Tuesday, 12 October 2010

negotiating a way forward

so i've been avoiding the discussion here regarding the whole te papa issue - well, not so much avoiding it as not engaging in it. the discussion has been pretty hostile in places, with some good stuff in amongst it.

i have been taking part in some really useful discussions on facebook, as well as watching another discussion thread that had the heavy involvement of maori women and men. the latter i found really useful, because i was interested to learn about how maori see these issues, and where the debate is at with them.

i'm not sure yet what i feel about it all. i can understand the need to have debate when there's an element of exclusion being applied to people who don't share a particular set of beliefs - though i'm not entirely sure that's what is happening here. i think also that there is the natural conflict that arises when the values of two cultures are incompatible and one will have to give way to the other. i can certainly understand the frustration of a minority culture who have been the ones to give way for any number of decades, and have only recently been able to assert their own positions in any meaningful way.

on facebook, i gave a couple of examples where i've had to face what i can only describe as a clash of cultures. one was the example of having to hongi with males when on the marae, which was a situation i had to face back in waitangi day 2006. it's something i don't feel comfortable with, because of my own personal beliefs. on the other hand, i don't want to be disrespectful of the traditions of the people and the place where i am.

another experience was at a fiji day celebration in manukau back in 2008. they were having some kind of kava cermony (apologies for my ignorance of the proper wording). there i was, sitting right up the front, and desperately hoping that i wouldn't be offered any. given that it causes drunkenness when taken in large quantities, it comes into the category of alcohol & drugs ie a no-no for me. luckily they didn't offer me any, but i just don't know how i could have responded without giving offence if they had.

i can give lots more examples. there are times when compromise is difficult, and other times when it just isn't a good idea. when basic values of justice and equity collide with practices that seem to be grossly unfair, someone does need to take a stand.

is this one of those times? i'm still not ready to answer that question. the debate i saw amongst maori was quite varied. many were ready to move on from this practice, there were others who valued it. some of the differences in opinion were as a result of being from different iwi.

there's been a lot in the comments here about the reasoning behind the practice, some of it being summarily dismissed. others have interpreted the practice from the lense of their own cultural history, which has treated menstruation as something unclean, and have refused to accept an alternative explanation when presented with it. but the biggest problem by far is the notion that one groups cultural practice may be used to impinge on the freedoms of others outside the group.

it reminds me of the case some years back of the woman working at MSD who refused to sit at the back during a powhiri because she felt it was against her personal beliefs. there was a lot of noise around that issue, and i remember she ended up losing her job, though that was because of her going to the media without her employer's position. it's a similar issue though, and there needs to be a way to negotiate through these cultural clashes in a manner that is better than what we are seeing so far.

like one of the maori women suggesting a solution to my problem with the hongi. she first asked me what i would feel comfortable with. i said i could cope with a handshake, because it didn't involve the same degree of personal closeness. her reply:

If it was me in that situation, I would compose a short sentence to use as I approached each person. For example, "I am sorry I cannot hongi you due to my culture, but please accept my greetings" and offer your hand. Sometimes we need to be educated in the ways of other cultures too.

i thought that was a lovely solution, and a offered with an attitude of respect for my dilemma. i think it's possible to negotiate solutions and have people move forward if we could only approach these issues with a feeling of goodwill. there seems to have been too little of that today, and not just today but every time a similar situation comes up. often, movement happens best in incremental steps. pushing too hard just results in people pushing back.

20 comments:

A Nonny Moose said...

Thank you. That's a lovely way to put it.

I apologize to anyone who I have pushed too hard at today.

Gina said...

Wow- this post has really focussed my thinking on this issue. I like it. And I've always struggled with hongi too but in a different way and for a different reason. I prefer to kiss on the cheek- I don't like being all up in someone's face. I'm a real "personal space" person. Cheers.

Mkura said...

Stargazer have yu got a link for this: "watching another discussion thread that had the heavy involvement of maori women and men" ??

be much appreciated...

PS: Nice to read a more thoughtful post from someone whose cultural assumptions are not so invisible to them, its a rare and valuable thing, thanks.

stargazer said...

thanx for the positive feedback everyone.

the facebook thread is here. i'm hoping that works - i'm not good with facebook linking. it's such a lovely, positive discussion on the issue and i learnt a lot from it.

