Libmonster ID: UK-1404
Author(s) of the publication: S. E. PALE


Candidate of Historical Sciences, Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Keywords: Oceania, worldview, traditions, lifestyle, values

Only in the 16th century did the islands of Oceania appear on geographical maps, whose inhabitants lingered in the unwritten barter-cannibal Stone Age. Representatives of Western civilization saw many wonders there that struck their imagination. During the years of development of the Pacific islands, prehistoric exoticism gave food for creativity to many Western poets, writers, thinkers and artists, among whom were J. - J. Rousseau, D. Diderot, P. Gauguin, M. Twain, J. London, S. Maugham, R. L. Stevenson.

Oceania was included in the global civilization. But how did the worldview of its inhabitants change after the collision with Europeans? Consideration of this issue is a field for research that promises a lot of original findings.


The thirst for wealth that pushed Western colonizers to develop the Pacific islands was calculated in monetary terms. But before meeting the Europeans, the inhabitants of Oceania, who were safely in a Neolithic state of body and mind, did not have money: instead, barter trade and a system of gift exchange flourished.

The islands of Oceania did not have a complex social hierarchy. The islanders did not need to form large alliances: there was a natural defense against possible alien attacks - the ocean. Especially since most of the islanders were waiting for gods, not enemies, from across the ocean. Oceanians usually lived in family communities of 200 to 400 people, who from time to time, having caught a neighboring community in witchcraft, corruption or the evil eye, made combat sorties in order to teach their enemies a lesson, taking from them what was considered fair compensation.

The absence in Oceania of not only metal, but also the skills of making complex tools, and sometimes even elementary household items, made the islanders almost holy in the eyes of the first Europeans. Thus, the Dutch navigator Jacob Roggeveen, who discovered Easter Island in 1722, claimed that the Polynesians "descended from Adam" (among other things, this idea was prompted by the minimal clothing of leaves worn by the natives). In fact, the Oceanian's body was exposed so that tattoos could be "read" on it, which depicted all the attributes and achievements of the social life of their owner: marital status, occupation, number of children or, say, the number of decapitated enemies.


Ancestral worship and cannibalism were practiced throughout Oceania before the arrival of Europeans. People ate people for the sake of increasing their own weight in the tribal community, which was designated by the concept of "mana". Mana is a life force that is passed down from generation to generation or distributed among relatives through the performance of rites of worship of ancestors. Chieftains have the most powerful mana, giving them power over their fellow tribesmen. But if the owner of an attractive mana was not part of the kinship system, then there was only one way to get its power: by literally absorbing it.

Oceanic mana could not be exchanged or "bought" from another person, unlike Western "money" mana, which the islanders had to deal with at the beginning of the era of European colonization in the XVIII century.

Throughout the 19th century, two value systems interacted in Oceania. One-European mana - was expressed in money, the other-Oceanic mana-in tattoos of its owner. The highest rank of mana gave its bearer the right to lead his kindred and inspire them to terrible raids on their neighbors in order to absorb their mana in the form of a conquered leader baked on a bonfire.

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The Vatican regularly received reports of missionaries being eaten in Oceania to convert infidels to Catholicism. The islanders, on the other hand, ate the missionaries in the vain hope that if they tasted the white man, whose "mana" allowed him to enjoy all the benefits of the Western world, they would also have strong boats, nails, iron axes, and, most importantly, guns at their disposal.

It was only in the twenty-first century that the Oceanians realized the sinfulness of what they had done and, after repenting, apologized to the descendants of those whose mana they had appropriated in their usual way. So, in 2009, residents of Eromanga Island in the Melanesian state of Vanuatu apologized to 65-year-old Charles Milner-Williams for the fact that their ancestors ate his great-great-grandfather 170 years ago. 1 In 2007, a solemn ceremony was held on the island of New Britain in Papua New Guinea, during which the conflict of 1878 was settled, when local cannibals ate a group of missionaries from Fiji.2

Today, the term "mana" is still widely used in Oceania to describe the merits of political leaders, who are often part-time traditional leaders. For example, in the Melanesian islands of Fiji, from which, as is commonly believed, the concept of mana originated, a coup d'etat took place in 1987, but its instigator, Colonel Sitiveni Rambuka, could not officially lead the country due to the fact that his mana was disproportionately small for such a high position.

