On this Father’s Day, let us think about setting examples and disagreeing respectfully
It is perfectly normal for people to respectfully disagree on issues. It is also quite acceptable for people to agree to disagree simply because they can. This is what democracy is all about.
It is about mutual respect, understanding and one’s ability to speak freely without being condemned, judged and ridiculed. And there is no reason why we cannot do this in Samoa. The last time we checked, this nation is a democracy.
As such, it is a place where people should be free to express their views and opinions without fear of repercussions, reprisals and being called all sorts of names.
It is also culturally acceptable to disagree with the status quo, although it can be unpopular in some cases. The concept of tofa mamao, utaga loloto, moe manatunatu and tofa saili* are all about giving and taking.
It is about listening, speaking and running certain ideas through a robust thought process involving other members of the community such as the village councils, churches and extended families, where these ideas are strengthened and solidified. It is a thought process where the same ideas can either be rejected or accepted, where people can also agree to disagree on a very respectful level.
This is what living in a free democratic and culturally rooted country like Samoa should be about. Which should encourage robust debate that strengthens and builds people as opposed to the use of such nasty language and name calling, which sadly we have become quite accustomed to in our political discourse over the years.
Indeed, looking at what is happening in Samoa, the truth is out there for all to see. Purely judging from what is available publically everyday, our customs and traditions of respect and care have been contaminated by the use of abusive, offensive and inconsiderate language in public. The verbal assault and abuse which routinely consists of highly respected members of the community, in many cases matai, being shot down, shouted at and called fools, stupid, dumb, lazy, ignorant, dogs and many other stomach-turning names is a testament of where we have arrived as a country after 59 years of stable but declining democratic and cultural values.
Let us be reminded that when it comes to the political discourse in Samoa, we are talking about much respected matai who are honoured by their families, villages, churches and in the case of Parliament, their constituencies.
Yet the way they are treated and spoken of in public – including in the media - is nothing but shameful.
There is a lot be said about the need to set a new and an acceptable national tone on proper language and a respectable political debates for young people to aspire and follow. It goes without saying that people naturally emulate their leaders, much like sons follow their fathers’ footsteps.
In other words, we cannot plant taro and expect to harvest apples. If leaders of today continue to sow the use of such abusive language in public forums on a daily basis, they should not be surprised by the fruits. Ironically, one has to wonder where all this negativity and such vulgar language on social media in Samoa come from?
With the General Election a few months away, the political debate between the different parties and their leaders will only intensify. Which is fine and it is expected.
But the appeal from former Member of Parliament, La'aulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt, calling on Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegoi to for the debate to be fair and respectful is something everyone should consider.
"Whatever has been said, we forgive and forget,” La’auli said. “We wish you well on the upcoming election. Let us be fair and be respectful as gentlemen because the whole country is watching.”
We couldn’t agree more. Leaders of today must be reminded that they are setting examples for leaders of tomorrow to follow. As we pause this Sunday to honour all the fathers of Samoa, this is perhaps an opportune moment to reflect carefully on the examples we are setting, especially the choice of words and language we use.
As a Christian nation, the scriptures tell us that life and death are in the power of the tongue. We become what we declare and speak.
Let the fathers of Samoa and of the world be reminded about the importance of setting standards, to foster a society that allows respectful disagreements, without the need to tear each other down. In other words, we need to raise a generation of Samoans to respect one another, even if they don’t necessarily agree with their views.
Happy Father’s Day Samoa, God bless!
* Tofa mamao, utaga loloto, moe manatunatu and tofa saili refer to wisdom, vision and foresight.