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The Effects of Modernization on Three Areas of Island Life

By Francis X. Hezel, SJ

Social Issues


When we use the word development we imply a process or movement, presumably forward, upward or generally toward something better than what was. But this immediately raises all sorts of questions. Take the case of the man in the village who has spent the day fishing. Today, in many parts of the Pacific he is liable to bring his catch into his home to feed his own household. In years past, he may have felt obliged to share his catch with his whole lineage group and possibly a good part of the village as well. By today's standards the fisherman could be called provident and enterprising for providing inexpensive protein for his family; by yesterday's norms he would be judged stingy for failing to share his catch with the wide circle of kinfolk towards whom he was obligated. By which norms should he be judged?

The matter becomes still more complicated when we consider other possibilities. Suppose the way the man disposes of his fish is intimately bound up with other values and attitudes that are the effect of modernization. Suppose the very same values which lead him to limit the distribution of his fish also dictate that he will avoid beating his wife, send his daughter to school and take disciplinary action against a brother-in-law who is working under him in a government bureau. Does this pattern of values to which the man now subscribes represent genuine development or regression? What if the very changes that undermine his broad kin group are also responsible for greater individual freedom and a vision that looks beyond the boundaries of the village for the first time? The ethical dilemmas of modernization do not yield easy answers.

In taking up the difficult theme of the ethics of development, there are three important premises we must keep firmly in mind. First, since development is a process or movement, we must remember it is relevant to ask: where have we come from? where are we now? and where are we headed? The danger is that ignoring the first and last, we may focus exclusively at where we are now. Only when we consider all three can we make adequate ethical judgements on development.

The second thing to remember is that change rarely happens piecemeal and in isolation. Modernization involves not so much discrete elements as clusters of interrelated attitudes and values that are of a piece. One buys what the world calls development or modernization in wholesale lots rather than by the single item. This is not to say that a people on the path to development are doomed to become carbon copies of the industrialized nations of the world. They have real choices. But each choice made entails various other elements implicit in and related to the first, although they may not be perceived as such at the outset. An option for the money economy, for instance, implies much more than a decision to replace barter with a single medium of exchange, as we well know. The same can be said of bank accounts and refrigerators, which offer people the means of preserving resources that formerly would have had to be distributed immediately.

If this should seem unduly fatalistic, then it is well to keep in mind our third premise. Years ago it was fashionable for cultural anthropologists to regard societies or cultures as complex bits of machinery, like the old-fashioned spring watch, in which every part was interrelated. An alteration in one of the parts would invariably change, and often damage, the functioning of the entire machine. Lately we have come to realize that societies are as organic as the people who form them. Like the human body, a society can adapt to stresses and changes in their environment and even to the viruses and bacteria that assail its inner workings. Societies, then, are capable of healing themselves. And they can do so even as they retain their own distinctiveness.

With this in mind, then, I would like to describe three of the broad areas of change that modernization is bringing to island societies, at least those in Micronesia, the part of the Pacific in which I have worked for the past twenty years. My hope, of course, is that at least some of this will have application to societies in Papua New Guinea as well. The three broad areas of change we will consider here are related to some of the sub-themes taken up in other volumes in this series. We will first examine kin group or tribal loyalties as opposed to the demands of the state. Then we shall take up the tension between the nuclear family and the extended family. Finally, we will look at the relations between the sexes as they have been altered in recent years.

Looking Beyond the Kin Group

Family come first, in Micronesia and just about everywhere else. Our fisherman - or farmer, if you prefer - is bound by a set of well-defined obligations to his own kin. In most societies, moreover, he takes on the additional burdens of contributing to the support of his wife's family. Sometimes these can be as onerous as the obligations to his own kin. In Truk, one of the island groups in the Federated States of Micronesia, a married man used to be expected to contribute free labor to his wife's lineage and help in any of the many tasks that the lineage group carried out, whether by in providing food, offering his special skills or assisting in meeting any of the other needs of her family. He was very much at the beck and call of his wife's brothers and senior members of her lineage, even as he met his responsibilities to his own lineage.

