Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Monday, June 4, 2012

Citizens of the globe.

It is Queens Birthday and I spent today working on renovations at my daughter's house.
We put this frame work in forgetting that the ladder we were standing on splayed at the end.
We had real difficulty extracting it!  
I do love doing carpentry - just plain hard physical work.

I was reading an article about the issues facing immigrants in France. Jean-Luc Melenchon asks a question; "Shouldn't people feel at home wherever they are? How many generations are we going to p... off with this question of immigration and where were you born?" This prompted me to think about the common attitude in many countries now. Immigrants are not welcomed! We had an English couple, immigrants to NZ call at Space2B at Church in their first few weeks of being in the country. They were in a bit of culture shock and were grumpy about several things related to life in New Zealand. It prompted me to ask them, "Why did you leave the UK?" Their response was quick and definite, "Too many immigrants!" and they ranted about the blacks, Muslims, Pakistani's etc. that had taken over their country. I stifled a common comment by New Zealanders about "too many moaning pommes taking over our country!" My son is in Scotland and by the sound of it catches some flack about being an immigrant there. (He is Maori/Samoan so probably is easily noticed) The tragic shootings in Norway indicate this anti-immigrant attitude. It is not bad but a growing feeling around New Zealand, particularly against asians and sometimes Muslim people suffer. Australia has its share of anti-immigrant reaction.  Melenchon's question got me thinking again about being "Global citizens". 

It intrigues me. We struggle to raise funds to keep a viable Night Shelter (for people) going in Dunedin, but an Eco-sanctuary just out of town somehow generated millions of dollars to look after native birds and plants.  Similarly Pandas in China will attract heaps of sympathy, money and love from people throughout the world, but when Asian people come to our shores looking for a decent lifestyle, we say "Go home!" How about we begin to feel a solidarity with all people, like we feel linked to Pandas, native birds and local fauna? How about we see ourselves as citizens of this world? How about we recognise that the problems we face in this world belong to all of us? How about we truly see ourselves as brothers and sisters on the journey of life? A song we sing in Church goes;
We are pilgrims on a journey,
 and companions on the road;
 we are here to help each other
 walk the mile and bear the load.

This is essentially true when the "we" encompasses all people every where. The President in the United States makes a statement and economic markets throughout the world react. We are all impacted. The economies of some relatively small country trembles and world currencies shudder. Forests are cut down in the South American continent, and the weather changes in the Northern Hemisphere. The problems of people facing famine and political oppression in Zimbabwe are really issues the human family must feel. The struggles of the drug addict on Dunedin, NZ streets, are my concern even though I have never touched such drugs. They are my brother or sister! I had a guy come to me at our drop-in on Friday night asking for a blanket, he was sleeping out during freezing nights in Dunedin! I offered the services of the Night Shelter and began to dial the number. "No" he said, he had overstayed his welcome there, and besides "they make you get up early!" He was desperate for food too. Another guy offered him a bed - he took my blanket anyway - but why was he in such dire straits? He gets a benefit?  What addiction consumes his money? Another guy came up, away with the fairies on drugs of some sort. He is often drunk. I said to my wife when we got home, "How would you feel if these guys were your son?" ... It would be heartbreaking... but they are my brothers!

I just think we would truly begin to deal with the massive problems facing our communities and our world if we stopped trying to put people in boxes and saw ourselves as a family, on a journey. When we classify people as untouchable, immigrants, another race, a different class etc. etc. we add to the problems the world faces!

I recall as a student minister visiting an elderly couple. Looking at the photos on the wall I asked about the family. I got told about various ones and their success, but one was never mentioned. I pointed to him in a photo, "What's his name? Where is he?" "He" was somewhere, probably doing no good, - end of discussion. It was like "he" did not exist. He was not a good little Christian boy. They did not want to know about him. They did not want me to know about him. We are often like that. People near and far are struggling with one problem or another, and we don't want to know about them. They are our brothers and sisters, but we are like ostriches burying our heads in the sand.

Some of the words by Bob Dylan that Peter Paul and Mary sang go like this;
How many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they're forever banned?

How many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free?

How many times can a man turn his head
and pretend that he just doesn't see?

Yes, how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry ?

How many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind.

We naive teenage visionaries loved this song nearly five decades ago. The questions still challenge. The answers are still "Blowin' in the wind!"  The world is so much smaller now. We are much closer to each other. We need to be acting and thinking as global citizens, brothers and sisters in the human family! 

I think it was Dag Hammarskjold who wrote;
"Human beings are like parts of a body
created from the same essence.
When one part is hurt and in pain,
the others cannot remain in peace and be quiet.
If the misery of others leaves you indifferent
and with no feelings of sorrow
you cannot be called a human being." 

1 comment:

Keith Harris said...

Insecure people need others on whom they can look down. It makes them feel good, that's why they pigeonhole them and say "look at them - see what a good boy/girl am I!" The critics are the ones who have problems and need help, though they don't realise it.
Robert Muldoon and his government in the 1970s made an art form of building the egos of those at the bottom of the socio-economic pile (traditionally Labour voters) by painting Pacific Islanders as no-goods who should be looked down upon. Thus Polynesian immigrants became the new bottom layer and Labour lost much of its traditional base as their previous supporters looked to their perceived new friends - the Tories. NZ has never been the same since.