Sunday, July 9, 2017

Mike Butler: Cheeky book against separatism

Once we were one: The fraud of modern separatism is a bold book from a cheeky writer whose understanding of race relations in New Zealand was learned from direct experience.

Andy Oakley grew up in the mean streets of Cannons Creek, Porirua, so he knows about poverty from direct experience.

One day he decided he was not going to stay poor. He got a sheet-metal apprenticeship at a local company. That company grew to become a major corporation and he went on to become a senior manager.

The 10-chapter titles summarize the contents of the book – He iwi tahi tatou we are one people, Our culture, Indoctrination, No Maori people in Nu Tirani, An opposing argument, New Zealand pre-Te Tiriti O Waitangi, Does the Treaty force separatism on us? A fresh analysis of Te Tiriti, Te Pakeha Te Maori illusion, Outcomes and the way forward.

Heavily criticised by Oakley is the current practice of categorizing us according to those with a Maori ancestor and those without, and enacting policy based on these categories.

Showing the shortcomings of the notion of race, Oakley points to modelling by Joseph T. Chang of Yale University that shows our most recent common ancestor probably lived just a few thousand years ago and that we are all hundredth cousins, Oakley wrote.

Numerous written accounts by the early European visitors to New Zealand that described the inhabitants here who looked and behaved differently from each other according to the region they lived in, Oakley wrote, which further undermines the concept of a “Maori race”.

Even the word “maori” was used with a lower case “m” in the Treaty of Waitangi, to distinguish the ordinary people of New Zealand from chiefs. He shows early dictionaries to show that it was only around 1850 that the upper-case “M” was used in the word “Maori” to describe a group of people.

He has a lot to say about the failure of race-based affirmative action to reduce poverty.

He points the finger at Maori leaders who remove themselves from personal responsibility by blaming “colonisation” for apparent poor statistics for Maori.

There are many more-poor non-Maori than there are poor Maori, and even many of those who identify as Maori are genetically mostly non-Maori.

The words “treaty” and “fraud” have been linked in a general sense since at least 1970, by Maori sovereignty activists.

But Oakley says actual fraud has been committed, both by successive governments and by individuals involved in the treaty industry, and this actual fraud resulted from the environment treaty activism created.

The fraud he refers to is that successive governments have:

1. Given credence to what has come to be known as the official English version of the treaty that was neither read to the chiefs at Waitangi in 1840 nor had it been written by that time.

2. In their possession but ignore the Busby February 4 draft of the treaty, which is most likely the original English draft.

3. Conceded the “preposterous” view that chiefs in 1840 believed that under article 2 of the treaty they retained their sovereignty and that the only sovereignty ceded was the right for the British Governor to govern British settlers.

This contrasts with what the Treaty actually says, in both English and Maori versions, that the Queen is sovereign and that Maori are her subjects, with the rights of subjects, including possession of property.

The Waitangi Tribunal is a permanent commission of inquiry that has existed since 1975 that investigates all manner of grievances while South Africa managed to complete investigation of a greater number of worse grievances within five years, Oakley wrote.

Oakley is a member of the political lobby group Hobsons Pledge, as am I, so the material is totally familiar.

For those who have not dabbled in such issues, Once we were one is a non-academic book by a person who grew up in disadvantage but decided not to stay poor. Oakley has a message for everyone.

Once we were one: The fraud of modern separatism, Andy Oakley, 270 pages, illustrated, Tross Publishing, $35

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