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Monthly Archives: May 2014

Internet Mana: the enemy of my enemy is my friend (atm, lol)

There is a leap of faith that the membership of both the MANA Movement and the Internet Party have taken. That leap is the presumption that voters will be as pragmatic as these parties have been. As one thoughtful commenter on social media observed (commenting on Sue Bradford’s decision to leave the party):

I also was worried about this when it was first mooted. However it is a very pragmatic arrangment with the Internet Party (not Kim Dotcom the individual) and the way it is set up totally leaves Mana intact as well as it has many rigorous safeguards…What it does do is offer the possibility of maximising the party vote in a way that may make some dent in ousting the Nats (without which the reality of a “farleft movement for change” is a fantasy) Realistically Mana had neither the people or resources to promote the party vote alone. The Mana electorate candiate campaign is the same as it would always have been. …. More damage will be done to the “left” by inaccurate negative spin than the arrangment itself.

The last sentence of this post encapsulates the issue I mention. To some degree at least, it won’t matter that the arrangement leave a high degree of autonomy to each party. It won’t matter that  MANA gets most of the top seat spots in the combined party list. These countervailing arguments won’t matter to a significant degree of the voting population because now they can no longer be so sure what each of these parties represent. They are the voters not involved in the decisionmaking, not in the room when the deal went down, or on the email lists. I know MANA apparently has a terrific party organisation, and I’m sure that was a major factor in the decision. I also suspect that standing on lonely principle is not all that attractive to two parties that really want some degree of political power, and memberships that clearly want that as well.

But the abandonment of unifying principle is a dangerous course. Many people still vote on the basis of a positive idea, however muddy that idea becomes in realpolitik. National party supporters really do buy the notion of freedom, autonomy and individual responsibility, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Labour Party voters really do buy the idea of social and collective responsibility, again in the face of all political history that suggests such pure ideals never survive intact. The Māori Party knows better than anyone how difficult it is to sell a party based primarily on a pragmatic idea, in this case that Māori can benefit from being at the decision-making table. That too is a pragmatic stance, but at least it is phrased in the positive, and closely married to the idea of achieving a level of rangatiratanga for Māori. And it might be yet seen that the Māori Party has ended up losing its way because of that pragmatism.

Selling the idea of getting rid of the current government just doesn’t stand for anything in the hands of this new entity.  No doubt ample numbers of the supporters of both future components of Internet Mana can explain the logic and the utilitarianism of this decision, with that unifying goal of bringing National down. But those people are not where the tyre hits the tarmac. How does each potential voter now articulate for themselves and others what this entity stands for? Internet freedom (except in the case of Māori cultural knowledge)? Being the voice of the poor and dispossessed (except when that voice has to articulate, or at least accomodate other concerns)? How does each voter explain their own voting beliefs in the absence of any demonstrable conjoined beliefs in their party?

And thinking of the future..come September, if the election does see the return of a National-led coalition, where will the combined energy of these two collections of people go? On? In 10 years time will there be an Internet Mana? Once the conjugal purpose is either fulfilled or defeated, what’s left?

I spotted this quote a moment ago:

“[The party] was not well received by the general public…The perception that these MPs had “betrayed” their former party was strong. Many voters believed that [the party] had been born out of political opportunism, not out of firmly-held principle.”

Any guesses? Yep, a quote from the Wikipedia eulogy to the very short-lived Mauri Pacific Party formed in 1998.

Of course Internet Mana will likely have a longer presence just because Hone is a sitting MP and favoured candidate. Ultimately my prediction, for what it is worth (!), is that this pragmatic venture can’t have a long life, because it cannot now give voters something they can believe in without a proviso, a ‘but’, or a hedged exception.

Māori in Australia: standing whose ground?

If you are reading this on Friday morning (22 May 2014) Ngāti Toa, Porirua City Council and Blacktown City Council and the local Blacktown community will be celebrating the erection of two pou in the New Zealand South Pacific Garden in the Nurragingy Reserve, in Blacktown, west of Sydney, on land that is part of the Darug people’s heritage.

