Feb 27, 2013

"Give your daughters difficult names..."

Posting on Maori politics will be lighter than usual this year. To make up for that I want to post little bits on or from other indigenous, brown and black cultures and follow that with a discussion. To kick us off, here's a poem from Warsan Shire, a Somali writer:

Give your daughters difficult names. 
Give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. 
My name makes you want to tell me the truth. 
My name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right.

Here's a link to the full piece. I thought this would speak to Maori with Maori names. I've never endured the shame and the frustration of having my name mangled, but I feel for those that suffer its dehumanising effects.

Morgan Godfery* - it's a serious name. Morgan is the surname of my maternal grandmother. The name's of Welsh origin and depending on the source means "great kingdom", "great queen" or "great hundred". Godfery is a variation on Godfrey.** God means, well, God, and fery or frey comes from the word fred meaning peace. The name isn't English in orgin - it's Norman - but it appears to be more common across Britain.

Mine is a harsh sounding name. The M sound provides a soft introduction, but the g and n offer a harsh end. However, the order is revered in Godfery. The g and d provide a coarse introduction, but the f and r offer a soft landing. I would've liked a less serious name, and one with softer sounds, but I like my name. I like it because it's mine.

*A very European name for a Maori, but I'm proud of that and the heritage that comes with it.
**I have no idea why it's spelt Godfery and would be eternally grateful to anyone that knew. 

Feb 26, 2013

Property rights and racism as a political ideology

DPF blogs (quoting from Stuff.co.nz):

The Taupo Ironman event is to go ahead after local iwi and organisers agreed to a confidential settlement.
Discussions were held all week after Lake Taupo owners Tuwharetoa Maori Trust Board sought to charge a levy for Ironman New Zealand competitors to use the lake for the swim leg of the international triathlon, to be held next weekend.
The trust board was reported to be seeking a $40 levy for each entrant, which would have netted about $58,000.
Taupo Mayor Rick Cooper said he was sickened and saddened by yesterday’s announcement. “If a charge has been set for the use of the lake I would be extremely sad; in fact, I feel sick to hear it. …
Ngati Tuwharetoa, under a revised deed of settlement signed with the Crown in 2007, are considered legal owners of the lake bed and air space above it, and have the right to license commercial users of the lake.

I’m pretty appalled myself.

I can understand the agreement Labour made in 2007 as part of a settlement that commercial users may have to pay a fee. To my mind that was intended for activities which are primarily about making a profit – say a jet ski hire operation.

But sporting events should not be treated in the same way. Charging $40 a person for swimming in the lake just goes against the grain.

If any future agreements include use of lakes, it would be highly desirable for commercial use to exclude sporting events.

An infuriating part of this, for me at least, is that this sentiment isn't confined to the right. I've heard a handful of lefties claim that they’re “uncomfortable” with Maori exercising their property rights over Lake Taupo.

Property rights are always sanctified when possessed and exercised by the right sort of people – read non-Maori. Where Maori are attempting to protect and exercise their property rights the goal posts are shifted. Property rights are great, but you Maori must make exceptions for sporting events, fishing competitions and anything else we decide. Apparently, property rights enjoy a shifting definition.

In principle, I can see no reason Ngati Tuwharetoa can’t and shouldn’t charge for the commercial use of their property. After all, Ironman is run on a commercial basis. We wouldn’t expect a farm owner or estate owner to provide free access for the commercial use of their property. Why do we expect that of Maori?

The answer – and we can all see this coming – is racism. Racism not only as a kneejerk reaction against Maori or an expression of stupidity, but racism as a political ideology.* Racism designed to lessen Maori rights and maintain Pakeha political hegemony. Racism as a political ideology was adopted and practiced across the colonial world and survives today. The ideology is couched in the language of economics** and, in New Zealand’s case, increasingly in the language of “Maori privilege” and “one law for all”. It’s a shameless argument - Maori are on the bottom on the heap on every measure and the needle isn’t moving – but the language and the implicit ideas appeal to the base fear of the others and the threat they pose to Pakeha political and economic hegemony.

