Another Crafty Savali Editorial

First of all, I subscribe to the Savali (Samoa government's publication) updates. I read some, every now and then, otherwise I ignore many of them.  This particular one ("O Lou Valaauina"), however, tickles my fancy.  It is an editorial dated February 3, 2015, which, for me personally, raises some questions and concerns. With all the pandemonium and maelstrom going on back home with our government, I find this editorial at best disconcerting and at worst demeaning and offensive - if not audaciously menacing.  The original editorial is in Samoan so I translated it (below) for better context and conversance in connection with my response (below the translation).  My short and initial response (in Samoan) to the editorial, which has not been posted yet by the Savali, is posted in the Articles, Letters, etc. page of this blog, together with the original editorial.  Again, my longer and modified response in English is posted after the translation.

"Your Calling" ("O Lou Valaauina" - written by Mamea Ulafala; translated by LV Letalu)

There is a certain belief among many in the word "calling" or your election, but the big question is, do all callings originate with God? And how can we be certain that callings are from God?
There's an abundance of thoughts and insights about doctrinal supremacy - after "the land is cleared" and beliefs scrutinized - by some noted scholars of the Holy Bible.

One thing, however, is that the [arid] lands of Samoa have been quenched by the Gospel since its arrival, and it even satiated our ancestors who have passed on. Therefore, it's very easy to decipher and understand the issue according to the teachings of the Holy Bible on callings from God.  From these teachings, it ascertains that whoever is called, is faced with a lot of problems, and also/especially life's many challenges.

A leader stands at the bastions; he continually faces the rigors of his divine calling
If he retreats and/or is fatigued, he is vilified  because such lapse will have created a dark moment for a distraught people. This important point shall be clear, if the leader recedes, the people shall surely perish.

Many of the disputed lands in the Middle East are lands claimed by Israel during the time of King David who did not retreat but fought for his nation and people.
Even the site of the present temple in Jerusalem is clearly part of the lands founded by the valiant David. A brave leader who did not retreat when facing adversity.

The calling of Moses to lead the people to Canaan, is well understood; including the people's open grievances and hushed murmurings. He did not retreat or even bothered by the accusations, but continued with obedience, inspired by the Spirit to speak with courage, to show Righteousness to the people, always being cognizant of his calling from God.

How about the leader who disobeys God?

God commanded Saul to destroy the city of Ai [sic!] *. The story tells of how Saul spared the best sheep and cattle which is in direct defiance to his calling.  God asked for the reason. Saul said they were for the sacrifices to Him (God).

How do we know the person who answers to his calling?

He answers with projects and plans already accomplished. Even with complaints and criticisms, he answers with strides in development, though already berated; he answers with an improved economy, which has been assailed; he answers with many good changes he's done for/in Samoa, though they have been distorted and misconstrued.

He's not afraid of making changes he knows will bless the country.  Why? He believes in his calling.

In the Hebrew tradition of sheepherding, the shepherd goes before the flock in order to (1) face and fend off the enemy that plans to attack the flock, (2) so the flock can sniff his guiding redolence, and walk freely with confidence that they will be saved/protected.

If a sheep becomes recalcitrant, rumors had it that it had been bewitched, and its fate was slaughter/death. The leader is also not afraid to kill the defiant sheep in order to protect the rest of the sheep from stains of perversion which will eventually despoil the whole flock.
*Ai was not destroyed by Saul but by Joshua.  Saul destroyed the "city of Amalek"(Amalekites).

My Response:

From the diction and tone of the editorial, it is safe to say that it is intended to defend the Prime Minister against the barrage of accusations and allegations aimed at him - and his party - for the malfeasance and improprieties currently being wreaked by the government, according to media and other reports.

The use of Biblical references and associations for support of a seeming divine mandate and/or justifications of a government's plunders, are neither new nor unique to Samoa.  Most modern governments attribute their legitimacy and veracity to Providence and some other higher authority. In the case of Samoa's political establishment, Jesus Christ is the ultimate source of authority - and power.  The national motto says: "Samoa is founded on God" (Jesus Christ).  The Constitution (supreme law) states that  Samoa is "an independent State based on Christian principles and Samoan custom and traditions."  Hence the present government is adamant about their calling, election and mandate as being divinely sanctioned.  But there's always a flaw and danger in resorting to Deity for the legality and/or justification of government policies, decisions or programs, especially any botched ones; and for any blatant wrongdoing or scandal.  The editorial seems to slant in that direction.

What I find offensive with the editorial is its subtle malicious and vengeful innuendo much less its ambiguity.  The author tries hard in using Old Testament references to defend and endorse  the PM's leadership, and yet with a very cruel and ironic twist. First he mischaracterizes the Hebrew sheep-herding culture and practice, then made worse by using them to justify slaughtering a stray and recalcitrant sheep.  And so at the end of the editorial Mr. Ulafala seems to be advocating something horrifying and creepy.  He suggests that those who are not willing to follow the leader should be "slaughtered".
"Afai e i ai se mamoe ua le fia mulimuli, o le tala fai mai ua segia i taaga, o le tali o le fasi mate.  E le fefe foi e faa-mate le mamoe le fia mulimuli, aua ne'i pisia lagona faa-taaga, ona maumau lea o le lafu."
(If a sheep becomes recalcitrant, rumors had it that it had been bewitched, and its fate was slaughter. [The leader] is also not afraid to kill the defiant sheep, to protect the rest of the sheep from stains of perversion which will eventually despoil the whole flock.)
The timing of the editorial is also dubious and suspicious, considering two particular and active  recalcitrants. These two individuals (MP's) who are members of the ruling party have consistently opposed and sometimes in firm defiance of some of the government's actions and improprieties.  The two MP's obviously have been thorns on the side of the PM and the rest of the party.

Perhaps the more worrisome issue lies in the ironic and tweaked symbolism of the sheep and shepherd by the editor.  It is demeaning to the real meaning of the parable of the Good Shepherd. I was hoping that the Good Shepherd, upon whom Samoa is founded, would have been invoked as the model, ideal and exemplar by the author.  The same shepherd who teaches that a true shepherd with a hundred sheep, and loses one, leaves the ninety nine and goes to find and rescue - not slaughter - the lost and stray one.  A good shepherd gives his life for his sheep.
Likewise, a true leader, even within the typical cutthroat and competitive environment of political rivalry and turmoil, should be patient, compassionate and forgiving. It may sound improbable but never impossible.

Unfortunately, the author/editor uses the shepherd analogy in a cruel, vengeful and merciless context and connotation.  It's an approach reminiscent of dictatorial, authoritarian and despotic leadership. The rendering and interpretation of the fate of the defiant and rebellious sheep send shivers up one's spine, especially because a real incident of a similar kind happened a few years ago in Samoa, and also within party politics. Becoming cruel and brutal - as suggested by the editorial - is not, and should not be a mark of a Samoan leader.

This kind of incendiary and acerbic editorial,  let alone coming from a democratic government-sponsored source, therefore, is certainly unwise and uncalled for.

Let's try to support our leaders in good, uplifting and constructive ways.

Ma le Fa'aaloalo lava (Respectfully) 

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