Libertine in Dreams

life in e-motion


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finding a new way

Love Is Unselfish

First Corinthians 12:4-8 “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

I’ve been soul-searching of late, and someone suggested I read some scripture for guidance and peace of mind.

I’m not someone who usually quotes from the Bible, but I thought I could do with a different approach.

My usual approach is one of healthy skepticism.  A devil’s advocate, if you will.
But as satisfying as it has been to gain the higher ground; to find myself in the right most of the time, there is a pervasive emptiness that keeps loving relationships and lasting happiness out of my reach.

So here I find myself, on a Wednesday afternoon, reading scripture online and trying to decide if I can bring myself to accept the wisdom therein.

The first one I connect to is one of the most well-known, and oft-quoted:
First Corinthians 12: 4-8.
My favourite part of it – “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Perhaps it’s because I currently find myself wrestling with emotions of that nature.
Of sacrifice, of belief in someone other than myself, of placing myself at the mercy of someone else.  Of enduring all things.

My Dad always used to say, no man is an island.
He would say this when my stubbornness prevented me from engaging in a healthy father-daughter relationship with him.  I could never just let it be, let him be.  I could never just leave anything alone or enjoy our time together.  I always had to be right.
I resented everything he said that was contrary to what I believed, as I believed what I believed and that was that.

Hubris.  It will fuck you up.

It’s taken me a long time to accept that my ego has brought me as much pain as it has opportunity.

And as I find myself surrounded by empty seats and lost connections, it’s been humbling, no, humiliating, to have to accept that if I want anything to change, it must begin with me.

So here I am, googling scripture on a Wednesday afternoon, trying to find something that connects me to something more than my beloved life truths.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Endures all things.

This is what I need right now.  To put my faith in what I have in my heart.  It’s real, and it comes from me.

I don’t know if it’s enough to repair relationships and friendships I may have lost, but it’s a good start for repairing my relationship with myself and those still left around me.
So here goes nothing..

 


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Livin’ on a SNPF prayer

Today’s Editorial in the Observer is entitled, “Time for S.N.P.F to lean a little”.
In it, Keni talks about struggling families left with no other options to put food on the table and pay school fees and cover their living expenses.  To his credit, he does mention that the Fund’s objective is to ensure that members are left with a decent amount at their retirement.

Whilst I don’t disagree with the claims that the cost of living is skyrocketing, nor do I deny that there are a lot of desperate people out there, I don’t agree with the sentiment that this retirement fund should be made available for people to use whenever they want.  Are you missing the point of a retirement fund?  It’s for RETIREMENT.
I don’t really get the desperation to use your retirement fund now instead of saving it for old age.  I mean sure, you could die early and someone else gets it.  Is it really so awful that your family ends up with your money?
Also, are you forgetting that half of your retirement fund is paid by Government?  Therefore it’s not just your money you’re complaining about and want to loan on, but the money of every single tax payer out there?
Yes, that’s right, I am okay with the reduction.  I am all for the SNPF retirement fund being used for my retirement.

Money and Me
I’m one of those people whose relationship with money goes like this: because it’s there, I will use it.
In all honesty if I was smarter with my money, I wouldn’t need a single sene of my NPF entitlement.  I’m not joking when I say that every single expense I have is completely predictable – even the faalavelaves.
It’s a good feeling, knowing that when I retire at 85 I’ll have a few bucks left over to hand out to my great-grand kids so they can give me hugs and bring me my glasses of negroni.  I don’t want to rely on my kids for everything because I intend to live with them and take over the master bedroom and en suite anyway.  I already know my kids will be fairly unsophisticated (blame their Dad, he’s from Aleipata) and I don’t want to have to eat their boring, flavorless suā-meals every day.  I want to enjoy flavourful, exotic foods from NZ and drink dusty and imported wines from Australia.  You know, the good stuff.
Whilst my savings account is looking a little dry right now, I intend to start a faalavelave fund this year so I always have some backup in the event an uncle, thirteen times removed, decides to kick the bucket and has demanded to be buried in marble and gold.
Even if I die before retirement, I have nominated people in my family to receive portions of my NPF fund.  No, not you Mum or Dad.  Your NPF fund is me.
I will also leave a small amount for the grieving widower I leave behind.  Just enough so he can buy himself a vasectomy.
I’m pre-booking it as well.  xoxo.

