Saturday, August 01, 2009

Apology from Apia

I am currently domiciled in Samoa, and

a) the quantity and quality of alcoholic beverages

b) the paucity of internet connections

and c) the pressure of local hospitality

all mitigate against a successful blog post.

I would, however, like to say two things:

1. The obsession of the far left in New Zealand with far-off revolutions (Cuba, China, even, today, Venezuela) is, perhaps, misplaced: here, on our 'doorstep' (oh! colonial arrogance!) we have an example of the retention of communal land ownership, of subsistence agriculture matched with the collectivisation wages drawn from the tourist industry and the relatively few industrial projects available (eg, the Vailima brewery...)

Why are we afraid to celebrate actually existing socialism, in Samoa? Is it because the intricate spires of Samoan villages confute our bourgeois notions of secularism?

2. The Samoan tourist trail, such as it is, is in urgent need of revision. Today I visited the monument for Tamusese Tapua, raised on the outskirts of Lepua village, which remembers the way the man fell to a New Zealand machine gun on Black Saturday, 1929. Where can I see the hibiscus hedge, the beautiful hibiscus hedge, which the man refused to destroy, in 1926 - the hedge which launched the Mau movement? Why can I not visit the man's house in Vaimoso? What about the village where he spent his exile, in Sava'i? I ask the taxi drivers, but they want to take me to Robert Louis Stevenson's house, or to a soap factory, or to Vailima house...

Tourists have a lot to answer for. I've spent an evening grumbling with a member of the Tainui nation, who resents the commercialisation of Raglan. We both feel like glamorous exiles in Apia.

Skyler is at my side: it's time for an inglorious retreat from the bar...


Blogger feddabonn said...

i've been rather quietly watching your blog and enjoying your posts. i found what you are saying about the samoan system *very exciting. i only recently moved to the pacific- please beleive me when i say my question is *not meant to be offensive/abrasive:

i have got the idea, from the news and a little reading, that aotearoa/new zealand plays a large part in supporting the samoan economy, primarily by providing jobs. would the samoan economy survive without this injection of cash? can it survive on subsistence agriculture and communal land ownership?

i belong to a tribe that is fast moving away from subsistence agriculture to commercial cropping, and moving from communal land to personal ownership- changes i find very disturbing.

1:26 am  
Blogger Ross Brighton said...

I think that the answer to your question about the lack of celebration of Samoan socialism has one major root: Primitivism. It's the same cause as NZs continual arrogance in designating the pacific as "less developed" and in need of economic overhaul.

3:58 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

E.P. Thompson's ghost has asked me to point out that:
(1) you mean "militate", not "mitigate";
(2) the dependence of Samoa on New Zealand prevents it from being an example of actually existing socialism, of which there are, at present, none, anywhere on the planet; and
(3) wishful thinking is not the same thing as accurate analysis of reality.

12:32 pm  
Blogger Giovanni Tiso said...

I can't help but feel that you missed an opportunity to sign yourself "Sorry in Samoa" here.

2:25 pm  
Anonymous Keri Hulme said...

Did you factor in the very hierchical Samoan society Maps?
Aristocrats & socialism do not mix...

5:14 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I think Maps is seeing an aspect of Polynesian culture etc that of the more cooperative nature of it. Of course now days the Church has laid it's dead hand on Samoa. Although probably many Samoans see the church as more a social thing than anything.

The hierarchy is there - but that aside - there are elements and many aspects of communal living and attitudes.

Fiji and Samoa etc however were set back by colonial industries d (e.g. sugar, and fertilisers) and financial exploitation and military bases (U.S., France, Australia and NZ etc -) hence the need for many Samoans and others to work in NZ etc

Imperialism in the Pacific is the title of a book I read once...

We can learn from these countries though. Socialism could happen - it is overall - properly implemented - a more efficient and egalitarian system - Capitalism seems to have largely failed everywhere.

2:01 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Land tenure in Samoa sure ain't communal.

7:01 pm  
Anonymous Matt R said...

Hi Maps

I'd say that your comparison of Samoan rural life with "really existing socialism" is an equally one-dimensional expression of colonial arrogance. Many researchers and academics mistakenly refer to land tenure systems throughout the Pacific as ‘communal’. I think the analogy with socialism – aside from being inaccurate – hides much more than it reveals about the complex ways these traditional systems and values survive in Pacific today.

7:28 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Fair enough - but I was boozed, and am prone to exaggeration when boozed! See my latest post for a more considered explanation of what I consider valuable about Samoa.

7:48 pm  
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