Tuesday, June 22, 2010

22.6.2010 Post

Good afternoon!

It has been quite some time since I have posted on this blog, and A LOT has changed since November 2009. Just to bring you up to speed if we have not personally communicated since then…

- I became a Permanent Resident (from a visa standpoint) of Australia; on Thanksgiving no less!

- I was informed that the funding had been shifted around with relation to my position as a Youth Worker at the Belmont Alternative Learning Centre. Therefore, I ceased working there in mid- December.

- A contingent of 15 or so Americans journeyed down under between December 13 and 27th to visit us!

- A lil wedding thing on January 2nd, 2010


- Cate moved into the apartment that I mentioned in earlier entries! We started making our first home together!

- I started working an en education assistant (teacher’s assistant essentially) in a second grade classroom at a grade school in Belmont (the same community that I worked in last year! In fact, some of those young adults I worked with last year had siblings at this school; and we coach a few of them on Saturday’s!

- The education assistant position was just a short term appointment and as a result of budgetary/ interpersonal/ professional qualification conflicts, I left the job after one term (February- April is the first term of the Australian school year).

- Perth endured the worst set of severe thunderstorms in about 50 years! Golf- ball sized hail and torrential rains led to widespread damage and power outages area the region. We returned home from work that evening and the wind whipped the rain against the front of our unit with such force that the water pushed through the screen door AND the solid wood door to pool inside our home! The rainwater also apparently collected above our guest bedroom ceiling and forced its way into the room through the light fitting. I say apparently because we had no idea how the carpet had become soaked since there didn’t seem to be any water on the curtains for the only window in the room. At least we had no idea until the following day when the globe lamp and light bulb fell from the ceiling to reveal a gaping, jagged, moist opening. Lovely.

- We moved out of our apartment. Haha, the timing of the storm really could not have been more perfect. We only had a six month lease which expired in April if you were doing the math at home and the water damage occurred about a week or two before we were scheduled to vacate the premises anyway. Even more fortunately, Cate’s parents had a spare bedroom that they very graciously agreed to let us use!

- Since then my life has effectively been a string of listless days filled with looking for jobs, applying for jobs, watching vast swaths of various sporting events (The French Open, the NBA Playoffs, the Super 14 rugby union competition, the NRL, and now of course, the World Cup), reading, doing laundry, and making preliminary preparations for whatever meal Cate and I cook that night. However, thankfully I have made some inroads on the job front in the past few weeks. I currently am employed by three organizations at varying levels of part-timeness. In descending order of number of hours per week worked:

(16) Constable Care; a not- for profit agency focused on delivering positive messages (similar to D.A.R.E. in the USA) to grade school children all over Western Australia (80% of the grade schools in WA were reached last year for about 180k kids!) I applied to coordinate the travel arrangements/ liaise with the schools and local police departments in the rural areas of the state. I did not succeed in this application; however the organization liked me enough to offer me a different position which I jumped at! I am a member of the sales/ marketing team and all day on Monday and Friday, I call businesses and ask them, “if they would be interested in supporting outreach to students at local primary schools?” Yeah, not my ideal job, but it is a job and I’ll leave it at that.

(12) City of Canning Youth Worker; I have not actually started this position yet because I am just waiting for my police clearance to come back and then I’ll start right away. But in this role I will work with/ mentor/ hang out with young people in a youth center after school three days a week. I am FANtastically excited about this position because it’s actually in the vein of the work that I want to be doing long term… and it also means that I will actually be out of the house working five days a week!

(6) Drug A.R.M.; another not- for profit, this one is Christian and dedicated to its Street Van outreach. We go out on Friday and Saturday nights to parts of Perth that are known gathering places for at- risk young people and seek to engage with/ provide informal counseling/ referrals to professionals to young people who have dealt with or are dealing with physical/ emotional abuse or homelessness (long term or short term) or dependency on alcohol or other drugs.

Ok, I think that catches you up on all the biographical details of my life, and I had no intention of writing that much because the impetus for my posting today has nothing to do with myself at all.

As I mentioned before, I have been gorging myself on sports and one of my favorite treats is international rugby union. The big three southern hemisphere teams (Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa) are playing at the moment and the games have been great! However, an issue that has bothered me since I started following Australian/ New Zealand sports reared its ugly head once again; the creation of teams upon an ethnic basis.

I sat down to watch a game of rugby and although I had heard of this team before, I never watched them play and throughout the whole contest it just kept grating on me, over and over and then I had to stop watching even though it was a good game. It has been a few hours since then and something has just been gnawing at me to write out everything I have been thinking on the subject over the past year and a half or so.

