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Upton-on-line: Traumatic Stress Disorders Issue

Upton-on-line September 1st

Special Traumatic Stress Disorders Issue

Tariana Turia has introduced a new pathological state into day-to-day conversation. It’s Post Colonial Traumatic Stress Disorder (PCTSD). This issue gets behind the sensational treatment it has received in the media. But before we do, upton-on-line knows that business people will be thrilled by Dr Michael Cullen’s latest insult-in-passing.

Asked to comment on the latest gloomy economic data from the National Bank’s survey of regional economic activity, he couldn’t resist the clever observation that some businessmen were still suffering from Post Election Traumatic Stress Disorder. Upton-on-line couldn’t have described it better. It's Dr Cullen's tax and labour market policies that have aggressively colonised the economic recovery and choked it?

What did Tariana Turia say?

Upton-on-line has been pretty appalled by the coverage of Turia’s speech to the NZ Psychological Society Conference in Hamilton. Most commentators have made it sound as though she made some extreme claims using extravagant language. They are wrong. Her words were carefully chosen and are rooted in a highly developed academic critique of colonisation that is roughly half a century old. Here is the intellectual core of her speech:

Do you seriously believe that you, with the training that you get, are able to nurture the Maori psyche, are you able to see in to the soul of the people and attend to the wounded spirit? Do you consider for example the effects of the trauma of colonisation? I know that psychology has accepted the relevance of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
I understand that much of the research done in this area has focussed on the trauma suffered by the Jewish survivors of the holocaust of World War Two. I also understand the same has been done with the Vietnam veterans. What seems to not have received similar attention is the holocaust suffered by indigenous people including Maori as a result of colonial contact and behaviour.
The Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal made such a reference in its Taranaki Report of 1996 and I recollect what appeared to be a “but our holocaust was worse than your holocaust” debate. A debate I must add, I do not wish to enter. Psychologists, Emeritus Professor James and Professor Jane Ritchie likewise link colonisation with violence.
Native American Psychologist Eduardo Duran suggests in referring to Native Americans that the colonial oppression suffered by indigenous people inevitably wounds the soul. He also says that for any effective therapy to take place the historical context of generations of oppression since colonial contact needs to be articulated, acknowledged and understood.
Professor Mason Durie identifies the onset of colonisation and the subsequent alienation and theft of the land as the beginning of Maori health issues that manifest themselves today. Issues, that have as a result of inter-generational systemic abuse, become culturally endemic. Since first colonial contact much effort has been invested in attempts at individualising Maori with the introduction of numerous assimilationist policies and laws to alienate Maori from their social structures which were linked to the guardianship and occupation of land.
A consequence of colonial oppression has been the internalisation by Maori of the images the oppressor has of them. It is for that reason that I found the negative portrayal of Maori whanau last week to be both spiritually and psychologically damaging. I know the psychological consequences of the internalisation of negative images is for people to take for themselves the illusion of the oppressors power while they are in a situation of helplessness and despair, a despair leading to self hatred and for many, suicide.
The externalisation of the self-hatred on the other hand, is seen with the number of Maori who are convicted of crimes of violence and the very high number of Maori women and children who are the victims of violence. The film “Once Were Warriors” and the Keri Hume novel, “The Bone People” bring home all too graphically the extreme levels of violence which for many, is seen as culturally endemic behaviour, behaviour which they and the wider society in which they live, see as ‘normal’.
The phenomenon of Post Colonial Traumatic Stress Disorder and its effects it appears are now culturally integrated in to the psyche and soul of Maori. It never used to be there. Indeed as Professor Anne Salmond has found, children were indulged and records of early contact show that violence towards children was uncommon. More uncommon than it was in Europe at the same period. A golden age for Maori children it would seem.
Maori tribal commentators and Treaty negotiators like Dr Hirini Mead of Te Runanga O Ngati Awa have alluded to the cumulative generational effects of trauma or as he put it ‘damage’ which has been passed down from the period of the Land Wars to current generations. A question Dr Mead has posed was related to the amount of compensation required to repair the intergenerational damage to the people. Damage, the genesis of which resides in the nineteenth century.
The acknowledgment of the holocaust suffered by many Maori tribes during the Land Wars needs to be acknowledged. Only then will the healing for Maori occur. Indeed some of the events surrounding Treaty of Waitangi land settlements have resulted in healing for the whanau of ancestors murdered by the State in State institutions.
The bones of these ancestors have been taken from the gaols and returned to their tribal homes. The return of these physical and spiritual ancestral remains have resulted in the descendants who generations before left their tribal lands in shame, also returning ‘home’. For these families the healing can now begin.
For Maori, indeed for all indigenous people the issue is the identification of the trauma, as Post Colonial Traumatic Stress Disorder in order to site the issue in its proper historical, political and economic context. This would also encourage considering the continuing oppressive effects of colonisation and the various forms it has taken as Native American academic Ward Churchill says, ‘since predator came’.
The signs and symptoms of Post Colonial Traumatic Stress Disorder (PCTSD) with Maori, needs analysis and examination. My challenge would be for the few Maori psychologists amongst you, to lead the discourse on that analysis.

