Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A model for fair trade.

"It takes a village to raise a child"

That is a Tongan Proverb. I am currently on a job for the FAO for the development of the organic sector in the Pacific. I am now in Fiji after visiting Solomon Islands and Tonga.
Similarly as in Samoa, which I visited earlier this year, and in Bhutan there is an interesting culture. While it is an old culture it might also have seeds for the future. The proverb is stressing the need for community. The Westerns view, or at least the view that has penetrated Western culture lately is based on an extreme individualism. According to Time magazine for this week, it has grown worse. Anyway, traditional cultures pay a lot more attention to family and not only that, at least in some cultures the local communities are also seen as essential, which is exactly what is expressed in that proverb. Ultimately we are a social being and not individuals. It is the social organization of humans that made us to what we were. If we had been "individuals" throughout history, we would hardly been different than any other animal. It is actually only the most primitive animals that are acting as individuals.
Society IS part of humanity.

An interesting feature in Tonga is how Tongans "trade" with the Tongan communities abroad, in particular in New Zealand. While someone in Sweden might send a box of Swedish stuff to some emigrated relatives the first years, Tongan families (extended families) fill a CONTAINER with taro, tapioca, coco nuts and whatever they have and send off to relatives in New Zealand. And some time later perhaps a container goes in the other direction with some building materials and household appliances. Or perhaps money is sent. It is a kind of reciprocal exchange which was how we all traded historically,before money. In old times, trade was about ecological adaptation and about strengthening ties between communities, gifts and bartering ruled. That was before "profit", "self-interest" and the "invisible hand" came into play. Why are we so blinded?

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