Silence might imply what you want to avoid

With the first massive fallout from the release of Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics Judith Collins has finally tendered her resignation as a Minister.

As Matt Nippert reports, her resignation was:

“sparked by a Fairfax investigation into a smear campaign by bloggers apparently backed by controversial financier Mark Hotchin” who “secretly paid bloggers Cameron Slater and Cathy Odgers to write attack posts undermining the Serious Fraud Office, its director Adam Feeley, and the Financial Markets Authority, who were probing his collapsed Hanover Finance in 2011 and 2012”

Many commentators, pundits and journalists have extensively reported on what was uncovered in Hager’s book, and I presume most readers would have a fair idea about the extent of the claims and the subsequent evidence that has emerged since the books release, so I won’t re-cover it.

Interestingly, many predicted the release of the book would likely see a rise in the polls for the left bloc, but what has emerged is somewhat intriguing – NZ First (~6.3%) and the Conservative Party (~4.6%) [as reported on The Nation TV3] suggesting the possibility that both parties may exceed the 5% threshold to enter Parliament. Whether these results are related to Dirty Politics or a reflection of the success of both parties campaigns is arguable.

But the polls aren’t my concern in this post. My concern is about those parties who have remained to a large degree silent on Dirty Politics. NZ Labour, NZ Greens, New Zealand First, InternetMANA and the Conservatives have all been very vocal about cleaning up the  state of NZ politics through an independent inquiry and more robust processes to keep politics transparent and free of the collusion that appears to have taken place.

It might be expected that the ACT Party and United Future would keep a relatively low profile, given they have openly stated a preference for working with the National Party post-election. Notwithstanding, that both parties claim to be principled and support the role of an open and accountable government. But the big silent elephant in the room is the Māori Party and this has not gone unnoticed by the public at large. Critics and many supporters (potential and actual) are left wondering why, a party that claims to be an ‘independent Māori voice’ in Parliament has been absent from the general media coverage on this issue. However, Te Ururoa Flavell, Co-Leader of the Māori Party and Waiariki candidate, told the Rotorua Daily Post that:

 I can’t comment on the book because I haven’t read it. But what I do know is that there are individuals across the political spectrum in New Zealand that engage in dirty politics. It’s not something that the Maori Party has ever done or condones. Manaakitanga (respecting and looking after others) is one of our foundational values and we have always conducted ourselves in a way that reflects this principle. We’re interested in party policies and how we can work with others to effect change. The hacking of emails is not a new phenomenon but it compromises the interactions between MPs and constituents and is a breach of privacy. In that regard we are deeply disturbed”

It is a fair comment given that Flavell hasn’t actually read the book. However, he implies an argument that has been met with much resistance for good reason: that it happens across the political spectrum.

Most would agree that attack politics and possibly even this dirty politics is pervasive, but that in my mind is even more reason to make a statement in strong opposition to its practice. The hacking of emails too is an important issue, but the more pressing issue missed in Flavell’s statement was the collusion and corruption between a Minister of the Crown, bloggers, and other public officials. This may just be a result of not having read the book and not having the contextual grounding to form a stronger opinion or to take a firmer stance.

Flavell also indicates the party’s resistance to commenting in any detail on the claims made in the book also centres around the party’s strategy to reorient the election focus on promoting policies. His mention of manaakitanga, suggests the party want to avoid being part of the dirty politics machinery so are intentionally distancing the party and candidates from being caught up in the negativity of the dirty politics media coverage.

However, an important part of any political campaign involves responding to issues of public importance, such as the very serious claims that are still emerging following the books release. It is possible to make a strong statement that censures the behaviours of dirty politics without being drawn into the negativity while still focusing on promoting the party’s policies. That is part of the balancing act required by political campaigns. Because no matter how well-intentioned the Māori Party are in steering clear of the ‘dirty politics’ coverage, it has brought into question for many potential Māori Party voters whether or not the party are an ‘independent voice’ for Māori or whether they are the silent friend of National. One of my worries is whether there exists an unspoken sense of obligation to the National Party because of the invitation to work in government despite not being ‘needed’ (in a numbers sense anyhow) to form the last two National led governments.

In my view,  it would be incredibly unwise if such a feeling existed because it would undermine the credibility of the party’s ‘independent voice for Māori’ message. Sure, it is a tight rope to walk when you are a party who has openly expressed its willingness to work with whichever party can form the government and not wanting to rock the boat so much that your own waka capsizes. But being independent means being just that: standing on your principles and holding to account those who have wronged no matter what political party is responsible or implicated in the wrongdoing.

For supporters of the party navigating conversations on social media has been particularly difficult absent the strong guidance from leadership on this issue.  In my view, if the Māori Party want to overcome the perception that their silence is an act of support in favour of the National Party, then they will need to make a clear and firm statement that they oppose collusion, corruption and abuses of state power and perhaps even offer some guidance as to whether the party will support an inquiry and other measures to help purge our political system of all anti-democratic practices.

ADDENDUM: 

I’ve been receiving feedback from various comment streams about my approach in this post. And I agree that I haven’t here placed as much emphasis on manaakitanga as is necessary to understand the Māori Party’s position. For a full outline of Māori Party kaupapa see: Ngā Kaupapa o te Pāti Māori

Manaakitanga is behaviour that acknowledges the mana of others as having equal or greater importance than one’s own, through the expression of aroha, hospitality, generosity and mutual respect.

By such behaviour, all parties are elevated and our status is enhanced, building unity through humility and the act of giving.

The Party must endeavour to express manaakitanga towards others – be they political allies or opponents, Māori or non-Māori organisations – taking care not to trample mana, while clearly defining our own.

Tikanga of the Māori Party derived from Manaakitanga

To be recognised by Māori as a political organisation that does manaaki the aspirations of Māori.

To ensure that relationships between the Party and whānau, hapū, iwi, and other Māori organisations are elevating and enhancing

To promote a fair and just society, to work for the elimination of poverty and injustice, and to create an environment where the care and welfare of one’s neighbour is important

To ensure that members agree to work together, treat each other with respect, and act with integrity in their party work

To involve all peoples in the process of rebuilding our nation based on mutual respect and harmonious relationships.

I maintain that public opinion/perception is important but my main concern is that threats to democracy in NZ must be dealt with head on because without democratic processes, such as accountability, then the political parties and the people they represent cannot be guaranteed free and fair representation under the Westminster system we have.

