Small Islands Voice Global Forum
Saving island identity
Short-sightedness and greedy leadership in many island societies along with the modern day ‘curse’ of rising expectations among island youth were among the ideas raised in the recent contribution by Brian Mommsen.
David Hudson of Vanuatu responds: certainly there is political corruption in less developed countries – but if you track down the basic reason for their going wrong, it seems to be that the rich countries don't pay the poor ones enough for their products. If they did, there'd be enough money for everyone, the politicians wouldn't have to grab what there is, educated populations would keep them in control, and the countries would be able to develop their economies. The current system of the developed nations making huge profits out of paying minimal prices for products, or keeping certain goods out by imposing tariffs and subsidies, is just leading to failed states where frustrated people lash out at each other, or engage in terrorism, causing the rich nations to send in troops to try and install democratic governments. Perhaps they will learn the lesson eventually - look at the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Vietnam war - people are eventually going to rebel against inequality, and the longer it takes, the more explosive the rebellion. The rich nations will have to pay either way, so why not do it constructively - upfront, with a fair trade price for products?
Turning now to the issue of ‘rising expectations’ among island youth, Winnie Robinson of Long Island (USA) argues: it is not necessarily heightened expectations among youth that cause discontent and failure, but rather that youth have no real understanding of the hard work and sacrifice needed for success in life after school. I work with middle-school, high-school and college students through a workforce readiness program I developed several years ago. The middle school students think they know what a reasonable salary is, but do not understand the work and preparation necessary to attain such a salary. The high school students want to make money and don't necessarily see a college education as the road to success. The college students are seeking direction because they have made the choice for education but do not know anything about applying it to their career goals.
Continuing on the theme of youth, Moelani Jackson from Samoa writes: I used to be a regular visitor to the Cook Islands early in the 1970s and the 1980s. However, during a recent visit I was a bit disappointed to see less smiles and the absence of young people. They all seem to be running away to jobs in New Zealand or around the Pacific. The friendly feeling that used to exist is no longer in place. A few people are struggling to hold on and keep the authenticity of the place but for what - when the young people are no longer there. To put this in short, I am brave enough to say that if the Cook Islands are not careful, their identity as Cook Islanders will be overrun by the tourists, investors or the imported labour force. At present I am in a position in my own country, Samoa, of using the Cooks and Fiji as poor examples of lack of control in tourism development. I am lobbying our government to make sure that we cuddle tourism instead of being buried by the industry.
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