Tuesday 15 February 2011

No Ordinary Bill

Liberty Leading The People: The principle of equality has long been regarded as indispensible to the achievement of liberty. The Marine & Coastal Areas Bill, by establishing the new property right of "Customary Title", will enshrine in law a power that only Maori may exercise. By negating the principle of equality in this way, the National Government threatens the freedom of all New Zealanders.

THE GOVERNMENT’S DECISION to rush through the remaining stages of the Marine & Coastal Area Bill is as ill-considered as it is dangerous. For this is no ordinary piece of legislation, easily repealed by a newly-elected House of Representatives. It is a bill which confers upon Maori, by virtue of their indigeneity, a new kind of property right (Customary Title), along with a powerful new set of legal powers to enforce that right – powers which the legislation’s many critics believe will undermine the generally accepted principles of liberal democracy.

The formal equality of all citizens lies at the heart of the liberal-democratic state. Indeed, any state which invests one part of the population with more rights than another, or strips a minority of citizens of rights enjoyed by their neighbours, is quite rightly condemned for promoting inequality.

The historical path towards full political equality has been anything but smooth. Revolutions and civil wars have been fought to secure its full recognition.

The right to elect a government, for example, was originally restricted to high-status men of property. And even when the property qualification was abolished, women remained excluded from the franchise. In most colonial societies the indigenous population was denied any role at all in government.

The key point to acknowledge here is that, from the 18th to the 21st Century, the expansion of human rights has been a genuine progression: from privilege and exclusion – to equality and increasing participation.

Our own founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, reflects the logic of this progression. The absorption of New Zealand into the British Empire (Article One) is followed by a clear description of how the transition (from tribal society to modern state) is to be managed (Article Two). The document is then concluded by the granting of formal equality to all of Queen Victoria’s new subjects (Article Three). By the standards of the time, this was an extraordinarily generous arrangement – a triumph of missionary zeal and the British Foreign and Colonial Office’s liberal optimism.

Until relatively recently, that liberal optimism did not appear to have been misplaced. Through much travail, and many injustices, the transition of the Maori people – from pre-modern tribalism to full citizenship in a modern state – seemed on the point of fulfilment.

In the 1970s, however, New Zealand intellectuals’ faith in this progressive vision faltered. The reality of economic inequality, coupled with the persistence and institutionalisation of racial prejudice, undermined their confidence in the assimilationist policies of successive New Zealand Governments. Maori intellectuals, in particular, rejected the liberal-democratic assumptions upon which assimilation was based. Maori, they insisted, possessed an indissoluble and separate identity, which could only be protected in and by Maori-controlled institutions. Article Two of the Treaty – which guaranteed tino rangatiratanga – was not a formula for transition, but a charter for the permanent preservation of tribal power and independence.

The extraordinary fact of the past forty years of our history is the manner in which this bold rejection of Captain Hobson’s famous declaration of 6 February 1840: he iwi ko tahi tatou (now we are one people) has become the official policy of the New Zealand State.

Not, I hasten to add, the policy of the New Zealand people – who have never been given the opportunity to formally endorse – or reject – the separatist "two nations in one state" orthodoxy which now prevails in our universities and throughout the public service. Though these latter groups celebrate "The Treaty Debate", the term is cruelly inappropriate. The only issue up for debate among New Zealand’s elite policy-makers is the speed at which our liberal-democratic institutions should be "adapted" to the new bi-cultural orthodoxy.

The Minister for Treaty Negotiations, Chris Finlayson, has unabashedly located himself alongside the Maori Party at the sharp end of this sham debate. His airy sanctioning of the abrupt curtailment of the Maori Select Committee’s consideration of the Marine & Coastal Areas Bill made a nonsense of his Government’s earlier promises of democratic accountability.

The overwhelming majority of submitters opposed the legislation (a situation which the Prime Minister, John Key, had previously reassured the electorate would cause the bill to be withdrawn). No matter. Mr Finlayson, like the leader-writer of The NZ Herald, clearly holds the view that there must be "a gradual acceptance that a post-colonial state cannot be governed simply by majority rule".

There’s simply no way Mr Finlayson and his Maori Party allies are about to let a few "clowns" prevent them from exploiting a wavering and wafer-thin majority in the House of Representatives to pass a piece of legislation inimical to the democratic beliefs – and rights – of all New Zealanders.

Dissatisfied Maori nationalists in Tamaki Makaurau are organising a hikoi of protest from the north against Mr Finlayson’s bill. Perhaps dissatisfied Pakeha democrats in the south should do the same?

