Dealing with spin

Samoan-style giving

Action shot of Samoan-style fund-raising. Grandma in the front tossing in a few coins, girls dancing (just heading off screen), and bean-counters in the background, egging it all on. An engaging performance, part act, ritual, fun and accepted social interaction!

As a long-time conspiracy theorist, I am always intrigued when the “spin” is finally unspun – it always is, eventually: Hitler, Bill ‘I never had sex with that woman’ Clinton, Pearl Harbour, Helen Clark’s multiple ‘Gates, the 9-11 War on Terror, and more. In this Sermon from Samoa, I share how spin undermines God’s best intentions for us all, including Samoa.

Two reports I’ve read this morning elaborate how the media is used to achieve a particular goal – the Urewera Debacle, and the Hubbard Debacle. As a truth seeker and one who strives to also be a truth speaker, I highlight the manipulations in these two situations thus:

In the case of Tama Iti and his crowd, I note from Chris Trotter the effective use of propaganda by both the activists/defence and the Police. Truth? From the Police or the supposed crims? No, protecting our position in an adversarial legal system is more important. (H/T: DPF)

In regards to Allan Hubbard’s fall, there are serious questions relating to the actions of the authorities, some major conflicts of interest and hidden agendas. A few words from Tur Borren’s report into the handling of Hubbard and his business empire:

“I regard this explanation as extremely misleading.”

Oops! That won’t go down with some people. He will surely be a target now!

“All of these conclusions are disclosed in the … report in such a confusing manner that it is difficult to understand that this setback for Aorangi investors is of the statutory managers’ making.

The spin is being unspun.

“The decision to place Allan Hubbard’s personal affairs into statutiory management was an extraordinary action.

An agenda methinks?

“I am affronted by circumstances which I privately perceive as an assault on Allan Hubbard’s rights.

Definitely diplomatic speak for an agenda.

Kerry Grass also reveals an agenda, the use of propaganda in his [UPDATE: her] report too. For me, the phrase that reveals it all is:

“If we can’t make the front page, we almost need to ask ourselves, is there any public interest in this?” SFO CEO, Adam Freeley

Oops! I think in retrospect Adam might have wished that this was put a little less directly, or kept verbal and not recorded for private investigators and truth-seekers to reveal later on.

I’m sad. Having read the entire two reports and knowing how things work, it is very likely that many people will be suffering needlessly and professionals in legal and accounting will make a killing. I wish somebody could step in and make bad things right for everyone.

It’s at times like this that I cry out “Is there a God?” or “Why can’t You just DO something?”.

there is a God … injustice, and pain and lack of perfection are just the way that things are

I know the answer of course, that there is a God and that injustice, and pain and lack of perfection are just the way that things are, but I still hurt when others in powerful positions play games with their power that profoundly affect the lives of others.

The Christian life is no different to any other in terms of life experiences. We still make mistakes and suffer the same in natural disasters, at the hands of crooks and the greedy, but the difference is that we have an understanding, an explanation if you will, for the trouble that we all experience. The fact that God created and we messed up.

Unspinning the spin, requires us to seek and speak the truth, and if we are brutally honest, we must take full responsibilty for our part in the trouble. Acknowledging that we too are sinners is the first step of honesty. It enables us to say then, “There but for the grace of God, go I”. (attributed to John Bradford but for truth seekers actually unknown: source).

We’ve been suffering recently as a result of some “stuff” that hasn’t been particularly nice on several fronts. A sad past for us is that it has been fellow Christians and people supposedly helping us who have caused various sorts of pain. People can do things that are perfectly legal, but not ethical. Sure they can justify it with spin, but underneath you know the truth.

A phone company in New Zealand “gave away” two of our best phone numbers to people previously associated with us, days after our account lapsed, without telling us about it, and then wouldn’t talk about it with us citing commercial sensitivity. All perfectly legal, but hey, come on guys. We paid the phone bill three days late and lose an asset that we’d had for YEARS! It’s only a small company that I previously blogged about positively and the guy is supposedly a Christian too. We’ve let it go because he had every legal right to do it. If he doesn’t have a conscience over his acts, I’ll eat my hat, so that’s his problem. I’d never recommend his company or services again, or if I did I’d tell people, as I did before that if you take your number away from Telecom to third parties that THEY now own your precious phone number to do as they like with NOT YOU!

A while back a mate up here (We call him “Uso”, brother) took quite a bit of our money in a business venture. I’ll rephrase that – we invested into his business when he asked us for money. “Partners we are mate!” he says, yet he wouldn’t sign a business agreement, didn’t want to open a company with joint shareholding, then left us in the lurch for months and now seems to be charging off on his own setting the business up without us. Hmmm, I wonder when the spin will start from this guy!

