OPINION: The worst form of poverty is ignorance

Photo Credit: 
Our tuiga named "Lamaotamali'i."

(JANUARY 2, 2016--HONOLULU)--In this opinion piece, we address all the points raised in the Letter titled "Life is a Choice," which was written in response to my initial "Letter from Hawai'i: Samoa deserves better." Both these letters can be found in the Letters to the Editor Section of the online edition of the Samoa Observer.

The reply to my letter, in large part, is oblivious to the high value of story-writing. Even in this digital age, stories, well-crafted messages remain at the core of all communications. This is my job. I'm a journalist put to work by the story requests of the Samoan people. I love my people and I love what I do.

Unsurprisingly, the letter writer speaks from a viewpoint of perceived superiority, emphasizing personal accomplishments while making a broad uninformed generalization about the extreme poor. The repeated use of exclamation marks exhibits obvious animosity and anger toward people who are poor. As a member of a class of people labeled society's "most vulnerable," I am accustomed to these type of reactions from onlookers who have little to no understanding of our lives.

It's not entirely the writer's fault, as our stories -- the unfiltered stories of the extreme poor are rarely told from our point of view. The storytellers are, more often than not, people who have never been poor. I firmly believe that the first type of poverty we must combat is poverty of the mind. Before all else, we must prioritize the unquantifiable value of quality education.

Let us dissect the writer's argument, starting with this statement: "There is no comparison between Samoa and Hawai'i. I can only speak from my own experience in the States."

I not only speak from my experiences but also those of the people I meet, cover, interview, read and write about. I write drawing from my experiences and theirs. Their stories, coupled with my experiences shape my thinking, and ultimately, the perspective that is presented to readers.

In several lines the "Chicago" praises self, in another treads on the poverty-stricken, then, in a strange change of heart, closes with well wishes. At any rate, thank you for the response and the well wishes "Chicago." Your time and words are appreciated.

My letter spoke on poverty, a widely-discussed, much studied and analyzed but highly misunderstood social ill that plagues not just Samoa and Hawai'i, but countries across the globe.

I have lived in Samoa, American Samoa and Hawai'i. I was born, raised and educated in Hawai'i. My eldest child was born in Hawai'i, the younger four were born in American Samoa, so they are U.S. Nationals. My husband is a native of Pata, Falelatai, Samoa. I have lived poverty and, at one point or another, so have many of my friends and members of my family. I read about poverty. I follow the issue and its related developments, or lack thereof, because Samoans are the poorest in the state of Hawai'i. I'm one of them. I collect the stories of the poor and homeless, the marginalized, the voiceless and the unheard.