Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Active Participation

Since I can remember I have been going to church with my parents. My mom is the most religious person I know, one who attends every week and novena masses on Wednesday nights. For her, it is a quiet, personal relationship with God that is never imposed upon others or even, for that matter, really vocalized at all. Her faith never waivers and, in times of difficulty and heartache, she leans closer and relies more heavily upon her Roman Catholic upbringing. The most religious propaganda she’ll suggest to me when I call home for advice on something that I can’t handle alone is something to the effect of “Why don’t you just go sit in the chapel for a few minutes to clear your head. It really is beautiful down there on your campus.” This quiet appeal towards a dependence on God is what I believe Kolvenbach to be making for the Jesuit order. He writes that their aim was “not to impose our religion on others, but rather to propose Jesus and his message of God’s Kingdom in a spirit of love to everyone” (26).

I have had periods of doubt with my own beliefs about God but I always rationalized that it was a natural process to question the things that carry the most meaning and value in one’s life. At Saint Peter’s Prep, a Jesuit preparatory school in New Jersey, a particular priest always told us in theology class that some of the most important religious figures had difficulties and struggles with their own religious convictions. At Prep, the Jesuit mission of “Men for and with others” was strewn everywhere about the school, from test papers to the maroon and silver throughout the cafeteria. In a way this statement took us away from one religion and brought all of them together. It was irrelevant if you were a Catholic or a Muslim because we were unified in this idea of "being men for others." He says that this phrase garners “men who will live not for themselves but for God and his Christ” (29). It became as second-nature to most students as their morning commute. Looking back at my time within those walls, we were just expected to do service for no other reason than because it was the right thing to do. We were taught to genuinely want to be the changes we felt were needed. Granted, this is a somewhat idealistic reminiscence of my high school experience and I’m fully aware of that, but I do feel as though service for others emanated from Prep because of its Jesuit foundation and not merely because of a graduation requirement.

Kolvenbach argues for this type of service exceptionally well when he states, “Fostering the virtue of justice in people was not enough” (27). He believes that justice cannot be merely fostered or pondered over but rather that it must be physically acted upon. Justice cannot be substantiated through thought alone but rather through acts against injustice. One’s faith or one’s convictions in right from wrong should, he seems to believe, coexist with actions to correct it. He furthers this sentiment when he continues, “Only a substantive justice can bring about the kinds of structural and attitudinal changes that are needed to uproot those sinful oppressive injustices that are scandal against humanity” (27).

The one service opportunity I had that applies to Kolvenbach’s argument stems from my time in Glenmary farm in Kentucky. It is a retreat center, created by Father William Howard Bishop in 1939, that provides numerous assistance programs for less-fortunate children and elderly people throughout the region. The week a few of my friends and I spent at Glenmary opened my eyes to the injustices that I had been sheltered from for a good part of my life. Kolvenbach writes that one in six children resides in poverty. The kids of Glenmary were no different than I was at their age. Shy at first, they couldn’t stop telling us stories by the end of the day. They were just happy to be having a day away from their broken families and homes. The dirt on their hands and faces after a toss with the football was just a visible token of their enthusiasm to dive onto the ground to impress the older kids.

Each night when the kids would leave, we would sit around a campfire behind the retreat house and talk about different things that had gone on throughout the day. This one particular night after spending much of the day with the children, nearly every person harped on how genuinely good the kids were and how big their smiles could be. They should be limitless and bound by nothing yet we all knew they were unless changes could be enacted quickly. I remember one of the girls from a Chicago high school saying that she wished she could take one of the little girls home with her with hopes of giving her opportunities in the city away from rural Kentucky. This “moral reflection” as he calls it is necessary for societal irregularities and faulty structures to be tested and reworked. It is this sacrifice of the self, this notion of putting absolute faith into the works you do for others, that subtlety dominates Kolvenbach’s argument. Perfectly worded and filled with meaning, he writes, “When the heart is touched by direct experience, the mind may be challenged to change” (34). Kolvenbach maintains a belief that people are decent while placing hope in their ability to witness wrongdoings, analyze the roots of these injustices and ultimately take some sort of active position to balance, or at least tilt back towards even, the scale upon which people live.

Concepts vs Contact

One of the more moving aspects of Kolvenbach’s speech was his take on solidarity. He believed that tomorrow’s whole person must have a well-educated solidarity, and that it is the job of Jesuit education to prepare its students of this solidarity in the real world. In doing so, he explains that we are to learn through “contact” rather than “concepts” when he writes, “When the heart is touched by direct experience, the mind may be challenged to change. Personal involvement with innocent suffering, with the injustice others suffer, is the catalyst for solidarity which gives rise to intellectual inquiry and moral reflection” (34).
This aspiration for all Jesuit students vibrantly stuck out in reflecting upon this speech, because before attending Loyola, all of my previous education was held in public schools. Therefore the ideals of service and justice were forcibly separate from every aspect of the classroom, if any was done among my fellow students at all. I was active with most of my own volunteer work through my church, and even that was limited because of classes, sports I participated in, clubs I attended, and assignments I had to complete. As discussed in class, the typical lifestyle of a public school education left participating “wholly as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven” relatively hallow if not entirely vacant. I was always aware of all that I could be doing, by learning the “concepts,” as Kolvenbach explains in his speech, of poverty. My schools always supplied me the opportunity of racking up the facts, and reading articles of the devastation, hardships, and tragedies that people were facing even within our own country. There was always an awareness, but never “contact” or an occasion to fill my own personal void of wanting to do something more.
I believe that is what I found most enriching about Loyola as I walked over the bridge during my campus tour. As we passed the chapel, my tour guides started discussing all that they participated in, and the many organizations I could potentially join. The fact that they were there in the first place intrigued me, but upon entering my first year at Loyola, which was deemed “The Year of the City,” I was taken back by how readily my teachers encouraged reaching out to the struggling citizens of Baltimore. Over the years I have visited many schools, such as Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, as well as Villa Maria where I worked with emotionally disturbed children, and most recently St. Mary’s for service learning in our class. What amazes me the most is how appreciative the districts are to have the company of Loyola students. Walking into St. Mary’s the secretaries all harmoniously sighed, “The Loyola girls are here!” and later upon entering my eighth grade class my teacher enthusiastically stated, “Welcome, you’re from Loyola right? I love it when you guys come here!”
Not only were these comments flattering, but they made me feel like my role in the organization was incredibly important. My personal involvement with students like the ones in St. Mary’s has therefore changed many previous conceptions. I have become less concerned with what I can essentially receive in return for volunteering, and more concerned with how much I can give to the students. Looking around the classroom last Wednesday I began to take notice of how drastically different it was from the immaculate rooms of Selinger, the carpeted floors of Maryland Hall, and the intensely large windows of Knott Hall. The room had little decoration, limited chalk, and the teacher actually had to pay for some of the students’ lunches. It was hard to ignore the “innocent suffering” these thirteen and fourteen year olds were faced with, yet it was also amazing to see their faces brighten, their concentration intensify, and their confidence in their own knowledge rise as we worked on a short story by Marc Twain. Thus far at St. Mary’s I have discovered the power service provides when intertwined with education, both for the students and for myself. Coming in “contact” with contrasting societies and cultures, I truly have been challenged to change. Furthermore, I hope that as my relationships with the students at St. Mary’s grows through out the semester I will be awakened to more areas of my own life, and begin to embrace intellectual inquiry and moral reflection.

Non-Christian Jesuit Education

Instead of writing about the more conventional version of travel (physical) this week I’m writing about my spiritual traveling I have done through my life and how it intertwines with Kolvenbach’s Santa Clara speech about the service of faith and promotion of justice. As a child I was raised Roman Catholic; my ancestors from the south of India had been converted centuries ago by Portuguese missionaries. My family and I went to Church every Sunday, I attended Sunday school for an hour every week after mass, and my family even prayed more or less every night before bed. I was very comfortable in my faith that there was a God who sent down his son to save us from Hell. However, as I got older, the more I questioned this comfortable belief and the more I began to see it as absurd. It was an age of questioning, and it is something my Dad and I went through together. We started investigating other religions, Buddhism most successfully, and the journey from religion to religion made us discover our spiritual distance form Roman Catholicism. It seemed as though we had been performing these rituals out of guilt from family or what we had been taught to fear, and we were not getting the spiritual uplift that so many get from their religion.

