Thomas Tarurongo Wynne: Our people have been through the wringer

Saturday June 27, 2020 Written by Published in Editorials

OPINION: We are a people of adaptation and not a colony.

remember looking the large white tub and revolving rollers that squeezed the life and water out of clothes between rubber rollers, so they were ready for myself and my brother to hang out the back of our grandmother’s house.

She was clear, do not touch the rollers, looking at us both, knowing already our curiosity at this new technology had been awakened.

Of course when she was out I snuck into the washhouse, turned on the machine, and watched as the rollers whirled, baiting me to stick something in them, so of course I inquisitively grabbed a shirt and placed it in the rollers, watching it squeeze out the other side, and with each piece of clothing I pushed through more bold and careless until my fingers sat too close – within a moment my hand and then my arm were caught, hitting the reset button with my other hand releasing me from the machine’s mechanical grip.

Charles Darwin, the author of the theory of evolution, said it is not the strongest or the most intelligent that will survive, but those who can best manage change.

His understanding of nature and of his study of humankind was that you either adapt, hit the reset button and change, or die.

If there is one thing we can do it is adapt. As Pacific people, adaptation and moving from a constantly changing environment, is the reason why we are still here today and tell our story.

Because it is a story of hitting the reset button, of doing something different and adapting to new ways of living and bringing what we could and what survived the journey with us.

Adaptation and change are in our DNA, it is who we are and our tupuna understood that we conquer, adapt and change or we die, and that if we must move, we go together, we change, we adapt, but we never sit still and we never return to old ways that now did not serve us or keep us and those we love.

Our current situation as a country and a globe, was a matter of when not if, because the fragility of a single dependency economy, was often spoken about, with comments like, all it will take is another 911, another disaster, a global crisis and we will be greatly affected by it. 

That ominous warning has now become a reality, but now like our tupuna, we are faced with similar challenges.

Like my arm stuck in those rollers of my grandmother’s washing machine, do we hit the reset? Or do we simply not put our hands in that roller again, do we change, do we adapt? Or do we die, or will aspects of what we have always known die with our inability to change?

Because that is the raw and real challenge in front of us as the pandemic changes and adapts and modifies and we are challenged by its rolling swells, its cross winds and its storm that thrashes our Island home and the world around us.

But let’s be clear, it is only those that adapt who will survive this storm. And the idea of returning to what we once knew or what we once were, or how we once did things will take our eyes from the horizon of possibilities.

Because in this instance we cannot look back to what was, if we endeavour to sail through this storm and go forward to what could be.

Adapt or die. As difficult as that may be to hear, it is the hard choice.  Just as roller washing machines and tubs were replaced by quicker, faster more adaptive technologies resigning the old tub to the history books.

Return or reset, the choice is ours, but to return to old ways of doing things and hope for a different result is foolishness – when we have the opportunity to hit that reset button hard and see new possibilities rise over the horizon.

We are a country of adaptation, we are a people of adaptation and not a colony.

And yet sometimes, I despair at colony thoughts and colony language, colony thinking with cap in hand, because we are so much more than that.

And why have we survived and flourished? Though the future remains somewhat uncertain, what is absolutely certain is that we still have a choice, and that choice to reset is ours alone to make.


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