Thursday, April 16, 2009

So if it isn't about race... then what Metiria?

Metiria Turei claims on her Twitter account that the call for dedicated separate Maori seats on the Uber Alles Auckland Stadrat is NOT about race.

"Not about race. Its about being tangata whenua and manawhenua. The Treaty creates the right to structures for representation." she said at 9:14 AM Apr 15th from txt.

Is this just Orwellian doublespeak? I wanted to get to the bottom of it. After all, the Treaty doesn't say there should be parallel political structures, each one reserved by race. However, there are clearly two very distinct views of what is going on here, and I want to know why some Maori think this is not about race, when to everyone else it so clearly is.

Tangata whenua is literally “people of the land” which is a mystical concept based on the idea that “land is regarded as a mother to the people”. Some people believe this, but it is hardly helpful for an objective definition to be based on whether you believe in something supernatural. That would be ridiculous surely.

So what makes someone a “person of the land”. I was born in New Zealand, which surely makes me a “person of the land”, why wouldn’t I be? Well, apparently I am not. In fact nobody who does not claim "Maori identity" can be "tangata whenua". Am I wrong?

I can never be tangata whenua, neither can my offspring or their offspring. It IS about race. Race DEFINES “tangata whenua”. Metiria Turei IS engaging in Orwellian doublespeak to justify a race based definition of political separatism – it’s just HER race that benefits.

What about manawhenua then?

According to TPK it means “the exercise of traditional authority over an area of land [whenua]”. So what is “traditional authority”? If you own land, or are part of a collective that owns land (which is Iwi or Hapu owned Maori land), then of course you should authority over it. That is about property rights, and is protected by the Treaty of Waitangi, as are the property rights of others. However, you don’t need special representation on a local authority to do this.

Maori should have traditional authority over their land, but then so should we all over our own land. Local authorities should not be a tool for Maori to have special representation to also exercise control over other people’s property. Unless, of course, you believe that YOUR property rights are subject to mana whenua by "Maori".

Is that what you expect from the Green Party or the Maori Party, that you should have consent from Maori politicians for what you do on your land?

Metiria presumably believes that local authorities should have authority over everyone’s property, it is, after all, Green policy to use the RMA to control land use. However, she also believes that ethnic Maori have some special right to be guaranteed to be part of that political control.

How can this NOT be about race? Well, if you believe you can inherit rights over others because of who your parents are then what she says is legitimate - but hold a second, isn't that very concept wrong? Why SHOULD anyone have different civil and political rights because of their parentage?

That IS what this is about. It IS the source of the difference. If I am born in New Zealand, and own land in New Zealand, why is it that my neighbour, who has some ancestors of different racial origin gets different political representation and rights from me? Why is HE special? Why should HE assume that because most councillors look like they are of a similar race to me, that they somehow "represent my interests", when they vote to increase my rates, regulate my land use and have contrary political views to me?

It's because those advocating for separate Maori representation identify race with political power. It is the idea that there is a "Maori world view", you know like there is a "Serb world view" to Serb nationalists. I have a world view, you have yours, we only share one if you give your express consent for it. Race does not give you a "world view". Your brain does. It is an individual choice.


So when Metiria says it is not about race, but about tangata whenua and manawhenua what is she saying?

She is saying it is about “people of the land”, which doesn’t mean people born locally, but people who have a “spiritual connection” to the land – and the only ones she recognises as doing so ares Maori. She is saying it is about “exercising traditional authority over land”, she means Maori being guaranteed representation at council level to have authority over everyone’s land.

So if the only people who can be “people of the land” (a concept not unlike how virtually all racist-nationalist groups see themselves) are one race, and if they have a right to guaranteed political representation so they can exercise control over land that isn’t there’s, then what is it if it isn’t about race?

Nobody I have seen who opposes race based local government representation wants to deny Maori any political rights, none want to deny Maori political candidates being successful if they can convince sufficient voters to select them. They particularly reject being called "racist" because they want all political institutions to be non-racial.

If the Green Party, Maori Party and others want race based representation for Maori, then they should first be honest about it, secondly admit that in granting race based political privilege, it is racist, but then justify it on objective terms. Not having enough Maori in councils is not a reason, because there are probably not enough people of a vast range of backgrounds, in some councils women, in others Pacific Islanders or Chinese. The list can go on and on about types of identity not represented.

Individualists want race to be irrevelant and unimportant in politics, for it to be something personal, private and a matter of voluntary association, rather than have anything to do with the state. Why should it be any other way?

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