These attitudes reveal that we’re nowhere near a post-racial New Zealand (which is a stupid idea anyway) and that Treaty settlements have not corrected Pakeha prejudice. Then again, that was never the point and dreaming about correcting Pakeha prejudice is about as silly as imagining a post-racial Aotearoa.

*Ta-Nehisi Coates at the Atlantic provides an easy to understand explanation of racism as a political ideology. Arnold Hirsch developed the concept is his book Making the Second Ghetto.

**Former Republican National Committee Chairperson, Harvey “Lee” Atwater, captures it well in this damning quote: “You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger" — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."

Feb 20, 2013

The Daily Blog, Native Affairs and Rongoa

The Daily Blog

I'm excited to be part of the Daily Blog - a congregation of "weak, stupid, effeminate, erectile dysfunctional, naïve, apologist, namby-pamby, thumb-sucking, lefty pinko fantasy-land moron [sic]". Note that that's meant as a compliment and a sign of affection.

In Bomber's words

TheDailyBlog.co.nz will bring together 30 of the best left-wing bloggers and progressive opinion shapers in NZ all onto one site to critique the news, the media, and politics to provide the other side of the story.

The first challenge is to build a community. The first step in that challenge is easy - bring together a community of bloggers and their readers. The second step is harder - build a community of readers and commenters from outside of the leftwing blogosphere. I'm optimistic about that.

Native Affairs 

I'm sure most of you know, but for those that don't Julian Wilcox (the country's best news and current affairs presenter) is the new head of news and current affairs at Maori TV. His replacement on Native is Mihingarangi Forbes. She's a great addition to the strongest line-up in current affairs. Julian had a hypnotic voice and manner. He could lull guests into a false sense of security and hit them. Mihi is more combative - witness her demolition of Alasdair Thompson. I'm looking forward to it. The show returns March 11 at 8.30pm.

Winston has a go at Rongoa Maori

Winston's back up to his old tricks:

Rongoa Māori is under attack from New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, who says the Health Ministry is shelling out almost $2 million a year supporting traditional healers without any monitoring or accountability.
$2m is peanuts in the context of Vote Health's $14b appropriation. In other words, Rongoa Maori funding accounts for about 0.01% of the Health budget. The Silver Fox isn't really concerned about an unaccountable $2m, it's the idea of unaccountable Maori money. Although, there should be accountability for any and all taxpayer money, but that isn't to diminish the place of Rongoa Maori - even if it were only operating as a placebo.

Feb 19, 2013

Towards a "Separate" Maori Justice System

Via the Police News Centre:

Iwi and Police are joining together to implement an innovative strategy aimed at reducing victimisation, offending, road fatalities and injuries among Maori. 
'The Turning of the Tide - a Whanau Ora Crime and Crash Prevention Strategy' was developed by the Police Commissioner's Maori Focus Forum, consisting of senior Iwi representatives from around the country, with help from Police. 
Police Commissioner Peter Marshall says there is an obvious need to reduce the number of Maori entering and re-entering the criminal justice system and dying on the roads. 
"Maori now comprise more than 40% of all police apprehensions, more than 50% of the prison population and more than 20% of crash fatalities, despite making up only 15% of the general population.” 

 Firstly, credit to the Police and iwi. There's a lot to like. The plan adopts the Whanau Ora approach. In other words, an inter-iwi and inter-agency approach. The plan also considers the relevant issues in the context of the extended family (which is consistent with the more literal definition of Whanau Ora).

Taking people out of their families to ‘fi x’ them and then putting them back doesn’t work, especially when the family is a gang. Sometimes, we’re our own worst enemies and let our families lead lifestyles that encourage crime. ‘Fixing’ individuals doesn’t change the family.

Reintegration is an essential part of rehabilitation, but reuniting offenders with their whanau can - in a significant number of cases - increase the risk of reoffending. The traditional risk factors include poverty, education, housing, and unemployment. However, family circumstance - read having a criminal family - is often overlooked in sentencing and parole decisions. There can be little point in releasing or reintegrating an offender whose own whanau represents an invitation to reoffend. The plan recognises this factor and aims to create "positive family relationships" to reduce the risk of reoffending among offenders in the above circumstances.

