This is not us


Sitting at church yesterday, I felt an overwhelming sense of pain and despair at the animal-like murder, of people who had gathered to pray. Seated in the middle pew of our church, clutching the hand of my wife on one side and my daughter on the other, I began to think of the how blessed we were to be at church, in a posture of trust, honesty, calm and vulnerability. Our Pastor struggled to find the words following the introit, in gathering our thoughts in the call to worship. We found comfort in one another as prayed for those who had lost their lives, their families and friends, devastated communities and a soul-searching nation.

Over the past few days I’ve been fascinated by the number of times I’ve seen the phrase ‘this is not us’ posted on social media and the many people I’ve spoken with. There seems to be a level of surprise by many interviewed on the news and posts online that something as terrible as this, could happen in NZ. Media outlets have been quick to point out that the perpetrator was born in Australia, as if that subtle attempt to place blame away or outside of a certain group, will help us grieve.

The Prime Minister’s leadership during these dark days has been outstanding. She has reached out to the nation with words and actions to exhibit the very compassion needed at this time. She has also made bold statements to advise that attitudes and practices in this small nation, must change. And while the pain is still raw and deep, we must continue to find the appropriate words, actions and even silence to comfort those who mourn.

One political leader said that he felt despair on the day these sinister events took place. But looking out at a gathered crowd, he felt a sense of hope. I wish I could share that hope. I wish I could feel that same level of optimism. But I don’t.

Stories of Muslim women being yelled at to go back to their countries continue to emerge. Posts online of people yelling at ‘dark-skinned’ individuals cheering at this despicable act of last week surface. And this is just the outward manifestation of the racism in NZ. It has been insidious for years. The term unconscious bias is the nice, polite way to describe the way in which the brain reacts to difference. And in the main, difference is the colour of your skin and gender. That difference is picked up by the eye immediately and it feeds that information directly to the brain. Then judgements are made about who is in, and who is out.

I don’t share that same sense of hope because people from minority backgrounds continue to exist from the periphery. It may well be the desire of the dominant culture to feel a sense of hope, because it may well be a way to manage internalized feelings of guilt. I don’t know. What I do know is that the most vulnerable voices in our community have little voice around key decision-making tables. The Children’s Commissioners office identified the racism kids feel at school and if it’s ingrained at that age, the structures won’t change in a hurry. I don’t share that same notion of hope because of how my own family was treated at my inauguration.

Our first action to bring about real hope, is to listen. For those who have always had access to decision-making tables and resource. Listen. Be quiet and listen. Don’t judge. Don’t categorise. Don’t question. Don’t speak. Just listen. And then think about doing something even more daring. Give up your seat. Make way. Invite another person different to you, to take your seat. Get out of the way. All weekend we’ve heard the stats about being a country of more than 200 ethnicities and 160 languages, but access to power remains limited; extremely limited. Fluffy political speeches have had their day. It’s time for real action based on humility and generosity.

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We visited the beautiful Al-Mustafa Jamia Masjid mosque in Otahuhu yesterday. An armed police officer stood at the front gate as sad but necessary reminder of the awful attack only a couple of days earlier. The leaders of the mosque came to the gate to hug, greet and thank us for coming. As we slowly and somberly walked to the entrance of the mosque, we all reflected on recent events. Inside, we were warmly welcomed and thanked. And immediately, they gave us the chance to speak. To share. To give. We were on their land, inside their mosque, their place of prayer. And they gave us the chance to speak first. And they listened intently to our shared sadness and brokenness. Then they comforted us.

That’s what hope looks like to me. This, could be us.



  1. Beautifully stated Efeso. Everyone needs to call out racism, and in particular if its our family, friends or neighbours. That is the hardest, most personal and most uncomfortable but it is the calling out that is most likely to encourage people to change.

    • They’re a bit emboldened – if they do it when no one is watching that’s not good but if they do it front of other people that’s worse – and if they do it in front of other people and no one does or says anything then they really will be emboldened.

        • why do we need to answer that! This is not about Communists killing 50 people – yes I am sure you can give me examples but I don’t care. Am sick of the “whatabout” group. Women speak out about domestic violence we get caught by men saying what about men being hit. It is a way to shut down the discussion about the wrong being done! I don’t care about toxic lefties they are not the issue. i have zero tolerance for right wing people who allow and embolden people to kill 50 people and eg them on and share the horrific results and clap quietly in the background then say what about toxic left wing people.

        • Hey Win. Friday 15 March. Remember? Don’t be such a dick with your “whataboutism”. It’s not appropriate. It also demonstrates you have nothing else to give us.

          Hey, what about those effing Napoleonic Wars, huh, Win?? Bloody French. I blame them.

