Never mind the naysayers, kōrero Reo Māori mai!

I wasn’t going to wade into the debate around Te Reo Māori in schools. The argument shouldn’t even exist. But then I saw this video, and decided to write a note of support for those who understand the value, the necessity, the rich taonga that is Te Reo Māori.

The video has been shared 11,942 times and ‘liked’ 14,000 times in this facebook post alone. That’s a lot of  enthusiastic loving.

Te Hātea Kapahaka group from Te Tai Tokerau (Northland) stand in a Sicilian Church in Italy and sing their hearts out. It made my heart explode. I have no idea when they sung it, but that is beside the point.

It comes as no surprise to me that someone has carefully and beautifully translated this Leonard Cohen classic (Hareruia aka’Halleluah’) into Te Reo. If you can understand Māori, you’ll hear how well it is done. The arrangement is breath-taking.

And there is more to this waiata than beautiful words and a clever harmonies. They stand and sing to pay their respects to the Sicilian people, to the different cultures around them, to the church they are in and to their own people. They stand in acknowledgement and awe of the religion they are interacting with, and they do it all in Te Reo. It is hard to explain just how intricately linked Te Reo and tikanga are (put simply – the correct way/s of doing things). You cannot have one without the other. They could not have done this in English.

When people whine about why they shouldn’t have to learn Te Reo. I mostly ignore them. Because their standpoints are not worth the time it would take to have a really frustrating and dead-end conversation. But inside, it hurts.

It hurts because Māori is beautiful. It is powerful. It is central to Māori culture. Just like all languages are. Cultures simply cannot operate without their own languages. Whether it is New Zealand English (yes, there is more than one kind of English, including ‘street English’…languages grow and evolve –  youse people gotta understand this’), NZ Sign Language or computer programming speak. All systems of knowing and being, express themselves differently. Concepts are not universal. Only so much can be translated.

It also hurts because my partner and I go to great lengths to ensure that Te Reo Māori is our kids first language. It is hard work. There are only so many schools that offer bilingual education, and a few Kura Kaupapa in each main centre. Building your networks of Reo Māori speaking people takes time and effort. But it is worth it. We wish it wasn’t so hard.

But the crux of the matter is understanding each other. Even if our ‘collect-nationwide bunch-of-beautiful-kids’ don’t all go on to speak fluent Te Reo, and to have daily interactions with it, they will learn about Te Ao Māori – about tikanga Māori.

To understand each other, to afford each other the respect we all need, we have to know how different cultures are constructed, and this is done though language.

Those who harp on about the ‘racism’ of forcing 5 year olds to learn Māori, appear oblivious to the fact that the Te Reo is a national language, and no one cries foul that all our children are FORCED to speak English. The double standards go on and on.

I can’t be bothered arguing with old stuck in their ways bigots. It’s too late for them. Better to put our energies into the people who are going to change the way this country talks.

Leave it up to the educationalists, the neurologists, the linguists, the people who give a shit about other people. But for goodness sake, leave the decisions about how it rolls out up to Māori (because it IS going to happen). Give the power back. Once you start to learn, you come to know just what a formidible bunch Te Reo Māori teachers are. They are among the most effective, motivated and passionate teachers in existance!

And heck  – if you can speak English and want to speak English only, good on you – knock your self out. If you are a grown person, no one is suggesting you must also learn Māori. Don’t sweat it.

Kids however, love learning anything new. And they do so with ease. They’ll learn as many languages as you can consistently speak to them. Happily.

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I am a New Entrant teacher, and yesterday I taught my little 5 year olds three new waiata, and by the end of the day (their first day at school), they could name all their fingers and toes in Te Reo. Many adults struggle to do this in English.

Kōnui, kōroa, māpere, mānawa, kōiti – ko ēnei ngā matimati!

Mauri ora.

 

 

 

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How Moana Maniapoto’s APRA speech proves Don Brash wrong

This week was a good one for my young whānau. We spent it at a kura reo (language course), run by and for the various hapū of my partner and children’s marae. We spent the days extending our Te Reo, composing mōteatea and pātere (forms of waiata) and whakataukī (proverbial sayings). As well as collecting pipi, and wrangling many, many children at the local papa rēhia (playground).

The marae was noisy, busy and happy the whole week. There was a real sense of arriving at a destination for these whānau, or at least being back on track. Fulfilling the dreams of many tīpuna who had been punished for speaking their own language, by bringing Te Reo back into the marae. Reclaiming and revitalising a culture and language that were long suppressed, and bringing life to land that was stolen, forcibly removed or sold under duress – is no mean feat. It takes decades.

One evening, after my kids were asleep, and while far too many were not, I took advantage of the wireless connection at the local motor camp. Far enough from all the haututūs, I loaded up the APRA Silver Scrolls live stream on my computer. This night has become an annual event in my living room. I was so happy when I remembered that Moana Maniapoto was being inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame that night. Rawe!

My mother in law and I sat absolutely mesmerised throughout her heart-felt and thoroughly straight shooting speech.  Less than a minute in I wished I had stayed at the marae to watch this after all. All those kids ruckusing around on their mattresses needed to hear her acceptance speech.

It is an affirmation that being Māori is fantastic and a rousing call to action for everyone. Kids need both those things. And after reading and listening to a lot of media over the past week, I realise almost all New Zealanders do.

