In the same week, the Maori Party declared that if elected, it will arbitrarily demand the country’s name be changed from New Zealand to Aotearoa, along with all other anglicised place names, to Maori place names.
However, the name “Aotearoa” is not a traditional, nor even an appropriate, alternative name for New Zealand, according to Distinguished Professor Kerry Howe whose seminal article “Aotearoa-What’s in a Name” appeared in MSN News on 19th September. It is by far the most erudite and well-researched article on this issue yet to be produced. All New Zealanders should read this.
But, it is high time we acknowledged all cultures in Nu Tirani (New Zealand) in the face of continued denial of other cultures by bicultural activists.
Our amazing blend of some 120 different cultures provides a framework of huge interest and spectacle , with celebrations of Hogmanay, Chinese New Year, Ramadan, Christmas, Easter , and more recently, Matariki. Oh, and yes, Guy Fawkes too.
Nu Tirani is the Maori name given to New Zealand in the preamble to the treaty of Waitangi of 1840. As is well documented, Maori at the time of the treaty did not comprise a national entity or polity or national identity as such, but comprised over 500 separate, individual iwi and hapu (tribes and sub-tribes), continually at war with each other. They did not have a collective name for this country. Further, other ethnicities in New Zealand today have their own unique name, the most prominent being the Samoan name of Niu Sila.
New Zealand (Nu Tirani/Niu Sila) in the 21st century must be the only country in the world which haughtily declares itself to be bicultural - that is, official recognition of just two cultures, that of our fist migrants, the Maori people who arrived in New Zealand around the 13th century from various points of the Pacific and everyone else who arrived subsequently. Whilst there were arguably just two cultures when Europeans first established themselves here in the late 18th century, today it apparently matters not that the other culture, “everyone else”, actually comprises over 120 different identifiable cultural identities, multiple ethnicities and languages and a host of separate customs. The reality, then, is that New Zealand in the 21st century is actually a melting pot of multiple cultures, all of them unique .
The utter illogicality, even stupidity, of claiming New Zealand to be bicultural, is a political construct without rational, realistic or valid foundation. The total rejection of biculturalism by most thinking New Zealanders is ignored by biculturalists in their assiduous, strident, almost religious, fervour to incorporate tikanga Maori (customs, protocols) into everyday life in New Zealand.
Note: for an excellent and comprehensive explanation of tikanga Maori, see “Tikanga Maori: Living By Maori Values”, Hirini Moko Meads, Huia publishers, 2003)
All government activities must now embrace tikanga, including karakia (prayers), blessings by Maori kaumatua (elders), departmental and place names in prominent te Reo Maori; and an increasing requirement for a person of Maori descent to be represented on every committee and board, especially in our universities and other educational institutions and local authorities. People in government-funded entities are now expected to use te Reo Maori phrases in their correspondence, supplanting common English usage phrases of introduction and sign off. The incongruity of commencing meetings with mihi, waiata and prayers (karakia) in te Reo, when nobody of Maori descent is present, is common in our universities, not to mention staff with no Maori identity at all wearing multiple neck pendants of Maori design, greeting each other in te Reo. Some Maori academics see all of this as offensive tokenism and “cultural appropriation”. Others would have you believe that much more of the same is a “treaty obligation”.
But the purpose of the compulsory adoption of tikanga is not confined to promoting te Reo.
The bicultural activists have the ultimate political goal of reclaiming New Zealand/Nu Tirani including shared political power (or co-governance of New Zealand), a goal clearly articulated by Maori in the Constitutional Review conducted in 2013 by the National-Maori Party coalition government. This co-governance proposal for two parliaments (Maori and The Rest) of equal authority, overseen by an upper chamber or “treaty House”, which would have the final say on all legislation, was initially promoted by Professor Whatarangi Winiata, supported by the then Governor-General Sir Paul Reeves, to the Building The Constitution conference at Parliament in 2000.
A recent and complimentary proposal now finding traction within the legal profession is to incorporate tikanga into New Zealand’s laws which would require judges to consider their judgements not on purely objective and impartial grounds but also according due emphasis to te Ao Maori (the Maori world view), even when the judge and the defendant have no Maori connection at all. Other aspects of tikanga, such as rahui, appear to be illegal, yet find their way into everyday life. Incorporating similar elements from other cultures would, I am sure, be totally unacceptable.
