Friday 7 June 2024

In Search Of Unity.

Kotahitanga: New Zealand’s future belongs to those who do not fear a nation carved out of unity and solidarity, and are willing to trust the carvers. Some New Zealanders will be required to step up, and others, perhaps for the first time in their lives, will be expected to step back.

BUDGET WEEK has thrown up two very different examples of political representation. In the House of Representatives what we have witnessed is the intentionally divisive squaring-off of Government and Opposition. Unity is not a realistic possibility under our system of representative democracy.

On the streets, however, New Zealanders have witnessed something very different. On the streets, the call from one of the largest indigenous minorities on earth (approximately 20 percent of the population) has been for “Kotahitanga” – unity. What’s more, among those for whom indigeneity constitutes the core of their identity, that unity is not only possible – it is likely.

What is it that causes peoples raised in the traditions of representative democracy to accept disunity? The most optimistic answer is that what many critics condemn as disunity isn’t disunity at all. The debates in Parliament, according to the optimists, are intended to improve the legislative process by requiring the governing majority to test its policies against the objections and/or proposed alternatives of the minority. What some perceive as petty squabbles are, by this reckoning, vital contributors to a much broader and more important unity – that of the citizenry’s faith and trust in the democratic system.

That’s the theory, anyway. But it is by no means certain that a majority of citizens are disposed to accept it. Many people find representative democracy’s angry parliamentary exchanges unedifying – to the point of being disgraceful. Many blame the party system for fostering and perpetuating socio-political divisions. They find it difficult to believe that ordinary, decent, citizens would not, given half-a-chance, coalesce naturally around a programme dedicated to the public good. Their instincts tell them that a political system which deliberately divides the nation is a liability, not an asset.

In the context of New Zealand’s democratic traditions, a cynic might point to the fact that between the mid-1850s and the mid-1870s – the period when the spirit of party and faction was suppressed by a franchise limited to Pakeha male property-owners (joined, after 1867, by four Māori Members of Parliament) – the spirit of unity was much more in evidence. Property-owners do, after all, share a unifying inclination to protect what they own from any political movement disposed to redistribute it among those who own next-to-nothing.

By the 1870s, the gravest threat posed to the “private” property of Pakeha New Zealanders was from dispossessed hapu and iwi. Indeed, nothing is more likely to create unity among Pakeha than the prospect of Māori coming together, under the aegis of the Treaty of Waitangi, to reclaim the collective property which the Pakeha, largely by virtue of controlling the Legislature, had empowered themselves to seize. It is no accident that the class antagonisms that would shape New Zealand for the next 100 years did not emerge as a significant historical driver until the Māori had been stripped of the power to defend their resources.

So, if our political system is, fundamentally, a process driven by the see-sawing struggle between those who own a disproportionate amount of property, and those who seek an equitable portion of the life-chances such ownership confers, then is the realisation of social and political unity a goal restricted to soft-headed idealists and hard-hearted revolutionaries?

As is her wont, the Goddess of History offers no easy or comforting answers. She will tell you that social and political unity is possible, but only when a nation is threatened with subjugation and/or annihilation. When an enemy threatens to destroy all that a people holds dear, then all other quarrels are momentarily, at least, set aside.

To the crowd assembled outside his royal palace on 1 August 1914, as war loomed over Europe, the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, declared:

“I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the expression of your loyalty and your esteem. When it comes to war, all parties cease and we are all brothers.”

In New Zealand, too, the unity generated by the outbreak of the First World War brought Government and Opposition together in a coalition that would last until 1919. Something very similar happened at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. And, although the global Covid-19 Pandemic did not inspire a coalition government, it certainly produced a high level of political co-operation between all the political parties. Economic measures that would normally have engendered bitter opposition were introduced quickly, and largely without rancour.

How far away that crisis-induced unity seemed on Thursday, 30 May 2024 when Nicola Willis delivered her first budget to the House of Representatives. Those controlling a disproportionate amount of the nation’s wealth would have been well-satisfied with the economic and social policies of the conservative coalition government. Those whose life-chances were being limited by those same policies looked to the opposition parties for succour. Very soon, all the ideological binaries were on display.

When it came to solving New Zealand’s problems, division and rancour were more in evidence on the floor of the House than unity and solidarity.

Not so on the streets, or in Parliament Grounds. There it was all unity and solidarity. Under the aegis of Te Tiriti, Māori from all over Aotearoa had gathered in defence of everything they hold dear: their language, their mana, and the rights guaranteed to them 184 years ago at Waitangi. In the eyes of those thousands of marchers, the Pakeha colonisers are, once again, making war on their people, and, once again, the spirit of Kotahitanga is breathing upon the flames in the flax-roots.

