"Where have all the flowers gone?" is a good question, and a great song penned by Pete Seeger in 1955, the year I walked back on to the planet to have another look at what was going on - or more importantly what had changed since my last visit.

The answer to the question of change would be "bugger all" given that just about half the population on Earth has the combined wealth of the 12 richest/greediest inhabitants.

So we haven't learned a lot have we? And the question Seeger (who passed away last week) asks about where have all the good things in life gone amplifies the deep sadness one feels when listening to his lyrics.

I can remember this song being sung when the waipiro (grog) was flowing and the jinga-jacka of Ten Guitars was flowing around the parties of my parents and, to this day, the aura of sadness when it was being sung - be it my dad remembering his mates who never made it home from World War II and "gone to graveyards every one", or by the widows and brides who were left behind never knowing the true richness of love and laughter - is the same now as it was then.


Fast forward to the here and now and the whereabouts of the fallen flowers in a wider context invites the same melancholic sadness for me, especially when applying it to friends and whanau who no longer walk this world with us.

This week, the guardians of our sea creatures are asking, where have all the whales gone, and why do we let what few are left be slaughtered under the smokescreen of science?

Equally, why do Western Australians allow sharks to be gang-hooked and quartered because they innocently attacked a seal-like looking creature called a human being flapping around in the sea on a surfboard?

As for the barbaric tradition of plunging a dagger into the brain of the darlings of the deep, the dolphin, in the name of tradition in Japan ... that says it all about where they will have all gone.

What is important besides trying to enact change by peaceful protest is to keep asking the question about why these acts are happening.

Seeger understood how the lyrics of a song could teach a whole generation - and the generations to follow - by asking a simple question.

He was an iconic figure who graced our lives with his conscience; his willingness not just to speak out but to take action using his talents.

Not everyone agreed with his stance but there is no denying he was a great soldier for peace and humanity and he made it into most living rooms of this country, including ours.

At 93, one of his legendary quotes is a mantra for me and many others who have had the privilege of teaching a creative art in schools.

"Singing with children in the schools has been the most rewarding experience of my life. Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple."

This week, as we send our kids back to school to learn about life, we will gather at the monuments over at the Mount or up on Pukewhanake overlooking the Wairoa and remember where our tipuna have gone as we commemorate Waitangi Day.

For me, it will start at the dawn service and then I will make the memory simple and spend it with our tamariki out at Papamoa Beach, wearing a loud shirt, cheering on the boogie-board races and listening to live music from musicians who carry messages somewhat similar to what Seeger carried for his 93 years of life - a life dedicated to making the world a better place for tomorrow's generation to play in.

If there is ever a time to build bridges between our cultures and our communities then Waitangi Day is a Golden Gate to walk across.

The partnership starts when we take the time to listen to what tomorrow's generation is saying today and the "Golden Gate" message Te Kahu Rolleston will be sharing on the side of Mount Drury at sunrise on Waitangi Day will be a flower we can all take home.

We all know where the flowers have gone and we all know what is required to make them grow again. Waitangi Day is a great way to start planting the seeds for the flowers of the future.


Tommy Kapai is a Tauranga author and writer.