Revisiting Romanticizing Village Life

Romanticizing Village Life’, published on 08.10.16, attracted thought-provoking comments from commentator Peni T. He identified and discussed the critical changes that are needed as far as indigenous Fijians are concerned, their communities and cultural/traditional structures. These changes are critical for the optimization of gains from development. I complimented him and offered some supporting thoughts of my own including the importance of traditional leadership, not only in incentivizing village development but, more importantly, in directing and in the articulation of that development.

As regards the initiation of these changes, Peni T offered that they should all come from within the village or district so that they have a vested interest in seeing the plans through. However, Peni T was pessimistic in that the “romantics may just bury this challenge in the sand.” From the exchanges Peni T and I had on that blog post, it is clear that romantics are many: some pass as journalists and some live quite comfortably in urban centres and others elsewhere.

I see two groups of romantics who can bury village development in the sand. The first constitutes what I would term as true idealists. They have a romantic attitude towards the past and still desire to recreate it, notwithstanding all the irreversible changes that communities have gone through. The outcome of any initiative with this approach is one of impracticability.

The other group of romantics is best exemplified by those engaged in the current government efforts to bring about development in village setting. The systematic undermining of the chiefs’ mana, authority and resource entitlement will erode and kill chiefly initiatives that are critical for development. Therefore, the resultant absence of effective, transformative and strategic leadership that is so meaningful to the execution and the sustained implementation of development projects and to the final beneficiaries, will inevitably constrain development.  The interventionist approach vis-à-vis promotion of the communities’ own initiatives imposes politicization of village development. This can open up a whole can of worms that can bring about results that border on being fantastic, unpractical and quixotic, thus giving rise to social stagnation.

Image credit: Selfies in the village, May 2016, photo by Ema Tavola

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