Coming Home …

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JACINDA BEAT US into Singapore by a day. She was news. As we checked into our apartment complex, the TV monitor in the lobby showed her standing there beside the Singaporean Prime Minister. The sound was down, but her trade-mark smile and endearing earnestness possessed their own special eloquence. Of course, we gushed. “That’s our Prime Minister! That’s Jacinda!” I’m pretty sure that any New Zealander, finding themselves in similar circumstances, would have done the same.

And that was just Singapore. Days before standing alongside Lee Hsien Loong, she had stood alongside the French president, Emanuel Macron, in the Élysée Palace, urging the assembled social media titans to bend their stiff knees to common human decency. Which, most of the world’s commentators agreed, wasn’t too shabby a performance for a girl from Morrinsville, New Zealand. What was it about the last stop on the global bus route that encouraged its leaders to aim so high – and get there?

It’s New Zealand’s extraordinary ability to do good in the world that has long inspired me to keep faith with its core institutions; its democratic traditions. If our Prime Minister has done nothing else with the high office she holds, she has demonstrated New Zealand’s potential as a trail-blazer and a moral marker. In a world where political malevolence is more in evidence than at any time since the 1930s, Jacinda Ardern’s “politics of kindness”; her unaffected displays of simple human empathy; have given new hope to millions who despaired of the public sphere ever again being so powerfully reclaimed for goodness.

There is so much more that could be done. So many good examples to set before the world. But we must not chide Jacinda for failing to fully realise her country’s potential. She is, after all, a young woman enmeshed in the myriad constraints of practical politics. There are colleagues and coalition partners to coddle and placate; powerful interests to acknowledge and assist. Our Prime Minister can only do what it lies within her power to do. To ask for more is churlish and naïve.

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But New Zealanders, themselves, should draw a lesson from the way in which Jacinda’s gestures have been received by the wider world. Its reaction has not been to withdraw into cynicism; to look for the catch; to recoil in embarrassment in the presence of such naked emotion. Quite the reverse, in fact. The world cannot get enough of love. It rejoices in its open display. It reassures them that Anne Frank’s impossibly generous affirmation: “I still believe that people are basically good at heart”; is more than a forlorn declaration of hope – but a statement of fact.

In the context of all manner of right-wing “Christians” flying all manner of kites about the formation of all manner of Christian political parties, it is instructive to compare and contrast the behaviour of Alfred Ngaro and Hannah Tamaki with that of the Prime Minister. What have they said and/or done to unlock the doors to love and compassion? What words have they spoken that opened people’s hearts and minds to the possibilities of forgiveness and reconciliation?

My favourite Bible story is the one about the woman taken in adultery. The terrifying picture of the villagers gathering around her: a jagged rock in every hand; their eyes alight with the lust to punish and to kill. In the midst of this murderous maelstrom sits Jesus. Silent. Self-possessed. Doodling idly in the sand with a stick. The woman cowers in terror. A man steps forward, arm uplifted. Jesus rises to his feet. He meets the eye of every person in the crowd.

“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

One by one the rocks fall to the ground. One by one the crowd disperses. Jesus and the woman are left alone.

He lifts her to her feet. She meets his gaze. He smiles.

“Go now – and sin no more.”

If we were allocating roles for Mr Ngaro and Ms Tamaki in this holy drama, where would we place them? With Jesus? Or, with those so eager to cast their jagged stones?

The Christian Right seeks only to put rocks in voters’ hands. It bids them use their ballots as weapons – to punish the sinful.

When they speak, are our hearts lightened? Do they encourage us to weep in solidarity with those who suffer? Do their words of harsh judgement produce the same thrill of pride that coursed through New Zealanders when they heard their Prime Minister deliver to Facebook and Google a message equivalent to “Go now – and sin no more.”

