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Brash Seeks Culture Change – Is Resistance Futile?

State Of It: Brash Seeks Kiwi-Culture Change – Is Resistance Futile?

By Selwyn Manning – Scoop co-editor.

As is often the case introductions to concepts of culture-change arrive through fictitious means. Star Trek’s most creepy creation, The Borg, began: "This is the Borg Collective. Prepare to be assimilated. We will add your biological and technological distinctives to our own. You will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile."

But should National’s plans to scrap the seven Maori electorates, render the Treaty Of Waitangi irrelevant, and attempt to assimilate all peoples unto the ‘mainstream’ be considered hypothetical? Definitely not.

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National Party leader, Don Brash: “More than 80% of Maori now live in urban areas, they are substantially intermarried with European and other ethnic groups, and many have little tribal affiliation or identification. Who presumes to speak for Maori, and who genuinely has a mandate to do so?”

In that statement Brash provides a window in on his thinking, indicating that Europeans have already integrated with Maori to a degree that Maori no longer possess a claim to identify themselves as Maori. He also indicates a belief therefore that no one person has a “mandate” to assume Maori leadership, and adds that stereotypical ‘mainstream’ view that Maori in some way ought to speak with one voice. Strange considering Pakeha New Zealand cannot elevate to that lofty ideal.

Cultural assimilation in New Zealand as in other nations is a given. But it is complex and hardly toward the mono-cultural. In contemporary times we have seen it where our urban Pacific youth speak with an American hint, hang on to their rrrs, positively adapt the best rhythms to a New Zealand vibe, demonstrate amazing tech skills imported from abroad - and all ethnic groups (white included) can, and do negatively adopt antisocial disestablishment behaviours born in the USA (such as extreme expressions of individualism and loneliness shown through cutting [self mutilation]) and outward expressions of anger that resist the ways of white ‘mainstream’ New Zealand.

It is before this tide of cultural identity that Brash stands. Obviously time is not on his side.

There is not a shadow of ‘mainstream’ to be found within New Zealand’s urban cast – certainly among Maori. There, generations of urban Maori have endured, and in the provinces iwi Maori have established vast networks of interconnected communities. These networks are mobilised, sophisticated in knowing how to achieve self-determination, and politically, for the first time, have bridged the urban/iwi divide.

Following Brash’s Whangarei speech, Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia rallied all Maori together to resist all attempts by National to assume power.

Brash had willingly delivered this branch of contemporary New Zealand into the hands of Labour. Those who are sympathetic to Turia’s call are likely to do one of two things: vote Maori Party knowing where it will lie post-election day, or vote Labour to keep Brash out. In one stroke of his speech-writer’s pen, Brash shifted the Maori Party from centrist power-broker into the Labour-Progressives-Greens cast.

By the end of this week Polls ought to give an indication of whether Brash’s political calculations are methodical or erroneous. If his race-relations gamble pays off, how futile will the inevitable Maori post-election resistance be? Brash’s apparent disregard for an inevitable Maori backlash would suggest it would be dealt with by staunch, respectable, distance.

Until this week, the Maori Party was playing it both ways with an apparent hope that should National win the elections, its decentralised resource plans would pass down to the regions via bulk-fund streams. For Maori, that would mean self-managed provision at community level, and shift policy a long way toward self-determination made possible by a new-right neo-liberal government that in essence would not want to govern social dependencies. There are similarities to this idea to what was set up during National’s 1993-99 terms.

However, a week is a long time in politics and certainly that adage is proving true today.

New Zealand voters now face a clear choice among two distinctive voting blocks (ACT-National-NZ First, and Labour-Progressives-Greens Maori Party, with United Future playing tag in the middle). The choice is:

  • economic liberalism v centralised distribution

  • tax cuts v targeted tax credits

  • user-pays v state-social-provision.

  • withdrawal of Treaty relevance v the status quo.

Clearly, Brash’s political-party-percentage number-crunchers knew that if he pushed too hard on race relations the Maori Party - until this week a potential ‘confidence and supply’ partner – would withdraw all co-operation.

Brash’s camp must be counting on poll gains buoyed by its tax-cut plans, a policy that pitches at a 4 to 7 constituency (1 being extreme left and 10 being extreme right). It has built upon this a calculation tested at Brash’s Orewa-1 speech that banks on that anti-Maori underbelly. If the tax cut plan was worth five percent, then the hard-line race policy is probably worth another three and potentially would siphon part of the redneck vote off New Zealand First.

Brash attempted to temper his virtual bullet-point policy with the concluding lines: “Treating everybody equally, and giving everybody the chance to get ahead. That is the way to build a prosperous multi-cultural society. This is the sort of New Zealand the National Party represents and will be fighting for at the next election.”

To Maori who have been driving a ‘biculturalism first, multiculturalism second’ line, Brash’s tempering only displays ignorance and breeds further distrust. His message is equality by assimilation, period (as the Americans say).

Will Brash ‘Borg’ all into his view of ‘mainstream’ New Zealand? The answer is in your hands.

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  • Borg is also occasionally used as a slang verb, meaning to take over or absorb something.
  • Assimilation, from Latin assimilatio meaning "to render similar".
  • See also, Brash: We Are All New Zealanders
  • Maori Party Commits To Keeping National Out
  • ENDS

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