The Office

It was freezing this morning  (Thursday)  in the office when I arrived at work. I had a light sports jacket on (over the shirt/pants and tie dress code) and a beanie ... yes, it snowed a little this morning but not anything like yesterday’s storm.

I removed the jacket and the skull cap and sat down at my desk. After fifteen minutes it was still freakin’ cold. I complained audibly and Angela offered a portable space heater. “You have a heater?” “Yeah it’s here under my desk.” “Oh sure!” I grabbed it. Plugged it....and walaah, I had heeeat! I started to bask in the warmth of the quiet stream from the low buzzing device.

Others - Kevin, Jim, Dwight - started to complain, albeit nonchalantly. My complaint on the other hand was incendiary - yeeepp, literally. It was seriously intended to elicit heat. But just as I was starting to feel cozy and comfy, it was time for staff meeting. The conference room was definitely going to be colder, I thought. So I again donned my sports jacket - fully zipped up - and beanie and went to the meeting ..oh, and a space heater to boot. I was the last one to arrive. Our whole IT staff was already seated around the huge desk in the center of the room. They were talking about some mechanical problems with the heating system in the building but none was clad in any fashion close to what I was wearing, especially with the tie, now being stashed inside by the jacket’s chin-high zipper. I plugged in the heater and the staff looked at me ruefully; some giggled at my casual non-conforming mufti.... Tomorrow, Friday (casual day), my early “Samoan snow watcher” Halloween costume would have been more appropriate. Anyway, I said to my fellow Americans, “Hey, where I come from this is considered sub-zero weather.”

As I sat there I wanted to lapse into a trance and wishing I was a bird flying south in the winter for warmer weather. Then I can shed all the layers of clothing and slip into a simple ‘ie lavalava and a cutoff shirt (uhmm...on a second thought, no cutoff) just the ‘ie lavalava ... like the olden days of ... strolling along the remote virgin beach on a sunny afternoon, with palm trees swaying in soft breezy obeisance ...my feet dipping flirtatiously in the waves as they ripple, lap, hiss and kiss the soft white sand. Meanwhile, sweet melodious strains of “Samoa Matalasi” fill the air, synched to the sways of the palms and the gentle ebb and flow of the warm soothing tide. Feelings of allurement, romance, enchantment and fantasy that befit a tropical paradise soon becharm and overwhelm me ....I sing along “Tu lata oe i le Ekueta, e mafanafana fo’i e le vevela .....” as my bare upper body absorbs the cool breeze which gradually lulls and transfixes me to a world that transcends the environs of sports coats, beanies, space heaters, staff meetings and The [freezing] Office....


"...emotions recollected in tranquility."

The picture is my rendering and recreation of how it might have looked on that fateful Tuesday morning in the area of my village hit worst by the wave.
It’s been a year already since the tsunami. And I have quietly struggled with the challenge of how to express my emotions and feelings about the catastrophe which has literally wiped many of my childhood memories, especially of our home in Lalomanu. Writing, especially poems, had been a means of recourse and escapism for me. One of my favorite poets, William Wordsworth, defined poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings from emotions recollected in tranquility." That has been true in my case.

What I find more fascinating is Wordsworth’s claim that "poetry is most just to its own divine origin when it administers the comforts and breathes the spirit of religion."  Poems - with the spirit of religion - have been my main source of solace and reassurance. I’ve intended "Tuesday Mourning" to be one such poem.

Tuesday Mourning - by LV Letalu

From far beneath the fiery earthly core
A deadly force gushed crushed and tore
It squirmed skyward and defied sanity
It defied gravity and magnified vanity

It opened the mantle the plates and crust
Through solid rocks and ocean floor it thrust
Upward and heavenward until it surfaced
A sad story of sorrow and death it prefaced

The calm giant ocean would soon tremble
Speed and strength it would quietly assemble
In a different deadly disguise it would travel
Indiscriminate disaster for Man to marvel

The wave formed and the beast was born
Alive and angry it came that Tuesday morn
With resounding roar and rumbling to foretell
The fatal and fiery fiend fleeing from Hell

