A couple of weeks ago, at a programme organised by a government department, a Pakeha woman explained the importance of retaining and maintaining one’s native tongue in New Zealand. ‘Your language is very valuable. It is your culture. You must not lose it in New Zealand. You must speak your own language’, she implored to a mostly, inherently (I would like to think) multicultural audience. She was earnest and meant well. Us three South Asians huddled after and had a bit of a laugh. That woman was telling us what we already knew and were doing. Somewhere in the hallowed corridors of PCdom it was time to tick the multicultural box and this was the bureaucratic exercise. We should to tell the migrants that they need to maintain their language, culture, etc, whatever. Tick. Job done. When’s the next festival 🙂
A posterchild for us ethnics here in Aotearoa once warned me about the state of (mental) ‘purity’ and stirring up s**t. ‘No one will take you seriously.’ So I call myself the ex-victim. I mean I continue to be a victim. Try being single and a brown woman. Or just a single woman in Indian society. Anyway. Weird, eccentric, irreverent, ex-victim, victim. PCdom says, you are either with us or with them. We are fighting for justice, for you! And you tell us we are wrong? We stand up, for you! This world order needs to be corrected. This is for you! We protest for you!
I don’t oppose the motive. Thanks for fighting for me. The world order does need to be corrected. Thanks for fighting. But should I not also decide how to fight this battle? What if I say I want justice but also to move on? You say justice first and foremost, forgiveness after. It is the method with which I disagree. The method and the power structure.
That standing up for your rights, demanding justice, moving on/reconciliation/forgiveness and introspection go together, hand in hand has been amply demonstrated by Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. That is also stimulates dissent rather than silence it is well documented in history. (Bastion Point commemorations this week are about reconciliation. Not like all tangata whenua, Maori, the people of the land, have got all the justice they seek yet. Bastion Point photo; Bastion Point)
I don’t want to be a victim, sure. And it is not my fault, of course. Don’t blame the victim! But I stand up and say that if you, my friend, my benefactor who fights for me keep calling me a victim, poor thing; keep telling me how I can survive in the big capitalist world, make me dependent; keep telling me that I am a sweet innocent thing, incapable…then it just makes me that.
The colonisers told me I was useless, a savage, less civilised than them. My colour, my language, culture, customs all inferior. You beckon me once a year during my festival to prove how wonderfully multicultural Aotearoa is. My colour, my language, culture, customs all lovely, coo-worthy and…exotic. Still stereotyping; reducing my complexity to singular-easy-to-consume-multicultural-byte. Giving me space (thanks); not letting me create and own it because you want to decide how ethnics/migrants should be, poor things.
Equity within the power structure?
And then the blind eye to the cultural baggage within the ethnics. Oh of course we are not supposed to have capitalists, fundamentalists, racists etc amongst us. That does not fit into the the scheme of victim things. Gee and if there is then the ethnics/migrants can sort it out themselves. It is too complex…we just save their souls. Actually ours.
I am going to hell, got my ticket, it’s laminated, on my wall. I’d rather not be a victim all my life, even when I face injustices.