what’s your role in this life — how do you know? how did you decide?


What roles do you play in your life? Have you thought about how all of those different hats you wear, the different roles you have and how they fit in the bigger scheme of things?  Or have you ever paused to consider why you value that role or if you want it/like it in the first place? Does it matter what you think? Yup we’re going straight in there, straight off the bat.. walk with me… 

In collective cultures (eg. Indigenous Peoples), the individual roles serve and contribute towards the greater good of the community.  Everyone must fulfil their role for the collective to thrive.  There is no individual without their collective, no collective without its individual parts.

In individualistic cultures (eg. Western Europeans), no surprise because the title gives it away — the focus is on the individual rather than how they contribute to or how they fit into the collective..  They play a role in society, yes, but they have the ‘freedom’ of being their own person and having a separate from anyone and everything else, individual identity.

So when you think about your role, the one you identify with most or the one you value above all others

— what is it? 

People from collective cultures, would most likely say something that identifies them as being part of a community — like daughter, sibling, Māori etc. That’s why we start of all/most kōrero, speeches, hui, gatherings with an acknowledgement to the land, the natural environment and to those who are no longer here.  That’s why we acknowledge whakapapa, because it gives context to us being who, where and what we are today. Whereas individualistic peoples might use words that recognise/showcase their own skills, achievements and abilities, like their job title/role at work.

There’s no right or wrong, just different perceptions and understandings about the roles we have and how they connect us to each other.  But while we’re here and before we wrap this up, reflect on our society for a second.  Think about how many aspects of our collective culture aren’t valued in a Western framework.  For instance, the idea of hāpai ō, of playing a supportive role, to care for and to help develop the individual at the forefront of a cause or initiative.. their role is as important as that of the steward, te amorangi ki mua. 

The ringawera, the workers in the kitchen putting the feast together at the marae.. the unseen heroes who are busy getting the mahi (work) done and keeping everything in order while the attention goes to those on the other side of the wharekai (dining room) doors. Their role is vital to the success of what happens on the marae. Are those roles valued in our society today?

How do you decide what role you might fulfill? Is it based on the attention you might get, the contributions you can make, or some other reason?

He wānanga mā tātou,


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