The plan also acknowledges that a culture change is necessary:

We want as many people as possible talking about why crime is wrong, who gets hurt, and what each and every one of us can do to prevent it. It’s time to stop paying lip service to tikanga and put our cultural values into action. Until we do, the people who suff er are our children, siblings, parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles.

Yes. Yes. However, the report's silent on a culture change in the Police ( it's probably outside the brief). The Salvation Army writes in their State of the Nation Report that Maori are three times more likely than non-Maori to be apprehended and "also more likely to be prosecuted by the Police for their offending". The Sallies add that "not only has this trend continued... but it may be getting worse". Kylee Quince has found that:*

Maori are 3.3 times more likely to be apprehended for a criminal offence than non-Maori. Ministry of Justice figures for 1999 report a prosecution rate for young Maori people aged ten-16 years at 76.2 per 1000 population, compared with 16.95 per 1000 population for non-Maori. Maori adults were 3.8 times more likely to be prosecuted than non-Maori and 3.9 times more likely to be convicted of an offence. Nine times as many Maori than non-Maori are remanded in custody awaiting trial.

Prosecution is a discretionary decision, but the Police will (apparently) consider the seriousness of the offence, the strength of evidence, the number and type of associated offences for which the person may also have been arrested on that occasion, previous offending and so on. The unspoken consideration is, of course, race (or race coupled with class). After all, Maori are more likely to be prosecuted than a non-Maori for committing the same crime. This indicates, to me, that race is an aggravating factor in the decision to prosecute. Consider this (also from Quince):

At least two thirds of the 737 police respondents reported hearing colleagues use racist language about Maori. Many reported a greater tendency to suspect Maori of an offence, or to stop and query Maori driving “flash” cars. Overall, the data suggested that about 25 per cent of police have negative attitudes towards Maori.**

No Maori (or should that be dark-skinned Maori with no money?) with experience in or with the Police needs an academic paper to alert them to Police racism. It's known to the point that it's intuitive among many Maori. But getting to the point: there needs to be a culture change within the Police. It is all well and good for the Turning the Tide plan to call for a culture change among Maori, but that call must be reciprocated if it's to have any legitimacy. It's a start, and an encouraging one I suppose, that the Police aim to slash the Maori prosecution rate by 25%.

I'm a cautious supporter of a Maori criminal justice system.*** The, for want of a better term, western justice system doesn't cater to Maori notions of justice. The current system enjoys a monopoly on justice, but many of the values it embodies and expresses are not universal. Judge Andrew Beacroft (Principal Judge of the Youth Court) has found that the most effective programmes for Maori take a holistic approach (incorporate tikanga, whanau and the like), enhance pride in the offenders’ taha Maori and whakapapa and are tailored to the individual. A Maori justice system would do this and more. Rangatahi Courts, Marae hearings and the Whanau Ora approach represent small scale change in that direction, but come nowhere close to challenging the hegemony of Pakeha justice.

It's not like this idea is particularly radical. The Treaty guarantees Maori tino rangatiratanga and article 34 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples holds that "Indigenous peoples have the right to promote, develop and maintain their... juridical systems or customs, in accordance with international human rights standards". In the US, the Navajo Peoples maintain their own police force, judicial system and corrections system (jurisdiction is shared with the state). Surely, if they can do it, we can.

Post Script: JustSpeak provides a position paper (Maori and the Criminal Justice System 2012) from a youth perspective. Very interesting. 

*This is a very good paper from Kylee Quince from Auckland University Law School. Quince uses to the trauma of colonisation to help explain Maori offending. 

**See G Maxwell and C Smith  Police Perceptions of Maori Victoria University of Wellington, 
Institute of Criminology, 1998, Summary and Recommendations. Note that of the 737 
police respondents, 8 per cent of the sample identified as Maori.

***The most famous and most instructive paper on point is He Whaipaanga Hou (The Maori and the Criminal Justice System) by Moana Jackson. It's the go to paper for any discussion of Maori and the criminal justice system. I say cautious because I'm more pragmatic than principled on this point. 