What’s your bloody point?
So I guess my point is that if you look at this issue closely, the problem isn’t the fact that SNPF have reduced the amount you can loan, it’s that members are using their retirement funds like chequing accounts – cashing in their entitlements to pay for faalavelaves and other expenses (like school fees).  I mean, just look at the Street talk section of the Observer today: 4 out of the 6 people who were interviewed said that they needed that money for faalavelaves.  And expenses like school fees are about as predictable as they come.  There isn’t a parent in this world who doesn’t understand about school fees.

So what’s the real problem here?
In my opinion, the problem is this mucky, muddy, boggy faalavelave life in which we are all so deeply and undeniably entrenched.
The way I see it, most people could get by with what they make until you start adding the pressures of church donations, funeral expenses, monetary gifts for weddings, yearly monetary gifts for the church/pastor/congregation, fundraising activities for schools/churches/villages and so on.  I mean, that’s just life isn’t it.  We take the good and the bad and we go with the flow where we can.  Our communities, our families are a huge part of life, and play a very big role in the quality of life that we enjoy – the freedom and peace we take for granted.  We are most fortunate.
The problem I have with it all is not so much in the act of giving itself, but with how much we are giving.  For most, giving more than they can afford is standard.  Sacrificing your own and your family’s needs in order to look good in front of your extended family, your church, your village is absolutely the norm.  I often hear criticisms of how shameful it was for so-and-so to bring only x amount of money to a combined collection for a faalavelave.  It’s that kind of ridicule that inspires what we call the fia kagaka and fia kele syndrome.
This saddens me greatly.  It’s all about perception, it’s all about the look.  There is no substance.  Only surface value.

Ummm, so what does that have to do with the SNPF retirement fund?
Plenty!  Aside from the financial burdens that encourage people to loan up to their necks, it also puts a lot of pressure on retirees who end up with nothing to live on.
I’m not suggesting that you completely ignore any obligations you have to your family, church and village.  No, not at all.
What I’m saying, and what many others have said before, is to give what you can afford!
The world never stopped turning because you didn’t donate your kitchen sink and a kidney to the church fundraiser!  Funerals will happen no matter what happens and irrespective of the amount of money you give. I learnt this recently when I went above and beyond with my own contribution to a funeral, thinking I was showing respect by overcommitting myself.  After the initial flush of pride when my name was called out, it went away and never returned.
Sayonara.  Kaput.  Gone with the wind.
Just like my money.
When the dust settled, I was left with a sizable loan to pay and a small ulcer developing in my stomach as my reward for being “a good Samoan”.
In the greater scheme of things, the amount I had given meant as much (or as little) as what the others had contributed. And rightly so.
If it’s meant to be given out of love, then the amount is irrelevant.

So how do you avoid ulcers?
I think this country needs a citizens advice bureau or some kind of organisation that specialises in helping people to manage their money.  Offering honest, frank and realistic advice on how to get out of debt; how to start saving for expenses like school fees a year in advance; how to budget your wages/salary; prioritizing expenditure; understanding the interest and fees charged by lending institutions like the banks and loan sharks etc etc.

I have absolutely no interest in being shackled to the perceptions of others in my family, in my church, in my village.. and what they deem is a fitting meaalofa for me to give.  None of you are paying my bills!

So yeah, I’m all for reducing the loanable percentage. Until I run for Parliament 😂😂😂😂


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The censorship conundrum

What is Freedom of Speech?

According to Dictionary.com, it is the right of people to express their opinions publicly without governmental interference, subject to the laws against libel, incitement to violence or rebellion, etc.

