Americans would probably consider most Fijians to be well below the poverty line. However, they don’t have the same view of wealth as us western capitalists. Instead, their way of life doesn’t require dollars; many can live very well by farming and fishing. Many Fijian men can still provide for their family without a paying job.
And more to my point, Fijians don’t really care about money in terms of status (which is great, I think). They’ll be happy for you if you have it, but being wealthy won’t make you a “better” person.
Now, you’re saying to yourself that you feel the same way. Ah, but you don’t; you only think you do. Wait until you get here.
The other day I started thinking about what would elevate someone here. Being a Chief would, I suppose, but that only goes to the traditions still followed very closely by most Fijians. For the most part, everyone’s equal. And everyone gets treated with a hospitality that would put most self-labeled Christians to shame. Most Americans, me included I suppose, would say that they try to be giving to the poor, the sick, the needy, etc. However, Fijians do it daily.
I’ll give you an example. Most families eat next to an open window, and as people (strangers and friends alike) walk by they get invited in to share the food. Genuinely.
“Oh, you need a sulu to wear? Here’s mine.”
However, the topic of women’s rights and Indo-Fijian discrimination must be considered.
If asked, most women will say that things are much better — they feel like they’re treated equally and given equal opportunities in the workplace. And then they’ll go in the other room and wait for the men to eat first.
Culture and equality are an interesting pair.
On the flip side, in America for example, I’ll hold a door open for a woman and wait for her to walk through it first. And to me that only is an aspect of courtesy and hospitality, and in no way reflects inter-gender equality or status.
So when viewing other cultures you must try to not have the perspective of your own paradigm.
I’m not going to claim that I understand the culture here, but I know enough to say that I can’t judge it against my own.
Anyway, it’s a beautiful day here — seventy-something degrees, clear skies, and there’s an ocean outside my window. So … see ya later