Tracey said...

thank you so much for this post, as a Maori I was feeling somewhat angst about the whole situation, but reading your views and you sharing your experiences also shed some light for me......yes...some of us are tuturu ( staunch) when it comes to tikanga, but it is also a give and take situation, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading everyones views....even the not so positive ones :)
may a blessing be placed upon you x

muerk said...

I do wonder if Maori find it difficult/annoying/threatning to be told that their tikanga is "wrong" by Western standards. I mean land was confiscated once upon a time by the Crown because Maori weren't using it "properly" as per Western ideas of how land should be used.

Mkurs said...

ah! my Tuuhoe whaanaunga, Potaua! I been wondering all day where my digital maaoris are at - I shoulda known to check his FB.

Thanks Stargazer, I'm off to read myself back to sanity - there's been some really disappointing awful white supremacist shiz on THM today and I got that same feeling in my gut that I got from reading Public Address after the raids.

y'all ever thought about getting some serious Mana Wahine representation over here on THM? I think this episode of white-blindness on Kaupapa Maaori issues suggests its necessity...

Deborah said...

An interesting question, muerk, but not one raised by any of the THM bloggers. All three of us who have written on this topic have differing views, but absolutely none of us have tried to say that tikanga is wrong. I have been at pains not to do so, because I am intensely aware the one culture being different from another does not make one or the other culture wrong. Wrongness resides in harm to people, not in just being different. and I notice that Julie and anjum have both been very careful not to impute wrongness either. Different =/= wrong.

stargazer said...

mkura, i think we're all pretty open to that idea here. do you know of any wahine that would be interested? maybe email us via the contact page. if there were women who didn't want to commit to regular blogging but were prepared to put up a guest post now and then, i think that would be welcome too. also, i'm not entirely sure of the ethnicity of all my fellow blogmates, seeing as how i've only met a couple of them in person. i think we're already a reasonably diverse group.

the blindness you speak of comes from the comments rather than the actual posts, and we've had a heap of new people descend on the site today. i can understand how you feel, some of it felt a bit too hostile for me. the point is that even if we put up a maori perspective (which i'd love to do), it's quite hard to keep control of the comments.

Craig Ranapia said...

Thanks Stargazer, I'm off to read myself back to sanity - there's been some really disappointing awful white supremacist shiz on THM today and I got that same feeling in my gut that I got from reading Public Address after the raids.

Meh... well, I'm sorry if any of that's directed at me. Anyway, I'll check out of this discussion and just scratch Te Papa off my list of places to go next time I'm in Wellington. I prefer to support cultural institutions that challenge and interrogate misogyny (IMO, of course) not perpetuate it.

Kay said...

I have found the discussions on this matter offered me good opportunities for learning and reflection. I don't know whether unborn children are vulnerable to spirit presences associated with some taonga, they might be. If we were warned that pregnant women shouldn't visit an exhibition of rocks and minerals because of low grade radiation, we would accept that for safety reasons. If tohunga are warning of similar risks with some taonga maybe it is better to practice caution.

Some yoga books (like Iyengar's classic Light on Yoga) advise pregnant and menstruating women not to try some poses, particularly inverted poses. My instructor advised that it was my choice whether to follow the yoga advice or not, but it was her duty to give me the choice. The TV3 coverage of the Te Papa advice was presented in the same way.

With hongis or kisses I found it helpful to learn that one aspect of the ritual was to hold the closeness long enough to share breath. I'm more comfortable with a kiss than a hongi because I'm clumsy and bumping noses or missing altogether is just too easy ; )

muerk said...

Kiwiblog hasn't been respectful, and neither have the comments on Stuff. Idiot Savant was also very scathing about it and claimed it was illegal although Andrew Geddis disagreed and he's the person with the law degree. I/S said on his blog that the position "deserves all the contempt it gets, both on scientific and moral grounds." David Farrar called it superstitious bullshit.

Part of me finds it intriguing that both I/S and Farrar brought up Catholicism in relation to this. Eg. there's no way Catholicism would restrict Church art to only men, and I'm baffled why Farrar would suggest that.

One poster here actually mentioned that Catholicism views woman as spiritually inferior, which is just completely untrue. I just think if we have these kinds of misunderstandings about Catholicism, which is a pretty mainstream faith/culture. How many more misunderstands are there about tikanga Maori and its motivations.

