Posts Tagged ‘ Maori ’

Are you a New Zealander? – Census Dilemma

Something that has always irked me on census forms, and indeed a great number of other forms we have to complete is the ‘ethnicity’ component.

I object to “pakeha” as much as I object to “European” as a label.

I was born here in New Zealand so I am an New Zealander, that is my ‘ethnicity’. Wikipedia describes ethnicity as;

“An ethnic group is a group of human beings whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage that is real or presumed.[1][2] Ethnic identity is further marked by the recognition from others of a group’s distinctiveness[3] and the recognition of common culturallinguisticreligiousbehavioral or biological traits,[1][4] real or presumed, as indicators of contrast to other groups.”

I’m not a European, wasn’t born in the EU and am not an EU citizen. I have English ‘heritage’ but then that’s a mixture of different backgrounds.

My racial ancestors arriving in the UK...

My racial ancestors arriving in the UK...

The NZ census is once again going to continue with European as an ethnic group. I also see support comes from the health sector for this term because it helps identify groups for specific treatment and planning. This is fair enough but it also sheds light on what is going on here.

This is actually about race not ethnicity. As Wikipedia says, ethnicity is almost an emotional construct, race on the other hand is a method of classification of humans.

This is what the problem is and it’s about being politically correct. The term that should be used is “racial group” – what is your racial background. In my case the answer is as complicated as anyone elses but it is a lot easier to put down a lot of tick boxes for something that is undeniable – racially I am Caucasian.

That may not help the Government much, but then NZ European doesn’t mean stuff-all and just annoys people like me because of the second thing that going on that no one wants to admit which is about sensitivities towards Maori. 

Many Maori could as much claim they were ethically Maori as I could claim I was Roman or Norman, sure dig deep enough you could claim one eighth something or other, but this isn’t a scientific thing, it’s emotional. If it’s emotional what the hell is it doing in a piece of scientific statistical research like the Census?

I suppose one day there will be just genetic profile tests and these will show what the health authorities need, however right now we all feel a bit uncomfortable about letting the government have this sort of information and I personally always will. So we end up with a woolly pretty useless census description that appeals to the politically correct and emotional.

I sympathise with officials who have to put together the census, because it’s political not scientific. The question they want and need to ask they can’t, so they ask something that achieves little instead because to take the question out altogether would mean it would be impossible to put it back in later – at least until we have matured sufficiently as a country.

By the time we do get around to ask the right question it’s quite possible there will be a specific race genetically defined as New Zealanders, until then, NZ European is inaccurate as is New Zealanders.

If the questions is really about our emotional ethnicity, then the term New Zealanders needs to be in there, because emotionally that’s the ethnic group myself, and hopefully millions of other New Zealanders, feel connected to.

The genetic/racial question is a different thing altogether.


Shane Jones is no democrat

“Over-concentration of power in the hands of a few people will gut local democracy and leave [Auckland] the poorer for it”

Shane Jones

On the other hand, allocating a few seats based on race to one particular group whilst others get no special benefit is highly democratic… not.

You wonder how people like Shane Jones work this sort of logic out, especially coming from a group of people who aren’t exactly renowned for sharing power. 

If we regard ourselves as a mature democratic country, then we have no need for allocated positions on elected bodies based on race. The other option is that we use the census to determine racially based position allocation for all groups, white, Indian, Chinese, Samoan, Tongan etc etc splitting it down to things likes ex Scots, South African, Croation or Welsh if they so require. This is the logical extension of the Maori seats if we are going to be fair and democratic about it.

Naturally this is daft, I don’t even know how to start to identify my ethnic heritage, and it’s worth considering that almost every ‘Maori’ has European or other heritage just as I have a mixture of Dutch, English and Italian heritage.

What are people like Shane Jones so scared of?

We now have Asians and Islanders represented in parliament, as well as Women and Gay’s, sure you could argue that the split isn’t perfect, but political parties have offered up candidates from a range of groups within NZ. It isn’t like if all preference for Maori’s was abolished that there would suddenly be no Maori representation.

Isn’t it somewhat insulting to the excellent Maori MP’s to insinuate that they are incapable of getting elected unless they have some special dispensation and guaranteed seats in Parliament (or local Councils)?

I think it is, these people should be elected because of what they can offer their voters, not based on the colour fo their skin or which ethnic heritage they feel they relate too.

The continued existence of a separate system giving advantages to one group over another does nothing to further Maori New Zealanders political ambitions, most other New Zealanders don’t bother voting for Maori political groups because they see them as already being guaranteed a place, this just means that the weak justifications for those guarantees will continue.

Maori New Zealanders have shown themselves to be very adept politically both within their tribal groups and nationally, they are just as capable as any other New Zealanders at getting elected and should by now feel they don’t need artificial support to be represented. 

