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Tariana Turia's speech well received
4 September 2000.
Re: Tariana Turia's speech last week to NZ Psychological Society
I had the good fortune to be present when Tariana Turia presented a keynote address to the NZ Psychological Society. Within that context it was perfectly appropriate for her to use a cultural adaptation of the concept of post-traumatic stress syndrome to describe the dynamics contributing to the externalisation of self-hatred manifested in violence towards others and creating the tragedies that we see published recently. To the audience of psychologists being addressed this was not "psychobabble" as some of her political detractors have referred to her speech.
The term 'holocaust' arose from an acknowledgment of the understanding of post-traumatic stress that arose from the effects on Jewish people who survived their holocaust in the Second World War and was used to emphasize the lack of acknowledgment of the relative holocaust suffered by some Maori tribes during the Land Wars. There was no disrespect or diminishing of the Jewish experience conveyed in her speech.
Tariana Turia was challenging the training of New Zealand psychologists in respect to their ability to nurture the psyche of Maori clients, to see the wounded spirit of colonised people, and appreciate Maori concepts of 'kai tiaki, makutu' and 'mate Maori'.
The delivery of Tariana Turia's address was heart felt and a well received challenge to psychologists working in Aotearoa; she was in no way being an apologist for Maori violence or suggesting that individuals be absolved of responsibility for their own actions. If we are to plan interventions to improve our society I believe that it is important that we strive to understand the psychological dynamics contributing to the whole social context and not shy away from collectively acknowledging and addressing the cumulative impact of atrocities.
Often personal and social change only occurs when we are prepared to step outside our 'comfort zones' and face up to unpalatable realities and hear challenges from those adversely affected.
It saddens me that the published response to Tariana Turia's address has focused so much on attacking her for "psychobabble" and her application of the word 'holocaust' as though it was copyright for Jewish people, and missing the whole point of what she was expressing. The net result of such negative shaping and focusing of people's perception is that it takes us further away from an inter-cultural understanding which is what I understood to be the challenge and invitation implied in her address to the Psychological Society.
Who is going to be held accountable for the degree of racial understanding and mutual respect in the Aotearoa that our grandchildren's children inherit if it is not ourselves?