Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Thoughts on Bullshit, Backlash, & Bleeding Hearts

As I mentioned a few days ago, I was sent a copy of this book. So, what did I think of it?

Well, it's good. Like the original Treaty quiz, Bullshit, Backlash, & Bleeding Hearts aims to introduce some facts into the debates surrounding race relations and the role of the Treaty in this country. It succeeds admirably. It has a good quickie guide to how we came to get to where we are today - the history surrounding the Treaty and the subsequent breaches and injustices on the part of the crown, to our more recent attempts at remedying the situation - as well as deflating some of the more common myths surrounding current policies. "Undefined" treaty principles? Been defined since 1989. A "Maori veto" on development? A right to be consulted (the same right that everybody else has, to boot) is simply the right to try and make your case, not a veto. A "Treaty gravy train"? The government has spent about 0.1 percent of its spending over the past five years on the settlement process, and Maori are getting back a fraction of what was unjustly taken from them - some gravy train.

There's a few sticks poked in the other direction, but they're more in line of solutions to current problems than deflating myths. Rather than relying on boilerplate references to Treaty principles in legislation, we should instead analyse the issue, figure out how the Treaty applies in this particular area, and write specific clauses to suit (as was done in the Local Government Act). And rather than thinking about the Treaty as a one race, one vote "partnership", we should think about it in slightly weaker terms, as a co-operative venture. The metaphor here is that it's like moving a couch - you're setting out to do something together, and you have to take care of one another on the way. The good thing about this view is that it has a place for more recent immigrants as well - because everyone that lives here is part of the New Zealand project.

(I've generally interpreted "partnership" as meaning that Maori must be equal participants in our society, rather than being relegated to its fringes and ignored...)

So, will it actually do any good? Depends if anyone reads it, I guess. Unfortunately, the very people who need it most seem to think that you're a "conceited dickhead" for thinking that basing your views on facts rather than bullshit might be useful (a view they quickly discard when they want to push Greenhouse denial). But Michael King's History of New Zealand (which presents much of the same information on racial injustice, only in more detail) seems to have taken off in a big way, so maybe this will too.