Wednesday, 9 June 2021

A Failure of Tone: The National Party’s Week of Woe.

Tone Deaf? From a party-political point of view (and what other point of view should a National Party MP be taking?) Paul Goldsmith’s comments regarding the “benefits” of colonisation merely played into the fast-solidifying narrative of National being a stale white bread party that can’t get out of its own way when it comes to voicing outdated racial attitudes. What’s more, given the events of the week just past, National’s attitudes on race are beginning to look like the least of its worries.

PAUL GOLDSMITH, on the “benefits” – to Maori – of colonisation. First of all, and obviously, he shouldn’t have said it. From a party-political point of view (and what other point of view should a National Party MP be taking?) such a comment merely plays to the fast-solidifying narrative of National being a stale white bread party that can’t get out of its own way when it comes to voicing outdated racial attitudes. What’s more, given the events of the week just past, National’s attitudes on race are beginning to look like the least of its worries.

As with so much of National’s recent behaviour, Goldsmith’s comments raise some very dangerous questions. The most obvious being: ‘What’s wrong with these people?’ and, ‘In what, strange, alternative universe is conduct and attitudes like these considered okay?’ Questions that lead, inevitably, to a much broader concern about the quality of National’s due diligence when it comes to candidate selection. People begin to wonder whether the reason so many National candidates turn out to be embarrassing duds, is because their general demeanour and mode of discourse is construed by the selectors as entirely unremarkable. Or, to put it more bluntly, because National’s awfulness is now a feature, not a bug. They’re all like that.

Now, back in the days when the National Party boasted upwards of 200,000 members, what National’s candidate selectors recognised as good, solid, middle-of-the-road New Zealand-ness corresponded pretty much exactly with the perceptions of the ordinary voter. Back in those days, when memories of the Second World War and the enforced egalitarianism of the trenches were still fresh, unusual and/or disturbing idiosyncrasies were much easier to spot. People still recalled the stereotype of the “spiv”: the black-market con-men who were “all Brylcreem and no socks”. Both of the major parties were tolerant of a wide range of political beliefs and priorities, but the men and women they chose to represent them all evinced a reassuring sameness.

The effective destruction of New Zealand’s mass political parties, along with the thoroughgoing de-democratisation of the decision-making structures that remained, which the introduction of neoliberalism more-or-less mandated, robbed them of their almost automatic capacity to pick the “right” sort of person to represent them. The new economic order also required the major parties to abandon their former tolerance of heterodox ideas. Ideological orthodoxy now trumped social conformity. Especially after the arrival of MMP and its backroom-assembled Party Lists, the party bosses cared less-and-less about what MPs did privately – so long as they didn’t do it in front of the cameras and frighten the markets.

And it got worse. The political culture of neoliberalism bred its own, very special, kind of politician. Just as the producers of reality TV shows like Survivor are careful to screen out anyone displaying what most people would consider the “normal” human traits of compassion, co-operation and honest-dealing, in favour of the selfish, the ruthless and the faithless; so, too, are political parties careful to screen out those who display an excessive independence of mind and/or a principled unwillingness to subordinate their conscience to the dictates of the party leadership. The days of so-called “maverick” MPs like Mike Minogue and Jim Anderton are long gone.

The upshot, for the National Party, was John Key and his affably cynical amanuensis, Steven Joyce. Those of an older generation may have grumbled into their single malts about the party falling into the hands of a quintessential “spiv” and his backroom Machiavelli, but nobody who mattered cared. In a world where all that counts is the ability to buy and sell, the currency trader should be king. In a political environment where the ability to fake sincerity rates as the ultimate accomplishment, calling someone Machiavelli is a fulsome compliment.

Like it or not, these were the sort of role models National was happy to present to the next generation of aspiring MPs. Unfortunately, younger generations have a nasty habit of noticing attitudes and behaviours their elders would prefer them to overlook. This propensity to model themselves on the real – rather than the ideal – may be a perverse sort of compliment to the generation in charge, but the final product, when it steps into the public spotlight all-too-often proves to be an accident just waiting to happen – as National has discovered to its cost.

The ultimate guard-rail against these political eruptions is the party’s organisational leadership. The party president, in particular, must have an especially sensitive nose for potential stinkers. It’s a huge responsibility: in effect the president, and his/her colleagues on the party’s executive committee, must substitute their own judgement for the mass party’s homogenising instincts. In this regard, the incumbent National Party President, Peter Goodfellow, must be adjudged a costly failure. To put it crudely: far too many stinkers have been given the nod. National urgently requires a more sensitive pair of nostrils.

