THERE’S A MEMORABLE SCENE in “The Good Shepherd”, a movie about the early years of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Matt Damon plays Edward Wilson (a character modelled on the real-life counter-spy James Jesus Angleton) and he is talking to Joseph Palmi, a Mafioso (played by the inimitable Joe Pesci) who asks him an interesting question.
Joseph Palmi: Let me ask you something ... we Italians, we got our families, and we got the church; the Irish, they have the homeland, Jews their tradition; even the [Blacks], they got their music. What about you people, Mr. Wilson, what do you have?
Edward Wilson: The United States of America. The rest of you are just visiting.
Sixteen years ago, “The Good Shepherd’s” screenwriter, Eric Roth, had his hero, Edward Wilson, give voice to a political idea that has only grown stronger among the sort of people who founded, and largely staffed, the CIA in the 1940s and 50s. Not the hyphenated Americans alluded to by Joseph Palmi, but the descendants of the original English and Scots-Irish settlers of the thirteen British colonies which, eventually, became the United States of America.
But, if the open expression of this idea was confined to the better sort of Republican country-club for most of the post-war era, it has – thanks to Donald Trump – escaped. Virtually everything that distinguishes Trumpian populism may be traced back to those two crucial questions: Who is a real American?, and, Who is “just visiting”? All of the hatred directed at ethnic minorities, women, and the gender divergent is explicable only when set in the context of the historical and constitutional expansion of who can be an American citizen.
Moreover, if American political commentator, Brynn Tannehill, posting on the US website, Dame is to be believed, the Edward Wilson understanding of who “owns” America, may, in just a few decades, be the unabashed conventional wisdom of the American Right. Tannehill quotes Larry Ellmers of the ultra-conservative Claremont Institute – with chilling effect.
According to Ellmers, few Americans are willing to accept that:
[M]ost people living in the United States today – certainly more than half – are not Americans in any meaningful sense of the term […..] They do not believe in, live by, or even like the principles, traditions, and ideals that until recently defined America as a nation and as a people. It is not obvious what we should call these citizen-aliens, these non-American Americans; but they are something else.
Inasmuch as most of the political trends and tropes of American politics tend to end up on these shores eventually – and, thanks to social-media, rather sooner these days than later – it would seem sensible to anticipate similar ethno-nationalist sentiments becoming a feature of New Zealand politics.
Fuelling such attitudes will be the sort of statements that got Kelvin Davis into hot water a few weeks ago. Annoyed by the political stance taken by Act MP and Wahine Māori, Karen Chhour, Davis accused her of viewing the world through a “vanilla lens”. Like Edward Wilson, Davis gave every appearance of regarding all those who followed the original inhabitants of Aotearoa as “just visiting”.
(It is worth noting, at this point, that Wilson’s creator, Roth, made no mention of Native Americans, the people who really were the continent’s first arrivals!)
Should the idea become widely accepted that those who share Davis’s opinions of late arrivals “do not believe in, live by, or even like the principles, traditions, and ideals that until recently defined [New Zealand] as a nation and as a people”, then the behaviour of ultra-conservative Pakeha will become every bit as provocative – and dangerous – as the behaviour of extreme Māori nationalists.
Because, of course, these otherwise antagonistic groups have two very important imperatives in common: both must be absolutely committed to gutting democracy and extinguishing liberty. How could they not be, when those who do not share their views of the world possess a great many more votes than they do?
Regardless of whether you’re defending the USA from citizen-aliens; guarding Aotearoa against insufficiently Māori Māori; or upholding the “principles, traditions, and ideals” that define New Zealand as a nation; the one thing you absolutely must be sure of is that the people who are “just visiting” your country, cannot impose their will upon those whose treasure it has been all along.
This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 16 December 2022.
"Should the idea become widely accepted that those who share Davis’s opinions of late arrivals"
Chris, for me the critical word in that sentence is "arrivals". Like it or not, we are all "arrivals" in New Zealand, it just comes down to when. Some of my antecedents trekked through New Zealand cutting bullock tracks and establishing farms in areas that had never seen a human foot.
When maori arrived they wisely stayed close to water and the foreshore so for many to claim a tribal connection to land that their antecedents had never clapped eyes on seems rather sad to me.
In my opinion our country will only ever shake of it's current issues if we all unite to do so and that means descendants of all arrivals and progressing the demands of one group over anothers is a road to ruin.
Every ethnic group that came to New Zealand have contributed to the national stew.
I can easily remember when the only "ethnic" food in Rotorua was a few Chinese restaurants.
Most of the 15 to 20 restaurants in Rotorua's CBD in the 1970s/1980s were owned by what were once charmingly referred to as "continentals".The late Charles (Karel) Pihera, a Czech, opened Rotorua's first licenced restaurant, The Bar-B-Que about 1961. He was also the first owner of Rotorua's legendary Tudor Towers restaurant/nightclub.
But the core of New Zealand culture is undeniably Anglo-Celtic. Our language, political system and legal system come from the British Isles. This is what makes New Zealand such a desirable place to live, as evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of Asians and Pasifika who have arrived here in recent decades.
