Thursday 22 December 2022

Making All Kinds Of Assumptions.

Changing Assumptions: White supremacy, legitimated through the states’ racial segregation statutes, and enforced by the terror inspired by the Ku Klux Klan, constituted the “normal” state of affairs in the South, and most Southerners could not take seriously the idea of any other system muscling-in on the “Jim Crow” status quo. But, muscle-in it did. In the end Southern Whites were forced to acknowledge (if not entirely accept) a new set of racial assumptions.

ONE OF THE MOST DISTURBING ASPECTS of race-based politics is the difficulty many citizens have in taking racially-driven change seriously. This is particularly the case when the manner in which racial matters have been defined and discussed changes abruptly. Assumptions upon which people have come to rely are deemed mistaken, even dangerous, and they are required to embrace a whole new set of assumptions.

Unsurprisingly, the ethnic groups targeted by these new assumptions will be profoundly affected by such dramatic shifts in moral and political judgement. If it is an ethnic minority being singled-out, then many of its members will become fearful. But, if the assumptions of the majority are being challenged, then many of its members will become extremely angry. Most citizens, however, will struggle to take such shifts seriously. Those making them will be branded extremists, and dismissed accordingly.

For many Jews living in Germany at the time of the Nazi’s seizure of power in the early months of 1933, the idea that their entire ethnic community was about to be threatened by actions infinitely more serious than the familiar antisemitic attacks of Adolf Hitler and his followers seemed preposterous. Germans were, after all, a highly civilised people, and their rulers, beginning in the Eighteenth Century, had been among the first to recognise Jews as citizens. The idea that they could be stripped of their citizenship, excluded from all aspects of social and economic life, robbed of their property and, ultimately their very lives, and all under the lawful direction of the state, was bizarre, unbelievable, obscene. They were right, of course, it was all of those things, but that didn’t make it untrue.

Whites living in the southern states of the United States found it equally preposterous that their “separate but equal” racial regime was about to be dismantled by the federal courts and the United States Congress. White supremacy, legitimated through the states’ racial segregation statutes, and enforced by the terror inspired by the Ku Klux Klan, constituted the “normal” state of affairs in the South, and most Southerners could not take seriously the idea of any other system muscling-in on the “Jim Crow” status quo. But, muscle-in it did. Not all that quickly, and not without horrific violence being visited upon the Black civil rights movement and its leaders, but in the end Southern Whites were forced to acknowledge (if not entirely accept) a new set of racial assumptions.

The role of the federal courts, the Supreme Court in particular, in defining and imposing that new set of assumptions, and of the US Congress in translating them into effective legislation, should not be underestimated. A different Supreme Court, and a differently composed Congress, could very easily have turned back the Civil Rights Movements’ legal and political challenges – as had happened many times before. A less progressive news media might have declined to stir the conscience of northern liberals by suppressing the images of Bull Connor’s fire-hoses and Alsatian dogs.

As the recent judgements of the US Supreme Court have demonstrated, the progressive assumptions that brought down Jim Crow and ushered in a host of related social freedoms, were the products of a particular historical moment. When the Supreme Court struck down school segregation in 1954, the global struggle against the fanatical racism of the Nazis was less than a decade in the past. In 2022, however, the proposition that the liberal victories of the late-Twentieth and early-Twenty-First centuries will stand unchallenged and unchanged forever has clearly been disproved. The hands of History’s clock can move backwards as well as forwards.

The evolution of racial politics in New Zealand has arrived at its own moment of radically altered assumptions. The notion that the colonial state, and the institutions it bequeathed to the nation of New Zealand, are insulated from serious challenge, both by the passage of historical time, and the shared beliefs and values of Māori and Pakeha, is itself being challenged.

An elite coalition of Māori nationalists, backed by sympathetic Pakeha intellectuals located strategically in New Zealand’s judicial, state, academic and media apparatus, has launched an ambitious attempt to “decolonise” the thinking of its Pakeha population, and “indigenise” the cultural, educational, administrative, and economic institutions of “Aotearoa”. This revolutionary constitutional reconfiguration, like the deconstruction of Jim Crow in the American South, is to be carried out with the consent of the white population, if possible; or without it, if necessary.

The key question raised by this strategy is whether or not enough New Zealanders can be convinced of the need for revolutionary constitutional change to overwhelm – either democratically or physically – the objections of those determined to preserve the status quo.

That this is the crucial determinant of New Zealand’s future will not, however, become clear until New Zealanders recognise the prospect of revolutionary change as a serious possibility. At the moment most of the New Zealand population continues to work on the assumption that Māori and Pakeha see each other as equals not adversaries. If they think about co-governance at all, they assume that it is simply a matter of giving Māori a stronger voice in matters that matter to them. Very few Pakeha appreciate that being “decolonised” and “indigenised” is something that will be done to them, in order to change them. When they finally work that out, things could get ugly.