Shane Jones should have a bit more faith in ‘his people’ and if he was really interested in real democracy, he should be campaigning against retention of so called positive discrimination in our electoral system for one particular group over another.

Traditional Honors to be restored

Personally I didn’t ever see this happening, so it is interesting that John Key has decided to reinstate the UK based Honors system (and retain the PC version Labour introduced).

I always thought the Labour system was a joke, if you were ideologically against something, why replace it with a meaningless half baked facsimile, why not ditch it altogether?

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Auckland Harbour Bridge Flag

mybanner4815a9962759czy8This tiresome event rolls around with depressing regularity every year, and this year Pita Sharples is the self anointed cheer leader.

Pita wants the ‘so-called’ Maori Flag flown on the Auckland Harbour Bridge during Waitangi Day.

I’m inclined to agree with Tau Henare who says it’s a publicity stunt for the Maori Party, and that there are significantly more pressing issues Pita & Co should be concerning themselves about, like the looming unemployment that will surely  affect lot of Maori.

There’s no agreement that this is a flag that represents Maori and it seems it’s a bit like the Maori Party claiming to represent Maori, which isn’t entirely accurate.

New Zealand is made up of a mix of immigrant cultures – including Maori – and if you extend the logic we could probably give each group a week to fly their particular flag, or we could just stick a line of flag poles up and see if we could set some record for the most flags on a harbour bridge – it could be a tourist attraction.

The whole point is that it’s political. Maori like Sharples see the flag as representing a goal of Independence for ‘Maori’, people who think this are usually pretty careful about not pointing that out too much because it will piss off the majority of NZders who feel that New Zealand should be a country where no particular groups is treated preferentially based on cultural differences, and the thought of legal Independence for a particular cultural group is highly undesirable (putting it politely)!

A flag that is a political movements flag is not something that should be flown on the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

There should be only one flag if there’s going to be one, and that should be the New Zealand flag that represents everyone here.

Opportunity for Maori Party

maoripartyThe Maori party are at a set of cross roads and how they deal with it will determine whether they remain a relevant voice for their voters, or end up gradually disappearing into irrelevance.

You’ll note I say ” a voice for their voters”, as I think it would be arrogant for them to claim to be a voice for Maori. Maori didn’t exactly break any records for voter turn out this election and not every Maori who did bother, voted for the Maori Party. So they can’t claim to be a voice for all Maori. 

The Green Party here has failed to get over it’s left-of-Labour ideology, and because it’s got a lot of ex-Alliance members and Unionists in it, it can’t be viewed as a real Green Party as say the Green Party in Germany is. How not smacking your kids is good for the environment is lost of me, and obviously a lot of other voters. The Green Party here actually has a real problem because it’s not an environmental issues political movement, it’s a left wing political movement with a lot of Big Government, Statist, Unionist type policies. The fact that they can’t bring themselves to deal with National shows they have lost the plot. I’m sure if they were just an environmental political movement, they could, like the Green’s in Germany have with the Conservative and Liberal parties, have found some common ground with National. This is a huge loss for the Green’s and until they get rid of left wing unionist and ex communists from their ranks and focus on the environment, they are going to become more irrelevant.

This is where the Maori Party comes in.

They can either allow the left wing Maori Sovereignty idealists of their party to push a certain type of political ideology on them, or they can become a party focused on issues important to their voters (and lets face it, every other NZder). This way, they can (like the German Greens) work an agreement with any party who will give them some ground (left or right). Indeed the Maori Party really needs to run a mile from such tags that the MSM will try and pin on them. Like ACT, who I don’t see as being right wing (that’s a convenient MSM tag) the Maori Party should be able to work with anyone.

I understand the Maori Party are keen on vouchers for school children, they have this system in place already and it works well. ACT’s for this as well, and obviously there’s some synergies. Hell, I’d vote for the Maori Party if it was going to see a voucher system put in place because if it works for them, it’ll work for everyone else.

The Maori Party too understands that Social Welfare is not helping it’s voters, and here again they actually have some common ground with ACT.

If the Maori Party can become a practical ‘issues’ party, a bit like ACT, instead of being stuck as left or right (ACT is very socially liberal, much more so than National), then they have a long and successful future ahead of them, and there’s every reason to believe that they will have more than just Maori votes, but in fact have a broader appeal just like the Green’s in Germany have.

If, on the other hand, they allow extreme ideologues to dominate the debate and come out with things about Maori Sovereignty, then they can expect to inhabit the fringes and the practical policies that would not only benefit Maori, but everyone else as well, will never see the light of day. 

