Edward Joseph Schmidt from Alafua in Apia, called himself “Force”. He is a Samoan national who got way out of his depth engaging with a foreign culture – one that dealt with life by principle rather than expediency.
As a result, he found himself in a lot of trouble before the Samoan courts – perjury, theft, wilful damage sort of thing.
Force applied his Samoan ways outside of his comfort zone and faced resulting embarrassment as he was dealt with in the Western-style justice system of Samoa, rather than the Samoan-style dispute resolution.
His case provides us with a strong lesson in cross-cultural challenges – even within one’s own country.
In Western Societies a court is appointed to hear matters of dispute. Abstracts such as truth & honesty are applied generally equally before the law. It is seen as a disadvantage to have people know each other in this situation so that any possibility of a conflict of interest is minimised.
In Samoan society however everybody not only knows each other they are often related. The Samoan culture is more focussed upon relationships than absolutes or abstracts. If the person you are engaging with has a higher status than you, then you will naturally give way (or give in) if there is a dispute. Justice is based on the keeping of peace and avoiding shame than using any abstracts like honesty or morality. It is more relational.
Abuse of power comes through the manipulation of the political/legal system through money. We will attempt to buy justice by engaging the best lawyers. In Samoa influence in the traditional village is done through personal relationships. Not only does it matter who you know, but more, what you have over the other person at the time of dispute resolution.
Cross cultural challenges abound and are increasing globally. Truth though, while an abstract and foreign to some cultures, is universally respected. Our minds can play games over legal, cultural and some human issues, but at heart we all recognise the truth.
For whatever reason, Force went from being a trusted employee and friend to an enemy. He considered that he had a right to lie (“You are a foreigner in my country”), to steal (“You have more than me and I will take what I want from you”) and destroy others’ possessions as he so chose (If I can’t have it then you sure as hell can’t use it).
Unfortunately for him the Palagi who he took on was a Private Investigator who had the evidence and the intestinal fortitude to engage the Western-style systems of justice.
Force was duly arrested, charged and found guilty of multiple property crimes.