In my view, Māori have been on the receiving end of a history of dirty politics particularly through intentional breaches of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, our culture and rights as indigenous people being legislated against, ongoing institutional racism, and the manipulation of public opinion that has oppressed us as a people. It was the fight of our tupuna that allowed us to be heard and the fight of our many activists (in their many forms) that gave Māori the strength and ability to assert kaupapa Māori politics to counter the forces that work against us. That fight is not over and the struggle goes on.

I do consider that manaakitanga is very important and I wholly commend the Māori Party’s commitment to that kaupapa. My personal view, is that a fair and just society requires (as mentioned in the post) accountability and I truly believe this can be done without ‘trampling the mana’ of others but through co-operation with others to build an environment that is ‘based on mutual respect and harmonious relationships’.

One of the key things that I believe would assist in helping others to understand kaupapa Māori politics is more education on the concepts and providing practical examples. I do think the Māori Party show us how kaupapa Māori works, but I wonder if the public might be better informed if there were more coverage of these concepts, what they mean to Māori and how they can enrich the lives of Pakeha too.

I appreciate that the relative silence I talked about in the post is an expression of manaakitanga, and also resultant from a lack of media interest because the party’s comments that have been made weren’t perhaps as controversial as other parties. I just personally feel manaakitanga can be expressed in other ways too. I don’t here presume to speak for all Māori, this is my opinion, and I wholly respect that others may disagree with my views on this matter and many others.

Not a very feminist party

The NZ Herald reports that Dr Pani Farvid, Internet Party candidate for Palmerston North, told a women’s group that  the Internet Party is a feminist party. When probed about the party founder’s own propensity for sexism, Dr Farvid remarked:

“He is not perfect. He is not the party, he’s the founder, but we are a feminist party. He has apologised himself, I’m not excusing him, that sort of thing is not OK, absolutely. He just doesn’t know any better and he should.”

I have no doubt in my mind that Dr Farvid and many of her peers absolutely support the feminist movement. I do however, consider it a bold claim to promote the Internet Party as a feminist party in light of its founder, Kim Dotcom’s repulsive sexist record.

Dr Farvid could have said either ‘I am a feminist’ or ‘that she promotes feminism within the party’ and that probably would not have brought her own feminism into disrepute. Instead what she has done is invalidated the experiences of all women, by on the one hand claiming she is not excusing him, and on the other hand impliedly excusing him because ‘he just doesn’t know any better’. A party claiming to be feminist, surely would not minimise or invalidate the experiences of women because the perpetrator of harm didnt know better. As a woman on twitter pointed out:

 @mairesmith

@Ellipsister A woman apologising for a man’s manners isn’t really what I think of as ‘feminist’, no.

When I consider a ‘feminist party’ I consider precisely the basis on which the party was formed i.e  who founded it, who funds it, what messages does it share as a party, who are its members, how do they promote feminism and so on. The Internet Party was founded, is funded and is promoted by a man who has a tendency to tweet about ‘rape jokes’ and to objectify women. His behaviour is then downplayed by a woman in the party because ‘he is the product of a sexist culture which we need to remedy’.

But Dotcom does know better. In 2012, the NZ Herald reports:

“A sexual violence prevention agency has told Kim Dotcom rape jokes are “never okay” after he posted a series of comments about the crime on Twitter”

One of those tweets was the following:

KDC2Rape jokes that work!???

In the same NZH article, Rape Prevention Education director Kim McGregor told the Herald that rape jokes are hurtful to survivors of sexual violence and that:

“Rape jokes aren’t funny. It’s never okay to make a joke about rape. People who have experienced rape are often traumatised for years. They’re violated, they’re humiliated and it’s nothing to joke about.”

Then about a month or so ago, Dotcom attempts to make a joke about murdering sex workers:

KDC

The joke is offensive because it devalues the existence of sex workers as human beings. His attempt at apology was this:

KDC 3This is not an apology. It is a concession to his then newly appointed leader of the Internet Party, Laila Harre. As others in the comments that followed point out, its not Batman that was the problem, it was the comment about murdering sex workers.

But it’s not only Dotcom who has offended women. Chris Yong,  reportedly ‘joked’ to  the Herald when asked about the three women contending the Auckland Central seat that:

“we’ve got the best babe”

What Yong is doing here is commenting on Miriam Pierard’s appearance, using the term ‘babe’. In employing it the way he has, he also simultaneously criticises or demeans Jacinda Ardern and Nicky Kaye by suggesting Miriam’s appearance is superior to theirs and reducing the contest down to one of appearance. This is insulting to all women running political campaigns, if he deems appearance as the determinant of their chances at success. He also exhibits a sense of entitlement over Pierard claiming some kind of ownership that “Miriam belongs to us”. Yes, he may have just been referring to her role in the Internet Party team, in a team camaraderie kind of way, but  Miriam Pierard is a person. She is not property and he should be more careful with how he speaks about his peers and the messages he sends to other women.  Some people may argue that the term ‘babe’ is not offensive but when it is used in the context Yong employed it above, it is sexist and it is not ok.

Name it Change it have developed an egregiousness pyramid to assist the avoidance of sexist reporting in the media.  It also serves as a good guide when interacting on social media. For a commentary, see Bidisha on Sluts and sweethearts: Sexist language is on the rise, but now there is a new way to fight back.

In my view, a feminist party wouldn’t stand for those remarks and in fact they wouldn’t even feature in a feminist repertoire that is built on and promotes gender equality.

Recently, Internet Party Leader, Laila Harre poked fun at the weight of current women MP’s, also engaged in the anti-feminist action of ‘fat shaming’ and mocking the size of womens breasts as something women should feel stigmatised about.  Her words as reported:

“Obviously wanting to be fit and relatively less portly than most members of Parliament become, ‘she said diplomatically’.”

Will she name names? “I think their breasts speak for themselves.”

While the Internet Party’s top 10 candidates are equal ratio’s women and men, above that number the ratio changes. Only 6 of the 15 candidates are women. I personally would expect a feminist party to be predominantly if not all women given men saturate the political landscape. And while there may be an even spread of women in the top 10 candidate list, it would be interesting to see the ratio in prominent roles of the executive branch of the party if the claim is that the Internet Party is a feminist party. Moreover, the Internet Party don’t even appear to have developed any policy (yet) that focuses specifically on gender issues.

