…Rethinking Social Exclusion
In 2016, Bridget Williams, suggested that I write a memoir. I started to explore how to do that, and came upon a book by literary critic Sven Birkets, ‘The Art of Time in Memoir’, who advised that “there is no faster way to smother the core meaning of life, its elusive threads and connections, than with the heavy blanket of narrated event”. I took his advice, avoided writing a chronology, and instead explored a number of themes; race relations, law and order, neo-liberalism, social equality, Māori development, and crime and punishment.
As the work had progressed, I visualised my life as independent strands of thought, activity and experience which during the course of a lifetime travel a life of their own, finally entwining one with the other, to form in later years a uniquely patterned cable; flawed and fractured though it may be, represents my ‘true self’.
There were two overarching themes which permeated my thinking. First, the whakatauki (or proverb), ‘Kia Whakatōmuri te Haere Whakamua’,
Walk backwards into the future with your eyes fixed on the past.’ It speaks to Māori perspectives of time, where the past, the present and the future are viewed as intertwined, and life is a continuous cosmic process. Life does not begin at birth, or even conception. It is an outcropping of more solid ancestral formations.
To understand one’s true self, one needs to understand the lives not only of our whānau and their influence on our social formation, but the lives of our tipuna.
Second, if life is a continuous cosmic process, there must be some overarching connector through which we share our humanity with others; something that tells us that although we are free to express our individuality, free to be unique, underneath all of that, we remain inextricably connected – we belong to each other.