Since then, we have left the Roman Catholic church in most way (my mother still makes us go for Christmas and Easter, and we are willing to go through the ritual to make her happy for the holidays), but that does not mean we have lost our spirituality. If anything, the two of us have found a much deeper connection to the world and other people just at the level of humanity, and not necessarily as brother and sisters under one Father. I suppose what I have cultivated resembles a Humanist approach that focuses simply on the optimism for the future of humanity and the belief that there can and must be progress. My ideals can actually be fairly accurately related to Kolvenbach’s statement that the “composition of our tiem and place embraces six billion people with their faces young and old, some being born and others dying, some white and many brown and yellow and black. Each one a unique individual, they all aspire to live life…and to make tomorrow better” (Kolvenbach 32).

This connection to service and “faith” (in a more liberal sense), relates to the development of “‘the whole person’ intellectually and professionally, psychologically, morally, and spiritually” (Kolvenbach 34). While I think that my own faith can cultivate this kind of depth in education and learning, it is something that I think that most universities fail to recognize the more multi-faceted approach and global perspective that is needed to create the “educated solidarity” is severely lacking in tertiary education (Kolvenbach 34). Unlike many Jesuit institutions that strive to humble their students and show them that service is a way to positively influence both their faith and their education, other higher institutions tend to have a more close-minded approach to education as an endeavor more sought for fame or fortune. That, I believe, is an aspect of the faith-infused educational system that is much more of a success than the secular organization; as a non-religious person and Loyola, even though I may not feel the call to work in the name of God or to serve my “brothers and sisters”, it does work as a way to constantly remind and reinforce my own beliefs and inspire me to serve as well. While the other and I work for different reasons, it does essentially boil down to the importance of a human connection and the ability to empathize with those who are struggling. This type of travel, spiritual, emotional, and sometimes physical, adds a deeper dimension to any person who undertakes it. Some people do not even need to have a faith to do service, but perhaps in taking on such an emotionally trying task, it will help them find it.
I think the idea of creating men and women for others, as described in Kolvenbach’s speech, is something that is incredibly important in our lives today. I have to say that upon deciding to come to Loyola, the Jesuit factor was not really all that important to me, mainly because I did not know all that it entailed. Now, though, I really am impressed with how many students volunteer and how many different kinds of volunteering opportunities there are on campus. Loyola has programs from Project Mexico and Encounter El Salvador to tutoring African refugees in the city. Even though we do live in a little ‘Loyola bubble’, we are able to reach out and participate in all these different types of service. I began doing service my sophomore year when I volunteered at a program called EBLO (Education Based Latino Outreach), a tutoring center for Hispanic children. I’ll admit I was doing it for a class; however it was something that I really enjoyed because I love working with kids and I feel like it is something I am good at. Both junior year and this year I am working at an organization that teaches ESL to Spanish speaking immigrants within the city of Baltimore. I think what Kolvenbach says about this kind of service is really important; he says that “this sort of justice requires an action-oriented commitment to the poor” (27). He also comments on how Saint Ignatius thought it necessary for love to be shown in deeds as well as words, which is something that is almost necessary in our busy lives. I think that Loyola is special in that it really does try hard to nurture students into becoming people who not only care about others but try to show their care through service. Callie asked us a question in her presentation if we think we allow ourselves to “let the gritty reality of this would into our lives” and I honestly think that every little bit counts. I may not be doing a lot in the grand scheme of things, but even the act of leaving campus once a week to go downtown and spend some time with different kinds of people is in itself liberating.

Father Ignacio Ellacuria’s quote struck me when he said that a Christian university should “be a voice for those who do not possess the academic qualifications to promote and legitimate their rights” (3). This idea of being a voice made me think of the service I am doing now, because in some ways that is what I do. I translate a question from the teacher to the student; I literally am the voice for these students who cannot communicate with their teacher. The students who come to the Esperanza Center are adults who are working two or sometimes three jobs, and they take time out of their days to come and learn English. When I was tutoring last year, I would see many of the same people week to week and I was always so touched by how people remembered your name and your face. Even more than that, they were always so appreciative of the work we did together. It was nice to know that I was doing something that positively affected someone else.

For me, service makes me think about the things I have in my life that I may have previously taken for granted. When I walk into a store or go to the bank or go on a job interview, I never think about how to phrase my words because I know how to speak English. Some of the students I tutor, though, have only been in the United States for several months and do not even know how to spell their own name. In my class last week, the teacher asked a student “Hello, what is your name?” and the student simply responded “No” because she did not understand the question. I think this reflects Kolvenbach’s point when he says, ‘When the heart is touched by direct experience, the mind may be challenged to change. Personal involvement with innocent suffering…is the catalyst…which gives rise to moral reflection” (34). Personally, this quote is very true because I feel like participating in experiences like this really causes you to think about your life and the lives of those around you. During the day, I complain about so many trivial things, but after going to the Esperanza Center and meeting with people who maybe were forced to leave their homes to come to the U.S. to look for jobs, or adults who have a sixth grade reading level, it really puts things into perspective. I think the idea of being ‘men and women for others’ is important, especially at Loyola, because it allows us to get out of our comfort zones and out of the familiar and venture into something that may be a little more foreign to us. Although Kolvenbach heavily emphasizes the need to be directly involved with the poor, I think that this Jesuit ideal can also be implemented in the absence of service. He says faith is essential to this idea but this idea can be demonstrated in our day to day lives. I think service is beneficial and thought provoking, but I also think it is important to live your everyday life with this philosophy.

Service and Intellectual Passions Meet: Refugee Youth Project

At the first annual Jesuit University Humanitarian Action Network Conference at Fordham this summer, the keynote speaker, a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees aid worker, began by telling us he how he had heard that there are two main categories of higher education: the Ivy League and Jesuit education. For certainly Ivies strive for academic excellence, but what sets Jesuit institutions apart? In his Santa Clara address, Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J. movingly outlines the integrated mission of faith and justice in Jesuit education.

Now that I am in my fourth year at Loyola, I can see how the deeply Jesuit ideals have influenced my course of study here. Kolvenbach writes, “Personal involvement with innocent suffering, with the injustice others suffer, is the catalyst for solidarity which then gives rise to intellectual inquiry and moral reflection” (34). This is so true! My experiences within and beyond Baltimore propel me to delve into my courses further. Yet I actually think that my study has also led me to pursue new interests in personal involvement in the community. Once I began to link my education to service, a natural cycle emerged. For example, in International Politics sophomore year I studied the United Nations and the global situation for refugees. I was already active in the immigrant community of Baltimore, but I had never before interacted with refugees. In Argentina and El Salvador my research papers and direct experiences focused on examining violations of human rights, a plight which too many refugees and immigrants face. This summer, interning in government policy, I learned more about the legal distinctions between immigrants and refugees.

So this semester I am beginning a new service placement, which I love so far! I am tutoring at Refugee Youth Project at Milbrook Elementary, where I work with children of Meskhetian Turk descent. Kolvenbach states that students at Jesuit universities should let the “gritty reality” (35) of today’s world into their lives. I interpret this as not only the physically gritty, but that which causes us to lean into discomfort. For me, travelling to Milbrook represents a new challenge. First, it is in a new location, en route to Pikesville, whereas I usually interact with agencies in the large Hispanic section of Fell’s Point. Furthermore, I cannot communicate with the children when they start chattering amongst themselves. This pushes my comfort level in a new way, because in the Hispanic community even if someone is speaking fast or in a dialect I am not familiar with, I can always understand to some extent. It makes sense to me to investigate my passions further in the classrooms at Loyola as well as in the community and I am excited to see how my relationships with the children at RYP develop this semester.

Kolvenbach challenges us to incorporate the Jesuit values into our lives. He closes the Santa Clara address with this message: “Faith and justice are undivided in the Gospel which teaches that ‘faith makes its power felt through love.’ They cannot therefore be divided in our purpose, our action, our life” (41). We are not only called to be students of a Jesuit institution when we sit in the desks of Maryland Hall. We are called to live this message in our service, in our faith lives, and in our daily interactions with other humans.
I came to Loyola with an entirely public school background, and I will admit that my connection to my faith was shaky at best. Many of us with similar experiences can probably agree that “CCD,” the only form of religious education that I had, was mostly a waste of time. These weekly classes, held at church in the evening, also required a certain amount of community service hours each year, but most people really did not push their boundaries to complete this. I remember babysitting for my siblings was considered service, because I was not paid for it. Overall, these tasks were completed both begrudgingly and in the easiest way possible. To arrive at Loyola and see how so many people were involved in and enjoying their service to the community was very eye-opening for me, especially the service-learning that was offered as part of a class. It is through service that I have really learned the meaning of the Jesuit values, “the service of faith and the promotion of justice” (23).

