Monday, April 11, 2005

Hard Times

I’ve experienced one of the hardest times of my life a few days ago when I was talking to my brother about less employment opportunities in American Samoa due to increasing foreign competition. He is finding that it is becoming harder to find jobs in the restaurant industry seeing that immigrants are taking more of them up and foreign establishments are becoming increasingly competitive. It was hard for me to tell him that his pain and his struggle are necessary for him and our island country to become better.

I tried to use an analogy to explain to him why I believe that statement to be the truth. In American Samoa, not too many people know how to fish anymore or they don’t depend on fishing as much as in the past. Fishing was considered an expertise, and families and villages had tufuga in this capacity as well. Though our tufuga were not employed in the modern sense of the term, their value and worth to the community were continually chipped away by local grocery stores and imports. Some abandoned the practice all together.

As sad as this may seem, the implications of this so-called tragedy have improved our lives over the years. Even though families could have relied on members to provide fish free, they continued to find it more convenient to buy fish at retail stores. We rather give up money to buy fish than go fish on our own. We save our families time to do more important, more productive things. If we had passed laws banning imports or the sale of fish at stores, then obviously we would have more fishermen today and fewer teachers, cops, governors and the like.

It’s hard for people to do this, but we have to apply this logic to every job out there. If imports or foreigners find a way to provide products and services more cheaply, effectively and efficiently, then this saves Samoans time and money to improve in other areas. This is where protectionists come in and say, “We don’t have no resources or any more room to advance.” I’m glad these protectionists where not around when Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. I’m glad these protectionists where not around when someone invented silicon out of useless sand. I’m glad these protectionists were not around to whisper their rhetoric into the ears of our many great achievers; we may have less of them today.

Politicians love to use slogans such as, “The sky’s the limit,” or, “You can achieve anything you put your mind to,” all the while paying lip service to those truths. I believe in my brother and my Samoan people to do better and become better, and that was the only thing that was not hard for me to tell him.

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