The best way for them to move on

If there has been one over used phrase from politics and the press over the last few years it would have to be the words 'we need to
move on.' Often it can mean 'we don't wish to discuss this further'. It can gloss over political gaffs and injustice that the perpetrator has no wish to redress. The story of our nation is one where one party is continually asserting the need to 'move on' while the other insists that there may be something we really need to get sorted at the roots of the relationship if there is ever going to be any trust or goodwill in the place that we may be 'moving on' to. How then does one 'move on' from an act of nature so devastating that it shakes the very faith one has in the soil underfoot? How do you move on through the unhelpful psychological coping mechanisms that are often a result of deep trauma? The 'survivor guilt' of being untouched when so many have lost people they love and everything they own. The crazy risk taking that comes when the anxious mind is so fearful it will deliberately seek dangerous situations in order to avert the bigger danger that one senses but can not actually name. A testing to see if destiny/God/nature/ really meant it when the survivor was saved? The gaping chasm that is left in the lives of those left behind when someone dies before their time. How does one move on from these things and how do those sitting on the outside in places far from the geographical and emotional epicentre help?

The first human response to trauma is often one of adrenaline fuelled busyness. A rushing to do something… anything that might help. Even in the very early stages of a disaster on the scale of the one in Canterbury this rush to busyness is not always justified. The rescue teams may have come under some initial criticism for the apparent slowness in getting to some areas in the town for search and rescue and yet in listening to the international experts who have had experience in such places as Kobe and Haiti, the controlled, methodical pre-determined method of disaster response has been the most organised and thorough that they have seen anywhere. Sometimes – this 'taking stock first' approach can be just as helpful when trying to help people around the sudden and unwarranted loss they're experiencing and therefore talk of the need to 'move on' when people are still searching for the people they love is premature. Yes. Water and electricity needs to be reconnected. Yes dangerous buildings that have been cleared must be pulled down. But the rallying cry to 'forge ahead' and metaphors of phoenixes rising could rub against the raw sensibilities of those who are left grieving. It is important that they are allowed to acknowledge and stand with the full depth of what has happened and to have the community stand with them in that – to be reassured beyond any unreasonable doubt that there is no possibility that there could be anyone left alive – before the search is called off or they are asked to 'move on'. You can only move on when you are no longer tied to the spot – the old life that you had- and that emotional untying to the old can take a lot longer than we sometimes acknowledge in modern Anglo culture. This week is the Red Cross 2011 annual Earthquake appeal. The rapid response team from Whangarei have already flown out to lend a hand – if you see the girls with the buckets round town you can help them help the people in Canterbury while they work out for themselves what and when is the best way for them to 'move on'.

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Cult Following

Very few people will have noticed that there is a street named after Sri Chinmoy in Ruakaka. Even fewer will care, although they may wonder at the relevance of having a new street in a subdivision named after a dead Indian guy who spent way too much time in blue silk pajamas. Likewise, it will come as some surprise to many Aucklanders that the Auckland Domain is in fact the 'Sri Chinmoy Auckland Domain' (there is a bronze plaque hiding behind an insignificant shrub stating that it was gifted to Sri some years ago). There are about 15 million Aussies who have no idea that they gave away the Great Barrier Reef to show their gratitude for all the peace Sri has brought to the world. So far Iraq and Somalia have been slow to give it up for Sri and world peace but I guess they've had a lot on their plate. The Argentines would be amazed to discover that Igazu falls was gifted to this enlightened being and, being South American may pause for a second and wonder at how a man who proclaimed to have had absolutely no interest in the material world could possibly have acquired so much stuff. The various citizens who have ended up with his image cast in bronze statues in countless cities round the world might also question who the hell he was and how come they now have to live with him in their local park. They might also marvel at what an ego that knew no mortal boundaries and could manipulate thousands of people to work for nothing in his various enterprises controlling everything about them from what they ate to whom they slept with – could achieve in one small life time.