After her speech, and in between the other awards, I flicked back and forth between various news sources. I noticed my social media feeds (so news-y) were heaving with Don Brash and separatism – goodie, oh how I had missed him. I read a few articles; academic, personal blogs, Māori TV and the Spinoff about Hobsons Pledge and got the picture. Brash’s racism, ignorance and attitude momentarily indented a little corner of my over inflated bubble – but it didn’t pop it. You’re just not that sharp sorry, Don.

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Moana Maniapoto, Don Brash

All week, I had been floating on a cloud of hope and vision held high by the steadfast fortitude of the many dedicated Māori who include me in their lives, share with and teach me.  People who are committed to their language, their (and our shared) histories, and not the least of all, their children’s futures.

The contrast between Moana’s speech and all the rubbish about ‘one law for all’ and the appropriation of the phrase ‘he iwi tahi tātou’ couldn’t have been more stark that night. Moana has worked tirelessly in her 30 year career to advance opportunities for Māori. She sees politics and her music as inseparable. And thank goodness for that. Still, since the 90s she feels that very little has changed.

When she grew up, her people didn’t hear their own reo on the radio. Recalling this bought her to tears. Because, apparently it didn’t  ‘fit the format’ – to this day there is no quota for music in Te Reo, it still doesn’t fit the format.

Music in sung Te Reo rarely gets played on mainstream radio, even when the likes of Park Jae-Sang’s Korean language ‘Gangnam Style’ single swept the country and globe. So we know it isn’t really about the language.

It’s about the culture, the people and the politics of power and greed. And if we’re being honest, the Pāhekā fear of te Ao Māori. It is about the largely unchallenged and accepted dominance of Pākehā culture in this country. Whiteness is the format, and this is what Brash really means when he says we can all be one.

Now, I’m sorry to go back to Brash for a bit. But only so we can see the connect, or more, the disconnect between his thinking and Moana’s.

He is Pāhekā, and I am Pāhekā, and as such I have a responsibility to say that I utterly disagree. To stress that he is completely misguided. To show he does not understand Te Tiriti o Waitangi, that he does not get mana motuhake, and that his followers do real damage every time they wave the separatist flag (they are the ones raising it, not Māori) and cry foul at supposed special race based treatment. Does he not understand cultural structures, and that New Zealand is entirely guided by British, Western and Pāhekā frameworks?!

For years there was scant representation of things Māori at the APRA awards – (this was the structural real race based privilege, Don) until Moana and some friends asked Mike Chunn if APRA would create a Maioha award for Te Reo Māori music content. It has been in existence since 2003.  Now, I’m sure Brash can’t stand this, race based treatment! How dare they!

It is glaringly obvious that Brash denies history and doesn’t understand equality verse equity. So perhaps this image will help. Because at the top of the list of what the Hobson’s Pledgers believe is:

  • All New Zealanders should be equal before the law, irrespective of when they or their ancestors arrived in New Zealand.

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When one group (English/Pāhekā) not only take the vast majority of resources from another group (Māori) but actively strip a culture of its centrifugal force, its language, the playing field is completely unfair. Thus, the Maioha award is necessary all these decades after colonisation began. It is needed because Te Reo music does not get fair play. And because Te Reo is not understood by most New Zulanders. If these songs were in the mix with the other entries, they would have much less of a chance. And we would all hear less waiata Māori.

When one culture has been oppressed for over 150 years by another, the descendants of the oppressors are obligated to right the wrongs, and this is APRAs contribution. This is equity in action.

Now, on the note of most Pāhekā not bothering to learn Te Reo, ka aroha, you missed a lot during the Silver Scrolls.

The Māori world is one of eloquent speakers. What can be expressed in Te Reo is not necessarily translatable into English. Connections are made, acknowledgements are given and the love is spread at the start of speeches in Te Reo. Rarely is all this said again in English.

Rob Ruha’s acceptance speech for his second Maioha award was no exception. He spent at least the first 2/3 of talking about others, and made special note of Moana.  During his tribute, he said:

“E tika ana te whakahonore i a koe i tēnei pō, i te whakahōnoretanga i a koe, e ta, kua wini katoa mātou”.  “It is right that you are honored tonight, and in your honouring, my friend, we all win.” I urge you to watch his whole speech, click on the Te Reo above.

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Beautiful eh. And so true.

After their parents and grandparents were stripped of their rights to a Māori identity in the eyes of the law,  her peers struggled to see themselves reflected in the world around them, to see that their lives mattered. “music and the arts are not just a window to the world, but a mirror to our own”. She uplifts all Māori – and Te Reo really was the winner on the night. She has done her generation proud and has changed the course for those who follow her.

I support a Māori music commission in order to see Te Reo really hit the airwaves and stages with full force. So that more bands like Alien Weaponry have a fair shot at success. It is about putting things right, celebrating Māori, Te Reo, and ourselves in this country. So go take that race based idea Don, put it in your pipe and smoke it.

Hoake tātou! Everybody, get on the waka

Me he manawa tītī!

and…….Oh kuuuummmmon.

Today, or yesterday, or every day, John Key said this:

“Obviously like any language, (Māori) is a series of words, and of course if you can understand those words, then I can understand what they’re saying”

Choice, John Key. Choice. That didn’t really make sense grammatically though did it (they or I?), but hey, talking good is not eveyone’s strength.

Sorry everyone, for kicking off a post with a quote from him-most-truly. I am going to move on reeeeaally quick, I promise.

John – love the honesty! “what they’re saying”, keep up the othering why don’t ya.”Series of words” – yeah nothing much to it really. “Any language” – nice and dismissive, with a pinch of a diminishing smirk. Te Reo Māori is just like any other language. Piece of cake. Others, them, those, not me. Not my issue. cause’ “I’m John Key, and I can understand things”, “I know words”.