This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 15 February 2011.


peterquixote said...

Be careful Chris, printing heresy can get you burned. Think about the Rabids over at Kiwipolitico and shudder, and then there's Bomber Bradbury and Tim. The wrath could be torrid.
We will send you the address of a safe house by email dude,

Madison said...

Excellent article and I'm so happy to see such a respected speaker for much of the left finally call this. Equal rights and protections are what we need, but the course that this country is on is not that direction.

Should many current Maori leaders and politicians from all parties get their way NZ will end up with either a legally enforced elitism by race or with a horrible regurgitation of the failed "Separate but Equal."

I think too many people mistake the idea of keeping a culture and heritage alive with the need to be totally separate from everyone else.

It also brings up the push for many to claim an having an 'indigenous' political leader as the true show of equality. I believe that the true show of equality is when the person's racial makeup has absolutely no bearing on how we view them. Sadly, all too many countries are a long way from this, but pushing for separate laws, schools, benefits and jobs to be determined by race will do nothing to further equality and everything to destroy the chances of getting there.

Great analysis Chris to point out the difference between and dangerous mistakes around equality and racial favoritism.

Anonymous said...

It is like when National rammed through the unpopular ETS. Nick Smith was nearly attacked in the South Island that's how unpopular it is, and now this new legislation (The Marine & Coastal Areas Bill) National is trying to ram through isn't just unpopular with its own supporters, A majority in the Maori Party do not support it.

If National forces this legislation through, the Maori Party sacks Hone Harawira to keep corporate Iwi and their National overlords happy, Pita Sharples could well loose his tamaki makarau to Shane Jones - Most of Hone Harawira's Ngapuhi people are urban and live in West Auckland and Manakau you see...

Anonymous said...

Elders from the National Maori Council have called for another hikoi from Northland to Parliament to oppose the new Marine and Coastal Area Bill.

Kuia and Kaumatua of Tamaki Makaurau present at a Public Meeting held last week expressed their concerns related to the statements that have been made by the Maori Party co-Chairpersons, Dr. Peter Sharples and Tariana Turia.

The Kaumatua and Kuia of Tamaki Makaurau have moved a vote of no confidence in the Maori Party leadership.

Selwyn Muru an esteemed Kaumatua of Ngati Kuri who resides in Tamaki Makaurau said, ‘we were very dissatisfied with the Takutai Moana bill as put out by the Labour Party and we are equally dissatisfied with the bill put out by the National Party,’

The Kaumatua went on to say ‘how dare the Maori Party leadership trample the Mana of our Tupuna.’

Mr Muru further stated ‘that as a result of this and our immediate concerns for the Mana of Maori we are calling for everyone to prepare to Hikoi (March) against the Takutai Moana Bill.’

Networks have been alerted throughout Aotearoa to prepare for a Hikoi to oppose the Takutai Moana Bill.

maps said...

'pushing for separate laws, schools, benefits and jobs to be determined by race will do nothing to further equality'

It's this sort of facile generalisation which exemplifies the weaknesss of too many debates around biculturalism and binationalism.

Would Madison really want to argue that kohanga reo (schools aimed speficially at Maori), the Maori Language Act (a law concerned specifically with Maori), the scholarships for disadvantaged Tainui which are a provision of their Treaty settlement (benefits accruing to Maori but not Pakeha), and the Maori curatorial jobs at various museums (special jobs for Maori) have done anything to advance the cause of equality in New Zealand? All of them have had readily appreciable beneficial effects over recent decades.

Laws and institutions which are specifically concerned with a particular ethnic group (the word 'race' isn't very helpful) may be oppressive, as they were in apartheid South Africa or in 1950s New Zealand, when Maori were forbidden to drink alcohol in many places, to serve on juries considering cases involving Pakeha, or to practice their traditional religion.

Equally, though, laws focused specifically on an ethnic group can be beneficial. Laws and institutions which acknowledge that a state has a multi-national character and attempt redress for past oppression of a national minority are different to laws which enforce monoculturalism and deny national rights.

The fundamental question is whether New Zealand should be a multi-national state or not. Are we one nation or two? Were Maori assimilated by Pakeha, or have Maori maintained and do they wish to persist with their own separate national identity (or identities) and institutions? This is an argument worth having - Chris and I have been having it intermittently for a couple of years* - but it can only be pursued if the cheap and easy rhetoric is laid aside in favour of sociological and historical analysis.

