(a letter to the editor submitted to the Samoa Observer)
That is the question, though the answer so far is obviously not the latter. O lona uiga o manatu faataute’e nei, e ala i tusitusiga, ua na o ni mafaufauga ma moomooga fai vavale. In other words, it’s almost pointless to belabor the same and similar concerns expressed in this paper over the Casino issue. However, I have some hope in the familiar expression "E fasa le vale ae taunu’u" (A fool may be crass, but much still comes to pass.) which can also be a quip and rebuttal to the HRPP’s flagship accusation of its critics and opponents as being "idiots" (o vale).
Therefore, my letter addresses some points recently raised by a certain cleric in his support for casinos, but also dispenses, in principle, some chips and tokens of even greater value.
My first concern (or chip on the shoulder) has to do with the fractured opposition - not the Tautua Party, but the Church, at least in the collective sense. This bedrock (pun intended) of Samoan society is starting to crack and crumple - if not already crumbled. And though it (the Church) has been the strongest and more invincible advocate and member of the anti-casino coalition, its defense has also been a porous and a weak one - from within - due to its own sponsorship of the other "lesser forms" of gambling like raffles, bingos, etc. Hence, the recent concession and capitulation by the cleric confirms the inevitable. This is disappointing and dispiriting to some, if not to most people. What is more worrisome is that much of the cleric’s capitulation is based on rationalizations and justifications.
For example, gambling is a "person’s choice". Though patently true, it is also an excuse - a very common one often used by some to justify wrong and bad choices. Truth is, though fallible and weak, individuals still are capable and more inclined to make good, informed and responsible choices. Incidentally, the "personal choice" excuse cannot and should not preclude the/a church - as an arbiter of morality and spirituality - from having a defined imprimatur and teaching against gambling, something the cleric says his particular church doesn’t have.
Apparently, the lack of such a moral dictum opens the matter up for private and personal interpretation which results in the "celebration" justification the cleric mentions. Along the same line of reasoning comes the view that gambling is a form of entertainment which may be true to people with gambling allowances and money to burn. But to Samoans in Samoa (and yes there will be Samoans in Samoa with foreign passports who will play) where poverty seems to be the rule rather than an exception, gambling will be a means to survival, albeit a deceptively deadly and ineffective one, like a slow leaking flotation device of an infant in the middle of the ocean.
More rationalizations by the same cleric - and others I’m sure - include painting all Sunday work, especially the "essential ones" (hospital, fire, law enforcement, etc.) and casino work/gambling with the same brush. That's like saying that a breadfruit and a coconut are the same thing. Furthermore, job creation as the major benefit of the casinos always sounds reasonable at any time and/or place. However, we also need to be aware of an old trap by Old Nick (Machiavelli) of using the end to justify the means. In that case, casino jobs can be a convenient means to perpetrating a debauched end. Samoa needs to teach and perpetuate among her young people the value of hard, honest and honorable work, and not something from nothing, or something from chancy exploits.
On a more risible note, and yet can still be very telling, the word "casino" contains two words which have direct connotations to the overall casino melee. The words are "sin" and "sino". The former is a subtle reminder and suggestion of the possible and real effects of corrupt consequences of casino activities - and their offshoots - to one’s spirituality. The latter is an adjectival that describes the country (as in Sino-Samoa relations) which is spearheading the whole "experiment".
Lastly, speaking of casinos as an "experiment", I think the PM is using "experiment" as a euphemism. What he’s really saying is that the whole casino business is a "gamble" hence his allusion (intentional or not) to Kenny Rogers’ advice of knowing when to "hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em." I hope the answer is the latter!
Manuia tele SamoaLV Letalu