It was just before the crucial general election of 1938 that New Zealand’s Labour prime minister, Michael Joseph Savage, responded to the accusation that his Social Security Bill was “applied lunacy”, by declaring that, to his way of thinking, it was “applied Christianity”. In the same vein, New Zealand’s greatest (and all-too-human) poet, James K. Baxter, wrote about “the rough mystery of love/In the running straits of History”.

These are the thoughts that encouraged me upon my return to New Zealand.

When we are overseas it is very easy to think that the world is much too big, and we are much too small. But, coming home, the thought strikes us, like a shaft of sunlight from a darkening sky, that although it may be small in size, and population, New Zealand – and New Zealanders – have always been big enough to show the world that hope is not always in vain; and that, sometimes, love can win.

 

25 COMMENTS

  1. Really isn’t this a fight between brown/black and white people and white people don’t like brown/black people being allowed to migrate to their country especially in large numbers they see this as a threat to them as a people and yet many white races colonised many black/brown peoples taking their land and anything else they could get their dirty little hands on so is this really a religious war or a cultural war grounded in racism.

    • Great comment
      500 million Europeans live outside of europe
      For them to whinge about coloured folk immigration is simply hypocrisy of the highest order

    • Michelle: “….isn’t this a fight between brown/black and white people and white people don’t like brown/black people being allowed to migrate to their country especially in large numbers….”

      And here we go. Chris Trotter has written a thoughtful piece; one might take issue with some of it, but nevertheless it’s an articulate contribution to the discourse.

      Yet here you are, dragging us all down the completely irrelevant rabbit hole of identity politics. Enough already! That’s not what this piece is about.

      Go back and re-read the post; comment on that, not on your misinterpretation of what Trotter’s written.

      • A lovely piece of feel good writing there Chris Trotter! And judging by the bitter and twisted comments hereabouts, badly needed too.
        Our PM is to be proud of, flying the NZ flag so brightly, and our PM has decent morals on display at all times. Remember that dweeb John Key, I refuse to call him “sir”, what morals did he ever display?Chris Trotter please do more feel good stories, this site could surely use them.

  2. Well Chris, you’ve missed the alternative ending to Jesus’s saying
    “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”, where an old woman at the back of the crowd picks up a dirty great rock and biffs it at the woman taken in adultery. Jesus turns to her and says, “Gosh you can be a bitch sometimes, Mum.”

  3. Well yes Chris, I’m hoping we’re still that NZ you speak of, fundamentally decent and fair
    But I must say, the Metiria bashing, by just about every journalist, the continuation of our military/political backing of the US, our weasel words and abstentions at the UN over crucial votes(Chagos Islands for one)our silence over Assange, gives me cause for doubt.
    But then I’m old enough to look up to the Kirk govt(even with its flaws)as a benchmark.
    Pretty thin gruel since then

    • Francesca: “But then I’m old enough to look up to the Kirk govt(even with its flaws)as a benchmark.
      Pretty thin gruel since then”

      Yup. I’m also old enough to remember Kirk. I agree with all of your comment.

    • I to remember clearly the Kirk government Francesca, and agree 100% with everything you have written, especially the us war machine and Julian Assange.
      Unfortunately i do not believe we are still the country you remember (if we ever were.)

    • AB: “….but late Curnow and late Smithyman are superior poetically.”

      A matter of opinion, I guess.

  4. To ask for more is churlish and naïve.

    Yep, that’s me.

    Maybe the tender little moments are pure Pollyanna…

  5. I wouldn’t be gushing “oh look there’s Jacinda our prime minister”
    I think it would be more like ” ow gawd she loves the world stage even more than Key does”.

  6. “Unaffected displays of simple human empathy?” Churlish and naïve?

    We live in a bitter and twisted word full of bitter and twisted egocentrics. What’s empathy?

    Didn’t want Labour ? Didn’t want Jacinda Arden?

    That’s enough to have her Taxinda, the Communist Princess, the simpleton comrade incompetent who does nothing which isn’t designed solely around self promotion.

