The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

bear with me

I've been really depressed about the fact that National went up in the polls after deciding to do a bit of the ol' Maori bashing.

What kind of country do we live in, where we stand up for the little guy and believe in a fair go, except when it comes to Maori? We seem to be able to countenance policy ideas for tangata whenua that we would never find acceptable for manuhiri.

I've just been having an interesting IM discussion with Jordan about this, and we've talked about the fear amongst Pakeha that our culture is threatened if Maori get more recognition. Many seem to hold the view that every powhiri is in fact an opportunity for a handshake that is lost, rather than a welcome that could happen alongside that quaint European standard.

Anyone read Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman? (IMHO Pratchett's best book.)

In it there's a bit where they talk about auras. Bear with me, I have a point.

The main character doesn't appear to have an aura, because it can't be seen, it isn't noticed. In fact there is an aura alright - the aura is so big, so all encompassing, that you can't see it because you're inside it.

I see Pakeha culture in NZ in that way - we find it hard to see because it is everywhere. Other cultures, in particular Maori, stand out because they are not.

We need to let go of our fear - and not just in terms of Maori. Fear is the bedrock that intolerance and harassment are built on. We fear that someone talking in another language is talking about us, putting us down. We fear that we will make a mistake and look a fool on the marae because we don't know what to do. We fear that one day we will be outnumbered by "others" in "our own country."

Ultimately we fear that if other cultures are allowed to express themselves our culture may be marginalised by them in turn. We fear change and we fear what we do not understand.

If we increase our knowledge about things Maori then I hope that we can fear less. But the common practice of negatively labelling as "PC" those who do seek to find out more about tikanga and te reo does not help anyone.

I just do not understand why it is a bad thing to require our teachers to be able to pronounce our official spoken languages correctly. You already have to pass an English test to teach, to be truly fair you should have to pass a te reo one too; correct pronounciation is the least we can do.

Being able to say those words and read those placenames is another little thing that chips away at fear. Which has got to be A Good Thing.


stef said...

I'm sure that some days a lot of whities in New Zealand wonder why our ancestors didn't go the Australian and American route and practically wiped out their indigenous population with guns and small pox laden blankets.

Then they go overseas and realise that the only thing that makes kiwis different from the rest of the white anglophone world is the w

As for pronounciation, listening to butchered versions of engrisheee all day, I'm very much of the opinion that if people are actually interested in accquring language the most important thing is that they can understand and be understood. If I stopped my students evertime they mispronounced something, they just wouldn't speak.

AL said...

"I'm sure that some days a lot of whities in New Zealand wonder why our ancestors didn't go the Australian and American route and practically wiped out their indigenous population with guns and small pox laden blankets."

Er... excuse me?

Oliver said...

Bravo Span!!

gpjwatson said...

Interesting comments but irrelevant to the popularity of National's policy.

Many New Zealanders of a variety of ethnic backgrounds embrace the egalitarian view that civil, political and institutional treatment should be independent of race.

I find it saddening that there are some redneck bigots who may support such a policy at a base level because they do not favour certain races and are infuriated by special treatment, yet this does not detract from the integrity of the policy.

I know Don Brash in enunciating this policy does so from the egalitarian and non racist position I hold.

Agree with Stef about pronunciation, you should here how my Iraqi fiance pronounces English let alone Maori, although I do agree in an ideal world it would be great if words were pronounced correctly.

It is also a misnomer that treating folk equally regardless of race will destroy culture. This is quite independent, as is evidenced by the variety of many non state subsidised cultures in our society. If culture is important to people it will survive.

t selwyn said...

Good thoughts there Span. But don't agree 100% - with regards to immigration and changing cultures and having other cultures operating at same time in same place does create problems. When communities can't control the influx of outsiders and the outsiders are legitimised by central authorities then there is a problem. Maori had that in an ethnic clensing fashion and generally. Look where we ended up?

"Marginalisation" is a reality. If a majority of a community consists of people who are unwanted by the original majority or have incompatible values, customs and expectations then there will be problems. It is not just a fear it is reality. And can we not also fear what we understand? Must we always be a community in transition with high immigration and transient internal population?

Comrade_Tweek said...

Well Span, you'll be very pleased with the latest TV 3 poll which shows Labour 9 percent ahead of National.

However, good sentiments. I had an inking of this sort of campaign in 1996 with Winston. Of course even earlier there were the Muldoon campaigns of 1975 with the dawn raids on suspected Overstayers.

Most of the race debate is based on negative campaigning ie "New Zealand would be better if immigrants were not stealing our jobs and lowering our standard of living." Which of course denies the simple fact that economic and governmental policy is responsible.

The ugly New Zealander is very alive and well and Don Brash realises this.

If he (Brash)was really interested in egalitarianism then he would promote policies that promoted real fiscal and social equality in terms of income and social policies.

stephen said...

I disagree, Comrade Tweek. When I hear people complain about immigration, the objection is to the strange and disgusting customers of immigrants, and the transformation of neighbourhoods to accomodate them. Jobs and standard of living per se are a distant second to distate for the foreign.

For everyone like me who is intrigued by the strange and new and charmed by ethnic colour there is someone like my aunties who wonders where the white faces have gone and bemoans the Chinese signage everywhere.

Span is right on the money about the fear that we in turn will be marginalised.

The question for me is how much of that fear is justified.

stephen said...

That should read "customs", not "customers". Fingers running ahead of brain.

Ghet said...

Excellent post. Though one thing does intrigue me in a nit-picky sort of way. What about our official non-spoken language?