*For instance:


Anonymous said...

John Key's government in their desperate attempt ot create a long term ally have alienated a core constituency.
Hopefully his party MP's realise their future depends on the Foreshore and Seabed legislation being defeated and are prepared to vote against it

Anonymous said...

Fat chance, John Key is more than willing to ignore what the public thinks, he is pushing for asset sales and privatisation after all.

Anonymous said...

If the left had any sense, they would be leading that hikoi.

You would think that public ownership of our outdoor recreational estate with universal access and enjoyment by everyone, from beneficary to rich-lister, would be a bread and butter issue for the socialist minded.

But oh no, when it comes to the iwi elite, you can have what you like bros, national parks (the Ureweras come to mind), beaches, forests, parks, rivers, lakes, the list goes on...


Madison said...

Maps I think you've shortened the thoughts in the ideas I've posed. I didn't say that all things aimed at ethnic groups were bad, but by constantly working to keep them separate it does become bad.

Pushing for schools that would exclude whites would be just as bad as anything the other way around. The horrible joke of an idea with 2 votes for every Maori is as racist as anything I've heard in years.

This total argument about what becomes beneficial assistance versus hat becomes separatism isn't simplistic in any way. But the pushing by many who are proclaiming in exact terms that they want total separation and specific rights to their ethnicity only makes that one argument simplistic.

Another point in this debate is how much participation in the total society are people willing to commit to? Coming from another country I couldn't fathom the idea of ethnically exclusive seats in Parliament. Do this in any other country and the UN and liberals would be calling for blood.

Having seen that the Maori population is almost double the proportion of seats allotted I still can't see why they remain. I feel that to focus all that energy on who gets elected to reserved seats works more now to limit the power of Maori in Parliament.

The whole of it does come down to whether this is a single nation or not. To continue to declare the need for having separate boards and memberships and representation works to enforce and institutionalize ethnic differences as major points of difference where people can never properly mix.

To date most of this has been working to make up for past wrongs, but in the current situation to continue on this path starts to cause more damage than it repairs.

jh said...

Maps Says:
"It's this sort of facile generalisation which exemplifies the weaknesss of too many debates around biculturalism and binationalism.

let's cut through the crap: Maori are claiming ownership of foreshore and seabed as these were part of the territory of various iwi at time of colonisation. Non Maori will be "visitors" and membership of the foreshore and seabed owning club will be based on bithright... or that is the "Maori World View" taken to its conclusion. No wonder the Maori party (and Maps and co) get about 2% support_ and that's generous).
Trot-ter is the Man!

jh (again) said...

I suppose Maps and co are the "left-tauiwi" (foreigners in this land) referred to by Sue Bradford here:

Anonymous said...

Note that none of Chris' critics have adequately responded to his underlying point: identity politics is fundamentally illiberal. Vast amounts of ink have been spilled in attempts to avoid this obvious fact.

maps said...

jh: I've noticed you knocking about in the comments threads on my blog that discuss this issue: you exemplify the problems of glibness and dismissiveness I mentioned. You can't expect people to engage with you when you regard a view of this issue which doesn't accord with your own as 'crap' which can be instantly dismissed. Chris Trotter may share your opinion on this issue, but he manages to discuss arguments and treat his opponents with a modocum of respect, and thus ends up taking part in some dialogues, rather than in monologuing.

Madison: who are the 'many' Maori who are proclaiming they want 'total separation'? If 'total separation' means secession and the founding of a Maori state, let alone the founding a Maori state from which Pakeha are excluded, then the number must be vanishingly small. By contrast, considerable numbers of Pakeha do, in my experience, want to maintain 'total separation' from Maori culture and institutions which express Maori national identity. Unlike Maori, they are able to more or less do this - nobody is forcing them to learn some words of Maori or go on to a marae or learn about the peculiarities of Maori ways of doing business.

What many Maori do in my opinion want is not 'total separation', but rather recognition that they are a national minority (or national minorities) within New Zealand
and the establishment or strengthening of institutions which allow them to preserve this status.

The fundamental question, then, and the question which you fail to consider, is whether Maori are a national minority or not. Were Maori assimilated to Pakeha in the nineteenth and twentieth centiry or not? Are we one really one nation, or is there an indigenous nation persisting uncomfortably alongside, or rather beneath, a Pakeha settler nation?

