Imagine that…

Archive for April 11th, 2005

The Power of Knowledge

with one comment


“For over 2,500 years the Marshallese people accrued an immense body of knowledge that allowed them to survive in an environment containing few natural resources. In the past, when Marshallese people and culture were more isolated, those who controlled this information kept it concealed because knowledge represented power.”(Changing Views, Cultural Survival)

While the previous article addresses traditional knowledge preservation, it also explains the difficulties with fair distribution of information in the Marshalls today.

A declaration by a Senator at last year’s Nitijela session does not then seem incongruous by Marshallese reasoning and culture. He complained, “Some people access government information and distort the truth to mislead people…something needs to be done to safeguard information so that not just anyone can access it.”

His comments would not seem far-fetched to a Marshallese traditionalist.

It explains why some so strongly object to the healthy, open discussion about government activities in our Yokwe Online Forums and to public questioning of actions and policies.

Marshalls is no longer isolated and separated by miles of Pacific Ocean from the rest of the world. We might be on the other side of the digital divide, but what happens in the Marshalls today can be on tonight’s news, or as in our case, on the front page of Yokwe Online in a matter of hours. (Of course that’s if the Marshalls Internet NTA connection isn’t down like it was for about 48 hours this past weekend.)

“The current position taken by government on dispensing information in understandable, particularly in view of traditional Pacific attitudes on information, but is counter-productive in a modern government. Other nations and the educated populace of the Micronesian nations themselves expect more.” (MICSEM)


In a weird turn of events, the releasing of information about a Marshallese soldier, injured in Iraq, has brought out questions of a different kind of “safety.” Some Yokwe Online readers were surprised that the soldier’s story was picked up and carried by — the premier Arab newspaper.

Yokwe Online news is “picked-up” by Google News, Pacific Islands Report, and other wire services/news agencies. Our original work is carried, without compensation I might add, via the Pacific News Service (PACNEWS) which circulates articles worldwide in its paid subscription service (which I might add, we do not receive); thus, the appearance of Yokwe Online articles in Radio Australia, Radio New Zealand, etc. Our material is often also reprinted, again without compensation, in the Marshall Islands Journal; and yes, I pay for my yearly MIJ subscription like everyone else.

The distribution of the injured soldier story needs to be clarified. It made its way to the world news arena via the international Agence France-Presse (AFP) wire. The story quoted the Yokwe Online news and filled it out, which the above-mentioned newspaper, as well as the Turkish Press, ABC’s Tok Pisin Service, and others, including Washington, D.C. DOI news, carried.

Not only did the news reach our intended audience of Marshallese families and friends, but a world-wide audience. This illustrates “power-holding” today. What happens locally, on-island or off, plays far and wide. In these times, knowledge cannot be held by just a few. The “power of the press” needs to be understood, not ignored, nor resisted.


Last but not least, it is sometimes annoying just what kind of Marshalls news does make its way out to the “big world.” For instance, I really didn’t need to know that “spokesman for the Marshall Islands President’s Office …laughed” at the idea of President Chen and his enourage camping out during his visit to the Marshalls and two other small island nations. (RNZI)

“He said President Chen will be staying at the 150-room Marshall Islands Resort during his two nights in Majuro from April 30th to May 2nd.”

You better believe it. The Marshall Islands Resort website made that clear to its “valued customers” in this release:

“Reservations will be closed due to a sell out situation from April 30 thru May 3rd, 2005. 100% of the hotel has been reserved during these dates. We will accept reservations again beginning May 4th. We thank our customers for their prior business, but we cannot make any exceptions for accommodations during this period.”

What the article didn’t say, was that Chen just might have to find some kind of special accommodations in Tuvalu and Kiribati since neither has hotels which have more than 20 rooms.

Back to news coverage of the Marshalls — Ebeye. What would have been more newsworthy was some more online coverage of the EBEYE FIRE — how 60-some people are now homeless and how a small island, crowded with 10,000 Marshallese, situated less than three miles from a multi-billion dollar US space facility, faced a wind-whipped fire with only a bucket brigade and back-hoe.

Imagine that.

Written by Aenet Rowa

April 11th, 2005 at 8:01 pm

Posted in General