We Pacific people are made of the tough stuff. We are survivors, early adapters and we never back down from a challenge. In centuries past, we’ve had to fight tooth and nail to survive (if you don’t believe me, read a little on cannibalism and war in the Pacific). But today, there’s no need for this kind of violence in our society. We have become a people of peace, humility, happiness and respect.
Portrayal of a minority
But why is it that Pacific people are so often associated with violence? It might have something to do with the media and it’s enthusiasm for showing the faces of our young men and women convicted of violent crimes. I’m in no way saying they shouldn’t be held accountable, and it’s the nature of modern society that their stories will play out in the media. But this is not what we should be known for.
We are diverse. We are talented. We are kind. We are intelligent. So why do we continue to hear stories of violent Pacific people, despite living at a time where this kind of aggression is not only unnecessary, but entirely unacceptable?
We all know what happens when too much pressure builds up. And it’s exactly what happens to people too when we don’t talk openly about what’s happening in our lives. The pressure of bottling up our feelings can leave us feeling isolated, depressed, and eventually we break – or worse, we explode. We all respond differently to stress and pain. But for many of us, this is when we are especially vulnerable to even more distress and, sadly, when we are most at risk of hurting others.
Conversation is not a strong point for us Pacific people. Culturally, silence is a sign of respect, so opening up may not come naturally, especially when we have to talk about our issues. But without real conversation, how can we share the burden of our problems? How can we find any kind of relief? Unless we talk about it, sharing meaningful talanoa, the emotions associated with our pain and suffering are supressed, and because of this people sometimes turn to violence to deal with their problems.
Where does culture stand in all of this?
Violence has no place in our culture. I don’t care who says otherwise. Neither should it have a place in our communities, our families and in our homes. Our culture is not one of violence. We were not designed to inflict harm on others, or to lead lives full of isolation, suppression, brokenness and fear – all feelings that are caused by acts of hostility and violence.
We need to start by taking a good hard look at what needs to be fixed within ourselves. What are your thoughts on violence? Do you ever feel that some people ‘deserve it’? Do you know someone you can talk to when you’re going through a hard time? Is there someone you can support by lending your ear in times of need?
Moving forward, we all have a part to play. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone about how you’re feeling. Encourage conversation and try to really listen to what people have to say. When a person resorts to violence, or is a victim of it, try to separate the behaviour from the person. Refrain from blaming and look at ways we can support the people involved – whether it be through notifying authorities, or something as simple as listening without judgement or prejudice.
Violence is everybody’s business, and we can’t expect society to help us if we don’t help ourselves. We all can agree that this is a serious issue that we should be talking about – and working against. It all starts with conversation. That’s why talanoa is so meaningful. Without conversation, there is no awareness, and without awareness, there is no action. As a Pacific person, you can start that conversation.
Is there something about violence you’d like to say?