New Zealand has a strong history of political protest. The Springbok Tour. The Rainbow Warrior. Bastion Point. These events are so deeply interwoven within our country’s history, they are studied by just about every student in our Universities, and they are still issues discussed in thousands of research assignments, essays and journal articles. When I studied my New Zealand Politics and Anthropology courses, I felt something I hadn’t felt in a long time: National pride. Our history shows us as a strong, independent country that punches above our weight. We are the country of number eight wire, Weta workshops and Sir Edmund Hillary. Yet today, I wonder if we are still doing that spirit proud.
This weekend I was walking through Newmarket and happened across this protest against the Chinese Communist Party and persecution of Falun Gong followers. It was pouring with rain but they were handing out leaflets and collecting signatures for their petition, as well as staging some more visual demonstrations and speeches. A number of them were elderly, standing with the support of crutches, and yet they still spent hours there in the rain promoting their cause. Of course I listened for a bit, read their brochure, signed their petition, and got into a discussion about organ harvesting with my boyfriend who was with me at the time, but what I was really astounded by were the sheer numbers of kiwis who walked past without batting an eyelid. These people were speaking of live organ harvesting, something which made both mine and my boyfriend’s skin crawl with disgust. How people can do this to others I really do not know. But this was not some light issue, and yet I saw how tired the supporters were, of giving all their energy to the cause, only to have countless shoppers walk past, too preoccupied with getting their third coffee of the day to spare a thought or some compassion for human beings in suffering.
This made me think about a lot of the issues going on in the world today, and especially in New Zealand. And I wondered how on earth we have gone so far from being a country with a proud, staunch protest history, to a country of apathetic, self-interested non-participants. Of course, not all are like this. I count myself so blessed to know and be surrounded by so many people, particularly young people, who are determined to make a change in the world, who are determined to leave this planet better than they found it. We are breeding so many fantastic leaders, but where are the followers? At home on their iPads, or sleeping off their hangovers as far as I can tell (courtesy of the insightful Facebook Newsfeed.)
It makes me angry.
It seems to take a lot to make me angry these days, as I have been working really hard on being loving and accepting, and trying to understand other people’s perspectives before turning to anger. But really, is this all we are on this planet for? Are we just here to live, consume and then die? And maybe reproduce on the way? Surely there has got to be more to life than this.
And I’ll admit I’m not perfect. I’ll admit I sometimes can’t be bothered getting out of bed; and yes I waste far too much time on Facebook commenting on cat photos; and yes I could easily do so much more than I do. I’m angry at myself too.
You can’t take it with you.
Yes, that’s right. What do you plan to do with all this money you have made it your life mission to attain?
Where do you plan to drive your Sportscar when you’re dead?
What do you plan on doing with your celebrity inspired wardrobe when you can no longer wear it?
We are meant to enjoy life, of that I am sure. And I’m not saying you’re not entitled to buy certain things for your own pleasure, but what I do worry about is the extent that this self-centred, individualistic system we live in has turned us into passive observers of life, rather than active participants who seek to make a mark on this world.
At the end of the day, I have realised that the only thing I will be able to take with me when I die is the knowledge that I have made a difference. Making a difference isn’t tied to how many cars I own; whether I could afford the luxury resort in Bali; or how much money I have in my bank account. Your difference, your legacy, is to do with the amount of love you give, not only to your friends and family and people you immediately connect with, but how much love you put back into the world.
The people who have made the biggest differences are those who gave love. These are the Mother Theresas, the Gandhis, the Martin Luther Kings… Beyond their death, these names, these stories, this love is almost immortal. They have gained a certain immortality by living lives of love. I’m not saying everyone should strive to be a martyr, but I do think a lot can be learned from these kinds of people. They knew that this life was their opportunity to make the world a better place; to leave it better than they found it. They weren’t interested in material possessions; or the trivial; they were interested in being the most giving, loving people they could be.
I sincerely believe with every fibre of my being that these are far better role models to live by than the Kim Kardashians and Paris Hiltons of today’s pop culture.
Let’s start living a life of love; a life of compassion for others, and for all living things on this planet.
Kiwis, let’s get back to those political roots and let’s actually make sure that when we leave this world we have left a positive legacy behind. No more apathetic “One vote won’t change anything so why bother?”. Let’s actually do something we are proud of.
I think most people will guess my political orientation fairly easily, but I personally believe that the NZ government needs to be held accountable to its people; and as far as I can see, its people are letting it get away with Spying laws, environmental degradation and belittling the people in our communities who need the most support.
If you don’t agree with me, that’s fine. I’m not worried about people having the same opinion as me, I’m worried about people having an opinion.
There are so many issues going on in the world, let’s make a stand for what is right, not what is easy.
Let’s live a life of legacy, and leave a legacy of love.