Not that Goldsmith is one of the stinkers, far from it. He’s one of National’s few remaining conservative intellectuals. As a politician, he is refreshingly open about expressing his opinions. The problem he has, however, is a very obvious lack of the common touch. Goldsmith is the polar opposite of Simon Bridges – a National politician who has not the slightest difficulty with the diction of the ordinary Kiwi. The bookish Goldsmith, one suspects, would struggle in the average public bar: too concerned about the facts; not concerned enough about the tone.

Factually, Goldsmith has a case to make. Colonisation has not been an unequivocal evil. What it has done, however, by forcing them to respond to its ever-increasing impact, is divide Maori.

Since the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, the internal divisions within Maoridom have resolved themselves into three broad factions: the Loyalists; the Adapters; and the Rejectionists. For the Loyalists, the British Crown has remained a symbol of power and authority over and above the treacherous settler state. Having secured its protection under Article Three of the Treaty, successive generations of Maori leaders have continued to appeal to the only institution which has been willing to defend them from the “democracy” of the Pakeha majority.

Strong believers in the hereditary principle, and inheriting all the aristocratic mana of their forefathers, they have found it hard to believe that the British sovereign – the ultimate rangatira – reigns over her subjects but does not rule them. Even today, many Maori leaders evince a profound mistrust of the democratically elected legislature, and show a decided preference for working with the executive and judicial branches of the New Zealand State. Cabinet, and a sympathetic judiciary, have taken the place of well-disposed Governors and the Church Missionary Society.

The Adapters continue to seek an enduring modus vivendi with the world of the Pakeha. Their original vision of the 1840s and 50s: of the Pakeha in their place, the tangata whenua in theirs, and the Treaty over them all, continues to inspire a significant minority of contemporary Maori – not least the authors of He Puapua.

More numerous, however, are those for whom the Treaty and the Maori tribes’ heroic resistance form just one part – albeit an important part – of their family heritage. For two centuries they have taken the Pakeha’s tools and used them to construct a new identity. One-hundred-and-fifty years after the Sovereignty Wars, and with the genealogies of tangata whenua and tauiwi inextricably intertwined, they think of themselves – and call themselves – New Zealanders.

For the Rejectionists, however, the British Crown turned out to be nothing more than the glittering bauble which ruthless settler politicians raised above their heads as proof that their government’s bare-faced larceny would soon enjoy all the security of legal title.

The rejectionists cast aside Crown and Treaty in favour of a return to the old ways. One thinks of Rua Kenana, lost in the mists of the Ureweras. Or of the fiercely independent Maori communities of Northland, the King Country and the Waikato and Whanganui Rivers. Among these proud tenders of te ahi kaa – the home-fires of inextinguishable possession – the incantations of their forefathers continue to work their magic, and, in the very bones of the land, they hear the echoes of Rewi Maniapoto’s last, defiant challenge: Ka whawhai tonu matou, ake ake ake! – “We will fight on, forever and ever and ever!”

Goldsmith’s mistake was his failure to appreciate that, for the moment, it is the rejectionists who have the floor.


This essay was originally posted on the Interest.co.nz website on Monday, 7 June 2021.

18 comments:

Geoff Fischer said...

Chris, you categorised Maori as: "the Loyalists; the Adapters; and the Rejectionists."
These are all European terms showing a European bias. Those you call rejectionists were loyalists to their own people and the rangatiratanga. Those you call loyalists or "friendly Maori" were generally known to Maori as kupapa. Judge them as you will. Almost all Maori (there were a few exceptions) were adapters of European agricultural systems, industry, technology, religion and legal principles.

"For the Loyalists, the British Crown has remained a symbol of power and authority over and above the treacherous settler state. Having secured its protection under Article Three of the Treaty, successive generations of Maori leaders have continued to appeal to the only institution which has been willing to defend them from the “democracy” of the Pakeha majority."
Give me just one example of a case in which the British Crown in the person of the monarch has ever defended Maori or given them justice. You cannot. So who are you talking about here as defenders of Maoridom? And why do you claim that Pakeha democracy has been the problem? You should know that every step towards democracy, has been of benefit to Maori, and every step away has been to their cost. An end to monarchy and the establishment of a genuine democracy is the primary condition for the final emancipation of Maori and Pakeha alike.