In large measure, the final triumph of the Black Civil Rights Movement was the work of its enemies. The violence inflicted on non-violent protesters. The bombing and burning of churches. The murder of civil rights workers. These were the bloody talismans of segregation and white supremacy that allowed President Lyndon Johnson to assemble his congressional majority for the Voting Rights Act. Dr Martin Luther King understood that only by forcing white racism to reveal itself, could the moral indignation necessary to supplant it be kindled.

A race-driven revolution in New Zealand will succeed only if those promoting it are committed, and seen to be committed, to building a future in which what you are is of less importance that who you are. In Nazi Germany and the American South, what you were, Jew or Aryan, White or Black, was all that mattered. If New Zealand is a nation in which the assumptions of racial equality still hold sway, then any attempt to privilege the ethnic origins of its citizens over their common humanity must end in failure. If, however, a decisive majority of New Zealanders reject racial equality, then the serious consequences of the revolutionary, race-based constitution that is sure to follow will not be slow in manifesting themselves.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 20 December 2022.


Gary Peters said...

I met a guy yesterday that had received hand surgery quite a few years ago whereby his little finger that had been severely broken had been rebuilt by an esteemed surgeon.

I also know of an extremely prominent businessman in New Zealand who has been very vocal in his criticism of the current mob supposedly making our country a better place who has been an avowed and vocal labour supporter his whole life.

I also know of a very prominent politician who has been in politics longer than any other I can recall, has held the highest offices in the land and in fact enabled the initial estalishment of this current government.

Now many will say that the exception proves the rule but I don't.

Sir Peter Tapsell, Sir Ian Taylor and Winston Peters all rose to prominence due to their abilities and efforts, not because they were maori and I seriously doubt any of them would claim that being maori was a disadvantage.

Can someone please explain how colonisation affected so many yet also how that same colonistaion had zero impact on them. Is due to effort, or the lack thereof, or the rising prevalence of a "poor me" attitude that seems to be rife throughout many sectors of our society.

Rick said...

Pertinent thoughts at a time where the 147yo Hawera High School is disestablished and replaced by a new Aotearoa New Zealand 'super school'. All without and against the consent of the Hawera community.


The Barron said...

The better the writer, the easier the manipulation of words and meanings. Let's unpack a few things-

"An elite coalition of Māori nationalists".

I read the word elite associated with Maori a lot in this blog, yet when I see a Jag drive by I never automatically think it is a Maori car. What is meant by Maori elites? Any study would show that the top 5% of NZ wealthiest people disproportionately excludes Maori.

We often get demonization of two Ministers, Nanaia Mahuta and Willie Jackson. Both are at least second generation in Maori social and historical justice fights. Mahuta the daughter of Bob Mahuta who dedicated his life to the Tainui raupatu. Most of those years were of struggle and it is doubtful that he was every reimbursed to the level of others negotiating deals in the hundreds of millions. When it is shown there are two daughters that are educated and involved in issues advancing Maori the now debunked cry of nepotism is heard. June Jackson and her whanau worked at papa level and built through social oganisations and influence on government bodies. Still, Willie started at the shop floor. Elites? Representative of elite?

We have to remember that there has been increasing number of tertiary qualified Maori, and this increased with education funds set up by settlements. Yet if we follow the professions requiring tertiary qualifications, we find Maori under represented in all. Those that get professional salary commensurate to the work and study, they become elites? If we decide Iwi leadership is the elites, then we have to look at other management and CEO salaries in corporations of similar size. We also have to look at the different Iwi constitutions and that most money must be reinvested, distributed by dividend to Iwi members, or put to social projects such as education and housing. Elite?

Coalition? This seems a little conspiratorial. No such coalition exists and if it did it would be public and proud. The fact that most educated have similar views on the Treaty and rights, and those Maori working class have strong similar views, and are 'backed by sympathetic Pakeha intellectuals' ignores the hegemony that has developed as New Zealanders look at, and understand, our history and what we can build for the future. It is noticeable that working class Pakeha, Pasifika and new migrant communities are excluded from your analysis. This ignores what is a growing consensus in NZ.

"The evolution of racial politics", "A race-driven revolution" seems like a dog whistle. The use of the word race is deliberately provocative. As we should be aware, race does not exist as a biological or medical science category. Further, Tahitians, Cook Islanders and NZ Maori are genetically identical, of course only Maori have customary rights, indigenous rights and Treaty rights in NZ. Those rights are inherited rights as descendants of those that had existing rights and ownership in NZ and the signatories of the Treaty. Indeed, NZ Law extended this to include all descendant of Maori in 1840 not just the hapu that signed.