Exacerbating the sexism link to the Internet Party, is the alliance with Hone Harawira’s MANA movement. Recalling Harawira was recently called on to apologise for his minimising and harmful remarks  on Backbenchers regarding his view toward Tania Billingsley who was attacked in her home by Malaysian Diplomat, Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail.

Harawira stated:

“I think all of the media, their heads should roll, for making a big fuss about bugger all. There are kids starving in this country, there are a whole lot of issues we need to be dealing with right here, right now … it’s something we can do without.”

A week after this aired, Harawira did put out an apology, although I was unable to locate an official press releases on the Party website. Instead there is a status update on the MANA Movement page, which states:

I want to sincerely apologise if my comments on Backbenches may seem to have minimised the gravity of the situation regarding the young woman who asked police to investigate the complaint of sexual assault against the Malaysian diplomat.

I have reviewed the tape and I accept that my comments were not helpful at all. Sexual assault IS a big deal, and I applaud Tania Rose Billingsley for her brave and courageous appearance on television last night.

Hone Harawira

Like Dotcom above, this is hardly an apology. It is a concession to appease the women’s rights activists in the MANA movement, including Annette Sykes who has long advocated against violence against women.

One commenter was unimpressed with his attempt to deflect criticism and replied:

…Apologies are nothing but lip service it is something a husband does after he beats his wife up and says I am sorry it will never happen again. It is male dominance at its best…. It is whether you learn and don’t do it again that matters. It is a journey of learning and understanding and for you to stand up amongst your people and put yourself forward as having changed your mindset and exampling this. Only then will your apology actually mean anything.

Given that Dr Pani Farvid is a Senior Lecturer, I would have expected more critique of her party and the sexist behaviour associated with it, rather than the apologism she offered for Dotcom’s insidious tendencies to demean women and roles occupied predominantly by women.   I wholly commend Dr Farvid for starting the process to educate her party on the harm caused by sexism and misogyny but it’s a slap in the face to the many feminist movements to parade the Internet Party as a feminist party when it clearly is not.

Everyday microaggressions

Before relocating to Christchurch many people told me that it had a nationwide reputation for being quite racist. I didn’t really take notice because in my experience racism is not unique to any particular locality, it is pervasive.

My experience here is that there are not thousands of Kyle Chapman’s parading the streets with swastika’s nor is there even an obvious presence of Right Wing Resistance, well, not that I’ve encountered yet anyhow. What I have come across, far too often though is the subtle coded language of racism, what has been described as microaggressions by psychological research. I do not intend here to make a generalisation of all the people who live in Christchurch. I have experienced both subtle and overt racism in most places. But it seems particularly pronounced in the year I’ve lived here. But maybe that is coloured by the suggestions of those before I relocated.

This isn’t a post about the academic literature, it’s a little more personal. Sadly, it’s about the memory that I will take with me when I leave Christchurch. Of the time I spoke against racism and was silenced by my peers. I will remember the words of MLK Jr [see image] because I will remember that when I spoke out for people of colour (PoC), as a PoC myself,  I was alone.

MLKFor some context: UCNZ have a system whereby students can create Facebook groups using their UCNZ emails as a space to discuss coursework and foster camaraderie I suppose among students. One of those groups is for post-graduate politics and diplomacy students, and at this level, I’d have expected greater awareness of racially coded language and for the discourse to be more mature or developed.

The first incident involved  a person posting a video to the group preceded by a statement similar to the following:

“Slightly racist but does X remind anyone of Y” [both X and Y are the same ethnicity]

This immediately upset me. I responded that ‘saying something is slightly racist doesn’t justify actually being racist’. The person apologised and deleted the item. They acknowledged it was racist and that they were wrong to think it was okay to post it. Admittedly, they should have known if they had to precede the post with ‘slightly racist but..’. It does concern me that it probably wouldn’t have been removed had I stayed silent.

The following morning, I was scrolling through the group page and came across a link posted to the group to a Facebook page called Kanye West Explains NZ Politics.

Some of the meme’s created in on the page are incredibly offensive, firstly because some of Kanye’s lyrics are hideously misogynistic, and secondly, because other meme’s incorporate Kanye’s use of the ‘n word’ and trivialise the harm associated with using it in an inappropriate context, i.e. NZ Political Satire. My complaint was that I felt a page containing racist content was not particularly appropriate in the forum in which it was posted. My reasons were not that Kanye uses the term, but that it was taken out of it’s original context for the entertainment of those who have no experience of the hurt this word causes PoC’s.  As a PoC, if you have ever been called the ‘n word’, you will appreciate why I took exception to the way it was being used.

In response to one of the comments about the ‘n word’, I included the following excerpt from a Henry Giroux book Fugitive Cultures: Race, Violence, and Youth (Routledge: Great Britain, 1996) in an attempt to show why it’s use in the context was unacceptable and racist:

HGiroux

What emerged from my speaking out, was a shock.  Yes, I expected some resistance because I did expect that some people might not actually be aware of why, for instance, Kanye can use the ‘n word’ but a White person cannot. What I didn’t expect was to be rebuffed with the extent of invalidation that followed. I grew very distressed that those who contributed to the discussion felt entitled to shut down my experience, that I was derided for not appeasing those perpetuating the harm, and that I was undeniably invalidated by an entire group. These are microagressions. I maintain that the satire page uses the word inappropriately and it is racist. You dont have to agree with me. But you don’t get to shut down my experience and engage in microaggressions that deny my reality. You don’t get to complain that you have hurt feelings, when what you are denying complicity in hurts PoC everyday.

Microaggressions are about power imbalance and the privilege afforded to the dominant culture…they are manifestations of oppression

They manifest in three ways:

  1. Microinvalidations are verbal or non-verbal communications that subtly exclude negate or nullify the thoughts, feelings or experiential reality of a person of colour.
  2. Microinsults are verbal, nonverbal, and environmental communications that subtly convey rudeness and insensitivity that demean a person’s racial heritage or identity.
  3. Microassaults are intentional messages of discrimination toward a minority group.

As  Derek Sue writes microinsults and microinvalidations are particularly harmful because they are coded or invisible and that:

“They remain invisible because of a cultural conditioning process that allows perpetrators to discriminate without knowledge of their complicity in the inequities visited upon people of colour”

I have chosen to reproduce the thread (omitting the names of those involved for privacy reasons), to allow you to draw your own conclusions, and to illustrate what invalidation looks like and to say in unity with all PoC and marginalised groups IT’S NOT OK.

