SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY17/08/18

'Tulou' is a Samoan word that is uttered when walking in front of people especially older people. It is pronounced 'too low' as you literally lower yourself as if to avoid a low beam ahead of you when passing. It's a bit like excusing yourself for invading their boundaries.

Tulou is also a pretext to a speech or announcement where one humbles him/herself when addressing the 'fono', ' hui', meeting or public.

A beautiful rare white bird, which flies high in the sky or lagi, (g is soft - langi) sounds a pleasant call; folks look up in admiration to hear. So when folks want to hear inspirational korero or talk, they speak of fa'a-lagilagi or a metaphor in making sky talk like the beautiful bird.

Everyone likes to hear beautiful pleasant stories like 'fa'a-lagilagi' especially when its about oneself. And like anyone else, Samoans like to hear their lineage high on a pedestal; usually delivered by poetic oratory style. They love hearing songs of praises of themselves that much they spend most of the presentation on it.

Well, the happier the host is the better the 'lafo' or gift I guess. But if someone is making a five minute public announcement, he/she spends ten minutes on the song and praises of the recipient. The last thing they want to hear is someone making a song and praise of him/herself; I suppose it's liken to webpage full of selfies!

Did you know that Robert Louis Stevenson's resting place is on top of Mt. Vaea overlooking Apia, Samoa? Treasure Island was the most popular story of my time and looking for the treasure added excitement to growing up.

Tulou and humbling oneself with respects make up the underlining values of fa'aaloalo, the sei or jewel in the Samoan style. It's the respect in between or social relations.

However, the pre ceremonial greetings and presentations serve a therapeutic effect on participants; they begin to feel comfortable and speak freely without fear or shame although they still maintain respects of certain protocols.

All members of the family discuss an issue of concern; the family chief represents the issue to the village fono. And the process is escalated to court if no resolution is found.

Public and social issues are debated in the family before escalation to the village meeting and so on. And that keeps everyone in line according to the social structure which is based on the family.

In New Zealand, everyone has a right to speak in a village or public meeting, but it's the authority that has the last say. The social structure is focus more on society.

When social relations or fa'a-Samoa is working well, families and villages maintained social order. That was a while ago. The fa'a-Samoa too has fallen victim to Modernisation by thinning family social values with individuals' material desires.

For a Samoan un-title male, he usually has no right to speak out of place. His family chief voice his opinion but only after consultation with other members of the family. In New Zealand as a citizen, he has freedom to express his opinion as long as it doesn't interfere with other's rights. And this is not a problem because he has respects built-in in his culture.

Then while he has freedom to express his opinion in New Zealand, it's not quite straight forward as that. Aspects of free speech underlies implicit undertones. If you speak about an issue that may impose some judgments on someone, that someone would react in imposing judgments on you.

And all of a sudden free speech is not so free anymore. It is sanctioned by retaliation and the truth is sacrificed. It gives way to whoever has a majority following or the means of convincing popular opinions among the bullies.

We are now restricted to commercial behaviour such as saying what the audience wants to hear, or in line with political lines and popular opinions. So in fear of retaliation which could make a difference in one's job and livelihood, free speech is sold.

This doesn't include bullies who rely on power to achieve their ends. There is no right, only might.

Now, nations' political leaders are diplomatic about what they say for social relations between nations can depend on. It has given rise to trade and economic wars. And workers made redundant while the price of goods and services inflate over and above poverty.

Free speech has become just as powerful to economies as weapons of mass destruction are to war. Economic destruction is armed by free speech. This is certainly fuelled by the media and social media.

The fa'a-Samoa despite varying opinions guarantees everyone's free speech in due process. From the family to the village and nation, an opinion is heard. But Modernisation had advanced generations from social family to material individualism where values are stripped of binds and qualities. It is possible to threaten a structural collapse of a civilisation by the power of free speech.

It is during drought season of depression the white bird is seen high in the sky. The people look up at a rare sight with aspirations to elevate the standards over and above the material. It is an inherent desire to do right that is more beautiful and greatly satisfying than the material. And there is no doubt that values bind the organisation with concrete stability.

There is no doubt that free speech has to be sanctioned by the responsibility, not by retaliation.