Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Becoming a Pacific nation

Last week, I read a column by Colin James in the Herald which put its finger on the reason why race is such a big issue in this election campaign: the Pacificisation of New Zealand:

Maori culture, supplemented by Pacific Polynesian culture, has begun over the past five years to alter "mainstream" culture and the way we live our lives.

We are moving beyond the tokenism of the past 160 years. The new All Blacks' haka - which could do with an English phrase or two to be truly "national" - is a prime example.

This transformation is still in the very early stages, and in any case will modify, not blanket out, European cultural traditions and ways of life. But over the next 25 years, in part driven by demographics, it will make us a Pacific nation, not just dwellers in the Pacific - it will Pacific-ate us.

Don Brash's reaction, and that of the culturally insecure dead white males he is appealing to, is outright denial. Faced with a strong Maori culture and growing Maori political power, they want to expunge both from public life. But their desperate attempt to fight this rising tide isn't going to be any more successful than Canute's. You simply can't fight demographics. Instead, what's at stake is not whether we will become a Pacific nation, but the character of that nation, and the relationship between its different cultures - whether we live together in harmony, or are divided by anger, bitterness, and inequality.

It's a point also made by VUW's Dr Jon Johansson. Since the beginning of the campaign, he has been warning us that National's race and Treaty policies are a recipe for racial strife. Unfortunately he's mostly been saying it in tiny soundbites while being a political commentator for One News and Agenda, but today he lays it all out in a guest column on Public Address:

National's commitment to remove the Maori seats with white votes is only one aspect of its policy that could herald in a reaction from Maori that tears at the very fabric of our social cohesiveness. A colleague of mine calls it 'path dependency'. That is, when one reaches a forking point and decides to embark on a new path, try as one might, one can never return to the original point of intersection again if things turn pear-shaped because the new landscape is forever changed. There's no going back.

And that has been my primary concern throughout this campaign. What is the impact on the social cohesion of our country if National's policy is fully implemented? Dr Brash has never addressed this crucial question other than to say that some Maori have e-mailed him with their support. That, from a potential Prime Minister, is simply not good enough. If National's wider policy is implemented, might not some moderate Maori be radicalised? What about the radical element that already exists? How might they react? We must know the answers to these questions otherwise we are taking a giant leap into the unknown with no ability to return to a path that is, if not perfect, at least one underpinned by a basic decency.

There's more there, and its well worth reading.

What really pisses me off about all this is that that harmonious future is clearly in reach. The government is finally meeting its obligation to ensure that Maori are full participants in our nation, historical grievances are on the verge of being settled for good, and most of all, Maori culture is valued and held in high esteem by the young. We're getting there - and it may all be poisoned by a colossal act of generational selfishness by a bunch of dead white males who want to roll back the clock. They are going to fuck up our future - again - just so they can live out their last remaining years in the delusion that nothing has changed and everything is exactly as it was when they grew up. And it will be us, rather than them, who end up paying the price.


How old are you exactly? And what makes you think that it it's only old people who are sick and tired of racism?

I note your posts are getting shriller as National increases their lead in the polls ... but do you really think that anyone will buy the spin that abolishing racially-limited seats in Parliament is itself racist?

Posted by Duncan Bayne : 9/14/2005 01:16:00 PM

I think I/S is absolutely on the money this time. We really are becoming more intergrated into Maori culture. And it's wonderful because it's New Zealand unique.

For example, Maori tv is a great channel, and I'd hate to see it go and I'm Pakeha, my Pakeha kids watch it and love it. The quality is excellent in most of their shows. Our kids watch open eyed at kapa haka shows on it. We need to mingle more and embrace Maori culture and art and language.

I'm Ngati Pakeha and happy. If people want English culture, then go to England. But I'm a Pacific person and proud of it.

Posted by Muerk : 9/14/2005 02:06:00 PM

Old enough to realise that I will be paying for the DWM's nostalgia long after they are dead and buried. And if you follow the links, you'll see that there isn't anything in the above that I haven't been saying all year.

As for the Maori seats, I'm quite happy with them as a mechanism for guaranteeing Maori representation in Parliament. While there are definitely disadvantages - they ghettoise the Maori vote, and allowed Labour to take Maori support for granted for decades - the most important fact is that those on the Maori roll have voted with their feet to be represented this way. Given that the seats have no more effect on electoral outcomes than any other, I don't see why their wishes shouldn't be respected.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/14/2005 02:35:00 PM

i think duncan is overlooking the shrillness of places like Sir Humphreys at the moment.

likewise DPF is also becoming increasing frantic.

but thank's for your 5c.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/14/2005 03:00:00 PM


I agree with you about Maori culture; I used to perform in a kapahaka group, & greatly enjoyed it - so much for the DWM stereotype I guess.