Ok, like I said, moving on.

When I read or hear quotes like this, I feel really defensive. I feel offended. I feel protective. I feel disappointed and angry. BUT Ko tēnei te wiki o Te Reo Māori!!!!, so I ain’t going to let anyone, especially not John Key get me down. Here is why.

I’ve started this important week of the year, like any other Monday, at my mahi. Where  I support several early childhood centres: their educators and tamariki, in learning Te Reo, in actually walking the talk with Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and just generally being amazing citizens and not racist people. They are so great. I love them. They are dedicated and hard-working. They see the importance of and value in Te Ao Māori. They are doing what we should all be doing. Having a kōrero, and seeing how amazing it is. No more excuses, enough of the blame game or defensiveness. Te Reo is choice.

I also attended a wānanga all weekend long at my big kid’s kura. Parents and teachers dedicated their weekend for their tamariki. For their kura. And it is our kura. It is a marae away from marae. It was all about their learning, and of course about their reo, the reo of the kura and wider community. People got up, one after the other, and poured their hearts out. Sharing what being Māori means to them, what Te Reo is for them, and what they have to contribute to the kura going forward. Laying down all lengths they will go to. And there are many.

It was a beautiful time. Something I will always remember. We laughed and cried, together. In Te Reo.

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These wānanga are things that many kura and kōhanga do, a lot. A time where teachers and parents get together and really communicate. Where tamariki are truly at the centre of the conversation. This is the kind of thing that mainstream schools can only dream of, because of the way they are structured. Now, this post is not about education per se, but there is a lot to be learned from Māori ways of knowing and living, that everyone can learn from. I’m not saying lets all operate like a kura.

But I’m also not saying “like any language, is a series of words” either.

As I said earlier, I feel defensive when I hear people, particularly those in positions of massive influence and power, shrug off Te Reo. When they don’t pay it the due attention and respect it demands.

Actually, I’m sorry, I do need to go back to John Key now. But the following is for anyone – not just him, and it is said out of my love of Te Reo, my love for my partner and our children, my love for things Māori, and especially for my kid’s teachers – for our whānau and whānau whānui.

Every day I am in contact with the sharpest of tacks. The most willing of people. These people, myself included, are hell-bent on using Te Reo whenever we can, wherever we can. And it is not always easy. But we know its beauty and power. We love the way it sounds. The things that can be expressed in it, the knowledge that can only travel in it. Keeping a language going can be really hard mahi:

  • We arrange expense babysitting, or twist an aunty’s arm so we can attend night classes in Te Reo after a long day at work.
  • We attend weekly playground session in Te Reo, so the door is opened for our little ones.
  • We organise BBQs and kids play dates around learning Te Reo. Creating places in our lives where we can kōrero. This is easier said than done, believe me.
  • We painstakingly type, print off, cut out and stick labels on every object in our whare. In Te Reo. Because if you are learning Māori as an adult, it is hard. You need all the support you can get!
  • We learn lullabies for our little ones in Te Reo.
  • We compose waiata in Te Reo Rangatira.
  • We petition our schools to do more in honouring the treaty.
  • We seek to understand the treaty.
  • We go to workshops and upskill.
  • We are Māori. We are Pāhekā (only .3% though according to latest stats), we are Japanese and Spanish.
  • We are women and LGBTI. We are men and children. Young and old.
  • We do it in spite of. We do it as well as.

We kōrero, kōrero, kōrero. And:

I can understand what they are saying.

I really can, John. Well, I try really hard to – as a Pāhekā Nu Zulunda. And I  don’t actually think you can. Understanding enough to get through a pōwhiri, or to mince another mihi at the start of a meeting does not amount to “understanding what they’re saying”.

Because, what we are saying is:

Te Reo Māori is a taonga. It is absolutely fundamental to being Māori, to this land, to history and to the future of Te Ao Māori. Arguably, there is no Ao without it. And it is in dire straights right now. You can do something about this. Me tīmata i te wiki nei!

– Fund kōhanga and kura equitably with mainstream.

– Insist, and legislate, that ALL teachers must learn Te Reo and make learning it compulsory in all schools while you are at it. Kids love it, and it is EASY for them! It opens a whole new world for them. There is nothing to be lost. Only gains to be made. Start with the tamariki. This will save the government a lot of money.

– Understand that bilingualism and multilingualism are GOOD FOR THE BLIMMIN BRAIN. And even the economy.

– And, that people can only really understand each other when they understand each others languages. There is no way that you can say that you “understand what they’re saying”. You do not. Your politics say it all.

– And finally, leave it up to them. Relinquish control. Or at least, stop suppressing the power and control that Māori already have over their lives. It is there, let it shine and prosper.

And ending on a positive note, here is an amazing blog post on super sneaky and effective ways to get your kids speaking Māori along side you. This is the future, this is the solution.

’10 ways to trick your kid into speaking Māori again’

Mauri ora!

A challenge to Alan Duff’s damaging words

Alan Duff, I find it hard to know where to start. As a mother of two beautiful Māori girls – you have offended my whānau deeply. Our immediate kura and kōhanga community and my girls hapū and iwi. In fact many Māori will be upset now, because your latest opinion piece infers that child abuse is a part of Māori life . This is simply not true, and so I will challenge you on the broad, ad-hock and completely disconnected statements you have made. Also, I will not stomach your sexist attitude, that reinforces the gender power imbalances which are the undercurrents for almost all domestic violence cases.

