The Psychology of Consensus in Melanesia

Leo Marai
2007 Journal of Pacific Rim Psychology  
a new global conflict emerged. At the forefront of this conflict is the United States government as it searches for responsible terrorists. However, the capture of Saddam Hussein has not prevented the deaths of allied forces serving in Iraq as well as Iraqi indigenous people. Such tragedies are baffling; one could argue that human virtues of peace and happiness have not found their place in the modern world, although technology and human understanding have developed. Whether we have advanced in
more » ... solving such tragedies remains a point of discussion. A central question for social scientists is what can be done to solve the problem? One widely held view reached by experts analysing the above tragedy is the failure of US intelligence to understand the minds of their adversaries. What followed was a robust call for the improved understanding of the human mind as advocated by these experts. Such understanding falls directly within the province of psychology. The aim of psychology as we all know is to be able to describe and understand the human mind and to predict behaviour. Whether psychologists have been able to predict the human mind and behaviour remains a point of contention. Disillusion with the present status of psychology as a proper legitimate study of human mind and behaviour to resolve these conflicts remains. Specifically, there has been and remains, a call for psychologists to rethink themselves and their methods of studying human mind and behaviour (e.g., Smith, Harre, & Langenhove, 1995). One way in which psychology must answer this call is to incorporate the existing indigenous psychology, in which abundant explanatory and predictive principles have existed for centuries, but are underused in contemporary traditional psychology. In this article the psychology and practice of consensus that underpins the conflict resolution process in Melanesian society is descriptively and specifically illustrated. This process is useful for settling disputes among competing individuals or parties. The Bougainville crisis is used as a case vignette to illustrate the process of reaching consensus. This analysis emerges from the integration of the spirit of a culture with psychology. In addition, by arguing from a cultural relativist position, I acknowledge that there is a shortfall in generalising from a case example to other cultural groups. However, I would like to convince psychologists interested in conflict resolution to search and research available cultural concepts and principles that exist in many cultural groups. These may help expand their understanding of consensus and its relevance for the study of peace in our world of conflict. C Co on ns se en ns su us s: : ' 'T Th he e M Me el la an ne es si ia an n W Wa a y y ' ' Culture and Consensus The fabric of human nature and relationship lies in culture. It is through culture that the life of human beings is defined and societies are organised into some kind of system. However, defining culture is difficult because the concept is fluid, dynamic and quite
doi:10.1375/prp.1.2.54 fatcat:5xjmb7teozh4fethnmh4px54yi