"many Maori leaders evince a profound mistrust of the democratically elected legislature, and show a decided preference for working with the executive and judicial branches of the New Zealand State."
Are you forgetting that in New Zealand the executive is supposed to be chosen (though not appointed) by the legislature and that the judicial branch is only there to interpret and enforce the will of the legislature? Do you think that Maori are unaware of this constitutional mechanism (or for that matter the more nuanced ways in which the realities of executive power conflicts with the appearance of legislative authority)? Is there any constitutional way that Maori leaders could "work with" the legislature apart from lobbying parliamentarians or select committees? Do you have any reason to assert that they have not done that?

"Strong believers in the hereditary principle, and inheriting all the aristocratic mana of their forefathers, they have found it hard to believe that the British sovereign – the ultimate rangatira – reigns over her subjects but does not rule them."
Quite wrong. Maori society is not hereditary to anything like the extent of the British monarchy. Rather Maori constantly looked to the monarch because they assumed that the monarch had mana. A person of mana, a rangatira, is true to their word. Victoria had promised to protect the rights of Maori, and it was assumed that she and her successors would honor that promise. This wrong but forgivable belief that the Crown would act with mana has nothing to do with the largely fatuous distinction between ruling and reigning.

What is the point of all this? To drive a wedge between Maori and Pakeha? To divide and rule?

R-Lo said...

I think this episode shows that New Zealanders are too stupid and immature to do history and that the new curriculum will be as bad as the old one. It's an interesting question and would seem to me to be harder to answer than it seems. But no, we can't do that. We just have to scream and posture.

The Barron said...

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said in a newspaper interview that the Founding Fathers of the United States viewed slavery as "the necessary evil upon which the union was built."

Paul Goldsmith (Nat. List MP)) claimed that colonisation was "on balance" a good thing for Māori.

Part of the investigation is examining whether Gaetz, 38 (R -Fl), had sex with a 17-year-old and other underage girls and violated federal sex trafficking laws

National candidate Jake Bezzant has parted ways with the political party following explosive claims that he impersonated his ex-partner online, shared explicit photos and even pretended to be her during cyber sex.
Part of the investigation is examining whether Gaetz, 38, had sex with a 17-year-old and other underage girls and violated federal sex trafficking laws

One thing about the right, they are not afraid to borrow ideas.

John Hurley said...

My take on colonisations is.
1. Even though (as Murray Thacker of O'Kains Bay said) "those Maori had a hard life; the skulls we found had teeth worn down from eating shel fish" living on the edge in a challenging environment can be rewarding: take the Bedouin in Arabian Sands. When the oild companies moved into Abu Dhabi Wilford Thesiger thought it was "an abomination. As long as you weren't a slave or slain life may have been rich and ignorance about the wider world is filled with imagining. This is how we spent most of our evolution. Of white children capruted by Amerindians 10/13 preferred the Indian life.

So then Pakeha come and (to quote my cousin) "to think I used to walk all over those hills".

Imagine how it must have seemed to those early Maori as the landscape was covered in farms?

Beyond that I have little sympathy.

When dealing with the Woke—that is, devotees of the ideology outlined in Critical Social Justice Theory—one assumption (among many) that is an almost sure bet to make about their claims is that some trick of language is being played. What’s needed to expose the vacuity of the Woke position, then, is not necessarily the ability to bring facts to bear on the matter or even to argue better than they can (as they’ll deconstruct your position and leave you looking foolish to anyone slightly sympathetic to their cause). The best thing to do is expose the trick.

Most often, these language games—as Wittgenstein named them, the postmodern theorists then exploited, and the Woke have appropriated—take one of a rather small number of forms. In nearly all cases, it’s some form of a “strategic equivocation,” in which two ideas are being forwarded simultaneously, allowing the Theorist to play both sides of the argument to his own advantage in any given situation.


https://newdiscourses.com/2020/09/no-science-isnt-social-construct

If the above is the motte the rest of it is the bailey because one might be true it doesn't automattically follow that today's problems are caused by various historical trauma and "loss of land". On the other hand it is a mess of an idea that is hard to refute and the only way to do it is citique it by asking questions: which land was stolen; who was killed; where; who by?



Jens Meder said...

Is it not true, that both our "sexual security" of 70 years ago and our current "free market neo-liberalism" have failed to extinguish poverty, as proven by the fact of persisting and widening needs for poverty relief under both?
The former encouraged (subsidized?) poverty by making it more tolerable through benefits, and the latter causes it by persuasive salesmanship of attractive consumption expenditure even on credit, resulting in intensified socio-economic polarization into haves and have-nots.

