It’s 2019, and it still feels like the world doesn’t really know much about New Zealand. We’re seen as a three-way cross between Lord of the Rings, Flight of the Conchords and Lorde. So basically, Lorde of the Conchords.
What the international community doesn’t know, is that secretly, deep down every New Zealand male thinks he’s MacGyver. I’ll explain.
There’s a phrase in Aotearoa, “No. 8 Fencing Wire Mentality” (or as its otherwise known, “Good Ol’ Kiwi Ingenuity”). It Is Known that there’s nothing a Kiwi bloke can’t accomplish with a spool of versatile No. 8 fencing wire, and a little bit of outside the box thinking. The adage has informed an adventurous spirit as part of our national consciousness that pushes New Zealanders to enthusiastically try new things, push boundaries and create solutions we didn’t know existed. It’s truly a wonderful part of our culture.
Put together a big rubber band and a ravine et voila (that’s French for “Good on ya mate”): You’ve just discovered bungee jumping. Or combine some nitrogen and alpha particles you had hanging around to split the atom, as Ernest Rutherford did. It may have taken a while for advanced technology to make it down to Enzed, but we’ve always been lifehackers through and through.
Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix for the tragedy we suffered yesterday. MacGyver was great, but even if he were armed with No. 8, he couldn’t fix this. The Christchurch mosque shootings were a devastating attack that have irrevocably rocked the country’s foundations. We’re all wounded, angry and confused. In the wake of the shootings, amongst the sincere goodwill and love for our fallen brethren, has been resounding shock. There are a couple of refrains I’ve heard. “How did this happen?” “This is not who we are.” I’ve heard the prominent shooter referred to as an Australian first, almost underlined as if to say, this was not our fault. We didn’t do this. To distance ourselves from it. Because that makes things easier.
There is nothing easy about this. Much as we want to distance ourselves from this horrific loss of life, we’re all at some level culpable. Because while we may not have done this, we have not done enough. But we need to. I know we’re all hurt, and it doesn’t seem like the time to have a hard conversation, but we have no choice. We need to do more.
We need to talk.
It feels like the resounding logline of our fair country has always been “we’re not as bad as other places”. Sure, with settlers came conflict, disease and war, but we moved on. We signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 to move forward as one nation together. Whenever accusations of racism have come our way, we’ve pointed elsewhere to redirect the sentiment. Look at the United States, at Australia. Now THEY need to sort themselves out. We have to look back at ourselves, and the nation we need to be.
People have been saying “this is not who we are” ad infinitum. It’s the most understandable thing in the world, but it’s also a lie. Every time, I hear this is not who we want to be. By recusing ourselves, we’re continuing to live in the illusion that this is not our problem. It is. Now is the time to listen to the voices that these terrorists tried to silence. Instead of being defensive, we need to open our ears and hearts to those who have had so much taken by this harrowing assault. Following the actions of March 15th, their words will be amplified. When minority voices detail their experiences, we have no choice but to listen. Because we’ve ignored them for far too long.
Did you know that incidents of hate crime are not recorded by the police? We’re all too quick as a nation to decry the actions of Neo Nazis, to preach our nation’s history of racial harmony. Yet when a co-worker makes a sly racist comment, we’re all too quick to ignore it or look past it. Yeah, but he’s not actually racist goes the sentiment. Dave says some dumb stuff sometimes, but his heart is in the right place. Maybe it’s not. I’m not saying it can’t be, but clearly there’s something behind the comments. We need to listen. We need to talk with Dave and Bruce to figure out where these views come from, and we need to help them understand that what they’re voicing is not okay. That we’re all human beings deserving of love and respect, irrespective of our culture. That racial superiority is a myth perpetuated by narrow minded bigots. That thinking less of another does not raise you above them. It just makes you small. Because this is all part of who we are. This Ethnocentric rhetoric didn’t sprout from nowhere. It’s been feeding for generations, since the first European settlers arrived in our country. Thinking it doesn’t exist because it’s not prevalent is naive, and we’re too clever for that.
Gun laws will change. Online white supremacist dialogue needs to be closely monitored and acted upon. Otherwise why the hell did we hand over our privacy to the Five Eyes Network? We need to call out systemic inequality, and the organisations who benefit from it. We need to call in those who show signs of alarm, and help them towards a more inclusive path. We need to lead by example. Rather than pointing out how we’re not as bad as other countries, we need to become how we see ourselves.
This should not be who we are, but for many of us, it is. Many of us don’t understand how the smallest spark of intolerance can catch alight, stoking the flames of hatred. We need to come together as a nation and stomp it out. From the ashes of a terrible disaster, we need to rise anew. We need to have difficult conversations, and work to make our country the great land we believe it can be.
It won’t be easy or quick. No. 8 wire can’t fix this, but we can. We have to.