There is enough Māori bashing, enough racism and enough misogyny around without you adding to it. It defies belief that a Māori man could misrepresent his own people so hurtfully, be so blatantly sexist and willingly lead people astray on an issue that intersects several deeply embedded problems in our society: colonisation, systemic poverty and patriarchy. When what we need most is robust discussion and analysis.

I feel frustrated at the amount of airtime you get to spread your views, and don’t wish to give you or the Herald anymore, however – I cannot ignore you this time. The public need an alternative.

I hear and feel your outrage at the shocking levels of child abuse we withstand in our country. Most people do. Māori children are twice as likely to suffer any form of abuse. It’s not ok. You are right.

As a Pākehā woman, I won’t talk too much to the disparaging comments you have made about Māori, as that is a mantle for Māori to take up – I will not tread on toes. But I will go into depth regarding your sexism.

So here we go, I’m going to flip your script. Here are your comments, followed by what I hear.

Some Maori have no moral values because they’re not taught them. Violence is perfectly acceptable behaviour, indeed admired; whether it’s king-hitting a stranger in a pub, beating up the wife or partner, thrashing their children.

FTS – Yes, some Māori do not have a good moral compass, but you could say this for any ethnicity.

It must be instilled in everyone’s brains from a young age that certain behaviours are totally unacceptable. Love must be taught as the founding base for a successful family. Education as the way forward. Every act of violence except in self-defence must be socially outlawed, considered a shameful let-down of the entire community.

FTS – Yes, agreed. Again, this applies to all people. Moving right along.

Cultural leaders should review the entire kapa haka syllabus, I believe. I’m sick of the screaming, eye-popping haka. The standard of predictable, simplistic singing should be lifted.

FTS – What the hell?! Where does this bit come from? Do you understand kapahaka? Do you get that haka and waiata come in innumerable forms which have many uses! What you may be talking about is the cherry picked haka that mainstream media trot out to represent ‘good Māori’ and the ‘kiwi way of life’. These haka are great, don’t get me wrong. But they are a drop in the vast ocean. This comment is so offensive, to all Māori who waiata daily, whose tikanga practices incorporate haka, mōteatea and patere – and the list goes on. And to all composers of kapahaka – these are incredible people. Taonga. Have you ever been to Matatini? You are buying into the colonisers simplistic interpretation of haka. It is all much more than a supposed incitement of violence. The worst thing about this, is that your comment represents so many others.

When you say “The standard of predictable, simplistic singing should be lifted” What I hear is  is “be more nice and lovely on the side, just a little flourish here and there, so as not to unsettle those who do not understand.”

For those of us who are involved in Te Ao Māori, this sentiment is so tiring, it so boring.

Now here is the doosy……

In everyday life, my opinion is girls should be brought up like the French are: to be feminine, take a pride in how they dress, walk with dignity and grace wherever they go out in public and always keep the standards.

FTS – WHAT HAS THIS GOT TO DO WITH THE PRICE OF IKAAAAAAA?!?!? OMG, wrong number Alan. I’m going to keep this one simple for you, like bullet point simple. Seems you need a feminism 101 lecture.

  • Do not insult French girls and women by minimising their existences to their dress, the way the move one foot in front of the other and their choice in how they express themselves. On behalf of all French people, I am truly sorry.
  • Girls are taught to be nice, accommodating, uncomplaining, quiet and meek – all the time. Men are taught the opposite. This is one of the biggest factors in our gender imbalances. This plays out in its most dangerous form in volatile relationships and domestic violence. This is a cause of domestic violence for goodness sake and YOU have just advocated for it. GIRLS MUST NOT BE NICE and SMILE in the face of bullshit. WOMEN’S dignity is in the respect they receive from others, for being whoever they want to be. You have no place defining what is graceful or not for women. Who’s standards? Yours? Men’s? Go get.

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    Kia ora, I’m Alan Duff and I like long walks on the beach and women who ‘keep the standard’
  • What does feminine even mean? You need to understand Gender Essensialism:Gender essentialism often excuses gender-based oppressions and discriminations in societies, such as what roles parents play, what jobs people hold, expectations held of each other and skill bases. Gender essentialism simultaneously reinforces gender stereotypes, while being informed by them. Gender essentialism relies on the perpetuation of a binary, polarised world, free of ambiguity, where two neat tidy genders exist and know their place in the world.  – So yeah, no thanks. DO NOT tell women that they need to be feminine. They can be if they want, how they want. We certainly do not need another man telling us how to be.
  • Rape culture, you also need to know about this. Because what I heard you say is that somehow, women need to take responsibility for the ‘reasons’ they are attacked by men. That what they wear, how they move, what ‘standards’ they uphold – lead to the actions that men take. – Rape culture as a term is designed to show the ways in which society blames victims of sexual assault and normalises male sexual violence. It is a culture that encourages boys and men to be macho and aggressive, and girls and women to be submissive and compliant. A society that allows a quarter of women and girls to be raped or sexually assaulted, and 1/6 of men and boys. Where 3 per cent of rapists are jailed after just 6 per cent of rapes and assaults are ever reported. A social culture in which rape jokes and cat calls are heard and normalised, where the male gaze pervades pop music and the visual arts. Where children are sexualised by clothing and toy companies. Rape culture has implications for all and is everyone’s issue regardless of gender.
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Dear Duffy, I hope your dreams are filled with Māori women being dignified with amazing standards. I know mine are: of my daughters growing up like this.

Also:

Boys should be taught to respect females.

