Friday 30 September 2022

Reality Bites.

Repeat After Me: Te Ao Maori is a metaphor, not a place. Te Tiriti o Waitangi is not a bridge, it is a highly contentious political document. Human-beings inhabit one world, not many.

KELVIN DAVIS believes that Karen Chhour is looking at the world through a “vanilla lens”. 

Racially-charged sentiments of this sort used to be reserved for embarrassing Pakeha uncles, a little the worse for drink following a big Christmas Dinner. Family members winced at the old man’s reliance on “Māori blood” fractions to determine who was, and wasn’t, a “real Māori”. 

Equally embarrassing, however, is the spectacle of a Māori cabinet minister belittling an Act MP of Ngāpuhi descent for refusing to leave “her Pakeha world”. New Zealanders of all ethnicities now need to confront and deconstruct Davis’s objectionable ethnic dualism – because it is extremely dangerous.

Challenged in the House, by Chhour, to account for Oranga Tamariki’s treatment of vulnerable children, Davis, the responsible minister, responded: “What the Member needs to do is cross the bridge that is Te Tiriti o Waitangi from her Pākehā world into the Māori world and understand exactly why, how the Māori world operates.”

What, exactly, is the Minister trying to convey with these words?

Essentially, Davis was declaring the existence of two quite distinct realities – Māori and Pakeha. Viewed from the perspective of Pakeha reality, the behaviour of Oranga Tamariki may appear to be egregiously negligent – even cruel. But, viewed from Te Ao Māori, its behaviour may be construed in an entirely different way. The key to unlocking this profound ontological problem is Te Tiriti – or, at least, Te Tiriti as currently interpreted.

The contemporary interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi would have us believe that it set out to define the relationship between Māori, Pakeha, and their respective instruments of governance. That it was, indeed, a document intended to regulate the interaction of two very different realities. Two ethnic worlds, which were to remain separate but equal in perpetuity.

In 1840, such ethnic dualism made a certain kind of sense. When the Treaty was signed there were barely 2,000 Pakeha in the whole of New Zealand, and about 80,000 Māori. The world beyond New Zealand had a foothold on these islands, but not much more. For most Māori, their world was the only world – all contact with the islands to the north having been broken centuries before. The idea that, in the space of less than 30 years, the world of these strangers might overwhelm their own would have seemed preposterous to most of those present at the signing of the Treaty in February, 1840.

Most – but not all. There were Māori at Waitangi who had crossed the Tasman to Sydney. Some had made it as far as Europe. They knew that this much larger world, hitherto oblivious to the existence of the Māori, was unlikely to leave their people in peace for very long. They had seen the ships of the Americans and the French anchored in their bays, and they were as aware as the British authorities that the New Zealand Company would soon be causing all kinds of trouble for iwi and hapu south of Lake Taupo.

However prettily the Treaty expressed the fiction of kawanatanga and tino rangatiratanga accommodating each other’s needs in peace and harmony, the Māori world would not long survive its collision with the rest of Planet Earth.

And so it proved. Call it the inexorable march of “civilisation”; call it “colonisation; call it the making of the New Zealand nation; call it what you will. Te Ao Māori soon ceased to be a description of reality and became, instead, a metaphor. And metaphors are poor armour against the real weapons of one’s foes. The Pai Marire faith may have reassured its warriors that a divine power would deflect the Pakeha bullets – or turn their soldiers to stone – but the imperial troopers cut them down regardless. In the end, there is only one world.

Kelvin Davis knows this as well as anyone. So why is he insisting on treating metaphors as if they were scientific facts? The only rational answer is that he, along with those controlling the increasingly powerful Māori corporations arising out of the Treaty Settlement Process, intends to alter the political reality of New Zealand in such a way that the Māori aristocracy, and the te Reo-speaking, tertiary-educated, professionals and managers of the Māori middle-class (the only Māori worth listening to?) will soon be wielding very real authority over the rest of New Zealand.