The villagers had never seen such a beast
With sharp horns and fangs ready to feast
It billowed like a monster in a silver hood
It was vicious violent and in vengeful mood

This Tuesday the sea was a mount not a hill
It grew taller, higher then closed in for the kill
It crept and swept those who suddenly slept
After it left, families wailed waned and wept

The old the young the mothers and infants
Met their fates as if were merciless miscreants
Though stripped unexpectedly of life and dignity
Will one day see the Light and solemn serenity

The Sun was true and had risen that morning
No doubt it stopped to witness Tuesday mourning
Though it sets it still rises with gleaming glory
And so with man as heroes in Heaven’s story

The Hero wounded died and went to Earth’s core
Calmed the beast, conquered Death and slept no more
He rose early morn and ascended to Home supernal
To raise the quick and the dead to Life eternal

more renderings ....
"Galu Afi" (Wave of Fire)

"Galu Lolo" (Tidal Wave)


White Sunday LDSamoan Style - A Tear Fest

My church (LDS) does not have a "White Sunday", per se. But it has its own version called The Primary Program. It is held on a Sunday in October or November depending on the local ward’s (congregation) schedule. Children between the ages of  4 and11 are assigned recitations (tauloto) based on the spiritual theme for the year. And they sing too. Even though it is not referred to as "White Sunday", the Primary Program, in all other aspects, mimics the White Sunday tradition of special treatment - and treats - for the children; they’re the little VIPs on this day.

This is the day when kids - to a noticeable degree - are transformed in their appearances. The little boys look immortal and youthful in their dark pants, white shirts and ties (or suits) while the girls look sophisticated and... uhmm ... Older! - all of ‘em. They display more change and make-over than the boys (unless a daring boy wants to be "Boy George").

The girls’ make-overs easily place them on a spectrum of divas on one end and young femmes fatales on the other. I’m sure the make-overs are not expensive, hence, nor time-consuming. All a mother needs at her disposal is the coveted curling iron (we all know what curls do to a little girl’s womanhood), some ribbons and an array of flowers from which to choose that perfect ginormous one - or ones, for the garish and the gaudy. And if the mother still decides to go the extra mile, the spangly look is simply irresistible, augmented by lipstick-dabbed-and-smeared cheeks. In a matter of minutes, her little girl qualifies for a Cindy Lauper or Madonna look-a-like contest.

By contrast, the boys are handsomely conservative. They rarely display any extremities in their appearances - not that they can’t. In fact, I’ve seen - within the last few years - a few fancy mohawks and shaved logos and letters/initials on some temples (no pun intended) or scruffs, and an earing or two;  all - which for the little boys - are definite anomalies in the LDS culture.

But underneath all that outward refashioning and transformation, lie the unmatched, undisturbed and unperturbed innocence, faith and holiness of them who have been likened unto those who will inherit "The Kingdom". The spirits of these "little ones" are so valiant, pure, penetrating and piercing that they humble you to the core. They literally make you cry and cause you to become crushed and broken if not remorseful and repentant of your own narcissism and pertinaciousness. Your adult tear-suppressing pride is subdued and you end up reaching for more tissues, or, if you’re a man, alternating the palm and back of your hand, and then your sleeve or coat cuffs next (not necessarily in that order). Now if you’re a man, and lucky, you’ll have a handkerchief.  But if the children and their program have it their way, your handkerchief will be soaked wet and you will soon lose the feeling of being "chief" and feel only like a ..."hankie" - a dirty one, that is.

That’s how humbling it gets in the midst of these little ones, especially when they are teaching spirituality and moral lessons - verbally or otherwise, including the simplest of their most innocent idiosyncratic actions and gestures.


Code Switching and Samolish

- a quasi comic relief  from political garrulity....

We "code switch" all the time when using Samolish.  What the #%$@%  am I talking about?  No it’s not switching to a non-political topic, or code. Leai! ...although... uhmmm...that might also apply but in a veeerry loooose sense of the term. Sole, this is harder than I thought. Ia se’i kaumafai aku legei famaree. Okay?

