This Community Called New Zealand

It has been a terrible week with the Pike River Coal mine explosion and disaster. And now with the second explosion and acceptance that there will be no survivors comes finality. We all dislike the intrusions of the news media yet it is this same intrusion that has enabled us all to share in the news and to share in the grief. Somehow this media machine is maintaining and highlighting a national sense of community. We don’t like them intruding on the grief of people and families. Yet somehow this allows us to grieve with them and for them.

Maybe it is time we stopped shooting the messengers and started appreciating them – a bit? Just as the news machines have brought us news of the disaster, so it must have brought the Greymouth community some idea of the interest and feelings of the rest of the country. Would the only thing worse than having the massed media descend on you at a time like this be to not have them turn up?  Does it help to know that the rest of us are caring and hoping and hurting as well? I guess that it does. Maybe the news media is something safe to criticise and blame.

Grief is a terrible thing and it is also a process. The first couple of stages are denial and anger. We’ve seen a collective denial over these first few days and now we’re seeing some collective anger. “How did this happen?” “Who is to blame?” “Why did the Police not attempt a rescue?” “Why was the mine-entrance video not shown earlier?” “What would a policeman know about coal mining?”  Seeing how widespread these questions are shows how widespread our grief is.

I’ve been privileged and heartened this morning to see discussion of the disaster among my teenage daughters Facebook friends. Who says our younger generation don’t care about their community? Who says they are only interested in themselves? This brought home to me a sense that this is something which has affected our whole country. Which brings me back to thoughts about our national community.

Watching the TV this morning a Greymouth radio man was asked about what makes the West Coast community special. He answered that maybe it is more a case of what the rest of the country has lost. It is a good point. Rather than looking at the West Coast and asking why they have such a strong community, we need to look at ourselves and ask how we lost it. Or whether we have lost it. Because to an extent today we are showing a national sense of community. And we are using different communities to traditional ones. Last evening we were glued to our televisions. In some way we are TV communities. Facebook communities are coming to terms with the disaster on the internet.  I bet the on-line motorhome forum will be discussing it. We are lots of communities and the wonderful thing in this awful time is to see is that we are still a national community.

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