If Maori are a national minority, then Maori seats in parliament are not simply 'ethnic seats' - they are (despite their origins as an exercise in nineteenth century Pakeha gerrymandering) acknowledgments of the fact that we have two nations inside one state.

The popularity of the seats amongst Maori - and Maori aren't automatically placed on the Maori roll, they have to want to be there - reflects the widespread Maori belief that their identity and interests are not recognised by the vast majority of Pakeha. Many Maori believe that an MP elected by a Pakeha majority is going to act like a Pakeha politician, even if he or she is Maori. The careers of many Maori MPs who have been elected by general roll seats confirm this suspicion: the likes of Winston Peters and Ben Couch have outdone their most redneck Pakeha colleagues in Maori-bashing.

For vast numbers of Maori, the abolition of the Maori seats would be tantamount to the abolition of democracy. It's one of the very few acts which could conceivably lead to civil war in this country. Not even Don Brash was really serious about attempting it.

Pakeha Kiwis might be able to understand the way many Maori feel about the abolition of the seats if they imagined that New Zealand were annexed by the United States and yoked to the state of California, so that Kiwis were allowed to vote alongside Californians for that state's governorship.

Most of us would feel horror at such a situation, because we'd recognise that, even if we had formal demcoratic rights, those rights would be hopelessly diluted by the fact that we were a small minority amongst a culturally different and economically powerful majority largely ignorant of our interests and history.

maps said...

The notion of a multi-national state - of a state armed with institutions which protect and advance the interests of its national minority - should not be an alien one for the left.

Most states run by radical left-wing governments have had a multi-national character. The Soviet Union was a radical experiment in multi-nationalism until Stalin centralised and Russified it, effectively destroying experiments like the special homeland set up for Jews and the positions reserved for various national minorities in ruling bodies.

Today Bolivia and Venezuela are both attempting to build multi-national institutions: Bolivia has devolved many state powers to indigenous regions, and Venezuela has reserved sets in its parliament for representatives of its indigenous nations.

Even in the United States there is a left-wing tradition of support for multi-national statism, and for the right to secession of indigenous peoples. Leftists have supported the national rights of Indian groups, and in its 1930s heyday the Communist Party called, along with a number of black leaders outside the party, for the establishment of an independent black nation in the south.

I don't mention all these examples because I agree uncritically with all the policies of the Soviet Union or Bolivia or the Communist Party of the USA, but just to illustrate how wrong you are when you suggest that the notion of a multi-national state and specific institutions and rights for national minorities has no place on the left.

You continue to present the notion of Maori having 'specific rights' as evil, but fail to deal with any of the examples of specific rights for Maori which I listed. I'm genuinely curious as to what you have against kohanga reo, the Maori Language Act, the clauses in the Auckland Museum Act and similar pieces of legislation which mandate the creation and maintenance of Maori curatorial teams at museums, and so on.
I rather suspect, though, that you haven't bothered to find out about laws and institutions like these.

Barry said...

Chris - I have to say that I am surprised by your article. I completely agree with it, but your history of promoting class struggles and confrontation would seem to indicate a possible degree of support for race (aka: class) confrontation !!!.

Ive still got to learn a lot yet obviously.

I have the feeling that this biculturalism thing is starting to go a bit religious. Much like the climate thing with the 'Believers' and the 'Deniers'. Several religious groups have certainly embraced this aparthied approach (the Anglican Church are big followers - sorry - believers).

With anyluck we will see more of the Auckland advisory board thing and this will hopefully raise some serious questions about this whole thing. Unfortunatley many younger citizens actually believe things like - "Well it their country" I heard a young 23 year old tell me - she is a 4th generation NZer. I wonder where she thinks she belongs? I wonder if she ever thinks where her taxes go? I wonder if she ever thinks about the fate of her (probable) children? etc

Things will be better when all NZers say they are New Zealanders first and then maori or christian or moslem etc second

Anonymous said...

Some unions will no doubt be joining the Hikoi from Northland to Parliament, like unions supported the maori seats in Auckland and the last foreshore and seabed hikoi.

See you in Wellington, Chris Trotter.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Maps

I have nothing but admiration for the Kohanga Reo initiative. It was born out of the Maori community and, at least initially, funded and run by Maori themselves. Nor do I object to the Kohanga Reo centres now being supported by public funds. Most of our community-based, not-for-profit organisations are supported in this way.

And who could sensibly object to Museums, Libraries or our National Archives making special provision for the preservation and support of Maori culture?

