Tagged: Māori

If you support Labour, Green, TOP, Māori, or Mana: Party vote Green

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I wrote this post on Facebook and it’s got a bit of traction so I thought I’d put it here as well. (These thoughts aren’t unique to me: other people are making similar points.)

Most people intending to vote Labour, Green, TOP, Māori, or Mana probably have a reasonably similar idea of what we want our government to look like: more action on social justice and the environment, for example.

This post is an appeal to all those people to party-vote Green as the best choice for the government and Parliament you want to see—for the next three years and beyond.

(By the way, I’m not a Green loyalist: In previous elections I’ve party-voted Internet Mana, Mana, Green, and United Future.)

Here are my reasons:

  • The Greens have the best and clearest policy on the biggest issues that matter the most: halting climate change and ending poverty (though TOP, Māori, and Mana probably have better policy in some areas). Labour are pinching Green policies left right and centre, which is a good thing. In government, the Greens would lead and hopefully Ardern would follow.
  • The Greens need us. Based on the polling info we have at the moment, I’d say it’s at least 80% likely they’ll get back in, but it’s not certain—they need our votes. In contrast, Labour don’t need our votes, Māori and Mana need electorate votes more than party votes (though Marama Fox needs party votes so the Māori party would be my second choice), and TOP won’t get in, unless the polls are wrong to an unprecedented extent.
  • A vote for Green is a vote for an Ardern-led govt. But it’s a vote for more Green people & influence as part of her coalition, rather than more Labour people & influence as part of her coalition (or more NZ First people & influence…). Looking at the party lists, numbers 7,8,9,10+ on the Green list would be more effective advocates for the kind of government we want to see than numbers 44,48,52,56 or whatever on Labour’s.
  • Even if you prefer Labour to the Greens, do you prefer them 9x as much? They’re currently projected to get 9x as many seats. When your favourite party is surging so much, why not help their junior partners out a bit?
  • If the Greens underperform their polling a bit, they could go below 5%, and thousands of votes for an Ardern-led govt would be wasted. Depending on other results, that could be the difference between a Labour-led government and a National-led government. If Labour underperform their polling a bit, it would certainly affect things, but it wouldn’t have as significant an effect as the Greens missing out.
  • A Labour govt without the Greens (and preferably the Māori party) keeping them honest would disappoint most of us. Labour have a long history of disappointing the left. They’ve also achieved stuff for the left, but they do it when they’re pushed from the left, not when they’re pushed from the right. The exact same thing is true if you substitute the word “Māori” for “the left”.
  • Most important for me: A vote for Green this year is a massive vote of support for Metiria Turei and for beneficiaries, i.e. the poor, i.e. Jesus. (And imagine if it went down in history that when a party stood up for the poor in that way they were driven out of Parliament. I’d rather it go down in history that they did take a hit because of benny-hatred and Jacindamania, but they survived, formed part of the government, and helped lead it to a more compassionate policy for the poor.)

PS: The images at the start are from the We Are Beneficiaries group on Facebook.

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For services to prejudice, ignorance and easy listening music

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Paul Holmes, this country’s most prominent representative of mainstream racism, respectable prejudice and populist ignorance, has been knighted for “services to broadcasting and the community”.

Holmes is most famous for his 7pm current affairs show which ran throughout my childhood… it was like a dumber version of Campbell Live, but to its credit it did set the blueprint.  Despite some hiccups, Holmes was a powerful force in the NZ media for sixteen years.  Accepting a better offer on Prime TV in 2005 was a poor career move, but he’s refused to disappear since then.

The last significant thing Holmes did was write this nasty column for the New Zealand Herald.  The New Zealand Press Council upheld seven complaints against the column and the Herald’s defence of it, ruling that it made racist and inaccurate attacks against Māori as a people.  Hone Harawira’s response is worth a read.

The timing of Holmes’ knighthood is no doubt inspired by his recent health problems.  But knighting him, now or any time, is yet another blow to the credibility of knighthoods and other such honours, of John Key, and of the assumption that we’ve moved past racism as a society.

Guy Fawkes, Parihaka and the morals of the stories

Thinking about Guy Fawkes a.k.a. Parihaka Day yesterday, I started wondering what’s actually represented by the debate over what to commemorate on November 5th.

The shallowest way of looking at it is to say that it’s a debate between sparkly explosive things and politics/history/thinking.  But it takes only a little imagination to realise that we could set up a fireworks tradition on any night of the year we wanted; Matariki for example.  So really this is just saying lazy status quo versus politics/history/thinking.

A deeper way of looking at it is as a debate between NZ historical awareness and imported British history and culture.  Which is true enough.  (This seems to be how this Stuff poll interprets it; in which case it’s darkly funny that 63% of people say “No, we already have Waitangi Day”).

