This is NOT New Zealand

I feel sick. Our entire city feels sick. Our whole country feels sick. Sick for those who have been murdered, sick for their families and friends, and sick that we and our city have been defiled in this way.

Fifty people (to date) were massacred on Friday 15th March in my home of Christchurch/Otautahi, New Zealand/Aotearoa. More than forty are injured, and have required hospitalisation. Their only crime was that they were going about their lives, and minding their own business. But that business happened to be in mosques, which was considered unacceptable by their murderer.

The murderer chose our city to carry out this atrocity, because we were one of the least likely places that it would be expected to happen in. The way it was executed was a deliberate publicity stunt by an extreme right-winger with extreme delusions of superiority. It was carefully and hatefully planned for maximum media effect. The perpetrator live-streamed his atrocities. The video has since been taken offline as much as possible, but I will put money on it that it still lurks somewhere.

If you find it, don’t watch it. We simply have to be better people than that. And giving this murderer his fifteen minutes of infamy is just giving him what he wants.

We are still coming to grips with what has happened here in Christchurch. How does this much hatred fester in a person to the extent of massacring fifty unarmed people, who have no way of defending themselves. But the truth is that hate, intolerance, and blame towards others are easy. They are the easy traits to cultivate, when things aren’t going so well with us. Love, tolerance, and self-reflection are much harder, and give far fewer feelings of instant gratification. Those traits take more work to cultivate, and more personal honesty. Toxic ideologists seem to prefer the easy way.

We aren’t perfect here in New Zealand. We have our differences, like anywhere else in the world. We squabble and bicker and hurt each other. We don’t live in an unspoiled utopia. But there is still a gentleness to this land which permeates our culture, in spite of the inevitable life-mess that humans carry with them. Perhaps our small population and geographical isolation have helped with this, but it also made us a ‘soft’ target for this monstrous act.

This act of mass murder has jolted us into a new paradigm by someone who is nothing and no-one, but feels entitled to be, so finds a group to blame for his inadequacies. We Kiwis won’t get back what we had. The family and friends of those who were murdered won’t get back what they had.

Once again, we’re hearing the words ‘Kia Kaha’, but for the whole of New Zealand this time – rather than just for Christchurch, as in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquakes – and especially for our Muslim community.

Yet, maybe we can end up being better than we were before. Maybe this will draw us all closer, and we will defy the legacy the monster was trying to leave with us.

Let’s do it.


11 thoughts on “This is NOT New Zealand

  1. Frances Sullivan

    Beautifully expressed. My heart goes out to you and all who have been scarred by this horror. However, we are all scarred by acts like these so, yes, must cling hard and fast to love. Without it we will not survive. xx


  2. Hi Katrina, beautiful and brilliantly incisive and thoughtful blog, as usual. 🙂 Maybe I am odd, but I wanted to see that video. Only seen the first part. Very bad.
    When the English journalist was murdered by Isis a few years back, and I am English too, as well as Kiwi, I hunted down the video of his beheading. Not because in any way shape or form that I wanted to watch it, but I had this strong sense of witness obligation to my fellow English person.
    One of my clients in the Uk was in Auschwitz, she had the tattoo and she wore it with pride because she said she was a living witness against holocaust deniers. Never had it removed.
    With the journalist, I felt like I had to be there with him and at least know what really happened to him in the first person. It was so brutal and disgusting, I did not sleep for weeks. But I knew what he went through. I tried to be there with him, and in an utterly imperfect way, I tried to make his experience a public experience for good. I had students in ethics a few years later, young white guys with rich parents who were seriously racist, so when they made jokes about beheading, I so walked these young white men through the whole beheading process. Because I had seen it and the horror was burnt into my soul. No more jokes. Serious self-reflection. Lots of huge big existential questions.
    There is a place for witnessing atrocity in as close to the first person as we can because we have a duty to our fellow human animals to be there as much as we can with them in those terrible moments, and even if we have no power to alter what happened to them, actually seeing what was done to them is life-changing, and witness-hood is the most powerful radicalizing force. Look at Primo Levi!
    I need to know for myself what really happened to those poor people, my fellow citizens, in my city, as I want first person truth. I think we should be allowed to witness what he did. In full. I know about the oxygen thing, but protecting people from extreme violence in their inbox when it is unanticipated is one thing, but protecting people from the truth all together seems different to me. If I do not know all the ins and outs of what this back passage person did, how can I talk about it with students? Lots of people think being shot is just like lights out…so not so.
    And I am so keen for him to stay in NZ to serve his time, as apparently the Mongrel Mob have offered their services as cultural educators, and expressed a deep and profound wish to teach him Te Reo and a little more. What is not to like? Sounds wonderfully edifying 🙂
    I think there is a case for New Zealanders to be able to bear witness to the whole thing, although how that access could be managed is a huge question.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with both sentiments about witness obligation, and not giving oxygen to this individual. I think that if the video is watched in order to be able to further educate others – as you did – or oneself, then I couldn’t argue with that. My point was really about controlling that ghoulish tendency many of us have, whether it’s lurking beyond our field of vision, or right up there in full view. I can feel the pull of my own ghoulish tendency to watch it, along with the absolute abhorrence of watching it. Fortunately, my ethics outweigh my ghouls 🙂 We have all had a laugh at the Mongrel Mob’s promise to ‘look after’ this individual. I doubt if they’ll be allowed near him, but I wouldn’t put money on it that they won’t find a way regardless 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I didn’t watch the video. I didn’t read the manifesto. And I refuse to do so because doing so feeds the algorithm. I can understand, though, that in a controlled educational environment there could be some benefit in being exposed to records of the horrific event. One thing I would probably understand better if I had read the manifesto or seen the video is whether the killer was filled with hate or was simply a cold-blooded killer, with a ruthless desire to exterminate, much as some might exterminate rats. The latter scenario makes my heart simply sink out of my body and terrifies me more than pure hate. I wasn’t able to write about 15 March. It hurt too much. I am glad to read your account and feelings on that awful day.


