Ngarker A Tochiu (How Did You Come)

By Santy Asanuma –

A wise traditional leader related to a mango tree in our latest occasional meeting to the Palauan perspective (sel osenged ra tekoi) why it is different to that of westerners. On one hand, he said that westerners are strictly talking about the mango tree. This thinking is supposed to be accurate and correct to most Palauan minds today due to our formal education which is largely promoting scientific or formal explanation of things. This approach tends to just have one correct answer and can be very rigid (ng diak el sebechel mechiid el mo ngodech).

On the other hand, Palauan description tends to be inclusive of the shadows casted as part of the mango tree description. This thinking is very fluid and flexible due to our informal culture (not scientific) orientation based on which is the most important at the moment. The late Fr. Felix Yoach described this Palauan approach and called us as situationists (new English word to describe Palauans) because of it.

For the Palauan perspective the description of the mango tree greatly depends on what time of day. This of course would make the description of the same mango tree not the same each time because the shadows keep changing throughout the day in relation to the location of the sun. Because of this it is possible to explain doing the same customary practice like funeral with varying nuances (kakerous el daoch ra teletael) each time. There is no one correct answer.

These are two very opposite perspectives operating in our society today. But that is not the problem because the formal approach is necessary to deal with the court and other systems and processes for example sanitation which requires scientific explanation. I cannot see how we can use formal approach to explain who takes the lead in a funeral when there are at least four clans involved (two from mother side and two from the father side of the deceased). This is where fluidity should be employed as the methodology of transaction.

Since the approach is fluid, it requires thorough and continuous consultation by all stakeholders in order for consensus to be reached. When this process is compromised for the sake of efficiency (a le ko ke di kedeb el chadecheduch), you can be sure that problems will erupt before or during the funeral. And worse is people will continue to grumble (mengeremrum) long after the custom. This is a clear result from discussion, consultation, and consensus being pushed to the side because it takes so much time. This has become prevalent (blechoel el dubech) in all matters affecting families and clans today but it seems we have no power to correct it.

But take a closer look at our congress, where talking is the currency of engagement, many issues are left unattended to much like the domain for customs. It is normal for the 8th OEK to meet five times or less out of the twenty five days assigned for its regular sessions. We have endless problems but there is no discussion. No consultation. No consensus. The people want the Special Prosecutor in place and it does not matter which mango tree he is from.


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