I listened to a podcast the other day where the definition of wealth within the Fijian context from a westernised standpoint was somewhat conflated with how we as Indigenous Fijian define what wealth is. It was confronting for me because I felt like having that kind of information out there for consumption by the everyday audience is misleading. It portrays us as a monolith and implies that we can only be defined by the Eurocentric worldview. Its dismissive of the fact that in order to be held to the same level of scrutiny as our western counterparts, we should also have the same starting points regarding access, regarding education, regarding work opportunities and last but not least, regarding privilege. Sadly this is not the case. So many socio-economic aspects are missed and the notion of naively believing that simply telling someone to be innovative and to create a passive income or save a dollar of their already reduced income is like trying to refill a bucket with a hole at the bottom. Easier said than done and quite frankly a solution that pointedly screams out, check your privilege.
I had a conversation with a friend after listening to the episode and we discussed the difference in how a westerner or westernised Fijian may view what tangible wealth is from a very individualistic worldview and the difficulty in placing that into the context of how a traditional Indigenous Fijian family views what wealth is. And before I get yelled yet for pontificating from afar, I'd just like to categorically point out that I get the importance of creating generational wealth for our children and their children, trust me I GET IT!
But... there’s so many layers to this conversation that I honestly felt cheated as an Indigenous Fijian woman that there was no voice to speak on the topic of traditional obligations and how fulfilling it as one who lives in Fiji or out here in the diaspora, is a way of investing into our families. The relationships that we foster and strengthen through these obligations is part of what we view and define as our wealth. We see great value in familial ties, in how we rally together when needed, the shared happy moments and the sad ones too. That our success is a result of a communal effort in ensuring that we reach our utmost potential. That in order to really fully understand what is wealth and how is wealth defined, one has to first understand how we as Indigenous Fijians have to make a concerted effort to balance our being able to exist in both westernised and traditional spaces. And that how we navigate through these spaces means that we can't box definitions neatly into a pretty little box with a bow. Sometimes our generational wealth comes in the form of family members who step in for our children and their children when we are no longer around for them. Once we understand this concept of shared wealth, then we can start to have the conversation on how we as units of this shared wealth can build generational wealth for our individual families.
Anyway, lockdown thoughts innit... We smile and move regardless.
Fijian In The UK writer Isabella Naiduki with her son.