Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Waitangi Day

Waitangi Day is like Boxing Day for me, a remnant from my New Zealand days, something that means nothing to me now, except that I still remember the day as a formal public holiday in New Zealand. But even when I was living there, I recall the feelings that the day brought out on me with a slight tinge of embarrassment. The funny thing is that Waitangi Day was also the start of my New Zealand life, as my parents were married on this day, seven days after my father arrived in the country to join my mother who had already been living and working in New Zealand for two years.

I was born and raised in a country that celebrated the formal conquering of a new land by the white man, with the full knowledge that the sentences in the paper being signed by the non-white man (who had already been living there for over a thousand years before the white man's arrival) were never translated appropriately in the non-white man's language. Thus he had no idea what he was signing (basically, all claims to his land), or why this had to happen in the first place. To a person like myself who never really felt part of the white or non-white man's world in New Zealand, I felt like I was living in a borrowed country.

When I googled 'Waitangi Day' on the web today, the top three words/phrases associated with it were 'commemorates', 'fun day' and 'Obama sends congratulations'. Coupled with the reasonably good weather that New Zealand experienced on this public holiday, one could easily be fooled into believing that Waitangi Day was of great national importance to New Zealand. In order to find out how the controversy of Waitangi Day was played out this year, I had to google 'Waitangi Day protests', which gave me 'Key slams protesters' (in reference to John Key, NZ PM), 'protesters short-sighted' (more John Key propaganda) and 'What Waitangi Day means to me', which offered two insightful pieces written by a teenager:

There's no real national celebrations for the day we became a united country, nothing significant we do as a nation. It has now almost become commercialised, with one of our major national retailers having a week-long Waitangi Day sale. As a young New Zealander, I find myself disappointed in our lack of national pride. We have no sense of nationalism, very little honour for anything we've achieved, except for sport.

and a NZ-born part-Samoan:
The drama and divisiveness of Waitangi Day tugs at the prejudices I have in my heart so that I pray to God for strength to believe the best about my people, my people being Māori, non-Māori and those being New Zealanders all at the same time. 
I've been living in Greece for less time than I lived in New Zealand, and I've been in Crete for 17 years. Even though I wasn't born and raised here, I feel quite secure about my belief that I belong here, something I could never feel in New Zealand, not while I was living there, or even when I moved. I can trace my roots here over many generations, both family- and land-wise. In New Zealand, all that remains is my mother's grave; my few relatives there can be counted with my fingers.

If I try to put any meaning into Waitangi Day now, it serves to remind me that I don't like cheating others or being cheated by others myself, something I could only feel by being born and raised Greek outside Greece.

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