Balancing the various and sometimes conflicting responsibilities put him under tension aplenty. Frequently enough, failure to handle his duties to his own kin and his wife's resulted in the breakup of the marriage. On top of this, the man was expected to fulfil other obligations related to his status in the community. This might take the form of tribute to chiefs in those places where there were sectional chieftainships. It also meant reciprocating favors received or anticipated from other members of the community . Since the advent of Christianity to the islands, it has also entailed making contributions, sometimes quite sizable ones, to the church to which he belongs, especially at times of a celebration or construction project.

Our traditional fisherman or farmer, then, was not exactly a happy go-lucky individual enjoying a carefree life with a multitude of relatives to support him when his luck or energy ran low. The fact is that he stood at the hub of a series of concentric circles representing the different groups to which he was obligated and from which he could in turn expect assistance in time of need. Even in relatively simple societies, he was a man enmeshed in a rather tight system which was not without its pressures and sources of anxiety.

Suppose our fisherman should find a paying government job as a health aid in his village or even in his provincial capital. He is now bringing in a fortnightly pay cheque rather than occasionally carrying home a string of fish or a basket of yams, but this in no way diminishes his responsibilities to his kin, his wife's kin and the other members of the community to whom he is obligated. If anything, it means only that the medium of payment is changed. Instead of labour or produce, those who have a claim upon him may demand their payment in some other form. His kin can call for a share of his salary for their own personal needs or to furthering a lineage project. Instead of his brother-in-law asking him to lend a hand in farming his wife's estate, he may approach him to use his influence to get him or another of his family a job in health services. He may be asked to use his position as a health aide to benefit his kin in other ways - perhaps by obtaining preferential treatment in the provincial hospital or by secreting out of the village dispensary certain medicines that someone in his family needs.

Our fisherman, in short, is using his new government position to meet old obligations. Yet even as he resolves traditional tensions by doing so, he finds that he confronts new ones. He lays himself open to charges of nepotism, misuse of government property and in general milking his position to advance the welfare of his family - all this because our poor fisherman made the mistake of looking upon his government job, with its entitlement and privileges, as merely a substitute for the fish or breadfruit that he would have provided his family in former days. What he did not realize, unfortunately, is that his government job was not only multiplying his resources, but also increasing the number of groups who could make legitimate demands upon him.

A government job, and the participation in the modern society that it represents, means an increase in the series of concentric circles circumscribing the employee. In signing his contract with the government, our fisherman is expected to serve the needs of the entire village, and to some extent the whole province and nation, under entirely new terms. As a government employee, he is obliged to offer his services to any and all who seek them, regardless of their traditional affiliation to him. His salary, of course, is his own to allocate in any way that he chooses; but his skills, his workday time, his influence and the equipment he utilizes in performing his work is to be placed at the service of the community at large. No longer is he free to use any and all the resources entrusted to him as best he might to meet the traditional kin and community obligations that have long vexed him. He must learn that there are some things, many things in fact, that are at the call of that large faceless group of people with which he formerly had few or no real ties. He must, therefore, take account of new and larger groups with claims on him that are as legitimate as those of his kin. In doing so, he must put aside the social map he has used from birth to guide him through his commitments to society. Finally, he must begin making tricky little distinctions as to what resources can be used to discharge which obligations to what group of people.

Is it any wonder that the fisherman finds the transition to a salaried job with the government a difficult one? Or that expatriates, and possibly older and more practiced countrymen, complain of tribalism or kin loyalties interfering with essential government services? Modernization involves many different things, depending on ones perspective, but surely one of the most significant changes for all is that new roles are superimposed upon the old. This can only mean conflict for the individuals caught in the throes of modernization.