No wonder there is widespread dissatisfaction not only among Maori.

While Labour has initiated an effort of more widespread (and egalitarian!) national and personal wealth ownership creation through the NZ Super Fund and KiwiSaver, National could overcome its personality problems and also become more constructive, egalitarian and politically competitive by confirming its basic belief in "Property Owning Democracy" not only through its faith in "equality of opportunity", but also through a systematic effort to achieve at least a reasonable level (or more) of wealth ownership potential by all citizens eventually.

The egalitarian unity through wealth ownership by all will not only eliminate poverty, but most probably also reduce the influence of dangerously militant radicals.

John Hurley said...

"Has Asian immigration been good for Maori?" - unequivocally YES!

"Is BIG DIVERSE Auckland better?" - unequivocally YES!

"Is colonisation bad for Maori?" - unequivocally YES!

"are those Maori THESE Maori?" - unequivocally YES!

Barry said...

Chris - what Goldsmith said is exactly what normal people (pakeha and maori) think. Whats more what he said was true.
I sense the pushback against the current woke bits of society has begun. The Climate Comission is helping with this as they push programmes which will give a wakeup call to all those who carry on about the need for things like cycle lanes and electric vehicles - the cost of the dreams hasnt been announced yet by the most transparent government NZ has ever had.......
Of note was the question of the day on TV3 yesterday where 95% of respondents said No to trans men competing in womens sport. Firstly its a concept which is false and dishonest but secondly it would be the end of womens sport.
Maybe Sport NZ might have been listening.
We need more of what Goldsmith said - as a society we need more honesty - and we arent getting that from the most open and transparent government ever.

Odysseus said...

Colonisation gave this country the rule of law, democracy and a first world standard of living. It also transmitted the fruits of the Enlightenment: the celebration of reason and the pursuit of individual freedom, knowledge and happiness, values which sparked the American Revolution. These ideas are now under threat across the Western World as the Neo-Marxist Long March through the Institutions reaches its zenith, especially in the universities. The pillorying of Paul Goldsmith for his perfectly reasonable remarks is part of that. The real "spivs" and "stinkers" are his National Party colleagues who disowned him in order to tend to their own wretched "progressive" credentials.

Sam said...

For the moment, we must allow t h e gears of democracy to turn.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Jesus Christ, here we go again – the neo-Marxist long march through the institutions blah blah blah......... and yet Jordan Peterson himself cannot name more than a handful of neo-Marxists that are doing this. And to be honest, he often conflates neo-Marxism with post-modernism which is complete rubbish, so maybe it's even fewer. On the other hand right wing governments all over the world are taking freedoms away. In Poland, in Hungary, in Brazil, and in the US. I don't know about woke, but some of us should be awake to this.

Anonymous said...

For the life of me, I cannot see what's wrong with Paul Goldsmith's comments. In the first instance, he's correct: colonisation has been broadly beneficial to Maori.

In the second instance, we still have free speech - at least for now - and Goldsmith is free to proffer opinions. Other people are free to disagree with him.

I'm astonished at the pusillanimity of his parliamentary colleagues. They ought to support his right to express his views.

Moreover, this is a widely-shared view in NZ society. If the Nats want voter support at the next election, they'd do well to take note of this fact. The rest of us would like an electoral alternative to the wokery infesting both Labour and the Greens.

Tom Hunter said...

Jesus Christ, here we go again – the neo-Marxist long march through the institutions blah blah blah...

Go argue with the host...

The Left’s “long march through the institutions” has carried it, and the revolutionary anti-capitalist/anti-racist ideas drummed into “Tania” (Hearst’s nom-de-guerre) by her SLA “comrades”, to positions of real power and influence.

and yet Jordan Peterson himself cannot name more than a handful of neo-Marxists ...
Blah, blah, blah. Yet when faced with the opposite end of that argument spectrum, faced with a Marxist who proclaims herself a trained Marxist, all we get is intellectually weak, obfuscating bullshit from GS that "I've no idea what she meant by that....

GS reminds me of a great cartoon that had a figure standing in a shop saying "This place could use some communism", followed by the place being absolutely trashed. with the final frame showing him standing there saying, that wasn't real communism.

Lenin wasn't a real Marxist either, according to "pure" communists.

David George said...

GS. While not immediately obvious there is a link between Marxism and what we are seeing in the totalising ideologies of, for example, critical theory and identity politics. The use of the suffix "Marxism" is somewhat misleading but not entirely unreasonable; perhaps objections to it's use are intended to obscure rather than discover the truth.