Feb 13, 2013

Richard Prosser and white privilege

I didn’t think I had much to add on Richard Prosser and Wogistan. Aside from noting the encouraging response from the political establishment and fair-minded New Zealanders, it didn’t bear thinking about. However, listening to and reading arguments in Prossers' defence made me lose it. I couldn’t sit around without reiterating that free speech is qualified by the right not to be vilified as an individual or a member of a group. And that’s what it is, vilification of Muslims and anyone who looks Muslim (translation: anyone a darker shade of olive). Prosser is admitting that the “language used wasn’t appropriate”, but he refuses to apologise for the sentiment expressed. He still doesn’t get it. The words sting, but the hurt stems from the ideas that underpin Prossers’ column.

Tim Watkin does a good job of demolishing the reasoning (or lack of) behind Prossers’ diarrhea. For Prosser, this isn’t about making a point or stimulating reasoned debate; its toilet-grade shock-jockism. It’s worth remembering that this isn’t the first time Prossers had a go at something that isn’t a white middle-aged male. Behold:

Because our society, New Zealand society, Western society in general, has been hijacked by a conspiracy of Silly Little Girls. They’re everywhere; in the schools, in the media, in the public service, in the judiciary, even in Cabinet.

Everywhere we turn, the foundations of masculinity, the pillars of male-ness which have underpinned the construction and development of our very civilisation, are being undermined, by Silly Little Girls. And we are putting up with it.

If you visit Stormfront, a prominent neo-nazi website, this sort of sentiment is standard fare. But from a member of New Zealand’s Parliament… it’s not on. There’s no need to attack the logic behind Prossers’ views (because there is none), the more interesting point is to note that Prosser is a perfect example of white-male-establishment privilege.*

Feminist writer Peggy McIntosh argues that white privilege is largely unconscious and she lists 50 instances of it (and that’s not a comprehensive list). At 9. McIntosh writes that:

If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.

The freedom to speak freely (in other words). McIntosh lists other instances: “I can expect figurative language and imagery in all of the arts to testify to experiences of my race” (which speaks to the privilege of assuming the universality and supremacy of ones’ own experiences and beliefs). This applies to Prosser, yes, but the most important privilege he is using is the freedom to speak freely

If Titewhai Harawira, a woman of colour, were to express the same sentiment against white people, well, she’d be destroyed. Say she suggested that white men be banned from primary schools because they’re more likely to sexually abuse underage girls or that white men should be barred from owning a business because they’re more likely to commit fraud. It would not be defended as “one woman’s opinion”. But more significantly she would never get the opportunity to speak so freely (there are a negligible number of non-white writers and broadcasters in the media – and fewer to none with the institutional security to express opinions like Prosser). Unlike Prosser whose defenders affirm the worth of his ideas (a spinoff of WMEP - think of Michael Laws and his listeners), a writer of colour would not have the freedom to speak so freely let alone expect defenders.

It happens regularly, white men of the establishment are given the right to say whatever they want and vilify whoever they want. Paul Holmes enjoyed the right to take a dump all over Maori. The consequences he faced were pro-forma and he enjoyed an affirmation of his own worth and the normality of his ideas from blogs, letter writers and talkback (also remember the mountain of shit he started that was directed against Maori). Michael Laws is given the right to slur Maori every week and even suggest that certain people be sterilised. This also speaks to how New Zealanders are desensitised to racism against Maori (and also discrimination beneficiaries, unionists and other marginalised groups).

If it were up to me, I’d have sacked Prosser the moment he contemplated publishing his piece. In an ideal society, no one should hold the views that he does – least of all a Member of Parliament. Take a moment to think about that - a Member of Parliament. I’ll be voting for a party of the left in 2014, but it won’t be going to a party that is part of a coalition that includes Richard Prosser.

Post Script: Bryce Edwards has written an interesting post titled Richard Prosser’s role in making mainstream politicians look progressive, but the best, most articulate piece (and deeply personal) is from a Bengali Muslim describing how it "hurts" and the process of Prossers' "othering". She captures beautifully the human consequences of discrimination. The posts holds true for people of colour in "western" (read white) societies.  

