Tuesday 3 April 2018

Racism And Colonisation: The Inseparable Twins.

Sometimes A Tweet Can Convey As Much Information As a PhD Thesis: Garth McVicar's tweet offers a perfect illustration of the ideological obstacles blocking the path to the rational public conversation Sir Peter Gluckman is hoping to initiate on crime and punishment and the disproportionate incarceration of young Maori men.

SIR PETER GLUCKMAN has pleaded with his fellow New Zealanders for a more rational conversation about crime and punishment. Good luck with that Sir Peter.

New Zealand came into being at the behest of the New Zealand Company’s titled investors and the Foreign and Colonial Office’s high-minded bureaucrats. It was paid for out of the lands and resources expropriated from the indigenous population. Or, to put it even more bluntly: New Zealand was built on the ruins of tribal economies and at the expense of Maori culture generally.

That this country’s prisons are full of young Maori males is, therefore, an entirely predictable consequence of colonisation. What’s more: from the point of view of the Pakeha legatees of all that nineteenth and twentieth century expropriation; it is an entirely necessary one.

Colonisation is about much more than simply transplanting the culture of the metropolitan power geographically. Long before the first wave of settlers sets sail, the colonising power is required to furnish them with an unassailable justification for doing so.

Ordinary, decent people are reluctant to steal the property of other ordinary, decent people. But only convince your settlers that the indigenous inhabitants of their new home are heathen cannibals: primitive savages in desperate need of the blessings of civilisation; and all the subsequent thievery required of a successful colonisation effort can be presented to posterity as evidence of settler beneficence.

Racism is not the unfortunate by-product of the colonisation process: just one of those things that happen when two very different cultures come into contact with one another. No, racism is absolutely integral to the colonial project: its usefulness extending far beyond the initial phases of conquest and pacification.

The legitimacy of the New Zealand colonial state rests upon its foundation myth. The uplifting story of how of the Treaty of Waitangi drew the indigenous tribes of New Zealand peacefully within the compass of Great Britain’s beneficent civilisation.

Implicit in that myth, however, is the unspoken contention that the Maori needed Britain’s civilising influence. Without the efforts of the missionaries; without the spread of literacy and all the useful knowledge that accompanied it; Maori existence would have remained, to use Thomas Hobbes’ pithy definition of the State of Nature: “nasty, brutish and short”. That, in brief, is what Pakeha New Zealand has been encouraged to believe for nearly 200 years.

Within this overtly racist construction of the Maori-Pakeha relationship, the justification for the Land Wars takes on a profoundly defamatory aspect. In essence, the argument advanced in defence of these military campaigns is that they were forced upon the colonial government by the wilful reversion, by a number of “rebel” tribes, to the primitive superstitions and unspeakable savageries of the Maori past.

Without the help of “friendly Maoris” (not to mention the intervention of 12,000 imperial British troops) the infant New Zealand nation would have perished. But, by overcoming this last, desperate gasp of Maori barbarism, the colony was able to move forward and embrace its destiny as the “social laboratory of the world”.

Here, then, is the deeply embedded racist explanation for the gross over-representation of Maori in New Zealand prisons. Consciously, or unconsciously, when the eyes of Pakeha authority-figures fall upon young Maori men they see people who are dangerous; potential rebels; ready to “revert”. And, when young Maori men see this version of themselves reflected in the eyes of teachers, social workers, police officers, prosecutors, judges and corrections staff, that is precisely what far too many of them become.

That more than half of the 9,000 prisoners incarcerated in New Zealand prisons are Maori tells us all we need to know about what Pakeha New Zealand needs from its indigenous population.

Many Pakeha see Maori culture crowding-in on them like the primeval bush that once crowded-in around their settler ancestors’ farmsteads. An alarming number of them would be hugely relieved to see it cut down, broken up and ploughed under. How else to explain the huge majorities racked up in local government referenda against the prospect of including even one dedicated Maori seat at the council table?

Since the 1970s, the New Zealand state has steadily distanced itself from the entrenched anti-Maori prejudices of its Pakeha citizens. Clearly in evidence across this country’s political class is an ongoing effort to move beyond the racist rationalisations of its colonial predecessors. Sir Peter Gluckman’s attempt to wrench the crime and punishment debate out of the clutches of the Pakeha Right is another push in the same direction.