There is, however, a very large difference between supporting an indigenous minority's culture and publicly funding efforts to preserve its language, and a legislative effort to invest that minority with legal rights, and access to valuable natural and mineral resources, which their fellow citizens cannot share.

Enshrining ethnic and cultural differences in the laws of a single state is exceedingly dangerous. It is difficult to conceive of a policy more likely to breed resentment, fear and hatred. Events in Bolivia and Venezuela may yet prove the unwisdom of their leaders' still very new constitutional reforms.

The essence of any state is the establishment, within a defined territory, of a single source of authority, and, even more importantly, a single (by which I mean a largely undifferentiated) citizen.

So-called "multicultural" nation states (as opposed to empires) do not have a very successful track-record. It seems to be only a matter of time before even the best-intentioned and most welcoming of nation-states (like the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden) turn against the "auslanders" - the outsiders.

New Zealand is unique among nation states in having such a large indigenous minority living amongst the settler majority.

I often feel as though both Pakeha and Maori are part of some grim sociological experiment to discover at which precise point efforts to preserve the rights of an indigenous people trigger a devastating backlash by the settler majority.

My great and abiding fear is that New Zealand is fast approaching this "precise point".

Had Don Brash won the 2005 election we may well have passed it more than five years ago. If he had, I shudder to think what this country would have become.

maps said...

Well, we have this in common, Chris - Don Brash makes us both shudder!

But I'm not so sure that the argument for kohanga reo can be detached from the argument for binational or multinational institutions within a single state. A couple of years ago a member of the Afrikaans community on Auckland's North Shore called for Afrikaans immersion schools in areas where the language was widely spoken at home. He wanted Afrikaans-speaking kids to be able to study maths and biology and so on using their language. The advocate of Afrikaans immersion schools was roundly criticised, even within his own community.

But if New Zealand really is one nation, and Maori merely represent one ethnic minority amongst many, then what separates the kohanga reo movement and the institutions it has established from the proposals of the North Shore Afrikaaner? Why should the state spend large sums funding Maori, rather than Afrikaans culture? Why is there much more public support, even amongst Pakeha, for kohanga reo than for Afrikaans immersion schools?

Answers to these questions surely have to refer to the fact that Maori are more than any old run of the mill ethnic group. They are a national minority. Public funding for kohanga reo implicitly accepts this proposition, and thus seems like a gesture in the direction of a binational state.

I probably shouldn't have talked only about radical left-wing governments when I discussed multi-national states and members of parliament reserved for minorities, as I'm not sure whether Madison identifies with the radical left (in any case, it might be argued that 'the radical left' is a rather nebulous term).

If we turn to less revolutionary societies than the Soviet Union in the decade after 1917 or contemporary Venezuela and Bolivia, though, we can still see many examples of plurinational instituions within a unitary state.

Madison claimed that seats reserved for an ethnic minority (I'd call them a national minority) like Maori would be condemned by the UN and by world opinion if they appeared anywhere outside New Zealand, but they are in fact a feature of quite a number of bourgeois democratic political systems. To give three examples: India reserves a proportion of seats in its parliament for its indigenous peoples, Croatia reserves seats for various minority groups, including Italians and Serbs, and Belgium reserves a certain number of seats in its parliament for Flemish representatives. I haven't noticed the UN getting too upset about these arrangements.

Anonymous said...

"But if New Zealand really is one nation, and Maori merely represent one ethnic minority amongst many, then what separates the kohanga reo movement and the institutions it has established from the proposals of the North Shore Afrikaaner?"

I'd say history.

It's generally (and probably not wholly correctly) accepted that Maori gave up claims to state power in exchange for citizenship and perpetual recognition as the indigenous people and possessors of the indigenous culture of New Zealand.

Political entities often have historical obligations which may in some respects conflict with contemporary norms, but which cannot be abandoned without revealing the entity as an untrustworthy contractor. So it is with New Zealand's colonial origins. No such obligation exists towards Afrikaaners, Pasifika, Indians, Scots or any other "set" of persons.

Chris is right in that New Zealand faces a choice of whether it will remain a liberal state, committed to the idea that political dealings take place in a public sphere according to universally contracted rules of right and evidence, or whether it becomes a state in which public rationality is displaced or radically reduced in favour of bargaining between "identity coalitions" in which the only measure of right is what you can bargain for (it's a wholly deregulated marketplace of ideas).

The latter is what the right have long wanted, since it displaces questions of right and justice with mere wheeling and dealing. Thus, it is no accident that the National Party has invested much in pushing resolution of Treaty issues in that direction.