*White privilege is a controversial theory. I think the theory is better described as white-male-establishment privilege – privilege is our society is not isolated. There is an intersection between being white, male and part of the establishment. Some people argue that the theory is better described as economic privilege. The idea isn’t without merit, but again privilege isn’t isolated. Even if we described privilege through class lenses it is still common to see racial stratification in labour (more so American labor – I don’t think it holds true to the same extent in the New Zealand union movement). After all, a poor white person is still a member of the dominant culture and will enjoy some of the privileges that come with that.

What post-settlement iwi should look like

Via the Herald:

Tuku Morgan says a plan to scrap Waikato-Tainui's tribal parliament and its executive board has to pass through the institutions that he wants put to bed.

The tribe's 198-member parliament represents 66 marae. Every three years the parliament elects 10 members to its executive board, Te Arataura, with one appointed by King Tuheitia. Mr Morgan was appointed as the king's representative in December.

"Change has to happen and change is inevitable," Mr Morgan said.

This is one of the most significant post-settlement issues – what does an ideal iwi structure look like? Bell Gully lists three fundamental criteria:

  • a structure where the individual iwi members have ultimate control; 
  • the legal capacity and powers of the structure are certain; and 
  • ownership and management functions are kept separate, as are commercial and non-commercial objectives. 

In Tainui, iwi members exercise indirect control. Iwi members don’t enjoy an individual vote, but their vote is part of a collective vote – the Marae vote. It isn’t a purely democratic model rather it awards iwi members that are intimately connected with their Marae. Iwi members that are disconnected from their Marae are, in practice, disenfranchised and disconnected from tribal politics. As a result, representatives in Te Kauhanganui (TK) and appointees to Te Arataura are not accountable to iwi members at large. Instead representatives and appointees owe their patronage to individual Marae or the Kingitanga. The consequence: gridlock. The better system would involve a postal ballot of all iwi members under an at-large system. That way, representatives are accountable to and represent iwi interests – not the interests of a single Marae, the Kingitanga or a political faction. Iwi members could punish political gridlock. At the moment, political gridlock can be awarded if it serves the interests of the sponsoring entity (e.g. the Kingitanga).

On the second count, Tainui structures fail miserably. The rules regulating tribal affairs are unnecessarily complex. Opposing factions have tested the rules in High Court on several occasions in the past two years. From the beginning of the 2010 financial year through to 2012 Chapman Tripp collected over $1m in legal fees and Bell Gully collected almost $300,000. Over four other firms cashed in as well. Yeah, less than ideal. The government could and should step in here. Better legislation is required for post-settlement structures. It is unsuitable, in my opinion, for TK to operate under the Incorporated Societies Act 1908. Legislation grounded in tikanga Maori would seem more appropriate - including a provision providing for Maori dispute resolution.

The third point is satisfied. However, a fourth point is missing. Iwi structures should be run according to Maori values. Wealth creation and distribution should be at the centre of iwi structures, but that should be subject to:

· Kaitiakitanga – in other words sustainable investment.

· Manaakitanga – meaning ethical investment.

· Whakapapa – investment should, where possible, be made within the iwi and the benefits distributed within the iwi. This could mean that a primary focus of iwi is job creation within their rohe.

· Mauri – efforts are made to preserve iwi anchors – for example their respective reo, tikanga, kawa and so on.

This is a rough outline, of course, but I think it is a useful guide to how iwi structures should operate. Debates around representation, legal certainty and management practice are occurring across the motu (the country). Waikato-Tainui are having their debate in the most public fashion, but that doesn’t mean the issue is confined. Karla Akuhata is highlighting similar issues in Ngati Awa. This is a debate that must be had. After all, if we aren't seeing any benefits post-settlement, then what was the point?

PostScript: Last November I analysed the proposal to award Kingi Tuheitia the power to dissolve TK. This might be of interest to those interested in this issue. The Te Kauhanganui tag also has a number of similar posts.  

Feb 6, 2013

Happy Waitangi Day!