I wouldn't know about Sri Chinmoy, or be outraged about a street name in Ruakaka, and could care even less about his followers if one of them didn't happen to be my sister. Someone who graduated with a double degree in literature and international trade and law when English was her second language. Someone who just happened to be walking past a sari clad friendly soul on the day her boyfriend dumped her. Someone who I encouraged to go to the meditation classes they offered because I thought they'd help. Someone whose stellar mind and sparkling personality for the last 15 years have been slowly and efficiently washed away with mindless truisms and dodgy spiritual insights that are mostly a borrowed mish mash of the Bhagavad-Gita and new age faux Christian clap trap.

Losing a family member to a cult is almost as bad as losing them to drugs – worse in many ways. While you can argue against the resulting tooth loss and general capacity for unwarranted random violence that an addiction to P may engender, it is very difficult to argue against someone wanting to contribute to world peace in a sing song voice and a bright pink sari. When quite a lot of the world and a good chunk of the people in it can often be fairly unattractive it is really hard to question the validity of withdrawing from it. My father's spiritual Rambo raid on the inner sanctum of peace and general lotus love and his threat to come back and 'deal to' the spiritual leader if he ever found anyone had touched my sister is not recommended as an intervention technique. In fairness though – the dodgy Nigel with the exotic nomenclature smugly insisting 'no chains held her' would have made giving him a hiding really fun. Whatever chains held her were definitely not visible but they were mighty effective. And they hold her still.

Cults don't compensate. Not for the careers never followed, the lovers left unloved or the children never born. Not for the hours spent in slave labour or the theft of the gumption needed to keep footing it in the big world. Cults never pay the dentist bills. Sri Chinmoy's estate has more than 2 million dollars sitting in bank accounts. I hope some of it goes to help the people whose lives he wasted instead of campaigns to keep naming more streets after a dodgy spiritual practitioner of dubious worth.

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Evil Genius and the Interminable Novel

Apparently there is disagreement between Amnesty International and various nations about what constitutes torture. I think holding peoples’ heads underwater while intermittently asking them questions is torturous. The nuns at high school used a version of this and I can personally testify that nothing can be taken seriously from the mouth of someone who is about to have their head held under water for the tenth time. In fairness to the nun’s efficiency in such manners however I never used the emergency fire hose to start a water fight again. The same may apply to terrorists – who knows? The one indescribably insufferable torture that has never featured on Amnesty’s list is worse than having limbs boiled or toenails pulled out. It is worse than being locked in a small room and having Celine Dion songs broadcast 24 hours a day while power point images taken by Anne Geddes are flashed on the walls. Feb16th 2011
It is worse even that watching NZ parliamentary TV. The agony of which I speak will be well known to many who have small children. We suffer in the silence that can only be engendered by having three tea towels stuffed down our gobs and from repeatedly beating our heads on the fridge door. It is: The Interminable Novel. The novel is not interminable because the reader is allowed sufficient time to engage in the text and yet the book is so boring that it seems endless. No. The book is interminable because the reader is never allowed to finish it. I hold the mythic summer in my heart as some utopian season when I will lay upon an old towel and read novels to my heart’s content. By mid February I am beginning to suspect that for the seventh summer in a row – exactly the number of summers I have been relief mothering my child in the hope that one day the real Mum will show up – I will still not have finished a novel by the end of it. Opening the pages of any novel will summon some genie of distraction to work his evil magic on those I cohabit with. The torture will begin with something like this: ‘Mum, I don’t want to bother you but something really bad has happened.’ “What?” “I’ve forgotten.” In between faking an asthma attack the small person wanders to the fridge to get something and an entire jar of dairy free yogurt which I spent 2 hours making falls on the floor. ‘Don’t worry Mum I’ll clean it up.” I agree that this is indeed the case and try to ignore her as she uses a drawer full of clean tea towels to do it. I continue reading.
She rings her grandmother. Yes, hello Nanny. Mum is all curled up on the sofa. She is reading a book but I think she might have been drinking.” She gives me a look which says ‘you are so burned.’ I return one that I hope says: “I brought you into this world and I can still take you out.” She hangs up.

