The US's standing in the world may have plummeted under President George W Bush, but a bizarre cargo cult in the Vanuatu island nation holds America in god-like esteem.I had to double-check that it wasn't the 1st of April today.
The Jon Frum movement celebrated the 50th anniversary of its founding yesterday with a lavish feast in which village men dressed up as US soldiers and marched in front of a giant Stars and Stripes flag on a bamboo pole.
Miniature American flags festooned trees lining the black sand parade ground which forms the focus of Lamakara village, the headquarters of the cult, on the jungle island of Tanna.
The origins of the cult date back to the 1930s, when Britain and France jointly ran what was then the colony of New Hebrides.
Tanna's inhabitants bridled at colonial rule and the missionaries who badgered them to embrace Christianity, stop drinking the mildly narcotic drink kava and abandon other customary ways, known in pidgin English as kastom.
Village elders tell of how a mysterious outsider came to their forbears in a series of apparitions, telling them to go back to their traditional ways. The idea of a messiah-like outsider was given a huge boost during the Second World War, when hundreds of Tannese men were recruited by the Americans to build roads, airstrips and bases. They were impressed by the large amounts of cargo – tanks, weapons, medicine and food – brought by the US military. The shadowy spirit figure they already believed in gradually assumed a name and a nationality – Jon Frum is believed to be a contraction of John From America, a reference perhaps to a soldier who showed particular generosity.
Friday, February 16, 2007
Cargo Cult in the Telegraph
There's a facinating story in the Telegraph about one of of the most bizarre 'Cargo Cults' of the South Pacific.