 [Person A]*

August 16 at 2:15pm

My intellectual contribution to the page.

Kanye West Lyrics Explain NZ Politics

Community · 7,118 Likes

 

Seen by 31

3 people like this.

 [Person B] Person C bet you to it lol

August 16 at 2:16pm · Like · 2

[Person B] Somewhere? Wherever he posted it. Nevermind lol.

August 16 at 2:16pm · Like · 1

[Person A] Damn!!! Hahah

August 16 at 2:16pm · Like

{Person C] I posted it on the nz pols page so [Person A] just trying to act all original over here

August 16 at 2:16pm · Like

[Person C] It’s an exclusive community, the riff raff always catch on to trends later

August 16 at 2:18pm · Like · 2

Carrie Stoddart-Smith I only just clicked on the link to find that this Kanye West page is incredibly offensive. I appreciate that some people think trivialising the word ‘nigger’ is all just a bit of fun, but I reiterate it is offensive. Hang on Kanye uses it? Yes, he does but Kanye is a person of colour (PoC) who has a particular experience related to its usage. This particular page trivialises that experience not just for Kanye but for every PoC because its usage is intended as entertainment for people who do not share the history and experiences of PoC who were demoralised and denigrated by the term. It is derogatory, and I am surprised it is shared it in politics and diplomacy group. Aside from the sexism and fat shaming present, the page is racist. Perhaps people might want to check their privilege before supporting or endorsing content that may not intend to, but that does demoralise PoC for your entertainment. Yes, I did complain about another post that I also thought was racist and I will continue to complain whenever I see racist content without apology.

Yesterday at 8:59am · Like

[Person C] It’s Kanye quotes over pictures of New Zealand politicians. It doesn’t claim to be anything but that, the only thing it trivialises is the state of the media and politics in New Zealand.

Yesterday at 9:38am · Like · 1

Carrie Stoddart-Smith “It’s Kanye quotes over pictures of New Zealand politicians” is a complete de-contextualisation. The purpose of the page is clearly intended to elicit a laugh at the expense, intended or not, of PoC. It may be intended to trivialise “the state of the media and politics in New Zealand” but it goes much further than that. The Admin has through their own effort selected the images and the quotes to get the response they intend – e.g. Gerry Brownlee has lyrics that poke fun at his weight – ‘fat shaming’, a number of white politicians have ‘nigger’ in the word selection of their images – this trivialises the offensiveness of the word and the experiences of PoC. It’s what PoC call #everdayracism.

Yesterday at 10:19am · Like

[Person D] http://www.sciencedirect.com/…/pii/S037821660600172X

Yesterday at 10:29am · Like

[Person E] Im pretty sure this page is intended as entertainment for anyone who may find it entertaining and not specifically for people who are not ‘of colour’. Just like Kanye’s music and lyrics are not intended only for people who have experiences related to the usage of the word nigger. I don’t think this page is racist. If it is, it’s because of Kanye’s lyrics which, I would probably agree, do seem to trivialise the word nigger. This page is just political satire, which is damaging to political discourse in NZ, but not racist. And as far as political satire goes, its not very damaging as Kanye’s lyrics don’t carry a lot of political clout. It is a bold claim to make that this page demoralises all PoC for ‘our’ entertainment, and it comes across as a little irresponsible and overly provocative in my opinion. I think it is a silly page using a silly man’s lyrics to make silly comments about NZ politics; not an attempt to demoralise PoC.

Yesterday at 10:44am · Like · 4

Carrie Stoddart-Smith I disagree Person E and I certainly dispute being the provocateur here, the page itself is provocative. I know people don’t like being called racist or being seen to endorse racism, but the page doesn’t have to intend to offend, the point is that it is offensive. Intention doesn’t determine if something is or isn’t racist. Moreover, political satire doesn’t exempt content from being racist and satire itself isn’t damaging to political discourse, racism is – especially when it goes unchecked or is passed off as something it’s not. I’ve attached the screen grab below from a Henry Giroux book, that might help spread some light on why it is offensive. As I said in my first comment above, Kanye can use the term because he understands the history and context within which he is using it. He is part of that history and context. The person in charge of the page in question is misusing Kanye’s lyrics in manner that is offensive and racist.

Yesterday at 11:30am · Like

[Person F] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXnM1uHhsOI

Yesterday at 11:47am · Like

[Person D] The claim that white people are not allowed to use nigger while black people can use it is its self racist. The use of nigger as a term of endearment is part of gangster culture and culture does not necessary equal race.

Yesterday at 11:52am · Like

[Person C] The page is about New Zealand politics not race, it ridicules New Zealand politicians. That it uses Kanye West lyrics is purely incidental, it could use Macklemore or Metallica lyrics and the message of the page would be the same. If you want to take offense you’re welcome to do so, and if that is the case then you should contact the site administrator, not post here. PERSON A is not a racist and neither are the members of this group, if you want to talk to racists you should talk to www.stormfront.org or http://www.ukip.org.

Yesterday at 12:10pm · Like

[Person G] No Person D it is not racism. Some white people already used the word nigger for a specific purpose and now some coloured people are using it for a totally different one. The two terms cannot be considered as one.

Yesterday at 12:17pm · Unlike · 1

[Person D] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3PJF0YE-x4

Yesterday at 12:26pm · Like

[Person D] I feel this demonstrates the distinction between culture and race.

Yesterday at 12:28pm · Like

[Person D] also very funny

Yesterday at 12:28pm · Like

[Person H] http://blip.tv/…/rap-critic-reviews-black-skin-head-by…

Yesterday at 12:42pm · Like

[Person B] Build rapport, then build discussion. I’m not a fan of Kanye or his lyrics but I did like the page, perhaps in ignorance, because I shared some mild amusement with others in this group concerning how a rapper’s music could relate to dirty politics. Making a stand against this is fine, but calling out “casual racism” among members of this diverse group seems to be counterproductive as it has alienated a few people – which is not what you want when tackling a big issue such as racism. For the record, I personally think this page is a very small fish in a big sea of issues (Ferguson being the big whale), and that getting to that point of the debate probably needed a different, healthier approach.

Yesterday at 1:05pm · Unlike · 3

Carrie Stoddart-Smith That’s a good point Person B and you are right I could have approached it differently. Aroha mai.