This has been weighing heavily on my mind of late, because I was forced to delete and block several users on the work Facebook page over the last few days.  If you know the page, you’ll have seen that I work for the Government, and when you put the words “Government” and “Freedom of Speech” together, it’s usually not in favour of the state.

I have been accused of censoring free speech and having a heavy hand in promoting Government’s agenda.
Please allow me to explain why I politely disagree with that sentiment.

Last Friday, I posted a press release from the Prime Minister – regarding his trip to Brussels where, among other duties, he met with the Chairman of World Rugby.  As many of you may already know, the Manu Samoa has been all over the news recently.  I won’t explain as it’s been well-covered thus far.
Almost immediately, the press release post was slammed with some rather disturbing comments from users.  Aside from a smattering of awful profanity, there were racist taunts, gay slurs, accusations of thievery and other unflattering words I don’t care to repeat.  All over rugby.
As a matter of principle, I don’t interfere with user comments or discussions – after all, the internet is a veritable feast of expressive freedom, and as someone who enjoys this freedom herself, I wouldn’t want to be blocked from a site or a page I wish to access.
So I sat there and read every comment.  After a few minutes, I found myself cringing whenever my phone showed a new notification.
I began to have visions of the page ending up like the cesspool of cruel and childish banter that is the Palemene o Samoa Facebook page.

I tried to justify the comments to myself.

“They’re allowed to say whatever they like!”  
“Freedom of speech”
“Just leave it, they will eventually move on to another page”

I felt like a battered housewife, trying to make myself feel better about my inaction.  I was allowing the bullies to spread their poison.  Effectively giving them a voice by doing nothing.

Then it hit me.  Why am I protecting them?
I couldn’t think of a single scenario where I would allow anyone to speak that way to me, my father, my mother, my sister, my brother or my Prime Minister.
So I deleted and I blocked.

There have been supportive comments about what I did.  But as expected, there are those who do not agree with any censorship whatsoever.
I get it.  I really do.
What I don’t get, and I don’t accept, is the freedom of speech you demand to cover the racist taunts, anti-gay slurs, uttering insulting words and profanity when you don’t agree with someone or something.
If you think you can say such vile things to the Prime Minister’s face, then you gladly accept someone saying such things to your father or your mother.

My point on the page is this – you are free to say whatever you like about whomever you like, as long as you don’t name-call or swear.
Stick to the issue.  Back yourself up with facts or ask compelling questions.  We may all learn a thing or two from what you have to say.  And isn’t that the point of social media and social networking?
Wikipedia says that “a relationship over a computerized social networking service can be characterized by context, direction, and strength. The content of a relation refers to the resource that is exchanged.”
So what is the resource you wish to exchange with your peers or your community?
For me – I want to see some compelling questions, some smart debate, some provocative discussion that will make for some meaningful dialogue with whomever is around you or around me.  I want to get something more out of my exchanges than a feeling of absolute disgust, shame, mild amusement or worst of all, apathy.

I don’t believe in censorship but I believe in common courtesy.  We’re not yet lost to the faceless void of the 21st century’s developments.  We are still family.  We are still a community.  We are still a great country.

Samoans purport to be God-fearing Christians who defend their honour and the honour of their families with passion and pride.  Respect is supposed to be a huge part of our culture.  The very fabric of our society is held together by our mutual respect for each other.  Seems we also take pride in our hypocrisy as well.

So please……. Disagree!  Argue against!  Dislike!  Do as you please if you feel so strongly.  Just remember that when you’ve put down your smart phone, or switched off your computer screen – you’re not a faceless name on a screen. You’re the culmination of thousands of years of evolution and the most recent in a line of your ancestors.
So what do you wish to put out in to the world?


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It begins with me

Earlier today, I began writing an entry about this rape* issue and the follow-on commentary printed in the Observer.  But then I remembered where I was and what people here in Samoa are like.  This is the same crap that happens over and over again, and wagging my finger at a bunch of chauvinist, decrepit, old men ensures only two things:  1) a tight ass from clenching and 2) a convivial conversation piece for stubborn men like that.

