Marc My Words... 26 October 2007
Activists, gun-toting militants, a Molotov cocktail and the C word.
I should apologise in advance to those I will inevitably offend for this column. Regardless of the risk in doing so, I believe in both the right to free speech and the obligation sometimes to confront issues that many might prefer to overlook for fear of treading on too many toes. Sadly there are far too many such topics these days. Sacred cows attain such status by default - both as a result of intellectual lethargy and the 'fear' of being on the 'outer' of conventionally perceived wisdom (which, in reality, is nothing less than enforced social ignorance by those who stand to gain from it).
October 15th 2007. Seventeen people were arrested spanning across the country made up of a loose contingent of Maori activists, quasi-demented environmentalists, and general riff-raff who are alleged to be united by one thing: they hate the modern western world we live in. Sure they couch their language to reflect their various 'cultural' tastes, but what it all boils down to is that they seemed prepared to undermine our society for what they believe, in preference to what the rest of us believe. They appear to show an utter indifference to the rules of civil society, choosing to replace it through the tactics of terror and bullets. I think its time we stood up to their bullying outlaw tactics and defend ourselves - our freedoms deserve no less.
In the meantime the excuses come thick and fast. To begin with the police are labelled as over-reacting. Then they're accused of falling victim to a well-organised hoax designed to ambush a year-long investigation into alleged paramilitary operations around the country. Then they're called racist. And, in what is probably the most audacious claim of all, one of those arrested, activist Jamie Lockett and suspected of involvement in weapons training camps - is claiming incriminating text and phone messages were sent deliberately to wind up police who had been bugging his phone.
In one telephone message, Lockett is accused of saying: "I am training to be a very, very vicious commando. Hey, I don't want to know any more white men. White men are going to die in this country. Anyone with a white face comes near me if they haven't got f***ing manners or call me sir, I'll f***ing kill them."
Meanwhile in Auckland six people ended up in Auckland District Court facing a raft of unlawful possession of firearms charges, including semi-automatic rifles, shotguns and Molotov cocktails. In Wellington two men, aged 28 and 23, and two women, aged 36 and 30, faced a total of 20 charges between them when they appeared in the District Court. Charges included possession of shotguns, semi-automatic weapons, Molotov cocktails, and rifles, allegedly committed over the past year. One of the women was charged with possession of .22 calibre cartridges. And that old flag-shooting, activist/public irritant, Tame Iti, appeared in Rotorua District Court facing eight charges relating to possessing firearms and Molotov cocktails.
None of these shenanigans by the smallest of the lunatic fringe would be complete without the bleating of Maori MP Hone Harawira who predictably pins all the blame on colonialism and the apparently unfulfilled obligations of the Treaty of Waitangi. In fact he even dares to suggest that rather than the police responding to the terrorists to protect society, the police were the terrorists. So, it's the C word: colonialism yet again.
Does anyone really seriously believe that a return to the traditional ways be any sort of answer to Maori social problems? That even if whatever was historically 'lost' was unchallengeable (and I certainly don't believes that for one nano-second), and there was willingness to subsidise its return through the legislative equivalent of affirmative action and welfarism, that anything would be better?
It's an extraordinarily patronising approach for Maori to bear the brunt of white liberal (in the worst sense of the word) patronage of self hate which motivates much of this nonsense. To affirm the nobility of traditional Maori life on the one hand by suggesting that getting back to that Maori culture would be good for 'them' while on the other hand embracing the 'kia ora' mentality of culture-dipping tokenism, betrays the very worst in us. The delusion of the pre-colonial perfection of tribal life isn't just historically wrong; it's downright silly if it's meant to be a template of our vision for the future. Yet a few days after the police did their job, hundreds of people were stirred up enough to protest against the police - effectively giving encouragement to those who would threaten the very liberties that allowed them to protest! How dumb is that?
These 'solutions' are only ever advocated by those who have embraced the exigencies of modern life and use it to exert their influence as if their income and power depended on it - which in most cases it does. The worst of it though, is that quite apart from setting up an avenue to construct an 'excuse industry' to which is attached a whole slew of well-meaning apologists who are helping the problem (often literally), but also by setting up an impossible fantasy of what might be achieved if we only we could all believe the dream of a modern tribal state straddling two worlds.
Ask these tribal fetishists what their world would look like and they're likely to imagine the modern Maori to spend their days re-living the pre-colonial lifestyle only to jump into their Japanese-made Subaru at five o'clock and clock into their non-traditional homes with all the conveniences that western modernity has brought. The former simply does not lead to the latter and all the wishes upon a star will not change that.
If we genuinely wanted to raise the demographics of Maori - or any subgroup within our population for that matter - we would not do it by looking back to the days of flax-weaving and camp-fires but with skills applicable to the world as it is. Numeric and communication literacy, business skills, technological aptitude and all the other proficiencies we need to cope today.
The terrible cycle of privation that exists in New Zealand is not mostly the consequence of a lack of basic help, but because those who would most stand to benefit don't often ask for it.
But there is a deeper question here: why is it that as soon as someone attaches the sobriquet of indigenous to someone or something there is a sense in which it becomes synonymous with endangered requiring an obligation on everyone else to 'save it'? That somehow we would all be the poorer if it were either gone or, heaven forbid, required to adapt?
The sad truth is that each generation builds, adapts, and reinterprets what preceded it. If we could pull a family out of Elizabethan England and plonk them in downtown London the chances are high they would be utterly bewildered and, even if given time, incapable of adapting to the vicissitudes of current life. What we would undoubtedly expect however, would be a chorus of the warm and fuzzy brigade to quickly set up a range of agencies aimed at not only 'helping' them but invariably wanting to preserve and promulgate their lifestyle to make them feel better about themselves. And if they happen to inadvertently break laws and wish to assert their 'indigenous culture' no doubt these historical apologists will excuse and defend them.
We have such an example: consider self-confessed socialist worker Jimmy O'Dea. A veteran trade unionist who has been protesting against the "anti-terror" raids and who himself had his own home searched by police yesterday over an alleged kidnapping. Or what about Maori party co-leader Pita Sharples who conveniently ignored the weapons and home made bombs, and threats to claim that the anti-terror raids have set race relations back 100 years!
In the end the police did what they needed to. Second-guessing why they had to act in the manner they did will no doubt continue to be debated, but we should let the dust settle, allow for the facts to emerge, and consent to the court proceedings to progress. The only real conclusion at this point is that for a supposedly civilised society, we have more people than most would imagine who want to jump to the defence of those who have made little secret of their desire to strike at the foundations of our corner of the world. If only they applied such enthusiasm to improve their own lot in life rather than hitting out at those they blame for their lack of success, they would be leaders worthy of being listened to.