Time For A Cultural Reboot?

Each Wednesday night during school terms I attend a Te Reo (Maori language) class in Taihape. I have to admit, with only 2 hours of instruction per week it may be quite some time before I become a fluent speaker – years in fact.

However, there is another benefit to attending this class, beside wanting to learn the language.

My own ancestors came to New Zealand from Northern Ireland and Northern England. The first of them was in the 1870s, not that long ago. They came, as you would expect, with the cultural mindset of that time and place.

A cultural mindset that is to all intents and purposes, the same mindset that became the base of 21st century New Zealand culture. All over the world, east or west, we share this dominant cultural mindset.

A Dominant Cultural Mindset

This mindset can be summarised by saying that it has at its core a viewpoint that man is somehow separate from the natural world. That the earth is simply a catalogue of resources that we can mine, strip, utilise or destroy at our whim, and for our convenience. Other species that get in our way may be destroyed or driven to extinction in the name of profit, food supply, or simply because they are in the way.

That the earth was in some way created just for us. For mankind.

Coupled with this is a viewpoint that unshackles us from the consequences of our actions. All of nature is simply made up of commodities to be traded, bought or sold.

The Benefit of Having An Ingrained Viewpoint Challenged

The other benefit I get from attending Te Reo class is to have the opportunity to have this cultural viewpoint challenged.

Most indigenous peoples did not have the cultural viewpoint that now runs the world. Rather they prescribed to a view that humans are brothers and sisters to all things of the natural earth. Not their master.

This was brought home to me during a discussion at class about evolution. For my Maori tutor, evolution is irrelevant, whether it is proven or unproven. For my tutor it is enough that she is a child of Papatuanuku, the earth mother of Maori legend. From Papatuanuku came all living things, none greater or lesser, all with their place, and all to be respected.

To me, this viewpoint of humanities place on the earth is refreshing and rings true, especially as we look at the damage we are doing to the only planet we have.

With a computer we do not hesitate to reboot it to install new software. I think it is time for the sake of the planet, and ourselves, that we have a cultural reboot.

A cultural reboot where the new software embraces ALL life on this earth.

The Maori affirmation of identity and belonging is entirely relevant.

Ko au te awa, Ko te awa ko au, Kei te mate te awa, Kei te mate ahau. (I am the river and the river is me. If the river is dying, so am I).

Brian Megaw

Touching Indigenous relationships with the land.