There’s a tribe of people who live in Papua New Guinea called the Kawelka, and I absolutely adore them. They have no formal government structures, they have no tribal leader, no chief, no generals.
What they have is a Big Man.
They don’t have to listen to the Big Man if they don’t want, and he doesn’t stay a Big Man very long if they don’t. A Big Man mostly survives and stays in some form of power by cajoling and harassing and convincing people to do what he wants. Generally, what he wants will benefit the whole of the Kawelka people, and the Big Man in particular.
It’s actually a pretty terrific system of government.
there was a film made about the Big Men back in the 1970’s (I believe), part of the Vanishing Worlds series. It was called Ongka’s Big Moka, and I got the chance to watch it a couple of months ago, with a bunch of college kids. Many of whom seemed completely unfazed by it. film ended, they went back to texting and didn’t even blink. But it rocked my world, like a mild form of culture shock. I adore it. And I adore Ongka, who is a Big Man.
Here is a video of Ongka talking about the importance of bigs. He just makes me grin every time I see him talking.
(all through the film, he’ll just talktalktalktalktalktalktalktalktalk and eventually the translation will pop up with something like “Yes”.)
And his grin, at the end. Wonderful.
Watch and enjoy. And good night.