FTS – Why, yes they should. How about reversing everything you said about what women need to do above, and apply it to boys and men too, that would be a good start. A few other things would help too:

  • Educating, and then ignoring the ‘Boys will be boys’ brigade. We don’t need to hear it anymore. The buck stops. Accountability is made. No more excuses.
  • Again, you have positioned women as passive actors. As if it is only boys and men who have the control and power to make change. Untrue. Girls can be taught differently too. They must be empowered. Boys must be empowered. Girls can lead the technology group and boys can cry if they fall over, simple as.
  • Finally, go and research heteronormativity: Heteronormativity are the actions of a gender essentialist’s ideal world, one in which men and women fall into distinct categories with clear roles and expectations, where heterosexuality is the norm reinforced in power structures such as legislation and the media. I say this because many LGBTQ people are attacked every day for not being man or woman enough. I guess, for some women, your logic says it is their fault for not being feminine and holding up the right standards. Still, I don’t know what these standards are. One can only guess. Actually, I don’t want to know about your yucky standards.

There would be no shame in taking a leaf out of the Chinese book where parents, family members, all work hard to push a few more up into the educated or business-owning bracket. Reading has to be an essential part of that home environment.

FTS –  Again, where does this come from? Do you mean that Māori don’t try hard enough? That they don’t have hopes and dreams for their whānau?! Privilege check Alan, Poverty: it excludes a lot of Māori from tertiary education. Regardless of how supportive any family is, not everyone wins in monopoly. Not every whānau wants to operate in this pushy Chinese style you speak of. Not all Chinese do. Don’t be racist.

Yes, I love reading too. So do my Māori children. So does their kura.

Pre-European Maori culture was simple and no blame is attached. But I think it is when this too basic societal model is applied in the 21st century.

FTS – Ok, now you are just sounding outright crazy. It’s not like my partner and daughters have just stepped out of a cave wielding kotiate or anything….because this is what I hear. Guess what, all cultures evolve – and the picture you paint of pre-colonial Aotearoa is untrue. Anne Salmond illustrates this beautifully. Guess what, the European colonisers of Aotearoa have really out done everyone else throughout history (an continue to do so) in the violent, black and white, good vs bad, uncivilised vs civilised approach to solving issues. War war, everywhere.

Everyone had a Jake as a father, older brother, any number of uncles. Some were women.

FTS- Yes, it is ok for a woman to be called Jake, or to be a non-feminine woman, sure (I don’t think this is what you meant though, but I like to think it is). Everyone had Jake as a Dad? Again, you’ve overstepped the mark. This is just not true. Maybe you did, and we are sorry for that. That was not ok. It sucks.

And finally:

And someone has to point out that cultural activities do not get them a job or a mortgage.

FTS – Again, lies. Heaps of people make a living in the arts. Heaps of Māori do. They are awesome at it. Isn’t this what you meant in your remarks about haka earlier? Now I am confused. Also, YOU WRITE BOOKS AND MAKE FILMS FOR A LIVING…….these are cultural activities and THESE ARE YOUR JOBS. Or am I missing something?

And who wants a mortgage anyway (ha ha ha, rolling around in maniacal laughter, because – who buys a house these days?!?…..cue housing crisis conversation). Please refer back to how not everyone can win monopoly – capitalism and neo-liberalism is actually killing the planet. I’ll have more singing, dancing and visual arts in my life any day. Not everyone is in it for a 9-5 office job and not all Māori are deeply involved in whatever it is you are reducing to and relegating as ‘cultural activities’. Or if they do work 9-5, sweet as. Good for them, not your place to judge.

And actually, these cultural activities that I think you are referring to are intrinsic to being Māori . The problem is, that people like you come along – and say that violence against women and children is somehow intrinsic to being Māori – and that crucial elements like the ‘arts’ (ie things that are part and parcel of operating in Te Ao Māori) are a waste of time for Māori. How wrong you are.

To me, herein lies the solution.

Bubba Moko: A victim of patriarchal violence

Yesterday, hundreds of people took to the streets of Aotearoa New Zealand – crying for change, calling for action. They respectfully demanded attention for the 200 plus children that have been killed in this country in the past two decades alone. All at the hands of caregivers who should have been nurturing them.

In August 2015, Moko Rangitoheriri was killed by two adults who were entrusted with his care. He was just 3 at the time of his torturous death. His killers: Tania Shailer and David Haerewa, were 26 and 43 respectively. Shame, shame, shame. Debate surrounds their convictions of manslaughter. It is hard to imagine they did not murder him. They are parents of young children too, they egged each other on as if it were sport. It was calculated.

Regardless of what we call it, their actions and the outcomes. Their own back stories need to be understood. In most cases, those who kill children, have suffered immensely in their own lives. I do not mean to diminish Shailer and Haerewa’s actions in the slightest. But we must not disregard their lives if we are to prevent further abuses of children under our watch.

We are not yet managing to stop the cycles of violence against women and children. The Haerewa whānau are a case in point. David’s uncle, Ben Haerewa, killed his step-son: 4-year-old James Whakaruru, in 1998. At that time, the Whakaruru whānau had come to the attention of care and protection services 6 times, the Haerewa whānau – 13 times! In 2010, David’s brother John was sentenced to 17 years for the murder of a Wellington woman. Although it does happens occasionally, it is rare for this sort of violence to come out of the blue. The webs of violence go a long way back, and are intricately connected to some of the most powerful forces in our society: Patriarchy, poverty and institutionalised racism. Right now, I want to draw your attention to the connection between our violent society and patriarchy now.

