Wednesday, 2 July 2014

What happens when we talk about culture and what is important to us.

Just had the most intense conversation with one of my Y11 students. He should be in politics. He needs to speak his mind more often at those hui because it's eating him up. I suggested he write a blog.

I originally thought he should be a teacher. And perhaps he should. But think he has so much potential he could do anything.

I need time to process all of that.


So it's now at least five hours since that conversation and it's still processing at the back and perhaps now forefront of my mind.

When you talk to someone that passionate about what's troubling them.. it's hard not to become overwhelmed. When you understand their point of view and completely see where they are coming from and even agree with them it's even harder. What's even more so harder is the realisation that you don't have the right answers to fix the problem. That no amount of counselling or sage advice or personal experiences can stop that kind of pain.

What's troubling is that there are a huge majority of people in our country, even in this city who still don't get it.

I truly wish I had recorded that conversation. Powerful. Eloquent. Everything you'd expect of a year 13 speech. This kid is Y11. And he's an amazing orator. Strongly spoken and passionate. He will be a great leader for his people once they realise they should be listening to him as well.

We had originally been discussing the flag on my car from the door knocking I had done earlier in the weekend. We were outside the class at this point, before the class even started. A few others asked similar questions, particularly my stance on the Eastern Arterial Route. My response came from a merely political viewpoint.. that the govt will throw money to the regional councils in order to get a vote and that even if the other party do get in... there will still be a huge chance of the route/bypass happening anyway.

That was it. All that I had said.

So the lesson began. Most kids were doing their work. Eventually I noticed that one of my star pupils ... who normally has such an indepth viewpoint of the world and the themes and history which deepens his entire analyses in essays and discussions.. seemed close to tears. I asked him if he was ok. He said he was fine. I asked if he needed to talk he said there was nothing to talk about. Asked him if he was sure once more and he looked at me blankly. Asked him to come outside and talk. He didn't want to but he did.

And when he was outside he didn't stop.

There's something about the way I allow my students to express themselves that makes them feel comfortable to get their issues off of their chests. Sometimes its as simple as asking them if they're okay because they look like they've been or are about to cry. Sometimes they just need a talk outside. Sometimes they need a bit of prodding to get them started... and nearly every time I am able to make them feel comfortable with then going to the school counsellor to further talk it through. I never used to be okay with referring it on... particularly as a new teacher in my first year when I thought I could save the world... or at least my own students in my classroom... single - handedly.

Today I didn't have any answers.

I had budget advice. And I have yet to find the truth in this topic for myself. Because I know exactly what he was talking about.

And he's right. It goes back to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Souls crying. As he said.

50 years on and 'they' still haven't listened. As he said.

At the end of the day the raruraru continues. The land confiscation through now 'appropriate' law continues. The continual ripping and prodding of Papatuanuku continues. When will it end?

When will enough be enough? As he said.

When will 'they' stop taking? We give and give and what will there be left for our people? Nothing. And it still won't be enough. As he said.

The moment when he referenced the beautiful waiata from the haka roopu in the school wharenui made my skin go cold. Because he's right. When is enough.. enough? Til there isn't anything left?

He talked about cultural appropriation.. not that he knows that term yet. But he knows it at its very core.

He mentioned the urupa and the pou he dug into the land to help keep that whenua protected.

He said that he will never give up fighting. And so he should. Because it's worth fighting for.

It made me think about how easily I gave up in many things when at home. How proud I was that our land was turned into a massive shopping mall which I suppose is better than being blown up constantly. And was proud that as a tribe we were making money. I was proud of our beautiful tribal building where I went to drop off my grant applications and scholarships.

I fight. But have hidden that passion. I don't let it come out anymore because I'm scared it will be hit down again and again by those who continue to take advantage of what I stand for and for what I believe in.

I accept stuff I shouldn't have to accept and what's more I allow confrontations to happen with my meek little voice accepting whatever that person says.

Why? Because I'm scared.

That the world will once again be ripped out from under my feet. That maybe my values aren't solid or strong enough. That maybe people will mock me for them or that I'll not be on the popular side of history... or the winning side. Whichever way you choose to see it.

I told my student to blog. To get it out of his system so that he can understand his views and so that he can share them with others. So that he doesn't have to risk going against tikanga by standing at a hui to portray his views and perspective. So that his tuakana can see a youth perspective. If he spoke the same way to rc then maybe this wouldn't happen.

Perhaps he is just one person. But as he said... his tupuna will be standing there beside him and his whanau.

Even if its him still standing there with his tokotoko, walking up that hill as an old man, he said, he will still not give up.

Absolutely astounded. Like hearing MLK and Whina Cooper and Te Puea all in one. So impressed.

He best maintain his anger by using his words rather than his fists. He needs to express this stuff more often because its eating him up. The pain is crushing him. And he needs to discuss it.

I'm thankful he talked with me. We could have talked for hours and still not gotten anywhere because that's the reality of this kaupapa. When you have no control and you have only truth and fight... then you discuss and make your point stronger still until it is infallible. Until there are no more loopholes to mend.

I really hope he becomes a lawyer or a teacher or a politician. So much potential. I hope he realises it.

And I hope he took my advice to start writing his thoughts down. So that he can share without risking breaking trust of whanau and hierarchical systems.

Ka mau te wehi e tama ma.

Nga mihi nui ki a koe mo to whakaaro, me wairua, me korero..  Ka haere koe ki te maunga teitei.. ki nga whetu. Aim high kiddo. And don't let the thought that what you have to say isn't valuable or isn't enough. Kia kaha. Kia manawanui.