Wednesday, July 20, 2016

13 Minutes - A moekolo, traumatised honeymooners and Samoan Tourism

On 17 July 2016, it only took 13 minutes for the Australian Channel 9 show to make a circus out of the Samoan Prime Minister and the Samoan prison system. Although it's caused a bit of excitement among Samoans, I think we're giving it more credit then it deserves.

As far as the angle of the story was concerned, I felt they had successfully hit their mark. I mean, Liam Bartlett is a veteran and 60 minutes is top-shelf journalism (*cough*), so the honourable Tuilaepa should've seen the editing on the wall (see what I did there?). They cunningly put a moekolo, a prison, and a tragic rape incident under the microscope to put out a warning to all tourists visiting Samoa matalasi. But I couldn't help but wonder whether Samoan tourism fell victim to a corporate rivalry between Channel 9 and 10. Isn't Samoan Survivor showing in a couple of weeks on channel 10? Heck, I bet Liam had a blast in Samoa on Channel 9's account!

But here's a few concoctions my coconut brewed up when watching this 13 minute piece:

 Firstly, I was disappointed with Liams opening statement saying that there is no intention to rubbish Samoan tourism, only to have the next 12 minutes rubbishing a specific resort and then showing an edit where it appears the Prime Minister supports the notion by saying it's best that Tourists stay within a specific area. What da falaimoa?

Second, there was a time and space where Samoa never had a prison system. All judgements and punishments were carried out within the context of the village chiefs. I wondered if this Tualima lived 100 years ago and carried out the same crimes, would he even still be alive? There was no death penalty in Samoa, but beatings were off-the-record. (tongue and cheek). Maybe Samoa trying to adopt a foreign system doesn't work so well for them, and I'm not just talking about the prison system. The 13 minutes of this episode made a deliberate beeline to contextualise Samoa as a first world westernised society. Referencing the money that is sent from Australia to assist in projects of upgrading their infrastructure etc. Samoa are not primitive but to make comparisons to Australia is bit of a of stretch. What do we call this? Media colonisation?

Thirdly, and probably the most pressing issue when I was watching this show was the fact Tommy had to suffer the ordeal of his new wife being raped next to him. I am well against any form of sexual abuse, and I mean no disrespect to the couple and especially the husband. But that Tualima could only have touched my wife over my dead body. I was upset for both of them and angry at Tommy for not putting his life on the line to protect his new bride. Maybe it's just me, but I would struggle to look my wife in the eye afterwards, knowing that I could've thrown pillows, the mattress, the bed base,...hell my whole body at this creep of a man who held a knife and threatened my wife with it. But bigups to the couple for working through this tragedy. But men, let this be a lesson. Die for your woman!!

Fourthly, the hypocrisy of an Australian journalism program to scream danger on a small island. Did 60 minutes forget about "The Backpack Murders?" among other incidents for Australian visitors? Didn't Wolf Creek make a grand exhibition of putting the fear in those young travellers that dare to travel down under to see the Devils Marbles? (Oh hell no I didn't) So before the pot calls the kettle black, and you get overwhelmed by the 13 minute barrage of Bellzeebubs bollocks. Ask yourself, have cases of visitors being raped and/or tragically murdered in Australia made this country a dangerous country to visit for a holiday break? No, Australia is an awesome place to visit....and/or in my case, live.

Lastly, did this story really deserve to be alongside the horrific ordeal in Nice, and the #BlackLivesMatter tension going down in USA? Maybe it was just me, but I thought the Samoan tourism story was small fish compared to it's counterparts in this particular sequence.

Let's not get too worked up about the 13 minute coverage. I'm pretty sure 60 minutes haven't done enough to destroy Samoan Tourism. I think the greatest harm in this story was done to the couple that will have to work through all the emotional pain from their traumatic experience which was meant to be their honeymoon and the tourist businesses that will have to deal with the immediate devastation that will last much longer than 13 minutes

p.s who the heck is Tualimas parents? I wonder if Tualima will be a Samoan Survivor?


Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Samoan born in NZ, who now calls Australia home

I've been reading some material online and a biography of the missionary Reverend George Brown, who served from 1860-1874 in Samoa. His observations give me some incredible insights into some strong tradtions of Samoans that have remained up to more than a century later. This is fascinating given the fact that the largest migration of Samoans was in the 1950's -1970's (because NZ needed factory workers for their ever expanding industry and service sectors, and saw the Pacific Islands as a harvest for labourers) and yet in 2016, some of these observed traits still run strong in the Samoan blood.
He observed the people “to be amongst the nicest and most lovable people with whom I have ever lived.”
Although in another entry, he observed that the villagers, “were extremely sensitive to what was considered to be an insult.” And he records times of trying to bring peace between villages in feuds and battles (some he successfully intervened and some he didn't), where people were either badly wounded or killed. 

"On they came, a band of stalwart fellows, almost naked, brandishing their guns, spears, and clubs, leaping and shouting, to the place where we were sitting. Their bodies were smeared with oil, their hair dressed with scarlet flowers, and their foreheads bound with frontlets made of the bright inner shell of the nautilus. It was difficult to recognise the features of those with whom we were acquainted, as every one had tried to make himself as hideous as possible. The chief led the way, dancing up to us, and shouting: ‘What is that for?’ ‘Why are you sitting there?’ ‘Why do you stop us?" (Rev George Brown was known to read, write and speak Samoan)
During a religious meeting out in the open air "about 300 were present. The Chief commenced this their first Collection in their own village by a subscription of $10 thrown into the plate in such a manner as to let every one know what he gave. Others then followed many of them giving $2 each. We thus realised $122.72".

The missionary's entries don't appear to just journal and record for the sakes of accountability to his administrators, but it also come across as personal observations and reflections of which he appears to try to make sense of a people who are quick to help, have a song, a chat, dance, a laugh, yet they are quiet and serene during relgious services and yet when they fight, they fight to the death (even for seemingly peddly issues) and when they give to what they believe to be of a higher cause, they give with all their heart.
Today not much has changed, Samoans are still much like what Rev Brown observed. However, most Samoans are no longer native, they are living in other countries. Statistics reveal that there is a much larger number of Samoans living outside of Samoa. According to Wikipedia about 400,000 worldwide to 100,000 living in Samoa. A lot of nations where we reside, such as New Zealand, USA, and Australia, still struggle to understand how to consolidate what appears to be fragemented traits of the Samoan people. In fact, in a previous blog I explore the idea that a lot of Samoans possibly don't understand why we are the way we are. The DNA runs deep but the understanding is shallow.
Most have noticed that Samoans that attend church services (and sometimes even at schools, hospitals or anywhere where those particular Samoans deem to be a sacred place), are on their best behaviour or they're there and behaving out of obedience to the parents or the wider community.
When Samoans party, we party hard and when we fight, we fight with the same tenacity of our ancestors. (Fortunately fighting sports, rugby, rugby league, football, rugby etc are a channel to allow the warrior spirit to manifest....unfortunately outside of these paramaters, it's just thuggery). We're still sensitive to insult, especially if it's to do with the honour of the family (natural or gang etc). And some church services still practice announcing the amount of the donation before "plating it".
Rev Brown not only learned the language, he learned the traditions and the culture. Armed with this knowledge and understanding he was able to prepare the gospel message in a way where the natives of Samoa could digest it.

This guy was on to something. To be able to add value to their lives by sharing the awesomeness of the gospel, he had to learn how they lived and did things. This missionary spirit is something to aspire to (notice I didn't say colonialism, but that's another topic altogether). 
Although I'm a citizen of Australia, I still don't know enough about the people that have lived here for thousands of years. I appreciate the bush, beach, sleeping under the stars, 4WDriving, food grown on this place etc and I realise, I'm feeling the presence of this awesome land and need to appreciate that others have mastered this appreciation well before me. I'm on a mission in Australia, I best do like Rev George Brown and start learning the hidden treasures of this place. “There are many plants and trees inland that the Natives do not know at all. One which I found near the mountain but did not see anywhere else is very beautiful indeed – it has a large white flower and looks very pretty amongst all the black stones. I was very much struck with the evident marks of the goodness and wisdom of God manifested in the wise provision He makes for supplying the wants of people. On the Beach the Cocoa Nut supplies drink for all, but here there are none and but little water. However there is an abundance of a species of vine … and we had only to cut one with a knife then put the severed end to the mouth, make another division a little higher up to serve as a vent and then drink as fast as possible. From a piece about 18 inches long about a tumbler full of fine clear water can easily be obtained.”