What are you doing? It's Waitangi Day - don't read this. Relax and enjoy the day.

However, for those of you who can't - maybe the talkback racism and calls for New Zealand day are getting to you - you can distract yourself with Tu Mai Te Toki. TMTT is a new blog from Karla Akuhata. It focuses on Ngati Awa affairs, but the blog speaks to deeper issues about wider iwi politics and the challenges Maori face in a post-settlement world. Issues like iwi investment and communication between the hierarchies and the people. Enjoy.

Feb 5, 2013

Reflections on Waitangi Day

I think of Waitangi Day (WD) as a metaphor for the national mood and the health of the bicultural partnership. For an illustration, compare and contrast WD 2009 and 2012.

WD 2009:

Significant for its sense of optimism, WD 2009 came off of the back of National’s election win and their partnership with the Maori Party. The optimism of that win and the symbolism of that bicultural partnership defined WD 2009. For Maori, the day represented a break from the foreshore and seabed era and a realisation of an old Maori ambition – a kaupapa Maori party in but not of the government. For non-Maori New Zealanders, what defined the day was the (vacant) optimism that the Prime Minister’s election win created. Early indications suggested that John Key was not cut from the same cloth as Helen Clark, Jenny Shipley, Jim Bolger or any other Prime Minister since Sir Keith Holyoake. Key represented a break from the radicalism of the fourth and fifth Labour and National governments respectively and a swing against the perceived nanny stateism of the fifth Labour government.

As a result of these factors, nothing much happened and no remembers the day. Well, other than the Popata brothers having a crack at the Prime Minister, but their actions were an outlier. Brent Edwards told RNZ that, compared to the past four years, WD 2009 was “much more peaceful” and “much more of a celebration”.* Pita Sharples encapsulated the mood when he spoke of the “covenant” between Maori and Pakeha and the “hope” he had for the future.**

WD 2012

WD 2012 is best remembered, rightly or wrongly, for the Popata brothers (again) and the late Sir Paul Holmes (and a few thousand off-their-tits Kiwis in London). The day came off of the back of significant tension between the Maori Party, Mana and Labour and antipathy towards the National government, including their support for off-shore oil drilling. Add to that the perception that the Maori Party had betrayed the optimism and faith of 2009, well, the conditions for vicious protest were set. Maori Party MPs were labelled “John Key’s niggers”, speakers were drowned out under protest and marches were held. Sir Paul Holmes captured the non-Maori mood that year: frustration with what was perceived as unjustified protest. After all, the Maori Party were in government. Add to that a stagnant economy, worsening unemployment and a series of disasters in 2011. It’s probably no surprise that the national mood wasn’t, for want of a better word, tolerant.

The irony was that the Maori Party in government is partly what fueled the protests. Maori felt that the party had over compromised in government (thus betraying the optimism and faith of 2009). Include a Maori unemployment rate that was worsening, static Maori education statistics and negligible improvement in Maori crime and, well, protest becomes almost inevitable.

(It’s a sort of interesting to note that, almost prophetically, Holmes' piece set the tone for what was a turbulent political year)

WD 2013

Treaty settlements are continuing apace, the flame war between the Maori and Mana parties is smouldering rather than burning and the constitutional review is beginning. On the other hand, asset sales and wai rights top the agenda. With that in mind, the conditions are present (although absent a catalyst for action on the day). The national mood is, I think, also in flux. The conditions are present, think wai rights and a perceived pro-Maori constitutional review, but a catalyst is absent. Having said that, John Ansell is planning on an appearance. Then again, he is hardly an explosive catalyst in the way that, say, a Supreme Court judgment that awarded significant wai rights to Maori. Anyway, I think these factor do not define WD alone. Hundreds of events are held across the country. Events that, I think, better catch the potential of WD better than much of what happens at Te Tii.

*Radio NZ has a collection of audio from WD 2009. Listening to the pieces gives you a sense that it was, like Brent said, a more peaceful and celebratory day than in previous years.

**That speech was, I think, Pita Sharples at his best - a conciliator and a cross-cultural statesman. It’s a pity that at many times he has failed to live up to that potential.