I just went to a function about THE VISION OF NEW CHCH. You know the drill. Where we’re going. How we sell ourselves. How we recover. How we get Them back: Tourists. Locals. Events. Money.
I’ve been to so many of these things over the years. Held by banks, insurers, real estate agents, tourism organisations, and government agencies. It’s all very similar. It doesn’t actually matter who this one was held by. It’s all nice, aspirational, emotive, slideshows – put together by entire marketing departments – showing pretty images of the Port Hills, beaches, the Avon River, the mountains. Happy families, together, eating ice cream and riding mountain bikes. Laughing. They’re always laughing. And the sun is always shining.
Never a grey shingle parking lot, on a drizzly July day, in sight.
This evening we got told that the future is about changing the narrative. That we have to change the narrative if we’re gonna move forward. Oh. But we need to celebrate the past too. Who we are. Where we have been.
Exploration was a big theme. EXPLORATION! THE PAST! The exploration of the first four ships back in 18-hundred -and-something. How brave those first settlers were! Then there was the exploration of Shackleton. How brave he was! The scientific exploration of Rutherford. How bold he was! Our past! Let’s celebrate our PAST! And how BRAVE and BOLD Canterbury is.
Oh. Except for the earthquakes. We don’t like THAT. We need to steer away from that. That negativity. Let’s change that narrative.
But you see, I have a problem with that.
They won’t even use the word anymore.
I’m sorry. But it is who we are. It always will be. And no amount of glossy laughing-family marketing will ever change that.
I’m not saying dwell on it and make it THE DRAWCARD of our Cracked City. I’m not wanting us to be stuck in the past, wallowing in grief. I don’t ever want to be a Disneyland of disaster tourism…I never, ever, want that. That’s not who I am.
But to also say ‘let’s move on from that’ feels a little fucking hypocritical whilst you have a museum in the CBD literally called QUAKE CITY that is all about showing artefacts and selling souvenirs of these very events.
But I don’t wanna be a Disneyland of all things perfect and new either. You can’t just ERASE this disaster. This grief. This trauma.
There can be a balance.
The horrific past can live alongside the new and the progressive.
In fact, without that past, we wouldn’t be who we are now.
It doesn’t need to be one or the other.
We can’t just erase it just because it’s hard. Because it’s unpleasant.
My shitty past relationships and problematic ex-boyfriends don’t cease to exist just because they didn’t work out. I can’t just erase them (yeah, sure I sometimes wish I could) . No. Instead. I grow, I learn, i become a better, stronger, more interesting person because of them. They become a part of me. You turn them into a positive. But they’re still there.
Our horror, grief and trauma don’t cease to exist just because a marketing team decides it’s not the positive spin we want to put on a place. We can’t just erase them. Instead, we grow, we learn, we become better, stronger, more interesting as a result.
To erase the past is an insult to those who we lost.
We can have both. We can absorb. Acknowledge. But evolve. Move forward.
New Orleans talks about, and embraces, Hurricane Katrina. And still thrives.
New York talks about, and embraces, 9/11. And still thrives.
We can talk about our earthquakes. And still thrive.
Outsiders want our stories.
We want our stories.
We NEED our stories.
In 150 years they will be standing up there, talking about how brave and bold us residents of Cracked City were. I promise you that
This will always, ALWAYS, be who we are.
Whether you like it or not.
So embrace it, you morons.
– Bonjela x