There are many aspects of Samoan culture that impress the Palagi. We look at the strong family relationships with envy; the personal attributes such as the sporting passion or even (dare we admit it) Samoa’s religious zeal; and the environmental differences like the housing and simple subsistence living.
If we boil everything down to the true heart of Samoa, Samoa has a history of giving. For centuries she has given her culture, people, land, produce and more. The world is a richer place because of this. More than many, Samoa is uniquely and genetically designed to be a giving country.
But all is not well, as a series of events have stripped Samoa of its capacity to give. A large proportion of the population including many of Samoa’s brightest and best has relocated offshore. If people are the true measure of a countries wealth, then the Samoan Diaspora has distributed wealth far and wide.
A series of natural events have also, to put it bluntly, knocked the stuffing out of a developing nation. The cyclones – Evan, but particularly Ofa and Val, as well as the taro blight hammered the produce industry. Of course the 2009 Tsunami severely impacted a developing tourism industry.
It seems like almost like every time Samoa tries to do or be something, she is whacked about and gets set back to where she started from or worse! We all encourage each other and approach things with a positive attitude, which is great, but the reality is that bad things really do seem to happen a lot of the time here.
Common low-level religious responses that I hear a lot in Samoa parrot the ideas that either God is punishing somebody or something (for a dozen different reasons depending on the sins perceived by the commentator), or that we just have to accept this as the will of God (essentially a passive resignation).
While both viewpoints may have some small merit, they miss the true heart of the Christian message that just as there is a living, loving God who truly loves Samoa, as Jeremiah says, He has a specific vision her, and wants the best for the Samoan people.
When assisting a business in its marketing strategy, I always look for what I call the bulls-eye. This is the one solitary aspect of a business or situation that stands out from which our marketing efforts flow. Put another way, if only one message was sent, what would it be?
This is clearly that Samoans are givers. Immense pride when giving is evident – shoulders slip back an inch; eyes light up; heartbeats rise; sometimes a smile sneaks through and a radiance flows from a Samoan’s spirit when they give. “Giving” is the Samoan bulls-eye.
It’s been a struggle to build a traditional “bums on beaches” tourism industry, and for the Tourism Authority to take on Fiji, Bali and the Gold Coast head-on is a strategic blunder of “King Canute” proportions. Bureaucrats are not known for their creativity, so expect more of the same in this sector. Any effort to redevelop a primary produce industry is better than none, but ask those who lost all in the cyclones of the 1990s about the wisdom of investing into a business that can be wiped out in a mere few hours.
When a country is systematically stripped of its capacity to give, yet is designed TO give, the question begs, “Of what?”
Only the love of God remained available to give when all else was stripped of the Saviour. If the heart of God for Samoa is to return to its roots of giving, then anyone that finds ways to give, plugs into the heart of God and must receive His blessing.