On the 10th anniversary of this column, I'm simply trying to remain optimistic, in the smoke from our neighbour's burning and the looming spectre of war begun by a desperate US President.
By tradition, this first column of a new decade looks back at the previous 10 years and at the lessons learned for inspiration. Inspiration also comes from reading a New Yorker essay by Sidhartha Mukherjee - Bodies at Rest and in Motion - about the physician/writer's own father's death.
Homoeostasis, he writes, the concept governing the body's dynamism, the capacity to sustain internal constancy, is essential to independent life.
The wonder of the body is the organisation of the multiple systems interdependent and self-regulating, cardiovascular, metabolic, neuro-anatomic, that allow life to go on. Then, a series of small incidents may occur whose individual contribution though seemingly small, may with cumulative weight bring it all to a standstill.
The parallel to the self-regulated and counterpoised forces in the government of cities, societies, political institutions is not lost on the author.
The first op-eds of 2010, grew out of my expressed concern with what I perceived as divisiveness along ethnic and social groupings. The columns were a counterweight, promoting comity and civility.
From the outset (Jan 17, 2010) I intended these essays to be provocative of democratic noise, the start of robust debate.
If, as a byproduct, there might be the occasional barb under the skin of politicians locally or generally, that, too, would be intentional. Politicians have thick skins.
The "naming" incident at the council deserves our attention and concern.
The situation is complicated by the fact the council has given itself authority - presumably with consent of the developer - to name the street of a new development. The developer suggested the name Morrell St.
Tupoho iwi were invited to suggest a name. Theirs was "Te Repo", which signifies wetlands.
It's here that Rob Vinsen offered his own interpretation of Te Repo, giving it the English meaning of "Repossession".
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That brought a laugh from yet unidentified councillors, who, by doing so, endorsed Vinsen's behavior. The vote favoring Morell followed.
It was certainly disrespectful. You don't invite someone to give a suggested name, then make a joke of it. But was it racist, as Ken Mair claims?
Rob Vinsen misappropriated the word "Repo", divorcing from its modifier "Te" and then mispronounced the word by rendering its English sound which he could claim had the negative connotation of repossession. That's when it got ramped up with laughter.
The incident sparked claims of racism. Rob claims steadfastly he wasn't being disrespectful.
Racism is a special case of bullying. It involves a distinct inequality of power of either numbers size, position or status. The acts that flow are bullying or racist when they embody the view that the less powerful are inherently inferior, they, or their customs, or their language.
Vinsen's deliberate mispronunciation of the Māori words "Te Repo" has, in my opinion, precedent in the 2010 incident wherein former TV personality Paul Henry pronounced Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit's name (correct pronunciation: Dixit) in an Anglicised form that he could ridicule. Henry subsequently resigned.
This new event may seem small but small abrasions grow quickly to great wounds to the body politic.
We're still healing from the damage of the divisiveness of an earlier era, damage to our economy - the wastewater treatment plant - our society (the assault on volunteerism) and ethnic inclusion. Just as our economy is beginning to find its feet is no time to bring divisiveness back.
At a minimum, Rob Vinsen needs to apologise to the iwi and to the city he's been elected to represent. The council needs to revisit its processes and its flawed decision-making.
• Jay Kuten is an American-trained forensic psychiatrist who emigrated to New Zealand for the fly fishing. He spent 40 years comforting the afflicted and intends to spend the rest afflicting the comfortable.