IF EVER Labour’s Māori Caucus had a duty to speak up for the people they represent, it was during this past week. There is a viciousness abroad in New Zealand that would happily abandon unvaccinated Māori to their fate. Rejecting out-of-hand the many explanations for the markedly lower vaccination rate among Māori, those lusting to slip the bonds of Covid will insist that the rest of New Zealand (by which they mean Pakeha New Zealand) should not be denied their “freedom” because of the resistance of an ill-informed minority.
This ruthless racism will be turbo-charged by the suppressed resentment of many Pakeha at what they consider to be the Labour Government’s “Maorification” of New Zealand society and culture. What these people would not express publicly in relation to issues like the country’s name, they will happily give voice to under the cover of fighting the good fight against Covid-19. Regardless of their misgivings about the Opposition parties plans for “opening up” New Zealand, they will seize the opportunity to pressure Jacinda Ardern’s Government into adopting National’s and Act’s policies.
These, as always, are informed by the racism of the Right’s electoral base. Not overtly, of course, those days are gone, but covertly, in measures which will inevitably impact with maximum force upon Māori, Pasifika and other “brown” New Zealanders.
The window dressing of National’s support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, itself the product of John Key’s symbolic coalition agreement with the Māori Party, hid his government’s deliberate and persistent neglect of education, health and housing. That the negative consequences of that neglect would impact Māori most forcefully was always known to National’s policy-makers. Also known, however, was how closely Pakeha well-being and Māori deprivation remain interwoven: how important it is for Pakeha to know that they will always be doing better than their Māori compatriots.
This racial advantage must not only be statistically evident, it must also be driven home at practically every location where the Pakeha-dominated state, and disadvantaged Māori, interface. Not only when stopped by the Police, but also at the courts, schools, hospitals, Housing New Zealand, and, with special and refined viciousness, at Work and Income and Corrections. National had no need to court controversy by giving public voice to the deeply racist sentiments of its members and supporters. They knew that Pakeha public servants would be right there, every day of the working week, inflicting the necessary pain and humiliation on their behalf.
It was under the National Government of John Key that a further refinement to the growing racial cruelty of New Zealand society was effected. While property speculation and rack-renting have always been ugly features of New Zealand society, the rapid expansion in landlordism that accompanied the twenty-first century property investment boom brought the Pakeha owners of multiple rental properties into dramatically unequal relationships with Māori, Pasifika and a host of other disadvantaged and marginalised communities. Such relationships are practically feudal in their deeply embedded inequalities.
The pale face of this new vector of racial exploitation could not remain forever in the shadows – but it was willing to try. The rapid rise in the number of “property managers” showed the lengths to which wealthy Pakeha would go to mask their cruelty and greed, not only from their hapless tenants, but also – and more importantly – from themselves.
One suspects that a great deal of the Ardern-led Labour Government’s rhetorical support for all things Māori, which has been such a feature of their time in office, is driven by the awareness of how little it has done to destroy National’s malign legacy. Certainly, there is no escaping the fact of Labour’s abject failure to address in any meaningful (let alone “transformational”) way, the displaced Pakeha racism so deeply embedded in New Zealand’s legal, educational, health, housing and welfare systems.
Promising to make a compulsory, highly revisionist, version of New Zealand history available to all schoolchildren will in no way address the fact that, on any given day, as many as 50 percent of all Māori students are absent from their places of learning. Or that, with every passing year, Māori fall further behind their Asian, European and Pasifika co-learners. Nor will a rapid expansion in the number of Māori health bureaucrats necessarily put an end to the third-world diseases afflicting Māori children, or the epidemic of Type 2 Diabetes debilitating Māori adults.
Compounding all of these failures is, of course, the crowning disappointment of the Ardern Government: its inability to get on top of the devastating housing crisis that is destroying any chance of bringing stability or hope to working-class Māori families.
But just as, in the memorable language of the Prime Minister, “the virus is literally finding unvaccinated people”, it is also seeking out all the weaknesses and injustices inherent in New Zealand society. Every street in which 15 people are crowded into a single dwelling. Every family from which an exhausted human-being sets off every day to do the essential work that keeps New Zealand society going, for a wage that is too low to keep her family going.
