As Prime Minister and Delegate, respectively, Nakari and I were asked to share closing addresses for this amazing celebration of Independence Day 2020. We decided to write on the same theme, but each ruminating in our own way on what that theme means for us today. It is our hope that, whether you are an older Pacifican struggling to navigate every new development or a younger South Pacifican struggling to find your own voice in the community, you are able to take something from the lesson of the Coalition's independence seventeen years ago.
It would have been easy for the fledgling South Pacific to simply accept that they would remain under ACC rule. It would have been easy to abdicate responsibility and allow the ACC to effectively govern. It would have been easy to resign to the ‘fact’ that because the Coalition didn’t rule currently, it never could.
But independence isn’t easy.
It might not be traditional to consider the real world in these speeches, but the real world is in a turbulent place right now, which is affecting pretty much everyone. The situation of the early South Pacific seems similar somehow. Nobody really knows what’s coming in the future - our everyday lives might end up being changed forever. Or perhaps we will go almost exactly back to normal, but with everything changed just slightly, just a bit worse. I’m not particularly enthusiastic about a future where nothing changes. It’s easy to hang on to the old, even if it’s no longer practical, safe or fair, because familiarity feels safe, and because change isn’t easy.
Living up to the standards of independence means not just doing things because it’s how they’ve always been done. It means deciding with an open mind when change is needed. True independence is neither blindly following norms and expectations, or defying them just to defy them. We are responsible for our own destiny. If we make mistakes, it is not the end of the world, but being independent means we have not only the responsibility to fix things ourselves, but the ability.
I like to think that I act that way because I recognize the limits of my own knowledge. But, deeper down, I know that sometimes it’s really because I don’t want to go through the effort of dealing with the problems. It’s too easy to simply accept that, since something has been done one way in the past, it necessarily must also be done that way in the future.
But LadyRebels’s actions seventeen years ago teach us that we need to stand up for change, however hard. Where would the Coalition be if those early South Pacificans had ‘recognized the limits of the Coalition’s abilities’? Where would the South Pacific be if LadyRebels had accepted Pilmour’s order to change the flag because it was easier that way?
In the end, the most important thing that LadyRebels defied in her declaration of independence was not the might of the ACC or the retribution the Coalition might have faced — it was the temptation to let others do the decisionmaking. Defying that temptation is the very definition of independence. And it comes with a responsibility — to continue to do the decisionmaking. To be willing to proverbially ‘say no’ again. To keep from becoming as complacent as the ACC expected the Coalition would be. To fix our own mistakes and the issues in our own status quo.
As we recall the event that we know as the official ‘independence of the Coalition’, we must also consider the day-to-day independence that is needed to keep the Coalition not only alive, but vibrant. Unlike some of our other values, it’s not the sort of thing that always comes naturally or easily. But in this moment, as we experience systemic changes in the real world and consider them in our community, it is more important than ever.
We must be involved in our own destiny. We must be willing to put in the work. We must be willing to stand up.