If left wingers think that this is acceptable, one wonders how they would like to see it if we were dealing with a strong religious right rather than Maori. Ask an Israeli leftist what that is like.

jh said...

Political entities often have historical obligations which may in some respects conflict with contemporary norms, but which cannot be abandoned without revealing the entity as an untrustworthy contractor. So it is with New Zealand's colonial origins. No such obligation exists towards Afrikaaners, Pasifika, Indians, Scots or any other "set" of persons.
The problem I have is when culture becomes scripted as in:
"6. Our tikanga determines that :
We are tangata whenua – we are the hosts for all who visit this country (and hence need to determine immigration policy)
We have a duty of manaaki manuhiri - we are obliged to look after our guests and ensure they are well-treated and respected.
And if they decide to stay then they need a good understanding of our tikanga so that we can all live here in harmony.
We also need a good understanding of our guest’s tikanga so that we know how to look after them properly.
Pākehā settlement and introduced legal system has not and can not change these fundamental values and principles but it has made it very difficult for us to carry out our responsibilities." Margaret Mutu

Hana O'Regan sounded silly when she told how she said a karakia to "placate the god of the earthquake" after being implored by her child.

Similarily Te Puni Kōkiri's "Maori Cultural Advantage" is Government sponsored spin doctoring =propaganda?.

peterquixote said...

Trotter's article above is a major evolution in thinking.
I ask all readers just to read again, read the article.
Vote here dudes.

barry said...

The article finishes:
"Perhaps dissatisfied Pakeha democrats in the south should do the same?"

Well they wont. And there are lots of reasons.
1. They actually dont have the time to take off from work and family to do this.
2. They feel that the maori nationalism thing is out of control and strongly supported by many in the Govt - so whats the gain in fighting it.
3. And like many similar thinking maori, the know that if things go really pear shaped - that they will just up sticks and go to Ausy.
4. But most importantly they know that the maori nationalism/multicultiralism concepts are faulty and will inevitably fail. Sure they might have to take a long holiday in Ausy while it falls to pieces, but a country rent with seperatism is bound to fail.

maps said...

'Political entities often have historical obligations which may in some respects conflict with contemporary norms, but which cannot be abandoned without revealing the entity as an untrustworthy contractor'

The New Zealand state and the ruling class it represents have never been worried about being perceived as 'untrustworthy'. Solemn agreements with Maori have been thrown out the window, and civil liberties have been happily curtailed in the name of combatting 'industrial chaos'. The state didn't agree to fund kohanga reo out of the goodness of its heart - it did so under pressure from a long-running Maori protest movement.

Why has there been no similar protest movement involving Chinese New Zealanders wanting Chinese immersion classes, or (a solitary crank excepted) Afrikaaner New Zealanders demanding Afrikaans schools? The answer, surely, is that Chinese Kiwis and Afrikaans Kiwis are ethnic groups, not national minorities like Maori. A national minority has an elaborate history of conflict with a larger nation, a history of establishing institutions which express the desire for autonomy from the larger nation, and a history of campaigning for the recognition of its distinct status.

Madison began by asserting that equality should be a basic principle of the left. I agree, and I'd argue that the kohanga reo movement and the state funding it has won increase equality in New Zealand, because they help put the languages of the two constituent nations which make up New Zealand on a somewhat more equal footing.

maps said...

'the maori nationalism/multicultiralism concepts are faulty and will inevitably fail'

I'm curious: is it all nationalisms which are bound to fail, or just Maori nationalism? If this is the case, what's so uniquely reprehensible about Maori nationalism?

And multiculturalism will inevitably fail, too? Are you suggesting Pasifika and Asian Kiwis along with Maori nationalists are part of the problem? What would a non-multicultural - and therefore, presumably, monocultural - New Zealand look like, anyway? You're not a member of the ye olde New Munster Party, are you?

Anonymous said...

"The problem I have is when culture becomes scripted as in."

The nature of the obligation is vague, because the Treaty itself is vague.

Pretty much every New Zealander would regard Maori to be recognised as the indigenous people of New Zealand, the collection of practices and beliefs labeled "Maori culture" to be recognised as the only indigenous culture of New Zealand; Te Reo to be identified as an official language of our country, and so on.

That stuff can be fairly easily tacked on to the contractualist, liberal conception of the state in such a way that it does not significantly violate public reason, or a universalist conception of rights.

