Countering lies with the truth

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

The Samoan culture is misrepresented, misconstrued and misunderstood in so many ways. One of the ways where this has been happening for years is through the notion the abuse of women and children is part of the fa’asamoa.

This is one of the most widespread misconceptions promoted knowingly - sometimes unknowingly - by people looking to justify such ridiculous behaviour. 

Which is sad to say the least.

Today, we want to say that unless such attitudes and mindsets, which have developed into solid strongholds over the years are changed, the fight against domestic violence and the abuse of women and children in our homes will become only an empty rhetoric. 

We say this knowing that charity begins at home. And if we want change, it has to start from within our families and individual households. 

This is where future leaders are born, nurtured and raised. It is the sanctuary for giving and receiving love. As such, it is the only place capable of breaking such vicious cycles - through love and care.

Nothing can be further from the truth. Abuse of any form is not part of the Samoan culture. In fact, I cannot think of any culture anywhere in the world that would condone it.

No one was born violent. Violence is a learned behaviour. It is a choice, the end product of a pattern of wrong thinking that is allowed to fester until it manifests in a very ugly form. 

As Samoans, especially Samoan men, it is wrong to say we are naturally a violent lot. We are not. 

You see, the people who colonised us many years ago might have told the world our ancestors were cannibals but that’s what they said. It is not who we are. 

They said we were savages but that is not who we are. 

They said that our men were a bunch of violent mongrels who thrive on beating their wives and abusing their children but that is not who we are. 

Folks, we don’t need to tell you that they have said a whole lot of other unpleasant things about us as Samoans – including our women. 

But that is not who we are.

The problem is that when a lie is perpetrated over and over, we begin to believe it. And the more we start to believe it, our actions follow so that a pattern of thought that had been planted has now become habitual.

Today that pattern of thought has become a stronghold. It has been embedded into our thinking so that we have this general mentality that Samoan men are designed to be violent animals towards their wives and women in general. 

The macho image of the man being the head of the family and therefore could do whatever – including beating up women – has been allowed to take root. It started with an idea, fuelled by circumstances and given the struggles of poverty, income generating opportunities and challenges of modern day living, such a wrong pattern of thinking has become one of the biggest challenges of our day.

Come to think of it, our destinies are often shaped by our thought patterns. Wrong thought patterns will only breed wrong actions. The opposite will happen when we occupy our minds with correct thought patterns. 

It goes without saying therefore that it is not the fa’asamoa which promotes the idea that it is normal for men to abuse their wives. This is a lie that has somehow found a way to be carried as the truth.

Don’t you think it is time to change? Don’t you think it’s time to correct our history, for us to rediscover who we truly are? 

The question is how do we do that? How do we rediscover ourselves?

The answer in our opinion is simple. You counter the lie with the truth. 

As we said at the beginning, the lie is the notion that it is part of fa’asamoa for men to abuse children and women. 

The truth is Samoan men have an unspoken covenant to protect women, their children and their families. 

That is who we are. That is our destiny.

Every Samoan boy who grows up in a functional Samoan family is taught to respect his sister or sisters. He is taught that his sister is the apple of his eye. That is the beginning of the unwritten covenant between a Samoan man and his sister. The brother will risk his life to protect his sister; that is what it comes down to.

How do I know this? I was raised in a Samoan family by parents who instilled this in me at a very young age. I was raised to respect my sisters, protect my sisters and treat women with respect. This is who we are as Samoan men. 

We have a responsibility to our sisters, we have a responsibility to our women and we have a responsibility to our families. 

We need to go back to that. Personally, I believe this is the only way we can address the issue of violence against women. We need to reeducate our men; we need to rediscover ourselves and who God created us to be. 

We need to raise our boys and teach them who they really are.

They are not noble savages, they are not violent mongrels. They are loved and they have a purpose. They are the protectors of their families and what’s sacred to Samoa. We have to stop them from believing what the colonisers said about our people. 

We have to rewrite our history, turn a new chapter and start a new line of boys who will become men who know who they truly are in eyes of the Samoan culture and their Maker. What do you think? 

Have a wonderful Wednesday Samoa, God bless! 

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