Kolvenbach writes of “the intersection of the mission and the microchip” (31). This metaphor really relates to Loyola. On the one hand, this is a state of the art, prestigious, highly rated university, committed to higher education and the success of its students. This means it is modern and in touch with current issues, but also that Loyola educates and prepares its students so that they are capable of going out into the world and finding important and sometimes high-paying careers. It would be all too easy to graduate and become just another man or woman whose only focus is to support his or her family. The Jesuit aspect of Loyola is what makes us different. We have the mission to think about as well. The “promotion of justice” aspect invites us to get involved in the community so that we can become men and women for others, and many of us do.

Also mentioned in the article is the “rift” between communities that have and those that have not. Kolvenbach writes that the rift “has its root cause in chronic discrepancies in the quality of education” (31). We are probably all aware that this is so true of the city of Baltimore. We can look at Loyola, or even one of the nearby private schools, and then consider the Baltimore City public schools. I have volunteered in a few different schools, all of which cater to children who come from families of low socio-economic status. This year I happen to be involved in a school that serves children with emotional disturbances and severe behavioral problems. It is run by the state and Catholic Charities, and many of the students live in the school’s residence. I have only been there three times so far, but what strikes me most are the relationships I have already formed with some of the students. In class we discussed how some people will refuse help, because they don’t want to admit their need, and I have seen this as well. When this happens it is usually because a student is embarrassed or because they don’t know me very well, and therefore don’t want my advice on their work. Even when direct help is refused, I still sit and talk with the children, because I know they may need a friend, or even just individual attention. Their teacher told me that two girls in particular have already been asking for me each week, and it really feels great to know that they look forward to Wednesday mornings as much as I do. Even though I am only one person and can only effect and hopefully better the lives of these few students, it does make a difference. According to Kolvenbach, injustice requires “a spiritual conversion of each one’s heart and a cultural conversion of our global society” (33). It is important that he includes “each one’s heart,” because the promotion of justice has to begin somewhere. It is the individual that can begin to spread the roots of the "cultural conversion" that Kolvenbach desires.

wins and losses

For the most part of my most recent 'mature' life, I have been surrounded with the ideals of Jesuit Education. My high school, Fordham Prep modeled out education around 'men' We were supposed to graduate 'Fordham men', an embodiment of our high school's and the Jesuit principals. The headmaster at the school was a stern, serious older gentleman with a hard face and a tight set of lips. Service was a duty, to be a 'Man for others was a duty.
Here at Loyola, out education is constantly changing and moving forward. My teachers push me to do my best, I see the school president Fr. Linnane at the gym all the time, and our campus ministry center is bustling with work and brimming with opportunities to serve our school and community. Kolvenbach's article, for some reason was the first time I had seen the two ideals together. That the principles of Jesuit education are to educate the student, the man in mind, body and soul while becoming a 'man for others'. Those gifts and abilities one receives through education should be used for others. the education is ours but we need to act as well. I learned a bit about teaching the 'soul' this past week.
I spend a few hours a week at two places last year, Saint Ignatious of Loyola Academy in Baltimore City as a tutor and on campus here as a volunteer for teh Choice Program. My student in Homework Club at SILA and I got a long wonderfully I got to walk with him through the process of selecting and applying to high schools while trying to boost his grades and better his chances for admission. He got into one of his schools, his grades soared, and i felt like we won.
Choice is a bit different. It is made up of a central group of participants, sprinkled with a few moderate frequenters and some one timers as well. They are all juvenile delinquents, have all served time in detention facilities and this is a part of their terms of release. They need to meet certain criteria to enter the program but for the most part they all want to make progress. One of their counselors came up to me this week after not seeing him for a while and told me that none of the four or five kids I had gotten most close with would be returning, they had served their time and were done with their parole. Purnell, Tae, and Kevin all went back to school or moved away but he frowned when he mentioned Anthony, a slow talking fifteen year old with a big round stomach. He had gotten placed, meaning he broke the terms of his release and wound up in another detention center.
Odds are he will get out, and most likely go back in. The chances of him being in and out for the rest of his life are pretty high. I cant help but think thats a loss. They say if you can help just one person you've made a difference in someone's life, but it's hard to see someone stumble again and again.

How We Serve

As mentioned in class, coming to Loyola has taught be to align my passion for service with a greater appreciation and veneration of God. I will admit, coming to Loyola I knew that the Jesuits were a liberal order of priests and that they have had a long and sometimes unfavorable track record with the Catholic Church as a whole, but my understanding of their mission was somewhat nebulous. Now, after successfully completing three years here, I can say that Loyola has grounded me in the Jesuit ideals and reinforced my role as a student within our greater University community. When I think of my Jesuit education the first thing that comes to mind is AMDG, “Ad Maiorum Dei Gloriam” the Latin translation of “For the Greater Glory of God.” While Kolvenbach does not explicitly use this phraseology until the very end of his speech, it is clear that this notion of giving glory to God is behind each and every poignant articulation that he poses. I have tried to incorporate this idea into my service experiences and have come away significantly more fulfilled and pleased with my work.
There are numerous traditional ways of learning about immigration in a university setting. Courses like economics, linguistics, sociology, all display the theoretical application of immigrant behavior as represented in our American society. As Kolvenbach would say, this is the process of learning through “concepts” (34). My service has taught me, that these concepts cannot accurately. Kolvenbach argues, “solidarity learned through ‘contact’ rather than through ‘concepts’…when the heart is touched by direct experience, the mind may be challenged to change,” (Kolvenback 34). I will admit, when I agreed to start teaching at the Esperanza Center, I wanted to help, but I didn’t realize how taxed I would be mentally and physically. My Spanish vocabulary was stretched far beyond the bounds of what I thought possible and I was consistently tired from jumping around and acting out the words rather than just relying on strict translation. Yet after coming home with my head ringing with verb conjugations and my throat stinging from unknowingly shouting at my students, I understood the “contact” element that Kolvenblach stresses. Learning about an immigration policy from a textbook, or even a powerpoint bears no resemblance to actually meeting families who struggled physically and emotionally, against all kinds of adversity for their piece of the American dream.
My student Jaime last Wednesday, for example, is eighteen years old, was educated until he was sixteen in El Salvador, but is not eligible for any state funded educational opportunities since he is a legal adult. Using Kolvenbach’s quotation as a model, my heart breaks for this young man who wants so desperately to learn English and whose only opportunity is to sit with me once a week to practice the past tense, and this injustice sparks my desire for policy reform. Why shouldn’t there be adult education operations run through the public schools? Why can’t Jaime have access to better schooling, especially considering the fact that he and his family came to the United States legally? These essential questions, I believe, stem from my discernment of the issue at hand, something that I might not have been heightened to consider had I not had a Jesuit background.
While I understand that requiring service becomes logistically garish and morally questionable, Kolvenbach believes that such contact and direct relationships with the marginalized is essential in the mission of the Jesuit University, “These should not be too optional or peripheral, but at the core of every Jesuit university’s program,” (Kolvenbach 35). I could not agree more with this statement; I believe that I have learned so much more about my faith and the way in which we serve that has only been possible through my physical connection with the Hispanic community of Baltimore. I am hopeful that such experiences are possible after my time here at Loyola, and I am grateful for the Jesuit foundation that has been provided for me in these three short years.
I went to Fordham Preparatory high school, a fine Jesuit institution in the West Bronx. All seniors, in order to graduate, had to complete 70 hours of service. Given the Jesuit commitment to diversity, there were several organizations and services I was able to volunteer at, although once I chose one, I was committed to fulfilling the entirety of the requirement at that location. Several of my friends opted to work at an Irish cultural community center in Woodlawn, the Bronx’s largest and most vibrant Irish neighborhood. This site, if I may speak freely, was the equivalent of a Union no-show job, as it required little to no effort. Furthermore, given my background, working in a center that catered to the Irish community would not be anything new. Rather, I chose to work at the Hebrew Home for the Aged, a Jewish retirement home located on the banks of the Hudson River. Kolvenbach writes, “Some Jesuits worked in very poor villages, refugee camps or prisons, and some fought for the rights of workers, immigrants, and foreigners” (23). Certainly, I would never compare the Hebrew Home for the Aged to a 3rd World Country. In fact, the campus was quite nice. However, as an Irish Catholic living in a fairly insular neighborhood, a Jewish nursing home may as well have been El Salvador or Kenya.
Down Riverdale Avenue I would walk every Saturday afternoon, stopping at the pizza place on the corner for a coke and a slice. Once I came to the campus, I was subject to a variety of security clearances, which I later found out were for the protection of resident’s stricken with dementia, as well as to counter any and all anti-Semitic threats. Because I was not a licensed nurse, I was not allowed to administer medication, nor have any physical contact with the residents. The extent of my service was limited to wheeling the infirmed from location to location throughout the campus and serving meals.
Despite my limited responsibilities, I found the work very rewarding. It was pleasant to speak with residents as I wheeled them throughout the facility, listening to their stories. The home, after all, was composed of member’s of the Greatest Generation, the Americans that defied tyranny and built this nation. I always thought it a shame that, in American culture, the elderly are viewed as a burden, rather than an asset or treasure. It was Emerson, after all, who argued that the young had never and would never learn anything significant from their elders. I doubt the average, apathetic teen is in touch with the philosophical tenants of Emerson, but they share similar, antagonistic attitudes.
Of course, that is not to say that every interaction was positive. Many times, I encountered residents that were neither eager nor receptive, but bitter and turned inward. I could not help but think of my experience at the home when Callie, during her presentation, asked about people in need who refused assistance. They were hostile for many reasons: bitter because they lived in an assisted living center, rather than with family, depressed at the deaths they have witnessed throughout their lives, or simply disinterested. Furthermore, many residents were stricken with the truly horrifying disease dementia, which stripped them of the majority of their mental capacity.
Finally, Kolvenbach writes, “From our origins in 1540 the Society has been officially and solemnly charged with ‘the defense and propagation of the faith” (25). Based on my experience, I would redefine this charter. I would say working at the Hebrew Home for the Aged served to “test and reward my faith” in that I was confronted with indignities and crushing sites, but also unforgettable and life-changing moments. I was able to overcome my own misonceptions or misunderstandings and connect with people, who prior to this, I would have given no thought to.


