In the Field
When my wife and I visited Samoa in 2009, on our first tentative venture into the tropical Pacific, Michael Field's book Mau: the tragic story of Samoa's Freedom Struggle was our guide, as we visited sites like the parliament improvised by Samoa's nationalists in a band rotunda, and the seaside road where New Zealand cops machine gunned a protest march.
Field has always been at home in Samoa, but he has had a difficult relationship with Tonga, whose authorities have several times banned him. In the chapter of his 2010 book Swimming with Sharks dedicated to Tonga, Field makes clear his exasperation with the kingdom's hierarchical social structure. He records seeing Tongan commoners crawling on their stomachs towards members of their royal family, and suggests that only the unambitious and untalented avoid emigrating to more meritocratic societies like Nu'u Sila and Amelika.
But Field's review acknowledges the other, apparently contradictory side of Tonga - the tradition of critical thinking and cultural eclecticism most famously represented by Futa Helu and his 'Atenisi Institute...