But the best way I can think of to understand it is to see Guy Fawkes Night vs. Parihaka Day as a debate between two images of violence, two ways of dealing with terrorism and two myths of how to achieve peace.

Guy Fawkes Night embodies the dominant story, the myth of redemptive violence, Thomas Hobbes’ theory of the state, the plot of kids’ cartoons and CSI/NCIS/SVU/etc… It’s the idea that there are violent chaotic baddies everywhere, threatening our stability and our way of life… but, never fear, there are also good strong people and institutions, and the way to get peace and safety is for these good strong people to violently suppress the baddies and maintain order from the top down.

Guy Fawkes himself had this kind of vision for society, which is why he wanted to blow up the king and Parliament; but the king and Parliament’s vision was almost as bad, and theirs is the one that prevailed and the one that’s celebrated.  As much as it’s lost its meaning now, traditionally Guy Fawkes Night has been the central festival of British patriotism, whipping up a frenzy of love and gratitude for the Crown which represents all that is good and safe, and an equally unthinking and passionate hatred for its enemies, who represent chaos and danger.

Parihaka Day embodies a very different story.  In this story there are also dangerous forces of chaos, but the solution isn’t as easy as calling in the Crown to subdue them.  In this story, the Crown aren’t the protectors from terrorism and the enforcers of order; like in Shelley’s classic poem The Masque of Anarchy, they themselves are the terrorists threatening peaceful people’s ways of life.  In this story, the way to deal with violence and chaos and danger is for little people to have the wisdom to identify it at the centres of power instead of just on the margins, and the courage to oppose it with stubborn love.  Unlike Guy Fawkes or the cartoons, there are no easy happy endings in this story… a grassroots, unenforced peace doesn’t always ‘win’, as it didn’t for Te Whiti and Tohu, but if we all came to the party, including the conscripts on the other side, it couldn’t lose.

So I think it’s what Parihaka Day represents, more than the public’s love of pretty explosions, that’s holding us back from from establishing an official Parihaka Day on November 5th.  Peace is just too dangerous for the powerful when it’s not a peace imposed by them.

Malcolm X was right about house negroes and about the media


At my job, the only non-work-related website we’re allowed to visit in our breaks is Stuff.co.nz, so we keep up with the news pretty well. It’s also a useful source of workplace small talk.

Outrage ensued at smoko the other day when the story broke that Mana Party leader Hone Harawira had “dropped the N-bomb”.  In a Facebook outburst, he had called right-wing Māori MPs “house niggers” for staying loyal to John Key despite his contempt for Māori water rights.

The way my co-workers were talking about it made it clear they had no idea what Harawira was actually saying. I think they were confused because it’s usually Pākehā that Hone is supposed to be ‘racist’ towards, not African-Americans. But they still managed to have a delightful conversation about how he’s a racist bastard and, worse, an extremist. The listener was even treated to such phrases as “It’s OK if they say say it, but if we do…” and even the perennial favourite, “I’m not racist, but…”

But we can’t really expect the general public to understand what Harawira was getting at when the mainstream media’s reporting of it was hardly less ignorant. The Stuff/Fairfax coverage was basically like this (watch 0:52 – 1:20).  It was another excuse for them to return to their tired, attention-grabbing theme of being outraged that Harawira says blunt, harsh things, which can occasionally be construed as racist if you have a shallow understanding of racism.

In a later revision of the story, they allowed Harawira to defend himself thus: “If people want me to stop using language from Alabama in the 1950s, maybe they should go back to John Key and tell him to stop treating his Maori MPs like he’s a plantation owner from Alabama in the 1950s.”

But there was still no mention in any article on Stuff of the fact that the phrase “house nigger” comes from a classic speech by Malcolm X. Nor was there any attempt to explain what Harawira was trying to communicate with the reference. The Stuff reporters either didn’t recognise the reference, didn’t bother to find out what it meant, or deliberately obscured it.

So, since Stuff have failed to educate us on it, here is Malcolm X’s original description of the “house negro” or “house nigger”… (full quote here)

“There was two kind of slaves. There was the house negro and the field negro. The house negro, they lived in the house, with master. They dressed pretty good. They ate good, cause they ate his food, what he left. They lived in the attic or the basement, but still they lived near their master, and they loved their master, more than their master loved himself … And if you came to the house negro and said “Let’s run away, Let’s escape, Let’s separate” the house negro would look at you and say “Man, you crazy. What you mean separate? Where is there a better house than this? Where can I wear better clothes than this? Where can I eat better food than this?” There was that house negro. In those days, he was called a house nigger. And that’s what we call him today, because we still got some house niggers runnin around here.”

