Portals | Opportunities

Opportunities will arise out of our current disruption. That message seems to be coming from several quarters over the last few days.

Long term activist, academic and progressive thought leader Dr Sue Bradford spoke a few days ago about a Post COVID 19 world. She noted the potential for greater awareness of the needs of beneficiaries in a context where many more people will be ‘have nots’ rather than ‘haves. In a workshop for Te Taitokerau Social Workers she presented a refreshingly balanced critique of current and past government inaction over the plight of the poor and disadvantaged. It was a biting assessment of how little the current government had done and how the current ‘two-tier’ benefit system was humiliating for pre COVID beneficiaries who received less than half the amount of the newly laid off, more ‘deserving’ poor.

Dr Bradford saw awareness growing of the links between health, racism, climate and economic crises and a younger generation becoming politized. Cracks in the system are being exposed and from these weakened points some movement is occurring. Particularly in race relations but also in other areas.

On a similar note Dr Maia Hetaraka yesterday talked of changes occurring in the education system in NZ and its ways of understanding, ‘supporting’ and cultivating Maori Cultural Competency. With disruptions occurring across all aspects of society conversations can be had that were perhaps not possible before COVID-19. It was interesting to hear her critique of progressive educationalists who perhaps meant well but furthered damaging stereotypes of Maori through policy and biased research practice.

Tricksters and Pores

Disruption and opportunity go hand in hand. We are in the times of the trickster. Tricksters disrupt through breaking the old and then reforming into the new. In the 1998 book Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth and Art Hyde) talks of portals. He describes them as a

pore, a portal, a doorway, a nick in time, a gap in the screen, a looseness in the weave – these are all opportunities in the ancient sense. Each being in the world must find the set of opportunities fitted to its nature”. (p46)

a little later he says that there are

 “Two things the prophetic trickster reveals, the hidden pores that lead out of the mundane world, and the plenitude that lies beyond” (293)

We may imagine that the SARS-CoV-2 is a trickster tool. A virus that mutates. That has unknown and unexpected outcomes on the body and on society. That is porous. It creates opportunities through its disruptive influence on ourselves, our relationships and on the institutions that run our world. It brings issues to the surface to be broken and reworked: Black Lives Matter, Poverty, Mental Illness, Disparity, Homelessness, Complacency.

So any work that emerges from our research into COVID needs to be, in our opinion, generative, tricky, a portal, an opportunity…essentially a movement from one state to another or an exploration of the liminal spaces between states.