Te Reo and my search for identity

I guess if you don’t know what you’re missing it’s hard to look for it. I never realized I’d been searching for my identity. I suspect it’s what many of us spend much of our lives doing without being fully aware. Deep down a few things always felt somewhat short-changed in my life and having a clear sense of identity is now obvious to me as being one of those things.

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Waka prow – Waitangi Treaty Grounds

I probably should have cottoned on to this when at the age of 14 having had my first trip away (to Auckland) I proudly returned home with a T-shirt which loudly declared “Pommy Bastards”. My English mother (coming to New Zealand when she was 17) was duly unimpressed.

Suffice to say I didn’t know who I was, though I clearly didn’t want to be English!

More correctly I have always wanted to be simply a “New Zealander”.

Defining what qualified me as a New Zealander has always been difficult for me, despite my great Grandfather arriving in 1870. I could see a clear ‘right’ for those of Māori descent, but for everyone else, I have always felt the waters to be somewhat murky, and at times definitely muddied.

Fast forward some 40 odd years from the T-shirt and returning to New Zealand I find that in public engagements and education forums Te Reo has been fully embraced and incorporated as a way of life; it’s the way we do thing around here. Though embracing this is not universal, for me it was like a light being switched on.

What began perhaps 11 years ago when working at Te Papa and then a year later in running a Directors (Governance) course for the Te Arawa Lakes trust, and loving every minute of both those experiences, I was now able to see a path to my New Zealand identity – Te Reo.

Not simply Te Reo as a language, but to understand the culture and to embrace the more spiritual connections Māori have with the land, water, flora and fauna. I now had a vehicle to strengthen my connections with the past and to reach out in a way I had never previously explored.

I’ll update the journey as I progress but meantime ponder these questions:

Is it critical to a mixed society’s social and emotional success and security that the majority of the population understand the history and customs of that lands ‘first peoples’?

How critical is it for our own identity for us to connect with or retain the language and customs of our resident country as it was initially settled, while not foregoing that we are likely to also wish to connect with and explore that of our forebears?

My short answers are: Yes. Absolutely.

The Complicator

Complicated

A good friend and colleague of mine introduced a wonderful new term to my vocabulary – The Complicator.

I see them in many many places now, and I wish I had this cue to spot them earlier.

Generally I confused them with Chicken Little – people who always thought the sky was about to fall and couldn’t see the upside of anything.

Complicators however are a little more insidious and beguiling. They constantly complain but at the same time they seem to move things forward. You admire the effort, and say to yourself

“Wow in spite of all those problems they made progress, good on them”.

And that is it, they’ve got you. hook line ( that’s a tangled line, and not as strong as it should be, and by the way the hook is made of the wrong metal, and not really appropriate for catching those kind of fish) and sinker (it should be heavier, but we found a way around it, modified it, talked to the design department, rang the supplier, then the sea was drained of all the water so it didn’t matter anyway).

You get the point.

I like to keep things simple, minimise the drama, focus on the outcome and not embellish the journey. Complicators do just the opposite. If you asked them to go to the corner dairy to get some pens for the office the story would go like this:

“That Dairy is hardly ever open (you know it is right now), the last time I went they were working on the footpath outside (3 months ago), damn what time does my favourite program begin…

They want you to say “Hey look it’s alright I’ll go…” to which they reply

“No, no, its fine, be back shortly”

That’s the game. Eric Berne describes them well in his book Games People Play.

So my question is – what the hell do you do?

My thoughts:

No, can’t print that one. Lets try another…

Give them an out for their plea’s for attention

Say “No I’ve heard that already what has changed?”

Say “Yep you told me that so what do you plan to do about it?

Say “Hey, it’s great you recognise the problems, it’s also great you know how to solve them. What I want to hear are the solutions”

All the other options involve weapons, cars, buses and combustible materials.

Have a great day, I’ll struggle to get through mine because, because, because….