Is it really part of our traditional worldview that instructs us to ‘always be humble’? Or is it an idea implanted into our culture by Christian missionaries as part of the colonisation process designed to make us slaves to a master outside of ourselves? I wonder at what point in our evolution as a culture did this idea of being humble at all costs, become a dominant value? Pre or post colonisation?
Were our ancestors really that humble? Or were they actually potent and strong leaders and visionaries, unafraid and unashamed to rise up into their own power and rangatiratanga? Does being and staying humble at all costs, really serve us as Māori? Or is it part of the mindset that keeps some of us oppressed and oppressing each other?
It’s a big kaupapa with many different sides and layers. In the context of business, and marketing yourself so that you can make a living and support your whanau, and not go back to a job that you HATE, and keep doing what it is that you LOVE, I don’t think that this notion of ‘always being humble’ and ‘the kumara doesn’t talk of its own sweetness’ is particularly helpful to operate from.
In the big wide world out there, where few people understand or operate from this value, it’s also not particularly easy to live and abide by, in a global context, in many instances, especially somewhere like in Europe or in The States, where if you remain humble you could and probably will get mashed on! When we are on the marae, or in our own traditional contexts with each other as Māori, with others who understand and operate from this value, then it is far easier to put into practice and to live by, and it can make sense and be valuable, for sure. I just think that we need to be more conscious of when and how we practice ‘being humble’ and all that it can mean.
Looking at someone like our infamous Maui, I don’t recall many instances in which I have heard of him being humble, in fact his great act of attempting to defeat Hinenuitepo, and all of his acts i’ve heard of prior to that, were far from humble. Mind you ultimately he did get killed I suppose, so therein lies a reference for us all, hahaha! Frankly i’d still rather model myself on and emulate someone like Maui, who achieved and did great things for humanity, than model myself on someone who was so very humble (give them a medal!) yet never did anything of any consequence, who never helped anyone or created anything new and useful for others to get value from, like Maui did.
In terms of some of my primary ancestors, who were alive in 1840 at the signing of The Treaty, I also don’t recall many, if any stories of them demonstrating being humble, in fact most stories I have heard refer to them rising up, moving beyond the ‘station’ that they were born into, claiming their own sovereignty, refusing to bow down to anyone, and largely doing and being as they pleased without regard to maintaining a false image of ‘being humble’ or actually being humble either. Maybe I am wrong. In fact, Te Rangi Topeora, the niece of my ancestor Te Rauparaha, actually signed her name on The Treaty with the pre-fix of KUINI, yes KUINI, he tohu nui tērā!!!
In conclusion, I think there is a time and place for being humble, and a time and a place for being confident, embracing your power, standing up and using your voice, selling yourself or your services or ideas if you are indeed in some form of business, or if you do indeed have something important to say that could help people.
Since most people are doing a great of job of being humble already, especially WOMEN, and many women lack the confidence that could really serve them, especially when it comes to running a business, I choose to focus my energies on teaching, nurturing, growing and empowering confidence in other wāhine, rather than beating them about the head with the omnipresent and overused ‘be humble’ rhetoric.
The IRONIC thing is, that sometimes when someone tells you to be humble or feels the need to emphasis the need or value in being humble, they are actually doing so from a whakahihi place of EGO, from a place of elitism and feeling superior to you, thinking that they are more spiritually enlightened than you and need to teach you a lesson, from a place of looking down on you, or proving that they are more traditional, or more MĀORI than you! How humble is that actually? OR even worse, in some cases it can come from a place of trying to CONTROL you and MANIPULATE you into staying small and shutting up, or as a way to coerce you into putting up with some kind of ill treatment, bullying or abuse.
I think that more and more in these modern times, in this digital age, in this INFORMATION AGE, in this big bad world outside of Aoteaora, and also post-colonisation when we are still reclaiming much of what we have lost, using discretion around when to ‘be humble’ is necessary, and it’s not a one size fits all whakatauki or whakaaro.
It’s the blanket acceptance and reference to ‘being humble’ at all times, at all costs, in all cases, that I object to and don’t agree with and have seen and expeirenced instances where it actually harms us rather than helps us. And it’s the using of this whakatauki of the kūmara to shame or whakaiti others, who may actually be doing good work in the world, that I don’t agree with.