There, we have just used Samolish, ergo “code switching”.  What? .. Still don’t get it?

Okay, let’s see ....Riiiiinggg, Riiingggg, ...Ok, better still - [Ringtone]: “Pretty little teine ...Seki a oe...”

“Ga e maua la’u message?”
“Leai, le a le mehsuch?”
“Ua ou fiu fo’i e call aku oe agagafi”
“E ke kolo mai o la e makamaka la’u soap
“Soia e ke pesto, ai fo’i sa e surf
“Ia a surf ua le work le kumpiuka
“E le’i maua fo’i la’u text?”
“Ga o lau text lea ga maua.”

Code switching is when we switch from one language (dialect, jargon, vernacular, etc.,) to another especially within the same sentence, conversation or in a longer discourse. Again, we do it all the time when both writing and/or speaking. Amazingly, we do it in a very instinctual, natural and intuitive manner.

Why do we code switch?

Well, it has to do with intelligibility - or the capability of being understood. The main contributing factor to code switching is the inability of one language (usually the primary one) to translate (or transliterate) effectively a word or words of the secondary language(s). This includes the inability of a language to effectively grasp and articulate a particular concept which another language can.

For example - and here’s my favorite - the word “move” as in changing one’s place of residency - not the simple “soso aku, soso i luma,” etc. It’s quite common, if not completely standard and acceptable, for a person to use the word “move”in a strictly and exclusively Samoan conversation without being vilified or embarrassed.

“Ouke leiloa ua kou move.”
“E, ga makou move agagafi.”
“Makua kou move so’o fo’i”
“Ia a le move so’o fo’i i gei kamaiki”
“Oi ua koe move aku fo’i Makaio?”
“Ioe, ua koe move aku fo’i Makaio ma Luka”
“A’o fea ua move iai Paki ma Pilikaki?”
“La ua koe move i Falevao”

There actually is a Samoan word for the concept of moving from one place to another. The word is “si’i/si’itia” which although it means to “move from one place to another”, it still has a limited nuance which is often outside the regular exclusive context of changing one’s place of residency, as demonstrated in the above dialog/dialogue.

The other option - though less attractive - in avoiding code switching is to use a native descriptive translation. This involves describing the “function” of the word. Therefore it’s possible to use “sui le mea kou ke gogofo ai” (lit. “change the place where you live”) which is effectively accurate. The problem is that it’s non-intuitive, at least to Samoans living abroad, and even in the islands notably in the town area where English is often used. So “Ua kou move?” (“Have you moved?”) becomes much more intelligible, than using “si’itia” or the descriptive meaning.

Technology has definitely broaden the code switching domain. Using borrowed translations (often phonetic) or loan words have mitigated - though not totally solve - the “problem”.  Therefore, it’s not uncommon to find words like “password”, “keyboard” “monitor” “network” having no native translations - borrowed or descriptive; and code switching then becomes the recourse. “Password” is functionally translated as “upu tatala” by some but again, it’s rarely used in the vernacular context, only in more formal situations as in printed manuals and others.

Oh yes, Samolish is my coinage of “Samoan” and “English”.  So the next time you fill an application for employment and it asks you for the languages you speak, put “Samolish” down for one. And when asked by the interviewer to say a sentence in Samolish, say the following:

“O lea ouke apalai i le position o le customer service.”  Which, I must say, is perfect Samolish.  Now when asked to say the same in Samoan, say this:

“O lea ouke kalosaga i le galuega o le faiga o feau a isi kagaka!” ....Hahahaaa!!!

Ia gale ua ambiguous and ridiculous si kakou mea.  LOL!! .....

[Ringtone] “Pretty little teine ...seki a oe...pretty little teine ...seki a oe ...pretty little teine ...seki a oe ...pretty little teine ....”  ---
“Bleash leeve a meshuch ad da bib!” ...literally, “Faamolemole ku’u lau fe’au i le kalifaua.”

...Oh, the idiosyncracies and nuances of language ........  :)


A Response


Thank you for your reply and stimulating thoughts.

