"Something inspired me to reveal this to you. I think it's not too late for me to tell you. Even though you think I am crazy, but I am telling you, you have to think about your future generation"
Blaise Iruinu is not a university graduate. He does not have a Chair at a top university. He does not publish in the leading scientific journals.
Blaise’s theory of history was formed in the kiln of colonial occupation, struggle and war.
A formidable mind with razor sharp capacity for complex analysis of elusive historical threads, makes Blaise a heavyweight philosopher. His intellectual gaze stretches back to the first rupture opened up by colonialism.
And with surgical precision he takes the threads of Bougainville’s history and creates a critical tapestry of the motivating forces that have given it its turbulent tone and emancipatory streak.
The rich intellectual landscape painted by Blaise is a reminder of histories and theory, drowned out because those who speak it lack the institutional backing, the global means of communication, and the acceptable idiom, enjoyed by those in the global centres of wealth and power.
Without these essential voices the armoury of critique is seriously diminished.
Act I - Naked Not Primitive
- Makosi Village
When the white man gazed upon the black Bougainvillean body they saw a primitive, Blaise observes.
The black body possessed knowledge not seen by the white man, he argues.
Knowledge of astronomy. Knowledge of chemistry. Knowledge of mathematics.
"Bougainville man had his government structure and a system of administration long before any [European] civilisation".
Bougainville man, Blaise contends, had laws and systems of justice. Bougainville man had a spiritual system that connected them to the universe, god and ancestors.
Bougainville had culture, art, and entertainment. It had a stable economy and monetary system.
'There was no poverty. There were no poor people. There were no street people'.
Then came the coloniser.
Act II - Dependency
- Makosi Village
'Somebody from somewhere came. He thought that the Bougainville man was a primitive and he needs education and he needs religion. Bougainville man, became a confused man'.
Blaise recalls a time of confusion, as Bougainville's rich civilisations were confronted first by the German imperial power, and then the emerging regional hegemon, Australia.
The coloniser, Blaise remarks, sewed doubt into the mind of the colonised through displays of his 'superior' ideology, weapons, and manufactured goods.
"Impressed by materialism, the Bougainville Man accepts the new person as a master and a model. And himself as an inferior"
This leads Bougainville, Blaise contends, down a path of cultural depreciation. Indigenous cultures, traditions, and political-economy are devalued, as are those who are steeped in these traditions and ways. And yet the Bougainville man can never fully emulate the coloniser, achieve what he has, and knows what he knows. The coloniser does not disclose such secrets, Blaise notes.
The path to dependency is born.
It does not end with independence. Blaise observes, education and debt become the new chains.
European systems of knowing educate minds to accept as a baseline of normality, values and approaches to life that was previously exported forcefully via the imperial rifles. But without the wealth of European civilisations to live out the new ways this 'educated' mind must now turn to debt, and accept the scriptures of Western lenders.
'Borrow for money, borrow for services, becomes a slave to the Master'
Act III - Renewal
- Makosi Village
''We have to go back to start a new journey', Blaise remarks.
For the outside academics, journalists, and 'spooks', who observed the revolution on Bougainville these kinds of statements were seen as chilling. Pol Pot and his year zero campaign was a common reference point used to frame the Bougainville crisis and demonise its participants.
For Blaise going back is about reconnecting with a history brutally amputated by colonialism. To explore it. To rekindle it. But not to uncritically accept all its features. Blaise argues this revolution is not about retreating into the past, but moving forward with pride, history, culture and independence.
"Research and discovery must be the foundation ... Stand on indigenous wisdom"