Kolvenbach made a great point in his speech about students at Jesuit Colleges and Universities becoming something more after they graduate. Most college students, as Kolvenbach describes, “want to be equipped with well-honed professional and technical skills in order to compete in the market and secure one of the relatively scarce fulfilling and lucrative jobs available.” He says that all colleges, even those that are Jesuit, are placed under pressure to promote this type of success. The main difference is that “The real measure of our Jesuit universities lies in who our students become.”

I can really relate to this point by Kolvenbach. No matter which college I attended I would probably get a good education, but what really matters is what I do with my education after I graduate. This summer I found myself traveling to a new place on a daily basis. I was fortunate enough to “secure one of the relatively scarce fulfilling and lucrative jobs available,” which was an internship at an advertising agency in New York City. My hard work combined with the great education Loyola gave me helped me get the job, and I felt very proud of my accomplishments. However, as I commuted to New York every day from my suburban town in New Jersey I began to realize how different I had become. I was among the thousands of workers in the Big Apple rushing to their jobs in the morning, dragging through their day, and finally rushing home to see their family at the end of a long day. I had become one of the people I told myself I would never be. Every morning I brushed shoulders with well-dressed men and women who were on the daily grind only because they had to. They didn’t enjoy their job or even get any sense of accomplishment from it. These business men and women worked for the money and that was all. The city of New York and the people in it no longer felt foreign. Was this really the direction I was headed in?

Working at an advertising agency especially I began to question whether I was really making a difference in the world, or was I just another one of these people getting through the 9 to 5 job in order to have money to enjoy other things in life. I had plenty of time to think about this each morning and evening as I journeyed through the very unique and busy city of Manhattan. Then one morning, everything changed.

A few weeks into my internship I was offered a chance to work on the “Stand Up” campaign. This was a campaign developed by my agency to encourage people to stand up against poverty. Suddenly I realized it wasn’t all liquor and cigarettes, and that advertising could actually make a positive difference in the world. I was able to conduct research and generate ideas for a problem in our country that needed to be fixed. This ad agency gave me the opportunity to use my skills that I developed at Loyola to try to persuade everyday people to fight poverty. From then on I went to work each morning with a completely different outlook on life. While some days were stressful and some days I would have just wanted to stay home, I knew that I was not just going to work because it was the only choice I had in society. My job consisted of using my creativity to alert people to an issue they would otherwise have overlooked. Kolvenbach’s article matches up with this idea perfectly. My English and Communications classes gave me the skills I needed to secure a job in advertising and to do it well, but the Jesuit education I received will help me become something more than just another person at an ad agency.

When I graduate in May, I plan to hopefully return to that agency or one of similar merit and again put my skills to work on something that actually makes a difference. It is no coincidence that our project this year for the Advertising Club at Loyola is Binge Drinking Awareness among college students. This is another opportunity for me to use the skills I could have developed at one of many colleges, yet to use it in a way that can promote justice in this world. It is a perfect chance to turn my 9 to 5 job into a service of faith. Instead of being one of the “Mad Men,” I can be one of the “men for others.”

Action: The Cornerstone of Jesuit Education

After reading the Kolvenbach speech, the component of Jesuit education that strikes me the most is action, without a doubt. In his speech, Kolvenbach stresses the important of action and its unity with teachings of the church and in our education system. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that he stresses action over dogma. Service for the marginalized in soceity is such a key component of Jesuit education, and schools throughout the country would simply not be as strong without it. The privileged population of Jesuit schools are called to reach out to the less fortunate that, more often than not, surround these schools. In order to promote justice, action must be taken. Kolvenbach writes, "Only a substantive justice can bring about the kinds of structural and attitudinal changes that are needed to uproot those sinful oppressive injustices that are a scandal against humanity and god. This sort of justice requires an action- oriented committment to the poor with a courageous personal option" (ii. The Promotion of Justice). Kolvenbach, on behalf of the Jesuit community, calls those involved with the order to take action immediately. The only way to truly express the Jesuit tradition is to reach out to the community both directly and sincerely. Rather than solely being staunch supporters of the dogmatic principles of faith, we should strive to act for others and reduce the crime, poverty, and other injustices that are a part of this world. Kolvenbach feels that it is our duty, not merely our right to alleviate the injustices around us. And he strongly feels that action, more specifically service, is the most genuine way to do so.

Compassion for others through action has been an integral part of my education here at Loyola. I am now volunteering at St. Mary's, which is located in a marginal area five minutes away from our beautiful campus. This school relies on Loyola students for help, and it is through our committment to service that this school even exists, which I find to be extremely flattering, and perfectly in tune with the Jesuit emphasis on action. The Jesuit dedication to action is perfectly illustrated in our partnership with this school, and it is through relationships such as this that our Jesuit identity is upheld. The kids and faculty at St. Mary's need volunteers to come consistently in order to held them accomplish important educational goals, and it is the duty of Loyola students to make sure that they are there for this on a regular basis for a variety of reasons. A majority of the children at this school do not have a stable home life, so it is very important for somebody to be there for them and the teachers as well. It is incredibly comforting to know that I am needed at this school, and that each week even just one child is looking forward to sharing time with me. On the other hand, it is nourshing for me both spiritually and emotionally to have a child to provide me with both obstacles and cultural enrichment. Working with these children is going to broaden my horizons, and it is also going to open the eyes of the children with whom I work each week. This ongoing mutual relationship is what makes service so valuable. What makes this experience even more enriching is the fact that I can go into my class and talk about the relationships that are built through service, as well as the challenges that I face from time to time. This connection between the outside world and the classroom is precisely what Jesuit education strives for and achieves, in my opinion. I am incredibly satisfied with my education here, and I feel that a critical reason for this is the strong emphasis on dedication to social change that can be found at this school. I am excited to share my experiences at St. Mary's as I journey through the semester there, and I am confident that it will continue to shape my identity as a student, human, Catholic, and citizen of this country.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