First of all, there’s no need to apologize for any misinterpretation on your part of my comments. I certainly welcome the exchange and the sharing of thoughts and ideas on what are becoming valid and legitimate issues especially in our beloved Samoa. Further, we are both still learning about the issue(s).

True, that I am somewhat biased towards western democracy as you inferred, and perhaps for the very reason(s) to which you alluded. The social maxim - “we are products of our environments” - certainly has something to do - though not exclusively - with my western democratic leanings and prejudices. I live in the US where democratic values and fundamentals are preached, forged, debated, challenged, scrutinized and “practiced”, so again, those certainly have had an impact on me. Similarly, I believe that your preferences for a cultural democracy for Samoa after NZ’s trends are/were influenced by your being a “product” of that particular environment as well. Can we excogitate a truce somewhere? Perhaps. Or the truth is that we may just be looking at the same thing through different lenses. Aye? ...

Anyhow, I concur with the fact that Samoa has a “cultural democracy” today especially with the infusion and incorporation of the faa-matai to a more modern political model. The present cultural democracy may very well be an appropriate transitional mode for Samoa into a more advanced form of democracy as found in western countries. The real problem however is how far and how long will such a limited, uninitiated and fragile assimilation last, and especially the challenges that come with it.  Let me digress for a moment.

Malaeotiafau’s claim that democracy in Samoa, NZ and Australia are all different is true, but only in a relative sense. Here’s why. Let me use as a preface the expression “E sui faiga ae le suia faavae” (Practices change but principles don’t). In other words, democratic practices in these countries are/may be different; the principles of democracy, as an ideology, on the other hand, are the same. The tenets and fundamentals like human rights, individual freedoms, rule of law, free elections, constitutional provisions, etc., all form the political foundation or substructure (faavae). The superstructure (faiga) are adaptations which are fashioned and customized based on the local socio-political cultures of these countries.

The main question therefore has to do with the types of superstructure (cultural models) that these countries build on top of the immutable substructure. How well they are custom-fitted and dovetailed into/onto the main substructure can determine the nature and success of their cultural political aspirations.

The best example is the law recently passed in Samoa that all Members of Parliament should have hereditary (matai) titles. The question therefore is: “Does that law violate democratic principles?” Well, based on the true model of democracy (substructure), it does. The independence of the Judiciary (if there is such a thing in Samoa) is/was not enough to initiate a review of this law, apparently due to Samoa’s customized and cultural  political framework. But even if that is the law presently - and not all laws are fair and just - sooner or later, someone down the road will challenge it based on the genuine democratic ideals. Seemingly therefore the divide between cultural and ideal democratic models will continue to exist in these fledgling experiments.

Personally, I think the success of these customized cultural models will largely depend on the people (citizenry) in their level of knowledge of democracy as well as their national psyche. If the people at large are comfortable - albeit in a passive way - with the system, then it can work. This is often true especially for a homogeneous society. However, I can guarantee that the sooner Samoan society (or any other for that matter) becomes pluralistic to the point where other races and peoples make up significant sectors of the general populace, the sooner these biased - if not racist - laws will be repealed and/or abolished.

The government seemed to have partially “resolved” this issue with the all-matai mandate after it required that the Individual Voters’ (“non-Samoans”) two MPs to have matai titles too. Still, we have to understand that the voters on the Individual Voters Roll are essentially Samoans too who trace their heritage and roots to the Samoan “genome”, one way or another. This seeming homogeneity helps in passing laws and regulations that favor the majority native population.

On the other hand, there have been some recent intimations to the contrary. First was the appeal by the part-Chinese voters to support their own “Chinese” candidate during the upcoming elections. Second was the objection of non-Christians to a proposed mandatory Christian course in the Samoan public school system. Again these conflicts between the superstructure (faiga) and substructure (faavae) are evident today, and will not go away soon, if at all.

I also concur with the village fono’s unabated jurisdiction on villagers and the loyalty of the latter to the former as more the norm in Samoa (re: the Madison quote in my “Migrant Matai” post). But I would also include the overall aversion of the two to the central government (in Apia) along the same lines.

