It’s time for the haka to fade into history while we promote more positive culture, writes Beatrice Sullivan.
Today I read a shocking United Nations report that said New Zealand's domestic violence and maternal mortality are the worst for 14 developed nations.
In New Zealand an average of 14 women, seven men and eight children are killed by a member of their family every year. Police are called to around 200 domestic violence situations a day. Twenty thousand women and children needed the help of Women's Refuge in 2013.
We all know there needs to be a change to our culture of violence and the White Ribbon Campaign, Ministry of Social Development and Te Puni Kokiri are trying to address this issue.
However, to my knowledge, people don't realise that the Maori haka, which features at All Black games and official "welcomes" to foreign dignitaries, shows the world at large how we actually tolerate and seemingly promote violence. Are we proud of this?
I find it disconcerting and embarrassing that NZ constantly exhibits a menacing and aggressive war dance on TV where adults and children alike are fed on violence. I hear some people say they feel a national pride when the haka is performed "as it is our culture", but there is a large group of citizens who are silently disgusted and appalled but too nervous to voice their feelings as they would be called a racist. It is not racist but horror of violence in general throughout the world.
The haka was originally a war dance performed to motivate the warriors psychologically to fight and intimidate the opposition. Te Rauparaha, war leader of the Ngati Toa tribe, composed the "ka mate" haka in 1820. The words ka mate mean "tis death". In other words "kill".
What sort of example is this to our young? I have seen 2-year-olds joining in the haka with their fathers. Given that children learn by example rather than by taking advice, the haka is teaching them intimidation and aggression.
It is not surprising that violence in the home and community has risen in recent times. Temuera Morrison, who acted as Jake the Muss in the film Once Were Warriors, said the role was like a millstone round his neck. Afterwards people had difficulty disassociating him from the brutal man image on the screen. At the time he said it was emotional mayhem, a gruelling experience and he didn't really enjoy acting it. He is still Jake to the public as it is difficult for people to shake off frightening visual experiences. We absorb so much with our eyes.
People throughout the world are desperately praying for peace, but we humans are the ones who have to bring it about. A first step towards non-violence in New Zealand would be to change our perceptions of the haka and to ban it from being shown on TV, ban it from rugby games and ban it from "welcoming" ceremonies to dignitaries.
With less promotion it would fade into a "has been" culture, out of date with modern civilisation. Let us promote peace and harmony showing only the best in our culture. Some parts of our heritage are not worth preserving except in history books. If we want to promote Maori culture, why don't we see more of their traditional singing and dancing which is beautiful? This would be good for harmonious racial relations and also show New Zealand as a peaceful society to the rest of the world.
Let us change our mindset on what is really important in life. Is a war dance appropriate today?
Beatrice Sullivan describes herself as a grandmother with a social conscience.