Delebechelel A Mesekuuk (In One Accord)

By Santy Asanuma —-

The surgeon fish in school (delebechel) is used in traditional Palauan symbolism because they behave and move in unison (di ta bedeklel ma bedul omrolir e rokui). Even if they are disturbed by a fisherman underwater and would scatter, they would quickly regroup and assemble into single line formation moving tactically in one direction behind the leader in front of the line. The significance of this quality is consciously memorialized and exemplified by being depicted virtually in all the traditional men’s houses (bai) motifs throughout Palau.

This summer in month of May 2012 I had the pleasure of meeting a group of twenty American students from the University of Virginia who were doing a study on the diet of Palauans and how it has connection to the prevalence of NCD. One surprising finding that they recorded was almost all Palauan that they talked to in the survey knew what NCD is all about. At least our eating disorder clearly makes us a distinct group of people. The result of this study will be completed and presented to Palau in one year time for us to be better informed on how we solve our NCD problems now and into the future. However, this paper is not about the health of Palauans as a group but rather takes interest in looking into how well Palauans group or not today without the mesekuuk ideology of the past.

I had a window of opportunity to pick on the minds of these smart American university students on what they think stands out to be the most important value for them as Americans today. If not all, almost all of them spoke with such passion that individualism is very important value for Americans and is perhaps the foundation of American society today. Individualism points to being free to be yourself and not being forced to do things that they do not like. The ideology of individualism is probably the direct opposite of the mesekuuk ideology.

I told them that I was not surprised because that is the trend and thinking among most young people of Palau this day and age. The idea of accepting what a group (cheldebechel) is going to do without questions and acting like everybody in the group is frown up as “old-style.” Even the muumuu for women in a group has slightly different cuts or ornaments. Uniform is not necessarily the same especially for people who are very individualistic (kuk ngodech ra re bekl el chad).

When a “cheldebechel” (an organization) decide to have an overnight trip to Babeldaob, some members either miss the trip or manage to return the same day leaving the group behind. Nothing in promoting of individualism (ng di chad ma teletelel) can be compatible (ng mo atter) with the meskuuk concept of a group. The big question that these American university students could not answer was how do we achieve a sense of nationalism (kid a chad ra imol beluu) within a society of individuals and not a society of group of people? I was surprised on how they struggled to verbalize the American nationalism in light of their value for individualism.

I introduced to them a Palauan analogy of a temikel (coconut frond single stick) that by itself is fragile and virtually useless but when you bundle many temikel together you have a durable and useful skobang (stick broom). To strengthen Palau we must build it as a collective and not an individualistic society.

2 Comments to “Delebechelel A Mesekuuk (In One Accord)”

  1. Thank you, Mr. Asanuma. The US has been in existence for only 236 years come this July 4th. Other powerful nations and empires exised for thousands of years throughout history, including smaller peaceful nations and cultues such as Palau. I agree that we should maintain our culture and this important concept of “all for one.” Individualism is useful up to a point but collective national interest is far more important. Nations survive and thrive more because of cohesion than disarray. It is easy for young, untried American college students to talk about the value of individualism.

    But really, do we really want to take their wisdom for face value? The very soil upon which the United States of America stands is stolen land, stained by the blood of its real owners who are consigned today fo reservations. Yhe original wording of the US Declaration of Independence was “the Pursuit of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Property,” later changed to “Happiness.” Americans value individualim because their entire history is one that is driven by greed and personal interest.

    Funny today how those Palauans today who really want to adopt this American notion of “every man for himself” has not lived in America and is therefore unaware of what they are doing for Palau. “The grass is greener…,” as the saying goes, but joke’s on them. Happy Birthday, USA.

  2. Santy, Kambes, and Fuana,

    What are your thoughts on the UN World Drug Report with Palau with the highest use of marijuana in the world? Needless to say, this is truly disgusting news!

    Shame on you, the one in four Palauans who continue to ruin Palau’s reputation worldwide! The irony is that most of these stoned Palauans will never leave Palau and are armchair travelers (with the help of marijuana) as that is the only form of travel they will ever enjoy. For Palauans that actually get to travel and those that live both in Palau and abroad who are drug-free, we have to face the shame of knowing that our country is being looked down upon as a failing state and one that is much like Jamaica and Haiti in the eyes of the world!

    We wonder why we have so many problems. Well, for one, everyone is so stoned they can’t wipe the smuck from their eyes and snot from their noses and we think we can save the sharks and stop global warming!

    The joke’s on you, Palau. There are banana republics and there are banana marijuana republics! Shame.

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