Over the next few years, he built up his mana in the Western fashion - accumulating money and sharing it with those who made key decisions in public administration. Finally, having enlisted the support of the Council of Great Leaders, who recognized the power of his mana, S. Rambuka was able to officially lead the country in 1992-1999.


Sometimes the peaceful exchange of gifts for the sake of settling inter-tribal conflicts failed: for example, due to the lack of equivalent values, or when one tribe was somehow more successful than the other, which immediately guessed witchcraft. And then the islanders preferred to get what they wanted by armed raids on their neighbors: victory guaranteed an increase in mana, as well as obtaining vital material objects, namely pigs and women.

Priority was given to pigs as a source of complete animal protein. In second place in importance were women who were able to perform the hardest work in the house and in the gardens, as well as give birth to children. In peacetime, pigs and women were offered as gifts to leaders as a sign of respect, and also served as offerings at various ceremonies, including an apology to the aggrieved party.

Pigs have not yet lost their ritual value in Oceanic society. If during the XX century, under the influence of Western civilization, traditional gift exchange ceremonies for settling disagreements were considered shameful archaic, then with the beginning of the cultural upsurge on the threshold of the XXI century, the situation changed dramatically. For example, in 2002, Vanuatu held its first official pig exchange ceremony to resolve a conflict between representatives of three parties: the State, the armed forces and the police.

With the participation of the traditional Council of Chiefs (in almost every country in Oceania, Councils of Chiefs play a significant socio-political role), the procedure for concluding peace was as follows: "The Prime Minister, on behalf of the government, handed over one pig to a representative of the police forces, and the second to a representative of the armed forces. The police and armed forces also exchanged pigs, and then the Council of Chiefs handed the pig to the Prime Minister. " 3


The first contacts of Oceanians with Europeans often ended in misunderstandings. Europeans persistently searched for gold from the islanders (which was found, but only in the middle of the XX century. and in the bowels of only some islands of Melanesia). In turn, the islanders, shocked by the power of the white people, dreamed of getting their "mana" to become equally successful owners of earthly goods. Since the guns of the white men did not allow them to literally absorb the coveted mana, the islanders turned to the traditional system of gift exchange and offered the Europeans the most valuable things they had - pigs and women, taking them on rafts to foreign ships.

Unaware that they were being offered gifts in exchange, and not just as a tribute to their obvious superiority, European sailors happily ate pigs and took women with them, writing in the ship's logs amazing stories about the boundless kindness and generosity of the islanders. Those who were left without the equivalent gifts of boats, iron guns, and guns, the next ship with the white "deceivers" was not so welcome, and then the records in the ship's logs read about the terrible morals prevailing on the islands of Oceania.

However, some navigators tried to better understand the customs of the Oceanians. In particular, to increase their status in the eyes of the islanders, the sailors covered their bodies with tattoos similar to the drawings on the bodies of tribal leaders who possessed supreme mana. And then, on a neighboring island, which is in the system of hierarchical gift exchange, tattooed Europeans could get both pigs and women for some rusty nail. (By the way, this is how the art of tattooing got into the world.

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Oceania to Europe, gradually gaining popularity around the world.)

But every coin has its downside: carriers of powerful mana have significantly increased the risk of being eaten. It was this sad fate that fell to the lot of James Cook, who inadvertently introduced himself to the Hawaiians almost as a god of fertility. Here is what the Czech ethnographer Miloslav Stingl writes about the fate of his remains: "Cook's bones were first placed in a sanctuary, and then divided among the supreme leaders and priests as very valuable, supernatural relics. Part of the skull and part of the right arm, as well as Cook's weapon, were later returned to the new commander of the expedition. " 4


Europeans, who sailed the seas and oceans in search of sources of enrichment, soon found out what profit the islands of Oceania could give them. It turned out that Polynesia (Greek: "many islands") These were barren sandy atolls, suitable only for collecting copra 5; the same was true of Micronesia, which means "tiny islands".