"If New Zealand is a nation in which the assumptions of racial equality still hold sway", I have dealt with 'racial', so let's move on to ethnic equality. NZ is shameful in this, the very assumption is wrong. Where is the equality in health figures? education achievement? the criminal justice system? wealth distribution? House and land ownership or even access to housing? Wage equity? The assumption of equality was 1950s propaganda and is something we should stop lying about and instead strategize for nation building where equity and equality return as goals for a society and government.

Yet those with those social justice aims are dismissed as "An elite coalition of Māori nationalists, backed by sympathetic Pakeha intellectuals". A rustic way to deny the hegemonic development of a nation seeking social justice and post-colonial processes.

Shane McDowall said...

I worry when I hear the Maori Party spouting nonsense about creating a "Te Tiriti-centric Aotearoa".

I suspect that the Maori Party live in their own little echo chamber, blissfully unaware that most New Zealanders view such comments with concern and disdain.

Perhaps the solution is to create a Maori nation state - Northland seems eminently suited - where Maori ethno-nationalists can get on with "Maori solutions to Maori problems": and leave the rest of us in peace.

Bet the novelty of indigenous sovereignty will wear very thin when Rawiri Waititi and his ilk realise that this new state will have to pay its own way in the world.

John Hurley said...

Apparently we have ancient threats and modern threats. Certain things trigger our behavioural immune system such as pictures of children with polio but not so much people on ventilators with Covid.

Ethnic behaviors such as intrusive te reo in the MSM are an ancient threat whereas identity politics based on post-modernism/Critical Theory is probably a modern threat (?).

It seems to advance because the reaction to Anna Penn was initially agreement but then bit by bit people are taken down by the MSM (individual by individual).

Today Bryce Edwards wrote that Ardern cancelled her Waitangi BBQ because of the backlash, and she wants to distance her government from Te Ao (alledgedly) Maori.
They may hope the new ("very violent") history curriculum will do it. I doubt it because ethnocentrism heals wounded self-esteem and they don't really have the facts on their side. History isn't just about collectives; it is also about the thousands of individuals that make up those collectives and is relative to what (also) happened elsewhere (eg peasant uprising in Japan). Jacinda denies scale has significance.

John Hurley said...

"An elite coalition of Māori nationalists".

If you have access to state resources you qualify as elite?
How many people have taught in the Maori Studies faculty over the years?
And it isn't about justice but a paradigm Sue Bradford calls "a rotten system". You know you are an elite when you have a voice.

"Coalition? This seems a little conspiratorial."
Just watch webinars and see who is who.

" The use of the word race is deliberately provocative. As we should be aware, race does not exist as a biological or medical science category. Further, Tahitians, Cook Islanders and NZ Maori are genetically identical, of course only Maori have customary rights, indigenous rights and Treaty rights in NZ. Those rights are inherited rights as descendants of those that had existing rights and ownership in NZ and the signatories of the Treaty.."

The rationale behind multiculturalism is rooted in the principle of universality and liberal pluralism—namely, that what we share in common is more important than any differences that divide. The rationale behind bi-nationalism reflects an essentialist reading of diversity—that is, each group of people is fundamental different, and these primordial (`essential') differences constitute the basis for entitlement and engagement. Recalling Aotearoa

The Treaty is only an agreement when it is honoured. Why isn't it honoured? Just look at the historical background. Jim Bolger says "the resources belong to Maori" but at the same time he thinks he can settle with good will. The rest of us aren't as naive.

Trev1 said...

Is New Zealand administered from some foreign capital? I don't believe so. The UN was substantially involved in the decolonization process from the late 50s, particularly by running plebiscites that enabled the local inhabitants to choose the future path of their country. New Zealand I believe still fronts up to the UN Decolonization Committee every year as the Administering Power for Tokelau, because Tokelau has proved reluctant to let its "coloniser" depart.

What is happening in New Zealand under Labour is not decolonization, it is ethnonationalism and it is all about supposed ethnic and cultural differences and the claim by one ethnic group to possess authority over the land ("mana whenua", a recently confected term that has no tradition prior to the late 20th century), and New Zealand's waters "mana whenua", on the basis of being first arrivals. Labour is indulging this divisive and destabilizing move on the country's resources to maintain its grip on the Maori seats, not to make New Zealand a better place. Nothing good can come of it. As the Proverb says, "he that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind".

Barry said...

