Getting Out of the Way

I’ve got a friend visiting right now, a colleague of mine from my previous life in the world of software start-ups and corporate manoeuvring. For about as long as the World Wide Web has been around, we’ve been part of a community of explorers, people who defined the Web, extended it and made its strengths our own. From the mid 1990s through the so-called Dot-Com Boom, we had the sense that we were pioneers, marking trails across a new and exciting space. The frontier seemed to have infinite possibilities.

Human history shows us that after the explorers come the missionaries, and after the missionaries come the colonists. Carpet baggers, speculators, misfits and refugees seeking a better future away from the centre of things – these are among the first to arrive. Then come the homesteaders. Then come government, roads, taxes and schools. Before long, the landscape begins to look like the one they left behind.

In this version of events, those who get least mention are those who were there first. Those who, rather than shape the world in their own image, adapted to the shape of the world until it was impossible to tell where one began and the other ended.

This column’s purpose is neither to re-hash the history of Vanuatu nor to moralise about past actions. It is nonetheless useful to understand the shape of human trends, and to understand the forces that drive them. This is especially important because of Vanuatu’s nearly unique position as a country whose family- and village-based culture and ways have remained more or less intact.

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A Matter of Trust

“We are inclined to believe those whom we do not know, because they have never deceived us.” These words belong to Samuel Johnson, a wise man indeed. St. Augustine looked at things from the other side and famously observed, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”

We in Vanuatu have a distinct advantage over our neighbours in other countries. Our community is small enough that we can really get to know the movers and shakers in our society. It may take us time to become familiar with them, but if we have a mind to, we can learn the quirks and the capabilities of most of the people and organisations who can influence Vanuatu’s course and its future.

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