The biggest conundrum, however, rests on the inability of the national government to create or fashion a better local government (in the villages). In fact there is no possible, probable or even at least an imaginable option. Perhaps there lies the security, invincibility - and arrogance - of the village fono as a force to be reckoned with in Samoa’s contemporary political culture, especially when its influence is felt all the way in the heart of the national Parliament which has simulated the format, configuration, composition and even the fono building and seating arrangements of its rural counterpart.

Conversely, the national Parliament, as advocate of the more democratic ideals, has the upper hand in other areas. For example, the rule of law reaches far into the villages and has been able to indict and even convict villagers and also incarcerate members of village fonos for violating “the law” (as spelled out by the modern legal system) and for committing atrocities. Moreover, the Constitution (supreme law of the land), although recently modified to provide, promote and advocate for the cultural and traditional, is still largely pro-democracy in its content, implementation and application.

Finally, the democratic movement is, and has, a global influence. It is fair to say that it is inevitable and also irresistible to most - if not all. Today’s technology makes this wave even more pervasive and ubiquitous. China is a good example of how modern technology is breaking the imposed barriers of anti-democratic regimes.

I think, in the end, the individual will reign over the community or the state. Christianity, interestingly, is based on the “individual” model too in accountability and finality. Hence, let me say unequivocally that Samoa will give up the faa-matai before it will give up Christianity.   And so the refrain “o le a’ano moni ua le toe iai ni matai” (the truth is that there are no more matai) of a popular song after the advent of Christianity in Samoa, rings true.

The yearn to be free, as an individual, is innate and God-given - free from all shackles whether it’s discrimination, racism, dictatorship, oppression or cultural and traditional influences and restraints. It is this freedom that democracy - as practiced in the “western” countries - has made its mark in the global political experience. It is also this broader vision of democracy as a political standard and blueprint in which we find heretical and unorthodox any inferior or "imperfect" emulation - including cultural democracies.

Having said all that, let me echo Winston Churchill who said:
“No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Simply, democracy is the worst form of government, but of all the ones that have been tried, it’s the best that we have.


PS: To an extent, I may be an idealist in the sense that although I am putting the US on an ideal democratic pedestal, it too, relatively speaking, can qualify as a “cultural democracy” - though not as extreme and heretical as Samoa’s.


The Faa-Matai and Democracy: An Analysis

The Faa-Matai (Chiefly System) is a unique and profound ideology. It is still a strong resilient and vibrant force within Samoan society today. The faa-matai has been the system under which Samoa was governed for years; possibly centuries. Despite disputes, wars and battles - most of which were caused by title ownership - among factions (tribes, clans, villages, islands and families), the faa-matai has served Samoa well in terms of socio-political order and control, especially on the local level (village/district). National unity and harmony were problems and challenges in the past. Conversely, villages were autonomous units which perhaps attributed - more often than not - to Samoa’s cultural stability and ethnic perpetuity.

The faa-matai is at the core of the faa-Samoa; it encompasses most - if not all - things Samoan. Lose it and the Samoan identity is lost and/or severely hampered. Social relationships, roles and protocols of the traditional nature are based on the faa-matai. In other words Samoan traditional society revolves around the matai (chief), or faa-matai.

However, change - anticipated or not - is inevitable in every aspect of life. Socio-political life in Samoa is therefore no different considering the wave of modern and democratic influences flooding the country.

(Note: The following synopsis represents a snapshot of the requested issue(s) and is by no means or intention a comprehensive and/or conclusive treatment. It is also derived completely from intuition, personal knowledge, recollections, experiences and my observations of the faa-Samoa/faa-matai, therefore I had not consulted any secondary/outside sources for this information.)

Democracy vs. Faa-Matai:
(I’m going to use the “faa-matai” synonymously, hence interchangeably, with “faa-Samoa”.  The two , after all, are mutually inclusive and/or intelligible.)

Generally speaking, the faa-matai clashes and contradicts with democratic ideology. The closest at which the two share a commonality is they both are representative in their own respective delineations, otherwise the divergence increases and grows further apart from there.

