Friday, June 4, 2010
Mike Butler: Framing the race debate
Hmm, I thought, the foreshore and seabed is vested in the Crown, according to the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004, the contents page of the Act shows no requirement for tribal consultation, and the Bay of Plenty is beyond the area over which East Coast tribe Ngati Porou has negotiated it’s own deal. So why does Dallow, and Brownlee, conclude that tribal consultation is in order, and that the foreshore and seabed currently belong to tribes? It has a lot to do with how the debate has been framed.
A “frame” is a social theory that holds that people have, through their lifetimes, built series of mental emotional filters, which they use to make sense of the world. The choices they then make are influenced by their frame or emotional filters. “Framing” is a term used in media studies, sociology, and psychology, and refers to the social construction of a social phenomenon by mass media sources or specific political or social movements. A “frame” therefore defines the packaging of an element of rhetoric in such a way as to encourage certain interpretations and to discourage others.
Framing is effective because it provides a mental shortcut. Since people ordinarily prefer to do as little thinking as possible, frames provide people a quick and easy way to process information. Therefore, people will use frames to make sense of incoming messages. This gives the sender and framer of the information enormous power to use these schemas to influence how the receivers will interpret the message. Frames operate in four key ways, according to political communication researcher Jim A. Kuypers, who wrote, Rhetorical Criticism: Perspectives in Action. They define problems, diagnose causes, make moral judgments, and suggest remedies.
Therefore, what frames exist to interpret and persuade New Zealanders on race-relations? There is the “honour the treaty” frame, which lays the blame for a wide range of Maori problems on prejudicial laws, regulations, acts, omissions, policies, or practices of the Crown. The “Crown”, which denotes the executive function of representative government in New Zealand, is deemed in the wrong, and claimants, in the right.
Remedies comprise large amounts of cash, tracts of land, various other resources, an abject apology from the Minister of Treaty Settlements, and a grudging statement from the claimants that the remedy only really goes part of the way towards healing the immense hurt of the alleged wrong.
The promotion of the Maori language exists as another frame. To follow Kuypers’ analysis of defining the problem, diagnosing a cause, making a moral judgement, and suggesting a remedy, the perceived problem was the low use of the Maori language. “The Maori language was not understood as an essential expression and envelope of Maori culture, important for Maori in maintaining their pride and identity as a people”, according to History Online.
The cause? The Maori language was suppressed in schools, either formally or informally, so that Maori youngsters could assimilate with the wider community. This was arguably bad, therefore the remedy would be to make Maori an official language of New Zealand, institute Maori Language Week, create Maori-language only schools, require government departments to have both an English and a Maori name, broadcast a bit of Maori on Radio NZ, set up Maori TV, and so on.
This included the incorporation of the macron into official English, as in the word “Māori”, in a failed bid to improve pronunciation.
An interesting point is that promotion of the Maori language has not greatly increased use of the language. Fluency in Maori was reduced to four percent of the population in 2010, with only 24 percent of Maori people able to hold a conversation in Maori about everyday things. Another interesting point is that the Maori language and New Zealand Sign Language are official languages of New Zealand. English, the medium for teaching and learning in most schools, is a de facto official language by virtue of its widespread use.
The renaming of landmarks, such as Aoraki Mount Cook and Taranaki Mount Egmont, as well as the New Zealand Geographic Board's vote to change the spelling of Wanganui to Whanganui was a part of this process.
The use of Maori-culture welcoming ceremonies and choreographed war dances at official functions, school prizegivings, at the opening of government buildings, and at funerals, have created a Maori-cultural frame for day-to-day existence in New Zealand.
The inclusion of imported Church of England Christianity at official functions has largely been replaced by trappings of Maori ceremony and a somewhat fawning attitude to Maori animism.
The national anthem is now sung with the Maori version first, then the English version, the Maori-language lovesong Pokarekare Ana replaces the hymn Jerusalem, the Tino Rangatiratanga separatist flag has been flown along side the royal blue New Zealand national symbol.
With the Maori Party in government, the scene has been set and the actors are in place to cement a radical racial shift, or so the radicals believe, so that a separate Ngapuhi state, a Tuhoe nation, and tribal ownership of the foreshore and seabed, and the subsequent flow of oil, gas, and mineral royalties, would simply be the next step.
However, one technical point for Brownlee – an apology is not yet required. Another for Dallow – the foreshore and seabed is currently vested in the Crown.
Framing (social sciences) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Framing_(social_sciences)
'Framing the Debate,' by Jeffrey Feldman: Magic Words (April 8, 2007) http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/08/books/chapters/0408-1st-feld.html
George Lakoff : How conservatives use language to dominate politics, by Bonnie Azab Powell, NewsCenter | 27 October 2003,
History of the Maori language - Te Wiki o Te Reo Maori, History Online. http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/culture/maori-language-week/history-of-the-maori-language
at 8:29 PM