Wednesday 6 August 2014

Privileged Status

The Settling Of Social Scores: The poor of Paris leer at the abused body of the Princesse de Lamballe, friend of Queen Marie-Antoinette and, ironically, a passionate advocate of social reform. Jamie Whyte's comparison of the "privileged" legal status of Maori with the legal privileges of the Aristocracy of pre-revolutionary France inevitably raised the ghosts of the Revolution's aristocratic victims. In the words of the Race Relations Commissioner, Dame Susan Devoy: “Equating Maori New Zealanders to French aristocrats who were murdered because of their privilege is a grotesque and inflammatory statement.”

Maori are legally privileged in New Zealand today, just as the Aristocracy were legally privileged in pre-revolutionary France.
Jamie Whyte, Act Party Leader, 26 July 2014

REPROVED BY DAME SUSAN, condemned by the Maori Party, castigated by most of the news media, it remains to be seen whether Jamie Whyte’s equation of Maori legal “privileges” with the feudal privileges of the French aristocracy was electorally clever or stupid.
The example of Don Brash’s Orewa Speech undoubtedly looms very large before any right-wing political leader whose party is languishing in the opinion polls. The National Party leader’s notorious address to the Orewa Rotary Club, in which he promised to nullify nearly all of Maoridom’s political rehabilitation since the 1970s, saw his party’s poll ratings advance by an unprecedented 17 percentage points. It put the National Opposition back in the race – with a vengeance!
The New Zealand electorate, it seems, is one vast racist itch just waiting for a scratch. And if it remains as easily satisfied as it was ten years ago, then Whyte’s speech to the Act Party’s Hamilton conference – and all the fallout from it – should produce a statistically significant up-tick in his party’s support.
And really, what else could Jamie do? The New Zealand voter is ill-disposed toward philosophical speculation and debate. The finer points of John Locke’s defence of individual liberty and the role played by private property in its preservation, are not the stuff of all that many Pakeha conversations. The merits or otherwise of their Maori neighbours, on the other hand, remains the subject of lively speculation.
Richard Prebble understood and accepted this inconvenient truth about the New Zealand voter. He had watched good-naturedly as Roger Douglas and Derek Quigley (Act’s founders) toured the country (on millionaire Craig Heatley’s dime) preaching the pure gospel of neoliberalism to anyone who would listen. Which, as Prebble already knew, would always be far too few to secure a solid footing for Act in the new MMP parliament. He had the data, he knew what it would take to move 5 percent of his fellow Kiwis into Act’s camp – and it wasn’t John Locke.
What Jamie Whyte lacks, however, is his predecessor’s wry political cynicism. If he was to raise again the divisive issue of Maori “privilege” (at Act’s campaign manager, Richard Prebble’s insistence?) then he was determined to do so with all the panache of a swashbuckling Cambridge philosopher. Not for him the mean-spirited snarling of the hard-bitten provincial voter that Prebble translated so well. No, he would wage war on the legal privileges of Maoridom in the guise of an antipodean Robespierre.
“Maori are legally privileged in New Zealand today,” Whyte told Act’s annual conference in Hamilton, “just as the Aristocracy were legally privileged in pre-revolutionary France.”

Presumably, in making this bold comparison, our Cambridge graduate had some notion of what those aristocratic privileges included, even if many in his audience, subscribing to Henry Ford’s view that “history is bunk”, did not.
Let’s list just a few of them:
·        The French Aristocracy were exempt from taxation.

·        French aristocrats presided over their own seigneurial courts – i.e. they were able to try their own tenants for any beaches of the law alleged to have taken place on their own estates.

·        Deceased tenant farmers of aristocratic land were prevented, under the law of mainmorte (the “dead hand”) from bequeathing the tenancy rights they enjoyed whilst living to their descendants. Upon their death the right to use the property reverted to its aristocratic owner who was then free to dispose of it as he saw fit – even at the cost of evicting the deceased tenant’s family. The aristocrat could, of course, be “persuaded” against this course of action by the tenant’s descendants paying their lord a “fine” for the right to go on farming the land.

·        Aristocrats also enjoyed a range of monopolies within their domains. For example, requiring tenants to have their grain ground in the aristocrat’s mill.

·        In many parts of France, a tenant wishing to get married had first to acquire his or her lord’s permission.

·        The aristocrat’s prior permission was also required before a tenant farmer could vacate his tenancy – i.e. move away from the lord’s estate.