I decided I would save my energy and make sure that the people in my life know how I feel about such happenings.

I have seen, all too often, the dismissive attitudes of those who should care and who should address the problems of incest, rape, assault within their own family groups, circle of friends and their own communities.  It’s easy to judge and accuse those people of doing those despicable things, but what about your own backyard?  

For me, I will acknowledge that I have family members who were habitually abused.  Unsurprisingly it was discovered that, in time, they became abusers themselves.  It is embarrassing and awful to admit, but I have memories of at least three relatives trying to groom me.  One was a woman.

It took me a long time to accept that it was okay not to like these people and despite the looks of disapproval from other family members – that it was okay not to say hello, kiss or even look at them.  God can forgive them.  I don’t have to.

With every newspaper article highlighting the depravity of our community, it is so very sad to see that the monsters are usually those in plain sight.  It isn’t surprising, but it is just so sad.
These people are in positions of trust and power in family circles.  What they lack in conscience, they make up for with the pageantry of deviant charm and illusory characterization of humanity.  The dregs of humanity.

No one wants to admit that their own blood can be capable of such monstrosity.  I don’t know how many times I have heard these words, “E leai a se aiga e le kupu ai mea faapea” (This sort of thing happens in every family, or, There’s no family that hasn’t been affected by this).  This attitude screams denial and is asking me to accept the status quo.  Well that’s not good enough for me.

While I can’t change the mindset of old, I can do something about the future.

I made a promise to myself and to all that I hold dear, that I would never tolerate such behaviour.  But more importantly, I vow to teach my children the value of another human being and to respect and love one another.  It seems a banal vow, but there are horrific examples abound to make me think this is something I cannot leave to chance.
I will affect my own circle and do what I can where I am most effective and where my opinion matters the most.  I start with me and mine.

[*For background.  Here and here.]


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Shane

I grew up in a strange little family, on a small little island, with a parental unit that has proven ‘Dysfunction’ is indeed, corporeal.

My parents are artists.  I say artists because they are the archetypes of struggling, starving creative folk – the definition of artiste right?
My father is what I would call a jack-of-all-musical-trades.  He grew up privileged.  That saying about the silver spoon? Yeah, it goes hand in hand with his upbringing.
Born to a beautifully flawed yet unmatched couple, he was like the Polynesian Gerber baby – a perfectly adored prototype of a child.
Blue eyes, curly light hair, fair skin color.  All the hallmarks of what beauty is to silly Samoans who continue to value that fair skinned look.
He was like a prize – a trophy for all to marvel over and covet.  To say he developed a superiority complex is an understatement.
I have never known a man who thinks so highly of himself and his ability to do ANYTHING.  This has been proven abundantly clear with his numerous forays in to crazy schemes and ever-changing business ventures.  I don’t ever remember my father having a stable ‘job’.  He was/is always on the go.  His mind is like an overpopulated beehive, always buzzing, always moving, forever pollinating, always creating and never stopping.

Oddly enough (or maybe not), I find this to be a wonderful quality.  His faith and belief in himself is an admirable and enviable trait that I wish I could tap, package and mainline.

Music is his true passion.
It’s what defines him.
He is a drummer.  He has been playing since before I was born.  I believe that was part of his charm re: courtship with my mother (It was a COURTSHIP, and I’ll go to my grave ignoring the fact that she may have found him to be a hot musician… *gag*).
Even now, in his 50s, he is still playing.  I am always proud when I watch him play, and even though I am almost 30 and I have long dismissed any association of ‘coolness’ when it comes to my father – in those rare moments I find myself in awe of him.

He is undoubtedly a narcissist.  The world revolves around him and his needs.  He will bulldoze through anything in pursuit of what he wants and has definitely not spent the requisite amount of time with his children in order for us to be productive and well-rounded members of society (so says the manual.. we continue to disprove this theory).
Although we have all managed to inherit some of his qualities, I am happy to say that none of us are truly, really like him at all.  This is not meant to sound cold, but just a fact.  This world can handle only one Shane.  Truly.