That’s why the Maori Party are about to make the most important decision in their existence, and for all our sakes given some of the excellent policy ideas coming out (apart from the silly $500 for all Maori families for Christmas type policies) I hope they decide to take the path of a party focused on progressive social and education policy and not run by academics and ideologues like the Green Party is.

Maori language week

There’s been a lot of banging on about correct pronunciation of Maori (mostly aimed at white people) this week.

Apparently in order to show respect and “mana” to the Maori language it requires us to pronounce it as we are told by the self appointed experts… really?

Like all languages pronunciation changes over time, and also it’s different between people speaking the same language. Last year I had a funny conversation with a girl at a supermarket checkout in Liverpool – we both had difficulty in understanding each other even though we were speaking the same language. A week wouldn’t go by where I would have difficulty in understanding (or vice versa) someone who was speaking English because of their pronunciation.

I don’t go around thumping my chest and demanding people respect ‘my’ language and culture and pronounce it that way I do. Indeed both here and overseas I am grateful that so many people have made the effort to learn English even if they do mangle it up from the original version (whatever that was), and really, my English is mangled ‘Queen’s English’ and itself that bares no resemblance to how English was spoken 50, 100, 200, 500 years ago – it’s evolved. English is changing faster as the use of the language has spread, even between generations the pronunciation and use of words has changed dramatically.

And so has Maori, there are regional differences in pronunciation even amongst Maori themselves. I’m not sure how Maori would take Rarotongans lecturing them about correct usage of the language (as clearly this is where the New Zealand version of Maori comes from).

By getting precious about this it just puts people off the whole Maori culture push. If we are going to overcome the whole schizophrenic cringe that exists over non-Maori New Zealanders relationship with the culture of this countries first arrivals, then academics and pushy Maori nationalists need to chill out and engage in a far less hectoring confrontational manner with the majority of the population.

Strangely enough a few months ago I was seriously thinking about taking some Maori lessons, I had learnt Maori at school long before it was compulsory, and thought it would be interesting to ‘re’ learn it. This weeks overkill has kind of put me off. I am sure I’m not alone in feeling that I want to embrace the Maori part of our culture as it is part of what makes me a New Zealander, but I am put off by the elitist attitudes of those who are self proclaimed guardians of Maori culture. If you demand large amounts of tax payers money, demand ‘respect’, and then shove it down everyone’s throats it’s not surprising that your ‘average’ New Zealander switches off. The people concerned with the survival of Maori need to be seriously considering engagement people on a far more easy going level if they want to achieve their goal.

Surely the goal would be for Maori culture to merge with the mix of other cultures in New Zealand to become part of all New Zealanders culture? I guess that would horrify the purists, but it is no more different from the melting pot of cultures that makes up so-called European culture (even narrowing it down to English culture is difficult because that is a mix that has been going on since before the Roman’s landed on the shores of Brittan).

You would have thought that anything that would keep a language alive (and get it off taxpayer funded life support) would be a huge plus. Maybe the slightly uptight PC brigade need to take a step back and consider that it’s better that Maori is spoken at all, even in a slightly mangled anglicised version. Like it or not if it does survive globalisation, it will do so in a form that probably won’t bare any resemblance to how it was spoken in the past.

Visiting Rotorua?

Every time we take visitors down to Rotorua it’s been difficult to pick which things to visit. It isn’t especially cheap and some of the expereinces on offer are not very good value for money. Let’s face it, some operators have stuck a few paths around the thermal activities and a shop selling tacky stuff at the entrance. You can visit a few places but really it can get a bit monotonous.

If you don’t want to spend days there – and you don’t need to – I’d suggest visiting three places. Rainbow Springs, Te Puia and the Polynesian Spa.

Rainbow Springs has just been redone, and is well presented. But if you aren’t interested in seeing caged native birds, don’t bother.

Te Puia is first class. Last time I was down they had the work on the new center underway, and now it’s finished. The whole thing is slickly presented. The cultural performance was sensitively and enthusiastically presented, and more often than not these are cringe inducing. All the staff were friendly, welcoming and helpful. The facilities are world class. The only odd thing was the hall with the audio visual presentation, it was all a bit confusing. I think it was a missed chance to present a time line of Maori history in NZ. Rotorua is often the only place tourists bump into Maori culture and using the audio visual stuff alongside physical exhibits and written explanations would have been more interactive.

The thermal activity has everything you need to see. Te Puia is good value for money and if it’s the only place you visit in Rotorua you won’t be disappointed.

The flash part of the Polynesian Spa – I think it’s called the Lake Side Spa, is worth the extra cash. Yes, it is expensive but if it was cheap, everyone would be there. It is beautifully presented with naturally constructed pools in a bush like setting with lake views – and it’s not crowded. And if you only go to Te Puia, then the money you have saved from going to a string of places offering virtually the same experience, can be put towards the ‘luxury’ experience.