In some ways you just say to yourself, “What the h*ll!” and then just get over it. In other ways though you HAVE to speak out and tell the truth.

A lot of the things that happen around this adversity is just “spin” – people saying things or doing things to make themselves look good, or to cover their butts, or to furnish their own wants rather than to do the honourable thing.

Speaking the truth to people who are doing something selfish is a surefire way to attract aggression.

Speaking the truth to people who are doing something selfish is a surefire way to attract aggression. A young man we were involved with recently went behind our backs in business. He had every legal right to do what he did, but underneath we observed issues that, well, basically just sucked, to be honest! Warning him that doing things outside of a good and godly “order” could easily become his “Ishmael” was pretty unwelcome advice. Lead balloon, again!

Speaking the truth to people who are in authority also doesn’t sit very well a lot of the time – no matter the good motivation behind the words. We’ve had extensive experience with this in Samoa. One team advisor just says things along the lines of “Don’t deal with them. They’re all the same. Just do your own thing.” Another senior businessman who has been very high in government in the past puts it more diplomatically “I’ve been in both government and private enterprise and know how they both work!” He’s now out of government and enjoying the business world.

I’ve mentioned before about one lady who said to one of our volunteers on her way up here to Paradise, “The Samoan culture is all about ‘show’ – you’ll see!” Diplomacy is what they call it here – saving face, and keeping family honour. I call it spin. Churches for example pit family against family for fundraising initiatives and greatest honour is given to the one who gives the most. I experienced this personally many times but first in Saleimoa. It was a delightful experience by the way, and clearly billed as a fundraising event, but the peer pressure (spin) and the manipulation was rather “unsubtle”. It’s simple – the family that gave the most was “the best”!

There is a lot more, good and bad to it all, but if you talk about it outside of closed doors, you become the enemy. Behind closed doors, everyone knows it is all just spin. Just speak to Albert Wendt if you want more understanding of this issue!

I’m in pretty good company when talking about unspinning the spin . . . The bible recounts it pretty much like it is. Solomon knew all about it and scribbled these similar words:

Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return.
Anyone who corrects the wicked will get hurt.
So don’t bother correcting mockers;
they will only hate you.
But correct the wise,
and they will love you.
Instruct the wise,
and they will be even wiser.
Teach the righteous,
and they will learn even more.


With that I encourage myself that there are some people who do truly seek wisdom. There are a few who want to learn, and who fear the Lord.

As the next verse explains, it is from fear of the Lord that wisdom comes.

Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom.
Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.

The spin is that Samoa is Paradise and because it is “founded upon God” it is special, and more godly than the rest. It is not. It is a country that has a people with an amazing friendly welcoming smile, a rich culture that honours its guests, and some nice coral sandy beaches and lagoons (at some resorts), but it is also deeply entrenched in an outwardly religious lifestyle, that when you get down to the nitty gritty, actually worships how IT wants to be perceived.

The “Samoan culture” is the guise.

The proof of this is the violent reaction of contempt that occurs when anyone would dare to attack or undermine the culture – regardless of, (dare I say specifically because of) the motivation of love behind the words.

As a wise and good friend has recently said to me:

Two strongholds in Samoa are Religion and ‘Good Works’.

… there needs to an expectation of and credible evidence of genuine repentance.

True personal repentence in the biblical sense, that is based on reality and is not “spin”, or largely for “show”, is largely a foreign concept here. When Samoa fears the Lord more than what the neighbour, Pastor or High Chief thinks, THEN it will be blessed, but not a minute before.

These are not just light words. I’ve paid a high price for emigrating to Samoa, and for speaking the truth, but the evidence of repentance, when someone like me speaks the truth, in love, speaks volumes.

Once the spin is unspun … blessings will come

Once the spin is unspun; once repentance occurs; once we are obedient to the call of Christ individually, the blessings will come. We are starting . . . just starting to see this happen around us.

My calling is not that of an evangelist (telling people that they must do this or that to be saved). I leave that to the Lord and there are millions doing that all around the world and in Samoa too. My calling is harder than that – the role more akin to a prophet – speaking out how it really is; to explain things so that people can really understand; to do things everybody thinks is a good idea but everybody is too scared to do; to lead by example and to show people that true believers get hurt, get up and keep going. It’s a hard message, but nothing of real lasting value came without hardship of some sort.

Lord willing, I will be able to continue to unspin the spin, and more will be blessed!

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  1. Hi Dennis,
    just a note to say that Kerry Grace is a woman.
    “Kerry Grass also reveals an agenda, the use of propaganda in his…”

    Steve 😉

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