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Sunday, July 26, 2015

The easy life = depression in Fiji

Fiji is a beautiful country of over 300 islands. It is naturally surrounded by ocean reefs and the soothing, rolling ocean waves. The interior of the two largest islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, have an abundance of mountainous freshwater streams and rivers due to the westerly winds that dump their precipitation on the mountains as they pass over the archipelago. The land in Fiji has a rich soil, too. You would be hard-pressed to find yourself starving in Fiji because many fruits, nuts and vegetables grow wild there. The weather is also mild. Occasionally a hurricane will hit the island group,

To be living in such a paradise, one would wonder if there were any mental health issues in their people, such as depression. Yet, in the later 1800's, when Fiji seceded its lands to Great Britain, the natives found themselves without a reason to live. There were no more tribal wars; there were no more fears. They didn't have to work because land owners rented out their land to Europeans for cultivation. All they did was collect rent, drink kava and talk about the good old days when human flesh was the main meal.

Basil Thompson, author of The Fijians, did a study of the decay of custom in Fiji after the governance by Great Britain. He found ( along with many other people in the know) that the indigenous population was in a free-fall decline. The communal units just stopped reproducing despite huge leaps in health care. Basil's reasoning is simple:

" Having never known the struggle for existence that prevails in the crowded communities of the old world, he (Fijian native) was spurred into activity by the fear of annihilation, for upon his alertness his existence depended."

That annihilation referenced was the capture by a competing tribe and eaten. Their whole incentive for building moats, manufacturing poison arrows, carving that favorite war club and producing offspring to replenish their army of warriors was the way to protect their tribe from others. When the fear factor was eliminated - the British said, ' no more eating of humans'- , the Fijian native just didn't know what to do! Lethargy set in, the sex drive diminished and the sight of young mothers with their babies was hard to find.

Last night, I watched an episode of 48 hours about a young couple who made many millions in the stock market. They were so rich that they quit everything and built a house in Costa Rica high atop one of the mountains in the rain forest. Eventually, both of them went nuts, resulting in the murder or suicide of the husband. That case is still in the courts. They think the crazy wife did it. I couldn't help but wonder if their downward spiral towards depression was the result of having it all with no future goals. They were isolated, rich and just watched the birds and other wildlife all day from their glass walls.

I think there is a lot of good will in 'the chase', when you've set a goal and work hard to achieve it. Or, you could be overcoming some serious illness or financial hardship. Once you've made it through the gauntlet, you feel pretty good as if maybe you have a new purpose for living. 'The struggle' can have some redeeming qualities. Sometimes 'having it all' can be disastrous.

Here's the link to watch 'Paradise Lost', the 48 hour episode that profiled the couple that had it all:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/48-hours-the-death-of-john-bender-suicide-accident-or-murder/

Friday, July 24, 2015

Don't visit me when I'm in Fiji

My mother dropped by and came around the back of the house to find my kitchen door
open, my feet propped up on a kitchen chair and my fingers typing on my laptop. I looked up at her in a daze. I didn't really comprehend what she said because, you see, I was in Fiji. When I write, and maybe many other writers feel this way, I am immersed in the story to a point where I'm not really present in this world.  My eyes are observing what is happening in the story or what dialogue is taking place. I'm all in and recording on my computer everything I see.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The use of Latin to thinly veil an atrocity

I'm reading a book that was published in 1908 that studies Fijian customs before and after the arrival of the white man. When I was totally engrossed in the readings, I came upon a succeeding paragraph that was written in Latin.  Since many words are derived from Latin words, I could get a slight understanding of what was said.

Curiosity got the better of me. I typed in the words into 'Google translate' and couldn't believe what I was reading of the English translation! It described the most ghoulish abuse of corpses in a sexual manner. You can fill in the blanks. As you know, the ancient Fijians were cannibals and made war upon neighboring tribes. No one was immune to the Fijian roasting ovens and 3-pronged organ extracting forks. Not only were captured warriors filleted and grilled, but women, children, old and young were also captured and served up for dinner. The terrible concern is that before baking, the corpses were celebrated in the most licentious ways. The author of the book just couldn't bring himself to express this information in the English language, so he chose Latin to maintain the comprehensive academic study of the subject at hand. Later in the chapter, it happened again!. This translation was equally as gruesome.

I find myself with the same dilemma. Native Hope is classified as historical fiction, which means that the events closely resemble what really occurred in the targeted historical period. Should I include such disturbing events in my novel? If customs like this one are left out, then the story becomes a diluted silhouette of tribal life in the ancient days. I've always been an advocate for telling the truth at all costs. So, strap on your seat belts for this story!