I define patriarchy in the following way:

Patriarchy describes male-dominated power structures, which permeate throughout organised society, in political systems as well as in individual relationships. It is systemic bias against women and non cis-male people. Patriarchy can be recognised as the intuitions and companies that are run in the majority by men that mostly benefit men; where taking maternity leave or breastfeeding a baby at work is a problem; where being a transsexual makes using the toilets an issue. Patriarchy is also a family group or community controlled by powerful men – fathers and grandfathers who give more privilege to boys and men in that group. Patriarchy is a world that benefits cis-men over everyone else.

Among those marching yesterday was Vic Tamati. He is a courageous and committed man. He is insistent that violence needs to stop with the perpetrator, and knows that they cannot do it alone – that community support must surround them. He also recognises that all to often, it is men committing the violence, largely against women and children. He continues to dedicated a large chunk of his adult life to turning the tide around for his own whānau, and also supports others to do the same.

We need more Vics’ out there. More men seeing the sexism at play in their actions. More men understanding that mens’ violence against women and children is structural in its roots and that the buck stops somewhere, somehow.  More men seeing that this sexist-violence is everywhere. Enough of women picking up the pieces.

Although Moko’s face is another beautiful brown one, this is everyone’s problem, our collective responsibility. Our Pākehā whānau are just as prone, just as guilty.We have our mainstream media to blame for skewing the view and hiding the realities we face.

We see the faces of Māori and other non-Pākehā in the news more, because that makes it so much easier for a huge swathe of society to wash its hands – unsurprising, the large group that is comprised of white men who weld the most power in this country. The section that does not want to admit that violence is perpetrated by all ilks, and that we are all part of the solution. All lives are affected by men’s violence somewhere along the line.

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We all know that Moko was killed by a woman and a man. We also know that David was released from prison weeks before Moko’s death, and that his relationship with Tania was a violent one. We know too, that many children, who experience abuse like Moko did, do so at the hands of their mothers’ partners.

These partners and step-‘fathers’ are not only violent to the children, but to their mothers. These are men who silence mothers, preventing them from seeking help, these are men who seek control and power in the abuse of those they should care for.

We have men’s violence in these epic proportions because we are a patriarchal society. We tell our men that they have the power, that they have the control – and this is what we get. We let our little boys push girls around because “this is how they show they like you” and after all, “boys will be boys”. We encourage our teenage boys to play hours of violent video games while we cook dinner, where they can hire and run over prostitutes for points. We let groups of young men off the hook for drugging and gang-raping underage children. We don’t let little boys cry when they get their immunisations, and we admonish any other signs of less-than masculine behaviour on a daily basis. Because, an unmanly man will have no control, and therefore no power. This is what we are saying.

I plead with readers to look beyond the latest headline. To ask ‘WHY did they do that?’, ‘What got them to that place in their lives’ ‘Why are these men so angry?!’ ‘Why can’t they communicate in non-violent ways?’

And most importantly, ‘What should have been done differently’. The reports of Moko’s death are harrowing and should keep anyone up at night. However, while lying there awake at night, think about how our society is structured as well.

Why are our men killing us they way they are? Why are our women and children not safe in the streets and in their own homes? Our media needs to be asking the same questions. They are our mouth pieces whether we like it or not. They must weave the threads of patriarchy, poverty and racism into their reporting as well as the horrific details. We get nowhere otherwise, all we do is deflect and protect the privilege that men hold in society.

And why we are all pondering, flick $5 to the Women’s Refuge, while finding out more about our patriarchal society:

FREERANGE VOL. 10: FEMINISM AND TECHNOLOGY WOR(L)DS – Digital Fundraiser

 

 

Come on, be more like us!

Language subtly, and often unconsciously, perpetuates the status quo. It reinforces power structures. The words we choose can expose our underlying value systems, beliefs and assumptions. Listening to Radio New Zealand this time last week, I heard a cracker: a very exposing choice of words indeed. To me, it exemplifies how White-New Zealand positions itself as the norm, daily.

Now, before we get into examining the cracker, rewind a bit, to understand the backdrop. Who could have failed to notice the Mayor of New Plymouth last week – Andrew Judd. I hope everyone in Aotearoa has.  Andrew, you are truly a lightbeamer.

In my last post, I’m not in your shitty Club, I’m a lightbeamer, I discuss the awkward moment when you decide whether or not to call someone out for their shitty behaviour. Kia ora Andrew for using your platform of power and privilege for others, by calling out not only the racism around you, but in your own life.

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Andrew Judd

For anyone who hasn’t noticed him: Judd announced he will not stand again for re-election in New Plymouth’s mayoralty as a direct result of the abuses he has suffered at the hands of fizzing (spitting, Nazi-attired, name calling, ranty-letter writing) racists. All because of supporting Māori in his district. This last sentence sums it up. Māori constituents in his district. ie, the people for whom he is a mayor, people who may have voted for him, people who’s taxes pay his way. People who are people. You know, the ones who get representation in local body government. He understands that being a mayor means – being everyone’s mayor. Listening to, and attending to the needs of all. Lightbulb moment.

Thanks for reading on, back to the cracker you’ve been waiting for. On Tuesday May 10th, minutes before Radio New Zealand’s Checkpoint asked if we are a racist country,  Mike Williams (former Labour Party President) sat on Jim Mora’s RNZ afternoon panel, to discuss among other things,  Māori seats in government. Renown for its dearth of colour and lack of gender diversity, the panel perspective was never going to be broad. This discussion was in relation to Judd’s New Plymouth experience.

Later, during Checkpoint, John Campbell could have answered his own question with Mike’s comment.

