Monday, February 23, 2009

What financial crisis?

There was a great piece in the Sydney Morning Herald recently by my friend Kirk Huffman on how the good citizens of Vanuatu are happily continuing their traditional lives un affected by the financial turmoil sweeping the world.

Kirk is a fascinating person who works both at the Australian Museum and that little gem of Sydney University’s, the Macleay Museum. Kirk introduced me to the world of Vanuatu and its extraordinary culture, which partly results from the unique occurrence of being a dual colony of both Britain and France for almost a hundred years. This not only resulted in a mad arrangement of dual everything (currency, postal system, prisons, courts etc) but left the inhabitants so bemused that they just got on with their lives as per normal and left the colonial powers to squabble amongst themselves. The result was that when independence came, they still had in tact almost all of their ancient culture.

What is so interesting is that they have undertaken a program of capturing that culture on tape and video through an intensive program of using local volunteers armed with tape recorders before it is lost due to modernisation. These 7000 tapes are all kept at the Vanuatu Cultural Centre in Port Vila. But in a world where we are talking of making culture truly universally accessible through the web, the people of Vanuatu have drawn a line and decided that these tapes are for internal access only. That is they have led the world in getting their culture captured in a recorded form, but are now also leading the world in saying what makes us unique does not to need to be shared with the world, but rather only with its own citizens to ensure it is not lost or forgotten.

An interesting perspective as we hurtle down the open access highway.

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