More often than not, it is the demands of the new roles taken on by the civil servant which lose out in such a conflict. After all, the old demands are well ingrained in our fisherman-turned-health-aide. Besides, the traditional sanctions for not fulfilling these roles are more immediate and real.. For failing to provide for kin and others to whom he is especially obligated he can undergo the humiliation of being looked on as niggardly and suffer a corresponding loss of status among those closest to him. On the other hand, the retribution for neglecting his job or abusing his position can be uncertain at best. Supervisors in many parts of Micronesia would be reluctant to fire him or even impose pay deductions and other penalties because of their fear of incurring the lasting enmity of the employee and his family.

Such, then, is the problem. What is the ethical solution? Some would parry the question by suggesting that time and education will remedy all. Given enough time, our fisherman and other government employees will eventually come to appreciate the new demands that are being made of them and will respond in a fitting manner. This is undoubtedly true as far as it goes, but is it enough? While the fisherman is learning just what the broader community has a right to expect of him and what the proper limits of his new position may be, his fellow villagers come to the dispensary to solicit medical treatment and sometimes seek referral to the urban hospital. While he is being acculturated to his new roles, others' health and even lives may depend on his response. For this reason, if for no other, it seems critical that our fisherman make his transition as rapidly as possible. To make the transition successfully does not mean that the government employee must ignore traditional roles and the obligations that flow from them, although it may sometimes appear that way to his disappointed kin. It simply means that he must learn to limit these, especially where they impinge upon his government position, so that he can achieve a balance between the old and the new roles.

Although we have elaborated at some length on the example of the man who has taken a government job, it is essential to remember that his cousins and brothers and nephews who have not been put on the government payroll also incur certain obligations to the community at large. Elections are held and people selected to represent them in the provincial or national government. Nation-building and all that it implies moves ahead; the development of an economy that can respond to the legitimate needs of citizens of the twentieth century proceeds apace. Needless to say, limited vision of the village or tribal area as the farthest reaches of an individuals concern no longer applies. One can understand such a limited vision and take a compassionate view of those who still hold it, but one can hardly endorse it in a society that has become part of a nation. The price of the money and services that the government provides is the willingness to make a place for the new and broader roles of the fisherman who has become an employee.

The Breakdown pf the Extended Family

The word family may have as many definitions as there are cultures. Under the impact of modernization today, however, people almost everywhere are witnessing the breakdown of the traditional extended family into what we can call standard packaged families that is, nuclear families composed of father, mother and children, often with a few spare relatives added to the household. This is not to say that the traditional larger kin groupings have vanished; but that while very much alive in many parts of the Pacific, they are steadily losing ground to the nuclear family in terms of the functions they perform. This raises various ethical questions which we will deal with at the end of this section.

Since it is impossible to identify a typical traditional kin group, let us settle for an example from Truk, a group of volcanic islands encircled by a reef and containing a population of about 40,000 people. Perhaps this example may serve to illustrate how and why the breakdown of the extended family is occurring and what important question all this raises.

The basic unit of Trukese life has always been the lineage. The lineage is a kin group that is traced through the females in the family back to the oldest surviving woman (Goodenough 1961). Hence a woman and her children (but not her husband), her sisters and their children, her brothers (but not their wives or children), her aunts and uncles on her mother's side, and her maternal grandmother would make up the lineage group. This lineage group formerly lived together on the lineage estate and ate from what was produced from land belonging to the lineage. The lineage group might be made up of three or four households, each with a single nuclear family and perhaps some other relatives. The members of these households, especially the younger ones, were subject to the authority of the senior man, the lineage chief. He was empowered to oversee the lineage land, assign work responsibilities and supervise the distribution of food. When a woman married, she would generally bring her husband to her own lineage estate where her children could be raised in their kin group and her husband could discharge his obligations to her family. In short, then, the lineage group functioned as a single unit: the members ate together, worked together and their children were raised together. The single cookhouse in which food was prepared symbolized the unity of the lineage as an economic and social group.

