Peepsweave – (people weaving or the art of Rangitiratanga)

einsteinWhen I went to University I was disappointed in the memorization and regurgitation style of learning, and again disappointed at how very little that I was taught was relevant in the real world. Therefore when I starting working in soft-skills, IT training and the new e-Learning space, I followed a more Māori model to learning.

Learning is change, change in the world and change in people. No real education leaves a person unchanged. Learning is about the pragmatics of everyday life, but it’s also about unfolding what you were put on the planet to do. Developing your talents, exploring your natural interests and developing a career that doesn’t go against your natural grain.

In older times, our community would watch a child carefully throughout his early life to determine which skills should be taught him .When he got to be about 11 or so, he was brought before an Elder and with great ceremony told a story. He was then to separate himself, meditate on the story’s true meaning and relay it day later. What ever interpretation he gave, he was right. Because there was no ‘true’ meaning, what the child focused on, how they interpreted the meaning, what they saw in the story pointed to who he was and where his place was.

This is critical for a happy person, a healthy community. There are long periods in our history and the history of others that we associated with, that I can say speaking from those experiences; you don’t change people, you don’t try to make them ‘perfect’ , ‘better’ or create some kind of Utopia society. You simply reveal who people really are and historically we found that sufficient to weave the community together out of what people are, not what you may want, wish or think them to be. The ‘bad’ in the community as necessary as the ‘good’ to knit a community closely together. As necessary as a weaver once put it, as the knotted and smooth strands used to weave baskets.*

People tend to not ‘hear’ that, they can’t imagine living in a society without jails, violence or mentally ill. It’s enough to invite scorn. But, I took the opportunity to put this concept in practice in a Western setting, when I served a proselyting mission in Melbourne, Australia. I declined to spend time knocking on doors. Instead I made a statement to the local church community that I would get a 100% voluntary participation of all youth I approached between 11 and 18 years old in a project to develop their talents, be able to express their real voice and create a relationship with them sufficient to work through some of their problems. I targeted street kids in the area and kids who were active members or who were listed as members in the community, but who never came.

I chose a musical play, wrote the main theme from scratch and wrote each character with a specific kid in mind, to express a talent they had or wanted (sing,dance, act, paint, order people around, play with the technical stuff –whatever.) It was magical that whatever town we traveled to, it all came together. I don’t have the time to tell the type of success we had, but for example; a bunch of Tongan boys too shy to socialize had a love of rap, connected them with an inactive Lebanese guy who had a natural gift for rap, teaching and involved them in that community. Two boys that were often separated by force because of their violence, I instead got them to work together with a comedic one-upmanship routine they wrote mostly themselves. Two groups of 13-14 year old girls who hated each other, who had contrasting life styles and loved dance, one group identified funk the other group identified with ballet, we wrote a scene that played a music rounder that we could have both groups dance to at the same time, the different dance styles contrasted and complemented each other in a total piece that looked dynamically great, which created a hook for girls to start converse without rancor and fear to justify their contrasting styles.

I got 100 percent participation, it’s not hard to get people to do what they love to do.

In my life now with a background of 20 or so years in training people of all ages and a number of years in recruitment, Peepsweave is a movement towards building healthy communities by realigning the disconnect between what Universities teach, what industries need graduates to be and know and kids learning to map a career to their actual talents and nature.

*The ‘knotted strands’; the problems people have or are being, were used to bring out the best in the community and to knit that community out of need. Problems were used as tools to unite, rather then seen as divisive.

“This way of life” – a Karena viewpoint

My niece had said there was an interesting documentary on ABC1 on Sunday night “This way of life” about the Karena family, living around Hastings. So I watched it, as any Karena from Hastings would be a relative of mine.

I’ve seen this style of story or documentary before; white boy raised by natives, gone bush living an idyllic life in paradisical surroundings, overcoming challenging struggles and in conflict with the evil (insert the bad guy’s name here).  It’s a common storyline, that sells well.