As a descendant of the predators, upton-on-line was interested to follow up the thinking of Ward Churchill, an Associate Professor of Native Studies at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Professor Churchill has written extensively on genocide and land theft since the arrival of European predators in North America and has been an expert witness for indigenous people in Canada. Upton-on-line ran to earth a fascinating interview with the Professor on genocide in Canada. The full text can be found at but the following extracts give the flavour:

The point of genocide is to cause an identifiable, targetable human group as such to go out of existence, and that's true whether or not the individual members are killed. Genocide can be perpetrated in Lemkin's definition even if all the individual members of a targeted group survive. There's a variety of means which can be brought to bear to accomplish this. In the 1948 Genocide Convention - the legal definition of the term - four out five classifications of state action which can be engaged in to accomplish genocide are non-lethal. Clearly non lethal means is a systematic transfer of the children of the targeted group to the targeting group for purposes of raising them, educating them, forming their consciousness in such a way as to cause them to identify with the targeting culture, society, policy and so forth as opposed to their own, so that they will no longer understand themselves as being members of the group that was targeted for dissolution in the first place…

… Most people out there, as soon as they hear the term think of the S.S. running the extermination centers in Poland during the Second World War, or the Nazi mobile killing units, running around in Russia behind the front line troops killing off undesirables like Jews and Gypsies (sic: Romanis) and the commissars and so forth. And of course that's one means to accomplish it. But it's only 20% of the definition. The other 80% has been deliberately obfuscated as a matter of official policy in both the United States and Canada, so, first off, they don't recognize genocide when they see or hear of it. And secondarily, it becomes rendered as a matter of opinion or debate due to deliberately distorted language. "Development"- what could possibly be wrong with development? Well, first off "development" is not development, it's destruction. It's a code word, it's a masking device to take something which is negative and reprehensible in many of its aspects and cast it purely in a positive sport of conceptualization and structure, so that people hear it and respond favorably to it, without ever stopping to ask themselves what is meant by this term…

We leave it to readers to decide whether, applying liberal rules of statutory interpretation, this is what the signatories of the 1948 Genocide Convention – entered into under the shadow of the Nuremberg trials - had in mind. Article 2 of the Convention reads:

Art. 2. In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Ward Churchill’s interviewer then asked how he would describe the role of governments with regard to genocide and whether or not it punishes people. His answer:

Well it's virtually impossible to commit a genocide unless you are a government. Corporate entities do, at this point in history, have the capacity to inflict them in and of themselves, but usually this is done by sanction of the government …you can expect very little of any perpetrating government in and of itself. You need a neutral , third party arbitrator, a plebiscite, or whatever, something that's completely out of the mix to determine who's doing what to whom, and what it is that's necessary to correct it. Perpetrators can seldom correct the course of action by which they're perpetrating crimes. You don't expect the burglar to stop in the middle of the burglary, assess their actions, decide they're wrong and vacate the premises. That's what you have the police for, that's what you have the courts for. But when the police and the courts are emblematic representatives of colonial genocide, then you need something outside of that to serve as an arbitrator, to decide what it is that's right and what it is that's wrong and what it is that's to be done to set things right, to set the wrongs out of the picture.

So what has to happen, the interviewer asks, “so that a process of healing and reconciliation can occur among First Nations communities [the Canadian term for indigenous people] today”? It’s quite simple:

… it is for the dominant population, the settler society, the "Canadians", as well for as the settler population anywhere in the world, to begin to obey the law. You hear a lot of rhetoric, especially conservative rhetoric in Canada, about law enforcement. Well then-obey the law. The big laws first. The big laws, like, Canada's relations with other nations; the legal compacts by which these are determined- the treaties, conceptualizations of Aboriginal rights. For the general public, an insistence upon law enforcement, beginning with the big laws first and the little laws second, and if the little laws can't be made to conform to the big laws, then the little laws don't count …

… there was a process by which Canada came into being. And that was by negotiation of relations for acquisition of the land with indigenous people. Concurrent to that is that those indigenous peoples are nations in their own right, entitled to full range, from self determining rights, to an identity completely separate from that of Canada; a relationship to Canada that they themselves define, in accordance with their own understandings of interest, economic, political and otherwise. And if the Canadian public is not willing to adhere to that standard of conduct, than it is a conquering, colonizing, genocidal reality. And if that is acceptable to the Canadian public, then it should just come right out and say so. It should come right out and say, "We are essentially a North American Reich. We are essentially Nazis, and we're proud of it." If they don't feel that way, then they should get about learning what the laws are, learning what the standards of comportment and relationship are, and go about adhering to those in a civilized, dignified manner that is smacking of integrity, rather than duplicity.

