Awesome day in Dunedin the sun shines brightly as students hung over sip their coffee gently.
Coming back from a good swim I thought I would join the students and family, who had flocked to the Octagon, where only weeks earlier nearly 2000 people mums, dads, every day common people, gathered to make it clear that they did not want the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement singed.
I have my own issues, on some aspects of how the protest was controlled (who was allowed to speak who was not) but the main point is 2000 people stood up to “Fight Back” against this attack on New Zealand sovereignty. Wow what an awesome little community I live in – take a bow Dunedin.
I began to wonder about the nature of protest in general?
When is it toxic and does more harm than good when is it powerful and healing?
Around this point a bunch of performance student turned up dressed as penguins and as an albatross and began to make loud “warning noises’ about seismic blasting and invading peoples space by forcing pamphlets with crap graphics and and tiny font on to those who had come for a quiet coffee in the sun.
I was less than impressed at the environmental message they were sending when they chucked the pamphlets in the air.
I grimaced asides from their science being questionable (which is not to say I don’t think oil exploration is connected to the recent spate of death of whales and dolphins) they did not explain to the involuntarily audience what they were trying to do or how making noise and looking like dweebs had to do with their cause.
Or more importantly, as they barked penguins noises, they failed to explain why those who had come just for coffee not politics should care.
A quick poll of those at the tables confirmed my suspicion no one had any idea what the group was on about. Tolerant members of the public sighed and stated “oh well at less they are not hurting any one.” Less tolerant members of the public felt their space had just being invaded. I’m anti drilling but this protest was a huge fail. It alienated the public and left them confused with no idea about what anti drillers are on about other then they act like dorks.
Music Lights Art Auction – The Fun Revolution visual and engaging:
Contrast last year Oil Free art auction which attracted 100’s who came to participate who simultaneously they got to support local arts and culture, enjoyed a nice night out, had some interesting discussion in an evening that raised protest funds. The consequence it got the front page in the usually conservative Otago Daily Times where the cause and purpose was eloquently explained to 10,000 readers at their own leisure with out a having the gospel of someones TRUTH forced upon them.
GUNGHO – Many Hands Make Change:
I thought about that as went off to help in the creation of community Gardens initiative where 20 or so people turned up to do something constructive while enjoying good DJ tunes and a cold bevy and afterwards fish and chips.
The end result will be a garden which help people feed themselves.
It will eventually help community groups and hopefully act as inspiration to other as to how you can protest quietly, have fun, not get in peoples personal space and still achieve meaning results.
Accounts beckoned so I headed home but went past the local commons on way to grab a cold one to enjoy while I endured the task of accounts over due (arrrrgh). For a moment I stopped to watch families enjoying the sun while supporting a kids soccer game. As I looked out over church steeples, old and new buildings, burger kings, stadium grounds old and new, which stretched out the beautiful blue ocean of the Otago Coast (where they want to drill in a nation where our Prime Sinister is the agent of those are determined to put profits before people) I could not be impressed at the power of community.
Living in Harmony:
I thought about the noisy albatross in the Octagon and as I did I spied a feather and I was reminded of the story of the people of Parihaka.
It is a tale which began in 1867 when Te Ua’s nephew Te Whiti, and nephew-in-law Tohu founded the community of Parihaka, near Mt Taranaki, as a place of peace. 1867 was a year without war and even the warrior Titokowaru remarked, ‘This is the year of the daughters, this is the year of the lamb’. Te Whiti’s vision was of an open settlement, a radical departure from the traditional foritified pa. His people wore white feathers – the raukura or albatross’ the white feather of peace – in their hair as a sign of this desire to live in harmony a symbol that highlighted the common ground of all people.
It was an idea they paid for dearly as as prisoners of ‘war’ in the Taranaki Maori land wars, these pacifists who sought to find balance between Maori and Euopean, were forced into slave labour were they ended up building the road which today take tourists out to the albatross colony.
Yet originally it had being built not to teach those about the value of the environment, of putting somethings above dollars, so the government of the day could buy a big flash gun that was never used. A morally corrupt exercise which wasted valuable resources and put people into slavery where they suffered in all sense of the word. A disgraceful chapter in New Zealand history but a valuable one in that teaches us the power of protest through the act of not confrontation but the power of build communities.
It may seem like Parihaka was the ‘looser’ of the day. Yet 150 years later their adopted course of action has not only brought great mana to the people of Parihaka (as their name and action is honored world wide) but ultimately their story shows how they empowered people in the face of those who would divide and conqueror. Such an important thing for us all to remember in these challenging times
Kia Kaha — Least We Forget.
This one goes out to the common people; ;-).