Monday, April 28, 2014

The art of giving and taking in Samoan culture, until you have nothing but a pu panty.

Lots happened in real life that kept yours truly occupied but happy to share something because I know you're all dying to read about it. NOT! hah.

I don't know about other families, but for some families that I know of, there are givers and there are takers/or receivers. 

It is quite common knowledge, we, sorry, I mean, they don't question our their position, because for some reason, we they are born into these're either a taker or a giver, apparently. 

If you're from an awesome amazing family, you all end up being givers.
You give generously and so does everyone else around you. Perfect Harmony.

So, back to receivers (takers),  these are people who are not accustomed to giving. And after decades of receiving, it becomes second nature, it becomes so ingrained that they don't have a sense of shame in taking - taking - demanding - taking some more.
They take so naturally that when someone sits down next to them with a nice watch, the taker person would say in a nice friendly tone,
"E suga, ka'i magaia lau uaki. Faapega uma lava le uaki a lo'u cousin ga maua mai i loga cousin i Kafuga. Auoi, e match kogu lava ma la'u pea kaukaliga lea ga maua mai i lo'u cousin brada aunty lea ga sau mai Timbukpu"  ---They are charming, these takers, they will charm the watch off your wrist, the cash out of your wallet and the sweat off your back.
They also consider it their 'right' to receive.
And when the givers suddenly stop or realizes that it is fucked up situation, the receivers get absolutely indignant. 
They don't consider their loss but they talk about the poor nature of the giver. They accuse the giver of being arrogant and high-minded and ungrateful. In fact, they say anything and everything that makes the giver the culprit, not them. 

Some smart intelligent people these days have now learnt to stop giving, have learnt to give a little, have learnt to say no to takers.
They have also learnt to say: 
"Actually, I have to feed my children and pay the bills, so your bingo will have to wait, your $2000 donation will have to be delayed or your gambling debts will just have to wait".

Learn to push back and say No, it is not necessary to give $500 to the faifeau because he came to bless the birthday.
It is his calling to pray. He should do it freely.

Stop enabling takers because they will never learn the meaning of hard work and hard earned money. And the value of things. 
Worse yet, their children learn from their influencers. 

Over the years, I have received so many emails from people who are married into Samoan families.
Many of them are Samoan themselves who are unfamiliar with what to do in a faalavelave/culture etc.
Some  are unclear about why things are done without question. Why they give unconditionally while the children go without.

Many are confused and baffled at the exorbitant show of wealth at occasion which dissipates and leave loved ones in debt and despair. 

My message is this:

  • As long as we keep giving giving giving, we are continuing to appropriate, encourage and enable takers to continue taking. 
  • If someone says to you, "I give it because it's my culture" sit them down and ask for further clarification. Ask this, "What kind of culture are you practicing? Are you sure it is culture? Are you certain that by giving more than you have going to make a positive contribution? 
  • Lastly, "What is the purpose of your culture?" (In Samoan: O le'a kogu a le kaua o lau agaguu pe'a e kago aku kago i le go'o?"
  • And when he/she gets angry panty and say "You ignorant shat, how dare you question my values?"
  • Turn your head calmly and ask "And what are these values? Are those values about giving until you are stripped of your ability to feed your children and drown you in debt? 
  • Are those values allowing the takers to give back in appreciation?" 
  • And then when shit hits the fan, ask this:
  • "In your own time of need, who is there for you?"  (--In the family that I know of, the takers are absent until the food is served and the money has been rounded up, they they rock up and act like they own the show). 
Culture continues to be the veil which legitimizes these habits of taking and giving. But we must remember that culture has continually changed and has been manipulated by the practitioners of this so called "culture".

I will always think back to my grandmother who used to say that in their time, when there is a faalavelave and if you have nothing to give, you clearly communicated this with the people affected. When you have nothing, you give nothing in a material sense but you go to the funeral regardless to help out physically.They would sometimes take one fine mat and offer to help. Nothing more.

Then and Now
In the early days of the LMS (the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa), villagers gifted coconut oil, fala papa (mats) and fermented crop to the church to support it, in what is now the annual fa'amati.
You gave what you had if you had it. 
Today, fa'amati contributions are no longer such 'petty' things. They are now extensive wardrobes, decorated mats, fine fabrics and - 4WD vehicles. I shit you not. 

Money has contaminated the essence and the intended purpose of the Fa'asamoa.
 I say this because when you have no money today and cannot contribute to a faalavelave, you are considered a bad person. Or aiu, or e le kausi aiga. Oka se le alofa. Ua makua leai lava se fa'aukauka.
Fefe ia ***.

