Pokarekare ana

The news has been full of the most depressing horror this week. On Monday 42 people were killed in bomb attacks across Iraq and three people were killed in the bombings at the Boston marathon. The US Senate was unable to honour the first graders slaughtered in their elementary school and pass universal background checks for would-be gun owners, despite the fact that 90 per cent of US Americans are in favour of such checks. Here in the UK, we have been exposed to incessant accolades and tributes for a former prime minister who destroyed lives and communities across Britain, while making friends with some of the nastiest political leaders around, including Augusto Pinochet, while her disastrous legacy 23 years after her party booted her out of power is ubiquitously felt in the UK today. The idea that we could spend £10 million of taxpayer money on a state-funded funeral (for someone who didn’t like the state and wanted to roll it back) while the benefits of the most vulnerable in our society are cut in the name of austerity is nothing short of disgusting. The mainstream media coverage has been dire and while I have found alternative narratives circulating vigorously on social media, the whole thing was making me sick. Surely, if you adore Thatcher and Thatcherism, you must be either very rich or very stupid. I know it is much more complex than that (and we do need to articulate a different narrative that doesn’t pit the working poor against the unemployed and the immigrant) but that is what the mainstream media coverage (which I often vigorously defend in my teaching and research) was doing to me. But this week has also seen the parliament of Aotearoa New Zealand do something really really beautiful and that is pass the marriage equality bill, a move which legalizes same-sex marriage. On one level, it is incredible to think that this has taken so long, 120 years after New Zealand gave women the right to vote for example, and to know that New Zealand is only the thirteenth country in the world in the world to do so (Uruguay was the 12th).  Gay kids in New Zealand continue to experience heartbreaking forms of homophobia and bullying that schools and society in general urgently have to find ways to deal with and I wish I knew where to start with this. Denying some people in a given society the right to marry while others have that right unproblematically is as insane as giving people the right to keep assault weapons and high capacity magazines in their kitchen cupboards. That is the world we live in. But the announcement of the outcome of the vote in parliament this week (77 in favour, 44 against) resulted in the most wonderful display of love, inclusion, and hope for the future, when the packed public gallery and MPs began to sing. They sang a Māori song, Pokarekare Ana, originally sung by Māori soldiers leaving Aotearoa New Zealand to fight in the First World War in Europe.  The fact that it was a Māori song, sung in Māori by those present, makes it all the more special, as it is a reminder that as we make progress against entrenched forms of homophobia, we must also continue to struggle against ongoing forms of coloniality and racism, that we need positive change for all those who are discriminated against or denied full citizenship.  What is truly wonderful is not just the impact this has had on New Zealand but the way in which has made international news all around the world, appearing on the front pages of so many news sites alongside the depressing news outlined above. In the past few days, the clip has appeared over and over again in my Facebook newsfeed, circulated by friends in the UK, US, Nicaragua, Portugal and Canada as well as by many New Zealanders.  It has been watched hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube and other sites already. All of this global sharing of a special moment in New Zealand history raises hope that other countries will now fall like dominoes and also pass marriage equality. It is already evident how good this is for people, gay and straight, and for a nation and its sense of self. I am so proud of you, Aotearoa New Zealand, and look forward to attending a gay wedding there one day soon.   The clip, if you haven’t seen it already is here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DW4DXOAXF8U

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