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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 21, No. 2. March 27, 1958

The Mediator

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The Mediator

The mediator was the man between and intimate with two cultures, and his work, whatever it was, was consented to or asked for by the community, said Mr E. Schwimmer.

Turning first to the mediator in the field, Mr Schwimmer stated that he found himself restricted in two ways. "First, there are some parts of himself and the cultural background about which he cannot speak with his new friends, since they would not understand, and second, there are some parts of the community life with which it is not wise to become involved."

The mediator should not become identified with any 'sore spots' of the community, as did a Professor, who criticised Western civilisation before a Maori audience, as a means of getting support. But since the Professor represented Western civilisation to that group he failed; first, because he revealed his personal feelings about Western civilisation, and second, because he had wrongly interpreted the group's attitude to Western civilisation. "The mediator is no mere manipulator of a community; from one point of view he is merely a member of it and he has to play the role the community assigns to him."

It was hard to analyse how one became a successful mediator. Ostensibly the initiative was his but on the other hand he must wait for the Maori to signify that he had been accepted by the community: It was also dangerous for the mediator who had been given a role to assume he had been given any complete authority. In certain rare cases the stranger was offered a full community role, particularly when mediators were sent to an area to introduce far reaching changes in a short time, working through the traditional leadership of the community. In such cases the mediator became an influential leader and the symbol of the progress made even though he did not aspire to that role.

Various motives of mediators

"Thus when the mediator is withdrawn from the people the reforms collapse for the mediator has become more valued than the reforms which he has instituted .... Thus on his departure the only right substitute would be another mediator, the absence of which sees frustration and stagnation set in. It would be better therefore not to set up this kind of relationship if it cannot be maintained."

The motives of the mediator varied greatly, the speaker said. Isolation was one—the person far from town who needed an outlet for his energy. Emotional disturbance or the adoption of the Maori community as the only one where they could be loved and respected, was another. The Maoris were splendid in the handling of such people and made use of what they had to give, as well as soothing and comforting them.

Rebellion against society was the third and most evident cause. People such as those in close contact with Maori communities were regarded with profound suspicion when they tried to influence Government policy. Yet the Government showed much hesitation in accepting their specialist knowledge as for example Maori assimilation, which the mediators advocated but the Government opposed.

"Although the mediators may probably be right the Government suspects the motives behind the mediator's arguments. And their suspicions are fully justified. For I would say about almost anyone of these more influential mediators that he would turn the whole of New Zealand into a Polynesian paradise if he could. These people don't approve of our present civilisation and they dislike the idea of the Maoris having to adopt it. Quite obviously if these people liked. European civilisation why should they choose to live among the Maoris. As a group they are rebels and New Zealand society regards them as such."

Considering the manner in which the mediator benefitted from the culture he desired, saw before him but could never fully take in, Mr. Schwimmer said that normally as in his own case there was an intense relationship. He regarded Maori society as a strange object, the nature of which he wanted passionately to know. The disconnected pieces of knowledge which he collected became a vital part of his personality, labelled 'Maori world' as it were. "Here there were several processes going on at the same time. I saw the Maoris in the way in which they would see each other; I described them in the magazine in a way which would interest them; and I started friendships of a sort in which I was far more deferential than in ordinary life.

Mr E. Schwimmer, M.A., Advisory Officer. Department of Maori Affairs, Editor of Te Hou and formerly Co-Editor of the literary quarterly, "Arachne." New Zealand correspondent of UNESCO features and has contributed to "Landfall," "Numbers" and "Poetry Yearbook."

Two 'selves' thus became apparent—the one wrapped up in community causes and the other with the normal things of everyday life. This was true of all mediators. This phenomenon seemed to fit in and the unconscious, the hidden opposite with Jungian theory which saw the personality as consisting of the conscious being referred to as the 'shadow' per sonality. Psychlogical disorders were explained as the repression of the unconscious part of the self, the remedy being the making conscious of this shadow personality and giving it some work to do. Mr. Schwimmer claimed that it was this emergence of the hidden half which brought about the integration of the mediator's personality. But although the two 'selves' existed in harmony, the second had distinct qualities, being less robust, much better organised, and more able to embrace almost any religion at all.

Have mediator's neurotic tendency?

"Although everyone had a shadow personality, it is only a certain type of people who become mediators. They are not as a rule particularly well adjusted to European civilisation; quite a number I know show a definite tendency towards neurosis, but instead of this impeding their work on the contrary it makes their work possible and the personality is held in excellent balance as long as the mediation lasts .... The difference between the mediator and the ordinary man is that while the mediator lives in two cultures the ordinary man can only live in one.

Because of this the person with the integrated personality was not the best choice as a mediator. A well developed person in an underdeveloped community might well regard himself as a solitary island of Western sanity on a turbulent ocean of non-Western madness, and would regard the people as difficult. On the other hand the person who was looking for integration with another culture was pleased to see how different his new environment was from the detestable European model.

"If the authorities were to accept this principle they could do a lot of good," claimed Mr. Schwimmer. "It is surprising how many people are never very happy in this world, but they could make good mediators ... If a determined effort was made to bring these people together a marked improvement would be seen in the work of such Government agencies as the Department of Maori Affairs and the Maori Schools Service, and at the same time some people would find their right vocation."