PROFESSIONS OF THE PAPALAGI AND THE CONFUSION THAT IS THEIR RESULT
Every Papalagi has a profession. It’s hard to say exactly what that means. It is something for which you are supposed to have a big appetite, but seems to be lacking most of the time. Having a profession means, always doing the same things. Doing it so often that you can do it with your eyes closed and without strain. When my hands would do nothing but build huts or weave mats, then my profession is hut-builder or mat-weaver.
There are male and female professions. Washing loincloths in the lagoon and shining footskins are female professions, sailing a ship on the sea and shooting pigeons in the forest are male professions. The women usually give up their professions when they marry, but then the man really starts his. An alii only gives away his daughter to a suitor who is well trained in his profession. A Papalagi without a profession cannot-get married. It’s a rule that every white man has to have a profession.
That’s why every Papalagi has to choose a profession for the rest of his life, at a time that his puberty tattoes are applied. They call that, choosing a job. That is a very important occasion, and an aiga devotes as much time to it as he devotes to the question what to eat the next day. For instance, if he chooses the profession of mat-weaver, an old alii takes the boy to a man who does nothing but weaving mats. That man must show the boy how to weave mats. He must teach him to weave that mat the way he does it, without looking. Often, the learning takes a long time, but when he masters it, he leaves that man and people say, he knows a trade.
The Papalagi have as many professions as there are stones in the lagoon. Everything he does, he makes into a profession. When somebody gathers the leaves of the bread tree, he has a profession. When somebody washes food-bowls, he has a profession. Everything they do, they call a profession. With their hands or with their heads. It is also a profession to have thoughts and to look at the stars. There is nothing a man can do really, that is not made into a profession by the Papalagi.
When a white man says that he is a tussi-tussi (1), then that is a profession. He does nothing else but write one letter after the other.
He does not carry his sleeping mat to the roofbeams. He does not go to the cooking-shack himself to fry some fruits and does not clean his eating tools himself. He eats fish, but never goes out fishing himself. He eats fruit, but never plucks one from the tree himself. But he writes one tussi after the other, because his job happens to be tussi-tussi. Those other actions are all professions; taking the bed-mats up to the rafters, frying the fruits, washing the eating tools, catching the fish and plucking the fruits. And only those that hold the job, are qualified to perform it.
So it happens that the Papalagi can only do their own work and the chief who carries so much wisdom in his head and strength in his arms, can neither bring up his bedroll to the rafters nor wash his eating tools himself. And so it also happens that the man who can write a fancy tussi, is not necessarily able to sail a canoe; and the other way around. Having a profession means; only walking, only tasting, only smelling, only fighting, always knowing only one thing.
That knowing-only-one-thing, is a grave danger and shortcoming, because there may come a time that anybody must be able to row a canoe across the lagoon.
The Great Spirit has given us hands to pluck the fruits from the trees, or to pull the taro-roots from the swamp. We got them to defend our bodies against our enemies and to give us pleasure, when we play or dance or with other festivities. But we certainly haven’t got them only for breaking fruits off trees or digging up roots. They must be our servants and soldiers all the time.
But the Papalagi do not understand that. We can clearly see that their way of life is wrong and in sharp conflict with the wishes of the Great Spirit, because there are white people who cannot walk anymore and who gather lard on the lower parts of their rumps, like pigs do. Being forced by their trade to sit all the time, they can lift nor throw a spear, because their hands can only hold on to the writingbone and they are always sitting in the shade, writing tussi. They have become unable to break-in wild ponies, because they are forever looking up to the stars or digging thoughts out of themselves.
Only a few Papalagi can still jump and run like children, after growing up. When they walk they drag their feet and move as if they are continually burdened down. They deny and hide their weakness by saying that, running, romping and skipping is below the dignity of a proud man. But that is hypocritical, for his bones have hardened and turned brittle, happiness has left his muscles, because they are condemned to death by his job The profession also is a situ that destroys life. A situ that whispers sweet promises in people’s ears and at the same time sucks away the blood from their bodies.
