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You know, we live in a world now where it's expected that if you are living a good life, a well-balanced, kind life, that you will, amongst other things, be culturally sensitive. And I don't usually have a problem with that, I work quite hard at it in our community. Sure, I make jokes, and plenty of them, but in all honesty, I try to focus on the person, not their race or colour or culture. I've spent the past few years working with children of many cultures, many colours, many religions, and I haven't had a problem with that, and nor have the children. I usually got on well with their parents, too.

Now we do need to be sensitive to people's cultures, sure. We need to be accepting, accommodating, understanding, all that. But occasionally, I get sick of trying when the work we do seems to have so little effect. Take tonight. We have a large Samoan community in our parish. They don't live near the main church, because the church happens to be in one of the wealthiest suburbs of Wellington, and the Samoans live in the poorest one, through the tunnel, past our place and up the hill. They use the church up there most times, but it's not a real church, so big events are supposed to come down to the main church.

So. Us rich white people (yeah, well, I'm not rich but I am white, and oh is that culturally insensitive to say I'm white? and no, I don't think so, they're all very definitely from the Samoan community and I am not, no question there) -well, we have to constantly bow and scrape and smile smile smile to get the Samoan community to participate in our liturgies. We have to ask them on time every year, year in, year out, to do the same things each time, namely sing, serve on the altar, that sort of thing. We have to nag and plea to get the words of their songs for our powerpoints. And this year, knowing from experience that we have to ASK, we asked. The message apparently didn't go through properly though (as is quite usual, no matter how hard we try to set up a firm contact), from the Samoan people on our committee. I got a call from someone who'd gotten a call from someone who'd run into one of the choir members in the supermarket... So Wednesday night, I go see him at our school play, and we sort things out. It seemed cool. So the Samoans came to the Thursday night celebration, without their organist, and sang in a laid back kind of way, unaccompanied. We all thought it was good. We were impressed. They're a damn good choir, they've cut two CDs!! (and incidentally, in case you wondered, we have never been invited to sing at any of their liturgies or Samoan masses, no way LOL!)

People were saying, thank God at last we're getting it right, and blending the cultures and the groups together rather well. But *shrug* these were the white people talking to me, huh ;)

Because the Samoans were apparenty upset yet again, and they boycotted tonight's big mass. It was so obvious. Yeah, at five to seven there were only five of them there, rather than about sixty, and my friend in their choir came up to meet me halfway up the aisle and said they wouldn't be singing. He was either angry or embarrassed or both. I couldn't read his expression. I was horrified. I said the women said they could still sing. He said 'no, they would not'. I just stared at him then walked away. It meant we had less than four minutes to replace the songs for offertory and communion with some of ours, and it meant I had to play the entire Mass on the piano by myself, something I HATE to do (all the guitarists were on holiday)...

So I sat there in the dark (we start the Easter vigil in the dark) and I sniffled quietly, and luckily had to play by lamplight, and then when the lights came on, I stopped sniffing and got annoyed, so for the rest of the Mass I was pretty irritated. My music group thought it was pretty funny, me being so annoyed. They all rushed to shake my hand at the sign of peace ;) I'm like a constant source of amusement to them all! At the end of the Mass, the entire Samoan congregation, who had slipped in unnoticed in the dark at the start of the service, left pretty fast in silence, and man, was I p*@#ed off.

You know, I have tried and tried and tried. I can tell you a few ways I have tried. I'm on the liturgy committee where we initiate the requests for their participation. A while back I went up to the Samoan community and ran confirmation for all their teenagers, by myself. I have sat through a two-hour White Sunday mass three times now just to help them sing one song. I help their little ones through the sacraments every year, but we never get a cent out of them for the programme. The other parents pay $60. So I feel like I can honestly say I've tried many times over. But it's just frustrating because it's so not mututal. Not here, in the church, the parish, and it never was in the school either.

And so what is this? Some sort of humbling event to ensure I don't feel like they owe us anything, that I deserve no return for my 'investment' in their community? Yeah, I can feel humbled. I have a job, an education, maybe I ought to just be grateful for that and let these poor people get on with their struggle. But for God's sake, I just wish they'd live up to what they can do and what they said they would do, because this was an invitation, to participate in the biggest parish mass of the year. They wanted to be invited. And they have skills, talents, and they waste them. Why can't one of them communicate their frustrations? I know all about cross cultural communication, I know that a Samoan silence means unhappy Samoans, but there're no clues with this group. They just don't BOTHER to communicate with any of us.
They don't give, they take. They want more from us. I love to give, to do, to act, but I can only take so much rudeness and apathy, so much sulky tantrums and disappointment. I think the community up there on the hill is killing itself. Its children are mostly lacking respect for anything, and many of its elders are whining, unhelpful people. They even resent their own catechist and his wife. The wife comes to see me, really upset about how they speak to her. I won't try again with them...well, at least until I get over this rave LOL!

I know we have to keep trying. I just don't know why any more. I'd like to stop trying. Like Sam Gardner, I feel worn down, and that affects how I feel about my own faith. Sam stopped preaching. What can I do? Stop smiling? Stop grovelling? Heh. Yeah, right.

It's just so... so *sigh* frustrating. Not the happy Easter mass it should have been... and you know what? Right now, on my way to bed, having typed all this and gotten it out of my system, I think I actually don't care any more! Rave OVER!


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 7th, 2007 02:04 pm (UTC)
Okay, the stupid thing erased my comment again. There's no way I can type that again. So, the abridged version.

That was very rude of them. They shouldn't have to be invited to church all the time anyway. After all this time, they should know there's an invite. After all, you don't have to be invited to church all the time!

It's too bad that the service turned out that way. But I'm glad you got it all out of your system.
Apr. 8th, 2007 12:20 am (UTC)
Thanks, and I went to the morning mass feeling irritated, and then I had to welcome everyone and the church was PACKED OMG! and it was such a joyous occasion with a baptism even, that by the end of it, I was happy with people all over again! Didn't actually talk to any of the Samoans though LOL!
Apr. 8th, 2007 09:29 am (UTC)
Displaced people often react oddly. People talk about them having a chip on their shoulder, as if they should snap out of it, but they probably can't, either as individuals or as a community. I also find it irritating but I think we just have to shrug our shoulders and get on with whatever strikes us as right. I also think they are in some subconscious way punishing us, the white people they can mingle with, for the actions of the 'others', the ones who shun them. I don't really know. I'm sorry it spoiled your service and hope the rest of the celebrations made up for it.
Apr. 8th, 2007 09:36 am (UTC)
Heh, thanks, yeah, as you could see, the rest of the celebrations did make up for it.

And I know these people are displaced, and I know a silent Samoan is an angry one, and I know we don't know all the faa Samoa, all their ways, and I know it's harder for them because almost all of them are poorer than any of us, for many reasons, and I really, really love them as a people. I know all of that and yet I still get frustrated and throw my hands in the air now and then LOL! Guess that's just the takahe in me... or the human...

And yeah, when it comes down to it, I'm palagi, not pasifika.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )



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