Personal Opinion – 04 March 2012
Children are our treasures regardless of what home, family or circumstance they are born into. On this Children’s Day I express my thanks for my own children and every single child that the earth has blessed us with.
The planet village, the one that is supposed to collectively raise our children, is no longer a given. We have instead a staunch and ever rising concrete sterile building in its place. This structure has been successful in advocating for a notion of individual self-centred survival of the fittest. It is a notion which harbours contempt and hostility for anyone less than fit and it ignores structural issues. This construction has been erected over the top of our gardens of collective compassion, as if those plantings are only weeds to be frowned upon.
As a mother of children ranging from eighteen to three years old – I can understand and fully empathise with the angry cries from outraged New Zealanders. They want death and castration for the Turangi teenager who raped and harmed a five year old child. If it was my own daughter, I may also have murderous hell-bent vengeance from my heart and soul. But at some point I would have to reckon with a future free from the ugliness of hate, for the sanity of myself and the rest of my family.
A huge wrong has been done. It is a profound and deep wrong-doing that has created enormous imbalance with all that is good in the universe. The young man and his family must be held accountable for what has happened – balance must be restored to that little girl, her family, the Turangi community and our entire planet.
To the little girl and her family; I wish for nothing but peace and healing to you all. I struggle to comprehend what you have all suffered. Aotearoa is grieving for you because we know this is not who we are. Today on Children’s Day I remember what happened to an innocent child and I am horrified.
The teenager who committed this wrong has been sentenced to ten years in prison. But I am not convinced that any prison sentence ALONE will properly restore this overwhelming disjunction. I am not sure that true accountability and reflection from this teenage boy and his whānau will happen purely as a result of jail time. In ten years time, he will still be a young man. Whether we agree or not he will be back in our communities again. I am asking us all, what sort of young man do we want him to be when he arrives back to us? Is it too much for me to hope that at the least, he will not be a monster? Is it too far fetched to expect that with appropriate support, he might even become a contributing adult again instead of remaining a burden to society?
I do not know the teenager or his whānau, but something somewhere went very wrong. By all accounts, it appears that this kid did not receive an upbringing. We all know that many exceptional people have come through all sorts of adverse circumstances to become quite functional and even outstanding. If you are still reading this article, I will have enough people ready to bite me by now without me also trying to make excuses for the actions of this teenager or his whānau. There are no excuses. BUT how do we stop this from happening again?! If in the angry call for ‘justice’ we have quartered and hung this teenager in the town square, with his ‘irresponsible’ whānau looking on – then what? Will that ultimate act of revenge ensure that other families and children are all strong and confident and resourced in our communities? Will that act of ‘justice’ provide the incentive for all parents to suddenly become role-models for society by tomorrow?
As I hear people now saying “simple, stop the ‘weak’ from breeding”………..oh wait. No.
My meter for feeling disgusted has just gone berserk and is preventing me from even speaking to such lunacy. Sorry if I got your hopes up for a second there.
Here in South Auckland where I live, people like the Manurewa Marae kuia (women elders) inspire me. They ignore the unforgiving concrete edifice that is devoid of kindness and they stretch their uplifting hands to those who are struggling. The kuia form authentic relationships with those who have already lost Darwin’s race. Their work is challenging, full of complex problems and dynamics and is mostly akin to pushing crap uphill. They are of course underpaid, under-resourced and under-valued by most.
I place huge value in those kuia and their small but important gains. Recently they spoke to me about a young mum ‘coming out of the darkness’. The kuia spoke about the many months they had spent just supporting her to feel like she was worth more than the life she is currently living. These are immeasurable gains. Can we measure how many babies we do not kill?
However, the kuia are up against ‘that building’ as well. Yes many communities, marae, and whānau have planted great gardens of collective compassion and nurturing. This has allowed some incredible work to happen in spite of the foreboding cold concrete creation that is concerned only with the care of the self. I am also aware that many families have done quite nicely for themselves just by tending to their own backyards only. If you do nothing but be good parents for the rest of your lives, yes you are my heroes. But for us all to be heroes so all our children thrive, there is work to be done.
At the beginning of this article I called for accountability from the teenager and his whānau. I stand resolute in that. Only true accountability will give even that young person and his whānau any hope of a future.
In the meantime, how do we make certain that no young person will ever again adopt such tragic actions? I am choosing to fight for sustainable wellbeing for all of our children and whānau. It is well past time to explode this current arrangement of indifference, hostility and outright hate towards our families who are anything less than heroic right now. Rather than exploiting any opportunity to ramble unintelligent bigotry, role-model what genuine concern looks like. I realise that the latter approach takes more intelligence, work and balls but it has proven to have better outcomes than stirring polarisation.
Currently our State is; breaking our country into bits and selling it to more ‘cold colossal’ corporations, whipping the poor without whipping poverty, harassing our natural resources instead of harassing outdated fossil fuel energy, instilling economic, social and political policies that further destroy healthy and basic human values in favour of corporate ones. In Manurewa we have more prison buildings for our children to look up to than we do tertiary education institutions. We owe it to our children to reject such fee market neo-liberal thinking because it is destroying our planet village.
At the time I was born my parents were young, poor, unmarried, clueless and Māori. By some lunatic analysis, they should not have been allowed to breed at all. Thankfully I entered this world and can now take my glorious place to write articles of profound importance, to espouse words of stunning grandeur, to conjure notions of revolutionary thinking and indeed to inspire mass world change.
Failing that (darn it), I will just try and be a good Mama who role-models care towards others. Thanks to Mum, Dad and my planet village for ensuring that we remain fiercely proud of being Māori. Thank you also for teaching us to stand up for, rather than stand on, others.
(Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Porou)