Letter to My Unfulfilled Idea (Dr Hirini Kaa)

Kurahautū Acting Director The Venerable Dr Hirini Kaa was invited in July 2022 to share an original piece in front of a live audience at a Pirate & Queen Salon event in Wellington. The topic of the evening was “Letter to my Unfulfilled Idea”.

Tena koe Idea. Kai te aha? What’s up with you? You been busy have you, rattling round up there? I know you’re not alone, but the stupidity of my other ideas might be making you lonely. Or afraid.

As for me, its Mum’s unveiling soon. That’ll be a big thing. Covid delayed, it’s drawn out our sadness. But the stone’s looking good, with its bow to her years of teaching and her adoration of Joy Cowley. It’s also gonna be about Dad of course. He’s resting in Ngati Porou, at the mouth of the Waiapu River, under the shelter of Hikurangi, our sacred mountain. She’s in Otahuhu with her Mum and her Dad and her Pākehā whakapapa. It’s sad, but its right and its good.

But it’s also been stirring things up, up there, Idea. It’s making me think about you, and what we need to do and where we need to go.

See, I want my Pākehā whānau to find peace.

I’m worried about them. They seem pretty lost. They were always a bit weird, of course. Their tikanga was just so… different, so… exotic. They had these weird short names and weird kai customs and as for the tangi practices – I really need an anthropologist to understand that one.

I love them, of course, but I’m worried for them. They seem so restless, so purposeless.

The stuff they used to seem to rely on isn’t really doing it for them anymore. The number eight wire, pavlova inventing, egalitarian, pragmatic, kiwi, fair – well, that’s all a bullshit narrative invented by historians. Damn the historians, why are they just so brilliant?! The institutions are gone, washed away in a flood of consumerism. Even the faith bit, the seemingly deep bit – in Mums case the generations of devout Anglicanism – got swapped for the promise of cheap flatscreens and a Nato-guaranteed endless peace. We didn’t need God – we’ve got Siri to answer our questions nowadays.

Idea my friend, I want them to have peace.

Not that they ever truly had peace. Peace wasn’t the absence of war. Peace wasn’t that: “well, at least we’re not as racist as Australia”. Peace wasn’t even sitting on your white supremacy feeling superior to those whose land you had taken and culture you were always attempting to eradicate. You could never have peace while those were the terms.

Yep Idea, they really need true peace. But peace isn’t another form of war either.

And here, Idea, is where we get into trouble. Cause in my mind – our mind – peace isn’t the result of an endless struggle for liberation. Peace isn’t a competition winning flag that beds in resistance. Peace isn’t putting my Pākehā whānau in the allyship category, into an endless limbo of tangata tiriti. Peace isn’t a perpetual state of decolonisation.

Peace is – in the formulation of Martin Luther King – the presence of justice. And justice, here in Aotearoa, justice looks like mātauranga.

Mātauranga, that knowledge and way of knowing my tīpuna built over millennia as they travelled through Te Moana Nui a Kiwa. That science, that art, that philosophy, language, theology – that why of things.

That’s what will bring my Pākehā whānau peace. Accessing it will enable them to truly connect with this whenua, with who we are and why we are here. It is the justice from here and of here.

Hey Idea, and that brings us to our prophet. Justice Sir Joe Williams. First Māori supreme court judge. The intellectual giant of Aotearoa. Transforming our judicial system, and through that the fabric of our society.

Yes, he’s not Ngati Porou, but that doesn’t matter. Jesus was from nowhere in particular as well.

He is the ex-chair of the Waitangi Tribunal and intellectual driver of Wai 262, the prophetic vision of mātauranga.

Wai 262 says my Pākehā whanau can – and in fact should – be grounded in mātauranga. With safeguards. Sure it’s risky. Nek minit my Pākehā whānau could be telling my Māori whānau who they are.

But, to be honest, it’s better than them trying to eradicate our everything. The risk is worth it.

And they need it. They need to truly belong here. Forever.

Yeah maybe I’m selling out. But hey, as a Māori Anglican Priest my kūpapa credentials are already impeccable, and if you’ve got em, flaunt em. And I’m not naïve. I’m in court this Friday supporting another whanaunga going through the justice meat grinder. That part of New Zealand that hates our people. And yet still I yearn for peace for my Pākehā whānau through mātauranga. And I believe this will truly, and finally, bring peace to my Māori whānau.

Blame Jesus and his convincing korero about the transcendent power of love and forgiveness. Or blame my Ngati Porou imagination, that speaks to our tremendous humility and that we are an iwi whanokē – a weird, unusual, different people who celebrate different ways of thinking.

So, Idea, its time to go and change the world, to fulfil your destiny. But first, let’s go celebrate Mum.