Included among “the rest” will be all those Māori without te Reo, without tertiary credentials, without six-figure salaries. Māori struggling to make it through the day in a world that has little sympathy for the poor. Māori without proper housing. Māori on the minimum wage. Māori lost to drugs and alcohol and crime. Māori whose kids suffer horribly for the sins of their fathers and mothers. Māori with backgrounds identical to Karen Chhour.

Chhour was demanding to know what Davis was doing for these, the most vulnerable inhabitants of her world, the real world, the only world. And all he could offer, by way of an answer, was a metaphorical bridge to a world that disappeared 250 years ago. A world which certainly cannot be conjured back into existence by a Minister of the Crown who does not care to be questioned by a wahine Māori who, all-too-clearly, sees him struggling to do his job.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 30 September 2022.


Max Ritchie said...

Brilliantly put, Chris. You have identified the core of the problem.

John Drinnan said...

Well said. A class analysis on racism. The reality is that it has become more common for elites - both Maori and pakeha that suggest the ' not Maori enough' argument, which sometimes comes close to meaning' The wrong kind of Maori' Worryingly, the minister of broadcasting Willie Jackson has made the attack as well\.

Gary Peters said...

It would seem that like many in this current government they do know, but don't care.

In the six figure bubble they inhabit, the feelings and opinions of those outside that bubble are rarely, if ever, presented to them in such a way that demands a solution and it it was, they still wouldn't care.

Kelvin is merely a symptom, not the problem.

Odysseus said...

I think you are correct in your analysis. What you describe so well is the basis on which "co-governance" is being constructed. The idea that "all humans are born free and equal in dignity and rights", which is the basis of democracy, is being discarded and replaced by rule by race-based elites. That is where identity politics leads and that is the politics of today's "Left". People need to be aware that this is the fast approaching next stage of New Zealand history. if they will be so foolish as to let it happen.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I might be more sympathetic if I thought that ACT cared one whit about vulnerable children. Karen Chhour might, and so she should, but her party doesn't really give a shit. To them they are just kids of people who "made poor choices". Social Darwinism at its finest.

Kat said...

Kelvin Davis made the mistake of thinking out loud his distaste for ACT and what it stands for with his retort to Karen Chhour. Lets face it ACT is the party that wants to close Ministry for Maori Development, Ministry for Woman, Office for Crown Maori Relations, Ministry for Pacific Peoples, Ministry for Ethnic Communities......

Kelvin Davis at least on reflection had the good manners to front up and apologise. All good grist for the lazy media mill though, identity politics is the main game in town these days.

Anonymous said...

Haha, I'm Maori when my family want something, but not Maori enough when I disagree with them. I still have to come to grips with just how much percentage I need to be to identify as Maori, or what beliefs I must have to fit in with the whanau. Guessing there's a few of us feeling this way.

David George said...

Yes Chris, there is clearly a powerful faction within the Maori elite now sufficiently emboldened to believe they can indeed operate in an alternate reality. He seems to believe that the rules don't apply to him, that he and his cronies are above the laws that apply to the rest of us. A very good discussion from Bryce Edwards on the dodgy goings on with the Tamihere outfits.

The other thing that came up last week was The Maori Party's claim of genetic superiority. The closing of the circle - from Blut und Boden (blood and soil) to the übermensch -superior human? AFAIK their website still has this up. I don't think they should take it down either - the people can plainly see what we're dealing with here.
Here's an interview with Meng Foon on this.

David George said...

A very good essay on this from Casey Costello;

The rules of engagement have been defined and the penalty for this behaviour was evident in the Prime Minister’s embarrassingly weak evaluation of “he was wrong in his statements being just too personal.”

Really, he was wrong because the comments were too personal? Come on………….

Knowing Kelvin’s supporters will come after me and yet again criticise me for not being Maori enough to comment, I might soften the blows a bit when I mention that my great grandfather and Kelvin’s great grandfather were brothers.

It seems in New Zealand we are not championing the aspirational words of Martin Luther King in that we are not seeking to have our children valued on the content of their character but rather judged on the subjective measure assigned by Kelvin Davis.

But, to Karen Chhour, you are the representative New Zealanders need if we are serious about achieving better outcomes. You have my whole-hearted support.

