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Review: James and Lance Morcan: Fiji

By Remy Benoit

“Take up the white man's burden” is a line that to us of this age, indeed for many in its own age when the United States engaged in the Spanish American War and exerted its control over the Philippines, et.al,, carries so much that is unacceptable. It is racist, it is an excuse for expanding hegemony over other peoples. It absolutely reeks of a sense of superiority in every way; gives sanction to imperialism and profiteering.

The Morcans' Fiji. is so much more than the tale of Nathan Johnson who travels by sea to Fiji to expand his profits by trading muskets for sea slugs which would bring a high price, as did British controlled opium, in the China trade; trading muskets expands the extent of killing of the enemy, sea slugs bought at the price of blood, of saved and spent lives. Paradox?
The story is so much more than that of father and daughter missionaries, the Reverend Brian and daughter Susannah Drake, who come to the island to spread the word of Christianity.
If this were not so, the story would be just another profit and religious tale
of trite nature; of man of the world, sheltered woman, passion and old lace, well, torn away from the bodice old lace.

The three “White-faces” come into a culture as different from their own as to be perhaps not on the same planet. After all, in the Fiji Islands, cannibalism was still taking place in those days. Yet, on the islands there were not people living, making their living, gathering rags in the sewers as there were in their London, literally spending their lives there or under the docks; or living in fancy homes adjacent to lots of pestilence and putrefaction filled, overflowing cemeteries where rain washed up the remains of those gone before. But then can we compare civilization, as defined by cities, to cultures as defined by mores? That perhaps is for readers to consider while they try to come to terms with the relative merits of tomahawks, war clubs, and muskets.
Mano a mano, worse or better than fighting at a less close up range, something we have perfected with drones?

Fiji, again, is not just a religion versus religion, profit for sake thereof, but a story of coming to terms with soul, with sexuality; with a sense of humanity; with a sense of friendship, with a sense of, well, honor. This is not a view of natives living in paradise and sometimes feeding on each other, but with their own very harsh reality, religion, and mores that the “White-faces” come to at least begin to understand as they begin to understand themselves at a level deeper than they ever have before

The Reverend keeps not only his Bible, but a gun nearby for outlanders who are constantly problematical for this particular group of islanders with their “surprising” use of ingenious barricades and water flows for protection. Perhaps an island version of crenellated walls and boiling oil, if you will.

Susannah struggles with her religion, her calling, and her suppressed passion.

Nathan struggles with his desire for only profit and prestige, and yet there is this woman there who does seem to upset his apple cart a bit...and then a bit more, and more, and more....

All of them wrestle with the outcasts who have not only stolen more than one native's woman, but are a constant threat to their collective survival.

Does profit have to be at the sake of morals?
Does friendship have to be subject to betrayal?
Is a religious icon called the golden tabua any less precious than other icons are to other beliefs?
Does passion fulfilled mean perdition?
These are ageless questions; questions we have yet to answer without beating each other senseless, or, indeed, lifeless over them. The Morcans have tread with great spirit into these questions, so do board the Rendevous, travel through the crashing thunder of the reef; climb into the longboat, come ashore; sit down with some kava and begin a journey not only of adventure, but of heart, and most definitely of soul. And perhaps, take a moment here and there from the reading. You might find some questions of your own if you look into a mirror. Bon voyage!

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This item is part of WelcomeHomeSoldier.com: historian, author, editor, and educator Remy Benoit's ongoing weblog for Veterans, writers, students, and others who believe in learning from and making history; including thousands of articles and posts and the free writing seminar, Using History for Healing and Writing.


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