Recently I read some belittling and demeaning comments with regards to where I had questioned another authors integrity. It caused a nerve with quite a few (non-Māori), who were then spurred on to write blogs, react and comment in a mostly relevant (although coming from a place of ignorance) debate. However, in an open online forum, an ‘Anonmyous’ commenter responded, failing to argue against my objections, but instead (they must of googled me) went to attack me personally.
It shot fire through me, my Nāti DNA kicked in, propelling me to leap in for a fight. Hell has no fury like a Nāti scorned! Traditionally, in Māori society, such insults would not have been taken lightly. Tapu (sacredness), mana (authority) and mākutu (powers) were used to regulate and limit bad behavior, but the digital world is under no such lore, unregulated it is a platform for the angry, the lonely, and the unseen trying desperately to be seen. Our times have changed, having a philosophy of utu (revenge) is not pragmatic, online insults are a dime a dozen and to react to every slight caused, will have you lost in a world of negativity.
It started me thinking about what is a tikanga Māori perspective for dealing with haters?
I began to research a couple of things and started with mauri, a fundamental concept underpinning much of Māori philosophy.
“the essence that gives a thing its specific natural character”
“the life principle”
“the essential quality of a being and a physical essence in which this has been located”
And then for some reason, I looked up, mākutu – which in short, is a curse and I don’t want to associate this persons actions too much with mākutu, as that is a whole ‘nuther’ level, but it was this notion that struck me…
“a process where a person attacks or assaults the life force or inner-being of the person”
Koina. Thats it. And this is what the haters do, they try to bring down the essence of a person, attempting to assault a person’s inner mauri, it’s a Mauri Assault! These assaults are spearheaded by using shame to bring down the essential qualities of a person.
I started to think of our grandmother, and what would she do, what were her tools? Born of another time, she had a very active and public profile and knew how to ‘move the people’. She was one of the staunchest and most commanding woman I’ve known. She had told us mākutu stories and she had also told of being careful when going into unknown areas, because of “jealousy” she said, “jealousy will make people try to get at you”. For some reason, I can still remember her clearly, with me, sitting on the edge of her bed listening to that. Strange, how it would become the foundation for my understanding of how to interact in the big wide digital realm. I have three learnings from my reflection of her on that day.
Ritual – Karakia
Our grandmother was religious in her karakia (prayer), especially her morning one, where facing to the early rising sun, she would ‘do’ herself. She also had special karakia she would do with the whole whanau (family) down at the beach. This enforces to me the importance of focused and specialized rituals.
Connection – Whanaungatanga
Our grandmother was in constant connection with the whenua (land) and whanau (family). It’s unusual for a Māori to ‘go’ by themselves. Even if your whanau are not physically with you, connection helps you to carry them with you. Its pretty hard to attack someones mauri, when they are shielded by the mana and mauri of their whanau.
Symbolism – Taonga
On her bed that day, when our grandmother spoke about ‘being out of home ground’ and jealousy, she told me she always carried her special taonga with her to protect, like a type of armor over her. Symbols can remind us of things that make us to feel safe, connected and protected.
Most of us know these tools, but it is not until you need them you actually realize how brilliant they are, and the more practiced you are at them, the quicker they kick in.
A lot of people told me to brush it off, and get over it, and toughen up, and to a certain degree this is necessary, but every now and again some of it gets in. I’m probably a bit softer than most and I put myself out there a lot more than most others do. I made a conscious decision about a year ago, that I would be expressing my radical ideas and deepest most inner thoughts into the public space, and I knew the implications that that would have for dealing with haters and a strength I would need to develop to combat them. But I’ve chosen this path because I believe I have important things to say, and I believe I can give words and a voice to things that resonate and give meaning for our people.
When I read mean and hateful comments, sometimes I do feel it, and it does make me angry, and it can also make me sad, but that is what makes me human. Anger and sadness tells me, I don’t like this situation and I need to change it or remove myself from it. I think an even worse case scenario would be to not have any feeling at all, to be completely devoid of those emotions, I think that, is a far more tragic and dire situation.