          • oh sorry I shouldn’t have brought up that the far left has toxic ideology too. And I definitely don’t mean Communists. WE need to be careful about the labels we use. One ‘far’ whatever is as bad as the other. And we need to be aware that the left is not immune from toxicity.
            What we are talking about is a disgusting human being who allegedly shot 50 people dead and injured a whole lot of others. Interesting thing though is that he went to Pakistan and thought it was a great country.

    • Quite right – there may be some home-grown berserkers who may feel emboldened – but hopefully cowed by the huge outpouring of goodwill and compassion. I have not a little concern about all this – even before the Christchurch attack. My Jewish wife and “half-Jewish” daughter, who has recently begun to identify with the faith, have become increasingly worried and sceptical about the atmosphere in NZ. Ironic and sad considering that the family on that side started their journey (both sets of grandparents) back at the turn of the 20th century (ca. 1900), escaping pogroms and violent antisemitism in Germany and the Baltic states to go to England (yes, that nasty racist country). Both my wife’s late parents were communists in the 1930s-40s but remained lifelong secular socialists and humanists. I think they would be horrified to know that even in far-off NZ the poison of anti-semitic and anti-islamic has its presence.

  2. Nothing will really change.
    What is happening now is that the people this Blog sometimes disparagingly refer to as ‘muddle nu zealand’ or ‘sleepy hobbits’ are standing up to show our migrant communities, to show our ethnic minorities that ,in fact, this is not us. We are showing it with our prayers, with our vigils and with our charity. We muddle along with our lives, we have no power to share, we have no seat to give up, we have no internalized guilt to wrestle with. We are, I think, trying to show that we are good people, no where near perfect people, living in a country that is good, nowhere near perfect.
    But nothing or no one will really change because out on the dark edges the far right, the white supremacists, the islamaphobes, the racists are just keeping their heads down. Nothing that has happened has made them think ‘maybe my views are wrong’ ‘maybe I will change as a person’
    All we can hope for is that our leaders fix some mistakes they have made, focus on what they should have already focused on and act

    • Māori under colonisation kicked along at 1%-3% growth of the GDP sines the signing of the treaty. When accrual accounting was brought in under neoliberalism by the wonderful sage affectionally know by baby boomers (or muddle nu zilind) as Rogernomics nothing changed. The argument for the economics of colonisation never changed. The economy is still kicking along at 1%-3% and the economics of colonisation is a terrible argument. Hope I don’t have to explain to you why the economics colonisation is terrible.

      So, Māori are not inherently greedy, we don’t wish to conquer and subjugate the land, we may squabble with our neighbour but as a people we do not desire to travel to forign lands, show up, and say this is our capital now and you all are our subjects. What Māori desire and all indications are that Māori desire more kapas (kapa haka) where ever you’d like to look whether it be polls, media, online, surveys Māori desire more kapa haka and wake-ama, more polyfeast, and more intermingling and trading of food, ideas and culture.

      So it is because the english langauge has brought science and commerce to the pacific, Māori, and opening up the world of trade to them, Māori must in turn trade certain dialects say that a homogenous language can be tuaght in schools across the country as the mother tongue. To be able to move around New Zealand, feed, cloth and house each other it is incumbent on any traveler to have the most basic grasp of geography and history. Being able to pronounce Māori and pakeha place names with sufficient accuracy by cultivating between 200-400 Māori words so that people leaving the education system can move about comfortable in there mother tongue, is what Māori desire to trade with pakeha for, while retaining the eglish language as the working language and maintaining Aotearoa-New Zealands multi-cultural heritage against all who may subvert her.

      When multi-lingual children speak to there friends about what may be on the radio or TV or on a magazine and make fun of others from another place, they will know what we mean when we say to them, don’t be quick to judge others, be respectful of others, be kind to them, and live and let live.

  3. The violence in video games centre around shooting and destroying the players way though many “enemies’ to achieve some goal of point scoring. The more fire power the better and higher powered weapons can be “earned’ by higher scores.

    The points scored rewards the player for on screen killing or blowing up screen images of people or substitutes, leaving a feeling of power over others and legitimises the experience.

    Training for gaming based on us against them where the them do not matter and can be “killed’ without conscience or guilt.

    Very common place
    Very addictive to many and often displaces youth effort toward education and study

    Very dangerous stuff at many levels.

    We know about this yet do nothing to remove this scourge.

  4. It’s well worth remembering the NZ National Anthem. It has inclusion and tolerance written in it.

    “Men of ev’ry creed and race

    Gather here before Thy face,

    Asking Thee to bless this place,

    God defend our Free Land.

    From dissension, envy, hate,

    And corruption guard our State,

    Make our country good and great,

    God defend New Zealand.”