So there you have it. Turia has imported leading edge theories from the northern hemisphere directly into contemporary political debate in New Zealand. Some might feel uneasy that this is not necessarily an authentic Maori view growing as it does out of academic discourse that can be traced back to radical French discourse in the middle years of the century. But never mind. It’s a national trait to be more impressed by the theories of outsiders than our own home-grown analysis.

So where does this leave us? Was Turia right to draw a parallel between the experience of colonisation and the holocaust. Professor Mason Durie – for whom upton-on-line has considerable respect as a subtle and discriminating thinker – was reported today as saying: “It is not a word I would use myself, but when you think the population of 200,000 Maori in 1800 was reduced to 42,000 by 1900 – that’s pretty close to a holocaust.”

Upton-on-line’s linguistic adviser notes that, based on its etymology and contemporary associations, holocaust refers to the deliberate mass immolation of victims (i.e. offerings in the temple cults of the ancient world that were totally burnt for the gods’ gratification, the gratuitous slaughter the ancient Assyrians engaged in and, of course, Hitler’s 'Final Solution').

Deliberate human agency seems to be an important element of the crime. With that in mind, one would have to observe that epidemics probably did more to decimate the Maori people than anything else. Having been separated from the bulk of the human population for a very long time, Polynesian peoples generally were extraordinarily vulnerable to the challenge of new infectious diseases. An excellent account of this, for those interested, can be found in Ecological Imperialism by Alfred Crosby (CUP 1986) pages 228-268 in particular.

The most benign, culturally respectful arrivals from Eurasia would have wreaked havoc simply through the diseases they brought with them. Now that in no way reduces the agony or the scale of the disaster, but it does raise a question or two about motivation.

The Musket Wars of the pre-Treaty era raise similar problems. Belich estimates that some 20,000 were killed in these inter-tribal wars – 10% of Durie’s total Maori population pre-colonisation. Now there’s no question that muskets were supplied by early British arrivals. And that both settlers and Crown agents took advantage of the depopulation and disputed tribal boundaries that arose in the wake of the conflicts. But Maori were important self-starters in the conflict and it is widely agreed that the Treaty imposed order that helped suppress raiding. Though not a perfect work (what is?) this history has most recently been told in The Musket Wars by Ron Crosby (Reed 1999).

Self Hatred & the Negative Portrayal of Whanau

In the text cited at the beginning of this edition, Turia alleges that many people have come to see Maori violence as “culturally endemic”. This leaves upton-on-line really stumped. He has never had anyone allege this to him. Most people have little trouble in piecing together the collapse of family structures in the wake of urbanisation and economic dislocation. Dysfunctional and violent families don’t seem to be culturally defined.

But Turia is tuned in to other voices which leads to the unbelievably romantic notion that the world before colonisation was “a golden age for Maori children”. This sort of utopian stuff would have gone down well in enlightened circles in France on the eve of the Revolution.

(Perhaps significantly, the reference Dame Anne Salmond makes in her book Two Worlds (Penguin 1990) is to an account by a French observer on Marion du Fresne’s 1772 voyage quoted in an 1891 (!) book by Roth Ling entitled Crozet’s Voyage to New Zealand and the Ladrone Islands and the Philippines in the Years 1771-1772.)

So as an antidote, upton-on-line – who has NOT been touting the culturally endemic violence theory – offers this little cameo from James Belich’s book Making Peoples: A History of the New Zealanders (Penguin 1996):

“On 23 November 1773, at a Maori village in Queen Charlotte Sound, Marlborough, `a child desired his mother to give him a piece of broiled Pinguin (sic) & as she did not immediately comply & refused to do it, it threw a large stone at her, whereupon she beat the Child, but her husband beat her unmercifully for it”. Six months earlier, the same diarist, the seal epicure Johann Forster, had observed another incident of Maori domestic violence at Dusky Sound, Fiordland, where his ship, Cook’s Resolution, had also touched. `The old Man beat his two wives, & the young gurl beat her father, then fell a crying…”

None of this proves anything. I expect late Georgian England wasn’t too different. Merepeka Raukawa-Tait and Maxine Hodgson are further from academia and closer to the community than the Minister (or was it her speech writer?) She’d do well to leave this one alone and leave it to them.

So Where Does upton-on-line Come Down?

In short, Tariana Turia is advancing a very radical – and carefully thought-out – position. Her description of European colonists as predators is deeply offensive to the descendants of those people with whom Maori signed the Treaty of Waitangi.

If the intention is to cause outcry and division, then Ms Turia’s speech could scarcely have done a better job. But that is not the Government’s policy and it should review her remit before any more damage is done. What hope is there, now, of the Government proceeding with a Treaty of Waitangi education campaign?

The Government is fast losing moral and ideological leadership of Treaty issues. That is a tragedy because, as upton-on-line has insisted on several occasions, it was elected with a real mandate to do something about closing the gaps. But that mandate depends on the goodwill of voters and taxpayers as a whole. There had better be some hard thinking done before the damage spreads beyond the government to the wider community.

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