After receiving the apology, Karen replied with dignity that she hoped that there is a “pathway to move forward and have constructive debates in the future”. These words make Karen more qualified than Kelvin to be a representative of the people of New Zealand.

Don’t let them divide us.

John Hurley said...

Here is something else.
Overwieght, low income; over 65 but driving school bus; renting old house; type two diabetes;
white. New meds would cost $400/script

Overwieght, low income; over 65 but driving school bus; renting old house; type two diabetes;
Polynesian ancestor. New meds would cost $5/script.

P.s the latter also has artificial leg due to car accident in youth (as a passenger).

greywarbler said...

Re David George -
Quoting Casey Costello as if all should know about this person and what they think.
So FYI this is some about this person:
Casey Costello is an Auckland-based manager for a privately owned building services company and mother of two. She has a background of 14 years Police service, mostly in South Auckland, followed by a range of government and private sector management roles.

Casey takes pride in her Ngapuhi and Irish/English heritage, valuing her large extended family and the examples set for her to work hard and give back. Her turangewaewae remains in Whakapara, north of Whangarei.

I don't know if this disdain for the moves to meet Maori wishes is helpful.
What is needed is willingness to work at finding how to best do so, trying to contain those expectations to what can actually be done and be effective, so improving their lives and rights and also those of us all here in NZ/Aotearoa.

Kat said...

"But, to Karen Chhour, you are the representative New Zealanders need if we are serious about achieving better outcomes. You have my whole-hearted support......."

Get real David, Karen Chhour is more likely to achieve better outcomes if she was in ANY other party than ACT. About as realistic as being a member of Action Zealandia and advocating better outcomes for anyone who wasn't white.

Gary Peters said...

"Racially-charged sentiments of this sort used to be reserved for embarrassing Pakeha uncles, a little the worse for drink "

Just a further thought.

As a youngster growing up as the only non maori kid in the area I can assure you it wasn't the old white uncles that racially abused me. Not only was it the kids it was the bulk of the parents as well. Had the oldest woman in the street not taken me under her wing my growing up would have been more interesting that it was, and not in a good way.

One of the things she told me was not to listen to them as they were "slave people". She regarded herself as high born and had little to do with the rest of the maori in the area.

I asked her once why she sat in the back seat of their car when she went out for a drive with her husband and her answer "if it's good enough for the Queen it's good enough for me". ��

Anonymous said...

You’ve clearly never read their education policy

Anonymous said...

How do you justify their existence though?

D'Esterre said...

GS: "Social Darwinism at its finest."

That isn't at all how ACT's education policy reads. I recommend it to you. It's possible that you won't agree with all of it, but social darwinism it certainly isn't.

D'Esterre said...

Kat: "....ACT is the party that wants to close Ministry for Maori Development, Ministry for Woman, Office for Crown Maori Relations, Ministry for Pacific Peoples, Ministry for Ethnic Communities......"

Once upon a time, I'd have been horrified at this suggestion. But not now. Those ministries have no place in a modern multi-ethnic representative democracy.

Kat said...

D'Esterre..........Would you also include the Maori electorates and the Treaty of Waitangi as "not having a place in a modern multi-ethnic representative democracy...."

D'Esterre said...

Yes of course. Because they don't. The Maori electoral system is a priori racist. Those of us who campaigned against the apartheid systems of many years ago, know this full well. Or ought to know it.

With regard to the Treaty, I can read it in both languages. What you see is what you get. There are no principles, no mention of partnership or co-governance. Nor would there have been, given its nature, and the environment of the time.

It's patronising in the extreme to suggest - as some people do now - that the signatories didn't understand what they were signing. That they did was made abundantly clear at the Kohimarama conference 20 or so years after the signing.

In a modern representative democracy, ethnicity or identity must of necessity be personal, rather than part of the political system, as it is here.

So long as the Maori electoral system exists, NZ isn't a representative democracy.

Anonymous said...

Same here. I’m Māori but would quickly be accused of being a plastic Māori if I shared my political views in an open forum (free speech, one person one vote, resources allocated on the basis of need, not race etc).