WHEN the Fijian people are disunited, Fiji itself becomes a disunited nation. As Abraham Lincoln pointed out 150 years ago, the nation divided, like ‘a house divided against itself’ (Gospel of Mark), cannot stand, cannot be successful, and cannot sustain itself into prosperity. The key to Fiji as a nation is what it has always been: harmony and unity among the Fijian people themselves.
The Fijian people are presently exposed like so many strands of waka root drying in the sun. Each strand is potentially powerful, but each lies differentiated from the other. There are strands of tribalism, of religious difference, and of political variation. There are strands of rank and class, of hierarchical birthright, and of police and military power. There are strands of differentials in experience, of professional achievement, of educational qualification, and of occupational prestige.
Each strand would wither in the sun if left too long, or grow mouldy in the rain if not attended to with due vigilance. So, like drying waka roots, the multi-stranded Fijian people await their moment. When that time of maturity comes, the people will be gathered up, pressed together and wound into a tight and powerful sevusevu as an offering to the nation. Until this unity of indigenous presence and power are realised, there can be no unity of effect of benefit to anyone else. Progress for the nation depends upon a single offering of atonement, not a conflictual and competing series of Fijian visions.
If we are to have a People’s Charter for the nation, how can it be even adumbrated without a corresponding and prior ‘charter of vanua unity’ (for want of a better term) among the Fijian people? A single strand of waka will quench someone’s thirst, but it cannot produce a tanoa of blessing for all. The effect across the board will not be there.
There can only be enough mana to go around when the sevusevu as a whole is presented as a whole – not strand by strand. And obtaining that cohesive unity does not require similitude; it requires respect for difference. It does not require remaking each other into our own preferred image; it requires faith in the fact of each other’s difference.
National harmony and progress toward a common set of goals will be possible when respect for difference flows from the Fijian collective consciousness rather than being injected into it.
A strand of waka naturally gives up its properties and does need to be mixed with artificial alien additives for its effect. Similarly, the Fijian people have it within themselves to create a better Fiji; they just need to listen and yield to ‘the angels of (their) better natures’ (as Abraham Lincoln once put it) in order to get the job done.