It remains to be seen whether the effects of colonisation – so evident in the behaviour of both Maori and Pakeha – are responsive to the well-meaning ministrations of social scientists. If New Zealand’s story is not about British civilisation triumphant and Maori barbarism overcome, then what story should we be telling ourselves?

This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 3 April 2018.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

Well said. But I can hear the Blimps and Bloodnocks sharpening their pencils from here. This is going to be an interesting column for comments I guarantee that. I await it with anticipation.

NickJ said...

We will only cure this inherent racist overlay when we truly grow up as a nation and face our foundation myths square on. We are caught in a predicament where we cannot undo the past, it happened, and as surely as Maori were at the mercy of forces beyond their control, so to a massive degree are we all today. No current inhabitant of NZ regardless of race or ethnicity or class can become un-modern, become detached to our current economic model, be free of the supporting technology, distribution chains, food etc etc, in fact we cannot be free of pretty much anything.

It is a terrible position for a colonized people to get past the point where they can be "decolonized". Perhaps the best we can ask and drive for is equality of partnership, equality of opportunity. For example access to universal healthcare and education and employment opportunities.

So what are we going to do? Pretty obviously give these "criminals" the options to not be criminals....simply a fair bite at the employment opportunities might make a huge difference. For example in IT employers prefer that somebody else pays for training to get "skills". Rather than invest in a young NZer the most recent model is to allow immigration to fill the "skills" shortage. And young NZer has idle hands which as we know means trouble. Compare that to a young proud person who is valued and can see a path forward. And that is just one solution.

JanM said...

Excellent piece - thank you Chris. Though I can't help wondering what this will bring out of the woodwork!!

Jack Scrivano said...

Chris, you seem to be verging on suggesting that New Zealand is the only country into which ‘foreigners’ have arrived and tried to set up things their way.

In reality, it seems that this has been the case pretty much everywhere. Certainly 99 percent of the Americas; most of Africa; big chunks of Northern Europe and Asia; and across the ditch in Australia.

So, what’s your solution? Send everyone back whence they came?

Glenn Webster said...

But our history is about " about British civilisation triumphant and Maori barbarism overcome".
Nothing racist about it.
If young maori males did not behave as they insist on glorying in then they would not be in jail.
Mind you, I (a non-doper) suggest that all those accused under the marijuana laws should be set free and have their criminal records expunged asap.

greywarbler said...

We can start on prison costs and trying to get prisoners to review and change their behaviour. For this they need to be treated as people deserving good, and being encouraged to behave in that line. And it won't necessarily be more expensive than the costs mounting up now. Certain things need to be sorted out and perhaps discussion groups could be set up in various towns and a broad agreement of methods to be piloted and monitored to help deal with crime effectively and give people a chance to stay out of prison. Atonement, retraining, an Alcoholics Anonymous approach to staying away from the habit of crime could be used.

But money saving will go down well I think. Those with true vicious retaliatory approaches will be questioned as to why they wish to continue spending taxpayers money on prison detention approaches that are ineffective and only necessary for the habitual criminally psychopathic. They could have lifetime sentences as far as I am concerned. No pretence at good behaviour to get out and carry on their evil. The rest need to get numbers of chances to gradually improve and learn how to teach their children well, that their parents hell has gone by!

Bricker said...

There is a staggering under-current of racism in NZ.

I've seen highly educated people in prominant positions in the public service make racist statements re the 'special treatment' for Maori ie specific programmes and funding for Maori kids in schools.

When you point out that Maori are also taxpayers, they appear baffled. As they, and only they, seem to know what's best for Maori.

SHG said...

Consciously, or unconsciously, when the eyes of Pakeha authority-figures fall upon young Maori men they see people who are dangerous

my hypocrisy meter exploded when I read this

go on chris, remind us again of the young Maori man's "anthropoid rictus"

NickJ said...

I agree with Bricker, I remember several years back in the company of a Maori talking politics and making assumptions about Maori political positions....and being roundly disabused and corrected. I was merely thinking in a way that denoted a whole pile of assumptions that I had never tested nor really thought about. My thinking was not consciously racist, but it was wrong. And that is what I suspect Bricker means by highly educated people in prominent positions making racist statements. And what Chris alludes to in challenging foundation myths.

