Since March 15, 2019 our poor country has been through the mill, firstly the overwhelming tragedy of the mosque terror attacks in Christchurch, then Whakaari-White Island reminded us of the fact that most of us here live on a very thin crust of the Earth.
But worse was to come. In March 2020 the country closed down due to a pandemic raging around the world, killing hundreds of thousands. Our lives have changed, perhaps forever for many. Jobs were lost, businesses forced to close, families separated by closed borders, overseas travel for most is now but a distant memory and, whilst travel bubbles are slowly being developed with Australia and, perhaps, parts of Asia, the chance of the normal ability to travel anywhere in the world is perhaps still a year or two away for most.
Opinions aside about government action, New Zealand has come out of the pandemic very well indeed. As has our closest neighbour and international friend Australia. Perhaps being so far away from anywhere and being relatively sparsely-populated is a blessing for both countries.
As time passes and vaccines take hold, herd immunity will develop in New Zealand, our borders will slowly reopen to countries where that herd immunity has also been established by vaccination. Travel will likely be restricted to only those who can prove vaccination prior to leaving. Of course the vaccinations themselves are new and there is some public trepidation about their efficacy long-term.
As a nation I believe that a side effect of all of the above happening has been an increased sensitivity to matters happening within New Zealand. Our Prime Minister talks of the team of 5 million. This may be true in terms of the pandemic but, at present, I see New Zealanders as very much not a team of 5 million.
There seems to be an increased sensitivity to matters of racism, offence being perceived and taken at every slight, whether needed or not.
I am the first to agree that blatant and systemic racism must be called out and dealt with but what seems to be the continual need by some people to be offended and to get TV or press time is wearying.
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Yes, we have a way to go in terms of a society to confront our real history but let us do it together as a team of 5 million, not as different groups piling in on one another. There is understanding, empathy and love across cultures. Calling people out continually and insultingly for minor lapses, ignorance of protocols and pronunciation and, well, just being different to look at, is not helping and could drive wedges where none have existed before.
The patience of Māori in our society has been truly remarkable in the past 180 years and simply has to be acknowledged. Young Māori are keen to move things along which is great, but take Pākehā with you, do not drive them away. Many are trying. Ignorance can be cured as we all know and that will happen in time with more awareness being made of our own colonial history. It may be too late for my generation but times change, do not despair at what you see.
I would suspect it is hard work being a genuine dyed-in-the-wool racist. The level of anger and the negative feelings must be very tiring to maintain. Casual ignorant racism exists, sadly, but education will change that.
It saddens me to see that Māori and Pākehā seem to walk a parallel but separate path in life in many places around the country. Sadly it seems, in my opinion, to stem from Pākehā just simply not being interested in things Māori and then getting all upset when they see Māori wanting the true partnership they agreed to 181 years ago. Pākehā need to step up and take a look through the lens of Māoridom sometimes.
This is thankfully happening in many organisations and businesses. An example being Oranga Tamariki, an organisation I believe should be under Māori governance as the current model does not seem to be changing the terrible statistics of Māori children in care.
We are a very small country. Is it really that hard to respect Māori aspirations?