Peace cultures thrive on and are nourished by visions of how things might be,
in a world where sharing and caring are part of the accepted lifeways for everyone.
The eMagazine For Women
From The
Encyclopedia of
Selected Peaceful
Tahiti is the largest island in the Society Islands group, part of French
Polynesia in the South Pacific. In 1907 the native Tahitians numbered
nearly 12,000, but more recently they have blended in with outsiders so
much that exact numbers cannot be calculated accurately. This entry
focuses on the traditional Tahitian society, which persisted in rural parts of
the island in the 1960s.

The traditional Tahitian economy was based on horticultural activities,
livestock, and fishing.

Beliefs that Foster Peacefulness.
There is very little conflict, open hostility, or aggression in traditional
Tahitian society. The people act gently and rarely display anger toward
one another or toward visitors. Tahitians do not believe they have any
control over nature or the behavior of other people; in fact, they believe
that trying to change the nature of reality inevitably causes a rebound that
destroys the initiator. People are optimistic but passive, a condition
produced by their socialization practices and reinforced by other values in
their society. Their universe is less frustrating cognitively than one where
individuals believe they are able to change things.

Avoiding and Resolving Conflict.
On occasions when conflicts arise, the parties move to defuse them.
Tahitians believe that hostile feelings should be brought quickly out into
the open verbally; if not, resulting explosions of open anger could provoke
the spirits of the ancestors to retaliate and perhaps even kill the angry
individual. They believe that anything extending beyond the brief verbal
expression of anger is wrong and dangerous, particularly to the person
who has those feelings. They have many words expressing nuances of
hostility and aggression.

Gender Relations.
Marriage relationships are relatively free of anxiety, though men have
been known to hit women, and, just as bad in their culture, women have
responded by cursing men. The Tahitian word for love, here, has an
emphasis on action and active belief in the relationship. It implies that, for
heterosexual couples, they want to be together, both with their bodies and
their minds. The man who only has physical desire for a woman, even if
he lives with her, does not properly have a feeling of here unless the
totality of his thinking is focused on her. The word also is used for parent-
child, sibling, and friendship relations—it relates not so much to intentions
as it does to actions and actual behavior.

Raising Children.
Tahitians fuss over and cherish babies, but around the age of two,
children cease to be the center of attention. They may respond by having
temper tantrums, but they soon learn that they are powerless to rebel,
subvert, or evade, as might have been possible when they were only
dealing with their parents. As they grow through this stage, children adopt
the belief that social frustrations are caused by the whole community
rather than by a few people. By training children that they cannot alter or
resist social realities, adults also teach them to avoid the aggression that
would result from rebelling against society. While adults will tolerate brief
explosions of aggression by children, they discourage prolonged displays
of hostile behavior. As a result of all this, children learn to play without
aggressiveness or conflicts.

Sense of Self.
Tahitians are generally not inclined to inflate their own individual
importance. Rather, people tend to deflate themselves, to be low and

Social Control.
Tahitians express hostile feelings through teasing, withdrawal, and
gossip, and they release their hostilities through carefully controlled
dramatic events. When an audience of bystanders is present, they can
give vent to dissatisfaction, shame, fury, anger and other emotions
through various kinds of violent actions that do not harm anyone. For
instance, a man who is furious at his wife could dramatically set fire to a
pile of coconut thatching—though located at a safe distance from houses.
Even when they drink, they do not normally act more hostile than at any
other time, at least when they are in public. The only time when fights and
violence occur, on an occasional basis, is during private drinking in the

Strategies for Avoiding Warfare and Violence.
Tahitians feel that passions such as anger are unnatural and generally
disruptive. They cope with anger through a number of avoidance
strategies: they avoid provocative situations; they try not to get angry; they
talk out problems; they express issues verbally; they may express anger in
a physical but symbolic fashion; and finally, if all else fails, they may
express their anger by touching but not hurting the other person.

But How Much Violence Do They Really Experience?
Robert Levy, an anthropologist, witnessed very few physical fights during
his year in rural Tahiti, and the ones that he did see were not very violent.
He heard about three pushing and shoving incidents, all involving the
same group of drinking companions. A policeman he interviewed
indicated that there had been no serious crimes among the 3,000 people
living in the area to which he was assigned, and only occasional
disturbances connected with drinking. A teacher had not seen a fight
during his two years at the village school, though on a couple occasions
he had witnessed younger children crying or throwing pebbles in anger.
There were two murders on Tahiti in the first half of the 20th century, in
1928 and in 1953.

This information was gratefully taken from
The purpose of this website is to promote peacefulness through the study of societies
that are already peaceful. The design and colors attempt to reflect the quiet ways and natural
environments of many of the world’s nonviolent peoples.


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