One of the most amazing and distinctive elements in the faa-Samoa is the grand belief in the redeemability of people. In fact, redemption is a constitutive feature of the ifoga.
We, Samoans, believe that broken relationships can and must be mended and the wear and tear of living in community with others is a cyclic process of healing and restoration. The va tapu and the va tapuia, the sacred and unassailable personal and relational space, is often breached; and at times seriously violated.
In such times and in such cases, there is the ifoga; there is the faamaualaloga and the faatoesega; the act of self-stripping of dignity and self-worth expressive of personal amends for injury caused to the dignity and life-worth of the other/s.
And the ‘other/s’ reciprocate with an act of mercy and forgiveness lifting life and restoring the va to an harmonious relational balance, once again.
An article and photo/s in the Samoa Observer this past week have generated energy of emotions: outrage, anger, condemnation, disbelief, and a general sense of confusion and disappointment.
And it is right that the Samoa Observer should hear, listen, be made aware of, and take responsibility for the infringement of the va concerning relational respect for the dead and the living.
And the Editor-in-Chief of the Samoa Observer, Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa, has apologised, not once but several times, and not only to Samoa but personally to the aiga sadly affected by the unfortunate events.
Now, there is nothing more redeeming than the confession of sins, acknowledgement of wrongs, and repentance seeking reparation; Nothing more praiseworthy than to recognise, admit – publicly and immediately – the mistakes, the breakdowns in judgement and prudence, and genuine remorse for the harm done; Nothing more open and courageous than to print all the irate letters to the Editor.
In this manner, the Samoa Observer has not shown itself to be insensitive, in denial, or lacking in morality in responding to and in addressing our legitimate hurts and woundedness of spirit.
In this culture of the ifoga, which is ours, we can recognise the spirit calling for healing and restoration of the va across levels of relationships. We can accept our individual and collective task of not evading the painful process of searching the soul and taking on board the hard-earned wisdom-lessons from life’s mistakes.
In this spirit, and from this culture of the redemptive va, no one should feel entitled to rise and soar on moral wings. Acknowledgement of blunders and miscalculations and admission of injudicious acts are born out of a conscience that is alive and active.
On the other hand, denial, subterfuge, and all manner of shenanigans concealing ‘what really is’ and ‘what ought to be’ indicate a conscience habitually asleep or mal-nourished or ethically-out-of-practice!