    The hate is raw and it’s good to have hats to hang it on. I mean saying she’s an out-of-her-depth uppity young woman running the country and that’s not how the world was supposed to be might be a bit direct.

    So many of the attacks, the names, the on-going childishness suggest that if Eleanor H. Porter has any part in it, it’s by way of suggesting that’s where the sad sacks should be residing and getting their entertainment. Until they grow up.

    • It’s not difficult for the world to empathise with what she says about terrorists and guns and so forth, but what would the world’s reaction have been had she talked about the necessity of combatting global warming.

  7. Some of the more sceptical kiwis are wont to consider the horrors wreaked by the Lange government during the time he erroneously convinced credulous kiwis that his pronouncements on nuclear weapons were vital, when they were in fact no more than a small distraction between switching channels to the humans who make up the rest of the world that isn’t kiwi – ie about 99% of the population

    The same nonsense is happening now..

    Macron has latched on to Ardern as a cynical way of trying to distract the citizens of France from the fact that he is trying to wreak the same havoc as Lange/Douglas did, but in a nation with a population far more woke than early 80’s kiwis were.
    Ardern is happy to go along with the message that governments are entitled to censor the net, because she too wants to distract her electorate – not from what she is doing, but the thousand and one things which must be done to rescue us from the hell Lange/Douglas and successive Natz & ersatz leftie coalitions have wrought, that she refuses to do.

    But Trotter appears fine with this cos his team is winning at the moment. Politics as sport is fine for the wonks who get off on something so dreary, but the rest of us have had a gutsful.
    And these po-faced commentators seriously wonder why pols and their enablers such as Trotter are considered worthless parasites on the arsehole of humanity by so many ‘normal’ citizens eh.

    Even if it weren’t an attempt at diversion, kiwis should hang their heads in shame at the news their ‘leader’ is globetrotting (in the process making a large contribution to climate heating) around trying to censor some of the sharpest intellects currently considering the dodgy state we humans have got our world in.

    As has been said ad nauseum elsewhere when FB, Google and the rest stomp on twerps such as Alex Jones, other bloggers who advocate for Palestine or peace in Yemen are silenced at the same time.

    It seems tech corp censors are no better than the media when it comes to balance. That is, just as the media follow up a statement by ‘The Greens’ on the state of the planet, with an illiterate scribble from a phonebox where some flybynight fascist group had conducted their AGM, then call the result balance. (I’m not kidding about this anyone trying to observe the recent Oz Federal GE from a distnce would have seen the Australian Broadcasting Corporation seriously trying to maintain that giving the horrible lected on 15 votes Fraser Anning airtime was balance as they had also interviewed a member of the Green Party (who garnered hundreds of thousands of votes – Anning lost his deposit).
    When Google banned Alex Jones, among other advocates for Palestine, they also closed all Google accounts belonging to the editor of the excellent Greanville Post.
    Ardern claims to be a socialist, so is she aware of the hundreds of sites maintained by other socialists whose foot traffic has been halved since Google and the other big search engines have modified their setting so that they don’t appear in any search until about page 157!

    On the other hand, I’m not in the least worried about the antics of the Xtians, the hypocrisy required to juggle Xtian fascism and parliamentary politics means the types who run always get found out. Kiddie fiddling, rape whatever. Aotearoa is too small for one of those xtian wannabe pols to strut his/her stuff, potential pols just cannot get sufficient degrees of separation between themselves and those believers who know them to be corrupt before they sweep the mugs amongst us off their feet with their cliched little homilies.

    Bring em on I say, election campaigns are a pointless exercise, they may as well provide a little entertainment.
    The visual imagery our imaginations served up when considering the scenes which allegedly played out between that dingbat from the conservative party and his public relations person were more surreal than anything either Mr Robot or Utopia provided that year.

    We need more of that. Maybe platoons of women in uniforms of clay coloured long skirts, black blouses and a dun coloured old school style nurses’ bonnet led by Mrs Bishop Tamaki while they chant a demand to end abortion, aka ‘baby murdering’.