All Tied Up

Hau'ofa has a few themes in his work that seem to tie into one's ability to both control themselves as an individual; i.e. control of the body control of their future, their love life etc. He also presents control in the form of 'dictation' or power in the form of a hierarchy.
‘The Wages if Sin’ is a great example of two things that Hau’ofa seems to argue control the individual; both the inside and outside forces that shape who someone becomes, and what sort of factors guide their actions. Ti Pilo Simini clearly has an outstanding addiction to tobacco, which standing alone is a single vice something that can be written off as a ‘bad habit’ The point being made is the control that the addiction has over his everyday life.
Hau’ofa spends a lot of time picking at and working with the cultural and societal influences on people’s behavior throughout the stories, but here he seems to reverse course and show the immense impact a persons eccentricities have on the people around them. Society is made up of a collection of individuals, and the personality traits, character flaws, strengths, weaknesses and vices are all part of the community built from those people outward. For one to act as a valuable member of any society a certain amount of control is necessary.
On the other hand, however the constructs that force Ti’s vice into complete ridiculousness also show the pressure, and the control that those constructs can have on society as a whole. The church, the idea of a sin is second in this story to Ti’s fear of punishment. Control, in Tiko is a series of social and cultural networks that are very near impossible to adhere to. How many Tikongs did we encounter that by both our real world standards and by their own imaginative standards were normal? Not one! There is too much riding on the individual to act under control of themselves, as well as under the control of the church and the countless governing organizations mentioned throughout he story.

Degrees of Separation

One specific aspect of development Hau’ofa also comments on is the Tikong view of higher education. Higher education in “under-developed” countries is not as common as in more developed countries, and usually people of the underdeveloped countries must travel outside their home to attend a university. This is another example of natives bringing foreign ideas back to their home country. For the most part in this book, higher education is looked down upon by the natives, while those with higher education look down upon the natives.

In the chapter “Paths to Glory” we see Tevito Pito’s uncle criticizing his “many degrees.” Even a taxi driver says to him “You’re a Wise Man and a Scholar, and I’m uneducated and ignorant…why do you Wise Men always sit up there looking down on us? Why don’t you ever come down to our level?” (p. 46). The natives assume the educated are condescending, and the educated assume the natives are not as intelligent.

Tevito Pito’s uncle is unhappy with several things about Tevito Pito, including his unkempt appearance which doesn’t match his education. He’s also upset that Tevito Pito is criticizing the government and the church. Now that Tevito Pito has his education from outside of the country, he thinks some of the institutions in Tiko are inferior to others he has experienced. The natives seem to fear that university graduates will come home and try to make Tiko more like the big cities with universities. In “The Second Coming,” Sailosi tells this to his Tikong staff, saying “What’s the use of having our own professionals and technicians if all they’re interested in is more pay, changing our sacred traditions, and destroying our essential indigenous personality?” (p. 52). As Callie pointed out earlier, some of these workers attempt to change their appearance to try to get ahead in the workplace. Each deputy director Sailosi hires is “a young university graduate whom he considered over-talented and miseducated” (p. 51). Some of the natives do not value higher education, some are afraid of it, and others think it is misused. The main reason for all these sentiments seems to be an attempt to hold on to cultural idenity.

Unfortunately this still occurs today. More prosperous countries often invade poorer countries and enforce their ideals, because wealthier nations feel it is necessary for the particular country. What these wealthier countries fail to recognize is the loss of culture that occurs by implementing one idea throughout the world.

Hau'ofa's Plead for Moderation

Epeli Hau’ofa’s Tales of the Tikongs is a satirical work that employs humor to highlight cultural differences as well as shortcomings and, often times, failures. He focuses on the tiny island of Tiko, stationed in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The island’s inhabitants are forced to contend with outside, “foreign” influences that threaten to destroy everything the tiny island practices. The single most recognizable similarity between books we have read thus far is the literary structure of Hau’ofa’s and Calvino’s. Both writers create their works with the hope of communicating intellectual positions: Calvino arguing for the similarity of cities and the importance of learning from one’s travels while Hau’ova plays with the loss of culture through globalization and modernization. Both pieces are created from smaller, individual stories that build the structure of the works. The individual stories are the framework for the eventual composition the writers are trying to construct. Moreover, throughout both, there are individual figures that the writer’s use for continuity from one tale to the next. Calvino uses the central figure of Marco Polo to create a linear, cohesive thread while Hau’ofa often relies on the character of Manu for continuation and unity by illustrating his extreme unrest with the approaching D-E-V-E-L-O-P-M-E-N-T and his fear of the unknown which guides most of his radical actions.

As previously stated, Hau’ofa is most concerned with the effect one culture has on another when the two are introduced to one another. He fears a loss of identity for the smaller, weaker civilization when influenced by a larger, more powerful culture. This notion and consequent warnings against it are most clearly defined in the tale of “The Big Bullshit” (p. 57). Hau’ofa does not denounce all change as bad or insufferable but rather argues for change in moderation and without a sacrifice of culture one already sustains. In this particular tale, Pulu is unsatisfied with “the largest collection of scrawny small animals in the whole of Saisaipe” that he as amassed for himself (p. 58). He overhears two ladies talking about another native, Ohule, who had just returned from Tulisi where he had been granted one cow and one bull for his mocked interest in beginning his own herd. Pulu was struck by this notion of amassing more wealth since he began to concern himself with “bigger ends”. He ultimately gains three cows of his own as well as one bull.

It is at this point that Hau’ofa fully establishes the warning for the reader. As soon as Pulu becomes discontent with his position in Saisaipe, he loses sight of moderation, only setting his sights on gaining profits. Pulu loses his son, his collection of small animals and two of his cattle because of religious or cultural practices surrounding funeral measures. Pulu then goes so far as to “implore the Almighty to inflict no more deaths on his family until he had built up his vanishing herd” (p. 62). He is not concerned with the well-being of his family out of love or devotion to them but rather realizes that he cannot spare either of his two remaining cattle for the mourning period that accompanies a death. Hau’ofa is ultimately getting at the dangers that surround capitalism and the ever-growing need for more. He is not necessarily denouncing the entire institution as corrupt; however, he does seem to approach the notion of amassing great materialistic wealth with extreme caution. Pulu eventually loses all, settling his sights on beginning another collection of small, scrawny animals. He has gained nothing but lost much.

Hau’ofa is not suggesting that cultures should not come in contact with one another. It is a way for ideas to be spread and beliefs to be communicated and analyzed. Through interaction, new practices can be achieved that benefit both camps. However, he is arguing that when one is overwhelmingly dominant, the other has a great deal to lose if it cannot contend with the former and hold to its original identity. He fears that small cultures similar to those of islands in the Pacific will lose their placement in the world, will lose what is important in their societies and their history will be forgotten. Tales of the Tikongs absolutely stresses moderation while hinting that interaction is beneficial but once that interaction becomes oppression all is lost.

The power of language

In the Tales of the Tikongs, the author uses language in a playful way which contributes to the humorous tone of the text. Thus, the reader enters a new literary world where signifiers have new meanings . It is an intellectual travel that invites the reader to reconsider the realities that he usually refers to. Moreover, I think that the author wants to shows that it is possible to mix cultures thanks to language and that this meeting can prove to be very fruitful, even humorous. For instance, in The Second Coming, it is said of foreigners that « they took their tribulation stoically, bearing their Christian cross with Buddhist calm .» Thanks to language, the Greek philosophy, Western culture as well as Eastern culture are unified in the same sentence and it creates humour.

Though Tiko can’t deny its Western heritage when it comes to language and phrases, it can create new meanings from this colonial heritage and in a way a new language. Biblical expressions are no longer symbolic but rather literal or they are used in a secular context. In the Second Coming, it is said of foreigners who could not stand working in Tiko that « they did nothing but count the days until they shook the dust of Tiko from their feet. » This biblical statement was made by Jesus to his apostles. If people refused their message, they had to « shake the dust off their feet. » Moreover, the narrator uses a phrase that belongs to the American political rhetoric but here again in a completly different setting : « …Pulu assigned his children each to sleep at night with a cow or the bull to protect them from the forces of evil. » In other words, Hau’ofa deconstructs what is established as Western truths or evidences and wonder what happens when they are transfered to another culture . The author also plays cleverly with the sound and the double meaning of a same word. The last tale illustrates this fact. It is entitled The Glorious Pacific Way . The word « Pacific » functions both as an adjective which derives from the noun peace but also as a noun that refers to the actual place. Furthermore, the main character’s name is Ole Pasifikiwei which is an allusion to the title of the tale.

