flowers at the oasis

EDITORIAL OPINION A young man burnt himself to death over the weekend on this tiny island of Rarotonga. Scorch marks from his self-immolation left light sooty stains under a flying wing roof of the island's only 24 hour petrol station. Capital of a rapidly-shrinking micro-state, Rarotonga is not really well-known for any cultural proficiency in suicide, unlike, say, neighbour Samoa. As a centuries-old crossroads between Samoa and Tahiti, Avaiki Cook Islands are famed more for hearty hospitality. Today, Maori still form a healthy majority of the population. Land is secured by missionary-sanctified lease systems. Social services like health and education are good compared with other bigger, island countries. Similarly, minimum wages of about us$3 an hour are princely for an independent pacific nation. Hundreds of migrant workers, mainly from Fiji, have signed up for short-term contracts with a country enjoying free-assocation under New Zealand and the full freedom its passports-by-birth regime brings. One young Rarotonga man, however, did not feel free. He felt trapped enough to attempt suicide by means most dramatic and heart-breakingly awful. His family and friends started the weekend in deep shock, waiting for news from hospital where the man was reportedly treated for serious burns to 80% to his body. He died after 12 hours. Some may read much into his death, the manner of his passing and how that reflects on our society. Others could claim equal veracity for the randomness of anguish. For a five year old, losing a favourite pet can be heartbreaking. For a 19 year old teen, still learning to deal with the naturally powerful hormones of adulthood, and the surges of sometimes extreme emotion they bring, losing public face can be much too much to bear. One early story described trouble with the law. Whatever the details, a young man burnt himself to death over the weekend. Those who witnessed his suicide attempt could be encouraged by employers to cooperate with professional counsellers for awhile. Might such counselling might have helped avert tragedy in the first place? Time enough for questions. We hope for now there will be flowers at the Oasis. And prayers there too.


Anonymous said...

Sweet Jebus. Why would someone kill themselves in Paradise?

avaiki said...

Why indeed? If you are born in paradise, palm trees, sunshine and sandy beaches seem no more paradisical than street corners, smog and dog poo parks - it's what you're familiar with. Suicide affects many different sorts of people from varying walks of life all over the globe. Why would someone kill themselves at all? A clue from murder trials. Defendants can plead temporary insanity. Suicide might be considered a kind of self-murder, where the offender falls victim to their own temporary insanity. Real life story: during World War II my family's next door neighbour received a telegram. Her husband had been killed in action. Sick with grief, the woman awoke from shock, standing in a freezing cold creek in her back yard. She had a rope in her hand and had been wading towards the far bank - and an old dead tree with low branches. She told my grandmother later: she was convinced she would have 'done something' if the stream had not been so shockingly cold - cold enough to snap her out of temporary madness and back into a reality where she had five beautiful children to raise.
What this story suggests? Is that by the time someone snaps out of a 'self-murder' attempt it may be too late.
This is why avaiki also suggests a need for governments to ensure people going through courts get proper mental health assessment. Tax spending on mental health professionals is peanuts - just nz$10,000 one year in this country; similarly tragic funding levels span continents.
In Avaiki, our failure as a nation to protect our weakest members is, quite literally, blazingly obvious.

Anonymous said...

Funny place Paradise,We spend so much money promoting and building new hotels,private accomodations and nightclubs, we have alcohol readily available from little corner shops to big outlets so to cater for tourism, there enjoyment and pleasure. Yet the question still remains, who gets to enjoy paradise, the locals want to enjoy paradise too, especially the young ones but sadly to say, with paradise comes challenges in life for young men and women, namely drugs, alcohol,sex,and of course crime. To fullfill your appitite for the above you will need a good and regular income but for some of us that is difficult to achive, hence turning to crime for a quick solution. I wouldn't like to be a young person growing up today, with so much challenges and temptations of the wrong kind, It was easy and fun 30years ago, it is a wonder that young people are turning to suicide for an easy answer to a global disease.In paradise we have to teach our young people the right way's of enjoying paradise it's downside and the good and positive sides. Maybe people in power can come up with a solution in educating and dealing with young peoples need's in paradise.Let's identify those with the disease before they do harm to themselfs. Funny place paradise.