On display across New Zealand on Thursday, 30 May 2024 was an indigenous people that still has faith in itself, and continues to believe that its hopes are not vain.

How different is the picture inside the Pakeha nation. There, the National Party, Act, and NZ First have thrown up a defensive palisade around the interests that elected them. Labour, the Greens and Te Pati Māori, far from walking forth gladly to find, in the words of James K. Baxter, “the angry poor who are my nation”, keep faith only with the thin social strata that long ago reconciled itself to the administration of a system it does not control, and will never own.

New Zealand’s future belongs to those who do not fear a nation carved out of unity and solidarity, and are willing to trust the carvers. Some New Zealanders will be required to step up, and others, perhaps for the first time in their lives, will be expected to step back.

This essay was originally posted on the website on Monday, 3 June 2024.


Mark Simpson said...

In a 1970s docudrama Malcolm X's character says to Martin Luther King, "I court the white man's hatred." The only 'unity and solidarity' that TPM and acolytes espouse is this same ethos. Their increasingly hate filled, violence laden rhetoric doesn't, for me at least, suggest they desire 'unity and solidarity' amongst all NZ's ethnic groups, now or any time in the future. Their utopia will always be underpinned by hate and victimhood.

If democracy ill-serves Maori and needs to be replaced as you perhaps suggest Chris, what exactly would an improved alternative look like?

new view said...

Chris Luxons' challenge is to raise the standard of living for all NZrs. He doesn't want a parallel government, or the Treaty being used as a weapon and he doesn't want a carve up of assets in a country that we all, including Maori and immigrants, can live comfortably in and benefit from. Maori haven't done well proportionately but I am starting to wonder why. There has been a huge effort to accomodate Maori over the last fifty years both in health and education. Why is it that immigrants from India and the Philippines for example mostly do well and Maori struggle, as do other Polynesians. So with no solution from me apart from convincing them education is important, there lies the basis of discontent. Treaty settlements have made some Maori wealthy and they see their wealth as relating directly with land and assets. City Maori run and manipulated by the likes of John Tamahiri, want a bigger slice of the pie but none of this has much to do with ordinary Maori who get to work everyday to pay the bills. These people save their pennies to try and get ahead like everyone else but are continually being preached to by those who see land and resources the only answer, which all though is part of the problem is certainly not the whole problem. Although being accused of being divisive The coalition is in imo, trying to keep NZ from flying apart. The governments job becomes very difficult when you have deliberate dis information blatantly fed to us by the news media. If anyone watched Willie Jacksons circus act on the AM show this morning you will know what I mean. Accusing the Coalition of killing people needing the new cancer drugs when in fact Willies government hadn't even committed any base funding to Pharmac. Luxon is going to have to pull a rabbit out of a hat to change the thinking of those who dislike his policies if he expects to be Prime minister in two years. As Chris has stated in his last paragraph you need courage to stand up to fight for unity. For that to happen the disenfranchised will need to see improvement in their lives and there is not much time for that.

LittleKeith said...

It's quite sad but NZ is actually a really good country when you momentarily forget the negativity. Yes, we are currently struggling under the effects of critical race theory and economic mismanagement, and none of that helps unity. And there are those intent on power grabbing that do not want anything positive to be seen.

There are many strategies running for the Maori agitators, but a long-term one is simply wearing out non maori or Maori, which they deem impure to pack up and leave. The never-ending negativity, outright horse shit and victimhood has been going on for decades now, and it waxes and wanes. But make no mistake, this destructive beast can not be sated.

I suspect it's certainly in the back of peoples minds when deciding to quit NZ permanently. New Zealand, as it stands, is headed for a South African ending if this whole problem can not be contained. We are running out of time because who the hell wants to put time and money into an environment of instability, illogical race based government decision-making, and nepotistic corruption.

The National led government, by my observations, are unwittingly making a last stand for NZ as we've known it. Obviously, the left activist block who despise the election result are congealing into a woke protest block, mostly blind to the peril they put this country in. Imagine this country led by Tory Whanau crossed with Michael Wood, Kiri Allen, Phil Twyford, the TPM klavern, Chloe Swarbrick, and Golriz Ghahraman. It cannot end well.

A Labour led government would spell disaster for New Zealand as we know it but with an opposition like Labour/Green who make up the progressive left and who have an established spectacular, almost default inability to foresee the negative consequences of their actions based on their woke imaginations, they will leave the decision making to the adults who can easily see what happens next. And those who can leave, are headed for the door. If they haven't already.

And for the sad racists who make up radical Maori, that is nirvana. But for this land, you can guess the rest.

Kumara Republic said...

"Why is it that immigrants from India and the Philippines for example mostly do well and Maori struggle, as do other Polynesians."

The immigration points system.