Professions hurt the Papalagi also in another way and make themselves known as aitus, over and over.
For instance, it’s great to build a hut, cut the trees in the forest and chop them into planks, raise the timbers, cover them with the roof and finally when the planks and roofbeams are tied together tightly with coconut fibres, to cover everything with dried leaves and sugar canes. I don’t have to tell you that it is great fun, when a village builds a new but for its chief, with women and children sharing the fun as well.
But if only a few of us would be allowed to go into the forest to chop down the trees and cut them into planks? And those few were forbidden to assist in erecting the timbers, because their job is only felling trees and cutting planks? And the other people who have erected the timbers, if they weren’t allowed to assist in weaving the roof because their job is planklayer? And the men weaving the roofs would not be allowed to assist in the laying of the sugar-canes, because mat-weaving is their profession? And none of them would be allowed to collect the pebbles on the beach used for hardening the floor, because that would be the job of those of the pebble collecting trade? And what if only those that are going to inhabit the house would take part in the opening festivities and all those that helped build it, were not?
You laugh and will certainly say, if we would not be allowed to help with all the things requiring our male strength, then half the fun would be gone, half the fun, no, all the fun! And he who expects us to use our hands for only one purpose, expects us to do as if all our other limbs and our senses were paralyzed or dead.
That’s the reason for the bitterness of the Papalagi. Sometimes it is great to fetch water from the creek, it may even be nice to do it a couple of times. But if you must carry water from sunrise to sunset, day after day, every hour until your strength fails, fetching and fetching; in the end you will fling away your pail in anger, embittered about the slavery of your body. Because there is nothing so hard for a man, as having to do the same thing over and over again.
But there are Papalagi for whom fetching water from the well day after day, would be a joy; they are the ones that do nothing else but lifting their hand and letting it drop again or push a stick and they have to do that in a grimy place where neither sun nor fresh air can penetrate and they do nothing that needs their strength or brings them happiness. Considering the way of thinking of the Papalagi, lifting your hand and pushing sticks is very important, because maybe you set a machine in motion that way or give it directions; set it, so it cuts out chalkrings or breast-shields, fabricates trouser-shells or so. There are more people with ash-grey faces in Europe, than there are trees on our islands. Because they derive no pleasure from their work, and because their job eats up all their happiness and they never make something for their own pleasure, not even a leaf, no matter how long they work. That’s why there lives a smouldering hate inside people with jobs. Something is living inside their hearts that’s restrained like a chained animal, rebelling but still unable to free itself. Filled with hate and envy they look at and compare each other’s jobs. People speak about lower and higher class jobs, although all jobs force people to do only half work. A human being is not just a hand or a foot, or a leg, but it is everything together. . . . Only when all the senses and the limbs work together, can a man’s heart be happy and healthy and not when only a part is allowed to live and the rest of him has to play dead. That breeds mixed-up, sick and desperate people.
The Papalagi live in confusion with their professions. They don’t realize that and when they would hear me speak like this, they certainly would call me a fool because I would judge without ever having had a profession, or having worked for a single day like a European works.
But those Papalagi have never been able to explain to us or make us understand, why we should do more work than God asks us to satisfy our hunger and provide for a roof over our heads and the enjoyment of a feast and its preparations in the village square. Our labors may seem puny and lacking the skills of the trade, but every true man and brother from the islands does his work cheerfully and never sadly. In that case he would rather not work at all. That’s the thing that sets us apart from the Papalagi. The white man sighs when he talks about his job, as if he’s being crushed under-its burden; but, our youths walk to the taro fields singing and with a song the maidens wash the loincloths in the swift stream. The Great Spirit certainly doesn’t wish us grey hairs as a result of some job, nor does he want us to crawl around like a seaslug in a lagoon, or like a toad on the land. He wants us to do our thing, proud and upright and remainpeople with happy eyes and supple limbs, forever.
9. Professions Of The Papalagi And The Confusion That Is Their Result