Because, Mike said:

“I am in actually in favour of the Māori electorates for rather an odd reason, I think they have proven a great safety valve, and, when we’ve had near revolutionary situations over the foreshore and seabed act, all of that explosive force has gone into politics, but I’d also say that Māori are only slowly integrating into our political system. You have a look at the Māori seats and the average turn out in the general seats which are predominately European, is pushing 80% in the Māori electorates it’s just 50%, so I think the fate is very largely in their own hands.”

Ok – great you are in favour, but um, a few things…. Lets break it down.

  1. ‘our political system’? The 1840 Treaty of Waitangi and the subsequent 1952 New Zealand Constitution Act which paved the way for Representative Government – was supposed to be all about two peoples coming together. So, who do you mean Mike, when you say ‘our’ political system. You’ve excluded Māori already in your comment…. But, I guess White-New Zealand often say ‘our’ in the sense that the political system has always been set up to serve their/our purposes. Yay for us! A good start.
  2. ‘slowly integrating’. Hmm. I didn’t realise this was still the aim. That Māori are some how ‘over there’ and we are ‘here’ – wherever here and there are.  And that they need to come over and blend in more. Policies of  assimilation are more of a 1930s kind of a thing, Mike.
  3. ‘near revolutionary situations’  So, the only way to rein em’ in is with a few representative seats? Keep em’ quite, keep em’ happy kind of thing? I prefer revolution myself.
  4. ‘fate is very largely in their own hands’ -pull up your socks now Tāngata Māori! Dust your hands off Pāhekā. As if the deal Māori get has got nothing to do with the political system and social structures?!….made by and large for White-New Zealand. Face palm.

Sorry to pick on you, Mike – but you provided such good fodder. I don’t mean to make so many presumptions about you either. I don’t know your whakapapa. I’m Pāhekā by the way. But whoever you are, your words certainly came across a certain way:

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We are all one. Come on, be more like us!

Now back to Andrew: Every group of people have different needs. Judd recognised this and worked with it. He understands that equality only comes of equity. He has learned a lot, he has changed. Bravo. Perhaps his fizzing mates (and Mike Williams) could do with a language lesson in order to get them on board. Pictures always help me learn, so here is an image I REALLY like. It explains equity far better than I ever could with words.

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I think the most important thing to note from the Judd saga is that we have a long way to go. That there are some extremely icky pockets of hatred and fear in our society, which are perpetuated by off the cuff, casual comments like Mike Williams’ – I understand it was a brief conversation on the panel, but it was telling. For non-Māori, this requires a deep inner-reflection. Andrew has done this already. Many of us Pākehā and Tau iwi (go look it up) can relate to the following. I relate in a slightly different way, which I’ll elaborate on after Andrew:

There was a silly routine as kids when, if you touched somebody that you thought had maggots, you’d run around and touch someone else and say: “I’m fans.” Meaning, I’m free of the maggots. Then they’d have to touch someone else to get rid of the maggots. And I distinctly remember doing that to a little Māori girl at school. And I think back now: “How horribly, horribly cruel. How hard that must have been for that little girl.”

Yet we thought that game was fun. I reflect on those times now and I can see that’s definitely where it all started. And, from that point on, it gets reinforced by never having to engage — and never having to see the consequence of those actions. Never knowing how that would have affected her in her life.

Kia ora anō E-Tangata, see here for Andrew’s full interview.

And, here is my contribution: I have a memory of myself as a 9-year-old in 1994, which shows the power of language yet again. Imagine a suburban Christchurch school. To assist your mental picture, I recall only 1 or 2 visibly Māori whānau and 1 Chinese child during my time at school. Oh, the diversity.

It was a rainy day, we were all making a fantastic mess of the class before the teacher had even finished her morning coffee. We were running around shouting ‘if your feet touch the floor you are a lesbian’. Oh dang, no one wanted to be a lesbian (never-mind none of us knew what the word meant), so there we were, a bunch of 9-year-olds desperately looking for a chair or desk to jump up on. Heaven forbid we were pulled down into the murky depths of the lesbian floor of Room 8.  free-fiction-book-new-fiction-d88f9a

As Andrew said this stuff has consequences. We were only 9, but one of us heard ‘lesbian’ said in a negative light somewhere by someone.  Adults: watch your language.

Not long after this, the mother of a kid in my class came out as lesbian – they are still our close family friends. I now understood the word, and felt a massive shame at my activity a week or so earlier. I hoped like hell that the outburst of jumping on chairs had nothing to do with my family friend’s reality. I’m sure he knows.

The ripples of ‘maggots’ and ‘lesbian engulfing carpets’ have far-reaching effects. This is where it all begins. The sidelining, the slandering, the oppression of people who are not you. The embedding of attitudes that kids carry into adulthood. Into spheres where they have real power to affect change for good or bad.

It is us adults who are responsible for change in societal attitudes. Responsible in seeing that our children do not grow up with the same prejudices we did. So, Mike Williams, be careful with your language.

Now, one last thing before I go. I have a fairly big bone to pick (surprise, surprise) with the way this news story has played out. Because it has all been said before. Many, many times before. That New Zealand has problems with racism, to the tune of thousands marching in our streets during the 1975 Māori Land Rights hīkoi for example, and all the other times anyone but a Pāhekā has stood up and has said something ain’t right! I won’t bore you with a list. We all know Aotearoa has a long history of grass-roots protest movements. Especially when it comes to colonisation and it’s disproportionately negative effects on Māori.