It occurs that if Maori are committing the crimes as Glenn Webster says we might question what makes them behave so? Its all very well to say "they did it, so suffer the consequence", so why aren't the rest of us? I personally don't buy neo Marxist theories of colonisation, they are all too centred on victim status and named oppressors. That's far too simple and convenient, and their remedies are always retributive under the guise of things like "positive discrimination". As I said earlier, we all have to live in the modern paradigm, the issue is how we all deal with it in a fair manner for all.

greywarbler said...

Some mischievous and perverse comments here that infrequent or new people seem pressed to add. That itself is a sign of how racism is a big,
underlying issue in NZ. The message of neo liberalism is individualism, regarding oneself a a separate player in the field of NZ, and that generosity is nothing but a sort of masturbation of the self to get good feelings, and there is little sacrifice ever made in doing so as the action is balanced by the good vibes. So efforts to serve as a caring citizen who wants fairness and better conditions for all is behaviour to jeer at. What a wanker!

So we have Bricker who doesn't want to understand about positive discrimination; positive handicapping where the one with the most to overcome gets put a little ahead of the more powerful and advantaged.

Glenn Webster
Another trite NZ response. The familiar one about how unfortunate outcomes wouldn't happen to those who followed the law and as 'they' didn't anything that happened to them was justified. What NickJ has suggested the reasoned approach towards putting this racism behind us. But that will never happen as we have inter-generational behaviours passed down and there are a large number of people who are non-thinkers and formal education should be just vocational, and informal family education is not likely to be progressive.

Jordan Peterson suggests that those children should leave the classroom when there is reference to 'inclusivity, diversity and equity (which to him is a 'no-go zone that is a preposterous, murderous doctrine')! There will be no talk of understanding others' point of view, or talking about why there are dominant, ingrained, hostile behaviour patterns in society which then lead to a lack of an attitude of goodwill as a first response. And
with Peterson's thoughts spreading they are more likely to allow these attitudes to grow and show at school in persistent bullying and violence.
Listen from 45 minutes on in this link.
An interview of Jordan Peterson and John Anderson (ex Deputy PM Oz).

Peterson does in my opinion touch on some valid points. But then he declaims ideas vehemently arising from those points; to negate any action attempting control to encourage respect, wanting freedom of speech to trump controls. It is a problem of balance and I think there are occasions when what he terms as 'the radical left' enforces PCness to excess, take offence at a word or tone, and discussion becomes acrimonious not reasoned. He speaks about people without power being disadvantaged and apparently unable to discuss things because controls against freedom of speech prevent them.
This is partly right in NZ because government and charitable and community support groups are not free to advocate for their people without threat of withdrawal of support. Peterson also says that Canada should never have a Bill of Rights.

He is so verbose that listeners would have trouble getting a moment to reflect so as to judge its value. It seems at base to be a feminist-hating rant from a self-opinionated, stirrer who calls on his own authority! But his words suit all those men, and their women, who seek some group to fault and blame for all the negatives around us. And they fix particularly on the strugglers and those who are working to try and attain a better, happier, fairer world against the constantly rising bulkhead of the free market capitalists and their concentration of wealth. The concomitant mushrooming of poverty and the selling of fake social mobility chances through education must be distanced from the 'nice' people for their ease. of mind.

Victor said...

I'm currently pondering (for want of a better word) the concept of 'inherited trauma'.

I don't know a lot about this idea, although I've seen it referenced by various people on the web. It may be total nonsense or it may be a key to understanding, and perhaps resolving, some of the most deep-seated issues perplexing our species.

Clearly, if trauma can be inherited, many Maori would have it as their inheritance, as a result of war, dispossession and the once near disappearance of their people thanks to the Pakeha's diseases, not to mention subsequent generations of racism, poverty, discrimination etc.

If so, it's hard to imagine it not being reflected in crime statistics.

Nick J said...

Grey, I like your deconstruct of Peterson. I have listened to him extensively and find his basic critiques very in-depth and sound. Where he fails, (and I am sure he has the circumspect to realise it) is that he falls for paradoxical issues, for example being vehement about free speech and equally vehemently against utopianism. I suspect that we all fall into these traps where we advocate in a manner that often breaks our own rules. That is the real devil in the detail.

I actually think Peterson is an inevitable outcome of the neo Marxist thought police who have run roughshod over critical thinking for the last three decades. He is the current champion of classic liberal thought. There are more considered less combative voices too, such as Roger Scruton and Peter Hitchings. I welcome them even where I don't agree simply because the dominant dialogue of politically correct authoritarianism needs to be challenged.

sumsuch said...