    I’m sure others have far superior imaginations and can come up with some truly brilliant ways that Xtians can liven up elections – right up until the morals police arrest their leader.

    • Do you realise how many plane trips that many, many business people do? Not to mention citizens flying worldwide on holidays and family visits just because they can! Also I wonder if some of your comment is actually hatefully written and way off topic anyway.

  8. Welcome home @ Chris Trotter. I hope you had a fabulous time. I’ve always thought a paid year of foreign travel into the more elegant parts of the world would be of real value to any tertiary student. Point ‘em in the love direction. If one’s to ‘love’ one must first experience the spark of it. To reach into the mind and turn on oxytocin’s spigot. Like a kiss? A tender moment where hands are held as eyes meet? That divine pause between passion’s last gasp and the arrival of a nice cup of tea of a Sunday morning?
    Love. What a wondrous thing. To love. To cherish and to hold on to as if it’s all that matters in life. More precious, indeed, than life itself some would argue.
    Them Italians know a thing or two about ‘love’. So do them French types. Look at their architecture? Look at how they dress? Any culture’s denizens who sip’s coffee while smoking while cradling a poodle as scooters scoot by is where you will find Love. True. You might also find lung cancer, fleas and rabies, but that’s not the point.
    Go to Akaroa? Akaroa is French-ish? It has streets who’s names begin with ‘Rue’. It has beautiful gardens and petite houses with climbing roses and hanging baskets of flowers on their verandahs. It also has massive cruise liners swarming with people just in from the open ocean to explore Akaroa to see if they can find love. That, is why they do it. They go looking for that feeling… That sense of needing to adore. To adore something. Anything. Across vast, open seas and below them, below their little metal thing, there’s vast and terrible depths of unimaginable pressures and darkness and yet they come, bobbing along looking for that sense of ‘love’. Airplanes are much more scary but at least you spend less time being scared to death and so as a gamble, less risky thus the odds are better. What’s the hormone released when one’s at the same time scared to death and bored as buggery?
    The one thing I’m most proud of? About us AO/NZ’ers, is that we’re never afraid to go looking for ‘love’. I’ve been in some quite fruity parts of the world in equally quite fruity places there and there’s always a bloody Kiwi there too, surrounded by the locals.
    The problem with ‘love’ is that it’s extremely fragile. And once ‘love’ becomes a commodity? It goes from a living thing to a husk. A skeleton. An opportunity to make good coin, is a saying that makes me cringe.
    I think a question might be: Are we a commodity? Or are we the embodiment of ‘love’? The former will lead to despair, ruination and big fucking ugly bank buildings down town. The latter will lead to societal salvation and awesome coffee, perhaps with a dog hair floating about in the froth. We can easily survive by not being relegated to a commodity but we can’t survive without ‘love’.
    And finally? This, is fucking awesome. Entirely off-topic but OMG ! LOVED this.
    UFO. Yep. It’s a UFO sighting. Just ‘cause.
    https://boingboing.net/2019/05/26/new-york-times-navy-pilots-re.html

  9. Love is the morality behind a manifestoed govt. Better than Powers. Always edging us off our foundations, rich fuckwits.

  10. Welcome home Chris, just to add to Country boy it’s hard to write about or contemplate the visual aesthetic without seeing it with your own eyes. You cannot begin to understand a culture or history thoroughly without seeing the geography, the materials, the symbols, the repeated vernacular etc etc.

    My father in law, an architect of renown once described buildings as captured moments in history. You have been given a treat Chris, enjoy the memories.

  11. ‘Young woman enmeshed …’

    I have no allowances for our leader. No allowances have been made for the weakest through this nonsense on behalf of the elite.

    Yep, Roge, some dumb-fuck like me could see it. It just requires not having a mortgage. Don’t worry, nil people expect you to see it… you dumb-fuck.

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