The virus is finding Māori and Pasifika people where we have herded them, exploited them, humiliated and alienated them. If they are fearful of and/or refuse vaccination, then who gave them the best reasons for feeling frightened and mistrustful? Who insisted upon a country in which its original inhabitants always have to come second to the people who took it from them?
That sudden darkening of the Pakeha sky is caused by millions and millions of chickens coming home to roost.
What we heard from the Beehive Theatrette on Monday afternoon (4/10/21) indicates that Labour’s Māori Caucus has held the line – for now. There will be no sudden introduction of vaccine passports – a move which would instantly transform the many thousands of unvaccinated Māori into an acutely vulnerable pariah class. A move which, by alienating Māori even further from Pakeha, would expose far too many of the tangata whenua to the deadly effects of Covid-19’s Delta variant.
The task for Labour’s Māori Caucus, now, is to move heaven and earth to convince their Pakeha colleagues to pass the reins of the next critical phases of the vaccine roll-out into Māori hands. To supply all the resources required to let Māori convince Māori to get the double-jab.
Not the least of these resources would be an iron-clad promise from Jacinda and her Cabinet that, when Covid is finally beaten, the work of building an Aotearoa-New Zealand in which no virus can ever again seed itself amongst racial injustice and economic exploitation, will, at long last, begin.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 5 October 2021.
With regard to the rentier class and racism Chris I'm not convinced. They do it to their own, they do it to anybody. Racism is coincidental, the primary sin is avarice. Greed.
To cover the greed any excuse as to the greater worth of the rentier gets expressed, racism comes in useful, but the big one is always class based virtue signalling. Like "They could have the same if only they worked harder or went to school" or "They had the same opportunities as me". Anything to deflect any possibility that the playing field is very sloped.
It helps to lump the disadvantaged into Lazy Maori, FOBs and White Trash. That's NZ as the PMC rentier brigade see it, and they vote Labour or Nat in the certain knowledge that nothing will change. Saint Cindy the kind hears the pain, she is not going to do anything.
What a lot of mind reading Chris?
Racism my foot.
Government and its agencies and it's lackies and Maori leaders and Maori MPs have been treating Maori and Pacifica like children for years. Telling them that their low socio-economic status is due to racism or bias or boomers or white males or colonisers or landlords, etc , etc has encouraged them to behave like children. Is it any wonder that they behave like children when push comes to shove.
Only yesterday one of the co leaders of the Maori party was blaming the health system racism for slow vaccination. She should be pushing vaccination if she was in any way serious and honest.
Those people you are blaming for the current mess (like mr and mrs smith)are well past worrying and are getting tired of this constant excuse making.
Iys interesting to look at the actual data
Before launching in to a racism rant.
The stats are clear Maori over 50 are doing Ok, over 65 close to Pakeha numbers.
Its the under 50 Maori who drop away in the stats.
So the argument that Maori are hard to reach/different blah blah
Seems to suggest that the over 65yo Maori live someplace different to the under 50s.
Sorry Chris, nice try but no coconut.
A lot to digest here. But I will give an attempt at a response.
Structural changes to health and an inclusive look at history curricular will have some positive affect. Neither have been put in place yet, but there is reasonable evidence that students engage when they can identify with the teaching approach. All history is revisionist or it is stagnant. I am sure that Chris would agree that monocultural history is not a fit for a multicultural society. I have stated previous that the History teachers are trained professionals, with at least two degrees and on-going professional training. What is being offered now is ensuring Maori and other group history is part of the professional delivery. Inclusion will help address the absenteeism that results from institutions that Maori do not feel engaged in.
Similarly, the changes to the structure of health delivery could address some of the problems that the vaccination roll out has in communicating with and engaging with Maori at all levels. It is unfortunate that it has not been in place to help manage this outbreak, but it would be foolish not to factor in lessons from vaccination program as the changes are being put forward.
I note you comments on the Maori Party and how they succumbed to National's blankets and beads. While I am critical of Rawiri Waititi's ridiculous posturing at the beginning of the vaccination roll out, I will note that Whanau Ora should be a vehicle to assist communication to Maori communities.
