Too Smart to Remember

From “Words from Orakidorm”—

Several weeks ago I sat and listened to an old Palauan man reminiscing about the yester-years and how the “world has changed.” And so I asked him, “Do you think Palau has changed for better or for worse?” His answer was quite interesting and becoming of a wise man. He said, “Was the little bird in Medechiibelau’s hand, death or alive?” I told him, “It all depended on what Medechiibelau wanted, a squeeze is death and a release is life?” The old man smiled for a moment and softly said, “you are probably right, but is it always a matter of choice? Can you imagine if Medechiibelau was holding a scorpion fish (Eschid)?” “Yes, can you imagine that”, I though to myself as we parted.

I later read an article that Father Hezel wrote titled, “A Sad Tale of Long Ago: How Magic Signs were Brought to a Far-off Island” in which he used an allegory of small island turning to modernity. The islanders initially were antagonistic to the foreigners but later learned to tolerate and even adopt their foreign ways such as food, drugs, education, religion and such. In due time, the island chiefs began to realize that things were getting out of hand (perhaps their hands) and so they tried to gather the people to discuss returning to the “old ways”. Sadly, all were educated in the modern ways but no one remembered the old ways.

The world is moving toward a homogenous world where perhaps there will only be few major languages spoken and minute cultures such as ours will be diminished to the world of oblivion. And yet as a society we continue to have this nostalgia of the past as we claim to be “proud” of it. We speak of Klebelau and Klechibelau without really understanding what they both mean. We talk about preserving our culture, and yet, we are not doing anything actively daily to preserve. We see other ethnic groups exerting their cultures the form of dancing, language, food, education, wars, justice to the cultural platform scene and we the Palauans not only remain silent and we are passively adopting some of it.

Perhaps this is not all bad if we actively accepted that this is what we all want. However, the difference between the lip service of “being proud of our heritage” to our activity is a matter of whether Medechiibelau was holding a bird or a scorpion fish. You see, if he held a bird, then perhaps it is a matter of choice but if he held a scorpion fish, this cultural demise is inevitable. I need to go back and see that old man, where did that scorpion fish come from? Doesn’t he know Palauan stories? Perhaps, he is educated too.!! Hmmm!

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