    1. I didn’t watch the video, or read the manifesto, either. Like you, I might do those things if they are ever presented to me in a educational capacity, but otherwise they are beneath me. That day left us reeling, and changed us forever, but there will also be good changes that come out of it, and I hope that the monster chokes on those.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Not sure what you mean by “feeding an algorithm”.
      I am so with denying that terrible person any press time, but something none of us believes or understands just happened in our city, and we need to try and understand it.
      To understand this horror, it needs to be looked at and thought about, and considered, by everyone. Not just academics, but by every New Zealander. Every New Zealander needs to know in the fullness of the horror what happened to fellow NZers, and we need to look at our possible role in it. How racist are we really? In our hearts? How much do we just let terrible things said just slide past? Because maybe we are scared. too uneducated to reply, or whatever.
      I have read Hitler’s manifesto, Mein Kampf. I read it when Ī was 12, as I have a very strange family. My Dad gave it to me. What Mein Kampf did to me was turn me into a huge radical campaigner for equality and compassion, and personal moral responsibility.
      We somehow had a person in our city who did this most appalling thing. Forever after we seem to now have complete penis heads now making bombs and doing very very bad things all over. He was the tip of the iceberg.
      If you think you can stop the likes of him by ignoring him, that is so not the case. We need to try and figure out why he thinks the way he does, and how his thinking has been enabled, that might really make a lot of us feel really uncomfortable. But we as a society need to take on some sort of responsibility for him, he did not do what he did in a vacuum. I am hurting too, very much, but my way of dealing with that pain is to try and figure out how it happened, how it could happen here, and examine the elements of Chch society that somehow let this maniac plan and do all this evil not only under our noses but within our community. We need to look at ourselves, at him, or it will just happen again.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This is from the blog of singer Sami Yusuf which explains ( I hope) what I mean about the algorithm. He was writing from the UK in response to the Christchurch attack. “And remember that every time you click on a site or video that promotes hate — even though it’s just for your information and you don’t share it — you are indirectly spreading its message because your click raises its algorithmic ranking. Whether you volunteer to help others, or spread positive messages of inspiration — speak out, stand up. It matters. You matter. _sy.” As a society, as individuals, we are definitely all accountable for the dreadful events of March 15th . Making sure we all do something, according to our abilities and strengths, to stop this happening again is important. The limited strength I have is put into calling out racism, hatred, etc wherever I see it or hear it. I am not sure how much use that is but I try. 🙂 Btw, I think it’s great you were allowed to read Mein Kampf.


  4. Rex Landy

    Nah, this IS New Zealand. Colonised country that denies it’s own past. Fifth generation squatters making the laws that benefit them forever and ever and ever, while those cheeky darkies haven’t had the grace to just die already…… #SmooththePillow

    Can’t even teach history here, because it’s a coloniser nightmare of land theft and genocide.

    Note how everyone wrung their hands over this atrocity – while the natives are just the wrong brown. #Changemymind J/K you won’t – because this is New Zealand all over.

    Vigils attended for a stranger nobody knew when murdered by a paakeha…. while wahine go missing all the time with nary a murmur.

    Marae firebombed in the 80s. How do I know? It was a marae my mum was trying to start with others, in Newlands. Firebombed twice; my dad guarded her when sewing curtains ffs.

    Kura with ‘**gger lovers’ written on it in the 2020s.

    Kotiro told ‘stop speaking reo’ on netball courts, 21st century.

    Blackface parade float wins second prize in Hawera.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess our perception of New Zealand is different according to each of our personal experiences. I haven’t experienced the kind of experiences you have, Rex, so the Mosque shootings were a big shock to me. Have you written the story about the marae your mother was trying to start in the 80’s? It would be a fascinating and eye-opening story from your personal perspective. I, for one, would publish it on my blogsite here, even though I only have a small following. It may be better published elsewhere, of course.

      Just to be open and honest, I don’t beat myself up for being white. I can’t help my ancestry, or what my ancestors did. I do acknowledge the bad things some of them did, though, and I understand your anger, although I can never understand it fully, of course. Yes, that anger is uncomfortable and disturbing at times, but I also know that you have to express it and tell your stories, and be listened to. Right now, we know as women how we’re not being listened to, and that makes me spit with anger, too.


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