Feeling the pinch where it hurts the most

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 10 November 2016, 12:00AM

As the year winds down towards the Christmas period, it’s undeniable that times are tough. Make no mistake about it. Ask anyone out there – whether it’s the average Joe on the street or the biggest business man in town – and they’ll tell you these are tough, tough times.

In other words, everyone is experiencing some form of economic turmoil. Even big businesses, which did not have a problem with finances before, today they’re watching their budgets very closely. Over the past few months, many of them have had to make tough decisions simply to stay afloat.

Which means we all need to be extra careful about how we budget, spend and use our limited monies and resources.

The truth is that if big companies and people earning reasonable incomes are feeling the pinch of the economic climate, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like to live on the minimum wage.

And that’s a worry since the majority of people in this country are on the minimum wage – if not worse. Think about this scenario for a minute; how does a father of six feed his family for a week with less than $40 – if he can even get that much money?

How does one begin to provide for his/ her children with such a budget when you factor in lunch money, bus fares to school, electricity, water and food on the table every night? It’s mind-boggling.

And that’s not all. How are most families coping with the pressure of having to provide for the family fa’alavelave, church obligations and village commitments on top of everything else?

The point is that we’re living in a very tough time. Judging from the way things are, it’s not going to get any better in a hurry. In terms of the cost of living, there is only one direction its heading and that’s not down.

So where are we going from here?

We’ve said before and we will say it again, as we’re moving into the competitive life of the 21st century, it’s important to take stock of where we are and reassess some things to see if it’s not time to make some tough changes. As Samoans, one of the areas we should seriously look into is our love affair with these things called fa’alavelave.

Think about the amount of money and resources we expend on funerals, cultural ceremonies, weddings, church obligations and so forth. 

For a least developed country, our elaborate spending on fa’alavelave tells a story about ourselves. And that story – sad to say – is one about our foolish and unbridled pride.

The irony is that the bulk of such spending is money and resources we don’t have. It’s either loaned or its borrowed from someone else. Yet this madness continues unabated today despite the difficult times.

We’ve talked a lot about the issue of reducing our spending on fa’alavelave in the past. When you speak to most of our people, they understand the issue and everyone seems to be yearning for change.

Yet it’s just not happening.

So what will it take for our people to wake up and smell the coffee? What will it take for this country to wake up and realise that our foolish pride is slowly but surely killing us?

We say this because depression is getting the better of most people. How many cases of people you know who have suffered from a stroke in the past few months? How many cases of people with heart attacks have we had? And how many people in this country are living with high blood pressure and other related illnesses – simply because they have too many things on their minds?

Some people will say that these illnesses are a result of lifestyle choices. That’s true. But aren’t our people resorting to these lifestyle choices as a form of escape from depression?

Listen folks, depression is real. And it’s deadly.

Not so long ago, Fa’ataua le Ola staged the Walk for Life where the pro-life message was promoted. The fundraiser is a fantastic initiative to tackle suicide. Kudos to everyone involved – including the Head of State and the top officials who showed their support.

But we need to address the question of why people commit suicide.

In Samoa today, one of the problems is that far too much pressure is exerted on our people at all levels of society. For example, there is too much expectation on the working population to provide for one fa’alavelave after another. 

Our relatives living in New Zealand, Australia and elsewhere are also pressured beyond what they are capable of.

And this is driving people to do the unthinkable. This has got to stop.

For that to happen though, we need to come together as a community to work out what we can do to move forward. This involves everyone from the government, churches and the villages. We need strong leadership in this area. The time has come where we need to do more than just talk about it.

Perhaps one of the first things we need to do, as Samoans is to swallow our foolish pride and admit that change is necessary.

Then we need to reduce the demands by family, culture and church on the people of this country. Allow them space to live a little. What do you think?

Have an awesome, stress-free Thursday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 10 November 2016, 12:00AM

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