It's a cost-benefit thing. Our kids get more Maori at school than we did 'back in our day', and I can't see it's done anybody any harm. The daughters of Muslim immigrants wear the hajib at school if they want, and it doesn't seem to do any harm. In fact, a few of the 'white' kids have taken it up, because parents have realised it stops them getting headlice. I just don't see the down side.

t selwyn said...

Ghet: "The daughters of Muslim immigrants wear the hajib at school if they want" - they being their parents and the wider cult community enforcing the cult's beliefs inside state institutions.

Doesn't it do any harm? - It is not a fashion statement it is a cult statement in the same way that wearing a political rosette is, or that wearing a gang patch is. But it is not just about iconography like a crucifix, or star of David or an emblem - it is a physical means of restriction meant as a control mechanism on females exclusively as a training to their future subjugation within the cult and the cult family. It is also a physical restriction and emblem to males but therefore so it is an emblem for those who do not wear it and the status the male must assume of the females who do not wear it. It is about ownership and subjugation. It is in Islamic countries and it is here. They are asking the local community to sectarianise the education system and increasingly the community is letting them! Fools.

Turkey doesn't allow the hajib in state institutions because they know it will be the end of the secular state. Are they wrong?

span said...

good to see someone picked up on the sign language thing Ghet - the reason i put "spoken" was simply because you cannot pronounce sign language.

more response to other comments later, thanks for the comments so far, good to see people are sharing :-)

span said...

although sharing may not be quite the right word :-P

t selwyn said...

If I may just share this with you,

This sitehere lists some interesting/disturbing state-religious schooling issues in the UK.

Cults are stringent and pervasive by definition. They will put up more of a fight than "tolerant" people anyday, therefore the things they want have a higher chance of getting through. To oppose cult practices is intolerance only for cult groups who are internally intolerant. Is that consistent with the tolerance? Or is it the method of intolerance that is important? Persuasion and "communication" or "dialogue" v. legal prohibitions and legitimate govt. and community campaign against lamentable behaviour (eg. smoking)?

Ghet said...

Tim, the Muslim families in the school are a tiny minority. There is no 'cult community' enforcing the wearing. If the girls - and this is a primary school, so we're talking small children - took the hajib off, in class or in the playground, they wouldn't be pressured to put it back on. And it's a headscarf, it causes absolutely no physical restriction to their activity AT ALL. Parents who choose to send their small daughters to school in platform mules and wearing hipsters inhibit their activity more.

The Muslim families ARE NOT trying to spread the wearing of the hajib through the school, so the whole 'cult behaviour' argument is a complete nonsense. Like every other parent, they're making decisions about what their children wear and how they behave - every parent of a primary aged child does that, regardless of race or religion. And the kids just accept it. They don't CARE whether a girl wears a hajib or not, Tim, and that's my definition of tolerance.

When I would get upset was if one of my children wanted to wear a religious symbol to school and they were told they couldn't. Hasn't happened. Everyone IS being treated the same. I'm someone who is extremely resistant to religion, any religion, in schools, and I have absolutely no problem with this. It's one of the ways these immigrants hold onto their culture.

peterquixote said...

too many words, span

Lewis said...

Interesting discussion Span. I actually gave an oration on Monday on this very topic, or more broadly the sense of nationhood. In essence I beleive the problem is that we link our sense of 'national identity' with that of our cultural identities (plural). I am a subscriber to the post-Wilsonian (i.e. 'melting-pot') belief that identity of the nation state should be an embodiment of the core values that bind that society together. For New Zealanders those values are actually quite obvious; egalitarianism, a fair go for all (i.e. equal oppurtunity) a desire for mutuality of respect between cultures, the do-it-right the first time work ethic, etc. Sadly most of these values only come to the fore when us Kiwis travel - hence our sucess overseas. We need to bring that sucess home if we are to move forward.

Rich said...

NZ has a post-colonial culture with Polynesian, European, Asian (and even African - think reggae) elements. This belongs to us all, recent immigrants like me included, even if my pronunciation is sometimes pretty shite..

This is a homegrown thing - not a media construct like so much of Australian or US culture - and it's something to be proud of..

span said...

on pronounciation - i try but i'm not perfect. the only person who has ever told me off about pronounciation was in fact a pakeha (and i found out later she was wrong!).

but i have found that when i make an effort, even if i'm a bit wrong, it is appreciated by those who know te reo.

if we want our children to feel more comfortable with Maori words, names, placenames, concepts, then giving their teachers the tools to feel confident using te reo has got to be a good thing?

Lewis said...

Rich - true, but my point wasn't that the 'American' culture is somehow superior, it is the idea that the national identity of a nation state should be divoreced from cultures within the state.

Rich said...

I think "culture" can be associated with various groups of people - NZ has many cultures, some associated with origin, some with choice (e.g. "skater" culture).

There is inevitably a national synthesis of these cultures (and indeed NZ culture is incorporated in, for instance British culture by virtue of the large number of New Zealanders in the UK ).

I'd point out that our "national synthesis" includes the indigenous culture to a far greater extent than that of other countries with an anglo/settler majority, like Austrialia and the US.

Eleanor said...

I liked the analogy about the aura being so big it encompassed everything. I think that is why every so often someone writes in to Salient and suggests there should be a straight white male edition- there's a panic among Pakeha society that when other cultures gain any kind of visibilty, they're losing something. Which of course they are- their total supremacy.

span said...

i know what you mean eleanor. i used to have this consistent fight, usually once a month, with someone (always a straight white male) about the need for "Menspace" on campus, back when i was involved in AUSA.

quite apart from the point about the aura, if they want it why don't they lobby for it and organise around it, as women did for their space, Maori for theirs, Pacific Islanders for theirs, etc etc?

it must be hard sometimes, feeling like a marginalised minority when in fact your culture and views are more frequently put forward than anyone else's.