The Big Man Complex





The Big Man Complex

The Ongka’s feast was a way through which the community could make peace with the dead and deal with grieving. Mauss’s three obligations of the gift were reciprocating, giving and receiving. The whole purpose of the Ongka’s feast was to bring different tribes together in a peaceful gathering where they could celebrate their cultures and reconcile their differences without going to war. While Mauss stressed on the importance of giving, receiving and reciprocating, the tribes in Papua New Guinea did the same by repaying one moka with another. When one tribe invited others to a moka, the next tribe also invited others to the next feast. In this way, Mauss’s three obligations were met satisfactorily.

The pig feast was an important aspect of the political organization of the Kawelka tribe. Through exchanging pigs, a certain level of social status was realized. People who give out more gifts realized larger increases when the other parties responded in kind. This gives it an economic perspective in that profits were realized as well as borrowing and lending activities. The creation of the ‘big man’ political system was also due to the contribution of the moka system where the person or group that gave out the largest amount than they receive becomes the decision makers in society. The leadership style among the Ongka was very ethical, liberal and persuasive in nature. Their leaders needed to gain the respect and social status of the rest of the community and maintaining it required wisdom and tact; coercion would be impossible. The metaphor ‘I have knocked you down because I have given you so much’ alluded to the idea that Ongka won the argument between him and Perua over scrapping away the Moka tradition. Ongka was referring to the fact that giving without getting anything back would be a better fate than refusing to honor the Moka tradition. The obligation to sponsor a Moka event can be interpreted to amount to a social legal contract. However, the Moka event is part of the larger Kawelkan traditions that are considered part of Australian culture. This and other cultural activities might have economic significance that is relevant in a state. However, while sharing close similarity to contemporary economic systems, Moka and other Kawelkan traditions possess different significance to the natives and this disqualifies it as a legal contract. Chieftainship in Kwakiutl was accompanied by several privileges and status.            The chiefs had access to and control of prime land; they were offered free labor and unlimited amount of food. Conversely, Ongka’s status as a big man was mainly political and required social status and standing.

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