But times have changed in Truk. As jobs and a cash income became available, some of the men had at their disposal a source of livelihood other than the breadfruit trees and taro patches that were the common property of the lineage. A salary provided them with a measure of independence from the resources of the lineage, especially since this salary was kept by the wage-earner rather than turned over to-the lineage head for distribution. This was the first wedge driven into the economic monopoly of the lineage, although other forces later helped to accelerate the breakdown of the traditional system.

As time went on, the households that made up the lineage assumed more and more responsibility for feeding themselves. Store-bought goods were routinely used for the household for which they were bought rather than shared with the rest of the houses of the lineage. This meant that each family - usually the nuclear family plus a few other close relatives - began to assume the responsibility for feeding itself. This was symbolized by the multiplication of cookhouses (or, in some cases, kitchens); and soon the single lineage cookhouse had given way to one for each household. This, in turn, affected the way in which local food resources were collected and prepared for eating. The head of the lineage, while retaining his nominal position, gradually lost much of his authority, especially over resources . No longer did he supervise the work tasks in the garden or on the sea. Now each family head prepared breadfruit pretty much when and as he saw fit, although he would usually give some of the food to the other households in the grouping. Sharing of local resources, and sometimes of purchased goods, continued, but it was increasingly the heads of the households rather than the lineage chief who divided up the food.

As the lineage head lost more of his hold over the economy of the lineage, he suffered a corresponding loss of authority. More and more, children were expected to remain under the supervision of their own biological parents, even after adolescence when they would have normally come under the authority of the lineage seniors. Whereas in the past the lineage chief would have had an important role in selecting a marriage partner for the younger members, today he has hardly more than a nominal voice. The decision as to whether or not to send a child away for further education is now made by the father rather than the lineage chief. The latter still has a strong say over the disposal of lineage land, but even this has been devalued in recent years as an ever greater share of the family's resources are provided by cash income. In many parts of Truk today the head of the lineage does not even dare discipline his brothers' and sisters' children, something he always did as a matter of course in the past.

If the authority of the lineage head has declined with modernization, that of the parents in each household has increased greatly. Parents are now expected to steer their children through the stormy season of adolescence virtually by themselves. Furthermore, with the lower rate of infant mortality, they often have larger families than in the past. Thus today they are supervising more children over a longer period of time with less help..

This radical shift in family structure has serious implications for Trukese society. In a recent paper (Hezel in press) we have linked the breakdown of the lineage system, and the increased tensions in parent-child relations that accompanies it, to the extraordinarily high suicide rate in Truk over the last fifteen years. Other studies of child abuse and runaways have indicated ~at the tensions generated within the family in recent years manifest themselves in these other ways as well (Marcus & Hezel 1985; Marcus & Doyle 1986). In recent decades the Trukese family has become a two parent family, shorn of the surrogate parents and other support that had assisted in the difficult child-rearing tasks in former years. By just about every measure, the family in Truk - and we may imagine in other parts of the Pacific as well - has become much more fragile than ever before.

The effects of the change in family structure are felt most acutely when one of the parents is lost through either death or divorce. If the surviving spouse remains unmarried, he or she will have to assume the burden of raising the children with only minimal help from kinfolk. If he or she should remarry, however, the situation is frequently even worse, particularly when the new spouse also has children from a first marriage. Let us illustrate with an example: a woman with three children from her first marriage moved to the family estate of her new husband who had two children of his own by a previous marriage. Her children, ranging in age from nine to fifteen, soon came to feel unwelcome in their new home as their step-father continually showed a clear preference for his own children. They were not bought new clothes as their step-brothers were; they were fed last in the family and were never given the treats that the others enjoyed from time to time; and they were often scolded by their step-father. After a few months the two older ones ran away from home, while the youngest waited in the hope that attitudes would change. In former times these children would have had a much easier adjustment to the death or divorce of their father. They would have simply remained under the care of their lineage, where they would have had a secure home and sense of affiliation regardless of any problems they might have had with their new step-parent. The lineage would have functioned as a buffer between them and their step-father as well as a focal point for their identity as a family.

