In the world of the market, Christmas arrives as theatre of the absurd; for the story of God becoming human, of challenging the system, honouring the poor, driving the money changers out of the temple, being betrayed by a member of his band of guerrillas and crucified by the colonial rulers in league with the local power brokers, takes place within a tsunami of consumerism.
A homeless man appeared in Greymouth on Christmas Eve. We’re not used to this phenomenon. He sat crouched against the Warehouse wall, his bag of clothes beside him, a sign requesting a couple of hours work leaning against his knees. Maybe from the UK? His physical appearance suggested drugs and his youth was worn out.
The Boxing Day sales came and went and for the first time, we took the grandchildren to Tui Farm Folk festival. It was a lovely occasion, two hundred people camped on Carol and Steve’s farm near Tapawera. For four days the kids and adults played, the masks slowly dissolved, the banjos strummed and the violins meditated in an Appalachian sort of way. The kids became a village and no one wore a high viz jacket (how I am coming to hate high viz jackets), or worried about health and safety. One shower served 200 people. I am sure it met none of the statutory requirements for such events, but a winding gravel road kept the bureaucrats away. It would have been good for the homeless man to have been there.
Of course, the folk music movement has its complexities, especially in a colonial culture – who are the folk?- but a South Island rural group singing Poi E dissolved contradiction. New Year’s Eve almost had its meaning restored. If this sort of event can still take place and not be taken over by entrepreneurs and event managers, there is hope for the future. The vehicles remained static, and the rhythm of the strolling adult or skipping child took over, as in a Pacific village. The bush poetry session on New Years Day was often touching. A German read a lovely piece comparing life in Berlin with life at Tui. Her hands shook with nervousness as she expressed this vital thought in a second language. It would have been good for the homeless man to have been there.
I remembered the impulse behind the sixties: we need to sabotage capitalist culture, overthrow it, bury it, for it does too much damage. It is no good negotiating levels of compliance. Let’s really do it.
And avoid the tragedy of the sixties, of letting the impulse degenerate into another consumer item.
I arrived home to find a letter from the PM replying to a submission I had made to her as Minister of the Arts regarding a more equitable deal for the regions. She’d obviously read the submission, considered it, and will take the viewpoint into discussions with Creative NZ. After years of brief formulaic dismissal of attempted discussion, this was rather amazing.
All the best for the new year.
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