Language is an excellent way to convey paradoxes and it serves the purpose of desconstructing what we consider as « normal ». In the tale Blessed are the Meek, Pulu applies for a job and he is accepted because « he has been the only applicant without a certificate of any kind and it’s been to his advantage. » This seems absurd for Western readers because everyone knows that without degrees it is very difficult to find a decent job. This thought is echoed by Sailosi who says « You don’t need fancy certificates to sit on top chairs.All these youngsters coming out of the universities are a pathetic lot. » The author also resorts to paradoxes to illustrate the complextity of reality. For example, afler the Historical Proclamation, Sailosi « purged himself of all pernicious imperial influences and embarked upon the restoration and preservation of his essential indigenous personalitiy. » However, he kept his concrete house, his Kelvintor refrigerator, his subscriptions to Playboy and Time magazines, all those elements being related to imperialism ! The author seems to say that extremes are impossible. Monoculturalism is unachievable in the world we live in today.

As a conclusion, we may say that Hau’ofa uses laguage as a powerful tool in order to deconstruct what we take for granted and to show that reality is more complex than what we think. Actually by accepting to read Tales of the Tikongs, the reader accepts to play a game that he is familiar with but with new rules. This game is very enjoyable since it invites us to have a new and humous perspective on Western culture out of its setting.

The oppressed and the oppressor

The form of Epeli Hau’ofa’s Tales of the Tikongs is a refreshing way to create an essentially serious piece. The diction is unmistakably humorous while the context consists of issues holding tremendous weight and substance. Every angle of imperialism is recognized, dissected, scrutinized, and objectified. Thus, according to the various stories revealed by Hau’ofa, in his opinion the tidal wave of D-E-V-E-L-O-P-M-E-N-T crashes down on all who participate. The break up of individual stories to make the whole is closely correlated with Calvino’s invisible cities, yet unlike the positive, sharing, relationship formed between paradoxes in Calvino’s piece, the relationships between Hau’ofa’s juxtapositions is similar to that of a parasite- feeding off of each other until the insides are left hallow.
One of the most vivid and satirical chapters within the novel entitled, Blessed are the Meek, reflects powerfully upon being the oppressor, as well as the oppressed in terms of this new relationship. These paradoxes are brilliantly portrayed through the life and characterization of Puku Leka, in which Hau’ofa takes the well known idiom of “walking tall” or having pride in oneself, and humorously makes it a literal conflict. He begins formulating this dark coexistence when he criticizes Americans for “walking tall” and taking “a giant step or two for mankind”(68). The combination of these idioms becomes potent for they degrade an American foundation, stating that all off their efforts inevitably will come up short in attempting to correct such intense crisis’s of the world, and even more so because no one asked them to interfere in the first place. Thus, the role of the oppressor is stabilized.
Puku Leka therefore contrasts the Americans, and walks short although he is tall. Thus as a physically tall man he symbolizes potential greatness and strength, yet in walking short he becomes the oppressed due to his meekness. What is additionally interesting about Puku is while he is oppressed he is simultaneously the oppressor, which seems impossible yet “in Tiko… everything is simultaneously possible and impossible”(68). Through his tale, the reader essentially learns that Puku is oppressed by his family, while he oppresses his wife. Both sides are graphically depicted through physical and unsettling beatings, but what is more disturbing is Puku’s embracing acceptance of each situation. In being oppressed, Puku considers himself “fortunate” to have had and elder sister and brother along with his mom and dad “to slap him into shape and to wring and squeeze him into the approved mould, always with loving rage” (69). Furthermore, as the oppressor, Puku believes in “slapping and belting Mrs Leka” he did a “job exemplarily done” (69).
Moreover, Hau’ofa criticizes the position of both the oppressor and the oppressed through the tiresome beatings, and what is compensated in return. As a result, Puku has nothing of desired value to show in both situations. As the oppressor his relationship with his wife is draining, sucking out (like a parasite) all of the vivacity and willfulness of her being with nothing to show but who is “boss.” This leeching effect is a direct correlation to what happens to a culture when it is imposed upon by another. Additionally, as the oppressed Puku loses his college education, his farm, lives in a shack, gets no job benefits, pays constant dues to the church and is burdened with family responsibilities. The roles that are lost or unfortunately gained make up a human identity. Therefore, like the narrator in Wendt’s Black Rainbow, Puku is drained of all possible conceptions of a former identity and as a result loses purpose, or substance in both sides of his endeavors leaving the waves to crash.
The idea of a dual devastation through imperialism is most powerfully seen when Hau’ofa writes, “And although he is a tall man he walks short, for his spirit is humbled and his back permanently bent” (74). Thus, through his dark relationship as the oppressor and the oppressed Puku is left as a diminished spirit, and a spineless human; one with out courage, or the will to break free of the parasite of D-E-V-E-L-O-P-M-E-N-T, or imperialism.

The Cycle of Judgment

In the novel, Tales of the Tikongs, Epeli Hau’ofa presents a humorous tone when talking about serious issues. His tone allows him to reveal multiple perspectives to the controversial issue, without stating his own opinion. By poking fun of the situation, Hau’ofa forces his reader to analyze the circumstances from a new point of view by combining two exaggerations on the extremes. Humor also places uncertainty on the reader’s outlook, by raising new questions and allowing for observation.

One example in the novel is the tale of Sailosi Atiu. The story starts off where Sailosi “had so emulated his style of work, dress, speech, and deportment that his friends took to addressing him by the Englishman’s name” (49). As the tale progresses Sailosi receives a raise which allows him ‘freedom’. He then switches back to his native ways and demands a typist to wipe off her make-up because “it’s a fowl foreign custom” (51). The irony within the story is based around Sailosi’s past, which he seems to forget. Also the story demonstrates a double standard that many people don’t realize they are making. As Sailosi ‘defends’ his culture by eliminating those around him, he does not notice that he is embarking in the same path of judgment as Mr. Hobsworth- Smith. This need for acceptance only feeds the cycle of judgment.

The humor calls for a sense of realization and irony; because this cycle of judgment is an on-going battle throughout the novel (and even in today’s society).This cycle of judgment can also be seen in Wendt’s Black Rainbow. The reoccurring theme of judgment only stresses the role of perspectives on new cultures and acceptance. In Black Rainbow a person is either ‘judging or being judged’, but The Tales of the Tikongs demonstrates that it is possible to be both judged and judge others at the same time.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Long Gone

We have spent a good deal of class time discussing the idea of what makes us who we are and how travel relates to them. In many ways travel can help us to realize who we are. When we travel we are able to see things that we normally don’t. In seeing that which doesn’t represent us, we can come to a better understanding of that which does. In Tales of the Tikongs, however, Hau’ofa presents an entirely different idea. Tevito Poto, who has spent considerable time traveling out of his native country of Tiko is told by his uncle upon his return that “you have been away for far too long for your own good, for the good of the church, the Family” (p 45). Here we see the idea that by traveling for too long we can forget who we truly are, or rather become someone new. This is an opposing idea of travel that we have yet to see, and is a particularly frightening thought concerning travel. Nobody wants to be rejected by family members or those who loved them. However, this seems to be a natural reaction when someone has been away for too long. It almost seems as if home is the place that is truly foreign when we have been away from there for too long. Returning home after a long time, what was once familiar may seem unusual. There may be significant changes, or we may just not remember everything as well as we would expect to.

Tevito Poto is later told that “[he] must shed [his] foreign ways in order to lead a proper life here” (p 45). While he has been gone for very long and seems to have forgotten the ways of his homeland, it seems that it is still possible for him to become a native again. While it is always strange at first to return home after being gone for so long, I don’t think that a person’s true home, representative of who he or she truly is, can ever fully be forgotten. I can see this myself just from returning home after being at school for a few months. The first couple nights back in my house seem strange. However, I eventually remember what its like to live at home. While traveling for long periods of time may make home seem distant, as something essential to who we are, a person’s true home is something that can never leave of be left for good.