The prestigious Royal Society of New Zealand, that bastion of scientific excellence, now fully incorporates tikanga in all of it’s affairs. So too, our universities have adopted significant Maori protocols in academic courses, research programmes and administrative management. In one university, students must pass at least eight papers incorporating tikanga, before they are permitted to graduate, irrespective of their subject areas and majors. In another, all staff are monitored and measured on their capability in and commitment to, tikanga and the treaty. The traditional academic hymn “Gaudeamus Igitur”, sung at all university graduations from medieval times, has been replaced instead at Massey University with a waiata- without any input from staff and students.
The outside observer might well be highly impressed by this cultural sea-change, assuming that this tsunami of social engineering is the wish of the majority of the country’s citizens?
But that is not the case at all. There is NO legislative or regulatory authority which underpins, authorises or legitimises this bicultural movement. Indeed, research reveals that bicultural practices are the result of bureaucratic activism, undertaken by departments at the insistence of politicians, with no public discussion at all. There is no formal framework whatsoever-a clear example of political pressure on public servants.
In fact, the compulsory imposition of cultural, religious and other requirements on people is illegal in New Zealand, under the Bill of Rights and Human Rights Acts.
There have been very few cases of individuals objecting to enforced acculturation. The first was nursing student Anna Penn of Christchurch Polytechnic in 1993. She was expelled from her nursing course and had to move to Australia to complete. The second more recent case in 2003 was Corrections Officer Josie Bullock who refused to be re-seated at the rear of a Maori ceremony, being a woman, and having been originally seated at the front. The Human Rights Tribunal dismissed her case. Both are worth Googling.
So how has this bicultural tsunami come about? There has certainly been no public debate or discussion about adopting tikanga across the social and cultural landscape of New Zealand. Why have there not been more cases of individuals objecting to enforced acculturation?
The answer to this question is, in a word, COERCION, both implicit and explicit. People are frankly too bloody scared to challenge the forceful adoption of tikanga, for fear of being publicly branded as a racist. Or, alternatively, they could not care less - not really all that interested.
Successive governments, rather than openly direct organisations or the public to adopt tikanga in our everyday lives, (which would clearly be in breach of the Acts mentioned above) and in their haste to appease the strident demands of the bicultural activists for equal bicultural recognition, have devolved all decisions regarding the adoption of tikanga within institutions to the governing bodies of those institutions-boards, councils, local authorities.
Institutions which in any way depend on government funding (and there are many), must provide a Charter or Statement of Corporate Intent which, inter alia, must include a statement of undertaking setting out how the organisation intends to “give effect” to the treaty of Waitangi of 1840, today falsely claimed to be a “partnership”, which it is not. The Treaty of Waitangi is NOT a legal document, either. This continual claim that the treaty is a partnership, is a classical example of an “argumentum ad nauseam”, repeated so often it becomes considered to be a fact. So, in their haste to acknowledge and give recognition to Maori culture, falsely defended using a revisionist and presentist re-interpretation of the 1840 treaty, our government overrules the human rights of the rest of New Zealand (84%).
Government organisations and institutions consider enforced acculturation to now be the norm - to require employees to adopt tikanga and to be bound by it’s rules. The employees of such organisations become in turn , bound to honour and abide by the statements of their Charter. Simple. Central government can then say ”It is not our problem - go and talk to the board or council of the institution or organisation - it is their decision, not ours.” Thus the potential illegality of compulsory acculturation is neatly side-stepped by central government. Quite a brilliant strategy. The same rationale is being used to appoint Maori representatives onto local authorities, resulting in unelected and unaccountable members of councils having full voting rights - but no responsibility!
In most cases, the ratepaying communities are not even consulted, let alone given the opportunity via referenda, to accept or reject such proposals.
Enforced acculturation in tikanga Maori involves three levels of coercion :
1.A person is invited to participate in bicultural activities. To decline is considered to be racist - a subtle but effective form of coercion.
