Pride beriou

By Gaafar Uherbelau —-

As you may know or have studied in history, many developed nations around the world had experienced civil wars or conflicts in their early days. These wars ultimately led to their formal establishment as world nations and the creation of their constitutions and national laws. Even in the Pacific in recent years we’ve seen ethnic tensions and rebellion in Fiji and the Solomon Islands where violence and suffering had traumatized many people.

In Palau we are lucky. Despite the early days of our constitutional government being dotted with incidents of bloodshed and protest, not once have we ever had violence or aggression progress to such a level where hatred would cause neighbors to turn on one another and create a cultural divide within our nation.  We should pride ourselves as being one of the few nations in the world whose development and transition to democracy had been achieved through relatively peaceful and tactical means.

Furthermore, despite the fact that we had been governed by different nations in the past, unlike other pacific island states, we still retain our culture, our independence and our citizenship as Palauans. And the benefits and privileges we have from bilateral agreements with other nations allow us more economic and educational opportunities than most people in the world. So we are indeed truly blessed.

In my opinion it is our pride that has ensured the survivability of our culture and prevented the loss of our identity. But pride is a double-edged sword. It is also our pride that has made us more reluctant to be accepting of ourselves and of others.

In Palau no one wants to work in jobs that are “less respected” because we think they’re only suited for foreign workers. No Palauan would be willing to work as a domestic helper for other Palauans who are not their relative because it’s shameful and we rarely associate with others of different social circles because we don’t want our friends saying, “ke kora kmal mla mo ngar bab el chad”. We also tend to talk about our “chelebuled” yet most of us cannot ask for help when we need it.

So while it may be true that our pride has conserved our resources, our traditions and retained our identity, it has also created for us social norms that affect our health, family commerce and sustainable development. Somewhere along the line we have to find a balance between being proud of who we are and where we come from and having the humility to accept the fact that we don’t have it all and that sometimes we do need the help of others even if means we have to show some weakness.

They say no man is an island and we Palauans are no different. We may sometimes think we don’t need others and they might not need us, but let’s not forget that interdependence is the very essence of our siukang.

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