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"Thursday Thinking"

©2019 by Weaving Futures. 

  • Carolyn Stuart

Kia Kaha Te Reo Māori

This week I read a wonderful article about Dame Rangimārie Naida Glavish; you might know her as the woman who got censured in her job in 1982 for answering the phone “Kia ora, tolls here’. As I read the article I reflected on how far New Zealand has come in the last 40 years with regards to te reo Māori, although this progress needs to be the motivation to go further, faster, not an excuse to tick the bicultural box and move onto the next thing.

The article is a rich account of Dame Rangimārie’s childhood, being brought up her two grandmothers, one Māori the other Croatian, living on the shores of the Kaipara Harbour. I thought about the richness we unlock when we have the opportunity to experience cultures different to our own.

As humans, we construct belief systems that we hold as the ‘truth’. When others hold views or beliefs that are different to ours, we have a natural tendency to defend our version of the ‘truth’. I’m guessing this response comes from deep within our human psyche, harking back to the time when holding onto your version of the ‘truth’ was necessary for survival.

Yet the reality is that other views and beliefs are neither right nor wrong, they are just different from the ones we hold. And the more we understand this and take the time to appreciate and understand the world views of others, accepting that it is okay for them to be different from ours, the richer we become. But this takes work as more often than not we are fighting the enemy that lives within each one of us, that need for everyone to be like us.

Dame Rangimārie’s grandmother taught her:

“Inā kite koe i tētahi mea hē, hakatikangia. Inā kore ka rite koe ki taua hē.

‘If you see something wrong in front of you, then correct it because if you don’t, you will become like it’.”

I was really challenged by this because the pathway to an easy life and one where you enjoy the greatest popularity is to turn a blind eye to the wrong in front of you. But when we stand silent in the face of wrong we too become part of the problem.

Gus Speth, an American environmental lawyer and advocate, has recently been quoted as saying:

“I use to think the top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse, and climate change. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed, apathy and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that.”

The scientists might not know how to do this, but I think Dame Rangimārie’s grandmother has given us a significant clue.

How might we find the courage to challenge selfishness, greed and apathy within the worlds in which we live?

Te Wiki o te Māori is part of a cultural transformation that is ongoing within New Zealand. Whilst Te Wiki o te Māori might be a national celebration of te reo Māori, embracing the diversity of other cultures cannot be mandated at a national level. But it is something that can happen at the grassroots level of every community. It happens in spaces where people are prepared to put aside their version of ‘truth’ and take the time to deeply understand what is important to others. Deep empathy with others is the only way to defeat selfishness, greed and apathy.

I love Te Wiki o te Reo Māori as it is a time of coming together around Aotearoa’s most precious of languages. My hope is that what we have started this week will journey with us we continue to move forward into our collective future.

Til next time,

Ngā mihi


P.S. Here is the link to the entire Spinoff article: The Kia Ora Lady; Dame Rangimārie Naida Glavish in her own words.

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