I’m not sure how exactly it makes it into the conversation but I have found myself shocked at the casual nature in which we as Samoans talk about violence, laugh about it and joke about it. Below I describe two (out of many) incidences where I have been in conversations, like many of you, when violence becomes the topic or insinuations of it become the topic and it is either halfway through or after that I realize how extraordinarly wrong it is!
The thing is, it’s not that we do it intentionally, violence is so much a part of our lives or our upbringing that it is normal to refer to it in conversation and it be ok. In the following conversations I am not naming anyone, because the fact is, we get threatened with violence if any of these people find out about any aspect of these conversations.
Conversational Experience 1:
I had lunch with one of my closest friends from high school yesterday. We haven’t seen each other for a long time, so it was a very good catch up. She works for one of the Government Ministries and I work outside of Government. We both went to high school together and it’s one of those friendships where you just pick up where you left off. Our usual catch up consists of an update of her current partner, analysis of the relationship and then mine (which is boring because my partner doesn’t cheat on me or is getting married without my knowledge, or flying off to Australia to see his fiancee etc.) Luckily for my friend, all that seems to be behind her and she has met a wonderful man. Anyhow after this usual state of relationships discussion, we then move on to discuss the status of classmates.
Working outside of Government means I rarely get to see these former classmates or interact with them, where as my friend works with three and is in contact with many who work in Government. This is how the conversation went.
Friend: “Hey did you hear about T****?”
Friend: “Remember that story about the Tongan girl that got slashed in the face while she was at the salon?”
Me: “Yeah, why?”
Friend: “It was T****. He was so jealous and suspicious he went over to Matautu where she was in the Salon and she slashed her face with a knife.”
Needless to say I was thoroughly shocked to hear that our former classmate was responsible for publicly slashing his partners face in a fit of rage a couple of months ago. I am so sad for the Tongan wife, I had never met her, but no woman should ever ever ever have to go through that shit. Sadly this same young man dated one of our close friends in high school and in year ten beat her up in front of the hostel during one of their fights.
Conversational Experience 2:
In the same conversation, we started talking about our other classmates. One particular one is married to someone of authority.
Friend: “Ia last time the office went out for drinks the husband came and dragged her by the hair and bashed her up outside the club.”
Me: “Why didn’t anyone stop him?”
Friend: “The boys were afraid of the guy, what he might do to them after.”
Apparently this particular gentleman makes it a habit to beat up his wife in public, and no one interferes because he is in a position of authority. Due to the sensitive nature of this particular case, I can’t go to the details, because it is is not fair on her that this be on social media. But I would hope that whoever reads this, and knows of women who get publicly beaten up, that you step in to stop them. Take a photo and send it to the Police and copy SVSG and any other organization you think can help out the woman and take the man to justice.
Conversational Experience 3:
I was in Fiji for a meeting when I met up with my cousin for a drink at the hotel I was staying in. There was a Samoan Government worker who was at the bar, he was in mid-forties, who came over and joined us upon hearing that we were speaking the language. He was there for a workshop and had been chain smoking on the verandah earlier when I saw him. We talked about his workshop, his work history, mine, my cousins, then we got onto the subject of relationships. He said he was currently a young woman in Samoa, who has a good job and no the ‘jealous-type.’ I asked if her parents were ok with it, and he said they don’t have choice. Then we got talking about traditional dating methods and this is how it went.
Me: “Isn’t it nice that we are now in a day and age where you can actually date someone out in the open.”
Him: “Yeah, frankly I don’t think I have the strength to run if I had to do the moe-kolo approach.”
We all laughed at this.
Me: “I am always amused at that, why men in the villages did it, knowing full well they would be caught, and they don’t even make it to their lover in time before the father or the brother gets them.”
Him: “Well the trick is to make it really quiet, and once you get there, you hold her mouth and her neck and if she makes one peep, then just hit her with the kao kaigamu.”
Me: “Well hopefully before you get there her father pulls his gun on your head.”
In this one conversation he joked about rape and violence. I know that’s how we converse when we are drinking or joking around in social circles, and I have sat in enough drink ups to hear this, but it does not make it ok. In fact I myself didn’t think there was anything wrong with these ‘theoretical’ jokes about violence until about five years ago when I took some papers in gender and trauma. IT’S NOT OK to joke about it. When you are in your next conversation, listen to what is being said and you will realize that sometimes some jokes are violent in nature.
Share with us some of these conversations, so that we can all have a better idea about this issue.