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 art of un-necessity

Simple or not?
I like simple and get most pleasure from those things which are refined to a minimal status without significant compromise to quality, performance or aesthetics.

As much as some of the obsession around the I-phone rather bores me, I absolutely admire the pure simplicity of the item.

I believe simplicity is at the heart of the green/ sustainable movement, this is simplicity re-framed, simplicity on steroids.

What is driving some of the green businesses I have read about is a small steps approach. This opened their ideas to possibilities (and waste) they had not previously seen.

In this short post I hope to prompt that rethink with my audience.

    • How do you monitor vehicle miles?
    • How many flights could be cut back by people staying over; getting more organised and visiting more customers, clients or suppliers?
    • How much of your paper is recycled – even if that is just printing on both sides – having trays just for drafts or casual printouts on lower grade recycled material? ( thinking of which why don’t we have budget home office printers with dual trays to allow this convenience?) [pullquote]And hard as it is, I try, I try, I try.[/pullquote]
    • What incentives do you have for your employees to use local transport, bike or walk to work? (An annual bus pass for every employee?)
    • Do you compost/worm bin food scraps at work?
    • What do you do to discourage convenience food waste like coffee cups, plastic bottles and disposable containers etc.?
    • How much packaging from suppliers could be eliminated or returned?
    • How much do you over-pack your products? Cereal manufacturers take note. (If I recall correctly minimum surface area for a given volume is achieved when Height=Diameter for a cylinder, and Height=Width for a box)
    • What are your customers doing with the waste you generate for them? What impact on them if you offered to collect it?
    • What benefits would you get if your customers saw you were doing your bit?

Let’s embrace some new ways – like my colleagues who didn’t even look sideways when I attended a meeting in my cycle shorts and jacket two days ago.

And another question looms –“ What do we need, really?” . What is necessity?

    • A new phone?
    • A new car or even bigger 4WD?
    • A bigger television?
    • More office space?

Waste occurs every time we generate or produce something, every time we use something, every time we don’t fully use something and every time we get something we don’t need.

And hard as it is, I try, I try, I try.

And it feels great.

For more information visit here to download a paper on current initiatives around the world
and here to see some of what is happening here in NZ.