Democracy: The Individual
Faa-Matai:  The Community/collective.
Again, the faa-matai is anchored to the community while democracy’s linchpin is the individual. The faa-matai esteems the group (aiga, nu’u, itumalo, atunu’u). It looks at the individual not as a single/separate person, per se, but as a member of a group. Therefore, the collective trumps the individual within the faa-matai system and context.

Naturally, it follows that individual rights - as we understand them in the modern democratic context - are foreign to the faa-matai. In the faa-Samoa system of justice accountability often rests with the group/family, even when a single member of the family is found to be the wrongdoer and culprit. This is in stark contrast with the present modern legal system adopted and espoused by the more democratic central government and constitution in which individual accountability is probed and tried.

Land Use/Tenure
Democracy:  Private ownership
Faa-Matai:   Communally owned (aiga or village), and intrinsically attached to chiefly titles (matai).
Here’s a question that may not have been specifically answered as far as land ownership is concerned. Who owns family land in the village - the village or the aiga? The Lands & Titles Court, handles and resolves cases involving land disputes among families, hence land virtually belongs to the aiga. Yet, when a family is banished, the expression goes, “ua faasa ma ele’ele o le nu’u” (“they’re banned from village lands”). Of course there’s village land that will be off-limits to the culprits, BUT the land they live on is theirs, and I’m sure there are banished families that can subsist and sustain their everyday lives on their land (and government roads) without ever setting foot on the rest of “village” lands. Banishment is cruel and deprive families of their rights to their land. Where does the village council get its authority to ban an aiga from its legal and rightful property? It may come from the communal mandate on which village administration is based, if not some frivolous eminent domain regulations or confiscating powers of the village council. Or it could be based on the village’s claim and control on matai titles which are inseparable from customary/traditional land ownership.

Democracy: Voting. One person, one vote.
Faa-Matai: Consensus.
Again the community/group is prior.  Consensus can be good, but the individual’s right to his own opinion and voice is infringed upon when consensus is the norm.
Party politics also is a deviation from the old and traditional consensus-based system of the village fono. But ironically, with no official and established opposition in Parliament at the present, it (Fono), in a sense, operates on a consensus-based standard.  Some electoral districts and/or villages still choose their candidates by consensus although universal suffrage (21 and older) is the law.

Social Equality
Democracy:  Classless open society
Faa-Matai:   Status hierarchy and social stratification.
The village and country are heavily stratified (re: “O Samoa ua uma ona tofi”). Village and national faalupega (salutations) attest to this. Social hierarchy and stratification are pervasive elements in society. For example, according to the faa-Samoa, a village comprises of several “villages” (nu’u) - nu’u o matai, nu’u o fafine, nu’u o tane, etc., I understand that many of these groupings are classified based on social roles, but these roles also affect and influence - if not assigned based on - social status which are often designated relative to the matai - the kingpins. According to the faa-Samoa, the matai are the rulers and landowners, while women, children and others are second class citizens. Samoa is not a completely open society as a result; instead, it’s like a fledgling caste system. It’s reminiscent of the lords, vassals and peasants in the feudal system of the Middle Ages.

Democracy:  Freedom of religion. No preference or established national/state religion.
Faa-Matai:   Christianity ("traditional" religion)
I know this sounds like an anomaly but Christianity - despite its foreign origin and character - is and has been heavily localized and Samoanized that it might as well be given the “traditional” label. As part of their localizing effrontery, some churches are incorporating some cultural practices into their regular worship and church services. The bigger irony here, is that basic and fundamental Christianity is individual-oriented/based, at least in its finality and accountability.

Rule of Law
Democracy: All equal before the law. Individual accountability and responsibility
Faa-Matai:  All not equal. Group/communal accountability.
The village fono is an all-powerful body which still gives the village its autonomy. It has executive, legislative and judicial authority and power. The Village Fono Act is seen as an empowering dictum for the village matai; it grants explicit powers to the village fono though the interpretation of some of its provisions and terms is often vague and ambiguous.

