Relationships and the real world
My wife and I were fortunate to be part of a local gathering at the weekend that was special for a number of reasons — not least that we were saying goodbye to a “legend”.
For us, it represented just one more example of the changing of the guard in our community; something that is unfortunately becoming an all too common experience for our generation.
We were mourners attending the tangi of one of our district's most recognised kuia who had sadly passed away during the week.
Diana Atkins has been the matriarch of her family for all the time since we settled here in Uawa some 41 years ago. As we came to know her personally, we recognised that this “pocket rocket” was the real deal — someone you could rely on to tell it like it is, “no ifs, no buts, no maybes!” I found her company and her direct opinions inspirational.
She would greet me with a hug and a big grin, followed by her version of pleasantries: “How are you, you broken down old Pakeha bastard!” she would say, knowing that l loved it as much as she enjoyed “taking the piss”.
For me, our relationship epitomised all that was good about Maori/Pakeha relationships as they still are in communities such as ours.
It is a relationship built on lifetimes that began under the guidance of parents and grandparents who practised what they preached — instilling in us the values that formed the basis for successful societies over centuries.
Diana was brought up to respect the law and acknowledge the responsibilities we have for the wellbeing of our fellow citizens — especially those less fortunate — and she taught her own kids to make the same contributions towards the multi-racial communities in which they live.
Sadly, the passing of these standout leaders of her generation marks not only the end of an era but probably more importantly, the ushering in of a new type of community leadership that lacks the ability to build those relationships that are based on trust.
The late, great Dr Apirana Mahuika used to say that he wasn't interested in “partnerships” because they would almost always mean his people would be in a negotiating position that lacked strength. He much preferred building a “relationship” that was simply based on trust.
Why then are we seeing the modern emphasis that is the antithesis of all these fine individuals stood for? The truth is that we have lost our way and are no longer capable of recognising what we need to do in order for it to happen. My guess is that we are listening to the wrong people.
A good start at addressing this problem would be by choosing our negotiating teams from those who have track records of doing what they said they would do.
It is a poor reflection of modern society that this type of person is conspicuously absent in the numbers needed from all sectors of Government. We need to change direction before it is too late.