Idiom Reflecting and Distorting Connections

Language has an intricate connection to all cultures in that they provide a central point of identity among all the inhabitants while also reflecting what is deemed as important in the society. This may simply mean that there is the word “foot” in English denoting a specific area while in Japanese there is no such specific word for that denoted area; however this also relates to the concept of the idiom. Idioms, or phrases that do not translate literally but rather more culturally, are usually considered to be the most difficult aspect of mastery in a language due to their idiosyncratic nature. In Epeli Hau’ofa’s Tales of the Tikongs, the careful use of slightly muddled or hidden idioms serves as a way to relate to the Western dialogue in a slightly manipulated context that makes us question the topic. However, it also serves the dual purpose of both reflecting the Western impact that is taking place in Tiko while also representing the distortion and difference between the West and Tiko.

A simple of example of this use of idiom or common phrase is when he writes that “an American…occasionally takes a giant step or two for mankind even though mankind may not have asked him to” (68). This plays off the famous quote from the moon landing where there was “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. This situation relates to the pioneering of new areas, however as Hau’ofa points out using a play on the phrase from the Western world, and thus in a context that clarifies the position through relating it to our dialogue, sometimes these places do not necessarily want Western intervention to such a high degree.

The most interesting use of this idiom slip occurs when Hau’ofa writes that “the stage was set for Tiko to skin her own pigs and so control her Manifest Destiny” (48). This is a play on the idea of controlling one’s destiny and also the American phrase from the expansion period that was termed “Manifest Destiny”. This idea revolved around the belief that America, as a geographical body, was meant to spread from Atlantic coast to Pacific coast in North America. This particular instance carries special significance because of the focus on development and colonization of the South Pacific via Europe that can be related to the relationship between America and the Native Americans. This specific instance reflects the distortion of an historically American phrase, because the word “destiny” would work better in that context, however it is oddly appropriate in relation to the idea of colonization and forceful takeover. Hau’ofa does this in order to represent how both Western ideals can enhance and help other developing countries in some circumstances with the right intentions, but also how countries are not formed by the same cookie-cutter and therefore not everything transfers perfectly or even in the right context.

Hau'ofa's Use of Diction

In Tales of the Tikongs, Hau’ofa employs the use of artful diction to emphasize the hypocrisy and mindset of superiority which development officials bring to Tiko. When interacting with the locals, the foreigners assert their ideologies without regard for the Tikongs’ dignity or integrity. Hau’ofa satires these encounters. One example is Sharky’s language while manipulating Ika to accept a loan. Hau’ofa writes that Sharky tells Ika he has an “urgent duty to help develop his country” (21). Yet the use of the phrase “urgent duty” disguises Sharky’s self-interest in developing himself. Rather than a humble sense of responsibility, Sharky brings selfish motivations masked in lofty goals such as “duty.” Hau’ofa refers to the Tikongs as “simple natives” (21). This refers to Sharky’s opinion that he is intellectually superior to Ika—he actually changes his dialect to converse. Hau’ofa also includes the satirical description that Sharky acts “with the infinite patience and gentleness of an expert native handler” (22). The phrase “native handler” is reminiscent of a slave overseer! Obviously his patience and gentleness serve Sharky’s underlying greed rather than benevolence. Finally Ika accepts and Hau’ofa writes “Ika, the frightened little man embarked on his solemn duty toward the development of his country” (23). The adjective “little” is effective, not in diminishing Ika’s character, but in emphasizing the contrast between the vast ocean, international scheme and bureaucracy which confront one man.

At the close of Hau’ofa’s collection of sketches, Ole struggles with the moral ramifications of accepting foreign aid. Hau’ofa allows the reader to enter into Ole’s struggle: “Hatred for Mr. Minte surged in his stomach to be mixed with self-hatred for his own simplicity and for his reluctance to ask from a stranger while everyone else seemed to have been doing so without compunction…Anyway, he supposed as he drifted into sleep, it’s like committing sin: once you start it becomes progressively easier” (84-85). The reader sees that Ole directs the hatred towards himself in frustration to follow society’s trend. The verb “surged” notes that the moral decision weighs on Ole mentally and physically. When discussing the loan, Mr. Minte “paused to savour to profundity of his remark before turning on an appearance of astounding generosity” (85). Hau’ofa uses the phrase “turning on an appearance” as well as the demeaning adjective “astounding” to demonstrate that Mr. Minte does not see Ole as his equal. Ole’s friend Emi Bagarap tells Ole: “Self respect is a luxury we can’t afford; we have no choice but to shelve it for a while. When we’re developed, then we will do something about dignity and self-respect…” (86). In fact, Ole ends up with millions of dollars; his life is full of luxuries! In the “international games” (87) of development, Ole also learned to alter his appearance; he becomes “humble and half-primitive” (87) to gain the privilege of “expert beggar” (93). Hau’ofa ends the book with this phrase! Ole began his inner conflict not wanting to beg, and now he happily enjoys the ironic opulence of begging. Hau’ofa is warning how money can encourage humans to conform and forget their original moral qualms. Furthermore Tales of the Tikongs is read internationally, and he is challenging his global audience’s role. To the citizens of nations being developed, he asks if they remain morally steadfast in the face of temptation. To the citizens of more developed nations, perhaps he is asking: how are we complicit in the consequences of these "international games"?

Reverse Adaption

Very similar to Wendt's Black Rainbow, Epeli Hau'ofa displays in Tales of the Tikongs several characters adapting to a culture by changing their clothing, speech patterns, and life style. However, Wendt usually showed this occurrence in an outsider trying to fit in, like Foster dressing like an "otherworlder" and disregarding his Tangata Moni past. This showed the governments ability to persuade its citizens that they knew what was best so the population would melt together and stay in order. Hau'ofa presented this "fitting in" adaption in the reverse: an indigenous person molding to the persona of one of foreigners attempting to colonize the country. 
The most blatant occurrence of the reverse adaption is the chapter titled "The Second Coming" starring the neurotic character Sailosi Atiu. He completely takes on the persona of an Englishmen he has worked with during his stints at various Tiko government agencies. He was so immersed in taking on Mr. Hobsworth-Smith's "style of work, dress, speech, and deportment that his friends took to addressing him by the Englishmen's name" (49). The Imperial Governor often mistook him for a "cultured English gentlemen" which allowed Sailosi to gain favor in status at the government offices. As soon as he was awarded the post of Director of the Bureau, he went immediately back to his former dress and speech of the native Tikongs. So basically, he used the demeanor of the Englishmen to gain job security to be able to control his offices.
Hau'ofa's use of this changeling character showed the effects of colonization and also the hypocrisy that occurs in the indigenous people. Sailosi imitated, down to the British swear words, Mr. Hobsworth-Smith and gained great positions in his own government to the point where he could make enormous change, especially in personnel. He wanted natives to work the offices so as to not share too much of the Tikong culture with outsiders but ended up alienating all of the natives when they displayed customs that were very British. These were values that he probably instilled in them himself and when they only follow example, they're punished for it. Sailosi ended up loving the foreigners sent by aid programs because they were being paid so much that they didn't want to rock the boat at all and just did what they were told. 
The great twist at the end of this story was that Mr Hobsworth-Smith, from whom Sailosi took the Director job after Hobsworth-Smith had a break down, came back in full on Tikong attire, right down to the knee-length socks. This was so distressful to Sailosi that he ends up having a melt-down and Hobsworth-Smith takes over the post yet again to run things "as he sees fit" (56). Sailosi's hypocrisy didn't pay off in the end and actually took his beloved position away from him and giving it back to the colonizer.
A sad and less obvious lesson learned in this is that the indigenous can't outsmart the foreigner at his own game.

Transcendence of Language through the lens of Development

Users of colloquial or vernacular phrases rarely take the time or consideration to question the proper practice or the origin of common or even overused parts of speech. The Tales of the Tikongs, however, displays a unique understanding and implementation of such phrases exclusively within the framework of the way in which these expressions morph and evolve when placed in a new setting. The inclusion and adaptation of these sayings by the conquered people reinforces the existence of the initial conquest and continually permeates and residually reinforces the linguistic and thus ideological oppression.

The location of Hau’ofa’s series of vignettes is Tiko, an ambiguous island in the Pacific colonized by the British and structurally developed by the governments of Oceania, all of which are English speakers. Upon Mr. Hobsworth-Smith’s return to Tiko after a brief work induced hiatus, the narrator describes him as having, “shaved his handle-bar moustache, softened his stiff upper lip somewhat, and donned the Tikong national dress,” (Hau’ofa 55). The phrase here “stiff upper lip” is not usually given a physical connotation, but rather one of personal resilience; here however, it is used in the context of a corporeal adjustment. This new colloquialism for the Tikongs relieves Hobsworth-Smith from his place of fortitude, and rather demeans his action to a mere bodily change. The phrase adopts a new and less extreme meaning.