In the faa-Samoa, when an individual commits a crime against another individual, the family (aiga) - and sometimes the village - is the real offender. Resolution and reconciliation become the group’s (or village’s) responsibility - not the individual’s. Vindication and pardon are sought through the ifoga (traditional apology) during which the family (or village) performs the ritual on behalf of the individual. Most of the time, when a member of an aiga violates village rules, the matai, along with the family are punished. The whole aiga can be banished and punished even if a son or daughter is the wrongdoer.

Today, with a modern court system, individual accountability is the norm. However, the courts still, in some cases, do yield, concede and even acquiesce to the traditional jurisdiction of the faa-Samoa.

All in all, Samoa is at a crossroad and is not exactly sure how and where it’s headed. It’s got one foot on land and another at sea. It is trying to adapt to the democratic ideals while at the same time holding onto its traditional faa-matai. It is trying to experiment and hopefully carve its own niche within the democratic paradigm. The hard truth is that democracy has already been received, adopted, accepted and cherished by most, if not all. And no matter how hard Samoa tries to create its own cultural democracy, it still has to be at the expense of its faa-matai - eventually, one way or another. The more the individual is revered and venerated - as opposed to the community - the more the faa-matai becomes wither worthy and anachronistic.

Lastly, the matai system has advantages and virtues especially if the titleholders rule and lead with alofa (love), faaaloalo (respect) and faamaoni (integrity) - pillars of Samoan society. However, most matai have become selfish, greedy and self-serving in most of their decisions and choices and those give the faa-matai a bad repute.

...just my thoughts, hence my opinion.


PS: FeshyNZ - I’ll try to post my responses to the post whose link you sent at another time.


Samoa's "Polytical" System

(printed in the Samoa Observer October 12, 2010 under Letters to the Editor)

What is Samoa’s political system? What is the ideal one, and then what is the real one?
Considering the seeming political bedlam burgeoning in Samoa, it is appropriate, fair and perhaps preemptive to ask the above questions? And with the upcoming elections, it is good to reflect on Samoa’s current state of political affairs and fledgling political experiences.

Comparatively speaking, especially within the conglomeration of Pacific island nations, Samoa is a relatively peaceful and stable country. No coups. No violent protests. No uprisings. No revolts.

However, there are enough improprieties, malfeasances and dereliction within the political establishment of the country to warrant - at least from a slipshod viewpoint - a panning examination.

So how should we categorize Samoa’s political system? Ideally, most will say that it is a representative model based on the Parliamentary (Westminster) matrix.  Furthermore, there is universal suffrage and so Samoa is essentially a member of the “democracy club”. More specifically, others say it’s a bifurcate blend of the new and the old - namely the Parliamentary model actuated by the matai system with a voting and consensus-based dichotomy.

Much of the above represents the realm of the ideal. The sad - though often hush-hush, if not connived and concocted - reality of Samoa’s political system is that it is a collage of mostly anti-democratic practices and machinations.

Samoa’s “polytical system, therefore, is:

1. Theocratic.
A political unit governed by a deity (or by officials thought to be divinely guided).
How many times have we heard the PM - and others - making pretentious claims that he and his party (HRPP) are divinely called - appointed by God? In addition, we have a Constitution that endorses and unabashedly puts its imprimatur on Christianity.

2. Oligarchic.
A political system governed by a few people.
Yes, that’s right, a few people. Locally, in the villages, it’s the village fono. On the national level, it’s the HRPP - presently. When the people vote for their representatives, they “vote” or agree and coalesce to support a particular party and candidate. At that point, any notion of a government by the people ends and the party takes over. Right now, with the way things have gone, it’s government, not by the people, but by “a few people”.

3. Aristocratic.
A privileged class holding hereditary titles.
Although universal suffrage is the ideal, the reality is that matai (a privileged class holding hereditary titles) rule. They rule in the villages. And recently by law, one cannot be a Member of Parliament without a hereditary title. How easy is it to get a hereditary title? “Easier than getting a loaf of bread,” according to the PM. Samoa, inherently, is a status society which in essence can be a precursor to a more advanced caste system.