Dickwick! 'McVicar'. Does the silly arse know what crimes his minister ancestors did in Scotland, massacres and fanatical battle tactics which we lost accordingly. 'Know yourself'. Go to America to the rest of our feral second cousins. Why do we have to convince you, you dun naught!

So, so, very glad you aren't as prominent as you'd be in America, despite your poll of 4,000 in the poll before last. You come from nothing, there are 2 tracks you can take, one of'm has morality.

Brendon Harre said...

Chris I agree with your overall thesis. But I would quibble with some details. The Maori Wars were not primarily driven by pakeha connected to the NZ Company or British colonial bureaucracy. It was driven by the Thomas Russell crowd. Racist, greedy, North island settlers who desired land where 90% of Maori lived. Especially the highly productive land in the Waikato. The consequences of the Maori wars for both Maori and Pakeha society is one of the most significant and unacknowledged factors influencing NZ's progress and its effects are still felt today.

Chris check this out.

greywarbler said...

I like your cool analysis. It is in contrast to the scattergun vehemence of Peterson and I think you are too kind to him and his intentional or unintentional effects. To me he is plumbing the depths of people's present angst. You say 'his basic critiques [are] very in-depth' but I feel that those depths are being used to grab people by the short and curlies where they feel most, and he lays before them targets that are tailormade for their prejudices and are likely to accept eagerly.

There are some notable clips on Trademe where he pulls himself up and strikes coldly at an interviewer [woman] drawing on his authority and experience which lead to his unassailable, flawless opinions. The interviewer, he indicates, is at fault for questioning his correctness but then if the interviewer is touting the PCness of modern feminist positions, that is adopting the same attitudes as himself. Hence little useful discussion. There are discussions in which John Anderson from Oz takes the attitude of a conservative, Christian, good-living family man and feeds him questions in a conciliatory way which is more pleasing to him.

There is a difficulty in listening to general pronouncements from specialists in disorders of thinking like Peterson, who are versed in the problems of those out of balance with themselves in society. They do not spend enough time with people who have achieved balance, and are attempting to keep their life skills honed for managing change. There is a time when all of us flag in the existential trek of life, as we work to find a place for our existence on and in the world and amongst our kind, who may not be 'kind' to us. What Peterson offers us is a bunch of confusing ideas that we hope will be a panacea, but I think his discourse, if subject to 'thoughtful' critical analysis, wouldn't hold water.

existentialism Meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary
...a system of ideas made famous by Jean Paul Sartre in the 1940s in which the world has no meaning and each person is alone and completely responsible for their own actions, by which they make their own character. Philosophy. aesthete.

And Victor
The 'inherited trauma' is interesting. I have heard experts say that
there is the case of people whose systems before birth have adjusted to food shortage, and when a change occurs to food plenty, are particularly prone to fatness.

And it is known that developmental stages in child growth are reached and may be passed unsuccessfully if the parent and circumstances cannot meet the needs of the time. A few generations of that would result in a person who has an inherited flaw that would disadvantage them and their offspring for ever.

peteswriteplace said...

Don't blame 'colonisation' for the problems of many part-Maori youth. Unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse and crime is the reason they are in prison. Who do you blame? Neoliberalism has destroyed much of the domestic economy and destroyed the many industries young Maori and other working-class youth and adults would have been attracted to. So many young people don't continue with secondary and tertiary education these days.

Richard said...

The usual right of centre journos have simply decided the armistice is over and it is back to what they do best and that is carp on about issues they over-egg or their world view is challenged.

All based in the harbour cities and all knowing. As I am in Sydney the
contrast is staggering by comparing as in all the media it is reasoned analysis rather than diatribe and bombast. It may irritate the right wing crew in NZ but so far Labour are only getiing started on what they said they would do. Trying to manufacture scandal as they are would they cannot find any legitimate issues to argue.
Hence the meaningless crap being hustled and propounded.

Or put another way - "the lady does protest too much".

jh said...

