Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Stalin in the South Pacific? 'Ikai.

The Tongan language is full of vivid and visceral words, and I've been learning (akoako) some of them lately in my night class at Kelston Boys High School (Kelsoni Tamasi'i 'Api'ako). One of the words I've learned is ta'efakakaukau, which translates literally as shit thinking.
I think ta'efakakaukau sums up this new article by Teena Pulu Brown, an anthropologist and political commentator who sometimes has some very interesting things to say about her homeland, but at other times is prone to severe 'afa (exaggeration).
Teena's new piece begins with a detailed discussion of Joseph Stalin's last years, and then makes the argument that 'Akilisi Pohiva, the long-time campaigner for democracy in Tonga who was elected Prime Minister in 2014, has become a twenty-first century Stalin. 
As someone who has studied Stalinism, I'd like to say to Teena: tuku 'ia! (stop it), you're being vale (a fool). It is absurd to compare 'Akilisi with the builder of the gulags and the deporter of entire nations, just because 'Akilisi has been having disputes with Tonga's public television station. Teena's article reminds me of the attempts of some of America's wingnut conservatives to make Obama into Hitler, and is just insensitive to the real victims of real tyranny. 
Footnote: although Teena Pulu Brown's attacks on 'Akilisi are bathetic, they surely don't warrant this sort of response from a man who was one of Tonga's champions of free speech in the years of absolute monarchy. Was Kalafi Moala was trying to parody Brown's over the top style when he wrote his polemic against her? 
[Posted by Scott Hamilton]


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