A Note for Our Rangatahi Resistance

My heart broke a little this morning – I received a DM from a rangatahi I’ve known for some time now, and they were feeling very down. The usual burden of climate anxiety, layered with the emotional legacy of covid, and now the rise in racist hatred is taking its toll on so many, and we are about to enter into an electoral year – which we all know comes with its own levels of brutality – with depleted reserves. For you, my friend, and for all of our rangatahi, I wanted to say:

I know things are hard right now. I know it all seems insurmountable at times.

The world you are being handed is one in turmoil, with an uncertain future.

Truth be told – this trajectory of peril has been set for some time now, but never before were we able to access proof of that peril, expose it, and speak out to it, as we have been now, and it is taking a lot of work – much of which you too will have to bear. I wish it wasn’t so, I wish we could have taken care of so much more, but nevertheless I take heart that we have progressed enough to make the extreme right very, very anxious – and it’s important to understand that the global rise of the right, with all their hate and violence, is a direct reaction to social rights progress over many generations now – resulting in you, and the powerhouse you are.

Whenever you hear them speak nostalgically about the “good old days” – they are always referring to the wind back of social justice – the days before the marginalised had a voice, the days before we had diverse representation in media, parliament and other sites of power, the days before we valued equity and human rights for all. All of the social justice progress of the past seven decades: Civil rights, Indigenous rights, Migrant Rights, environmental rights, Disabled rights, Queer rights, Fat rights are exactly what stoke extreme right anxiety. Violence and hate are simply their most base instincts in their fight to survive.

The white supremacist structure is broad (it has, after all, been built over 500 years). At one end of the spectrum you have centrist power-mongers who passively protect and maintain colonial privilege whilst presenting as benign allies. At the other, you have white identity extremists who hold less structural power but are often the loudest, most offensive, hateful and violent. Don’t let the latter distract you from the former – focus on the sites of accountable power, and continue to articulate, with all your beautiful, passionate, eloquent, powerful voices, what true justice looks, sounds, and feels like. Remind those sites of accountable power that it is their responsibility to deal with the violent and hateful extremities of their own colonial political ideologies.

A dear frontline sister once said to me: The most dangerous time in an abusive relationship is when your abuser knows you are going to leave. Never before have we made it more clear to our abuser that we don’t need them, don’t want them, and are well equipped to do without them. This is exactly why the right is raging in its ugliest form yet.

As many great leaders have said – the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice. That is not to say it will cosmically take us there without work, but rather that the the human spirit is indomitable – it can never rest in oppression, nor the truth rest in darkness – both will find, or fight their way inevitably to the light.

The work put in by previous generations to fight for Tiriti justice and education, for reo, tikanga, matauranga, and taiao, has provided us with the cultural, intellectual and political confidence to stand our ground, and has made YOU the scariest damn nightmare the right has ever had to behold.

We now have a new resistance generation, culturally grounded, with the tools of eloquence, political awareness, and righteous determination – ready to pick up this struggle, and take it to new heights. Use the gifts they secured for you to balance your decolonization with reindigenisation – don’t forget to bathe the wounds of your battles with the colonizer, in the soothing waters of our taonga, our karakia, our wananga, our taiao, our waiata, puoro, reo and matauranga. It will renew you to continue the journey, until it’s time for you, too, to pass on the torch.

I know when that happens you will have achieved wonderful things. When I think of what previous resistance generations had at their disposal, and what they have been able to achieve – and I look before me at the quality and strength of our rangatahi movement – I’m filled with hope.

So please, never lose heart. It’s ok to rest, it’s ok to take a breather, in fact you must – because the struggle is intergenerational. But never lose heart – it is precisely the success of our movement that drives colonial anxiety. We have come a long way, and whatever others may say – we are winning.

Kia kaha tonu ra. xxx

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