Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Dr Jon Johansson: On Treaty and Race

On Treaty and Race


Guest Opinion From Politics Lecturer Dr Jon Johansson
Sep 14, 2005
First Published on Public Address

"Playing the race card may help us win - then come Monday how do we run the country?"
- Jim Bolger (1990)

In a few days New Zealanders will go to the polls with our eclectic mix of motivations. Some of us will vote according to the party we identify most strongly with, or against, some of us will vote in self-interest, some will vote with their hearts, some will choose in anger, some in impatience, and others with ambivalence, perhaps even profoundly so given the nature of this desperate campaign.

In other words Kiwis, for a whole host of reasons, will tick some box or another. It's a great day and one we should all rejoice in, enjoy, and certainly have a few, and then a few more, because it reminds us of our freedom to choose, and it reminds us that for one day at least we are truly in charge, we the people are sovereign.

Of the many policies and issues raised in this campaign there is only one that has any significant long-term consequences for the direction we take as a nation, and that is treaty and race policy. I have argued, since the very first day of this campaign, that National's treaty and race policy is a radical departure from the generally progressive direction that race relations has travelled during the past twenty years. We are facing a crucial forking point.

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.

Another curious response from National was its admission that it had simply never thought about the economic consequences of its policy to dismantle the entire political and institutional framework for Maori. Brand New Zealand - our international image as a 'clean and green,' beautiful country - will surely be damaged if greater civil unrest, damning UN reports and wider scrutiny of our race relations from the international community becomes part of our new national narrative.

And given the fact that tourism now matches primary production as a significant driver of our economy, what impact would deteriorating race relations have on tourists' decisions to travel down here? Especially when the choices are manifold. We might still be green, but how clean, how beautiful?

If there is a pernicious element to the policy it must surely be to expunge from our minds (and our children's) any notion of partnership between our first people and the rest of us. If one party enters an agreement with another to start something new, whatever the motivations, we all have the common sense to see that this is a partnership. Our treaty is no different and if we still have much work to do, much of the work has already been done.

This campaign has reinforced to me that the real problem with race discourse is at the elite level, not below. Those who call themselves leaders can, still, easily exploit the public's frustration and impatience with some of the more exotic or maladaptive aspects of the Maori renaissance. I suspect, however, that after the last twenty months of inflamed rhetoric on race Maori have got the point. The vast majority of us, including Maori themselves, want to move forward. But we need to be patient, not in a paternalistic sense, but a patience born of mutual respect.

One of the great glues underpinning our race relations is that ever since colonisation we have fancied each other and we are so much the richer for a mutual attraction that has transcended politics. Second, the finest strands of our national character, features of ourselves that the late Michael King saw as the basis for his optimism about our future together - our good-heartedness, our commonsensical approach, and our tolerance - should serve us well as we make our way together, alongside the many other vibrant cultures that enrich our land and our culture.

So, come September 17, whatever your impulse is when you're deciding your choice, don't let impatience cloud your choice. Voting with the hope that your children will have a less complicated, less uncertain future will prove more satisfying than voting with either your frustration or your fears.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>

ALSO:

Buildup:

Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>

ALSO:


Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news