    I too spent Sunday in Church, hardly a dry eye when we sang these words

    • Andy, that’s quite amazing coming from you.(And I mean that in a really nice way. No dig intended.) It’s not what we usually expecting from you, but it’s by far the best thing you’ve ever shared with us.

      Thank you.

      • Thanks too Frank.

        Isn’t it amazing that we have these great words in our National Anthem and we hardly ever hear them?

          • CB, call me the eternal optimist or just hopelessly naive, I like to see the good in most people.

            I’ve been impressed by some of David Farrar’s recent blog posts on the terror attacks. It’s a shame most of his readers have not been as charitable.

        • Andy I appreciate your comment and sentiment.

          The verses quoted I find hard to support as one of the the present national anthems.

          The poem “God Defend NZ” was written by and Irish Immigrant brought up in Australia and later resided in Dunedin.

          Later the tune selected by three Melbourne musicians as a part of a competition, written by A Tasmanian who moved to NZ, and with a tune became a hymn
          In 1940 the MZ Govt bought the copywrite possibly prompted by war abroad.

          It was used increasingly as a National song in place of the National Anthem as it at least mentioned NZ.

          In 1979 it became a NZ National Anthem as a result of a petition.

          All very colonial and the lyrics suggest placing our fortunes in the hands of an omnipotent force.

          I don’t believe we are that helpless but should build a will to construct the sort of nation that includes laying strong foundations for a much fairer, inclusive and peaceful society that what we have.

          A National Anthem or song should reflect all belief systems and not contain diety based phrasings from an era when rampant class and quasi religious domination of Empire spelt out how we should humbly conform to edicts laid down by institutions of the time.

  5. I tell a relatively trivial story to show there is always a tiny minority who, instead of displaying a healthy curiosity towards diversity, fear anything different sufficiently to spur them to violence using whatever level of brute force they have at their disposal. In 1961 I was 5 years old and my (caucasian) family had just arrived to live at Northcote from the States. We still had strong, cowboy-like midwestern accents and I only had blue jeans to wear to school — forbidden by the rules in those days but my (Auckland-born) mother had permission for me. Word had obviously got around that we were unrepentant foreigners, and one day out of the blue I was “sorted out” by a gang of four brothers in the schoolyard. My sister jumped in to fend off the heaviest blows and got a tooth knocked out for her trouble. Then she was told off for swearing when she mentioned her bloody nose at sickbay. She says that one or two teachers stood watching the whole thing — and it wasn’t done then to go “telling tales” to other teachers who might have cared. Maybe she got it too for wearing her pretty “Tahiti” dress my mother had bought for her on the trip over. Who knows? Anti-American feeling in those days was so strong a parent might have directed them to get revenge for the GIs here during the war. Of course, my jeans became cool after a while, and our accents were eventually diluted but not enough for some people in authority who continued to exert a malign influence over our lives when an opportunity presented. We had no cultural peers to lend moral support, just open-minded Kiwi friends who loved us for who we were. I’m so glad to see now the Muslim community of NZ being supported by our people as a whole.

  6. NZ has always been a Racist country and no doubt will continue to be so after this. Let’s get real, it is who we are. But at least the outwardly racist folks are easier to deal with. And you know who they are. The ones I find more troubling are the insidious, covert racists, the institutional racists. The ‘nice’ people who may not speak up but their ignorance and actions speak louder than their words. People of colour can all provide stories and examples of being shafted because of the colour of our skin or the different sounding name we have. We may feel good about ourselves because we have come together for this short time and pat ourselves on the back because ordinary New Zealanders are so kind. But then we get burnt out by all that grief and go back to being who we were.

  7. NZ has always been a Racist country and no doubt will continue to be so after this. Let’s get real, it is who we are. But at least the outwardly racist folks are easier to deal with. And you know who they are. The ones I find more troubling are the insidious, covert racists, the institutional racists. The ‘nice’ people who may not speak up but their ignorance and actions speak louder than their words. People of colour can all provide stories and examples of being shafted because of the colour of our skin or the different sounding name we have. NZers may feel good about ourselves because we have come together for this short time and pat ourselves on the back because ordinary New Zealanders are so kind. But then we get burnt out by all that grief and go back to being who we were.

    (Sorry about using ‘we’ for everything. I am Māori. So it’s a bit confusing being part of a whole group and part of a minority).