Yesterday at 1:10pm · Like · 1

[Person E] I have definitely done a lot of thinking about racism this morning because of this discussion. Too bad it won’t help me in Tan’s test tomorrow! lol

23 hrs · Like · 4

[Person A] I usually enjoy discussing political issues such as racism amongst my peers as it is a good way to share opinions and learn from one another, however, as Person B has indicated I feel this conversation has an accusatory ring to it and I am genuinely quite hurt by the implication of racism against me. Person E’s comment above illustrates my opinion beautifully so I will not repeat it here. So if it’s okay with everyone, I think its best that we leave the discussion here and engage the issue another day in a more neutral manner.

23 hrs · Like · 7

 

Note: I will be heavily moderating comments as I am not going to subject myself to further invalidations.

The Spin vs The Reality

DRLance

 

When it comes to the Māori Party, it has become apparent just how deeply rooted the spin about the party is, and how blindly and uncritically it is propagated. The saddest thing is that the majority of spin is formulated in left-wing echo chambers that claim to support Māori while simultaneously attempting to actively deny Māori an independent space in political discourse. This post attempts to address the spin.

The Spin 

  • The Māori Party are in coalition with the National Party
  • The Māori Party are National Party stooges
  • The Māori Party are in the pockets of National Party

The Reality

The Māori Party (TMP) have a relationship accord with the National Party formalised through a Confidence and Supply Agreement.

Confidence means TMP must only support the Government on any motions of confidence raised in the House of Representatives (HoR).

Supply means TMP must only support the Government on any budgetary or procedural votes to have Bills heard in Parliament.

It does not mean that TMP must support any and all legislation the National Party put before the house. In fact, part of the C & S agreement required the National Party to adopt and implement a number of policies advanced by TMP, including Retention of the Māori Seats, Whānau Ora, Enabling Good Lives, a Ministerial Committee on Poverty and initiatives to urgently address the effects of poverty, a constitutional reviewMāori economic strategy, housing, education, environmental policies, and revitalisation of Te Reo Māori.

Note: TMP voted with Labour more times than it voted with National.*

  • TMP voted AGAINST National, inter alia, the MOM bill (asset sales), the GCSB bill, the 90-day employee trial, and the high seas protest ban, and supported the opposition on bills such as paid parental leave and a living wage.

Being at the table is not about propping up a government. It is about having the ability to participate in ways that achieve gains for our people.

The Spin

  • The Māori Party are a right-wing party
  • The Māori Party are sell outs
  • The Māori Party are corporate iwi lackeys

The Reality

The Māori Party are a kaupapa Māori party founded on and operating under the principles of:

Manaakitanga, Rangatiratanga, Whanaungatanga, Kotahitanga, Wairuatanga, Mana Whenua, Kaitiakitanga, Mana Tupuna/Whakapapa, and Te Reo Rangatira

Kaupapa Māori is not just a system of values it is a methodology that informs every interaction, every decision and every action. These are distinctly Māori principles and practices that cannot be buried by euro-centric attitudes to and ignorance of Te Ao Māori.

The Māori Party do support iwi Māori and contrary to the spin this is not a negative attribute. Conceptualising iwi as vehicles of capitalism, is again an attitude formed by a wilful ignorance toward Te Ao Māori. Iwi connect our people through our whakapapa (ancestry), whānau and hapū are inseverable from those in iwi leadership roles. The strategic use of funds from settlements and investments operates on an ethic of investing for our people, not instead of our people. To presume that the State are the best vehicles for providing services for Māori is an affront to our tikanga and an insult to our tupuna.

There is absolutely no barrier to critiquing iwi leaders from our Māori perspective as to whether or not they are behaving consistently with our tikanga, but these disputes ought to be settled in our marae kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face) in accordance with tikanga Māori NOT through the iron fists of the State. The involvement of the State should only ever occur where serious criminal offending is alleged, e.g. fraud or theft etc.

The ‘sell out’ meme has no basis in reality. It is only through the actions of TMP that the government signed up to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, when the previous Labour government had refused to affirm NZ’s commitment to the declaration . This year’s budget is also an example of the kinds of gains TMP have made for our people. Click here for the full details of the 2014 Budget. Some examples include the following:

  • $90 million to provide free GP visits and prescriptions to children aged under 13 years
  • $20 million additional funding over 4 years to expand Rheumatic Fever reduction programme (bringing total government investment to $65.3million over 6 years)
  • $15 million over the next 3 years to support Whānau Ora Navigators work with whānau to increase capability and engagement
  • $16 million over the next 4 years to support the repairs and rebuild of rural housing on the Chatham Islands and the development of social housing providers
  • $10 million over next 4 years for Māori sporting and cultural activities and development of sporting and cultural bodies
  • $6 million over next 4 years to NZSL to improve outcomes for deaf people
  • $5 million over 2 years to create Te Mana o Te Wai which focuses on activities to improve water quality

On the above basis, TMP are hardly right-wing capitalists. Nor can it be claimed that they are lackey’s and sell outs.

The Spin 

  • A vote for the Māori Party is a vote for the National Party
  • The Māori Party have a preference for working with the National Party

The Reality

A vote for the Māori Party is a vote for the Māori Party. TMP has committed to working with whoever is in a position to form a government following each election and will not rule out working with any party because the effect would be to potentially deprive Māori an independent and participatory voice in Parliament. That TMP are forced to justify why Māori have a right to participate no matter who is in government, is a sad indictment of the state of political discourse in NZ.

This post only barely touches on the spin hurled at TMP, from those one might normally expect to constitute friendly allies. In order to understand the Māori Party, however, you must also understand kaupapa Māori not just as an adopted set of values, but as it operates in practice.

* EDIT: It has been brought to my attention, that I misinterpreted a tweet and have since edited this sentence: “TMP voted against the National Party more often than the Labour Party voted against the National Party” out of the article.

InternetMANA, Leadership, and Future

Indisputably, the InternetMANA alliance has achieved what it set out to do: shake up NZ’s political landscape and engage and enrage the disaffected (predominantly youth). It’s packed town halls throughout the country and has already encountered a fair share of controversiality. But there is some confusion as to who leads InternetMANA.

Formally, the leader of the InternetMANA Party is Hone Harawira, as set out in the formal agreement between the parties.

