11/8/10

Pricktatorship

(printed in the Samoa Observer, November 6, 2010 under "Letters to the Editor")

In Savea’s recent editorial "Dictatorship and Politics" he stated this: "Here in Samoa, someone may have to invent a new name for "dictatorship" to suit our political system and way of life."

Now, whether serious or just tongue-in-cheek, the suggestion is still worth a prodding (pun intended), at least in a risible and satirical approach, which the following intends to borrow.

I suggest "Pricktatorship". It has a nice ring to it especially in mimicking "dictatorship". But more than that, it fits the notion and objective of the editorial’s "request".

"A’itui" is a contractive pronunciation of the factual expression "a’a i tui" which probably has come into the Samoan language through the Bible, as the translation for "kicking against the pricks" (Acts 9:5). The native meaning is understood by many Samoans. The etymology - of the English version - however may not be apparent to many.

The expression comes from the practice of tilling or ploughing of the soil using oxen to pull the plough/plow. If the ox - or oxen - strays from the furrow it is jabbed or poked by the ploughman using a prick (tui) - a long stick with a sharp point. It is a means of exerting control, influence and authority. The prick inflicts pain on the animal and the more the animal resists or rebels, the more it is jabbed. Hence it is hard to "kick against the pricks". The same instrument and concept is also used in herding animals like sheep and goats.

As a metaphor for Samoa’s current political system, "pricktatorship" is founded on the root word "prick", which can be interpreted - literally or figuratively - to mean different things within the political context.

"Prick" collectively, can refer to the government or ruling party (HRPP) which is inflicting pain on the people/subjects keeping them reined and restrained. As a result, the people are "pricked" into conformity, compliance and passivity. The people therefore are dumbfounded and have become stupefied - and "stupid". As effectively articulated in the editorial, the people are "stuck in the mud of intolerance and futility ....[and] are made to look like fools...."

Pricks, individually, are the HRPP "herdsmen" running around with their pricks (no pun intended) pricking people into passive submissiveness and goaded servility. Our "political genius" is the master prick, living up to his name - Tui.  So as Samoans, today, we dare not "kick against the pricks" or the "Prick" and we might as well, in translation, say: "Aua le a’a i tui" or "Aua le a’a ia sTui" - "Mister Prickster!" On the same takeoff,  HRPP just as well stand for the "Human Rights Pricking Party".

"Prickmanship", is just as applicable, if not equally effective. It’s a pun on "brinkmanship" - a political coinage of the Cold War years which is based on the threat motif.  Moreover, the stick seems a fitting political symbol in light of another popular political expression by Teddy Roosevelt - "speak softly but carry a big stick".

So while others - according to the editorial - had the "barrels of the guns", Samoa has its pointed pricks or sharp sticks. Befittingly, therefore, we can say that presently the government (HRPP) controls and dictates using "pricks, sticks and tricks" - or, simply, Pricktatorship.

Ia manuia le alo atu i faiga palota Samoa.

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