Sunday, May 20, 2007

THANK YOU STAR-KIST

I like the opportunity to say “thank you” to Star-Kist for all the good they intentionally and unintentionally do for our territory. While you’ve been bashed publicly for your relatively low wages (compared to the mainland not globally), you have yet to be praised for the blessings your business has made possible in the past, the present and hopefully, well into the future.

Though you don’t intend it, your presence in our territory has helped us realize an economies of scale in territorial transportation and utility costs. Simply put, without you, our families would have to pay more for electricity, water and gas. Because everything we have is imported, prices at the checkout counter would have been higher if you weren’t around to help spread transportation costs. You actually raise wages by helping us to lower prices.

You’ve also been bashed for your corporate greed. If corporate greed is what got you to start your business, if corporate greed is what got you to be the best at your business, if corporate greed is what makes you want to expand your business, then I unabashedly thank you for your corporate greed as well.

When many of our family go off island for medical treatment, they don’t want the most charitable doctor, the most environmentally friendly doctor or the most equal opportunity employing doctor. They go off island expecting the best damn doctor and treatment their money can buy. In this respect, we need you too to be the best damn tuna company money can buy.

Your success is unintentionally lending to our success; the pursuit of your self-interest is affording our people the opportunity to do the same. It’s almost as if it were by some invisible hand.

But instead of thanking you for all the good you may not intend to do, many want to raise your taxes, force up the wages you pay, and restructure electricity rates in what seems to be an attempt to just shift more of the burden onto you. How does one operate a business in a den of thieves?

Politicians, like Faleomavaega, on the other hand, don’t employ thousands of our people with their own money, and if it were not for the federal government and all those hard-working Palagi and Asian taxpayers, they would be paying our people a minimum wage of ZERO. You, not them, are our hero.

Star-Kist, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving our people an opportunity many around the world would die for. It’s a tough job for a tough people, but hopefully most of us don’t want to be fish cleaners forever. I hope most of us take the job, learn something, expand their knowledge and skills and move on to bigger and greater things in life. And hopefully those bigger and better things prepare us so that one day we can say, “If you have to go because our people won’t work for less, then good bye, no hard feelings and thank you for your business.”

Monday, May 07, 2007

ELECTIONS ARE NO GUARANTEE

Electing senators doesn't guarantee that only "good" and honest people will be elected to office. In Washington D.C., Marion Barry "won a fourth term as mayor in 1994 after serving a prison term on a drug conviction" according to Reuters. In Louisiana, the FBI found $90,000 in alleged bribe money in Rep. William Jefferson's freezer during a raid on his home back in August of 2005. The congressman won a ninth term for his district's seat in the 2006 elections.

In Hawaii, the incumbency rate for legislators and even the governor/lt. governor is so high that I even overheard one lawmaker state how long he was going to "serve". Legislators get to set their own term limits in a democracy where it's supposed to be the people who decide such things? What arrogance!

On top of that, it's getting so bad here that some legislators run unopposed come election time, because the conventional wisdom is that you're only wasting your time and money running against them. The only time there are more candidates is when an incumbent seeks another office or retires.

Electing senators the fa'asamoa way is not perfect, but neither is the popular vote or any other way for that matter. Bad people are always going to find a way to rig the system in their favor. I sincerely believe we will do more good focusing on what powers we give to Fono (and the ASG), instead of how we select people for that institution.

Will integrity and honesty make the Fono more capable of controlling prices? Will integrity and honesty make the Fono a fair broker when it comes to raising their own pay and allowances? Will integrity and honesty make the Fono more capable of running ASPA, spending the retirement fund or micro managing the LBJ?

No matter who we send there, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Nevertheless, senators should be ashamed to think that without them, the fa'asamoa will fade quietly into the dark. The fa'asamoa is embodied in our language, our beautiful music, our sense of humor, our communal relationships, church, our own versions of games like cricket and rugby, and so many little and not so little things in our everyday lives.

Our culture makes the senator, senators don't make the culture.