To take an example: the government has an obligation to support minority broadcasting as a matter of welfare provision for those minorities. However, the obligation to support Maori broadcasting is not like that (although it does perform that function). The obligation to support Maori broadcasting is just part of the government's obligation to support public broadcasting, because it was agreed at the beginning that Maori culture is the indigenous culture of NZ.

All of this sort of thing can be done without recognising any rights that are different in kind from those that everyone else has or sources of evidence that aren't in principle available to everyone. For example, property rights (even if these are properties owned by collectives).

Where it starts to get poisonous is when we move into identity politics. Identity claims are typically not open to public refutation (that is why identity politics often comes hand in hand with forms of cultural and epistemic relativism).

Imagine a case in which fundamentalist Christians started demanding that the law be changed to reflect their religious views on the basis that their god demands it, although that is unverifiable to the rest of us.

Identity politicians are more or less doing the same thing: asking that laws affecting everyone be changed on grounds that nobody else can verify (i.e. these are our cultural beliefs and you must respect them because we say so). Applied in all cases this has the effect of doing an end run around the possibility of meaningful public, political discussion, and reduces politics to mere bargaining among interest groups (the fact that many political science graduates actually think that this is liberal politics shows how terrible our universities have become).

The right have long wanted this, because eliminating or reducing public rationality has the effect of eliminating or reducing the justifications for welfare state provisions as a universal right justified by a social contract based on a conception of public reason (as in Rawls and others). What replaces it is the absolute minimum required to effect co-operation between interest groups, which is a simple system based on legal enforcement of freely made agreements, and that is, as we all know, what the right want – a political consensus which excludes universal welfare rights.

And people on the left still haven't noticed that it is the National Party pushing this. The identity politics/multicultural brigade are the right's "useful idiots".

Anonymous said...

"The state didn't agree to fund kohanga reo out of the goodness of its heart - it did so under pressure from a long-running Maori protest movement."

You're missing the underlying point. It isn't about political pressure per se, but the form that political pressure takes.

To wit: one can protests that one's rights are being violated where these rights are in principle (a la Rawls or some similar contractualist account) justifiable to everyone else in the community, or one can protest that one's rights are being violated where one has simply claimed the rights as a matter of political identity and excludes everyone else from querying or verifying the rights claim.

Maori have done both. The ones that tend to be big wins, because they are less "controversial" are ones where other New Zealanders have (correctly in my view) seen that the universal human rights of Maori have been violated. After all, it is fundamentally reasonable to ask to be treated according to the same rules as everyone else.

jh said...

"I'm curious: is it all nationalisms which are bound to fail, or just Maori nationalism? If this is the case, what's so uniquely reprehensible about Maori nationalism?"
In other countries we fight to defend the borders of "our country" and put our arms across our hearts but Maori are claiming to be tangata whenua and Pakeha are "visitors". Pakeha can never have mana whenua as it is an inherited status. Maori are claiming aboriginal title to territories and recources held as at colonisation (less areas legitimately acquired).
As for who is a Maori Maps argues it isn't about the number of European versus Maori ancestors but a cultural identity. An official Maori therefore is a mixed race person who blames the earthquake on the earthquake god a pakeha (or mixed race New Zealander) blames plate techtonics.

Barry said...

Why will ..'nationalism/multiculturalism' fail.

Human nature - thats why.
Nationalism and multiculturalism are pretty much the same thing - its just that one is a step further than the other.
Nationalism (or independence really) fails wherever it raises its ugly head. By 'fail' I mean one of three things.
1.The group becomes dis-enfranchised. (it withdraws from or is shunned by the rest of society)
2. The group is re-absorbed and the separatism desire dies or
3. the original 'state' flys to bits.
What never happens is that the group becomes separate stable entity within the original state.

Good examples are the Balkans - where the original states have fallen to bits (or some will say 'back to where they were before Tito came along'). Another example is Canada where the Quebec lot wanted out - but they slowly saw the stupidity of what they wished for and at the moment it seems they have seen the advantage of being a co-operative section of Canadian society. (and anyway France told them that they didnt want anything to do with a separate Quebec!! – France told them that they would be second class Frenchmen!!!)

Take a good look at New Zealand - there are readily identifiable groups of Dutch, Germans, Italian, Dalmatians, Chinese, Scandinavian, etc, etc, as well as the UK peoples. Also there are another groups – Jews and muslims - who have a religious culture rather than a country culture.

