Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Searching For Truth in Tiko

The structure and content of Paths to Glory stands out in stark contrast to the rest of the stories in Tales of the Tikongs. For the first time the reader is presented with a chapter lacking narrative story, or any linear storytelling. Instead, there is a unique chapter comprised of multiple monologue pointed at one source. Numerous ideologies and advice are given to a wealthy young Tikong, Tevita Poto, but between these lines lies a hidden subtext commenting on the nature of fiction and truth.

The subject is at first chastised for being unkempt, “Look at you. Is that the appearance of a Man of Many Degrees? […] your clothes are those of foolish folk […] You walk around like a fool; you walk around like Manu” (43). What is the fault in this though? Manu has presented as a spiritual figure of Tiko, a voice of truth and a link to the “Original Wisdom” (7) of Tiko. There is nothing to be admonished in being like Manu, and the idea of “foolishness” as a virtue even goes back to Shakespeare. King Lear’s fool was the wisest figure in his apparent madness.

After this questionable transgression, Tevita Poto is then questioned more. He is asked, “Why do you criticize the Government so much? Why do you criticize the Church so much? You say you want to speak the truth. What’s the use if truth in Tiko? […] Will it make anyone rich? (43-44). It comes as a surprise that a Tikong would be so concerned with material wealth, but perhaps this is why they are Men of Many Degrees. In this light, and regarding these comments, the Church comes out not as a source of religious worship—but a financial institution. The Church is the biggest business in Tiko—it is after all the only place people work. Ignoring this is to believe lies, but also the very reason Poto is criticized.

The speakers continue their dishonesty in moving to the actual religion of the Church, saying, “The Church is God’s creation” (44), and “Don’t you know the Bible is not a history book? The Bible is the word of God!” (45). The fallacy here is that the Church is man’s creation, and if the Bible is to be believed verbatim, than it too is a history book. The truth is being distorted and disregarded by these speakers.

After hearing these criticisms, Poto is advised by a poor man. He reprimands him for dressing poor, for not being what he is. He speaks profoundly on food and how he can only eat scraps. Yet he claims, “We eat and love it. It’s a matter of getting used to what you can buy” (47). The connection to religion is blatant, and Hau’ofa is commenting on the Pacific Islands themselves. The rich believe in whatever makes them richer, the poor whatever they are forced to. Hau’ofa’s character here seeks only truth, and realizes why it is such a small commodity in Tiko. Truth cannot exist where it is not allowed to. After generations of dishonesty, the natives have bought into the very belief system that is used to confine them. Paradoxically, the sunlit beautiful islands are actually enshrouded in overwhelming darkness.

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