What is true in Truk may well be true of other islands in the Pacific. The breakdown of the traditional family, caused in good part by the spread of the cash economy and the alternatives this offers people, has meant greater freedom for family members; but it has also meant greater tensions and strains on personal relations. While it has afforded individuals new opportunities and removed some of the shackles of custom, it has also left them without the broad social network which served as a safety net in the past. The price of modernization has been high.

Whether to accept such changes or to attempt to return to more traditional family structures is not a real question in places like Truk.

The change in the form and function of the family is already well advanced. To be sure, churches, governments and other institutions representing the modern sector have repeatedly urged that the parents assume more responsibility for their own children. Even if these institutions could not themselves effect such changes, they did endorse them. Hence, it seems to me that these same institutions have a responsibility to assist parents in meeting the unfamiliar demands of Western parenthood. At very least this would seem to call for a serious effort to educate adults who themselves were raised in more traditional extended family settings, in Western-style parenting. Among the themes that might require attention include: how to discipline effectively without nagging, the importance of affirming and providing support for children and how to deal with sibling rivalry.

There is perhaps one more important educational task that churches and other institutions can undertake to make the transition in family styles easier. They can encourage the creation of new structures, or the rehabilitation of older ones, to answer to the needs of today's family. A prime example is the need for freer discussion between family members, something that was not as critical in bygone days when children had easy recourse to older lineage mates to serve as intermediaries between them and their parents. As the boundaries of the family group shrink and the tension between individuals mounts (as it inevitably must at times), it is important for family members to have the opportunity to express difficulties among themselves. This is by no means to propose a Western remedy for a Pacific problem. Trukese traditionally gather as a family to do this at funerals, while Polynesians have their customary family circle meeting, the ho'oponopono. Is ~ere any reason why these age-old customs cannot be adapted to serve the more acute needs of today's family? Would it not be possible to combine these with some form of home prayer meeting to prevent the build-up of family tensions? The decision to make such adaptations lies with the people themselves, of course, but the institutions which have been crying for family change should be at the forefront of efforts to help people cope with the changes that have come to pass.

The War Between the Sexes

Today in many parts of the Pacific we are witnessing the onset of the war between the sexes. Perhaps it is not called a war, but that is the way it is seen by many males and females in those areas that have begun to modernize. Here again I will be forced to draw my examples from Micronesia, the only Pacific region with which I have any familiarity. Once again I will try to delineate the contrast between what was and what has come to be.

In traditional Micronesian societies there was a sharp distinction between the roles of males and females. Women were expected to do the weaving and plaiting, care for the children and perform the householding chores, while men did the deep-sea fishing (and in most places the offshore fishing too), built the houses and canoes and conducted warfare. Work was divided differently from one island to another, but men's and women's roles were always complementary, with some tasks clearly assigned to women and others to men. Traditional society was characterized by its clear distinction of gender roles; men and women had their own respective spheres of influence. Often enough in Micronesian societies it was the women who exercised a large measure of control over land, particularly over the allocation of use rights within or outside of the family. Men, on the other hand, were usually the spokesmen for the family and the village. It was they who almost always held the titles and chieftainships. Many of us today are misled into believing that the function of men was to rule while that of women was merely to obey. Contrary to appearances, this was certainly not the case in Micronesia. While women generally were expected to avoid center stage positions and were barred from speaking in public, they were very often the real movers behind the scenes when it came to allocating resources and even initiating political intrigues.

In gender relations, as in other aspects of traditional life, there was a strong element of reciprocity. Just as woman were required to show certain kinds of deference to men, especially to male relatives, men were also required to practice respect behaviour towards women. Men were prohibited from using certain kinds of language in their presence, and this to a far greater degree than was practiced in Victorian Europe. What we might call women's rights, limited as they may have been, were well protected in traditional society. It is true that these rights fell considerably short of today's standards; for instance, women might be beaten by their husbands. Even so, however, the woman's family kept a close watch over her and was ready to intervene on her behalf in the case of excess. Women in traditional Micronesian societies surely did not enjoy equality with men, but they were not without a considerable measure of security and even power in those societies.