This isn’t a fictional story though, it’s dealing with real people.  But there is always an element of fiction I think in documentaries.  I notice they weave bits and pieces of what they film, picking and choosing what they do and don’t want,  to tell a story the director wants to tell.

Throughout this story the picture is painted of a malevolent stepfather, you know this mostly from what the wife and husband say. Peter and Colleen say things like; ‘he stole Peter’s home’, probably stole ‘his wild horses’, ‘does dodgy deals’, ‘acts out of anger a lot’ and things of that nature. It’s implied the father did abuse to Peter as a child, it’s even implied that the Father burnt the family home down.  Towards the end of the movie you get to meet ‘the evil stepfather’ as the director takes her cameras to film Wero Karena and his wife Patsy overseeing the removal of the burnt out wreckage of their family home.

It was telling that this was the day, the director chose. It would be a highly emotionally charged day.  That home, my family’s home was only a shack really, but there’s been more than 7 generations of Karena literally who have been born and died in that home. (Great things have come out of that place, discussions for the full immersion school that Tame Karena championed, where Maori learnt in Maori and disproved the Government’s belief that Maori had to learn the system in English, by achieving higher scores than Maori children learning in white schools. The raising of one of the first Kohanga Reo – the language nest, Maori kindergarten for pre-schoolers. The restorative justice program the community ran to take prisoners out of gaol and instead have them live and work in the community. The meetings with some of the greats of New Zealand, Sylvia Ashton-Warner and her husband, government ministers of various sorts.. and then you have all those ties to family who have passed on and the memories of recent generations.)

It’s there that Patsy and Wero raised her kids, his kids in other words all their kids. Along with children from abused homes they fostered, as Patsy’s a social worker. And Wero having been adopted himself always opens the doors to children without a home. This wasn’t just a house.

This is the day they chose to impose their cameras? Did the audience I wonder notice Patsy, Peter’s mother walking head down in grief?  I doubt it.  Nor did they care about stomping on either’s pain. And you wonder why Wero gave them an angry reception? The camera’s first shows Wero stopping them from trespassing on his land, and they then re-position the cameras to look up at Wero, only his body, you don’t see his face, so he appears to loom over you ominously. The Director proceeds to accuse him of setting our family home on fire.  Personally I would of slapped her. That was a foul accusation to make and it was made to fit the story she wanted to spin.

As I was watching, I was asking myself, what do you mean “Peter’s house”?? How does Peter, precede his own older brothers let alone the Karena sons and daughters of Wero? How does his Step-Father and Mother’s home suddenly becomes his? When it’s obvious if Wero is selling the home, the home couldn’t of belonged to him in the first place? What gives Peter a sense of entitlement to a legacy that’s not his own? If my memory is correct I don’t think they even paid rent, as Wero and Patsy temporarily vacated the place to give them a home till they could get on their feet.

I found it particularly invasive that they took cameras into our family home and showed the pictures of my ancestors and relatives. Neither Peter or Colleen have a drop of Karena blood in them, so what gave them the right? They would of known how upsetting it would of been to the family, to literally have the eyes of thousands of strangers invade our family privacy.

There were other things I found upsetting, not really for me, but as I imagined how Wero and Patsy would react. As I watched how Peter related to his kids, it struck me, he was modelling the same upbringing he got. The philosophy he espouses, the affection he shows wife and children, he’s modelling the loving parenting that he received. Wero and Patsy are inseparable, they’re a partnership.  How then could he disparage them?  And it was shocking to the rest of the family and the community that knows them all. Wero said to me once, he was talking about his adopted father; Tame, “you owe your parents, they raised you the best they could, you owe them to raise your own children better than they raised you”.

As I’ve read the feedback on twitter, Facebook , YouTube and on the radio calling a loving, good man a psycho, a monster, a malevolent evil man. There is some wrong, for the Directors; Sumner Burstyn and Thomas Burstyn to do a character assassination of a man, through careful editing, a one-eyed, one-sided viewpoint in order to make a more engaging story.
It’s been greatly divisive for the family, it’s distasteful and it’s very wrong.