Correct. That Anglo-Celtic culture, despite all its warts, literally lit up this land and made it productive, and something to be proud of. And you're dead right, something other people's, in other lands, would also want to aspire to and be a part of.
These ideas have always been around in the US, but the Trump administration has made it okay to 'say the quiet part out loud' as they say. In New Zealand, it seems common to say that "we are all migrants" and still dislike the later arrivals, many of whom have course are not white. And the evidence for Republicans in the US and Conservatives all over the developed world undermining democracy is rife. In Italy they are using the courts to silence journalists. In various other countries they are using pretexts to arrest journalists. Elon Musk that paragon of absolute free speechism bans journalists simply for criticising him. And yet Conservatives tend to ignore this in favour of various manufactured crises and the advance of communism.
".....the people who are “just visiting” your country, cannot impose their will upon those whose treasure it has been all along."
Problem you run up against is that many of the so called visitors are now 10 or more generations old in there "visitation".
The feel very strongly that they are no longer visitor but are "born of this land".
Even this Tauiwi has four generations born here. Are they still to be considered "visitors" and not to consider New Zealand as their "treasure".
Your presentation of this separation between "visitor" and Maori comes now on a personal level when one of my grandchildren is a visitor and her half sister is not (same mother but different fathers)?
The time has come to stop differentiating between Maori and "visitors". It is time for Maori to acknowledge all people "born of this land" and who treasure it as much as they do.
For to not consider this fact will lead to a backlash on who is more "treasured".
Undermining democracy is not the sole preserve of right wing extremists. From Vietnam to the Iron Curtain in one direction and Cuba in the other the left has had a good go too.
Anonymous at 8.03 \hat's what it's all about - this living business, humans giving life to other humans, a miracle of complex creation and scientific note, just to help make land 'productive' ie useful to serve some purpose outside what simple-living people need. Enabling some people to amass more of useful goods wanted by others, or goods for which a climate of demand has been created.
We are all immigrants, some groups arrived before others, but that should never preclude later arrivals from having the same rights as the earliest. As Micheal King once noted, we are all just 'another kind of indigenous New Zealander'.
Too many wombs of the mothers of this country have been visited to stir the mix of percentages to be able to draw a division that will make any sense. Who will be deemed Maori? We are all New Zealanders by the choice of "visiting". The fruits of all our wombs must come together and look forward, not back.
Chris is right and Davis' opinions are far from fringe. They're being preached and are taking root. Here are the words from such an indoctrinated young woman aired on Maori TV...
"The Treaty of Waitangi is a covenant for non-Maori to enter by law into New Zealand..."
"...we, non-Maori, are visitors here. So what do visitors do? Maybe it’s to learn."
Chris is also right that this separatism will awaken the Saxon as an equal and opposite reaction and then things will get very ugly.
We are not all immigrants.
I descend from people who came from somewhere else, but I was born and raised here.
Immigrants are people who move to another country, and their first generation offspring usually have strong ties to their parents homeland.
Can you give the name of the dictionary that defines people born in a country, and whose ancestry goes back centuries as "immigrants"?
The last immigrants I descend from are a Danish family that arrived in Wellington Harbour in 1872.
Are the English in England 'immigrants"? Are the Irish in Ireland "immigrants"?
I am a native born New Zealander with roots in this land going back centuries.
I am definitely not an immigrant. Perhaps you are Mr Barrier.
How many times have you watched a Highland pipe band in New Zealand? Did it ever occur that few if any of them are entirely of Scottish ancestry?
Do you query their corpuscular composition? I bet that thought has never gone through your mind.
But I also bet that you do query the corpuscular composition of anyone claiming to be Maori. I have heard the 'there are no "real" Maori' story more often than I would care to remember.
I can tell you who will be deemed Maori. But I can't be bothered.
What I do know is that you, and those who think like you, will not be making that decision.
Shane: "I can tell you who will be deemed Maori"
Good luck with that, I can't figure it out. Some years ago, when filling out a government form I ticked both NZ European and NZ Maori for the ethnicity question. I'm one thirty second Maori and the rest European -Celtic mostly. I recently learned that I'm officially, as far as the health authorities are concerned, a Maori. There is no provision for mixed ancestry, any drop of Maori blood and you're arbitrarily deemed to be Maori. They now ask you to indicate which ethnicity you "primarily identify with" so that's better in some ways but hardly definitive - more subjective - no one I spoke to was very sure what "identify with" even meant. The statistics are inevitably corrupted and God knows what will happen when the health system is divided along racial lines. I'm getting my official ethnicity changed to the one I "identify with" but pushing this racial identity business is a bad idea as far as I can see.
I think the French have the right idea - they have a constitutional requirement that ethnicity, even for statistical purposes, is ignored. Everyone is French - end of.
My father was a visitor. He came to NZ in the early ‘50s to visit his favourite aunt who had married a Kiwi. My father liked it here. And he stayed for a while. Over the next 60-something years he helped hundreds – possibly thousands – of people (at least 90 percent of whom probably identified as Māori) who had got into financial difficulty. And then, one afternoon, he went off for a nap and didn’t wake up. And he did all this without ever holding a New Zealand Passport. Dreadful man. 😊
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