The greatest demonstration of this phenomenon of language comes with the critique of American pride, “an American likes to walk tall even though he may be short, and that he occasionally takes a giant step or two for mankind even though mankind may not have asked him to,” (Hau’ofa 68). The famed Neil Armstrong moon landing speech represents the pinnacle of American ambition and achievement, is here shown as overzealous conceit. The idea expressed here is that the United States, and presumably the rest of the developed world, takes the steps in this case towards development despite whether or not such steps are warranted or wanted. This sentence stands as a microcosm of the entire book, and it stings doubly hard since the critique is given in our own words.

The importation of these western phrases deconstructs their initial meaning and reorganizes them for the benefit of the native user. Holistically speaking, the language that the Tikongs use, while taken from the British, stands with distinctly different connotation, which to an outsider may be seen as misuse. The problem with this adjustment, however, is that the language, and specifically the distinct and memorable phrases continually used, are the modern day shackles of colonization. This inherently means that while Tiko is technically independent, it is never free from the linguistic bondage, and therefore never able to develop into it’s own individual identity.

Universal Traits

Tales of the Tikongs is a story about the suppression and containment of the native peoples of Tiko, a fictional island in the Pacific. The idea of colonialism has been a problem in certain countries for years. I remember reading certain books like Heart of Darkness and Things Fall Apart which focus on the evils of colonialism and the negative effects it can have on the native people. In Hau’ofa’s book, though, he points out certain harmful aspects of the British colonization but he does it in a way that is different from Joseph Conrad or Chinua Achebe. While their books are more serious in tone and obviously illustrate which side they believe to be “right”, Hau’ofa openly mocks both the natives and the Englishmen. This method of humor is very effective because in his sarcastic tone, Hau’ofa essentially gets down to the very aspects of human nature. One of the major themes in this book, or any book about colonialism, is the idea of the struggle between change and tradition. In the story ‘The Second Coming’ in which Sailosi adopts the lifestyles of the British, the speaker says, “Sailosi was glad that he looked and sounded like such a true Briton” (49). However, later on in the story he abandons his accent and tries to preserve the true ways of his life in Tiko, yet at the same time criticizes his colleagues for wearing lipstick when he himself keeps a subscription to Playboy magazine! Hau’ofa’s ability to create these hypocritical characters is impressive and although they are slightly scornful at times, they still illustrate the many ways in which one person can suppress another.

In my opinion, the last story of the book is the most important; here, Hau’ofa really shows the influence that more powerful and wealthy individuals have over the native Tikongs. There are characters like Manu who realize the drawbacks of development but there are characters like Ole Pacifikiwei who give themselves over to “the supreme task of development through foreign aid” (93). We see that Ole is at first demoralized by the idea of losing his self respect as his friend tells him, “Self-respect is a luxury we can’t afford; we have no choice but to shelve it for a while. When we’re developed, then we’ll do something about dignity and self-respect…” (86). Although the author mocks Ole for giving himself up to foreign powers, it is still something that has happened in real places and continues to happen. The last image of the book is of Ole as a “permanent, first rate, expert beggar” (93) which is sad because Tiko is not a real place and therefore, this story could take place anywhere at any time.

We’ve talked a lot about what it is to be an individual and the purpose of one’s own life, especially in Black Rainbow, and I think these ideas are important here as well. Each story in this book shows characters that clearly have a goal, whether it’s Sharky who wants to take advantage of ever poor native he meets, Manu whose obvious goal is to reject any form of development, or Pulu who just wants to increase his livestock. While these goals may be silly to the author or even to the reader, they are important to each individual and give them some sort of purpose, something which was lacking in Black Rainbow. When thinking about the question of what it means to be human, I think Hau’ofa answers this to some extent in this novel. For example, temptation exists everywhere within this book, even among religious members. No matter where you come from or what you look like, people are always going to be tempted by things, either good or bad; this is a fact of life. Humans sin every day and constantly err but this is what makes us human. Hau’ofa points out certain aspects of the human mentality such as the desire to develop and expand one’s own nation, which is an aspiration that exists everywhere. People have always longed for wealth, fame, and power, like Bobeep, and even if pointing out the flaws of his characters, Hau’ofa reveals characteristics of humans that are truly universal.

Casualties of the Tidal Wave

Epeli Hau'ofa's Tales of the Tikongs gives readers a glimpse of life on the tiny South Pacific island of Tiko.  The book's format is atypical.  With each chapter, Hau'ofa provides a short but thorough look at one character or inhabitant of Tiko.  Readers learn the brief background and history of each citizen, who he is related to, how he makes of doesn't make his living, and ultimately his reaction to the incoming "tidal wave of D-E-V-E-L-O-P-M-E-N-T."  The use of this format allows Hau'ofa to provide a wide range of perspectives on the influence of development.  The format is reminiscent of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, and therefore might have yet another purpose.  Calvino presented concise descriptions of many different cities in order to finally illustrate that it did not matter which individual city was being described, they were all fundamentally the same.  Similarly, Hau'ofa creates vivid portraits of many different characters, but there are commonalities shared between all of them.  Each character either exhibits an aversion to development or sacrifices his "original sense of self-respect" and culture as a result of development (Hau'ofa 93).  The character of Ole Pasifikwei acts as a good summary for much of Hau'ofa's message.  Through these humorous portraits, Hau'ofa is able to show the costs of development and provide serious a warning for the future.
The book's final chapter, "The Glorious Pacific Way," shows most directly the effects of development on a native person.  Hau'ofa effectively uses humor and general absurdity in his descriptions of the interactions bewteen Ole Pasifikwei and Mr. Harold Minte.  Ole is clearly intended to represent the "old Pacific way" as cleverly illustrated by his name.  Ole, who collects oral traditions, is singled out by Minte to receive financial assistance for his project which aims to "preserve the Pacific way".  In their absurd first encounter, Minte tells Ole the foolishly complicated process he must go about in order to receive funding for his project:  "Things are never quite that simple, you know.  We have money to distribute, but we can't give it away just like that.  We want you to ask us first".  After this encounter, Ole is "disturbed" and "feel(s) reduced" (84).  He cannot quite grasp why he must go through such a prescribed process to obtain the money that Mr. Minte has already promised to him.  Minte and the MERCY organization have imported this overly complicated process, which is foreign to the Tikong way of getting things done.  In a later episode, Ole asks for a typewriter that he would presumably use to document the oral traditions of Tiko.  This is, to Minte, a ridiculous request, because a typewriter is not "directly relevant" to Ole's needs.  Hau'ofa's portrait of Minte creates a very unflattering picture of civilization and development.  Minte's actions are humorous because they completely illogical and silly.  Yet Ole must do things Minte's way, if he wants to receive his funding and thus be developed.
Ole seeks the help of a friend, Emi Bagarap, to find out how to properly work with Minte.  Self-respect is what is preventing Ole and Mr.Minte from understanding each other's needs, because Ole is reluctant to abandon the Tikong way of life.  Through Bagarap's adive to Ole, Hau'ofa provides funny but alarming insight into what Ole must do to receive proper aid and funding:  "Self-respect is a luxury we can't afford; we have no choice but to shelve it for a while.  When we're developed, then we will do something about dignity and self-respect..." (86).  With this advice in mind, Ole is able to effectively navigate Mr. Minte's "international games" (87).  Once his self-respect is "shelved," Ole has a "permanent role as a first-rate, expert beggar" (93).  While this seems funny, it is in reality quite alarming.  Hau'ofa portrays aid organizations in a negative light.  They are mostly concerned with getting rid of any native culture, even an individual's self-respect, so that money can be pumped into a country that needs development. 
Ole's story acts as an effective finale to Tales of the Tikongs.  It brings to the forefront one of the main issues in the novel.  If or when a Tikong gives in to the tidal wave of D-E-V-E-L-O-P-M-E-N-T, he is inevitably giving up some of his self-respect and identity.  The perks of development do not seem worth the cost.  Ole, once well known and successful, is reduced to nothing more than a beggar. Hau'ofa, through his brief portraits of the Tikongs, warns natives to retain their dignity and culture no matter what schemes or advancements face them.