Things you can do right now to contain this cartoon villain government
(Including things inspired by the Auckland Women Centre’s wāhine Māori kōrero)
Alarmed about the new government? Good. Alarm is an appropriate response to these real-life cartoon villains, so contemptible, craven and dangerous. A friend stresses what the immediate anti-Tiriti, anti-reo, anti-human rights signals are doing: “Māori in public service are deeply concerned. There are no words that can explain the mamae. Allyship needs to be stronger now than ever.”
So let’s follow Ngahuia Te Awekotuku when she advises: “Turn worry into action.” It’s political self-care – or rather, it’s together-care. Māori working for Tiriti justice and others like trade unions are already actively protesting, so keep a look out for their specific requests. Meanwhile, doing something can help replace frozen horror with vital hope, for ourselves and others. He rau ringa e oti ai.
Things to keep in mind with the actions below:
- You are not alone. Most people in Aotearoa New Zealand are alarmed by the intensified colonisation, racism, transphobia, sexism, ableism, classism and climate justice denial, and attacks on health, facts and the fourth estate.
- Toitū te Tiriti. Be guided by Māori leaders who are working for Tiriti justice. Pākehā ma, we can call out colonising actions, cut down the gorse of impositions so the ngahere, the native forest of Māori self-determination, has room to grow.
- The aim is not to go back to a dubious pre-election status quo – let’s build towards more inclusive visions for the future. Margaret Mutu is clear this is an opportunity to advocate for constitutional transformation like Matike Mai. We don’t just want to stop the ship from crashing into the rocks; we want to sail it away towards a beautiful horizon. Free your imagination.
- Your audience is not just the government. It’s other people and groups in your community. While parliament has the monopoly on law change and big budget control (and those are powerful tools, not gonna lie), we can all influence people’s behaviour and attitudes – and help to contain the government’s corrosive influence, which will already be emboldening white supremacists.
- Have solidarity with others’ issues. Let’s not let them divide and conquer.
Things not to do:
- Avoid mocking people’s physical appearance. By all means, point out the National party is overstocked with mediocre white guys, but if you get personal about specifics, you’re making everyone who looks similar feel stink.
- Do not comply in advance.
Things to do:
- Let people you trust know how you’re feeling about the new government. Your friends may be relieved – and find it galvinising. I’m told: “To lift the wairua of Māori within the public service: offer a coffee, a soft place to land, a safe place to rant and tangi.”
- Honour te ao Māori including te reo Māori in the community and at work. Let’s not be out-done by the Reserve Bank! There are reports of people being told to stop speaking te reo at the supermarket, and at school (these are hate incidents, and can be reported to the police as such). But if we’re all using reo Māori greetings, this can reassure fluent speakers, and dissuade the trolls. In the public service, the advice for non-Māori is: “Now more than ever, that offering of the greeting in Te Reo, the opening of the hui with karakia, the continued advocacy for Māori in allyship from Tangata Tiriti is needed.” For tauiwi, remember our knowledge of te reo is an honour, bestowed by Māori. Show your respect by learning how to pronounce te reo, and practice.
- And if you do see a hate incident in the community, intervene if it is safe to do so. Check in with the targeted person; they may need support more than they need you to argue with their attacker. In public service: “Say something when there is racism happening, change the subject, divert, as this administration will embolden both overt racism and privilege.” Or push back, politely: “I am not comfortable with that.”
- Read, sign – and share! – all the petitions.
- Join your union – do it now – this is absolutely vital for your collective and individual protection, given this government is a declared enemy of the workers. If you’re already a union member – congrats! Ensure your union has a Tiriti policy. And show your union workers some love: email to say how much you appreciate their political advocacy.
- In fact, praise and encourage all those doing the mahi, even if you don’t know them. It helps balance the hideous complaints they’ll be getting from those few loud regressive trolls. As Laura O’Connell Rapira put it: “Some days you can lose faith or hope, and it can be the nice message – ‘I see you, I love the work that you’re doing, keep it up’ – that can be enough.” Congratulate those who are brave enough to admit they got it wrong – props to Sir Ian Taylor for publicly resigning from government-funded organisations in protest against Winston Peters’ wild corrupt-journalism claims. And thanks to my local library for prominently displaying a large Progress Pride flag.
- Write to all the MPs in your local area, especially those who are in power, and tell them how you feel and what you want them to do. This can be surprisingly effective. Like all of us, MPs are in their own echo chamber. Hearing from those outside of it recalibrates their reality.
- Celebrate achievements, big and small, local and country-wide, which go on regardless of the government. (Congratulations to Distinguished Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith for her well-deserved Rutherford Medal achievement.)
- Go back to basics, familiarising yourself on why everything the government is attacking is important. Why race-based policies are required to combat racism (MAPAS affirmative action exists to help reduce egregious life expectancy gaps). Why fossil fuel exploration is a really really bad idea. Why it’s important to support all gender identities with the current relationship & sexuality education guidelines (the teachers union want to keep them). Find out more about Te Tiriti o Waitangi itself (more resources here).
- That way, when Reactionary Cousin goes off at Christmas time, you have a few facts to mention in an aside to your persuadable uncles and aunties.
- Speaking of Reactionary Cousin/Colleague/Neighbour at various December barbeques, it’s best not to let them rant on. Listeners tend to believe that everybody agrees with the loud guy – apart from their own quiet selves! Again, you could try saying simply – with an eye-roll or a smile! – “oh, that makes me uncomfortable, let’s talk about something else.”
- “Break the echo chambers” as writer Latifa Daud puts it: follow people from other cultures and communities on social media (but don’t feel the need to insert yourself in all their conversations), and read books and watch screen and news media produced elsewhere. Tell your mates about what you’re seeing. Read e-Tangata, and get some of your news from the Pacific Media Network and Waatea News. Read Waitangi Tribunal reports.
- For those with spare cash (yes, you know you still exist), what are you doing with your upcoming tax cuts? You could annoy the current government in a neat and elegant way by putting that pūtea into tax reform advocacy. And buy heaps of kohanga reo raffle tickets.
- Go to the demonstrations. They are energising, and often joyful. You catch up with people you know. And protests work – particularly when they’re big. In 2010, 40,000 people marched in Tāmaki Makaurau against mining in national parks, and the government dropped the proposal. Bring everyone you know.
- Breathe. Literal, big, deep breaths. And give yourself time off, to prevent burn out. This is a marathon, not a sprint. It won’t be over by Christmas. Tag-team with others, relax, and have energy to advocate another day.
Mā whero, mā pango ka oti ai te mahi.
To finish with the kōrero of Professor Tracey McIntosh (Ngāi Tūhoe) ““[As advocates and activists], we have to have emotional states of hope, we have to have joy, we have to work in our collectives and be well. We have to focus on our wellness within the groups we work with. The imagination can be a powerful space to create the possibility of joy. Sometimes that is hard to process and it feels inappropriate but it must be there.”