But in Melanesia (the"black islands"), rich in land and mineral resources, Europeans were able to make a tangible profit. So, highly profitable sugar cane plantations have appeared in Fiji. Intensive timber exports began from Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, and in the middle of the 20th century, minerals were discovered here with the names of elements of the entire Periodic Table. New Caledonia is a storehouse of nickel, and the French have taken over its mining operations, which now outnumber the local population. And the inhabitants of the dwarf island-state of Nauru suddenly turned out to be millionaires in the 1970s, having sold off all the reserves of phosphorites, but became impoverished in the 1980s, having completely exhausted the deposits and wasted all the proceeds.

However, until the 1940s, the number of white people on the islands of Oceania was not so significant that the islanders fully realized the depth of the gap between their own values and the achievements of Western civilization.

Oceanians only realized this difference during World War II, when they saw "untold riches" in the form of iron objects and food on American military bases scattered in Melanesia and Micronesia. The American contingent was impressive, and the Islanders were brought in to serve hundreds of thousands of soldiers, who for the first time began to receive monetary remuneration for their work.

Gradually, Oceanians began to get a taste for money. The vast amount of food stored in the warehouses of the Americans, including canned food in tin cans, chewing gum, chocolate, cigarettes and alcohol, which turned out to be much stronger than the local narcotic drink kava, caused Oceanians to feel a sacred awe of the" benefits " of the Western world.

So when American forces withdrew from their bases in 1945, the islanders, left without their worldly goods, could no longer live as they had before. And then two directions of further actions, completely different in their essence, matured in their heads. The first, and most sensible, step was to create political parties that began to push for greater social and economic rights for the native population. The second was based on the archaic past combined with utopian expectations of the future.


The logic of the followers of the second direction was as follows: the benefits that came from overseas were actually sent to the Oceanians by their great ancestors from the overseas otherworld, where the gods live, but the "white" people used their great magic to intercept the benefits and appropriate them for themselves. Therefore, to restore justice, it was necessary to repeat with maximum accuracy all the magical movements and gestures of the "white" people, so that the" cargo " (i.e. cargo) was sent along the right path - into the hands of the islanders.

This logic gave rise to cargo cults, the beginnings of which first appeared in Fiji in 1885 and then became widespread after the Second World War. The ritual side of the new "religion" consisted in accurately imitating the actions of foreigners: for example, the islanders put empty bottles to their eyes, pretending to be binoculars; put coconut "headphones" on their heads, like pilots; waved their hands on empty runways, hoping that the sky or ocean would send them a plane or ship filled with cargo. After all, "white" people received all this for their body movements, the islanders thought, not even suspecting that in some half a century their grandchildren would receive everything they had only dreamed of at that moment, but by completely different methods.

A prime example of the post-war cargo cult is the John Froome in Vanuatu. Almost intact decorations for the performance of this cult have been preserved on the island of Tanna, where today the islanders perform rituals for tourists to summon "cargo". The central figure is John Froome-a combined image of an American soldier, Santa Claus and the biblical Jesus, who promised to give free benefits to the islanders at his second coming.

Most of the cargo cults in Oceania had already disappeared by the 1980s, but John Froome was the longest-established figure. When, in the 1960s, one of its adherents was asked: "Nineteen years - aren't you waiting too long for the 'cargo' promised by John Froome?", the answer was: "If you wait two thousand years for Jesus Christ, and he doesn't come-

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deet, I can wait for John Froome for much longer than nineteen years. " 6


Papua New Guinea is the most interesting place to study the transition from archaic consciousness to modern consciousness. Cults, along with political parties, were born here one after another due to cultural, linguistic, and ethnic fragmentation.

Raising money at the expense of the gullibility of fellow tribesmen did not disdain many of those who needed to finance their parties in order to get into the main legislative body of the country - the National Parliament.

