Christchurch 15/03/2019 #TheyAreUs

Grieve, but do not let easy solutions put your grief to bed. Once the initial tears dry, it will be time to find a new, resolute headspace and get down to work so that Aotearoa truly is a place where this cannot happen.

In the wake of this attack, we feel uniquely powerless. This was someone who planned. They made this abhorrent act their mission, and they arranged contingencies. The police, the intelligence community, courts and others will be under the spotlight in the wake of this attack, but the sad reality is that there was an imbalance of power here: this was the shooter’s recent life, 24/7, and anyone that committed to violence and minimally competent will usually find a way to achieve it.

For now, we grieve. Some call for the death penalty. Others for a lifetime in prison. Others for more gun control, better background checks, expanding the security apparatus. Our grief needs an easy outlet, a path to flow into that will give us some measure of comfort. So we shout, we swear, we cry and we punch the walls. We feel weak, so we respond with strength. Anger and frustration are normal. They are necessary.

But we need to keep our grief in perspective.

We have lost 49 people, in, yes, a cowardly terrorist attack that affects us all. None of our anger can bring them back. Nothing that happens to the shooter and their accomplices now can make amends or give satisfaction to our grief.

We should not give a shit whether the shooter thinks they’ve “won” or not. This is not a competition or a game. What matters is that we do not lose ourselves in the face of their hatred and violence.

They chose to kill. We chose, and must continue to choose, to be better. They chose to kill the innocent. Our society has chosen to spare even the most guilty. This is not about the sadistic, broken arsehole who perpetrated this assault. This is now about us, and who we will be.

So let your grief flow. Cry, scream and wish the shooter dead. Pray, laugh, listen, love and live: grieve as you must, in its many legitimate forms. But as we move through our grief, we also need to leave behind the easy solutions. They satisfy in the moment, but are ultimately too shallow to do justice to our dead.

Lisa, me, and most of our networks are wondering how we can be better. How we can drive initiatives to challenge ourselves as a society, and target some of the underlying issues that nurture and enable harmful ideologies to mature into action. Because the shooter – uniquely culpable as they are – is also a product of the status quo, which makes them our responsibility too.

Grieve, but do not let easy solutions put your grief to bed. Once the initial tears dry, it will be time to find a new, resolute headspace and get down to work so that this truly is a place where this cannot happen.

Negative Place

It’s only an absence,
A void
isn’t that how they used to define it?

And there’s no crime
in passing through space
is there?

Unless they do it,
But that’s – different.
They’re
Different.

It’s common sense.
Good old-fashioned common sense.
See?
We’re all white here.
Who? Don’t know who you’re talking about.

It doesn’t happen if it isn’t reported.
It’s illegal to report it.

She’s a liar.
So is he.
They’re all liars.
Probably.

Contempt? Oh yes.

Think about it, but not too
hard.

They were asking for it.
I mean, what did they expect?
Coming here.

Can we call it a resort?
It’s certainly our last one.

All care, no responsibility? No, that’s
stretching things too far.
All responsibility, no care.
Accurate, but not helpful.

There aren’t two sides here,
not if we shut them up.

Do-gooders. Namby-
pamby liberals.
Archaic, trite; but it still works.

Who wants to do good?
We can’t,
not if we let anoth- a
trickle
of people in

think of the economy

Abuse?
No, it’s hard to get good help
is all
Those islands are real shithole- I mean
it’s out of our
jurisdiction, right? (Worked for Gitmo.)
Who’s to say what
constitutes a crime
there?

Refuge? Good one.

Control the dialogue.
Can’t do that? Make it a monologue
a soliloquy – a silent one –
Say as little as possible
for as long as possible
until they all
give up
and go
– Oh.

Poetry round-up – November 2017

Ahem. I haven’t posted a poetry update since September last year, but I have been posting poems to Twitter, if intermittently. Here goes…

 

The library

How imperfectly
these myriad spines
reflect
the worlds within;
Infinities of
allusions
bound to
a single plane.

 

Soft White

This lump
this privilege
isn’t hard-won.
It can’t be felt
or seen
or even smelt –
But man,
can it speak

 

Delicacy

So fragile
a figure –
your fragrance
floating
where you
fled the floor –

a figment only
of my form.

 

Don’t speak

One word
half-bitten
that’s all it took
before the rot set in.
Undone
from inside-out
all
because your fangs
don’t retract

 

Aspiration

You cannot feint the fury of the storm
into a fall
Nor can the wind be wounded with a weapon
or a wall
And yet, unarmed you stand, alone
And yet unarmed defy
You cannot win this battle –
but you’re damned well gonna try.

 

Ride Apart

The moan
of mounting
urgency
throbs beneath –
the last gasp
of a suffocating
clown;
Yet cornering,
you caress
every curve.

 

Whispered tears

The jagged edge
of your tongue
once caught
and cut
my ear
too deep –

I hope it
never heals.

 

Eyelids shutter
the world
corralled
into coral-crisp
conch cries
whose keen
flutters
are the
trailing threads
behind your shroud

 

The boundless bias
of your blush
that urges me
undone
Where sightless scenes
remain my dreams
and you, my only
one.