Considering there are already plenty of cunts outside of Māoridom that have, and will, and do try to shame and whakaiti us, why do it to each other on top of that?
Has ‘being humble’ ever held you back from doing something that you really want to do, from trying something outside of what you normally would try, from speaking up when you disagree with something, especially if it comes from someone older than you (I also don’t believe in the romantic idolisation of all elders, because not all elders are created equally and unfortunately, not all elders are particularly trustworthy although we may wish that they were), even if you thought something was deeply wrong or harmful to other people? Has ‘being humble’ ever stopped you in your tracks and made you shrink internally, or made you put up with something that you abhore, or made you tolerate something that perhaps you really shouldn’t have tolerated?
I believe that we need to create more safety within our culture, for everyone to rise up, for everyone to have their voices heard, for everyone to be free to be and to act confidently and boldly when it is needed, WITHOUT FEAR OF BEING SHAMED or ‘put back in their place’ or basically shoved back down into the box, or muffled back into silence.
Yes I can be a disruptor and a stirrer of the pot sometimes, maybe you are too? Or maybe secretly you are deep down, or you want to be, but you’ve been too worried about your reputation of being a ‘humble person’ and thus fitting into what constitutes being ‘a good Māori’? Such worries about maintaining our personal reputations can often come from a place of EGO, and not from a deep commitment to a BIGGER KAUPAPA, one which is far larger and more important than our own personal reputations.
If I had remained being humble, and didn’t learn how to be confident, or how to sell my services and my ideas and what I believe in, I MIGHT STILL BE WORKING IN A FISH SHOP which I did when I was younger (not that there is something wrong with working in a fish shop, IF THATS WHAT YOU’RE INTO), or I might still be in an abusive relationship which I was when I was younger, or I might still be getting treated like a disposable slave which I did when I was younger, or I might still be working as a waitress, a movie ticket girl, a cleaner, an admin girl, receptionist, an accounts girl, a government worker, a personal assistant or WHATEVER - all jobs that I did do when I was young and HUMBLE and hadn’t learned yet how to move beyond that. Again I repeat, i’m not dissing those jobs if that’s what you are passionate about, THEY JUST WEREN’T FOR ME, and in order to move beyond them all, I couldn’t just ‘be humble’ - instead I had to learn to think, and be and act and behave in a different way.
There have been times in my life, in the past, where I have been SO HUMBLE, and I made myself SO SMALL, that the very SOUL INSIDE ME all but VANISHED into thin air! And the inner voice of internal guidance and intuition became positively SILENT, so that I could not even hear or feel MY INNER SELF or my HIGHER SELF, anymore, like stumbling around in the dark. Well, FUCK THAT.
I believe that sometimes questioning and probing the dominant collective consciousness is a good thing. Sometimes the dominant collective consciousness actually needs to be challenged to evolve in order to serve the people in a new age. Sometimes a dysfunctional dominant collective consciousness can keep people down, oppressed, mentally enslaved, in poverty, struggling, hurting, or suffering abuse, and that I cannot tolerate, and that I will risk my reputation on being seen as an arrogant, stuck up, divorced from reality, up myself, Pākeha-fied biarch on, coz frankly sometimes there are more important things at stake than my own personal human reputation or ego, and I care MORE about our people moving forward, healing, moving beyond poverty, becoming more independent and more self determining, and more prosperous, and moving beyond intergenerational trauma, and beyond the hangover of colonisation, and getting to a place where we are all thriving, than I care about being humble or being seen as humble and fitting into the box that was prescribed for me.
Here’s a poem that I wrote that is also kind of related to this kōrero, called ‘KAUA E WHAKAITI TE TANGATA’.
If you totally get what I am on about and you are picking up what I am putting down, and you want to go deeper into this with us in the KUINIKLUB #sovereign #sisterhood, you can join us on the homepage.
PS: When I refer to Christianity at the beginning of this blog I am only referring to the ROLE it played in the COLONISATION process, I am not dissing PEOPLE that still choose to belong to this faith, I respect all faiths and people. I actually like the Christ Consciousness, in the same way that I like the Krishna Consciousness - both of which are about AROHA at the end of the day, and in their purest forms without the human/ego/church constructs/hierachy/weapon of destruction stuff attached to them.