Work alongside Maori capitalism to enrich “Aotearoa Inc.”
THE CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS currently raging in Samoa calls into question John Minto’s optimistic conclusions regarding the He Puapua Report. At the root of the political stalemate in Samoa is the unresolved tension between democratic institutions inherited from New Zealand and the much older set of political and cultural expectations inherited from pre-colonial Samoan society. As long as democracy has been able to adapt to traditional hierarchies of leadership and customs of decision-making, the two traditions have rubbed shoulders with a minimum of friction. The crisis now in Samoa is the product of an almost entirely unforeseen collision between the traditional Samoan way of doing politics and the formal demands of Samoa’s democratic constitution.
John’s main argument for the recommendations in He Puapua it is that they will give the Maori and the Pakeha more democracy – not less. He rightly points to the undemocratic motives behind the efforts of 19th century New Zealand colonial governments to contain potential Maori political power – in willful violation of Article III of the Treaty of Waitangi. Successive settler regimes were determined to do nothing more than what was absolutely necessary to maintain peace between the two peoples. The four Maori seats (created in 1867) were a reluctant recognition of the decisive role played by kupapa Maori (also known as “Friendly Maoris” or “Queenites”) in recent armed conflicts over land and sovereignty.
The question raised by New Zealand’s decision in 2010 to adhere to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is: to what extent is it possible for a colonial regime, based on ” revolutionary power ”(a phrase used by the Zeeland lawyer, Professor Jock Brookfield, to describe the effective annulment of the Treaty of Waitangi occasioned by the establishment of settler supremacy on the ground in the 1850s and 60s) to dissect the political and cultural work of nation building? Helen Clark’s simple answer was: No, it can’t be. This is why she refused to sign New Zealand to the Declaration. John Key, under pressure from the Maori party, not only decided to sign the document, but agreed in 2014 to produce some sort of roadmap for its eventual implementation. He Puapua is that roadmap.
The first step of the He Puapua The journey is, as John suggests, bringing Maori to places where important decisions are made regarding their health, housing, education and employment. But is this equation of participation and democracy justified? While every citizen of Pakeha enjoys exactly the same political rights as all other citizens of Pakeha, how common is it for poor working class Pakeha to be found in places where critical decisions about resource allocation are made? economic, social and cultural are taken? The answer, of course, is: not very often – if ever. Our capitalist society, like the feudal society that came before it, reserves seats at the decision-making table for members of its ruling class, their servants – and motherfucker – everyone else. The exclusively Maori power structures proposed by He Puapua likely to be less careful about who is invited to sit at their table?
An answer, in a way, is provided by the fate of Maori television. In its early days, Maori TV was based in Auckland, with an exceptional group of extremely talented journalists and broadcasters. Its news and current affairs section was particularly effective in presenting the stories of Maori and power to its viewers. Too effective – as it turned out. In retaliation for turning the media spotlight on the management of Kohanga Reo, Maori Television was emptied of its best and brightest talents and moved to Rotorua. As in Samoa, expectations of democratic control and accountability have been directly embedded in traditional cultural expectations of discretion and respect.
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For the past 30 years, the colonial state of New Zealand has sought to counter any resistance engendered by the brutal imposition of neoliberalism on Maori communities, working closely with traditional Maori power structures to put this in place. what academic writer Elizabeth Rata calls “neo-tribal capitalism”; alongside the creation of the educated Maori middle class required to lead it. There is little evidence, to date, that neo-tribal capitalism is more inclined to encourage democratic participation than the common Pakeha variety. It is certainly no coincidence that the sweeping recommendations contained in He Puapua owe much to the ideas contained in Matike Mai Aotearoa – the report on “constitutional transformation” commissioned by the neo-tribal capitalist “Iwi leaders Group”.
While more evidence is needed of the essential incompatibility of traditional and democratic expectations within Maoridom, one need only consider the fate of the participatory governance structures put in place to co-manage the resources handed over by the Crown in the Treaty Settlement. Tainui. This courageous attempt to primarily hold power accountable did not end well.
In his post, John does a lot of what he calls “the dictatorship of the majority”. It is, indeed, an aspect of the democratic process that has been the subject of much criticism over the centuries. In almost all cases, however, those who complain the loudest about the tyranny of the majority are those most likely to suffer a reduction in power and wealth if the needs of the greatest number outweigh the need. greed of a few.
John just doesn’t admit the possibility that this could also be the case in Maoridom. He seems to see the Maori as an undifferentiated mass of poor and oppressed people, thus maintained by the undifferentiated racism of their colonial masters. The power structures – traditional and modern – which have been encouraged to concentrate political and economic power in the hands of tribal capitalist elites were not taken into account in his description of the problem.
These elites stand to gain the most from the proposed changes in He Puapua. Allied to the elites employed by the Crown and to the elites who still control Pakeha society, the Maori elites will be well placed to invest the profits and strengthen the defenses of “Aotearoa Inc”. The idea of ordinary New Zealanders, of any ethnicity, working alongside the Maori – or any other type – elite is neither anticipated nor desired.
As Samoa is finding out, when the going is going well, it’s those who already have the power in their hands who push and shove the most.