In Australia we use the term ripped off a lot. If you take your car to get fixed and they didn’t do it properly, you got ripped off mate! When you go to Maccas and they don’t remember to put your Big Mac in and they gave you a Coke instead of a Thick shake, you got ripped off mate! If someone steals your car from the front of your house, you got ripped off mate!
Recently in social media we have noticed an increase of our Pacific artists who have had their artwork and their musical beats ripped off by others. Whether you want to say stole, hijacked, filched, misappropriated, pinched, poached, robbed, swiped or snatched having your hard work taken and used as someone else’s work is not ok, in any circumstance.
It makes me sad when I hear of the blatant stealing of our people’s hard work and talent followed by comments like ‘at least your work is out there now’. Our colonised minds think that we should be grateful for whatever is thrown our way regardless of how much work and effort we put into making these products. Like we are not worthy of having great things and should just be content with the scraps we can find on the floor. Are you a dog? Because that is how dogs are treated. That is not how you should be treated as a human being. We are better than that. Don’t get ripped off mate!
It makes me angry that our people say that we should stop standing up for ourselves because we rip off other people’s music too. That is not the point. It is not good to rip off anyone, whoever you are. When our people get ripped off we should be pushing them to stand up and fight for their rights. We are taught that being Samoan means to sit down, be humble. I am sorry but with more Samoans living overseas than in Samoa we cannot behave as we did in the islands. Yes, there is a time and a place to sit down and be humble, like when your mum is telling you off for not doing your homework and she got another phone call from your teacher, ia nofo I lalo ma filemu.
When you are getting ripped off it is the time to stand up and be heard. If we don’t stand up and be heard, no one can hear us. No one will care about our welfare. This is how we protect our generations to come. Our people make up a tiny number in any of the western countries, even New Zealand. But have you heard us laugh at a family event? Have you heard how angelic we can sing in the choir at Church? We have loud voices. We know how to use them. We need to learn when to use them. When you are getting ripped off is a good place to start. Don’t get ripped off mate!
I recently came across a Samoan poet and educator, Terisa Siagatonu, whose words were so powerful they brought me to tears. She was able to share my mixed love of my skin and being who I am, in a land where my forefathers did not live. Her words are not mine and yet I feel like they came from my mouth and my heart. We should love ourselves so much that there is no way we could stand for our stories, for our art, for our talent to be ripped off. It would cause too much pain to get ripped off. Our voices should be so mighty that no one would dare try to rip us off. Don’t get ripped off mate!