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Enslaved by the re-imagination of our past

Marc My Words… 8 December 2006
Political comment
Marc Alexander
We are all enslaved by the re-imagination of our past

It was only a matter of when, not if. After arguing at length that cultural identification is more important than genetic predisposition, Tariana Turia - the co-leader of the Maori party - now wants to allow Polynesians to go on the Maori roll. That means the charade of so-called indigenous rights has been supplanted by political expediency. Why you ask? Because by bolstering the number on the Maori roll, the number of seats available to the Maori party rises proportionately.

The justification given is that Polynesian representation is apparently 'substandard' (to use Turia's terminology) and that, since Maori and Polynesians were a 'Pacific people' they can be presumed to have similar interests; ergo they should unite politically to achieve common goals.

The idea reeks of self-interest of course. But worse than that; it's an attempt to politically cordon off a section of the population into a self-imposed apartheid. The absurdity of Turia's suggestion comes about because the original attempt to ensure Maori representation has blossomed, over time, into a divisive channel entrenching disunity. The Treaty claims industry is an obvious spin-off which continues to reward real and imagined grievances.

But again, because financial gain is involved, the Maori party (and the Maori wannabes, the Greens) have voted against a Bill which attempts to set a deadline for all new historic grievances. Surprise, surprise.

Pita Sharples refers to the cut-off date as "an arbitrary and politically-contrived imposition." Well maybe, but it’s a reasonable one after which we can start working towards unity rather than the disunity perpetuated by this equally contrived historical ambiguity. The fact that almost as many put down their nationality as New Zealander (11%) as they did Maori (14%) in the 2006 Census, shows just how every force inadvertently gives rise to an equal and opposing force. Kiwi's are sick to death of bickering about the Treaty of Waitangi and want to move on. Only the Maori (and their lawyers) who profit from the persistence of historical accusation and complaint stand in the way. Oh, and of course colonial guilt which we are all supposed to feel (and if we don't, we are at least expected to feign shame and remorse). That's why we tolerate endless mind-numbing porphyries that go on for longer than the purpose for being there.

Does all this seem culturally insensitive? Maybe. But the truth is my patience for this neo-tribalistic crap has worn thin. Yes I do find the Haka stirring before an All Black game, and I'm genuinely interested in how Maori do certain things like cook the way they traditionally did (probably as a result of my own foodie interest), or used herbal medicines etc. But it's hard to feel inclusive towards a small but powerful Maori clique who deliberately wants to exclude everyone else and put themselves on a pedestal to which we are expected to tug our forelocks.

Pita Sharples argued that there was a tyranny of the majority imposing its rule of law over the minority. Yup, and it's called democracy. What would he prefer? The tyranny of the minority over the majority?

He referred this process as a "classic example of might is right." Well, if by might he means that we have a system of government which allocates equality by asserting that no one person should be more valued by the political process than any other, then I for one am comfortable with that. I would go further by pointing out that it is people like him who gain from the elevation of Maori rights over others that are part of the very tyranny he advocates against.

Should individuals gain scholarships because they come from a particular gene pool or because they're smart enough and deserve it? Universities, Polytechnics and secondary school teacher training facilities offer incentive grants to Maori that others are excluded from. Why? How is it fair that on the basis of simple cultural affinity, some are eligible for extra tutoring and support groups funded to ensure the right quota of a specific group succeed (whether merited or not) ?

Isn't it about time we went beyond all this? We need to grow up and understand that we live in a different age. While it may be nice to have a time capsule of the past, we also need perspective. We now have an 8% Asian population what about their representation for example?

The Maori party does not have huge support on the general roll but is a creation of an aberrant anti-democratic principle of political separatism. It maintains a connection, (tenuous though it is), to an anchor of victim hood that should have been unshackled long ago. We do not need to provide historical excuses to present failure, but rather, a blueprint towards success and achievement. The Maori cultural identity does not rely on the past but and open embrace of the future. Our era of colonialism, while interesting, belongs in the history books. We need to move forward. Unfortunately, while there's money, power and status in preserving the message of misery and grievance, it will persist to all our detriment.


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