Growing up in Samoa, he was a tough disciplinarian.  The word cruel often comes to mind.  There would be no extreme beat-downs, but when he did dish out the punishment – his creativity really came in to play.  Sometimes it was mental, sometimes emotional and of course physical.  One time it included feet-kissing and bowing.  He was a unique master that’s for sure.  I won’t go in to this too much because, frankly, almost every Samoan has a story or twelve to tell of their mother and father laying down the law.
Some of you may be wondering how I can so casually divulge these things.  Well, I’ve come to realise that I’m not going to hide shit anymore.  Pride is a bitch, and I don’t want to be her slave anymore.
Besides, I may be ashamed of him at times, but I accept him and all his MANY MANY MANY flaws.  He is one half of what made me, and to deny it would mean denying a part of my core being.

My father can be wonderful, and he can be ab.so.lute.ly terrible.  At times I wonder how someone is capable of going through life completely oblivious to the pain he can cause.. other times I thank God for allowing me to learn from a man who has such an interesting and alternative mind.

One of my fondest memories of him include running off to the bookshelf to get the next Encyclopedia for him.
“Renate, go get daddy F.”  Several months later, “Honey, go get daddy G.”  You get the picture.  I cannot say for sure whether he has finished an entire set (although if I asked him now, he would undoubtedly say “Yes of course I have”).
I believe I inherited my love of reading from trying to emulate my father’s voracious appetite for knowledge.
I always had my nose in a book, and my sister and I would spend hours poring over the Encyclopedias, medical texts and whatever else we could get our hands on.  No one in our family was a doctor so I’m not really sure why we had so many medical textbooks – the section on STDs was a favourite.  You’d think I’d be more cautious about unprotected sex, but I guess reading doesn’t automatically guarantee being smart.

A fast-talking salesman with an incredible insight in to the way the human mind operates.  He still baffles me to this day with his perspective.  At a certain point, a child will start to think they are smarter than the parent.  I doubt I will ever get there.
I don’t always believe what he says, and more than once his ‘facts’ have turned out to be an extended director’s cut of the neighbourhood surrounding the truth – but with age I have come to accept most of what he says with a grain of salt and he has an uncanny ability to predict the dismal future.  I kid you not.  He can see what bad is to come of something, and 99% of the time he has been right.
There are still struggles, on my end, to stomach much of what he says and what he does.  Every so often I find myself unable to retain my composure and I let loose.  It’s those times I realize that he is growing old, and will soon die.  That’s hard to accept, and as much as I might wish for it prematurely during bouts of anger and hatred, I know when the time comes – I will be a broken person.

I remind myself that he really doesn’t have many more years to go, and after reminding HIM of that, I remind myself again of how I DO NOT want what little time I have left with my father to be wasted on bickering, and hateful comments.

So I reach in to my sagging, leaking bag of memories and recall the little things that makes me love him so.

I remember him being the parent who always woke up in the middle of the night, or earlier hours of the morning, to rub tiger balm on my chest when I was ill and fret over me until I went back to sleep.
I remember him triple checking where I was going, who with and what I was going to be doing when I wanted to go out with friends.
I remember him taking the bus to the supermarket in Grey Lynn by himself to get our groceries , when we first moved to NZ and had not yet bought a car.
I remember him telling me to remember who I am, and where I come from. “If you don’t know where you come from, if you don’t know your family – you are nothing and one day someone will TELL you who you are.”
I remember him saying noone will love me if I don’t love myself.

A smattering of reasons I love my father.  I love him is because I can’t not love him.
It’s in my blood, and I do not hold such a bond lightly.

So what is the purpose of this?  I don’t know.  I felt compelled to write something about him.  It doesn’t come close to encompassing what he is like, and what he has done.. but it does describe my relationship with him as closely as I possibly can right now.
It’s Love/Hate.  It’s life as a daughter of Shane.

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