Friday, February 06, 2009

Waitangi Day 2009: updated as synchroblog shapes up

(part of Waitangi Day 2009 synchroblog: synchrobloggers include …. Paul Fromont : Steve Taylor : Lynne Taylor : Mark Nichols : Stu McGregor …. (if you have blogged on being Kiwi, being Christian as part of Waitangi Day 2009, let me know and we can share the linking luv.)

I grew up in Papua New Guinea. It was by and large a great childhood, filled with mostly great memories. And a few not so good, including once being stoned. I and some expatriate friends were walking home one day, a walk of about 45 minutes in length, along a dirt road, with grass banks on either side. As we started, we noticed some local Papua New Guinean’s following us, walking above us on the grass banks. They started yelling, and gesturing. It didn’t feel very pleasant and we started to walk faster. So did they. Suddenly a stone started whistling through the air. And we ran. Chased down the road, a group of kids, chased by another group of kids, throwing stones.

Childplay? I suspect it actually was more like an early experience of bad race relations, and that I was a victim of “white man go home.” Which was hard to take as a kid, with very little choice about the actions of their parents.

One of the things I admire about Barak Obama is his appeal to a “better history.” Rather than focus on what divides, there is this ability to speak to hope, to the future, and to the best in us as humans. I wonder what Obama-speak means for New Zealand on Waitangi Day. I wonder what it means to speak to hope and future and the best of Maori and Pakeha.

One of the spiritual disciplines I have found useful in the last few years is appreciative inquiry. It involves asking people and groups to describe when they were at their best. Often out of those stories, come the values that take people into a new future. I think Paul the Apostle does this in the Bible, starting each of his letters with very specific thanks for the unique community he is writing to. The themes he introduces in the thanksgiving then shape the rest of the letter, and his ethical call to live differently. Practically for me, this has meant looking for the best in people and giving very specific thanks for that. I’ve seen it change people and situations.

I think that’s what Obama has done in USA. He’s practised a form of appreciate inquiry, sought to speak to the best of a nation’s past, and in doing so, uncover values which take a nation forward. This has the danger of white-washing the past, but the appeal of allowing shared values to inform the call to live differently.

Sometimes discussion between Maori and Pakeha takes me back to my childhood experience in Papua New Guinea. I hear yelling and sense the whistle of stones and groups retreated in monocultural huddles, to nurse their wounds among their own crowd. It might be that I simply need to get over my childhood. Or is that we need another approach, that of Obama and appreciative inquiry.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been part of conversations in which words like “coloniser” have been used. It felt like I was back with someone throwing stones, being blamed for the actions of my forbears. Equally when I hear Pakeha talk about the “Treaty industry” I again have this sense of stones being thrown.

So, in 2009, I want to say thanks: specifically,
– for the Maori language week and the beauty of Te Reo on our national news
– for the Waitangi Tribunal and their search for clear, open, informed truth
– for the Anglican three tikanga system which gives voice and diversity
– for the 2008 albums by Tiki Tane and Paddy Free which place Maori chants on our radio waves

and in doing so, I am hoping to live into a “better history” in which the stones that are the blame game are put down and an ever growing honesty and diversity shape the New Zealand story. I’d like this for my church and my family and the way I interact in public and in the internet.

Posted by steve at 06:25 AM


  1. Stoned? 🙂

    Comment by Dan Lowe — February 6, 2009 @ 11:26 am

  2. You can delete that comment, steve, i posted it before reading on. I can be pretty bad about that; it’s the cyber version of talking before thinking. 🙁

    Comment by Dan Lowe — February 6, 2009 @ 11:27 am

  3. Appreciate your honesty so much…..hope the rocks didn’t hit you this time

    Comment by kerry — February 6, 2009 @ 11:35 am

  4. […] also Steve and Paul for Waitangi Day […]

    Pingback by Lynne Taylor » Waitangi Day reflections — February 6, 2009 @ 9:23 pm

  5. Hello Steve
    I am hoping this is the S.T. from MIT. It’s been suggested I try find you on the internet. For what reason, I am not sure. you are obviously online typing away from this site, so Steve if this is YOU
    can you please read your MIT email from me and respond before you go away for a few days.

    Gathering from this website – it would appear that we have a lot in common that I previously did not realise.
    regards Yvonne

    Comment by Yvonne — February 11, 2009 @ 9:29 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.