So, one of the parties that found themselves in the National Parliament managed to collect $120 thousand from adherents of a cult created specifically for this purpose. Its representatives offered residents of numerous villages to bury money on a specially designated plot of land in order to reap a harvest in six months, which was supposed to exceed the invested amount by a hundredfold. For clarity, a "miracle" was demonstrated, in which many believed. It was also proposed to fill the "magic" trough with money, which, after active shaking, allegedly doubled the number of coins in it 7.

Today, the people of Papua New Guinea still combine the archaic and modern in their minds. For example, in 2012, the world press reported that " in Papua New Guinea, 29 people were arrested who killed and ate the raw brains and soup from the genitals of seven healers. According to the killers, these healers were evil sorcerers and drew money from poor residents of remote villages. I had to eat them to absorb their supernatural powers and become bulletproof. " 8

According to New Guinea law enforcement agencies, witchcraft-related homicides accounted for half of all homicides in the country in the 2010s. To address this issue, the United Nations South Pacific Human Rights Committee, headquartered in Suva, the capital of Fiji, has proposed that the Government of Papua New Guinea first repeal the Witchcraft Act of 1971, which, as stated in its first line, "is a law for the prevention and punishment of witchcraft practices and practices." other witchcraft activities " 9.

The Committee's logical argument was that " the Witchcraft Act undermines the criminal justice system by complicating criminal proceedings for crimes such as murder, armed assault, and rape."10 These actions are often carried out by "sorcerers" in magical rites.


Gradually, a more realistic picture of the world began to take shape in the minds of the islanders: for all the benefits that come from overseas, Europeans pay with money. And the Europeans get their money from the sale of resources that they extract at the expense of territories that originally belonged to the Oceanians.

The main resource on the islands is land. Europeans set aside land for plantations, where they grew mainly coconuts for the production of copra, which for a long time brought a solid income. But by the mid-twentieth century, copra prices had fallen sharply, and Europeans had to reorient themselves to cattle breeding. The new occupation required additional extensive territories, and in the 1960s white settlers claimed almost 30% of the island's land. This caused a sharp discontent of local residents, who said that the "whites" were stealing their ancestral lands. The land issue, which became more acute in Oceania in the 1960s, was one of the main reasons for the political parties ' demands for independence of the islands.

The inhabitants of fertile Melanesia, unlike the sandy atolls of Polynesia and Micronesia, eventually realized that they had another important resource-minerals, which caused violent ethnic and national conflicts in the 1980s and 1990s.

In addition to the land and mineral resources of the Oceanic islands, coastal fish became the main source of income. In 1978, the independent countries of Oceania established a 200-mile exclusive economic zone around the islands, where the world's richest fish resources are found. Beyond this zone, the dizzying ocean depths begin, where there is nothing alive except plankton. By allowing foreign companies to fish within their exclusive zones, Oceanians charge them a fee that varies depending on where the catch is made (the closer to land, the more fish, and the higher the corresponding fee).


The independence that Oceania began to gain in the 1970s meant that it was necessary to find increasingly sophisticated ways to attract "cash" mana in the face of declining funding from former metropolitan areas.

It turned out that all Western innovations that can bring profit take root in Oceania faster than anywhere else. The most profitable option for the islanders was the Internet, which they mastered in the mid-1990s. Thanks to the Internet, 11 of the 14 independent countries of Oceania turned into offshore jurisdictions. They are Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Niue, Nauru, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga and Vanuatu. Only by 2012, all of them were already on the white list of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), having overcome a long path through the "black" and "gray" lists.

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In 2008-2010, a financial and economic crisis broke out, which significantly curtailed the assistance of traditional donors (Australia, the United States, France, and Japan) to Oceanic neighbors. But the tiny independent countries of Oceania were no stranger. It is the decline in funding that explains Tahiti's involvement in the 2010 FIFA vote-buying corruption scandal.

Oceanians have learned to masterfully play on the ambitions of neocolonial metropolises that do not want to give up their vast expanses in the Pacific Ocean. French Polynesia (better known as Tahiti) and New Caledonia, which belong to France, from time to time" frighten " Paris with demands for secession. As a result, the islands receive colossal (by Oceanic standards) sponsorship from the French side and assurances of eternal friendship. Tahiti receives additional revenue from regular reminders of the damage caused by France's nuclear tests in 1966-1996. And New Caledonia, in turn, receives compensation for damage caused by the French quarry method of nickel mining, which is destructive for the environment.

