THE ANXIOUS DOBUAN
The Dobuan child in Melanesia might think twice about coming . into this world if it had any choice in the matter. It enters a family where the only member who is likely to care much about it is its uncle, its mother’s brother, to it is heir. Its father, who is interested in his own sister’s children, usually resents it, for ts. father must wait until it is weaned before resuming sexual relations with its mother. Often it is also unwanted by its mother, and abortion is common. Little warmth or affection awaits the child in Dobuan. The Oobuan child soon learns that it lives in a world ruled by magic. Nothing happens I from natural causes; all phenomena are controlled by witchcraft’ and sorcery.. Illness accident, and death are evidence that witchcraft has been used against one, and call for vengeance from one’s kinsmen.
Nightmares are interpreted as witchcraft episodes in which the spirit of the sleeper has narrow escapes from hostile spirits. All legendary heroes and villains are still alive as active supernaturals capable of helping or harming people. Crops grow only if one’s long hours of mica chants are successful in enticing the yams away from another’s garden. Even sexual desire does lot arise except in response to another’s love magic, which guides one’s steps to him or her while one’s own love magic accounts for one’s successes. will and treachery are virtues in Dobuan, and fear dominates Dobuan life. Every Dobuan lives in constant fear of being poisoned. Food is watchfully guarded while in preparation, and there are few persons indeed with whom a Dobuan will eat. The Dobuan couple spend alternate years in the villages of wife and husband, so that one of them is always distrusted and humiliated outsider who lives in daily expectation of poisoning or other injury. At any moment each village shelters visiting spouses from many different villages, and none of these visitors can trust either their village hosts or one another. In fact, no one can be fully trusted; men are nervous over their wives’ possible witchcraft and fear their mothers-in-law.
To the Dobuan all success must be secured at the expense of someone else, just as all misfortune is caused, by others’ malevolent magic. Effective magic is the key to success, and success is measured by accomplishments in theft and seduction. Adultery is virtually universal, and the successful adulterer, like the successful thief, is much admired. On the surface social relations in Dobuan are cordial and polite although dour and humorless. There is very little quarreling, for to give offense or to make an enemy is dangerous. But friends are also dangerous; a show of friendship may be a prelude to a, poisoning or to the collection of materials (hair, fingernails) useful for sorcery. What kind of personality develops in such a cultural setting? Dobuans are hostile, suspicious; distrustful, jealous secretive, and deceitful. These are rational reactions, for the Dobuans live in a world filled with evil, surrounded by enemies, witches, and sorcerers. Eventually they are certain to be destroyed. Meanwhile they seek to protect themselves by their own magic, but never can they know any sense of comfortable security. A bad nightmare may keep them in bed for days. If measured by Western concepts of mental hygiene, all Dobuans would be paranoid to a degree calling for psychotherapy. But simply to call them paranoid would be incorrect for their fears are justified and not irrational; the dangers they face are genuine not imaginary. A true paranoid person imagines that other people are threatening injury,but in Oobuan other people really are out to get you Thus the culture shapes a personality pattern which is normal and useful for the culture.