·        To secure these aristocratic consents it was customary for tenants to pay yet more “fines”.
Do any of these legal privileges bear any resemblance to the supposed legal privileges enjoyed by Maori? Are Maori exempt from taxation? Do Maori preside over their own courts? Are Maori able to prevent the alienation of their tribal resources by imposing restrictions on their tenants’ ability to bequeath, sell or otherwise transfer their interest in tribal property? Do Maori enjoy monopolies over specific goods and services? Is prior permission required from Maori before a citizen is able to exercise his or her rights?
Perhaps the most questionable aspect of Whyte’s historical comparison was the aspect the Race Relations Commissioner, Dame Susan Devoy, picked up on in her statement of Wednesday, 30 July, in which she stated: “Equating Maori New Zealanders to French aristocrats who were murdered because of their privilege is a grotesque and inflammatory statement.” Quite true, because to link the French Aristocracy and the French Revolution is to conjure up images of angry crowds, clattering tumbrils, rolling drums and the sudden descent of Madame Guillotine’s blade.
The historical details surrounding the persecution of the French Aristocracy are, as is so often the case, even worse. The guillotining of condemned aristocrats in the manner so vividly described by Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities certainly did take place, but at least as many more aristocrats met their deaths at the hands of the Parisian Mob. In a grotesque settling of centuries-old social scores, aristocratic families were dragged from the relative safety of the city’s overcrowded prisons and butchered in the streets. Whipped up to a frenzy by such fanatical foes of privilege as Jean-Paul Marat, the poor of Paris fell upon these defenceless men women and children and quite literally tore them to pieces.
These are dangerous precedents to play with in a country whose racial and social prejudices lie buried in such shallow graves. Politicians who make persistent, but groundless, claims that a minority of the population is enjoying legal privileges which the majority of ordinary citizens do not possess, can hardly hold themselves blameless when those same ordinary citizens turn against that minority. Or, God forbid, upon them.
As the great Russian playwright, Anton Chekov, once remarked: “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.”
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Monday, 4 August 2014.


Kat said...

Act are writhing like a soon to be corpse infected with the typhus.

Questions need to be asked why Key is prepared to back the socioeconomic principles of a disease ridden corpse such as Act.

The electorate should be made aware that two terminal diseases won't sustain life.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

This is interesting on a couple of levels. Firstly that the ACT leader didn't feel the need to dog whistle this as they often do over the ditch. And secondly that Susan Devoy actually chided him for it. Unfortunately I was drinking tea when I heard it – tea all over the keyboard.

Pete George said...

Chris, you have a good knowledge of history as demonstrated here. Does this remind you of any history?

And should we be concerned?

Chris Trotter said...

To: Pete George

Mass enthusiasm for a German politician?

What could possibly go wrong?

Phil Sage said...

"Is prior permission required from Maori before a citizen is able to exercise his or her rights?" Yes.
Refer to the Resource Management Act.

Pete George said...

Chris, you wrote at The Daily Blog "Wittingly or unwittingly, Davis has allowed himself to become a pawn in this game. How else to explain his willingness to be associated with..."

A number of people could perhaps explain the willingness to be associated with the Dotcom game?

Revolution at any price? Of course price is a significant factor for some in this particular game, the founder and visionary seems to have been rather generous at buying support.

jh said...

Actually i don't think the NZ electorate is more or less racist than any other electorate: just practical. However if the New Zealand electorate is the other it may colour your thinking.
I think the NZ electorate see the treaty as a totally impractical relic of historical circumstances: there's your racism.
Over in the Green Party where they attempt treaty purity, Catherine Delahunty has recently written in her usual mush, mushy style, suggesting (the great hope: get them young and guide their thoughts and people don't know the facts. In the comments BJ, suggests we begin a new constitution with a decision sharing 50:50 split Maori/ Foreigner.
I think the electorate see Maori as role players (phoney).

As for the French Aristocracy all metaphors fall down somewhere. I think you make far too much of that.

jh said...

Mass enthusiasm for a German politician?

What could possibly go wrong?
How do we know everything is alright with the status quo.
Try to find written proof of the recent Campbell Live Poll (94% said no to foreign ownership of farmland and while the topic came up on The Panel the extraordinary poll got a pass.
Meanwhile the property developers on Kiwiblog are white hot over the (implied) racism.
Expect to here from the *independant* NZIER soon.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

People have been writing off ACT for almost as long as they have been writing off Winston. And to be honest I will write off Winston when I pour the last shovelful of dirt on his grave and tamp it down. And even then I'd prefer a stake through his heart :-). Mind you, he did get us the gold card :-). More than anyone is done for old people since 1898. :-)

Jigsaw said...

