Papua New Guinea
“To help us in this endeavour, [Jared Diamond] suggests, we can look to those living societies that are least changed by modernity.” – Stephen Cave, reviewing Diamond’s book, The World Until Yesterday
Jared Diamond, the bestselling author of Guns, Germs and Steel, has just come out with a telling book on what we can learn from other cultures: The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn From Traditional Societies?
One of the most helpful areas is about conflict resolution. He gives an example in Papua New Guinea. While Western cultures resolve conflict through a trial, neighbors can’t rely simply on a judicial process.
Let’s learn about the “Compassion Ceremony” that will allow us to live in harmony with our neighbors. That’s whether we do actually live near them, or are simply global connected. There is no choice here – we are all neighbors in this world.
Below, the incident relates to Malo, who by pure accident killed an innocent community member while driving. It was absolute tragedy–and yet also deemed not his fault. Here’s how the community took steps to resolve it:
Malo took shelter in the relative safety of his home village, while his boss, on whose business Malo had been driving, took charge and engaged another employee to mediate between the two parties.
A sum (about $300) of “sorry money” was agreed, which was to be handed over at a compensation ceremony. This involved all of [the victim]’s family with Malo and all his colleagues. The hosts talked about the dead boy and how much they missed him; the visitors about how sorry they were and how they tried to imagine the bereaved family’s grief. Everyone cried. They then had a simple meal together, shook hands and agreed that neither party would give the other any trouble.
This process brought about a speedy, peaceful resolution and – crucially – an emotional reconciliation that would allow all those involved to continue to live alongside each other as neighbours. This is in stark contrast with state-organised proceedings in most Western countries, which seek to establish who was in the wrong and to enforce retribution. Such trials might be sufficient when those involved will never see each other again, but for disputes involving family or neighbours, Diamond argues, we could learn from these traditional mediations.
— Stephen Cave, describing the story in The World Until Yesterday
Whatever we are facing, let’s perform a Compassion Ceremony. We might not be able to organize an event. It may be in person after a court date, exchanging peaceful comments.
Or it might just reside in the feeling of our hearts. That we hold the other person and ourselves in high regard, that while there may be misunderstandings, the motive was pure. People make mistakes. We can be humble and cleanse ourselves and commit again to doing right, and also allow others to be cleansed.
The Western world will continue its legal proceedings. Yet there’s every reason we should add Papua New Guinea’s Compassion Ceremony.
Background on Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a country in Oceania that occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and numerous offshore islands. It is located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean.
Papua New Guinea is one of the most culturally diverse countries on Earth. According to recent data, 841 different languages are listed for the country, although 11 of these have no known living speakers. There may be at least as many traditional societies, out of a population of about 6.2 million. It is also one of the most rural, as only 18 percent of its people live in urban centres. The country is one of the world’s least explored, culturally and geographically, and many undiscovered species of plants and animals are thought to exist in the interior of Papua New Guinea.
Strong growth in Papua New Guinea’s mining and resource sector has led to PNG becoming the sixth fastest-growing economy in the world as of 2011. Despite this, many people live in extreme poverty, with about one third of the population living on less than $1.25 per day.The majority of the population still live in traditional societies and practice subsistence-based agriculture. These societies and clans have some explicit acknowledgement within the nation’s constitutional framework. The PNG Constitution expresses the wish for “traditional villages and communities to remain as viable units of Papua New Guinean society”, and for active steps to be taken in their preservation.
Background on Jared Diamond
Jared Diamond is an American scientist and author best known for his popular science books on diverse topics. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to a Bessarabian Jewish family. He received his BA from Harvard and his PhD from the University of Cambridge. He has published seven books and numerous articles, on topics including ancient societies, evolution and genetics. He is on the faculty for the UCLA Department of Geography.