I agree with your major argument that not enough ground work was done in preparation for Maori engagement, and that this failure may hold up the different level moves. However, most of the forecasts are based on over 90% of those over 5 years old. We have yet to approve and roll out to the 12 - 5 year olds (pfizer has been approved in the USA for this), and increasing evidence from Israel and the States that a booster shot might be required.
We also have to factor in that the demographic profile of Maori is different. An aged based roll out was always going to get a greater percentage of Pakeha over Maori. For many Pakeha, when their age group came out they already knew friends and family members that had been vaccinated through the age roll out. With a younger population, there was a need to ensure Maori had an early identification with those vaccinated. That did not seem to happen.
The final note links with the first. With the health system failing Maori in the past, and the education system not acknowledging this, what is left is a quiet distrust that is difficult to engage with. With this the solution is to regain this trust by empowering and funding Maori health initiatives, as we see in this situation - it is complimentary to the wider health aims.
A significant portion of the population - including Yours Truly - couldn't care less about the freedoms of Auckland Business and Media types. Keeping the plague out is, and always has been, our priority, and until we've got a concrete idea of what the death toll of endemic Covid involves (500 annually? 5000 annually?), we cannot open up to the rest of the world. Frankly, opting out of the rest of the world on an indefinite basis feels like a Damned Good Idea.
The problem is... when the working class inhabitants of South Dunedin (no friends of neoliberalism!) have done their bit, and when dirt-poor Pasifika have done their bit, and when elderly Maori have done their bit, that leaves some major question marks hanging over the younger/North Island Maori vaccination rates. Question marks that cannot be dismissed with mere appeals to racist/economic alienation. Don't forget that younger Maori in the upper North Island were the 2020 epicentre of support for Jami-Lee Ross and his band of Far-Right nutters.
What do you make of the Chris Trotter?
It looks like the horse has already bolted re vaccine passports with businesses, air lines and events declaring they will bar any of the unvaccinated, the un-clean, from entry. Perhaps a special, complimentary, brown passport is required Chris. Perhaps it's already being considered. That'll go down a treat.
I don't know why the Maoris have a lower vax rate, has anyone asked them properly? Looks like a lot of the "explanations" are simply made up to suit. There was a push, while supplies were restricted, to prioritise Maori vaccine access and no shortage of quite alarmist messaging about their supposed (but unsubstantiated) vulnerability as an added incentive.
As far as my observations go I see the problems with Maori being underprivileged being result of their addictive personalities. They are placed in this position of always being short of money as a result of poker machines Liquor stores and McDonalds being everywhere and the iniquitous tax on cigarettes. What these things would do to the community were clear and obvious from the get go and any government that is serious about helping these people should deal with these items. When I resided in the far North a new owner of the Houhora pub got rid of the pokies resulting in a huge and dramatic improvement for the local community. I won't hold my breath for any changes though, to many greedy people Govt included would loose money.
Turns out that "front of the queue" Hipkins has been dishonest AND incompetent. Pfizer had to hassle our useless government for six weeks to even arrange a meeting to place our order.
DS, I too want to get some idea of the deaths expected if Covid becomes, as seems inevitable endemic.
I have done some reading, there are some issues with the numbers simply because deaths of people with Covid are recorded as from Covid. The WHO site makes this point and provides good numbers as does the CDC site. It appears however that the age profiles haven't significantly changed, mortality increases exponentially after 70. The figures that may be instructive are the excess or deficit of deaths expected annually. These indicate that after the first spike predicted mortality from all causes normalises. NZ hasn't had a spike due to the effectiveness of our lockdown. So will Covid take a seat alongside the flu as a major cause of mortality especially for the elderly? Jury is out, only time will tell.
If you are worried about your own risk try this Oxford University calculator https://www.qcovid.org/Home/AcademicLicence?licencedUrl=%2FCalculation
Yet the Asian part of NZ has the highest rate of vaccination. Maybe they are being pushed to the front of the queue by the nasty colonial system.
Or perhaps they are taking advantage of free health care that has no consideration of race.
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