But some confusion exists both explicitly and implicitly. For instance, some comments made to myself and others I’ve seen on social networks have noted Laila Harre as InternetMANA Party Leader, mostly due to conflating her role as leader of the Internet Party with InternetMANA leadership. But also because second to Kim Dotcom, Harre has become the face of InternetMANA. An example is the allegations this week wielded against InternetMANA because of the Fuck John Key chant used as a political advertisement for InternetMANA and the burning of the John Key effigy that was alleged to be at least unofficially related to the InternetMANA campaign. It was Harre who fronted the media, not Harawira, the leader who you’d naturally assume to do so.

Further confusion exists with the prominent position of party Visionary Kim Dotcom, who appears at most meetings and has become an integral part of that core leadership machine. Interestingly, the idea of dropping Dotcom as the face of the Internet Party was raised in their ‘policy incubator’ (through Loomio a fabulous idea and tool that I hope other parties pick up on, and that the New Economics Party have used for some time already).

It’s unsurprising that some confusion arises, since it is a particularly novel arrangement that can make it difficult to decipher where leadership actually resides.

Only time will tell whether this becomes a sore spot for Harawira, because as Tariana Turia recently relayed on RadioLive, Harawira left the Māori Party due to his desire for leadership which was not forthcoming at the time. Recalling also that when Harre was publicly announced as Internet Party Leader,  Harawira interjected that he was still the Leader of InternetMANA.

However, Harawira recently commented that the partnership with Harre and InternetMANA was working well, and that he could foresee it progressing beyond the election. The InternetMANA alliance will be up for re-negotiation 6 weeks post-election, at which time the parties decide if they remain in an alliance or retain their separate identities.

If the alliance remains, there will need to be a decision as to who becomes the leader. This will likely be resolved through a co-leadership arrangement like the Greens and the Māori Party. So where does that leave Annette Sykes?

Sykes was MANA president and has since MANA’s inception operated as Harawira’s second in command. She has and continues to work tirelessly for the party and for her electorate while also holding down her role as Senior Partner at Aurere Law.

Harre was handpicked and plucked from the Green Party policy team, given a role as (unelected) Leader, paid an MP’s salary, given a wardrobe allowance and many InternetMANA public speaking roles. Sykes has taken this backstep in the hierarchy in her stride without a hint of animosity. But if a co-leadership comes up for election, will Sykes contest it? If so, she has been ferocious in her campaign for the Waiariki electorate, only time will tell if she will contest party leadership as fiercely (if or when it becomes an option)  or if she’ll be content to remain as Harre’s subordinate.

Update: I’d previously written that Annette Sykes was the current President of MANA. It has been brought to my attention that she was succeeded recently by Lisa McNab.

Revealing our biases in our responses to “Dirty Politics”

On his Radio Live segment, Duncan Garner intimated that some people are excited about Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics book, particularly those who don’t like the right because it reveals everything they want to hear.

Confirmation and selection bias are both prevalent during election years. No one is immune. Many will attempt to present as impartial, while others will acknowledge their partisanship proposing to hold any wrongdoing to account. However, that’s a fine line to walk for most, if not all of us. We do seek out information that conforms to our preferences or value judgements and we are selective in not only the kind of information that accords to our preferences, but also how we frame that information to strengthen our own convictions.  This has been very apparent in the responses to Hager’s book.

From the left, there are three common themes:

  • The ‘Corruption’ argument: the details of the particular claims made and the seriousness of those allegations warrant an inquiry and police involvement.
  • The ‘Pot-Kettle-Black’ argument: that Cameron Slater has a ruthless history of publishing private information about people so he cannot now complain because of a retaliatory act.
  • The ‘Public Interest’ argument: that we the public have a right to know about the information extracted as a result of the hacking operation.

From the right:

  • The Conspiracy Theory argument: that the details provided in the book do little more than raise suspicion and lack any conclusive evidential backing and of course, John Key’s own proclamation that that Hager is a ‘screaming left wing conspiracy theorist’. [FWIW, I look forward to Matthew Dentith, NZ’s leading expert on Conspiracy Theories analysing Dirty Politics in light of this argument]
  • The ‘Everyone Does It’ argument: that all parties engage in attack politics in some form or another, it’s been happening for years, and it’s not new nor is it news.

In my view, both sides make valid arguments.

The issues raised by Hager are serious and do warrant further inquiry because we must never dismiss any allegations of corruption and abuse of political power. It is an affront to democracy and to our civil and political liberties, no matter who is involved. In saying that, the right have a point about whether or not we are dealing with a conspiracy theory, arguably then it is in the interests of the right to support an inquiry to prove or disprove the corruption allegations that will subsequently determine whether or not an actual conspiracy exists.

However, Lamia at Corner Politics makes a very good point, she writes:

“…I don’t see how the investigation could happen while John Key is still PM. I would not have confidence in any such investigation! This alone means that he can no longer stay”

I agree with her, that we cannot have confidence in an inquiry carried out by the particular government who would be the subject of the inquiry. I’m not convinced though that we could be confident in any inquiry led by the opposition either given their own vested interests. Perhaps I’m too cynical, but I don’t trust that the political elite in our country are capable of carrying out a fully independent inquiry.

In regard to the Pot Kettle Black argument, which has some teeth to it since Slater has a reputation for carrying out the same actions he is complaining about. But the information doesn’t just target Slater, it implicates a raft of people. Although here, one might argue those people are the same who are responsible for leaking the information Slater publishes. Gordon Campbell writes that some might think it karma since:

“Slater began his jihad against Labour by being complicit with how the hacking of the Labour Party website was exploited. He has now been exposed by much the same means”

I’m not entirely comfortable with the ‘its karma’ framing either. It seems rather hypocritical when it runs a retributive justice line, that many of those using the argument have previously detested, and is a form of justice not conducive to what left wing values would typically entail.

Equally problematic is the rights ‘everyone does it’ argument. This argument operates as an admission that the allegations of collusion are true and worryingly that such people think it justifiable, i.e. legitimacy obtained through customary practice, or something. However, it does acknowledge that the attack politics practice might be widespread, which further supports the need for an independent inquiry.

The last one is the public interest argument and this entails a number of concerns [which I think requires extensive research to unpack the various issues between private individuals and public officials and private information and public information].

One issue that concerns me is that yes, Hager’s actions were that of a whistleblower but what about the actions of the person or persons who gained unauthorised access to the private accounts of Slater and extracted information?

