Back in September 1999 when the Sunday edition of the Sunday Samoan was called Sunday Observer, a letter to the editor arrived. Written by one of the paper’s attentive readers, Maluiaiga Jerry Hope, it delved into aspects of Samoa’s way of life that were worryingly pertinent then and sadly for us all, they are even more worryingly pertinent today. The letter was addressed to the editor then, Savea Sano Malifa. It said:
I want to convey to you how much I enjoyed reading your latest edition of the Sunday Observer, especially pages 6 and 7, which far from leaving me at sixes and sevens, filled me with hope and confidence about the quality of intellectual life in today’s Samoa and therefore in Samoa’s future as we embark upon the new millennium.
In particular, I refer to your editorial “Think about new century on Fathers’ Day”, a letter by one of your readers signed Moemanatunatu entitled “Love of Money does not lead to happiness!!” and Hon. MP Afamasaga Toleafoa’s “Odds and sods, culturally speaking”.
On the surface, the three writings authored by three separate individuals appear to cover different topics and certainly totally differentiate themselves in their style of writing but I see two common denominators to all three.
Your own editorial, if I read you well, is focused on the aspects of social justice and compassion in this beloved country of ours. These concepts were taken for granted and were never challenged in traditional Samoan society, they were reinforced by the Christian missionaries who blessed our shores and were never in doubt. Now, they are under threat.
Moemanatutu’s letter, in my opinion, makes some highly intelligent quotations so relevant to our present day society. His parting words are words not of material but spiritual gold: “Better is a handful of rest than a double handful of hard work striving after the wind”.
These words weigh heavily on my soul, Mr. Editor. I hope they do likewise for some of your readers.
Afamasaga, for his part, looks at the dichotomy between Samoan and imported cultural values and his expose thereof is incisive, intriguing and highly entertaining.
But Afamasaga, much to his credit, is very far removed from being a prophet of gloom and doom.
Just as the English adopted a bunch of krauts, ruskies and greekies as their most revered Royal Family, so did Samoa adopt the most boring game in the word called English cricket and convert it into the most entertaining game in the world (especially when it is played by women) called Kirikiki!
Malo Afamasaga, Viva Samoa! Viva!
Reverting to the purpose of this letter, I see a dual common theme in the three writings referred to above, which is posing a threat to our society and a real challenge to its present and future leaders.
the ruthless pursuit of money (irrespective of how the benefits therefrom are shared among Samoans) now afflicting Samoan society and rendering its citizens spiritually blind;
the threat from imported cultural values, especially materialism and consumerism.
We have to face the facts of life and realize that there is no way we can turn the clock back and attempt to shut out undesirable foreign influences.
You cannot effectively legislate against TV, overseas press and radio reports, imported violence orientated and pornographic videos, E-mails and others. They will come flooding in, come hell or high water.
But the Samoan nation, small as it is, has its own set of cultural values which can withstand the false values and golden calves of the foreign hordes, providing God endows us with the will and leadership to resist them.
The challenge now is to use the brains that God gave us to discriminate between good and evil and overcome the forces of evil now threatening Samoa.
“Gogitus sum, ergo sum” said a 16th century French philosopher named Descartes, the father of modern logic (I think, therefore I exist). “L’homme n’est qu’un roseau, mais un roseau pensant” said another French philosopher called Pascal about 100 years later (man is but a reed, but a thinking reed). My dates are perhaps a wee bit wrong, I leave it to readers better informed then myself to correct me.
In this vast, wind swept ocean, Samoa is perhaps also little more than a reed, in geographical terms. In this world populated by six billion human beings constituting a formidable human forest, Samoa, with its 170,000 or so inhabitants, may be lucky to be recognized even as a reed, in demographic terms.
But the three contributions in yesterday’s Sunday Observer leave me in no doubt that Samoa is not only a reed, but very much a thinking reed.
Your newspaper also featured an article about the late Lady Diana. This lady now forms part of history, but the wind that can never extinguish the flame of her candle has made her immoral, her immortality makes us happy at the same time as it makes up weep.
I doubt whether any of the worthy contributors to yesterdays Sunday Observer can compete with her physical charms (at least, I hope not!)
But the three contributors have, I think, kindled a flame of combined Samoan cultural awareness and social conscience that will not be so easily snuffed out.
As we approach the cyclone season, and many other cyclone seasons thereafter, many hands will be needed to shield the flame. As Samoa has the brains, so too does Samoa have the hands. Samoa will survive!
Maluiaiga Jerry Hope,