If you ask me, this concept is highly pertinent today, and not just for African-Americans, or Māori for that matter. It’s a challenge to all of us who are subjected like everyone else to the domination of the current capitalist masters, yet are doing quite comfortably out of the deal.

Not least, journalists with steady jobs for corporate media conglomerates like Fairfax.

Rhetoric and reality

I’ve been noticing an unusual phenomenon over the past few weeks – National MPs drawing attention to the plight of the poor, the greed of corporates and the illusory nature of private property.  Are we living in an upside down world?

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It all started when I found myself in the unusual position of agreeing with Paula Bennett on the plight of poor beneficiaries.

Bennett drew attention to “absolutely sub-standard” yet “well over priced” housing, and landlords taking advantage of vulnerable people who couldn’t find housing elsewhere.  She asked such landlords to “have a good look at themselves”, provide housing they’d live in themselves, and show a good Kiwi “element of fairness”.  She even said she was looking at ways of “helping people towards home ownership”.

The funniest part about the whole thing is that she was responding to comments by Annette King on the accommodation supplement… so we have Labour criticising the welfare state and National pointing the finger at the propertied elite.

Of course, Bennett’s rhetoric falls flat when we remember that her party is entirely sold out to an economic system and worldview where the propertied are the good guys, individual self-interest is the universal incentive, and any fairness or concern for others is an optional extra.

So in criticising a few ‘bad apples’ among landlords, she’s actually endorsing the ideal of a ‘good landlord’, charging fair rates to their poor tenants even while getting filthy rich off them.

And any vague attempts to “help people towards home ownership” will be upstream rowing at best so long as they rule out ever taxing the proceeds of owning other people’s homes.

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A similar phenomenon happened the other day with Gerry Brownlee pointing the finger at private insurance companies for avoiding and delaying pay-outs in quake-hit Christchurch.  Although risk management/status quo protection is something that “the private sector claims it can do so particularly well”, Brownlee points out that it’s failing to do so – in fact, EQC, of all Kafkaesque government bureaucracies, is doing far better.

But is he really doubting the National party line that everything is better when owned and operated by private profit-maximisers?

When we look at another instance where the private sector is failing Christchurch, housing, his response was considerably different: Let the market sort it out.

So what’s the difference?  Well, firstly, as the minister in charge of EQC, Brownlee has a horse in the race.  But it’s also interesting that in an insurance crisis, it’s the property owners that suffer, and he’s taking umbrage.  But in the housing crisis, only the poor and ordinary people suffer, while the rental property owners prosper – and Brownlee can only see positives there.

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The worst example of this phenomenon, of course, has been John Key’s recent refrain that “nobody owns water”.

Key’s arrogance has reached new heights in this casual dismissal of traditional, Treaty-enshrined Māori rights.  Like a dog to its vomit, the Māori Party have returned to the fold after an assurance that National won’t legislate against Māori rights or claims – but you don’t need to legislate against something if you’re just going to use your legal prerogative to ignore it.

But Key’s use of the phrase “nobody owns water” to misrepresent Māori water claims is just as bad.

He’s portraying Māori as money-grabbing “opportunists” trying to take a vital natural resource away from ordinary New Zealanders, by referencing what we all instinctively know – that it’s wrong to be selfish and greedy, that nobody can really ‘own’ what belongs to everyone/nature/God, that property is ultimately theft because the world is everybody’s and nobody’s, etc etc.

But once again the reality belies the rhetoric when we see that he is using this line of thinking to dismiss Māori stewardship of public waterways, so that he can smoothly transfer hydro-electricity generation into the private hands of rich investors.

The fact is, the selfish opportunists are the very people National holds up as our role models, and the very people to whom they want to sell our power companies.  Key affecting an opposition to private property is a joke.  His party thinks everything should be private property – including water when it suits.

As Tim Selwyn put it, “Interesting how the Nats suddenly start espousing anarcho-socialism when Māori property rights are involved!”

In reality, as Tapu Misa eloquently explains, Māori rights surrounding water are far more in keeping with these anarcho-socialist ideals than the Pākehā/capitalist concept of private property.  Māori “ownership” means caretaking and free public use of everything that National wants to carve up, commodify and sell to the highest bidder.

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The consistent thread in all these stories is the way that National are co-opting quasi-socialist rhetoric to further their capitalist causes.

It’s hilarious, as well as worrying, that while the Labour leadership are still scared of sounding too much like a Labour party, even National can see the populist appeal in leftist language and the universals of fairness and co-operation it touches upon.

To paraphrase Slavoj Žižek, the only proper reply to such shrewd ideological manipulation is: “if you really believe in social justice and sharing the world, then why are you doing what you are doing?