4. Autocratic.
A political system governed by a single individual.
Despite its current democratic template and mandate, there is also, now, a single individual governing the country. It’s an autocracy within a democracy.

5. Tyrannic/Tyrannical.
An ideology which subscribes to dominance through threat of punishment and violence.
This is found more on the local level (villages) where people are threatened, intimidated, punished and banished by matai. These “tyrants” also threaten any opponent who runs against an incumbent ( “consensus” candidate) and loses. Violence, threats, punishment and banishment await such a person. If, on the national level, the one-party rule continues, a similar stipulation and ultimatum may be in the pipeline. In fact comparable preconditions have become laws such as: If an MP switches party, he/she will lose his/her seat in Parliament. Also, if a candidate does not have a matai title, he/she is an outsider; therefore doesn’t belong to the privileged ruling class.

6. Totalitarian.
The principle of complete and unrestricted power in government.
With the one-party state system Samoa has now, who can stand in the way of the complete, absolute and unrestricted power of the present government? Moreover, the other two branches (Judicial and Executive) - that are supposed to provide checks and balances - are just (pun intended) puppets of the Legislative branch (Parliament).

7. Communistic.
A system of social organization based on the holding of all property in common, actual ownership being ascribed to the community as a whole or to the state. A state dominated by a single and self-perpetuating political party.
Self explanatory, though it’s interesting to see the relevance of the expression “self-perpetuating political party” in today’s government. Some HRPP self-perpetuating tactics and contrivances are gradually surfacing which involve party recruiting practices in the villages. With such trends, including obsequious deals with the Commies, the Parliament (Fono) will soon have a make-over and a fitting name change - “Polytburo”.

So while paying lip-service to democratic ideals and principles, Samoa is actually incubating a unique - and possibly an ominous -“polytical” system. She may also be trying to create and develop a cultural democracy of her own, however, with the current system imbued with the above anti-democratic elements, Samoa’s future political system is likely to engender and generate coups, violent protests, uprisings and revolts.

Of course there’s order and stability fostered by a good dependable matai system, but like any other inherently good and ideal system, it can also breed seeds of corruption, deterioration and degeneracy. Samoa certainly has shown signs and intimations of these within the last few years - and still lurking even more today.

LV  Letalu
Lalomanu and Utah


Idol Worship

LV: From LVis to LVin

Has the main title already caught your attention? Hahahaa...Good! And no I don’t have any carved images - wooden or otherwise - in the faleo’o, the shed or in a room. LOL!. Neither am I trying to sound impious.

I am however referring to the boyish, teenage and past years of my life. Hey, I ain’t a saint... uhmm ...it’s a goal, however - becoming one ... though now, I’m just a latter-day saint. (Doesn’t every sinner have a future, and every saint, a past?) ...anyhow, speaking of the past, here’s a snippet from yestertimes.

While growing up, I had Elvis as my idol. (Who didn’t?) I don’t quite remember how it started but it could have been from my older brother. (He too is an avid Elvis fan and impersonator/impressionist.) Anyway, I had done most things associated with being a fan of a popular entertainer like memorabilia and keepsake collection as well as different types of imitation.

In high school, I had a scrapbook of Elvis - pictures and magazine/newspaper clippings. I even saved some lunch money and bus fares to buy issues of “Elvis Annual”. In college I styled my hair and sideburns like Elvis’ (above). I even imitated his voice and have done some impressions of him. I play the guitar and so that helps in the overall imitation propaganda...hahaa...I even had pictures of Elvis on the wall of our student apartment. I also had quite a collection of his records; I still listen to his music.

But there’s another idol I worshiped in my youth ...and one that I still and always will “worship” ... forever - she’s my “Priscilla” (Priszita).

Today, in pop culture phenomenon, especially movies, I’m a semi-devout fan and admirer of Vin Diesel (re: LVin).

So at least in the field and context of pop culture and entertainment, I can say that "idol worship" is found in my past, present and will be in my future ....