The Ides of March in Christchurch

by Penelope Swales



The Ides of March in Christchurch was written by award-winning Australian songwriter Penelope Swales in March 2019, following the horrific Christchurch Massacre on March 15, 2019.
In the song, Swales examines three aspects of this event. Firstly, she addresses the shooter himself and the toxic right-wing internet culture that fosters and celebrates such crimes. She expresses shock at the similarity between images of the massacre and the kind of computer games she herself has played for fun.

Secondly she turns to the political response in Australia, where exploiting anti-Muslim sentiment for political gain has been a common feature of public debate in recent decades. She asserts a link between such political rhetoric and how extremists become emboldened to act.

Thirdly, she turns to the incredible outpouring of love and support that every quarter of New Zealand/Aotearoa showed its Muslim population, from Iwi to parliamentary leadership to motorcycle gangs. From “across the ditch” she laments that such an outpouring of solidarity would be unlikely in her own country given the current political environment.

Finally, she highlights “the love that washes Aotearoa clean”. The finale of the song features a powerful cameo from New Zeaand singer and workshop facilitator Matiu Te Huki singing in Maori.

A bit about Matiu:

Matiu Te Huki’s soulful roots music has a strong Maori flavour, using haka, chants and traditional Maori instruments, backed by grabbing grooves, deep, beautifully crafted bass lines and magical melodies. As a composer, the soul stirring messages in Matiu's music are positive, inspiring and unifying. Matiu intuitively nurtures a deep connection with his audience creating the energy that opens portals of paradise.


The Ides of March in Christchurch
© Penelope Swales/Matiu Te Huki

The first-person shooter
switched on his head-cam
sent his manifesto out
to all his mates on 8Chan
Showed off his graffiti
Gave his running commentary
Set off on his fantasy
His real-life Call of Duty

Seventeen minutes of live-streamed horror
1.4 million shares in an hour
Pumped on the airways by Fox and Seven
Despite the pleas of a traumatised nation
The twisted boys in the darkweb cheer
Change their profile pics to his grim leer
They think he's a hero for doing it for real
how the hell did we get here?

The Ides of March in Christchurch
Tell me that didn't look familiar
The Ides of March in Christchurch
That gamers-eye view of real-time terror.

And all our Conservative politicians
Who've been gaily exploiting fear and division
Are suddenly singing from the same hymn-book of tolerance
Change your tune by all means
It's long overdue
But spare me the hypocrisy
Don't pretend you weren't part of what enabled this

The Ides of March in Christchurch
I wish I had an egg for every cynical head in that House
The Ides of March in Christchurch
Oh, Egg-boy, you should grow up
So I can vote for you!

Ohhh – Scomo
Your tilt at statesmanship don't fly
Not after all those years
Of fearmongering about refugees
You want to see what leadership is
Take a look across the ditch
See the pain on Jacinda's face
See her take that widow in her embrace

The Ides of March in Christchurch
But see you here
The wave of love that washes Aotearoa clean
It's no soft target Christchurch
When hate walked through that open door
It only made people love each other more

That strong woman, she rose to the occasion
Put on a headscarf and took that widow in her embrace
Those young men, they danced the Haka
To tell their countrymen and women
You are welcome in this place.
Bikie gangs did security for Friday prayers
“As long as needed” – just to help them feel safe
Piles of flowers in the streets
Tears flowing down every face
Singing outside every mosque
Regardless of faith or race

Now, would you see that in Australia?
(spoken) Now would you?
Or would we see other things?
Let's hope we never find out
Now see you here (te aroha)
Now see you here (te aroha nui)
Now see you here (te aroha)
Te Aroha Nui
Te Aroha Nui
Now see you here (te aroha)
Now see you here (te aroha nui)
Now see you here (te aroha)
The love that washes Aotearoa clean
Aroha ki nga tangata
Nga tangata katoa
Aroha aroha e
Aroha ki nga tangata
Nga tangata katoa
Aroha aroha e
(Translation: The love, the great love. Love to the people, all the people, love, love)


released March 5, 2020
Penelope Swales – lead vocals, guitar
Mal Webb – Bass, backing vocals, stomp
Kylie Morrigan – Fiddle
Matiu Te Huki – vocals
Recorded by Mal Webb, Mastered by Adam Dempsey
Silo mural by Loretta Lizzio - Brunswick, Australia


all rights reserved



Penelope Swales Emerald, Australia

Penelope Swales has been articulating the human condition with passion and humour for 30+ years. She sings about politics, love, friendship, the unbreakable bond between us and dogs and the impact of the Internet on society. She won the 2019 Alistair Hulett Songs for Social Justice Award with “Cambridge Analytica”. “The Ides of March in Christchurch" was short-listed for the same award in 2020. ... more

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