What changes has modernization wrought? In the first place, it has caused an upheaval in men's traditional roles. With increased dependence on store-bought food items, it is common enough today to see young men, who would have formerly been fishing, picking breadfruit or working on the farms, loitering in town with little to do. The only warfare in which they now engage is with rival gangs and their role as builders has been usurped by skilled carpenters, masons and tradesmen. Their sisters, meanwhile, continue to be occupied with much the same household chores that they always performed. The inactivity and freedom that young men today experience also bring a liberal dose of pain and insecurity. Stripped of their former roles, many young men no longer enjoy the satisfaction of knowing they are making a real contribution to their family and community. This dislocation may be manifested to some extent in the high rates of delinquency, alcohol abuse and juvenile arrests in our own day. It is worth noting that in Micronesia the rate of serious mental illness among young males is four times higher than among females (Hezel 1985). In the first instance, then, modernization seems to have had a far more unsettling effect on men than on women.

This is not to say that there are no new roles available to men in modern society. Indeed, there are a variety of salaried jobs as well as new political positions which offer money and influence. Volunteer organizations, churches and even athletic associations provide new avenues of status. All these are attractive alternatives to the traditional roles men have lost with the advent of the modern society. But herein lies the problem. Men see women scrambling for these same positions and intruding in a domain that they regard as rightfully theirs. Women work in government agencies, they drive cars, they play basketball and volleyball and they even run for elected political office. In doing so, they are seen as flouting the traditional cultural distinctions between the genders. Hence, women are perceived as competitors rather than partners. With the old restrictions on male and female roles giving way, women are perceived as a hostile rather than complementary force.

Women themselves suffer considerably in the transition, to be sure. In Truk, interestingly enough, much of the traditional respect behaviour that men once showed to women has been lost, although most of the respect behaviour in the reverse direction survives. Most young Trukese men today are not even aware that such forms existed, much less practice them. One group of young Trukese attending a workshop given by an expert in traditional lore were startled to learn that men were formerly required to bow low and sometimes even crawl in the presence of certain female kin. The scrupulous use of polite language forms in the presence of women, particularly kinfolk, has also been lost in recent years. There is evidence that other traditional rights of women are being increasingly ignored by men. In many families today men are pre-empting the rights of senior female lineage members to decide how land is distributed. Moreover, kinsmen of married women are showing a growing reluctance to intervene to stop the wife-beating that seems to be increasing with time. It is almost as if the society has ordained that the rules for reciprocity that once prevailed shall no longer be in force. Henceforth, it will be each sex for itself in the battle to establish its rightful spheres of operation in modern society.

The generation of older anthropologists who worked in Micronesia shortly after the war frequently made the observation that men seemed to show more anxiety than women in these island societies (Gladwin & Sarason 1953). This observation appears to be confirmed by the much higher incidence of psychosis among males throughout Micronesia. Yet male anxiety and insecurity can only have intensified as a result of the enormous role changes and other forms of dislocation men have experienced in the course of modernization. As women began to take on what were regarded as traditional male roles - or their modern-day substitutes - men may have begun lashing out at them in an effort to protect their own shaky position. After all, one speaks gently when one is sure of oneself and one's status. It is normally when someone is backed to the wall that he begins asserting himself and flailing out. All the while, moreover, the old sanctions that had afforded women security and respect began breaking down, although not necessarily by deliberate design.

The problem today, therefore, is how to bring about a just peace in what has to be called the war between the sexes. Educated Pacific women today rankle at the fact that they are often denied opportunities to exercise the new roles in modern society that men have monopolized in recent years. Yet an even more fundamental and serious problem is the gradual attrition of those traditional rights which women once held. The old norms of reciprocity between the genders are quickly being lost.

