OP ED: Corruption
Standing in line at a Siusega supermarket, I am minding my own business when a tall, thin, well dressed young man zooms in front of my palagi self, and takes my place.
Maybe he thought I was standing there for the fun of it. Perhaps he was instituting his own Locals First policy, that very moment.
Looking at the back of his nice white shirt, I laugh to myself, thinking back to the assurances of my Samoa friends in Auckland last week.
“You’re humble enough, you’ll be fine,” said one uso, over farewell drinks.
Those words running through my head, I didn’t say anything, just looked outside to the car the young man had arrived in, and the young woman sitting in the passenger seat, watching my reaction. More amused than offended, I couldn’t help but feel a sneaking admiration for his rudeness.
Admiration, because as a journalist I have to be ‘rude’ nearly every day, asking questions that most people don’t want to answer. If I ask a question that people do feel comfortable answering, then I am probably not doing my job properly.
On many occasions, I have had to walk in front of people at a public event, even turn my back on them, to get a photo decent enough to be printed.
This young man would probably make a good journalist.
I wander outside, and buy some taro and palusami from the polite, smiling woman outside on the supermarket verandah. I am no expert, but politeness seems deeply imbued under fa’a Samoa; humility prized more than possessions.
Perhaps, some time in this young man’s life, he has seen the same kind of rudeness from other palagi visitors and decided that’s the way to treat foreigners – snub the snobs.
No big deal, journalists are used to getting snubbed.
Part of the job.
Ministers refuse to answer our questions.
Officials don’t want to talk with us.
Business people think we’re trouble makers.
Academics look down on us, referring to our stories as merely the “first draft” of history.
And church leaders wonder why we never turn the other cheek, never embrace our enemies, or show more Christian compassion towards those being criticised.
We feel those things, but outside of personal feelings, none of those things can worry us, because that’s not part of the job.
Driving along an inland road, I see an old lady bent double, picking the last twigs from the roadside as part of the household cleanup every morning. It makes me remember raking breadfruit leaves as a kid, great big breadfruit leaves, in the morning before school, very similar to the great big, freshly-fallen breadfruit leaves that would be waiting for me when I got back from school.
Like those leaves, news stories don’t rake themselves up.
Someone needs to wander all over the place, lowering themselves to the ground, picking up the rubbish, piling it together and then burning it. Instead of leaves and rakes, words and photos, often on the front page.
Like that old lady, if we don’t do our jobs every day, soon the whole country would be knee-deep in the rubbish of corruption.
Where there’s rubbish, there’s vermin, and where there’s vermin, there’s disease.
Almost any issue, challenge or problem you care to name in Samoa can be seen as a symptom of the disease itself, which is corruption.
Not just Samoa, the whole world.
Funny how the mind works. From a completely forgettable moment in a supermarket, to global corruption, in just a few hundred words. But corruption creates injustice, that leads to anger, and an angry man is a rude man.
As the old saying goes, don’t do anything you would not be comfortable reading on the front page of a newspaper.
Or, in this case, an inside page.
(Samoa News reprinted this editorial, with permission of Mr. Jason Brown, Sub-editor of the Samoa Observer. It first appeared in the Samoa Observer, May 24, 2013 edition, and is published by Samoa News in the spirit of Pacific Community service — acknowledging that freedom of the press and freedom of speech are powerful and precious rights in all countries and nations that seek to govern by the will of the people. They allow that all voices are heard, right or wrong; negative or positive — they are the inherent rights of a free people. ra, EIC Samoa News)