http://www.makepovertyhistory.org.nz beautiful monsters: November 2005 Archives

November 06, 2005

Three kinds of sadness

I still canít believe that Rod Donald has died. He was so fit, so vibrant, so full of energy! And lived with such integrity. I think when your opponents pay such respectful tributes, it must be a sign you have lived well. Itís brings a strange kind of unity, doesnít it, when someone dies? Everyone lays aside disputes, and takes a moment to acknowledge a shared loss. And Rod certainly lived a life worth remembering, and left this country changed for the better. That doesnít make it any easier that he has been snatched away too soon. The gap will be hard to fill. Itís hard to imagine anyone else in the position of co-leader. Rod and Jeanette complimented each other so well. No one else has quite the same mixture of enthusiasm, honesty, commitment, pragmatism and humour that Rod brought to politics in Aotearoa.

Other Greens are vowing to continue the campaigns that Rod began. And tonight, at the supermarket, I found myself thinking more carefully than usual about what I bought. Again, itís strange, isnít it, the way a death affects us. Suddenly I want to live better, to pay my respects through actions.

Iím surprised how upset I feel. I guess, when someone is so high profile, the times you have talked to them mingle together with all the the times you see them at events, or on TV.... Sometimes you start to feel as if you know themÖ more than they know you.

FrogBlog has started a condolence book.

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Iím always amazed at how fast wikipedia is updated.

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5 November was also the anniversary of the siege of Parihaka.

Parihaka was once the largest Maori Village in Aotearoa, but in 1881 it became the centre of one of the most shameful injustices in our countryís history. In the midst of a turbulent period of land wars and illegal land confiscation, two great leaders arose, teaching a doctrine of passive resistance such as the removal of survey pegs and the ploughing up of access roads. These actions created an embarrassing situation for the government. It could not use the justice system to stop the Maori obstruction because it had been illegal to seize the land in the first place.

On November 5, 1881, Parihaka was invaded by 1500 armed constabulary. The non-violent protestors were arrested and held without trial. The settlement was crushed.

Unlike Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, the leaders of Parihaka did not return from imprisonment and exile to lead their country and become famous for their struggles. Their dream of a new order for Maori and Pakeha based on respect, equity, peace and harmony has not yet been realised.

I am trying to start an annual gathering, at the Pol Hill barracks, to remember Parihaka. I was a bit disorganised this year, but still, a few of us gathered together, with the bangs of fireworks echoing against the concrete walls, and read poems by lamplight.

Because it was my great-great-great-grandfather who rode in on his snow white charger, led the troups, and arrested Te Whiti and Tohu, I feel a personal responsibility to tell this story, and to do all I can to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.

The injustice still goes on in our little country. There is still so much work to be done.

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After the Parihaka gathering we watched the big display down at the waterfront. It was so strange to look out, towards Mt Vic, Miramar, Newtown, Highbury, Thorndon, Petone, Eastbourne... all over the city were tiny explosions. It seemed as though everyone had stopped and come outside to blow things up, or just to watch. No sooner had the fountains of sparks died away in one back yard then they started up in the next. Everyone in the country seemed to be united in this common purpose. We were all out doing the same thing at the same time. Blowing stuff up. To celebrate thatÖ some guy failed to blow up parliament on the other side of the world? Or that he tried?

Either wayÖ it was a strange kind of unity.

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Baby Saskia made the news again today.

She was born in the first flat I lived in. Iíd been living there for about a year, so had watched and waited as Lís belly swelled. Saskia felt like a tangible presence among us during that time. A real person, who was somehow in our midst, and yet not seen. Anticipated.

After her birth... I think it was one of the most traumatic things that I have experienced. There was blood everywhere, all over our floor, on the sofa, all over all our towels, a trail leading to the bathroom, dripping into the bath. The birthing pool wouldnít fit through the door, so we had to empty it with buckets, and the water was dark red with blood. It looked so beautiful, it was such an intense colour. But it was really horrible too, I felt really sick. The smell was really overpowering for a while. And the buckets of blood had things floating in them, different colours, pieces of something thicker than blood and water. Q and I filled them and refilled them and sloshed them out over the garden. ďThe garden will love this,Ē Q said. ďGreat food for plants.Ē Buckets of minerals, nutrients. Which strands of pink came from L? Which drops from Saskia?

For a few days afterwards, I didnít want to touch anything in our house. I felt really sick all the time. I didnít want to have a shower, or use the towels, or sit on the sofa, because I felt like everything had blood on it still, I felt like I had blood on my hands still. I could smell it, thick in the air, thickest in the dark shadows in the corners of the rooms.

Everyone kept asking me if the baby had been born yet, and I kept crying and crying. She was such an amazingly beautiful baby, I couldnít believe that she wasnít going to make it. I remember at the hospital, this procession of punks and hippies from the Newtown anarchist community traipsing in to visit Saskia, and coming out again, all studded jackets and mohawks and blotchy tear streaked faces. Even the nurses cried. She was so damn beautiful.

I remember desperately wanting to help, wanting to do something. Bringing organic treats for Saskiaís mum and dad. Looking after her brother, changing his nappies, telling him stories. ďWhy isnít my sister coming home? Why? Why?Ē

She was utterly silent during her brief life. Not one cry, not one new-born wail. As though she was sleeping.

After six days they turned off the life-support, and she began to make sounds. A sort of gurgling gasp, her bodyís desperate struggle for air.

We left her their with her grandparents to monitor her breaths, slowly weakening into the night.

Now they say maybe she didnít have to die. Maybe a vaginal exam, CPR, why didnít it happen?

I donít know enough to comment on the Coronerís recommendations. But now, having come to terms with her death as ďinevitableĒ I have to get my head around ďpreventable.Ē

Posted by Fionnaigh at 10:46 PM | TrackBack