Should we tolerate the actions of a private person hacking into the private accounts of another private person? Well, we know the law says we ought not to tolerate it because it is a crime in NZ.

However, some are arguing that in this particular case, it is justifiable to access information and steal it because the information obtained was of such public importance. My concern is at what point then, might we say that it was at least morally justifiable, if not legally so? What is the threshold we are applying when we are accepting that in some instances these practices might be legitimate? Remembering we are not talking about hacking into government systems or stealing information from the government as in the Edward Snowden case. We are talking about private individual vs private individual? Do we say mere suspicion is enough, or do we need something firmer? Can we justify it at all?

My view, is that no we cannot justify hacking into the accounts of private individuals. Period. And if we truly oppose the implementation of the GCSB Act then how can we argue that the government cannot spy on us in what they determine is in the public interest but we should be allowed to spy on each other if we suspect each other of harbouring information of vital public interest? Where does that even leave us as a society? And what does it mean for the value we place on internet freedom, if that freedom entails the right of others to gain unauthorised access to our accounts if they are suspicious of our activities, whether or not such suspicions are grounded in a reasonable belief or mere speculation? Where do we draw the line? There are far more questions than there are answers.

[Note: I appreciate that the digital community have diverse views on the role of hacking, and I'm not saying that 'all hacking is bad', rather that all private individuals should have a reasonable expectation that their private online accounts are not intruded upon]

ISO on Iwi

Right to criticise siding with an oppressor but wrong to impute leftism on Māori

I learnt a lesson today. I emoted on an issue that I feel strongly about – Palestine but was lured into a state socialist diatribe against iwi. That the International Socialist Organisation of Aotearoa/New Zealand (ISO) brought the issue to my attention is welcomed. In my opinion, the post rightly criticises Ngati Kahungunu chairman, Ngahiwi Tomoana for meeting with the Israeli Ambassador to discuss local issues such as water shortages amid the recent atrocities the Israeli government has committed against the Palestinian people. I was (and still am) livid that any iwi would even consider this meeting because as the ISO article highlights:

“In the last month, 1800 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed and more than 9000 injured. There have been attacks on United Nations-run schools and shelters, killing many children. Some 66 Israelis have died in battles with Hamas, all but two of them soldiers” 

I stand by that position. I do think iwi should boycott any talks with any country that operates in occupied territory and/or commits atrocities against the people it oppresses as an act of kotahitanga with international indigenous liberation movements.  But I also note that this is a decision for whānau, hapū, and iwi to determine for themselves. I personally believe humanity requires us as humans in common to kia kotahi kia Parihitini ‘Stand as one with Palestine’ against Israeli oppression and apartheid.

I’m not about to criticise ISO for taking a stand against the particular iwi chairman because we should never be afraid to hold those in influential positions to account if we believe they are taking the side of injustice and inequity.

What I didn’t immediately see though (due to my being livid and emoting) was the narrative shift from a genuine critique of a person in an influential position acting favourably toward an oppressor, to implicating all iwi and the Māori Party as complicit directly or indirectly in this act. The author writes:

 “While the Maori Party have made “a seat at the table” an excuse for any kind of craven crawling to the powers-that-be, Tomoana’s sucking up to a vicious colonial state in the middle of a renewed round of ethnic cleansing beggars belief. Given the timing, there is no way this meeting is meant to be anything but a massive pokokōhua to the people of Gaza, to the Mana movement, the Greens and the left in New Zealand, and indigenous liberation struggles internationally”

It’s not surprising that the Māori Party negatively feature on this site given ISO are part of the MANA movement, but what is infuriating is the language used to deny Māori an identity outside the left.

It continues:

“Tomoana’s sucking up to Livne is meant as an insult to the left. It is meant to underline the new ruling class status of iwi corporate bosses and their independence from protest politics”

And concludes:

“Now though, in a context of growing inequality which is hitting working class Maori whanau hardest, the iwi leaders like to pretend they are beyond left and right. Sucking up to Israel is taking sides against the oppressed”

Firstly, this statement is horribly misleading since there is only one iwi leader mentioned in their post as having met with the Israeli Ambassador, yet the author attempts to implicate all iwi leaders here.

Secondly, the author demarcates ‘iwi leaders’ from ‘working class Māori’ imposing a Marxist critique on Te Ao Māori as if Marxism is the lens through which Māori understand our relationships. Moreover, confining Māori to the left/right Westminster system is in my view an act of colonisation itself. As Ani Mikaere writes:

“…in Aotearoa, as elsewhere, colonisation has always been about much more than simply the theft of land, the decimation of an indigenous population by introduced disease and the seizure of political power. It has always been about recreating the colonised in the image of the coloniser

ISO imply they are not part of the colonising class because they purport to be a movement against oppression, and I suppose having active Māori members helps disguise that truth. But when the State is the centre and bearer of all power and our tikanga and kaupapa are subsumed to being facets of western leftism: we are not free. We are recreated in the image of the colonising doctrine of state socialism.

Te Ao Māori does not belong to the left. Nor does it belong to the right. It belongs to Māori. We decide it and define it, adapt it and assert it in our whānau, in our hapū and in our iwi – not in trade unions and environmental movements and most certainly not as part of a western doctrine. We can certainly  support those movements and they may adopt our kaupapa and we can also support other doctrines without having to disempower our own.

Oh no! Not the ‘Foreigners’!

A regular reader will know that I don’t oppose foreign ownership of land. In saying that, I think there are arguable cases for excluding certain land and resources from sale, such as conservation estates and Māori customary land (although, I appreciate there are also arguments for allowing foreign investment in conservation land since it takes the burden off the tax payer to fund other public goods. But that’s not the debate for this post).

I’ve written previously regarding foreign ownership of housing. I opposed banning foreign buyers and wasn’t at all persuaded by the hyperbolic commentary implying we were undergoing some kind of foreign invasion in our housing market. Notably, the issue appears to have died down presumably because political parties found it difficult to reorient the debate from xenophobia to national pride, or something.

So now it’s our land more generally. The suggestion that we are selling our sovereignty when we sell land to foreign owners. Derp.

Firstly, land is fixed. It cannot be shifted offshore, so we are not selling land, we are selling rights to exclusively use land. I do think, as others have suggested, that the idea of leases could be explored to preserve security of investment to investors while allaying fears of loss of sovereignty. I also think that it is a reason that we ought to consider land value tax to ensure benefits accrued from using land are redistributed back to the community which may help develop some of the remote areas where land is being bought.

