Good Neighbours

[This week’s Communications column for the Vanuatu Independent.]

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” – Robert Frost

The vast breadth of ocean that has historically insulated Pacific Island nations from the rest of the world has at last been reduced. Day by day, our islands lose some of the luster and allure that English writer Somerset Maugham made famous in The Moon and Sixpence.

That’s not to say Vanuatu’s lost its allure altogether, just the kind that Gaugin painted, and TV’s Fantasy Island caricatured. That allure, of course, never existed anywhere except in the imagination.

Like its Pacific neighbours, Vanuatu is culturally rich and uniquely appealing. Its peoples have developed over three thousand years with little outside interaction. The simplicity and idyllic naïveté depicted in popular Western culture is mostly in the eye of the observer. Life in Vanuatu is simple, but only in the sense that modern life in North America and Western Europe is ‘easy’: It’s true, provided you’ve spent all your life getting used to it.

But now, our cultures are melding and changing, and we don’t have a lifetime to get used to it.
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