Thursday, September 30, 2004

Another Day In Paradise

Referencing the title of a Phil Collins song is probably not the most sensitive way to look at this. And "paradise" is a bit misleading, since we'd like to draw your attention to events on Pictairn Island. We'll do it by way of linking to cfarivar's blog, which in turn links to all the best resources. But the outline is this - seven of the Island's 48 inhabitants, or half its adult males, have been charged with sexual assault.

There's an old joke about Australia, that goes something like this. Australian to Englishman: "Aren't you ever worried that most of us Australians are descended from convicts?" Englishman: "I'm more worried that some of you are descended from prison guards."

Well, the Pictairn Islanders are all descended from the Mutineers On The Bounty. Yes, the one played by Mel Gibson included. Having thrown off the shackles of naval authority, in the form of their somewhat awkward captain, Bligh, they escape with some Polynesian fellow-travellers to a small Island off the coast of New Zealand and, as far as I can tell, kill most of the Polynesians.

And they've had a somewhat fraught relationship with the mother country ever since. The case is likely to hinge more upon the right of the UK to intervene (the prosecution stems from an outsider policeman's enquiries and new laws) than the facts of the case, about which there seems to be worryingly little dispute. Take this comment, reported by ABC Australia, from former Islander James Brackenberry:

Brackenberry: That I'm just a normal person. These things happen in all forms of society and there's only a few people, who – if the charges are true – are like that.

Interviewer: Initially when these accusations were first raised there seemed to be an indication coming from Pitcairn that these charges were nothing more to do than a culture of underage sex on Pitcairn, that that was the social norm.

Brackenberry: Yes, I'd have to agree, it is – or way back then it was – the norm to have sex at a very… at a young age. If you look at the genealogy of Pitcairn Island, there'd be a lot of us who wouldn't be here if our mothers or grandmothers waited till they were 16

Less Survivor, more Breaking The waves crossed with Straw Dogs. An anthropologist's dream with an unsavory core.

Wesside, schmesside. A bog standard tale of Municpal/Union shadiness. We'll deal with it later.

Update: The Sun has the case in all its lurid details here, and some lurid background as well.


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