Secondly, Parliamentary Sovereignty. Given that parliament has supreme law making powers, there are no legal obstacles to nationalising the land should circumstances change and the land in question is needed (i.e. scarcity of land for production of certain goods etc) or if the activities taking place on the land adversely affect our environment or communities. Ideas could be explored to create an agreement as part of the sale that all land sales to foreign investors must be sensitive to issues that could arise under Te Tiriti o Waitangi or environmental/local concerns.

And thirdly, foreign investment is vital to economic development in New Zealand. As my Lecturer Alex Tan, pointed out yesterday, in the Philippines only citizens can buy land and the outcome has been that incomes there are depressed due to no/low foreign investment in the country because the risk is too high, i.e. there is a lack of security of their investment.

I am mindful that people may raise issues about my position and Māori land and what they’ll claim is contradictory or hypocritical or some such thing. In my view, any land not owned by Māori is land effectively owned by a foreigner (to some extent). So I don’t think my view is inconsistent with supporting rights of Māori to land while also supporting rights of all others to land.  And while most parties that I would probably support are anti-foreign ownership,  it’s certainly not a particular policy position I support.

Te Tai Tokerau: Davis appeals to whānau, hapū and iwi

Kelvin & Hone

In breaking news last night, Kelvin Davis was painted as a traitorous, negative, self-serving individual. Some of the responses from InternetMANA supporters (including some of which were Labour supporters) was nothing short of vile, and not worth repeating here. But Davis took to Facebook to explain the allegations against him:

I was on 3 News tonight because my campaign team had a look at a proposed website designed to take down Kim Dotcom and stop him from buying the seat of Te Tai Tokerau with his $3million dollars.

We explored this concept, debated it, then along with the Labour Party hierarchy decided it wasn’t in line with our Vote Positive messages and ditched it.

[emphasis added]

Firstly, it doesn’t appear he was actually blocked. It appears there was mutual agreement to ‘ditch the idea’ following discussion that the ‘proposed’ website was not in line with Labour’s messaging.

Secondly, Davis also elaborated on his discomfort with Kim Dotcom and his Internet Party coat tailing in on the Tai Tokerau seat. An irritating aspect of the commentary that followed, came from Pākehā commentators/pundits and journalists/reporters impressing their Pākeha centric views on Māori electorates.

It is probably worthwhile remembering then that Davis isn’t just running as a member of the Labour Party – he is running as a representative of Māori in Te Tai Tokerau. This dual role is often overlooked when Pākehā set the parameters of political debate for Māori.

Davis has every right to express his view and the view of many of our people in his electorate. Noting here, that I do not dispute that Hone Harawira and MANA also enjoy huge support from our people in that electorate and elsewhere.

However, if Davis is hearing from whānau, hapū and iwi that they are not comfortable, or are opposed to the InternetMANA alliance exercising political power over their electorate, then it would not be tika (right) for him to support it nor for him to encourage his constituents to do likewise. It’s also teka (false/untrue) to imply that Māori who oppose the InternetMANA alliance are negative, traitorous self-serving individuals. Again, this is most often led by a Pākehā dominated dialogue.

Hijacking Tuhoe

At the beginning of the InternetMANA road show, Kim Dotcom claimed that he and Māori shared a commonality – both have suffered “a great injustice”. How he managed to get away with saying he had the mana and the mind while implying his injustice was equivalent to 174 years of colonisation is beyond belief.

But the analogy appears to be an InternetMANA campaign strategy, evidenced by Georgina Beyer’s comparison claiming that:

“the man [Dotcom] suffered some injustices just like those in the Tuhoe raids suffered injustices and he’s yet to have those remedied”

It also appears to be an incredibly sinister attempt to hijack the injustice of the Tuhoe raids in order to obtain credibility within Māori communities. But many in Tuhoe are rejecting Dotcom and InternetMANA’s attempt to advance this cause. Seeing through the despicable way in which their struggle is being used as political fodder for the benefit of Dotcom.

I am mindful that the Tuhoe raids are not my story. To try to express the experience of injustice as it was felt by the people of Tuhoe would be for me to commit yet another injustice. Instead, like many other Māori, I come from a position in which the Te Urewera raids resonate because at that time and to this day we were forced to face the reality that racial inequality will always result in abuses of State power over our people.

No specifics are proffered by Dotcom or InternetMANA as to the equivalence of the events instead the strategy seems to be to emote on the language of injustice.

The only similarity is that in both cases the Court found unlawful search warrants were used by the Police. However, there are multiple cases in which search warrants are found to be unlawful and where armed offenders squads are deployed in executing those warrants, so Dotcom could analogise his experience with many other defendants. Yet he chooses Tuhoe. He does so in a calculated attempt to enhance himself. Yes. the raid on Dotcom’s mansion was unjust but as mentioned other raids on individuals in materially similar circumstances have also been unjust but the injustice he suffered was not equivalent to that of Tuhoe or of Māori.

Remembering that Dotcom is an individual, not an entire community. He did not stand accused of the international crime of terrorism because members of his community were well known Māori activists and advocates for mana motuhake and tino rangatiratanga. He stood accused of white collar crime – fraud, racketeering and money laundering, similar in nature to crimes with which he had previously been convicted.

The injustice perpetrated against Tuhoe was not simply an unlawful warrant, it was the dark history behind the warrant – the State’s desire to impress its power upon an entire community detaining children and the elderly in some instances at gunpoint. So to reiterate, the Tuhoe raids and Dotcom Mansion raid are not comparable and the reasons mentioned in this post are not even an exhaustive list.

It is reprehensible then that Dotcom would even try to link his injustice to Tuhoe and to Māori more generally. It is deeply distasteful that those in MANA would allow Dotcom and their party alliance to proliferate the analogy without consulting Tuhoe. It is standard practice in Te Ao Māori to consult on matters that might affect another iwi’s mana. To link Dotcom to Tuhoe is one such occasion. Tuhoe deserve to comment about their own view. It’s disappointing to see that a kaupapa Māori approach is less central to MANA following the alliance, although Hone Harawira’s statement that “MANA has more non-Maori candidates than Maori ones, and in InternetMANA the difference is even more pronounced” may provide some insight as to why.