I think to claim that this issue is misogynistic is to implicitly claim understanding of the motivations behind it. I just don't feel comfortable with Pakeha who don't live or study tikanga to go there, eg. I/S.

I'm not meaning to get down on I/S specifically, it's just that his post highlights what I mean.

mkura said...

Stargazer, i'm not averse to a bit of hostility now n again - my pre-caffeine haze-rage FB post on the Stuff/Herald articles was "one in awhile white liberals should treat themselves to a big warm glass of shut-the-fuck-up and listen". a sentiment i stand by especially as in this case the peeps commenting publicly are quite ignorant of te ao maaori, (and it seems set up by the media).

Its a lack of thought, lack of self-awareness (and in these kinds of koorero the lack of awareness of one's assumptions) that make me feel queasy. my feeling at 12.30am is that those things have not been limited to commenters over here. if i get time off from my busy life of manaaki manuhiri tomoro i'll probably furnish that feeling with evidence (or change it).

Craig, from what i can gather you are a mad gay catholic maaori mulatto with libiterian(?), liberal-economic(?) - shet, i give up your political leanings baffle me - but a white supremacist you are not in my head.

I actually support hearty your angle on challenging misogyny in te ao maaori. that's definitely some colonial baggage we have picked up. however i don't think its tika for the challenge to come from white liberals, or any outsiders, especially ones whose power and privelege comes from our oppression as tan'ata whenua, those who have vested interest in maintaining their white-blindness (however sub-conscious that process may be).

Primarily the wero must, and does, come from our own sisters, mothers and aunties. those that know our tikan'a, our whakapapa and our history. And maaori men need to tautoko that challenge, let go of the meagre power colonial patriarchy has conferred on us within te ao maaori. Too often we don't.

mkura said...

ps, stargazer all of the wahine toa i know, love and respect are too busy being choice in the real world of their communities to blog! :)

why not put the call out for a guest post on this kaupaps at least it out there (maybe even on the cousins blog??)

Psycho Milt said...

...misogyny in te ao maaori. that's definitely some colonial baggage we have picked up.

You're only fooling yourself, mate. But you might want to have a good think about whether ethnic bigotry could be a two-way street...

Tracey said...

the biggest thing that I have come across with all discussions on here, FB, herald etc is the lack of understanding from some as well as lack of knowledge for tikanga Māori.

I know that if someone told me i couldnt do something for whatever reason without a explaination that I could understand......I would probably throw my hands up also.

but in saying this.....this is Aotearoa.....Maori and Pakeha have been living together for a very long time now, I really had hoped there was more of an understanding towards Te Ao Māori than there clearly is in Aotearoa.

p.s......I would love to be called upon for a Māori perspective when needed :)

stargazer said...

kia ora tracey. would love to have your thoughts. you can use the email address on the contacts page or feel free to email me directly at kiwistars at gmail dot com.

muerk said...

There is a great course that I did if people are interested in learning more about Maori tikanga - it was through Te Wananga o Aotearoa when I did it, it was called "Mauri Ora". They sent you 4 kete and you had a Kaitiaki who help you. And best, when I did it, it was completely free.

mkura said...

Teenaa koe Psycho,

well then, please enlighten me so I can stop fooling myself - if you got something cogent and insightful to say I'm all ears. Hell, even if you turn out to be a dumb ass troll i'm all ears.

i've never met anyone who doesnt carry some form of bigotry with them - myself included.

I seen a guy get up and speak paasionately about the liberation of Palestine, only to then make sexual innuendos towards young woman, during a subsequesnt Q & A.

I once tangled with a māori skinhead - this guy believed he was a paakehaa in a maaori body - who threatened to "skin me alive" cos i was "a nigger". and get this, he's darker than i am.

So, yep been thinking about that 2 way street called bigotry for a few years now - and have decided its not a 2 way street, its fucking spaghetti junction-like in its complexity.

How bout you mate - had a good long think about that subject recently?

Deborah said...

@Tracey - I'd like to second what stargazer said. If you e-mail thehandmirror at gmail dot com, Julie will see it. Or you could e-mail me at my hotmail address - dfr141 at hotmail dot com, and I will send it on to the rest of the group.