Money has also taken away the importance placed on hard work. 
Why work hard when you can get money from your relatives? Why fish when you can buy tinned fish from the shop? 
Why work when you can borrow?
Why give when you can receive?
Why Why Why?

I know I am ranting now but I hope that our generation will be more mindful of how we practice our culture. I hope that my age group will have the common sense to say "Give what you can but prioritize your children and wellbeing". Live within your means and know when to push back"
I will continue to celebrate my culture but I am choosing to do it in a sustainable manner. I am choosing values that reflect our world today. I will not continue to enable a culture of dependence. A culture that support people who sit, who preach the good word and fai mai ia mama loko ae e ese lava mea o lo'o fai i lalo gei. Aue Soma e, ma'imau le vasa.

"My" faasamoa is about being there for my loved ones, celebrating their successes, empathizing with their sorrows, being supportive and being there for those who are willing to help themselves. It stops being my faasamoa the very moment that I want to snuff the life out of the constant ungrateful arrogant and culture-wielding receivers"


Laura Writes said...

omg this blog could not have come at a better time. I've been really battling this since I've moved out of home and have a part-time money. I'm all of a sudden in a position to be a giver (although, not at the scale of the 4WD - daaaaaaamn that happens??. lol)

I've been thinking A LOT lately about the "Samoan Culture" (whatever that is) and this was very clarifying.

nola said...

Thankyou for writing this- I think about this almost every day of my frustrates the begeeses out of me and I am determined to change this mindset..even if I am a lone soldier and yes- I may get labelled as ai'u and unhelpful but seriously...too many takers....Im happy to give TO A GOOD CAUSE..guess thats where the problem lies...the definition of good cause is non existent and the art of asking whenever you need something is a cancer in our society...I am all for Family first..otherwise ga'o le pu panty a le mea e totoe at the end of the day....

Goddess said...

that's the thing aye - when people push back and only give what they can afford to give, the receivers will be indignant and say 'e ese o le aiu o le fafige, or a popular term to refer to is 'siu o le ulu o le palagi' ....someone being stingy, or tight with money.....and yet, Oi aue! Its like we portray our best for the outside world and then starve afterwards, too much pride me thinks ae pu le tipan

kuaback said...

Yes please, "live within your means" none of these $2000 per household for every faalavelave, when only 1 person within that household has a job that earns $1000 a month. This drives me up the wall! Ridiculous!!!
Thanks for this post! This issue has been bothering me for a while. I can't stand the idea of giving all for the village/church saogameas while you have leftovers for dinner. Does not make any sense!

Goddess said...

kuaback.....exhale! lol....I know how you feel about this matter, its so frustrating a ea.
But the fact remains, we will always have pride and we will always be giving, because a le give e fai le kala foi lele, "ia, ua maua loa mea le koe ago mai"....can't win, can't win.

...okay, vent of the day Over and under

Vincent said...

Kupu le sese o le le malamalama o kagaka. It is not supposed to be a culture of givers and receivers/ takers but of reciprocity. i.e. people both give and receive depending on the situation and the giving and receiving should be beyond money and goods and include physical help (as you mentioned) as well as moral support in times of need. At least that is how I was brought up to see the relationship. We are all supposed to give and receive (kali le faaaloalo) the problem is as you noted some people (too many people) have twisted the culture to suit them and taken advantage of the good hearted relatives and friends. The other problem is the fia show o kagaka by giving so much to look good both in faalavelave and especially giving to the church.
While she was alive my mum exercised some control over familial faalavelave by decreeing that no one was to give more than they could give and bringing the monetary amounts down. Also when it was possible these monetary gifts to funerals were done through the backdoor so to speak as in not formally presented. Which meant that the family in mourning did not have to make a presentation back. i.e. o le agaga moni o le foi ai lea o le foai e fesoasoani i le aiga o loo mafatia ae le o se foai ma le agaga e toe maua mai ai nisi mea.
Actually even when they did the formal presentation after we received the counter presentation most of the stuff was given back to the family with only the minimum retained so as to not cause offence by not accepting, while informing the family that we had not come to get things but had come to give our support.

Helen Tauau said...

This was interesting to read as in being NZ Samoan and having a matai title really opens this up in seeing the culture up front and personal in the expectations that some other matai have in giving. We (husband and I) like the Maori concept of 'koha' which is what you can afford rather than the 'sky high' expectations. I agree about living within your means and saying that this is all I am able to give - with faalavelave. We, in our families, need to demonstrate a new way of living that doesn't exploit peoples pockets and still maintains mana at the end of the day. It's about saying 'No' gracefully...