 

When the cathedral
cave
is empty
save
the trickling
tide
and you.

 

These false hungers
seep into
seconds
second thoughts
devouring deception
till the feasting
is unfeigned
and the hours
truly ours

 

Misuse

When wars
wage words
with weaker
wants
we worsen

What wicked weapons
write
where whimsy
weeps

 

Suspicion

Let’s keep it
dark
and ill-defined
that rumour
that tickles
the back of your neck

until it bites

 

Glisten

Plump droplets
condense
dance
upon the
rotted husk

until

decay
shines brighter
than all
your gold

 

USA

A broken bullet
clipped the eagle
now it spirals
to the ground;
For the wings
won’t work together
and the wound
will not be bound

 

Fool’s Infatuation

The poet did her curse enshrine,
Whose melancholy made her mine,
And thus possessed did she decline,
The Lady of Shalott.

 

Stand

The warning was
indelible
the reprimand
severe
yet still we crossed

and still transgress

for legends
gather here

 

Lovecraft

When each rare
glint
tears another
hole
through the mundane

What formless
terrors
turn your eye
away?

 

I miss
again
the slamming
door
that missed
my fingers
years before
And every
time
I hear
instead
A Miss
whose kisses
I misled

 

When that tremulous
timid
tiptoe
wakes itself

it stirs
the shit
that stains
and stinks
and makes more motion –

Tread true

 

She wrapped the
whisper
in a whim
then worried
it away –
Where secrets
sigh
on silent
shelves
Now all
her dreams
decay

 

Comey

He stares
into space
while the space
between words
wraps the whole
conversation
and warps
the whole
world

 

How do you
float
when the witches
I loved
are drowned
deep
as the falsehoods
tripping
from your
tangerine tongue?

 

You still smoulder
even
when the wind
blows ill –
But borrow my
breath
and be
ablaze

Your fire matters

 

Grave thoughts

It’s difficult to
read you now
The edges worn
to vague relief
But while I yet
have sight
I’ll trace
your name
then join
my love
beneath

 

I’m done with
asking nicely

But I beg you
just the same:

Set aside this
petty bullshit

We share a
love
If not
an aim

This is not a primer on white privilege…

It is a snapshot of one white, straight, cis-gendered male’s approach to white male privilege in the context of the 2017 election in Aotearoa New Zealand.

So why post it? There are many better resources out there, authored by people who experience the sharp end of privilege.

I’m sharing this because we are approaching a tipping point. Awareness of privilege is higher than at any point in history, simply by the diffusion of communication channels. However, cultural pushback is also on the rise, as people struggle with specific understandings and (often incorrect) assumptions about privilege.

The filter bubble is usually blamed for this – but that blame perpetuates another misconception: that filter bubbles are absolute.

In most cases, our self-selected groups do overlap, in small but significant ways: and here is where the work of allies is vital. My voice on this is not as important as the voices of those affected. But my silence would be taken as assent to the status quo.

A few people have asked what I meant by “white male privilege” in my last post – and it’s telling about my own biases and filter bubble that I took the phrase for granted.

In some ways, privilege is an unfortunate term because it is ambiguous. In the context of white privilege, we’re not talking about people strutting around savouring gold-plated cigars – that’s a whole different problem.

White privilege in Western-majority countries, as defined by numerous studies on unconscious bias and equity, is about the disadvantages you don’t encounter by being born into a dominant cultural group.

You’ll never be pulled over by the police because you’re a white man driving. You’ll never have to fear that a wolf-whistle will escalate into an assault. You’ll never be subjected to “jokes” about claiming back people’s land, or reparations. You’ll never have to fear that you’ll be labelled a bitch for being too assertive in that meeting.

It’s about the luxury of being able to call yourself “colourblind” when every other segment of the population is constantly made aware of their skin colour, and when our collective biases have measurable negative effects on those demographics.

But more than these examples, and at its core, white privilege is about being able to see yourself as the norm, the default expression of humanity. It’s never really being othered, marginalised, in any context, because your whole life has taught you that you belong anywhere. That implicitly makes it harder to empathise with marginalised groups and individuals.

There’s no sin in being privileged. It’s often called invisible precisely because white males can’t see barriers that they don’t face. But if you’re convinced of its reality, I believe you have a duty: to listen, to try to understand and to ally yourself with those around you who do encounter such obstacles, and against the institutional and cultural constructs that penalise them.

Are there other forms of institutional and societal bias? Absolutely! We all, irrespective of race, gender, sexual orientation and philosophy, think using stereotypes and other mental shorthand. Many of these biases, when not critically appraised and factored for, have a similar tendency to cause harm. But as a dominant, visible problem in Aotearoa, that shapes the assumptions behind our public and especially our political discourse, I believe white male privilege has a lot to answer for.

If you prefer facts and figures to my generalised and imperfect synopsis, I’d recommend Google and Facebook’s Unconscious Bias workshop materials as a comprehensive introduction, along with the many independent resources, papers, books, articles, and infographics available with a quick search.