So why are we only asking now,  “Does NZ have a problem with anti-Māori racism?” It would seem that we need things whitesplained to us. Or at least the fabled ‘middle Zealand’ do.

Why is it that other people in Judd’s immediate rohe (go look it up) can stand up time again time again and not be heard enough? Parihaka are just next door and Eva Rickard was in Raglan a few hundred kilometers north. Yes, these Māori were heard to an extent over the course of a century – there have been some policy and attitudinal changes. Still, there is great need for a much more seismic shift. More listening to the voices that must be heard. Allowing them to dictate the work to be done in order to make changes. Step down from the pedestal White-New Zealand. Let us move on from ‘consultation at the table’. It is time to realise WE are sitting at their tēpu, and no one really invited us. Ouch. I’ve said enough. The Non-Plastic Māori lays it down real good and proper here.

 

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I’m not in your shitty club. I’m a lightbeamer.

It has happened yet again. That moment, not long after an ‘incident’ of some kind – a disagreement due to some form of bigotry or prejudice, and you are running an alternative script in your head. In this script, you don’t hold back, you tell it how it is. Regardless of who you are addressing – your boss,  your father in law, the lady next to you in a bank queue, an ex you bumped into. You are forthright, you lay it down, you are uncompromising. There is a shining light that beams right out of your body (perhaps from your mouth, or forehead, or chest – I’m not sure which is best). Everyone around you has to shelter their eyes while taking a step back. You are truly awesome.  This, of course, is what you will do next time. And there is always a next time.

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My last next time was this: My band was playing a small private gig. An extended family birthday kind of a thing. For all intents and purposes it was a lovely afternoon. We played, we ate cake, we got paid. But before all the singing, eating and paying, we were setting up and pottering around. This is when it happened. A few of us were talking to the host, who had been back in New Zealand for a year after 20 years in Australia. Understandably she was shocked by several things. Our dismal pay rates, lack of range in supermarkets, expensive organics and inefficient transport systems. Yes yes, I understand, I agree, I concur. Nod nod nod.

Then, she got started on her daughters new school. She was shocked about the “mumble mumble something completely unintelligible” the kids are being taught these days in our schools. By gee, things have changed since my day. Changed for the worst.”

I had to really strain to understand what she had just complained about.  Then the penny dropped. She had horribly pronounced a few words in Te Reo, so much so, it was utterly impossible for me to understand on first hearing.

Oh dear. My heart dropped. I suddenly wanted to leave. To disappear. There was silence as she waited for more nodding, more agreement from our camp. It did not come. Someone else changed the subject and off they all went again, this time without me. In these situations I have an intense physical response. I feel suddenly unsafe, my ears ring a little, I get flushed and my tummy goes weird. I also often go completely silent. Especially if I am in a professional setting, or feel like I’m going to ‘ruin “it” for everyone else’.

I feel like this.

She was aghast at all the Māui stuff they are teaching kids these days. “They aren’t even teaching kids about James Cook.

I replayed this scene in my head on the long drive home, and again as I told several other people, including my Māori partner, who is the Māori father to our Māori children. In my alternative script it goes something like this:

“mumble mumble something completely unintelligible…all the Māui stuff they are teaching kids these days. They aren’t even teaching kids about James Cook, I mean it is just a joke – as if everyone wants to learn about the Māui/Māori* stuff. We shouldn’t have it shoved down our throats”…….*I couldn’t tell the difference between these two words when she was saying them

Lightbeaming self says  – “Do you mean that you are offended by the minuscule, largely inaccurate, and badly taught Māori content in most of our mainstream schools?  I’m a teacher, and a mother to Māori tamariki, heck, I know what you mean! Wouldn’t it be good to see more in depth critical learning about the whole James Cook thing. You know, all the surveying and occupying, the shootin’ and lootin’. The Treaty, the two versions – which are different, and how we only use the English one in law now, and only when the Government wants to. And how all that land was stolen from Tāngata whenua by force, all the dispossession, the dislocation. But more importantly, how badass, intelligent, diverse, robust, and hardworking Māori are. How they have got through all this colonisation with dignity and strength. How they are still here. How Moriori are a real people, who DIDN’T DIE OUT. How THEY are my own partner, how THEY are my children.

 

Remember: There is a shining light that beams right out of your body. Everyone around you has to shelter their eyes while taking a step back. You are truly awesome. YOU ARE TRULY AWESOME.

 

Oh, that isn’t what you meant?!

Well, what about how despite them being targets of bigoted racists like you everyday, they continue to shine and thrive. My kids are really amazing. Just like yours.

Huh, huh??!!

And then there is smoke, and dust and more bright lights.

And also an internal dialogue of how I could have been much more calm, could have used some good statistics and quoted some amazing writers and their research. Or how I could have just started speaking Te Reo back at her to really throw the situation.

I mean really. These situations are a dime a dozen right? Someone suddenly lets out a really offensive ripper, whether it be homophobic, racist, ageist – then they wait for the cue which tells them you are in their club. Their shitty, shitty club. Then they feel safe, because you are one of ‘us’ and not ‘them’. “We are us and they are them”.

Boring. Not true. Othering sucks, and we can stop it.

I beat myself up reasonably often for not being ‘lightbeaming self ‘. I imagine many of you feel the same. Imagine us, beaming around the place – laying it down. But I think we can also all take comfort in not ‘being in the (shitty) club’ too. Not nodding along. Stopping our umms and our ahhs. And just letting that awkward silence simmer. That can be effective too. Just don’t join to the club. And sometimes, when you can –  let those light beams blind em!