Abadian (2006) made a similar argument as Denham (2008) in her presentation at the “Healing our Spirits
Worldwide” conference. She argues that cultural renewal can be as dangerous as it can be rehabilitative. She refers to the Lakota people’s historical attempts to renew culture that ended tragically – as in the 1890 Massacre of Wounded Knee. Furthermore, other so-called cultural renewals, such as Hitler’s attempts to renew the “great Aryan nation” or Serbia’s attempt at cultural resurgence have all ended horribly and been toxic
to survivors. Abadian argues that cultural renewal requires paying attention to the stories that one tells themselves in relationship to others and who is responsible for the way things currently are. She refers to these stories as meta-narratives – and asserts that toxic cultural renewal is an outcome of toxic cultural narratives. In turn, these cultural narratives are the outcome of past traumas. The first step in the regeneration of healthy and affirming cultures is the telling of life-affirming and healthy narratives. She draws on the example of a young child who was sexually abused by an extended family member. Because the child only has “pre-operational thinking” (Piaget, 1928) or believes that everything that happens is as a direct
result of what they have done, they come to believe that any harm that occurs is their fault. This child thus goes through his life believing he is damaged, unloveable and unworthy of healthy relationships. These “post-traumatic” narratives tend to be habitual, frozen in the past, self-referential and self-reinforcing. In the same way, entire communities can pass on unhealthy narratives to future generations. Healthy traditional
communities were able to deal with trauma through the sweat lodge, rituals to support those left behind by loved ones and through the adoption of orphaned children as a regular practice. But when entire communities experience the same traumas for generations, the very mechanisms that helped them to cope become destroyed in the process. The whole group becomes frozen in time and the collective narratives become post-traumatic. Abadian points to religious doctrine as another example of toxic narratives that get past on through time and
that label people as “better than” or “worse than” anyone else based on their commitment to religion. She calls these beliefs falsely empowering and argues that doctrines of Christianity, Judaism and Islam emerged from their own historical traumas and have carried these forward and traumatized millions of people worldwide into believing that any one person can be more important or worthy of God’s love. Cultural renewal thus requires a cleansing of the elements of post-traumatic subcultures that no longer serve people and communities and
keep them stuck in a traumatic past.

jh said...

New Zealand came into being at the behest of the New Zealand Company’s titled investors and the Foreign and Colonial Office’s high-minded bureaucrats. It was paid for out of the lands and resources expropriated from the indigenous population.
Sheep were the chatalyst on the Canterbury plain. Tussock + native grasses + sheep = wool exports. The flocks reached 300,000 (?) in 3 years.
There were <500 Maori (?) at the first census. Canterbury rose to be the richest province.

jh said...

Ordinary, decent people are reluctant to steal the property of other ordinary, decent people. But only convince your settlers that the indigenous inhabitants of their new home are heathen cannibals: primitive savages in desperate need of the blessings of civilisation; and all the subsequent thievery required of a successful colonisation effort can be presented to posterity as evidence of settler beneficence.
I'll go you "too at war with each other to mount an opposition" and under utilising the land (as demonstrated by an increased carrying capacity). The British would (I presume) have known that they too once lived like Maori (a few thousand years ago) and seen their own state as "advanced". Having said that they would have been aware of life in their squalid cities. Reality is more nuanced?

jh said...

Muriel Newman writes
The reality is that New Zealanders do not want to be defined by race – not even those of Maori descent. As LGNZ notes, “a number of councils have sought the views of hapu and Iwi about whether or not Maori wards should be established in their district only to be strongly advised that any such wards would not have the support of mana whenua.”

Just being New Zealanders is an option precluded Maori due to the lefts (not so clever) launch into biculturalism.

People must be frustrated at Maori language being pushed on RNZ. RNZ has never made a case (except in a kangaroo court). You would think the minister of broadcasting is Catherine Delahunty?

jh said...

In Muriel Newman's Newsletter
The reality is that New Zealanders do not want to be defined by race – not even those of Maori descent. As LGNZ notes, “a number of councils have sought the views of hapu and Iwi about whether or not Maori wards should be established in their district only to be strongly advised that any such wards would not have the support of mana whenua.”

Perhaps some Maori would have liked to just be New Zealanders like the rest of us - an option precluded us by a not so inclusive conversation

We discussed and "partially resolved" issues of minority rights in those years of the Maori political renaissance. "It de-hyphenated the nation state. It said the state manages on behalf of all of us but who exactly is a member of the nation? What Maori did was say there are several nations present."

jh said...

Colonialism is so bad that you never think that perhaps in some cases it is'has been the better of two alternatives