There are defining moments in both the lives of people, and the history of nations. Those defining moments often come with options. Those options can lead both individuals and nations down very different paths. To take some of those paths entails a great deal more bravery than others.
New Zealand, after the horrific attacks in Christchurch on innocent people, is at such a cross roads.
It would be so easy to silo off our response to this tragedy. To narrow our response down to simply blaming the shooter, who had to be deranged to do such a thing, or to blame the white supremist ideology that he espouses, or simply to ban semi-automatic weapons.
All these responses are understandable, and the actions required, the path taken of banning the guns, and more surveillance of those hate groups are probably required, but this is window dressing. It is putting a band aid over a festering wound in our society. Not just our society in New Zealand, but everywhere.
The outpouring of grief and sorrow for the victims that we have all experienced over the last few days, is not only an expression of our anguish and feeling of loss, but is also, I think a heartfelt cry of why?
We struggle to come to terms that this act happened here in our place, and yet many are already seeing that the seeds for this violence or other acts like it were sown a very long time ago.
Think about these things
Our whole economic system is based more on competition rather than co-operation. So called winners in business and society are placed on a pedestal. Their greed, ruthlessness and self-interest being somehow laudable. This ruthlessness is not just evident against people, but also against the living earth which sustains us.
And what of those who do not make it economically? We call them lazy, we marginalise them and tell them it is all their fault. If they have coloured skin, and especially if they come from a very different culture and religious background, then it is even easier to apportion the blame.
But it is not only those at the bottom of the economic heap we marginalise.
We also point the finger at those who choose not to accept and fit within the dominant cultural mores. Those who have different sexual preferences are still a large target.
And if our society and communities become dysfunctional, who do we blame? All of them of course.
There have always been those amongst us who for their own ends have sought to grow these divisions. To apportion blame. The Hitlers and Trumps of this world know how easy it is to point a finger at those groups and say to their followers, your problems are because of them. Get rid of them and all will be well. The gullible, and marginalised within their own situations, believe it.
I am a 60-year-old white Pakeha male. I have never been discriminated against because of the colour of my skin or ethnicity, but I have heard comments denigrating groups of people who are different from me all my life. I have not spoken against those who utter them often enough. Too often I have avoided confrontation and just kept my silence.
I have been guilty in the words of Edmund Blake, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Too often I have done or said nothing. But no more.
New Zealand is at a cross roads.
Do we follow the American example of their response following the twin tower bombings of 9/11? A response that unleashed the so called “War on Terror”. A war that at 18 years and still counting has directly or indirectly caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands, and misery for millions. A war that has deepened distrust and hate. A war that is busy sowing the seeds for more of the same.
Or do we take a path that requires real bravery? A path that is characterised by and based on love. A path where we choose to no longer accept old social mores and legends that have corrupted us. A path that involves honestly looking at all parts of our economic, social and yes, spiritual, beliefs.
This path would be so much harder. This path would involve us accepting that it is ourselves who have been guilty of allowing this hate to flourish and survive. It is a path that involves us learning the truth of what it means to be colonised, whether that be economically or militarily, and how you just do not “get over it”. It is a path that means that we really accept that we are all one. It is a path that also asks us to look at what is our true place in the natural systems of this earth.
I would ask that we do not accept the band aid. Let’s be brave and follow the harder path. The path of love.