The fundamental issue may be this: will women be regarded as competitors for men's roles, or will they be seen as partners with complementary roles? Clearly the traditional Pacific societies were organized in such a way that there were clear distinctions between gender roles. Among other things, this served to minimize conflict between the sexes. Will this continue to be true in the future?

It is difficult to imagine that women will be forever denied the job opportunities to which their education and abilities entitle them. Indeed, it seems that their contribution is much needed by a Pacific society which faces the daunting task of providing adequate modern services to its people. Somehow society will have to accommodate the presence of both men and women in government and private sector employment. Given the strong bias in Pacific societies for sharp distinctions in gender roles, however, it would not be surprising if certain types of jobs were defined as men's work and others as women's work.

More progressive women will perhaps be impatient with this as a half-measure. What women are demanding throughout the world today is real equality with men. They are asserting their right to pursue not just certain careers pre-selected for women, but any of their choosing for which they have the necessary talent and training. They are seeking access to all fields of endeavour on an equal footing with men. In short, they are seeking a definitive end to the system of gender differentiation that underpinned traditional Pacific societies. This is the dilemma we face today: should we use basic equality as our ethical norm for determining what women are entitled to today? Or should we settle for less in the way of personal freedom and judge women's rights within the context of the old system of role distinction? Answers to this question will vary. My own feeling is that it may ultimately be to the advantage of Pacific women not to have sex role distinctions abandoned altogether, at least until the rights and safeguards they have lost in the course of modernization are restored.


It is sometimes tempting to retreat into a romanticism of the past. After all, the traditional society, for all its problems, was tightly patterned; the pieces fitted together so neatly. But alas, this is not one of the real choices that Pacific societies are offered today. Modernization is a fact and cannot be wished away. Nor is there any real hope that tomorrow will bring a sudden halt to the process that has begun in earnest throughout the Pacific. We have looked at three dramatic and far-reaching areas of change wrought by modernization on Pacific island societies. Although the particulars may vary from place to place, the broad issues described here are probably universal. It is hard to imagine areas of life that are more crucial than these, for they all involve relationships that lie deep at the heart of village life. The result of these changes has been to disrupt the unity of traditional society, leaving it far less integrated than formerly, with inconsistencies that cannot be easily worked out and tensions that will not be quickly resolved. Today's society is neither fish nor fowl, not yet integrated according to modern patterns but no longer unified by the traditional. This tension between what has been and what will be is at the root of the ethical dilemmas we have discussed.

Even as they attempt to work out these dilemmas in their everyday life, members of today's island societies are fashioning patterns for tomorrow's society. The new patterns of the future will be not prefabricated models established in Europe but the product of the individual choices of thousands of islanders trying to integrate the old with the new. The result will be something distinctively of the Pacific, you may be sure.


Gladwin, Thomas & Sarason, Seymour (1953). Truk: man in paradise. Wenner-Gren Foundation, New York.

Goodenough, Ward (1961) Property, kin and community on Truk. Yale University Press, New Haven.

Hezel, Francis X. (1985) In search of the social roots of mental pathology in Micronesia. Unpublished paper presented at the Pacific Islands Mental Health Research Conference, Honolulu, August 1985.

Hezel, Francis X. (in press) Truk suicide epidemic and social change. Human Organization.

Marcus, Mariano & Doyle, Martin (1986) Truk state runaway study. Unpublished paper circulated by the Micronesian Seminar, Pohnpei.

Marcus, Mariano & Hezel, Francis X. (1985) Child abuse and neglect in Truk. Unpublished paper circulated by the Micronesian Seminar, Pohnpei.

The Ethics of Development: The Pacific in the 21st Century, Edited by Susan Stratigos and Philip Hughes, Port Moresby: UPNG Press, 1987: 60-74. Also published in: Journal of the Pacific Society, No. 34, April 1987: 10-20; No. 54, April 1992: 39-47.



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