Where we disagree, evidently, is who should pay for it all.

If you want a Maori TV station then fine, pay for it through donations, advertising, begging, whatever; just don't force others to pay for it.

The same of course should apply to opera, ballet, orchestras etc., but it's interesting & saddening to note how many people oppose Maori TV, but not other Government-funded arts. :-(


Why should Maori be guaranteed Parliamentary representation? No-one else is; it's the nature of democracy.

The fact that many Maori choose to be on the Maori roll doesn't exactly address the issue that it's a racist institution; all it means is that it's a racist institution supported by many racist Maori.

If Maori want representation in Parliament, they need to convince New Zealanders of the merits of their policies just like anyone else (or they could just bend their policies to fit the polls, as do almost all the parties in this election).

Posted by Duncan Bayne : 9/14/2005 03:33:00 PM


Actually I've never read Sir Humphrey's until now. It doesn't look particularly shrill to me, but then maybe it's because he's busy crowing over the release of the Student Loans costings that Labour has being fighting so hard to hide prior to the election.

Oh, and you're not this Che are you? Zombies are such a pain to clean up after.

Posted by Duncan Bayne : 9/14/2005 03:40:00 PM


nice dog by the way.

And thanks for once again reminding me that i'm not the famous blogger my mum thinks i am...

Posted by Anonymous : 9/14/2005 03:48:00 PM

I agree that Brash getting in is going to fuck a lot of hard work, and achieve litle but further divisions and bitterness. However, I/S, don't you think you're being a little silly by asserting that it's DWMs who are behind this? I have several friends working at universities in Godzone, and they note that students are pretty evenly split on who they're going to vote for. Likewise, I would suspect the female vote is not all directed to Labour. In short, I doubt this is really a generational or gender deomgraphic. Do you have evidence that it's mainly elderly males supporting National? Just curious...

I'll be depressed for months if that idiot becomes PM...

Posted by Anonymous : 9/14/2005 04:19:00 PM

I think the usual conservatism of age is exaggerated in NZ by a differentiation between those who mostly went to school under Muldoon and earlier governments, and those educated post-Lange.

The cutoff point would be the early 30s - people older than this wouldn't have learnt Maori language and culture much at school and are likely to be less at home with a non-anglo culture.

Posted by Rich : 9/14/2005 05:17:00 PM

While I/S has some good points, the shrillness on the left that I/S represents is part of the problem. Brash makes lots of mistakes along with his core good point, and a sensible left would have satisfied itself correcting those mistakes. But, no, they have to paint Brash as a wholesale genocidal racist etc. who's committed to ending the Maori renaisssance etc.. And all this spurious characterization itself has a social cost and is highly polarizing and divisive.

Thanks spurious shrill left! We'll be paying for your insane partisanship and highly ideological pre-nostalgia for a relatively recent (post-1987 Appeals Court) constitutional error long after you're dead and buried.

Note that the pattern here is actually v. familiar from the US where the Supreme Court *often* makes horrible decisions involving horrible reasoning whose outcome the Left likes. The Left then ends up defending the loony decision to the death, making constitutional opportunists and hypocrites of themselves and everyone else in the process. There's some discussion of an example of this (Craig v. Boren) in section 12 of the "For same-sex marriage" paper on my web-page if you are interested.

Note too the overall intellectual laziness of the common assertion that mere location is destiny that's implicit in "Becoming a Pacific Nation". Whatever happens in NZ is happening in the Pacific and is part of what it is to be a Pacific nation. End of story - there's nothing to become, and no way forward is dictated or excluded or recommended by any geographical fact. There are lots of great questions about what justice for indigenous groups requires and what measures the general present-centric-ness of justice (which inevitably forces equal treatments between native-borns, no matter how many generations precede them) allows. It's reasonable to disagree about the answers to those questions, but the idea that there's some good inference from location to how those questions (or indeed any other "How we should live" questions) should be answered is utterly wrongheaded. The contrary suggestion is part of the general ideological murk that makes seeing and thinking clearly about New Zealand far more difficult than it has to be.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/15/2005 01:39:00 PM