towards the upcoming election in Fiji. I find that I waver between idealism and realism and get tangled in the process.

I know that I have to move amidst contradictory identities at times (in any order, every other day) - that of a writer/ feminist/ Australian/ mother/ idealist/ Christian/ passionate Fiji watcher/kin to Fijian family. Also, I accept that other people prioritize in different ways.

The last line of his speech, as reported in today's Fiji Sun, has significance - about how we manoevre our lives through various identities.

Forget the past, says Ratu Joni


Nothing is gained from repeating the past. Speaking at the launch of the book – Let’s All Celebrate – Vice President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi said Fiji must learn from the past and begin to create an alternative way. “There is nothing to be gained from repeating the past. Fiji has been wounded and scarred by recent events and while some still bear the pain and the hurt there is always hope while there is life,” he said. “That is the message this book has for me. “Out of the mouths of children comes wisdom, insight and vision. It is inspiring as it is uplifting for it conveys the optimism and zeal of youth. The youth of this beautiful country that is our home. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.” He said that diversity as reflected in multiculturalism in Fiji was a fact of life and was about recognition of and respect for everyone’s background and identity.

“Whether one likes it or not Fiji comprises many different ethnic groups and no one is superior or better than another. Each co-exists and interacts with each other. They bring richness, vibrance and vitality into the lives of other cultures. This opportunity for engagement is the wonderful blessing of living in such a country as ours. “For our differences should not overshadow our common humanity. There is nothing to be gained from repeating the past. “There are limits of which we need to be aware. Above and beyond that are the ties of nationhood that bind all of us citizens of this country.

I am both a Fijian and a citizen of Fiji, but I am a citizen first.

“We need to remember that sometimes. I believe the rationale behind the concept is the creation of an environment, of spaces, that allow us to be at ease in moving in and between the multiple identities we possess.”


Pandabonium said...

Wow. Great words. Multiculturalism is something I have always treasured about Hawaii during my 28 years there.

And with the identity of "citizen of Fiji" also comes, I think, a duty to protect it from economic and political domination. Those two things are quite unique from the cultural differences the Ratu is embracing.

In Hawaii, many races, religions, and nationalities live together in harmony. But because of the US overthrow and the economic system of the US, Hawaii has become a playground for the wealthy, as the native community and even those of us who came later but wanted to adopt a local lifestyle, are over run and pushed out.

I hope some people in Fiji are studying Hawaii and learning from that sad experience.

There should be broad acceptance of other cultures, races, religions and lifestyles. But some elements or aspects of foreign lands should be guarded against.

As I jokingly say to K all the time, "that's just my humble opinion." She laughs loud and long, knowing humility is not my strong suit.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Your 'humble opinion' is much appreciated Panda. I have always celebrated multiculturalism - whether in Fiji or here in Australia, but I don't have anything to lose. Some 'First Nations' peoples feel threatened by a large migrant group coming into their territory and that's fair enough.
Some people frown at Ratu Jone's speeches and say that he has lived a privileged life and doesn't really connect with the local people. One time he made a speech at a university graduation and his speech was one long sentimental poem about Fiji! Great!
There is an anxiety these days about how powerful Chinese influence is becoming in Fiji with the many gifts.

YD said...

Ahhh... multiculturalism! A very meaningful post. Thank you so much!

Resistance to different cultures, and resistnace to change are a major problem of a increasingly globalized world. Yet, it is so common in everywhere!

The anxiety about migration of chinese reminds me of many other similar scenrios since the past. Chinese community in almost all places in the world are mostly not welcomed with open hands, and some even have sentiments of hatred against the chinese for their migration. In the islands in our region, we witnessed history of chinese being killed by the local people, the more significant one being the Indonesia massacre.

I feel sad about such xenophobic sentiments in all places. It is just a matter of difference in terms of physical attributes, cultures,and historical ancestors. But the resistance to change/difference put so much barrier among people!

In my own country, we claimed that we stand for multiculturalism and all races are living happily together. Yet, in a deeper level, we see all sorts of disparity, favouritism and inequality. There is an unhealthy hidden sentiments not being addressed, neither actions being taken to bridge the gap among races. We can go on and put a broad smile across our face and proclaim we are living in harmony with no problem; or we can actually try to resolve the imminent treat and really build a stable society.

Sensitive issue, it is.

YD said...

ooops... my "threat" has got no "h", that it became a "treat" instead.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Yd, I don't take notice of spelling errors, just the sense of the sentence.
Hmmm. Multiculturalism - an awkward word. Wish people would just say hi to harry, jane, jyoti, salwesh, mere, and stop these ethnic tags and putting up boundaries. But the reality is that ethnic identity is such a strong thing. Certainly when I was 23 the time I first went to Fiji, I had 'pink spectacles' on, saw beauty everywhere, treated each person as an individual and precious. It's only in more recent years - I guess the 87 coup kicked it off - that I sigh and carry on that so many people in Fiji and elsewhere see skin colour, different voices, clothes, and think of others as 'them' as opposed to 'us'.
Part of the problem in Fiji and elsewhere is when the 'other' is seen as being pushy and lacking respect for the indigenous people, or ignoring them. When I read the novel 'Bollywood Beauty' by a Melbourne Indo-Fijian young woman I was astonished that she did not mention any indigenous Fijians in the scenes set in Fiji.
That's enough rant for now,

laminar_flow said...

Pathos at work.

Fiji has yet to produce, great orator/politician. Speeches like Martin Luther King's Mountain top speechthat still resonates today.

Then we have John F Kennedy's timely words.

Bill Clinton is another excellent speaker, whose impromtu style is a degree of excellence.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

What with all those speechmakers for ceremonial welcomes and farewells, and all those Methodist talatalas up in the pulpits? Surely one or two of them have said some brilliant words at times? They sound enthusiastic anyway! Lots of hyperbole of course.

laminar_flow said...

Hey Wendy,

Fiji really needs inspirational words from leaders to empower, educate and enlighten the citizens fromt the shadows of misi-information. Not from mediorce, merchants of vice and haters of virtue.

You want powerful words.
Let every man, woman and child bear witness to the challenge that await us as a nation of Fiji.

Let the voters understand their duty. Whether they like it or not, they have an awesome power and responsibility.

The fate of discourse, the health of this republic of Fiji is in your hands, regardless of what race your belong to. This is your time, and the destiny you have chosen.

We lay the continuance of our democracy on your table of opportunity, and count on your pens to be mightier.

The world is watching and waiting in mute frustration and hope - hoping for someone to defend the spirit and letter of our Constitution, and to defy the intimidation of ethno-nationalism, warped corruption and malice.