  8. Lets try this again @ EC? Hmmmmm….?

    I read up to where you got churchy.
    The thing that bothers me about God botherers is that for centuries the concept of ‘God’ has been most effectively used to divide and concur for a dollar or its equivalent. That, in reality, is the only thing all churches have in common. Greed. And arrogance, of course. “ My God’s bigger and better than yours and if you don’t agree ? I’ll blow your fuckin’ head off! “ Is commonly heard if the News is anything to go by.
    I suspect there is a vast, wondrous, infinitely on-going and might be described as a parallel Time/Universe thing going on. I do have misgivings for pondering that once dead, nothing, is the thing that is. ( I love paradoxes as much as I love irony.) If that were the case, we wouldn’t be here. The very presence of the collective us, and I include ALL life in that, is proof that we’ve been here before.
    When that handsome sperm woo’s that cute egg with flowers and chocolates a wondrous thing happens. Apart from Cletus having to sell the Falcon to buy Darlene time out from flipping burgers at McDonalds until the wee mite can can throw a punch and swig piss like daddy, that is. There’s an as yet inexplicable thing that occurs. Sure, cells divide and multiply then there’s arms, legs and sundry other bits and bobs that sprout out here and there. Certainly, as in john key’s case, some things sprout less impressively than others.
    So, there we are. Floating about, swelling up, taking physical form, Heeeeeere comes Johnny…! But there’s another thing that swells up. It’s our consciousness. To this day, our ‘consciousness’ confounds science much less the common mind. Even when stoned as we gape at the stars… What is this thing that defines who we are individually? What makes me, me and you, you and not just a pudgy sack of guts that’s be too dumb to eat so you’d just die where you fell from Darlene. Poor Darlene. And dang! Cletus just sold th’ Falcon too.
    Those poor Muslim people praying didn’t suddenly find their God handing out bullet proof vests. Their God didn’t drop a brick on the little big man’s head as he entered the Mosque thereby causing his penis extender 200o Real-Man gun to discharge and blow his little diddle off. Nope. Didn’t see any o’ that there. What I saw was carnage and no one was safe. And no one could have been safe. Pray all you like. There’s no God floating about out there, all white with fresh linen and a nicely combed beard. There may well have been a Jesus person back in the day but look what happened to him and fuck all’s changed. We humans are still doing appalling things to each other and often, and perhaps most chillingly, some of us get a kick out of the high we get when we’re being murderous, cruel, spiteful, piss taking, put-downing, fat-shaming, racist, sexist, bullying… Doesn’t the list go on when one thinks about it?
    So. What is [it] then? If, as is clearly the case, there’s no God in the conventional sense. And by the conventional sense I mean an interventionist God that will not have babies get bone cancer. ( Steven Fry! Awesome. ) He/She/It wouldn’t allow a nut to enter a Mosque and shoot children dead beside their fathers and mothers. He/She/It couldn’t possibly countenance such a radiation of horror to spread out like a bombs blast zone. So. If God is absent when you need Him/Her/It? Then there is no God in the way we think of Him/Her/ It, surely?
    But there is another element of the God concept that interests me. And is it more a science?
    [It] is ‘Us’. The collective Us. Collectively, globally, in a trans-all-living-things way We, all of us, are God. The sum of all life on our pale blue dot is God. God is nowhere else but in the collective Us. And I mean ALL of us living organisms. From the tiniest fly to the biggest tree. Is the reason for us all being on this beautiful biosphere of ours billions of light years away from any other even vaguely, potentially habitable other biosphere to, say, finally begin to function as one as much as individually? Is the gun nut and hater a benign clue as to the direction we MUST choose to go in? In peace and humility? With respect and good natured bemusement at the very worst? Wouldn’t that be better than praying to an invisible God- being, clearly without flak jackets handy, as a shamefully ignorant, poorly educated, woefully inadequate, gun wielding hate fuelled guy with a psychosis gets the upper hand on your God? Can’t be much of a God then, is all I can say. Fat lot of fucking good you are then Mate.
    All the things that we’d hope God is? Is here and now and in all of us. And I mean all of us. Not just in us humanoids. Not out in space. Not in some whispy cloud-sphere where everybody has wings and harps and fucks about with lions and lambs under olive trees all day.
    Our planet and us, it’s inhabitants, is God. And look how we behave toward each other aka The God. We should be ashamed of ourselves for CHOOSING to be so fucking stupid.
    We will keep returning to this point, I’ve no doubt about that. I don’t exactly know how it is that that’ll happen but physics is physics and that’s not my fault. Don’t come crying to me. And instead of mumbling inside a silly big building with a whole lot of other mumblers we should go outside and look around ! There! There’s our church! And now look at yourself warmly, then at your kids, friends, whanau, strangers, wee beasties and the flowers and grasses and trees! There! There’s your God. Right under your noses!
    BTW? All you hypocrites.
    I don’t remember too many of you wailing and moaning when We, the U$A and the UK having once bought Israeli manufactured guns, bullets and bombs went a-slaughtering those beastly A-rabs so Heliburton could ultimately suck out their oil to refine to pump fuel into your big black curb crawling Parnell Tractors?
    The above God bothering, misty eyed, blubbering is cringe worthy.

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