These groups all happily exist in and with society while retaining those parts of their culture WITHIN their groups. However they all regard themselves as New Zealanders. What they dont do is claim to be (for example) Dutch, or German.

Its when people of these groups raise a claim of NOT being a New Zealander that trouble starts. And its the same in all other countries. David Cameron’s recent speech to EU parliament is an indication of how uneasy the UK now feels about multiculturalism. Maybe Enoch Powell wasn’t far off the mark.

Currently in NZ we have various groups who want their culture to be paramount. Maori is one such group. Muslims are another such group. These two groups don’t see themselves as New Zealanders.

Unfortunately this desire is incompatible with the concept of a democratic society.

Loz said...

The Maori Representation Act of 1867 was in recognition that Maori had been effectively disenfranchised as voting rights were restricted to land-title-owning males and Maori owned land collectively.

The initial creation of Maori seats was an attempt to bring Maori participation into the single legislative process, certainly not (as was suggested) an acknowledgment of "two nations inside one state".

Great piece Chris.

Alan Rhodes (Alan) said...

Professor Margaret Mutu's concept of this land as belonging to Maori who acted as 'hosts' to increasingly difficult tauiwi 'guests' is interesting.

It also places ethnicities other than Maori in a permanent position of secondary status.

Somehow it doesn't quite sit with Hobson's concluding words on the Treaty Grounds: "Now we are one.."

No matter. Thinking, entangled as it is with emotional colour/gender/culture stuff is the essence of Political Correctness; a disease not restricted to professors.

After all, who would believe that a Taniwha's hide-away could change the course of a Waikato motorway.

The hospitality of many Maori craniums to self deception and inverted thinking is creatively infinite, as are the antics of others in shrill orchestral support.

Suggesting that a Maori child has some special Tangata Whenua greater entitlement than that of the fifth generation citizen of European or Chinese ancestry living next door is a strange view of citizenship and human rights if ever there was one. And it is dangerous..

Democracy is about the power of one, expressed in a right to vote. It is about your age, but its not constrained by social status, colour, ethnicity, religion, or culture. From that uncluttered right a majority position is determined... democracy.

If the the majority can't be convinced, that's the way it goes in a democracy. Unfortunately there is a growing number of those who threw their toys out of their prams as infants and who want to throw punches and dishcloths at officials and abuse other ethnic groups in their drive for seperateness.

The political Left is about inclusiveness, not seperatism, equality before law, not inequality, acceptance and tolerance, not rejection and intolerance, finding commonalities and unity in society, not divisiveness and disunity. Above all it is about cooperative values in the human dynamic, rather than competitive.

None of the above can flourish in other than a unitary democracy. The Hawawiras and Mutus don't want this.

Madison said...

Well hell, I'm gone for a couple of days and this really takes off. Despite my mangled attempts at being brief I think others have made my points far better than I could have done.

To sum up where I stand and what I wanted to make clear;

1)The line that determines what is the helping minorities versus what is giving them extra rights and privileges is hard to judge and often depends on the circumstances surrounding the decision.

2)Any attempt to guarantee special rights to one ethnic group over another simply by birthright is basic racism. Providing culturally relevant opportunities for education, development and to maintain the culture are however helpful to prevent the destruction of a culture by forced assimilation.

3)To keep NZ as a whole nation it becomes imperative that people see themselves as New Zealanders first and then something else. There is a great wealth of shared identity here and it would be a horrible lie to discount that but claiming there are only one type of New Zealander and everyone else is foreigners or some sort of nonsense. People are here to stay and evolve together, the languages and cultures have been mixing for quite a while and the influence of each on the other may not be wholly beneficial but it does mean that the many diverse groups have better understandings of each other without having to give up their different cultural heritage.

4)To vote for someone such as Hone Harawira who proclaims the possibility of a separate Maori state is a vote for separation, or at least the attempt. To claim to be worth more as a member of society or that your culture and heritage is more important than that of any other person is also a separation, as you are both untouched as well as above anyone else. Claims that your views carry more weight solely from your ethnicity is much the same thing.

5)I also acknowledge that I'm not going to change anyone else's mind about the issue as we've all thought about it and if we're seriously looking at it here we're just checking out what others have to say, but we're pretty sorted on our own opinions.

As I said before, the line between respecting another culture and keeping together a proud heritage as well as preserving a culture is a very different idea to demanding special rights and priveleges by ethnicity be entrenched in law. Chris did what I thought was a good idea at making a good distinction between the two.