Theres no doubt that the idea of co-governence raises many questions in the minds of both Maori and non'maori
The idea of equal votes for all is a basic property of fairness. It seems this concept is at risk.
For myself I look at the All Blacks haka with the sound off and I can see immediately why maori kill their children at a murderous rate. Such a culture really has mo nasis in apdern society..
As for "White Supremacy" as its known today - its about better educated people making better decisions - although at the rate the Ministry of Education is going in a few years there wont be a lot of better educated people be the brown or white - with the exception of Asians who have a culture of self help and seem to top every category at prize giving.

Anonymous said...

"Maori killing their children at a murderous rate"
What happened to the cutting down of vituperation announcement of yesterday. Such abhorrent comments like above should not be published

The Barron said...

John, there is a running theory that you may really be Paul Spoonley in a Robert Louis Stevenson "The strange case of Dr Spoonley and Mr Hurley" phenomenon.

DS said...

I'm not sure your example of the US South is a particularly good fit for your argument. Or at least not the twentieth century South.

Southern Whites were familiar with the Civil War and with Reconstruction. They knew what the North was capable of... which is why they put such emphasis (in ideological terms) on the Lost Cause, and (in practical terms) the ability of the Southern Senators in the US Congress to block anti-lynching measures. They saw Jim Crow as a hard-won victory that needed to be maintained (and up to Woodrow Wilson, extended), lest the 1865-1877 period return. The developments of the 1950s and 1960s was only preposterous for them in the sense that the tool they had used to achieve Jim Crow (the US Supreme Court) was now turning against them. But the concept of the North muscling in, to enforce racial equality on the South? That was not preposterous. That was something that had haunted them for nearly a century.

Thomas More said...

In response to The Barron, yes, Chris's language is very strong, but let's look at what the activists he refers to are proposing:

(a) that the claimed authority of the New Zealand government to make laws for all is a "myth", since Māori never ceded this authority to the British Crown (Claire Charters, Auckland University, chair of the He Puapua committee),

(b) that New Zealand should have dual governance arrangements, one system for Māori and one for non-Māori, with 50:50 co-governance on matters that concern both communities (He Puapua), and

(c) that Māori own the natural resources of the country (such as water) and can impose conditions, such as levies, on their use by non-Māori (He Puapua).

This is not merely "pie in the sky" thinking: elements (b) and (c) have already been implemented in the recent "Three Waters" legislation.

If we keep heading down this road, the value of your vote as a citizen and your ability to access the natural resources of the country will depend on your ethnicity.

No one denies that this is a matter of radical constitutional change. Is there really a "growing consensus" in its favour? Or are most New Zealanders simply unaware of how radical it is?

Thomas More said...

Barry, please don't generalize about Māori: it looks like simple racial prejudice. And don't judge Māori culture by the All Blacks' haka. If you must assess a culture by one of its productions, why not choose the Mōteatea (Songs) collected by Sir Āpirana Ngata and translated by Pei Te Hurinui Jones, many of which are very beautiful.

Anonymous said...

In the 1950s and 60s Maori unemployment was lower than non -maori. And Maori children were not being killed by caregivers. Mind you single parents and revolving men in families wasnt known then.

From the 1960s onwards Maori cultural revival got going and as that developed unemoyment started rising, involvment with the criminal legal system increased and childhood abuse steadily increased.
Now dont quote "colonisation"
because if true it would have been around in the 1950s.
Calling observations 'Racist' is just stupid. Try and explain the deterioration of urban and rural maori society using facts.
One big factor is that those Maori in power keep telling "my people" that its all someone elses fault. That doesnt help anyone.

DS said...

In the 1950s and 60s Maori unemployment was lower than non -maori. And Maori children were not being killed by caregivers. Mind you single parents and revolving men in families wasnt known then.

Neither was unemployment, of course. This was the era when New Zealand's unemployment rates were negligible - rather than the current system where the elites freak out over unemployment getting too low. Unionism was compulsory, and rich pricks were actually taxed

If you're going to invoke the 1950s and 1960s, at least remember that this was the era before 1984, with all that entails economically.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Calling observations 'Racist' is just stupid."

Actually, no it isn't. If your "observation" is incorrect or missing some of the context, then it certainly is racist. If for instance you make an "observation" about the "fact" that black people in the US commit more crimes, and omit the fact that black people in the US tend to be over policed, and treated differently by the justice system than white people, it's racist. It might be simple ignorance, it might be disingenuousness, but it's still racist. You have an obligation not to be sloppy in your observations. I think DS has already pointed this out.

Anonymous said...

Every society rests in the last resort on the recognition of common principles and common ideals, and if it makes no moral or spiritual appeal to the loyalty of its members, it must inevitably fall to pieces.— Christopher Dawson

It appears that the despots surviving in any ideology that today passes itself off as a democracy will fall to pieces.

John Hurley said...

Dr Turbott on 3 Waters [35:00]