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167 MOTIVATION Creating and Maintaining the Kuna Nation H ow important is wearing the mola in Kuna culture and how does Kuna society encourage it? What role does the mola play in Kuna everyday life and rituals? How have Kuna leaders created a society and culture that continually adapts yet maintains its core elements, such as the dress of Kuna women? In this chapter, the areas explored to gain an understanding of the crucial role of the mola in creating and maintaining the Kuna nation are wide ranging. I discuss the concept of the well-being of nations as a way of evaluating the quality of life experienced in communities, and I outline an approach to understanding the factors involved in promoting the cultural survival of indigenous groups. In addition, the central role of ritual in Kuna life is reviewed, and the implications of the commercialization of molas and the resultant impact on Kuna identity are briefly examined. measuring the well-being of nations There is substantial literature in psychology journals about the measurement of well-being of individuals within nations. Conceicao and Bandura (2008) and Diener, Oishi, and Lucas (2003) provide excellent reviews of this literature. Subjective well-being, often understood as a feeling of happiness, may be assessed by individual survey. Measures of objective well-being include gross domestic product, or GDP, perhaps with adjustments to allow analysis of subgroups within a society. The perception of well-being may be affected by personality and culture. Recent research has investigated subjective well-being across cultures and nations.1 Subjective well-being is one component of assessing the quality of life of a nation. A review of subjective well-being reports that “there are differences between nations, and between ethnic groups within nations,”2 though it is challenging to carry out in-depth research. These authors raise the issue of the validity of measurement parameters developed in Western nations for application in non-Western cultures and note that there are differences between the levels of subjective well-being between cultures.3 A sample of 123 countries, based on data collected from 2005 to 2010, forms the foundation of a review of subjective well-­ being conducted by Tay and Diener. Their analysis highlights the possibility that the well-being of an individual may be dependent on the well-being of the collective group within which an individual is situated.4 While there were some universal findings, the results from this large-scale analysis suggest chapter six 168 Introduction Chapter Six that some cultures may value some factors higher than others, and this may account for cultural differences.5 Variation in well-being in three self-contained communities, the Inughuits of Greenland, the Amish of Illinois in the United States, and the Maasai in Kenya, is explored by Biswas-Diener, with specific consideration of collectivist culture and materially simple culture. The findings were similar to industrialized countries : most people were happy with their lives, albeit at a moderately happy level. The Amish, whose culture is in many ways similar to Kuna culture, are described as a group who “consciously reject modern values and technologies”;6 speak their own dialect as well as the language of the surrounding society; are guided spiritually with respect to rituals, values, and behaviors; are determined to keep themselves separate from the surrounding society; limit access to resources such as grid electricity; and limit education to some degree. The variation in the factors that influenced subjective well-being of the Amish related to their sense of self, particularly pride, though overall the Amish respondents in this study reported high levels of satisfaction with their lives.7 The Kuna Indians have been classified as an “indigenous-­ people small nation” that has, like other small nations, successfully negotiated changing circumstances to provide “socio­­­­ eco­ logical sustainability” and continues to provide its people with an acceptable standard of living.8 While the Kuna Yala could be considered a very small, or nano-sized, nation, forming part of the larger “small nation” of Panama, which provides some social services to the Kuna comarca, the ethos promoted by the Kuna leaders has supported traditional Kuna ideological values, which appear to place a high value on kinship and a lower value on material acquisition. Bodley outlines the benefits to positive well-being of living in small nations, especially those influenced by large nations, in the context of expanding some of the characteristics of small nations to solve global problems.9 He explains the success...


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