The team in question is the New Zealand Maori and bear with me, but I have to set out a few things for you all because I imagine that you are not too familiar with the sporting culture of New Zealand, but if you are, feel free to skip ahead. NZ is just south of Australia and I know that in America Australians are portrayed as loving their rugby, which is true to an extent, but in NZ rugby is king. Rugby in NZ probably shares the combined love, adoration, and popularity of the NFL, NBA, and MLB COMBINED in America. If you could somehow take the most zealous Red Sox, Cowboys, and Mid 90’s Chicago Bulls fan and bottle that sporting passion, I truly believe that you might approximate your average New Zealander (also, people from NZ are commonly known as Kiwis, this is just an aside because I will use that term later on and I wanted to explain it now. It’s like Americans being known as Yanks or British people as Poms.). Kiwis are well within their rights to froth over rugby, their national team (The All Blacks… a reference to the color of their uniform, that’s right, they wear all black, very inventive) is one of the most dominant forces in world rugby and it has been for decades. New Zealand, like so many other nations bore the brunt of colonial intrusion; the people group that was colonized by the British in the 18th and 19th centuries was known as and still exists today as the Maori. In a 2006 census 3.8 million (out of a total population of 4.1 million) people in NZ answered the question relating to their ethnicity. 2.6 million (about 63%) said they considered themselves “European” ethnically, 565k (about 14%) considered themselves “Maori” ethnically, and interestingly 429k considered themselves “New Zealander” ethnically. I only add those statistics to try to give a clearer picture of what I’m getting at eventually. The New Zealand Maori rugby team requires that all of its members have some Maori ancestry and there is a process in place to prove it (not sure how it plays out, but it was put in place because in the past people who “looked Maori” were eligible to play, so they wanted to make it a truly ethnically exclusive squad. But with that said, by all accounts there does seem to be a good deal of intermingling between ethnic groups in NZ, but I’m getting a bit off track).

In the midst of all of these facts rolling around in my head, I tried to gain a better idea of why this team would have been created, or at least why they still play today. The team was created in 1888 and at that time (and until 1910) was known as the “New Zealand Natives.” I have had a hard time finding out the specific reasons for the creation of the squad (which says something in itself), but I can only assume that given the relative lack of progressive thinking on racial issues in the late 19th century that the team was formed because players from Maori backgrounds were not allowed to play on the same teams as their counterparts who counted themselves as European ethnically. The need for a separate team composed of people from a specific ethnic group that is being oppressed within a nation makes complete sense. In fact, this same issue was the impetus for the creation of the Negro Leagues which was alternative for African- Americans who were not permitted to play in Major League Baseball because of the color of their skin. The Negro Leagues had a proud tradition and produced great players, but when Jackie Robinson broke into Major League Baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 it sounded the death knell for the league. This was a positive move because it allowed for all players to compete against and with one another based and skill and team affiliation as opposed to skin tone. Yet, I sat on my couch a few hours ago and watched the New Zealand Maori take on Ireland in 2010.

I can’t quite place my finger on why this bothers me so much. The members of the New Zealand Maori are not relegated to this team, on the contrary, it’s an honor to be selected (and the team is actually good! They beat Ireland and they play England later this week), the squad almost serves as a backup team to the All Blacks. But the fact that they are designated by their ethnic heritage bothers me to no end. Choosing to separate oneself along the same lines that one was, a generation ago, forcibly segregated makes absolutely no sense to me. There are those who claim that it is an issue of ethnic pride, which I can see to an extent, but no one would choose to be in the New Zealand Maori if they had the chance to play for the New Zealand All Blacks. Wouldn’t it make a much stronger statement if you were a part of the larger society and maintained your cultural roots? The All Blacks currently perform a traditional Maori chant, a “haka”, before each game and it has even become one of their trademarks. I just fail to see the logic behind keeping the second tier team based upon ethnic heritage up and running.

Clearly the parallels between ethnic/ cultural separation in sport and in society at large work to a certain extent, but there is a limit to the analogy. And in the process of writing/ thinking this all out, I have realized that my problem isn’t with the NZ Maori per se, it is with minority groups self- segregating after their forefathers ostensibly fought tooth and nail to give them access to all the same right and privileges as everyone else.

I’m not sure why I “came out of retirement” to write this or if it even made any sense; frankly, I’m not sure if it makes sense in my head yet, but everything in me rails against this sort of thing. I can only trace my indignation to one source. In the fourth grade, we had to research a historical figure and then make a presentation as that figure. I chose Thurgood Marshall, the first African- American supreme court justice, but that had very little to do with my selection. I really selected him because he was the lead lawyer in the Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954. This case changed the landscape of America, and as a piece of jurisprudence, arguably set precedents all around the world. He argued that separate was inherently unequal, contrary to what the legal and popular opinion maintained. In this case he argued for the desegregation of public schools in America which is certainly a fair cry from my concerns with the NZ Maori, both in terms of magnitude and significance, but I cannot understand (I can literally understand the arguments, but I cannot justify/ legitimize them in my mind) the mentality of self- segregation and maybe I never will.

Not sure when/ if I’ll write here again, but thanks for reading this monologue and other things I have written. It truly means a lot to me that YOU would take time out of your life to read my musings.

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