Hello again from the Big Blue!
And the sign said long haired freaky people need not apply
So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why
He said you look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you’ll do
So I took off my hat I said imagine that, huh, me working for you
Are you a fine upstanding young man? Or woman? Tell me, what exactly constitutes a “fine, upstanding” person? During my hiatus – and by the way, it’s great to be back – I’ve had lots of opportunities to consider morality. Did I say consider? I meant question. I’ve been questioning morality.
The Cook Islands are part of the “Society Islands”, which includes Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Morea. Guests who visit here, who have been to French Polynesia, often comment on the strange disparity in popularity between the two sets of islands, as the quiet Cooks most definitely rival their more flamboyant sister islands in natural beauty. I believe the answer lies in the name French Polynesia. Specifically French. Think laid back, think wine, think topless sunbathing, think glamour and luxury. In contrast, settled by Brits, Cook Islanders took all that British, stodgy, Puritanism and ran with it. In Tahiti, you can frolic topless on a white sand beach, on Aitutaki, frolicking is not encouraged, and don’t even think about the topless part.
I knew, or at least I thought I knew, what I was getting into when I came here. And really, how hard could it be to cover up now and then? Well, you’d be surprised. Come summer time, the lightest, smallest piece of fabric touching your skin feels like too much. More than once, I caught myself heading out to town wearing a tiny pair of shorts and a flimsy tank top, and I’d have to turn around and dress myself in more appropriate attire. And when I say “appropriate” I mean “hot and sweaty”.
But the clothing is just the tip of the iceberg…not that we have icebergs here, obviously. Sunday has become a day I both long for and dread. Now, I get the idea of Sunday as a day of rest and I’m down with that. You don’t want to work Sunday? Great! Hey, why don’t we make Monday a day of rest, too? But the good people of Aitutaki have interpreted “rest” as literally sitting in church or staring ahead blankly. Not only can you not work on Sunday but fun is also right out of the question. Fishing? No. Boating? No. Flying on airplanes? Ha, ha, ha. Prez and I, being the culturally sensitive types we are, ignore all this. Sunday is our only quasi-day off, so you better believe we’re going to fish and boat and dance the cha-cha if we feel like it.
Tennis, however, is a different matter. Our friend Mr. G at Ultra Fancy Resort, kindly gave us a couple of rackets and a few cans of balls, and so two Sundays ago we trucked up to the local courts to crush some balls. We weren’t there five minutes before the tennis police arrived on scooter. “I am sorry but you cannot play tennis on our courts on Sunday.” A rabid airplane hater, god, apparently, has an equal dislike of racquet sports.
Television watching, Coca Cola drinking, and meat pie eating are all authorized Sunday activities, everything else is immoral.
Yeah, I’m a little frustrated, if you haven’t guessed already. I want to grab some of these good folks by the shoulders and shake them. “You were conned!” I would scream. “You were naked, and happy, and frolicking on the beach and god was perfectly OK with it until some white, uptight, sons of guns showed up and started beating you over the head with their bibles. Relax, eat a mango, play some tennis!!”
All this morality wouldn’t bother me so much if I didn’t know about the seedy underbelly of these islands – the scams, the bribes, the theft, and worse. If you’re a child or a wife being abused by a man here, well, tough luck, because everyone knows and no one cares, and even if you complain nothing is going to happen. And how about the little water container scam? I love that one. Canada, big hearted country that it is, donated money to outfit every home on Aitutaki with a water storage container. Water is a big problem during the winter months and islanders often run out. Well, the containers were bought, and shipped, and then the minister in charge of distributing them charged everyone two-hundred and fifty dollars for their “free” containers. The pension cheque scam is another gem but I’ll stop here before my blood pressure climbs any higher.
Please tell me, what is more immoral: playing tennis on a Sunday, or fleecing people out of their hard-earned and very limited cash?
I see this everywhere, though, not just on little Aitutaki. One group of people looking down their noses at another group of people, and denouncing them as immoral while their own behaviour is every bit as scandalous. The guy who cries out about gays getting marital status and collecting pensions cheats on his taxes. The wife who rants hard and long about the way young girls dress these days is boinking the next door neighbour on the sly. And on and on it goes.
Have we always been so obsessed with forcing our values on others? At what point does morality become petty bullying? And what the heck is so wrong with playing tennis on Sunday???
Why is it I always seem to have more questions than answers?
QUESTION: Are you immoral?
Until next week, (yes, next week), I hope this finds you healthy, happy & lovin’ life!