Here's a very good essay that examines the issue you've posed. Excerpt:

"When liberals [and conservatives] try to use these terms they often find themselves deplored for not using them correctly, and this itself becomes a weapon in the hands of those who wish to humiliate and ultimately destroy them.

The best way to escape this trap is to recognize the movement presently seeking to overthrow liberalism for what it is: an updated version of Marxism. I do not say this to disparage anyone. I say this because it is true. And because recognizing this truth will help us understand what we are facing."

https://quillette.com/2020/08/16/the-challenge-of-marxism/


Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Goldsmith's comments are broadly incorrect." See anonymous, my bald assertion is just as good as your bald assertion. I'm simply amazed at the fact that you didn't produce any evidence for your assertion – because as Christopher Hitchens said "That which can be stated without evidence, can be refuted without evidence." So I'm calling Bullshit on this.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Intellectually week my arse. If anything is intellectually weak, it's assuming what someone actually means from a slogan. Trained Marxist can mean any damn thing. I don't know what she meant by it and neither do you. And as I said, Marxist does not necessarily mean communist.
Tom Hunter reminds me of the great David Lowe cartoon about the night of the long knives where Hitler is standing in front of a bunch of SA people with their hands in the air saying "They salute with both arms now."

Anonymous said...

GS: "I'm simply amazed at the fact that you didn't produce any evidence for your assertion."

What do you want: a dissertation? Adducing evidence of that sort in a comment thread is a fool's errand. You're a historian: you know this stuff. Or ought to.

Best not to assume that your status as a historian entails your having cornered the market in knowledge of NZ's history. The rest of us can read: and in my case, have read. And we can have dissenting opinions without being pilloried for it.

Broadly correct means just that: broadly. It doesn't at all follow that either Goldsmith or I are asserting that "colonisation" was unequivocally beneficial.

"So I'm calling Bullshit on this."

As we all see. Though it's a puzzle to me why you'd do this, given the countervailing evidence. What is it that proponents of the "colonisation bad" perspective actually want? What's the endgame, so to speak? He Puapua, or its predecessor Matike Mai? God help us all if it is.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Let me see anonymous, just a few bits of "evidence" that you could find without too much reading.

Colonisation caused diseases that wiped out huge numbers of Maori. This may well have happened without colonisation but may not, and may have been handled better without it.

Complete alienation of Maori land, prior to 1860, Maori entrepreneurs practically ran the coastal trade in New Zealand, selling agricultural produce up and down the country among other things. No land, nothing to sell. Entrepreneurialism disappears.

Active suppression of Maori culture – to the point where Maori were forbidden to speak their own language in schools, and yes I do know that some Maori were in favour of this. Doesn't alter the point.

Set against this, the rather ephemeral notion that Maori gained the rule of law and democracy and so on. Leaving aside the fact that Britain itself wasn't democratic in the 19th century, we don't know that this might not have happened anyway. It has happened in places that weren't colonised.
I can't see why you couldn't provide two or three sentences in support of your own position. But it does make it easier to dismiss your assertion. So there's that.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Well David, I guess we can argue about definitions all night – but why can't you people come up with a list of these dangerous neo-Marxists if you want to call and that. Why cant Jordan Peterson only think of about five, if they're all over the place undermining society. Who are they? Where are they? How many are they? You people don't seem to have a clue, it's just an amorphous mass. Personally I think is just a snarl word you used to stir up the troops with, but if you're going to be going on and on about it ad nauseam, how about providing us with a little bit of evidence.
I've the advantage of the last 20 years or so studying social sciences at Massey at a paper a year, to the disgust of the neoliberals in charge of it once they found out, so I'm going to have to graduate now dammit. Not once have I come across a professor pushing communism. AFAIK there is only one "Marxist" historian in the whole of the country. All I have noticed is that the various sociological/anthropological writers are put forward with their ideas, and some suggestions as to how they might be useful in the analysis of today's society. Judging by my grades they seem to be quite open to the idea that Marx might have been wrong or at least not totally correct about some things. And I must assume, that given that I have asked a question about right wing thinkers who might be used to analyse society numerous times on this site and never been given an answer, there aren't any. So where else would we turn to?
Anyway, what influence do they have? I know you hate prof Spoonley, but from what I've read of his work he is hardly a communist, or even a Marxist. And while he might get on the radio a lot and annoy you conservatives, he's not exactly in charge of the government or the bureaucracy in this country which is firmly in the hands of neoliberals, which I presume you are happy with.