“Mum”.The word stretches to 3 syllables. Can we talk about something?” It’s a sweet voice. Like in those movies where mothers and daughters don’t exist in a constant state of uncivil war. I try not to think about how much I want to kill her right now. “Yes darling.?” I capitulate. “What would you like to talk about?”
“Penguins. Shall we talk about penguins Mum?” And then I lose it. ‘No. We can not talk about bloody penguins as I am intensely involved with Mr. Grisham right now and to be frank I have no idea how he has made so much money writing such utter crap but I am intent on finding out so that I can send you to boarding school so that I may have the time to read something bloody decent.” “Is the book pretty bad Mum?” She says in a nice voice. A sympathetic voice. The one I’m sure the CIA uses. ‘Shall we just go to the pools then aye Mum?” Yes. Evil. Torturous. And very very efficient.

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The world is indeed a mysterious place

The world is indeed a mysterious place. What were the Pharaohs thinking when they built giant triangles in the sand? Why is it that the men who wear stubbies are the ones who never should? And why, of all the places in New Zealand should Whangarei have a political representative from the National Party? It makes no sense at all to me yet it seems a fact set in stone. Like some archaic cultural ritual that we accept but that no one can remember the rationale for. Of course we ask for it. Every election. Or someone does at least. For the most part it seems counter intuitive that as an electorate we would gain much except the odd cycle way from a National manifesto. Show me the ‘Mum and Dad’ investors up here who are wetting themselves with excitement over the possibility of buying shares in utilities. Not many. If any. Most Mums and Dads I know are so busy working in their second and third jobs at the minimum wage – that they are far too distracted and worn out to even register the drawing of the battle lines between the two major parties over asset sales and workers’ rights last week. Most of it passed me by simply because I am fairly sure in the big game of bull-rush that is national politics and in the horse trading over who gets what – the North is likely to miss out once again. Northland is the abandoned corner of our nation and I wonder if Wellington knows. But of course it does. Political pundits on all sides know that Northland is poor and that the poor don’t vote. The North doesn’t count because we don’t make ourselves count and so we will continue to have health statistics that any self respecting South American shanty town would be embarrassed by. We will continue to lack a comprehensive marketing strategy to promote Northland as a tourist destination and our wealthy will continue to educate their kids out of the region rather than encourage local schools to match the options available in the bigger centres. We have a democracy then but it is a democracy of the relatively well off and the politically enfranchised minority. There is also the regressive notion, always apparent in small towns, that the wealthy somehow have the requisite intellectual resources to rule and so decision making is best left to those with vast sums of money - a myth best dispelled by actually getting to know some of them. But the myth may explain why, like some form of virulent political monarchy –we keep inheriting the same crew. The leg work required to get round the communities and socially disadvantaged groups and explain policy and the need to get politically active would be of Olympic proportions. Which is why anyone from the north with any political nous has packed up and gone to Wellington. Shane Jones gave it a decent go but even he couldn’t do it, and everyone else, frankly – plays the game like a bunch of girls. The greens haven’t woken up and realised that, vegan or not, politics is a blood sport and there are only two outcomes: win or die. Here’s a pop quiz for Labour: Who are the local reps and when were they last seen in public? Exactly. Show up. Kiss a baby. Act like you’re interested. At this point I’d vote for the guy with the ‘The End is Nigh’ sign, in his undies on his mobility scooter if he said that he was actually going to do something for Northland. Nationally we spend annually what it would cost to build a decent cancer ward for Northland, on subsidising the sedation of badly behaved pre-schoolers. Mysterious but true. Everyone loves a mystery and we can ensure that continues. It’s easy. Just don’t vote.

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