Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Wind beneath my wings. . .

"I would be nothing without you"..... the last line in one of the verses of the epic ballad "Wind beneath my wings" as sung by Bette Midler in the feel-good movie "Beaches".  The sentiment of the song is a tribute to a friend who has always played a supportive role, always cheered for the successes that the singer has enjoyed, to the point where the singer has also taken their friendship for granted.

In Pasifika cultures, we rarely do anything for ourselves as individuals, as we live, work and breathe as a collective and we are always conscious of representing who we are, defined further by who we belong to as children and where we come from.  Pasifika parents raised with a traditional heritage childhood have the option of passing on their heritage knowledge to their children to the fullest extent or not at all or maybe just a little, to the least extent, depending on what they value about their heritages.

10. Representation (e.g. Successful career pathways reflect on parents).
As is the increasing case for gifted Pasifika students, their success in job pathways and career opportunities raise the status and prestige of the parents, as their success is seen as a reflection on the parents' upbringing and social standing within Pasifika communities.  (Faaea-Semeatu, 2011).

If we deconstruct what representation means, it is about an individual who stands in a place to speak for and act for others, especially in an official capacity.  If I am looking here about how a gifted Pasifika student is seen as a representation of their parents and families, the actions that they make reflects on the family, and in this case, those actions of giftedness in the realisation of talents means that the representation is highly valued and highly prized and most certainly, highly celebrated.

Now on the opposite end of the spectrum, there are negative connotations associated with poor or bad representation.  I haven't seen this played out with more impact than with the recent comments  made by TVNZ's Andrew Shaw about Polynesians in Auckland.  When other people reflect on the representation of your peoples in a negative sense, what right do they have to speak or act on your behalf?  Note: I use people in plural form here because Pasifika peoples are diverse and have specific ethnic groupings as well as socially constructed identities that embody the diversity within those ethnic groupings. Good to go?  Moving on... what can we make of this? Where to from here?

Be the best of who you are, be the best of what you aspire to be, and be the best example of representation not just for yourself, but also for others who you are in a position to represent (especially in an official capacity - but in saying that, for Pasifika peoples, every time we speak in a public forum representing who we are - we are always in an official capacity).

I guess what I'm really saying here is:

Be the wind beneath people's wings I reckon, and move beyond the wind beneath racial slurs.