2. A person is expected to participate in bicultural activities, by their organisation. To object or to absent oneself from the cultural activity will be considered racist and illustrate an unwillingness to abide by the cultural standards to which the organisation is now committed.
3. A person is required to participate in bicultural activities as a condition (often unstated and unwritten) of their employment within the organisation. Failure to do so incurs significant penalties.
Enforced acculturation also requires people to accept a range of cultural attributes which could well be quite foreign and quite unacceptable to those of European heritage.
A classic example is the equal position of women in modern-day Western society, which is totally contrary to the tikanga of some iwi. Another is the suppression of individualism. (see Mead, pp 115-6 and elsewhere).
Demands that aspects of Maori culture be accorded equal usage with Western European/English culture in everyday life is particularly vocal in our universities, along the lines that the so-called treaty “partnership” accords it such equality. But these stupid, shallow academics fail to understand that according Maori culture due respect and status, (which in my opinion is a noble objective), is quite a different issue to demanding it’s everyday usage (often very badly) by 84% of the population to which it is quite foreign. This is beginning to look and feel ridiculous.
Should New Zealanders be concerned about being compelled to adopt and practice tikanga Maori in their everyday activities? Does it really matter in the fullness of life? Indeed, in doing so, will Pakeha then be accused by Maori of tokenism, or even “cultural appropriation”? How do Maori feel about manuhiri (the rest of us) engaging in tikanga, often badly?
Enforced acculturation is not building empathy-it is building significant and increasing resentment.
Let us for a moment imagine a totally different scenario, where participation in tikanga Maori is entirely voluntary and enthusiastically embraced by Pakeha . Imagine the goodwill and empathy which could be generated by a non-compulsory invitation to engage in various forms of tikanga?
But this approach is absolutely rejected by the bicultural activists who see compulsory adoption as their primary goal. Besides, forced compliance is associated with mana (prestige). Blaming “the colonisers” for every failing of our society, attracts huge political and media attention. I, and I am sure many others, totally reject this opinion: it is not a factual, evidenced-based claim at all, but a politicised opinion trotted out regularly by the bicultural activists and some prominent Maori (who should know better) - yet another classic case of “argumentum ad nauseam”.
The majority of New Zealanders (some 70+ %) are of European descent. A further 15% are of Asian descent. We cannot change or deny this fact, though some may choose not to identify as such. Our Asian migrants (Chinese and Indian) for example, bring many desirable traits - respect for elders; a passionate belief in hard work; absolute value of education; and comparatively few end up as social beneficiaries or in our criminal justice system. Yet they bear the brunt of sometimes vicious racist behaviour by others, including some Labour and NZ First politicians and other ethnic minorities.
The early missionaries brought religion, literacy, and significant medical and technological knowledge. European culture provided our earliest inhabitants with an introduction to the world as it then was, which was unknown to them. And of course, te Ao Maori was equally unknown to the rest of the world. Captain Cook, for all his claimed faults, recorded a New Zealand unknown elsewhere. Maori enthusiastically embraced many of these new developments, especially the technology of tools and firearms.
New Zealand has given us all, the opportunity to become whatever we wish to be and the highest offices of the land have been or are held by extremely competent persons of all cultures and ethnicities, including Maori.
We have, as a people, together worked, wept, served and died for New Zealand and intermarried in increasing numbers.
But the bicultural activists would have us believe that our cultures are irrevocably separate and opposed: and that, according to John Tamihere, co-leader of the Maori Party, all Pakeha are racist colonisers. I say Bunkum and Bulldust to them.
I absolutely support the rights of others to practice their own cultural customs, but equally, I reserve the right to engage in and practice my own cultural norms and values without having someone else’s cultural norms imposed upon me- unless I absolutely and freely agree to adopt them of my own volition. In spite of all this, there is much to celebrate and enjoy when New Zealand’s various cultures interact. Let’s make tikanga voluntary, not compulsory and threatening? And if we aspire to engage in it, that we do it properly? Let us enjoy Morris Dancing, Dragon Dancing and the haka! All are equally unique.
Henry Armstrong is retired, follows politics, and writes.