THE AMERICAN TOUCH IN MICRONESIA by David Nevin

THE AMERICAN TOUCH IN MICRONESIA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Nevin's dismay at what the Americans have wrought in Micronesia, ""tho last American colony,"" is great, and the volleys he directs against those who have exported the trappings of Western prosperity to a tradition-bound, shell-age culture hit hard at maladroit, misplaced idealism. Nevin, who originally went to the islands to survey education, found a people severed from tradition by American schooling and unable to integrate into a new world of economic opportunity because, quite simply, no jobs exist beyond the swollen government bureaucracy. Increasingly, Nevin recounts, trouble in paradise is evident in the same kind of social disintegration that afflicts Indians, Eskimos, and other people marooned between two cultures--drunkenness, violence, malnutrition have all arrived with the money economy. But in Micronesia the ""unreality"" is all-pervasive because ""there is so little to develop"" in terms of economic infrastructure. Strategically important to US military control of the Pacific, Micronesia has always been administered to serve American interests; until the 1950s it simply stagnated. With the New Frontier's social idealism there came a vast--and vastly destructive--infusion of money. ""AH the change in Micronesia came from money,"" virtually none from evolution among the island peoples themselves. There are problems with Nevin's book--hopeful alternative policies are few, and, as he readily acknowledges, there is no going back to pristine subsistence-living. And Nevin himself seems to be of two minds on the question of whether economic development is possible even with more enlightened administration. But the focus on tho hopeless frustration produced by schools--every year graduating people with no working society to absorb them--is both shrewd and sensitive. It should inspire a depressing feeling of dÉjà vu and heightened concern for a part of the world that does not normally impinge on anyone's consciousness.

Pub Date: May 23rd, 1977
Publisher: Norton