The same maneuvers are being carried out by the Micronesians with the United States, which is ready to compensate the islanders not only for the nuclear tests of the mid-twentieth century, but also for the war in Iraq in the 2000s, where conscripts from Micronesia participated, so long as the Northern Mariana Islands, the Marshall Islands, Palau, Guam and the Federated States of Micronesia do not demand an expansion of their autonomy.

In the 2000s, the island countries managed to make a solid profit due to competition between two new regional players-China and Taiwan. China's goal was to win over the voices of Oceanians in the UN on the issue of Taiwan's independence, which actively "befriended" the Oceanians, trying to get them to do the opposite. By the early 2010s, China emerged victorious in this competition, having secured a" friendship " with the Oceanians through huge loans. During the period of the Sino-Taiwanese "battle" in Oceania, new airfields, hospitals, schools and stadiums appeared.


To understand Oceania, you need to temporarily forget about some of the achievements that the Western world is so proud of: for example, the fight against corruption. After all, in the minds of Oceanians, bribes are just offerings, without which it is impossible to express honor to the "Big Man". Honoring the "Big People" is a tradition, and the tradition of Oceania is respected and revered no less than the Bible.

The cornerstone of being is money. The money came to Oceania with the Europeans. At first, the islanders did not know how best to apply them in practice: in the 19th century, they made mats out of paper bills, on which they performed rituals for calling "truly valuable" objects-iron knives and axes, large boats, shiny beads and mirrors. In the mid-twentieth century, many islanders still believed that money was an attribute of magic, and buried it in the ground, hoping to get a rich harvest of cash. It was only at the end of the twentieth century that the people of Oceania began to understand the essence of the monetary system.

But in the Western world, money can be gained, lost, or shared with others. And in Oceania, money is still equivalent to the traditional concept of "mana", meaning a sacred gift that cannot be shared with others, because it belongs only to a select few. This is comparable to the fact that in the Western world it is impossible to share, say, talent.

Yes, and the very word "neighbor" in Oceania is transmitted by the term "vantok" - a large family that includes up to a thousand relatives. And the rest of the world is "alien." And is it possible, being a prime minister or president, to bring "strangers" closer to your mana and allow them to enter your "vantok" (i.e., include them in the Cabinet of ministers), and not your own? Of course, this practice of family ties in management structures, which is common for Oceanians, completely contradicts the Western tradition, where it is referred to by the dry word "nepotism" and is prohibited at the legislative level.

Oceania is the most unfathomable experiment in history. In just 100 years, the Islanders had to go from Stone Age cannibalism to a new, more than peculiar social order, which some Western political scientists consider quite democratic.

The special mentality of the Oceanic people should be considered taking into account the many nuances that form the overall picture - surprisingly colorful and bright, exotic and tropical, unlike any other in the world.

1 Aborigines from Oceania apologized to the missionary for the eaten great-grandfather / / TSN, 8.12.2009 - . html

2 Cannibal tribe apologizes for eating Methodists // The Telegraph, 16 August 2007 - ml

3 PCRC Welcomes Vanuatu Peace and Reconciliation // Pacific News Bulletin, August 2002 - php?id=45&formid=72&action=show&articleid-663

Stingle Miloslav. 4 Очарованные Гавайи. М., 1983 -

5 Copra-dried coconut pulp, used for making margarine, technical oils, glycerin and soap. The main producers of copra are the countries of South-East Asia (about 67% of world production), Oceania (about 10%), Africa (3 - 4%).

Richard Dawkins. 6 God as an Illusion, Moscow, 2008 -

May R.J. 7 Micronationalist Movements in Papua New Guinea. Canberra, Australian National University, 1982

8 Papua New Guinea Cult Members Arrested for Cannibalism // Associated Press, 2012/07/14 -

9 Sorcery Act 1971, PNG Constitution -

10 UN Human Rights Pacific Office welcomes proposal to remove PNG's Sorcery Act, 8 March 2012 -



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