I think Jamie Whyte's comparision with the French aristocracy was wrong and an unfortunate choice but as for your other comments....
As an example of privilege-Maori tribal entities that trade as companies are exempt from tax which is why a tribe like Ngati Tahu can prosper. The TOW tribunal doesn't permit cross examination. A camping ground north of here is signposted as public land but available only for Maori to use. I am also amazed that you haven't yet noticed the tribal elites who drive expensive cars, wear expensive suits etc and enjoy the privilege that goes with their position.
National (and much of the country) is currently labouring under the illusion that once the
TOW claims are settled all with be well. Not so-as demonstrated by the Waikato Regional Council who bought in separate Maori seats without asking the ratepayers. A councillor said that they shouldn't ask the ratepayers as they would vote against it! Two district councils within the area did put it to the vote and in both cases it was soundly defeated with some 70-80% against separate racially based representation.
Whyte's false comparision does not alter the truth of his assertion.
Making a few tribal elite wealthy
does nothing whatever to address the poverty of the others.
Treating all people of one ethnicity as a group having all the same problems is also a recipe for disaster. It will be a disaster for New Zealand if we continue on this course and socialists should be the very first to recognise this inequality.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I see those Colonel Blimp-ish bastions of tolerance are back. It bears repeating, white people were quite happy with racially based laws until they started thinking they might lose something from them. Hypocrisy?

JanM said...

Oh, Jigsaw, those uppity brown people - fancy having nice cars and expensive suits - don't they know their place? (Feather cloaks as daily wear went out at about the same time as tailcoats and tophats, by the way)
When will people get past all this tommyrot about race and begin to understand that decisions about representation are based on culture rather than ethnicity. We came marching into this country 200 years ago thinking we were the great white saviours and perceiving ourselves as having some inherent superiority and it seems that a number of us have never got past that attitude. The Maori 'world view' differs from ours in a number of significant ways and our treaty promise upon invasion was to uphold and honour it. What's so very hard about that? Do we now turn around and say 'haha fooled you - our way or the highway'?
I think a lot of the problem is, in fact, the appalling ignorance of the population about our own history - thanks to a lack of knowledge and dedication in the school system we almost certainly know a great deal more about Europe than we do about ourselves and our neighbours. We really do need to grow up.

Victor said...

As far as I'm aware, there's ultimately nothing to stop an English born Jew of Polish and Belgian extraction such as my humble self from opting to go on the Maori register.

If this is the case, how can this particular concession be considered race-based?

Similarly, though, what sense can there be to such an arrangement?

Or am I wrong and would I have to certify my whakapapa at some stage in the proceedings?

BTW I share my family name with an illustrious dynasty of Maori entertainers. It is, of course, a Scots name.

Barry said...

I think that NZ law and government policies racially discriminate in favour of part-Maoris and Pacific Islanders. I hope that Jamie Whyte or Colin Craig or 1Law4All can dismantle all of this garbage.

jh said...

Guerilla Surgeon says:
I see those Colonel Blimp-ish bastions of tolerance are back.
It is heartening to see all the other side can come up with is ad hominem.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Barry, you're obviously on the wrong website. There's a number of nutty tinfoil hat places where you'd feel right at home, where people go on and on and on about "how they was all cannibals till we got here." You should look – you'd be much happier there.

Jigsaw said...

No problems with nice cars and expensive suits-just depends where the money comes from-and it comes from taxpayers and seldom trickles doiwn to those in need. With Ngati Tahu its from 5 full and final settlements. Not usually just the fault of Maori but those who have given them the right to rort the rest of us. Shall I post pictures of the school near here that closed in 1994 and went into the treaty settlement land-bank and now is rotting away-quite literally? And the school house next door.
Always interesting to hear people like JanM attack people who say that representation should be based on one person, one vote and wish for a dictatorship of the minority-however that minority is decided.
They always end with a plea to read more of their propaganda without any knowledge whatever of what others have read.
GS always ready with his plea of revenge for past wrongs as an excuse for present injustices which as history shows were almost always shared and far more complex that the revisionist historians will admit.

Jigsaw said...

Victor- you should ponder that you are not allowed by law to make any representation to the TOW tribunal-not even if your ancestors lost property from any cause-unless you are Maori.

Kat said...

Jan, unfortunately growing up is not always the answer. Its about where the power and money is.

Its hawks and doves and hawks want the power, the money and the blood. They just can't help it and the human race has a choice of either the hawk path or the dove path.

Evolution moves at glacial speed.

Alan said...

C'mon Chris, the fastest way to rubbish an argument is to exaggerate its frame of reference, then pour scorn on the bloated result.

