Wednesday, 29 February 2012

becoming aware

something tonight (which i don't want to explain) caused me to think about when i first became politically aware and motivated to be politically active.

it's really hard to pin these things down to one specific factor or moment, especially at age 45 trying to have an accurate memory of my teen years! but i think one of the most defnining influences for me was the springbok tour of 1981. i was around 15 years old then, and all i could remember was a muldoon government. i had vague recollections of norman kirk dying, but was too young when he died for that to have a real impact.

initially i had been convinced by all the people who were adamant that politics should be kept out of sport, and that the tour must go ahead. yes, really. then at school, there was a debate on the tour, and teachers being the wily things that they are, my teacher put me on the side of arguing that the tour shouldn't happen. of course i was annoyed at the time, because i had all the arguments of the other side in my head already.

but the debate forced me to research the other side. and when i started reading, and finding out what apartheid was, how it worked, what effects it had on black south africans, and the sheer injustice of it all, well i can hardly describe the experience. i could go poetic and tell you that it was like a veil of ignorance had lifted from my mind. or maybe it's more accurate to say that it just blew my mind.

it was that process and the events around it that really caused political awareness. the following year, i studied south african history as part of the 5th form history syllabus. it was while of all this was going on that the game was stopped in hamilton, and i had friends who had been in the middle of rugby park, in the midst of all the anger and violence. i wasn't allowed to go, but i really wish i could have been there.

following from that experience, i started becoming aware of other issues both around the world and locally - ireland, palestine, becoming nuclear free, women's rights. it's like becoming aware of one injustice opened the doors to learning about others. and it opened the doors to caring and wanting to act.

wanting to act and actually getting involved are two different things. there was another event that pushed me towards getting involved in various things, but that was much later in my life. i'll save that post for another day - if i write it at all.

so, if people feel comfortable sharing, i'd be really interested in hearing what inspired or motivated you to become politically aware. i'll be doing my best to keep the comments thread safe for people to share.


Jshoep said...

Circumstances converged on me in a way that forced me to take a proper look around me. All at around the same time, I discovered that some relatives of mine are strongly involved in anti-choice groups, and one of them had started a club at my university. I was not impressed, because I had also found that I was pregnant. It was not a happy combo. I then did some research into NZ's abortion laws, and wasn't terribly impressed by what I found there either. I started reading up, and everything just clicked - like my experiences in the world made more sense.

Suzanne said...

Forth form, the bombing of the World Trade Centre and subsequent invasion of Afghanistan. It was the first major political event I remember, and the first time I remember being old enough to join in the conversations with the adults.

Hugh said...

The collapse of the Soviet Union. I remember my primary school teach explaining to me that Russia was poor because it was so cold there and thinking "That has to be wrong". I've never looked back since!

Julie said...

I don't know that I can really identify a specific moment, because as the only child at the dinner table from a young age I was witness to lots of adult conversations about it I guess. We used to watch the news at 5.30pm before dinner, and discuss what was on it, and indeed Dad was on it once (talking against a strike, doh!) and I remember watching Mr Muldoon speak scarily right to me too. Even after they moved the news to 6pm (dinner time!) we got a video machine and used to watch the start of the news, then have dinner, then go back and watch the rest of the news and Holmes (!!) and then start the video to watch the bit of the news we had missed. That along with always having 1080 on the radio meant a very high news (and thus politics) quota in my early life.

And then there was MASH. I think that shaped a lot of my early thinking about peace and war. When characters were killed off (most memorably for me Sherman Potter and the other captain guy, with the fishing hat) it just seemed like such a pointless waste, and I think I started to probably wonder why these people were operating a hospital in tents and having to move it all the time and so on.

Hugh - I was on a scout jamboree in the back country of Fiji when the USSR fell. There was only one other person in our group vaguely interested in politics and he brought a paper once we were out of the woops and I remember seeing the news on the front page while we were on the bus back from Labasa. Other than me and Glenn and some of the adults no one else thought it was a Big Thing!

Hugh said...

@Julie: I remember my father waking me up one morning in late 1991 to tell me the USSR had formally collapsed! He correctly felt that it was something I'd want to know about. But actually the incident that I was talking about was a bit earlier than that - it wasn't when the USSR actually disappeared but during the two or so years when it was shedding republics and satellite states.

Like you I grew up in a politicised household with a lot of dislike towards Muldoon and then Douglas and so on. And my parents loved MASH too. But while I was aware of all this I didn't really understand it - I knew that my parents talked a lot about this David Lange fellow who was on TV but didn't really know why, except that it was some mysterious adult thing. It wasn't until after I turned ten that I began to retroactively figure out what they'd been on about.

LudditeJourno said...

Sooo many events.
Racism - five years old, I asked Mum if Queenie and her husband across the road were allowed to be married. Queenie was Maori, her husband Pakeha. I can only have picked up stuff around us in Wainuiomata that led me to think something was wrong. Mum said "of course not" but didn't answer the deeper question I had.
Sexism - every time I was told at school (because it didn't happen at home) that I couldn't do something because I was a girl. So I'd insist I could - because that's what my parents had shown me.
Poverty and class - so many things but I remember vividly the first time I saw homeless people in a city, rows of them, sleeping in cardboard in LA, feeling disgusted my family (far from well off) could save for a trip to see my mother's family while people were sleeping rough. I cried and cried while my dad held me and told me the first time he'd noticed that kind of poverty.
Homophobia - the Homosexual Law Reform debates and my out chemistry teacher having hate speech graffitied on his car and classroom. I was 15.
What a wonderful thing to think about stargazer, it's made me remember so many awakenings, thank you.

LudditeJourno said...

Whoops - my mum said "of course there's nothing wrong with them being married" above - not "of course they can't be married"....