“Ate”, Childrearing, and Mechesil Belau

Contributed Commentary to Tia Belau, August 26, 2013 —- 

The following commentary was sent over for publication by Mr. Richard Salvador in response to article titled “Ate” and the young “Supervisor” which appeared in the column “Words from Orakidorm” last Thursday issue, August 22, 2013, in Tia Belau. 

by Richard Salvador

This is a strange piece of writing! It raises the relevant issue of locating one of the possible causes of aggression and violence among Belau’s youth. However, it’s informal even odd style of writing betrays the serious and troubling manner in which contemporary childrearing in Belau may be a contributing factor to youth violence.

It is wonderful to read that the women of Belau are celebrating the 20th year of their active engagement in social activism this month by putting on another conference. We should all celebrate with them as well. But let us encourage them to consider this issue of childrearing in which economic necessity has imposed on Belau families.

Having a domestic helper or maid helping out in a family in Belau may be unique compared to similar societies struggling with all kinds of economic issues. Belau is fortunate to still enjoy many of the culturally-based reciprocal sharings of food and other resources. These are lavish luxuries that most people do not enjoy in similarly-situated societies, and which are due mostly to systemic land-alienation policies and alienating labor conditions tied to major Capitalistic processes. Indeed Belau is very fortunate.

This is why it is vital for Mechesil Belau (MB) to address contemporary childrearing in Belau. We commend MB for their work in the past 2 decades in standing up for and advocating for social justice, cultural preservation, and environmental protection. Youth violence threatens the work and legacy of MB because, in spite of advocating for social justice, leaving families to rely more and more on childrearing practices that we know are detrimental to producing responsible, respectful, and civilized young people, will create more of the same problems. Discussions can focus on ways the community can come together to explore a range of wholesome activities for young children other than the constricted isolation of salaried domestic helpers. There’s nothing inherently malevolent about salaried domestic helpers. They may be a necessity intrinsic to the culture of Capitalism. However, we’ve learned from all observers of Capitalist development that consequences of economic necessity do negatively impact families and societies.

I share the anxieties of the Watcher of Orakidom: “What about Palau? What price should we pay for having [economic luxuries which directly or indirectly contribute to adversely transforming families and destroying any sense of responsibility certain individuals within our extended families have]?”

Is the “rise in violence…connected to…changing family structure in Palau”? That’s a good question to pose for all people of Belau.  Somebody must raise the issue in Mechesil Belau’s conference. Somebody must raise the question everywhere there are people who care enough about Belau’s youth.

Mechesil Belau members, or an interdenominational group of church leaders, other community groups who care about Belau’s children should use Mechesil Belau’s conference to come together, perhaps to form an ad hoc working group on Children. There are many ways to support and promote the interests of children, their nutritional needs, their health and education, the needs of young parents making ends meet while leaving their kids to the care of non-relatives who may not have the immediate interests of the children at heart, etc.

Mesulang to the Watcher at Orakidorm.  Don’t despair and become cynical! Don’t shame us. Help organize us, point us to the failings of our society, and inspire us to get together and work on address issues our social problems. As you watch and observe the failings of society, think about and write on what is practical and not practical and what can be done.

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