Jamie Whyte's analogy with the French aristocracy wasn't about tumbrils clattering over cobblestones or the guillotine.

He was saying by analogy that an ethnic group in being elevated into a separate and privileged position by separate laws causing rising resentments by non-Maori majorities, and this is undemocratic and ultimately dangerous.

And he is right.

All of what is going on is based on three paragraphs of the Tiriti o Waitangi and a handful of 'principles' that have emerged from it like divine revelation.

There is only one English draft that gave rise to the Maori Tiriti, that of the 4 February 1840, and all that did was extend to all in this country the rights to property and protection before one law. There are no other 'principles to be discovered in that draft or in the Treaty itself: one citizenship: one law.

And that, as they say, is that. A huge edifice of humbug has been built up in a fog of misinformation over the last 40 years, and it is surprising how many are caught up in it all.

We can of course forgive the Maori Party protecting its racially reserved seat, but Susan Devoy should know better.


jh said...

"When will people get past all this tommyrot about race and begin to understand that decisions about representation are based on culture rather than ethnicity."
When those arguments pass the smell test. I appreciate that someone might adopt a culture, but in wider society how does that justify grievance?
Grievance is based on prior occupation but the enormity of that implied right of ownership has to be packaged as stewardship, political power, revisited treaty settlements and loss of culture. Cultures normally evolve and coalesce. The narcissism involved in cultural policing is why the left are loathed.
"I think a lot of the problem is, in fact, the appalling ignorance of the population about our own history - thanks to a lack of knowledge and dedication in the school system we almost certainly know a great deal more about Europe than we do about ourselves and our neighbours. We really do need to grow up. "

Wouldn't you love to be in control of young minds. I suspect that is part of the objection to charter schools? Society functions best with a wide range of inputs since we all stand at different positions but (I hope) there is truth in a wisdom of crowds.

jh said...

Jigsaw said...

No problems with nice cars and expensive suits-just depends where the money comes
One thing I've noticed with Nghai Tahu I know is that they are typical National supporters: "we're alright Jack".

Guerilla Surgeon said...

ALL I can come up with is ad hominem? Rubbish :-). What you fail to see jigsaw is that the historical events you dismiss were huge and still have on going consequences. You only had to listen to national radio this morning to realise that. I have friends who could do nothing with their land because of government policy into the 1980s. Were you protesting this? I suspect not. Of course you might be too young but you sound old and crabby :-). There's some more ad hominem for you. Most Maori were stripped of almost all their economic base in the nineteenth century. Sometimes illegally, because the government didn't even obey its own laws. Now if we were to completely put back to rights, Maori would own a shitload more than they do at present. I could give you more examples, but you are a true believer, evidence doesn't sway you in the least.

Victor said...


I accept your point. My comments were restricted to the issue of the Maori electoral role.

However, as far as Treaty claims are concerned, they really are sui generis and arise out of a huge and historically specific process of dispossession in which Maori were the victims.

Such claims often involve concepts of communal ownership that are alien to our legal system yet central to the cases to hand.

So, yes, it might be theoretically less discriminatory to allow Pakeha to make claims to the TOW Tribunal. But I can't imagine what sort of claim a Pakeha could make that would truly lie inside the Tribunal's purlieu and couldn't be handled by some other body.

Why would any party leader bother with this purely theoretical inequality if it wasn't to have a dig at Maori and gain electoral advantage therefrom?


I think that Dr Whyte is more of a Girondin than a Jacobin. The former were free enterprise dogmatists whilst the latter tried to control the price of bread etc.

But, I agree, bad things tend to happen whenever politicians start wearing open-necked shirts with otherwise formal costume.

Anonymous said...

The problem with Maori/Treaty arguments is that everything is rubbery, stretchy and smokey Welcome to the bicultural madhouse where a spade is no longer a spade (rationalism does not apply).

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Rationalism doesn't apply? That's because you are dealing with a very deep down emotional subject. My rationalism would say we have to give back everything that was taken at least after 1865 and start working from there. You want that?

Jigsaw said...

GS - You really are incredible to keep saying ad hominem when you are the one who is constantly relying on comments about Colonel Blimp etc etc rather than actually addressing the issues we are discussing.
A handful of Ngati Tahu chiefs sold most of the 15,121,483ha South island in 10 deals over the 20 years from 1844 for a total of 14,750 pounds (which is about $1.6 million in today's currency). Just because people claim that land was not sold but stolen doesn't mean that it is the truth. You listen to Red Radio-what a surpise!!