The Advantage of being (de) Colonised.

I don’t want to minimise the harm, the pain and the devastation that colonisation has caused to many of our indigenous peoples. I myself have seen first-hand, the suffering caused by the colonial bulldozing of indigenous peoples. But the pragmatic and optimist in me is always looking for ways to move forward. Yes, we have been done wrong by, we have suffered and are still suffering. But what now? How can we start to move forward towards the flourishing of our indigenous peoples?

I speak from a Maori point of view, and acknowledge that the Indigenous experience of colonisation is so diverse, multifarious and cannot be generalised. Maori have long been fighting for the de-colonisation or our society. And in that journey of decolonisation we now find ourselves as bi-cultural (many are also multi-cultural). This means we understand two cultures, two worldviews, two positions in life. This gives us the ability to step outside of ourselves and see others. And I mean really see others, to understand their fears, their desires and experiences. To have one worldview is to see the world in one colour. When we have two worldviews we can see the world in its many different shades. We have the ability to view situations from a multiple set of lenses. This gives us the power of empathy. And if there is one thing the world could do with more of, it’s empathy.

Roman Krznaric, an internationally renowned expert on empathy and author of Empathy: A Handbook for Revolution. writes;

“I think empathy is the way to revolutionise our own philosophies of life, to become more outrospective, and to create the revolution of human relationships that I think we so desperately need.”

I don’t need to reiterate all of the problems of the world here, but the world does seem to be looking for a positive revolution of some kind. Perhaps our colonised experience gives us a head start and the advantage of empathy.

7 comments

  1. Kia ora Kiri,
    This title is very challenging and I’m not convinced the empowering thoughts that followed on from it match the powerful intentions discussed in your piece. Moving forward powerfully as colonised peoples is not only up to us Maori, Pakeha and other non-Maori groups all over must realise that they too have been colonised and are victims of colonisation. There are no winners. I love what Freire (1972) discusses about the colonised. In the decolonisation and transformation process the oppressed can not turn around and be the oppressor. Instead it is through the liberation of the oppressed and the forgiveness and empathy that they show the oppressor that everyone can be liberated. When we all realise that no one is better or less than anyone else, that we all have things to teach and learn, that this is an abundant universe, and most importantly that we are all connected to the same infinite divine source can we move forward together in a win-win way!

    Thanks for the thought provoking piece. I’m still digesting the other one.
    Abigail

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    • Yes your right the title was meant to be provoking and I love your comments re Freire and while I have heard him quoted so many times, I am yet to read his work for myself. So i will endeavor to read his work for myself. Thanx for the rich and powerful comment you provided.

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  2. Kia ora Kiri,

    I too struggle with this title. Advantage doesn’t reflect my experience as I have really seen so much disadvantage in my lifetime, let alone if I look across even three generations back. In particular, the unfreedoms that plague my closest and dearest each and everyday are more real than ever with this trip home and the dark underbelly of Canadian society has revealed itself quite starkly despite the great advances that are made daily from the strength of individuals. And these moments of illumination are not even cast on the dark corners that rarely see light; rather they have come forth in the bright of day and from the most privileged, the most advantaged and the most resourced members of society. This is hard to swallow no matter how much resilience we beg, borrow and steal to get by.

    In my mind, questions about colonial reality sit as separate from whether or not we understand the depths of empathy from within the ancient philosophies that have grown and sustained relational wellbeing, or freedom, in our case, for Coast Salish for 10,000 years. In that knowledge, I seek to learn about empathy and ask myself, how does empathy create freedom and wellbeing? I think the question of for whom, or for what is irrelevant because it is a matter of concern to the heart, not the mind.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow that is really powerful Dara. Thank you. I hear the pain and the struggle that you speak of for your people, and I do not mean this post to represent your situation. I want Maori to start thinking about how we can draw strength from our past and our suffering.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I didn’t mean to change your narrative, but provocative indeed – provoked a lot for me. The additional element of the perspective I share is further laden with the heaviness of colonial and sexualised violence that is still very present. The North American history and context is particularly powerful here, but the main point I was trying to bring out is that we certainly didn’t need a colonial history to make us stronger. The correct attribution for empathy is not a troubled and dysfunctional relationship; rather to know that we have a right to lives we have reason to value despite everything that tells us differently…and that’s my theoretical perspective coming through! So thank you for helping bring that out for me 🙂 You know what this means? Time to get writing!

    Liked by 1 person

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