Churr churr bro - in which a former angry Maori protester grows up and attains the highest form of personal growth...

by tosca on Monday, February 8, 2010

...or not. Waitangi Day is simply a public holiday for a lot of NZ-ers. If your local council is progressive it's a chance for the community to come together and celebrate our national day. For me, it's an opportunity to check-in with my bad self and, in terms of Maori identity, see where I am both on a personal scale and in a national sense. It is never easy being Maori. Sometimes it's not fun. It is never boring. Certainly, the year that Brash delivered his Orewa speech is a year I'll never forget and, that year more than any other, I struggled to find some middle ground. In the case of some friends, colleagues and the ignorant public who popped up on my radar, just finding my patience was hard enough.

I spent my tertiary years as an angry Maori radical - never protesting for the hell of it, but always banging on about self-determination, colonisation and 'the man.' I wrote impassioned research papers about the plight of Maori and penned ferocious essays about our reliance on the state and the need for a separate Maori-run government. I would engage my lecturers (Paul Moon and I would have some fantastic debates and I saw him as my mentor) in some pretty heated discussion. I spoke, thought and wrote in Maori all the time. My friends and I were going to change the world or, if we couldn't do that, we were at least going to set it on fire. I'm hoping we didn't mean it literally but looking back it's hard to say. I made a deliberate decision to boycott Sealord products in protest of the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Claims and Settlement Act 1992 (more commonly known as the Sealord Deal). Shoot, it's been 14 years since I last ate their products and sometimes I still feel like I'm about to give in. Donna Awatere, in her book 'Sovereignty' noted that pakeha identity was that which was formed in direct opposition to Maori. While I may not have subscribed to that school of thought entirely it probably wasn't far off what I believed at the time. But not now. So...what happened?

Life happened, I guess. Perhaps it's more accurate to say that the focus changed. Before it was all about how I saw it and how I thought it could be changed for the better - not much leeway for anyone else. For the last few years I've worked Waitangi Day at our library stall at the annual Manukau celebrations, using it as a platform to show our Maori community how libraries can help and inform. There's no room there for egos :-) And, these days, I'm more inclined to work behind the scenes and assist Maori where I can. My method is more subtle. When working as a Maori liaison assistant in the branches I would heavily promote our Maori resources to customers and take an active role in the meetings. In digital services I don't see the customer so much, although that doesn't mean I've stopped thinking about them. If anything, I've angled it so that I'm attending the monthly meetings and suggesting ways (and asking for ideas) in which our Maori staff can put their stamp on our pages. The Maori Services Librarian and I have discussed a few ideas to really engage the Maori community and, for now, it's a case of finding the time to put them into play.

Maybe the radical hasn't gone totally - maybe the energy has been channelled differently because I feel it differently. Some things don't change, though. My identity as Maori is challenged every day on a personal and public scale. Every day by: friends, colleagues, family, myself, media, government, work...some days I find myself constantly asking, 'Am I ok with this?' or 'Do I subscribe to that behaviour/thought/attitude?' and 'Does this fit right?' The answers never stay the same. You would hope that they don't, 'cause then it means you're not changing, learning or growing. It's a juggling act being Maori, you know. I often feel like I haver badly between being: Token Brownie Average Brownie Radical Brownie and flounder around probably striking all three at different times depending on my mood, the position of the moon and my general state of mind. Sucks for those of you trying to keep up!

Word of advice: what fits one brownie doesn't always fit the rest. Maori no more speak with one voice than does the NZ government. Put simply, if your culture doesn't move, eat, think, speak, spit as one then why the heck would mine?

So kick back and and enjoy that public holiday while I try to come to grips with how far I've come, how far I've got to go, and whether there are enough blue M&Ms in the world to get me through it all...

4 comments

... there is an entry in the Sealords financial statements recording that you have not brought any of their products and that they are financially stretched because of your efforts!!! Yeah right.....

by Anonymous on February 9, 2010 at 8:01 AM. #

LOL totally right - like they could care less. And that moral stance gets kinda boring when people are eating in front of me *snorts* I'll just be out here...rowing my own waka...

by catatonia on February 9, 2010 at 8:07 AM. #

Great post! Do you mind if I link to it on my blog? :)

by BookieMonster on February 9, 2010 at 9:45 AM. #

Hey hey BookieMonster - go for gold :)

by catatonia on February 9, 2010 at 9:47 AM. #

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