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Evolving vs Static culture

Auckland, New Zealand


I read the current dialog degenerating into name calling and close-minded swaggering and it reminds me of previous disappointments when anticipating many a good game from our Ikale Tahi team playing overseas and later leaving totally embarrassed due to their short-fused attitude spoiling the game for all. Then we often lament that if only our players had kept their eyes on the ball rather than clothes-lining the necks of other players, we would...’ve won. I note, we Tongans are very good at personally short-circuiting any conversation that might offer any promise through personal attacks. And we wonder why some of excellent ex-patriots often stay away from all things Tongan!

Nevertheless, its an exciting time right now, because Tonga is wide open for the "remaking". It...’s a new era, with a new, well educated and progressive thinking King who has a new vision of what Tonga could become. Commoners have more opportunities to express their thoughts and partake in that remaking process as well. The shame is, we often use that freedom of speech to antagonize rather than speed up progress. To tear down rather than build up. And I think its high-time we stop personally attacking successful people such as Mele Payne Lynch (whom I have never met, but admire what little I know of her) from sharing their thoughts on what could be improved for Tonga from her perspective and experience. If Tonga really wants to move forward, then its people like Mele with extensive management experience we should embrace and involve in the reformation process we are embarking on. If we read her letter carefully, she isn...’t exactly telling our Tongan culture to go to hell, in fact she also made some very big-picture suggestions that may make Tonga a better place for all if we wish to survive globally. Suggestions that I have a strong feeling our very own King George V would totally agree with.

As much as I respect and love my Tongan culture, with a little common-sense I also understand, that like my pyjamas when I was 3 years old, I would find it rather difficult to fit into it 30 years later at 33 years old without the legs being lengthened to avoid them being worn like under-garments. Culture is such, it should be open to remoulding, remaking, upgrading, upsizing, improvement, retouching and mending to ensure it is able to best fit and serve the people it belongs to. Otherwise, it becomes redundant.

Culture is not a sacred cow static portrait of the last supper where the faithful twelve must stay seated at their first posture for centuries (stale bread, aged-wine, unshaved beards and all) without a toilet break until Armageddon. Like the great dinosaurs, which failed to evolve in a timely manner to adapt to their changing environment and climate, they subsequently don...’t exist today. If we wish to prolong and preserve our Tongan culture in a meaningful manner, we must keep the core (which is the patriotism, love, and one-ness as Tongans) and let the way it is applied evolve freely to make it meaningful to our future generations, rather than fighting to keep it static in an archaic form our own children wont be able to relate to in the future, and risk making it irrelevant, and them dumping it altogether as impractical and futile.

Lets be honest, our beloved Tonga does have many issues that need addressing such as proper rubbish management, health and poverty etc. These issues will never be addressed properly if we always become so touchy and protective of them being raised and debated to find a way forward for the good of all. Lets not start protecting the litter and pot-holes on the streets, the oppresive cycles that perpetuate poverty, and cultural practices that perpetuate obesity & diabetes as if it too is part of our Tongan culture and heritage. The irony of it all is, those of us whom argue to maintain a static culture are mostly living overseas enjoying the trappings of good health & wealth and freedom of choice. Most had purposefully escaped these very issues by moving overseas. Now we want to freeze Tonga in a time warp, to tickle our nostalgia on how it once was before we left for overseas, without any real thought for those struggling under the enormous weight of carrying such a static impersonation of culture in such an economically demanding 21st century environment.


E. L. Saafi

etu [at] ihug [dot] co [dot] nz