This news caught my attention because my father and most of my Aussie whānau lived in Blacktown until very recently so I have spent a bit of time there, conscious of the lack of physical reminders of the local people in the Blacktown cityscape. This is a town originally named for the old Native Institute, the settlement that grew up around it, and the road leading to it (“the Blacks’ Town” becoming known as “Blacktown” by the 1860s). In the years I visited Blacktown I was always struck by the prominence of the Blacktown Workers Club sign being (it seemed to my ignorant eyes) the most obvious allusion to any indigenous history of the area in an area with the largest concentrated Aboriginal population anywhere in New South Wales. And yes, apparently there is a vibrant arts, culture, and heritage scene in Blacktown, just not much civic visibility of the Aboriginal heritage. At all.


Of course, quite apart from the Ngāti Toa/Porirua City Council initiative, there have been political infighting and funding scraps over the public installation of a sculpture of Nurrngingy himself (a Darug elder who received one of the first land grants to Aboriginal individuals in Australia, from Governor Macquarie in 1816). The sculpture languishes, waiting for $80,000 needed for bronze casting that Blacktown doesn’t want to pay for. (

This sculpture was made by a Hungarian sculptor and so doubtless there may be ambivalence from local Aboriginal people as to the priority to be put upon funding it, but in the relative absence of civic recognition of Aboriginal heritage, the fact that Māori culture and heritage gets civic engagement and civic involvement from two city councils is interesting.

The road to that engagement has not been entirely smooth. You might recall the trans-Tasman stoush that happened over the original plan to have these pou erected at the gateway to the Reserve. A Darug elder Sandra Lee left us in no doubt as to her opinion on the proposed erection:

“Would the Maoris like me to go over to New Zealand and hang ring-tail possums all over the place? Or kangaroos? No they wouldn’t, I know they wouldn’t, so why are they doing it to us?” she said

Ms Lee said situating the poles at the front gate would diminish the Aboriginal symbolism of Nurragingy and continue the ongoing genocide of her people.

“I’ll stand there and I’ll burn them down if I have to,” she said. “They can put them anywhere inside, no worries – but not at the gate.”


Māori leaders, including Taku Pārai from Ngāti Toa, upon learning of the objections, called for consultation to be carried out before endorsing the installation, and now the matters apparently have been resolved. I don’t wish to decry the installation of these pou. It’s a wonderful thing I’m sure, for Ngāti Toa and the Porirua District Council to see these pou erected within the Nurragingy Reserve, in partnership with the Blacktown City Council to commemorate 30 years of the sister-city relationship. This will clearly be something to celebrate.

Māori wardens will be involved, as will representatives of the local community, and I hope, the Darug people. The event though raises a few broader questions.

The Māori presence in Australia in truly impressive, and just a little bit mind-boggling. Ever increasing numbers of Māori now live across the Tasman, as at the last Australian census, 128,434 at least (not counting the many Māori who don’t report their ethnicity in census date). For more info see Paul Hamer’s fascinating updated research on the Māori population in Australia ( Obviously there is a migration of Māori ideas as well as people to our West Island, and this is hardly a new thing. But with an estimated 1 in 6 Māori now living in Australia there are obviously long term implications for the growth and evolution of the ways of being Māori. For one thing, there is a growing number of competent reo speakers who have now taken their language skills across the Tasman. There are now fantastic Waitangi Day celebrations. There are growing numbers of Māori organisations (Māori Wardens, kapa haka teams, Māori radio shows on Radio Koori just to name a few) and the establishment of permanent marae is not far away, judging by current initiatives in Melbourne ( and Sydney ( at least.

Part of me wonders whether there may be a cost to Aboriginal peoples at some point of this Māori cultural burgeoning. Sure there have been some perhaps unsurprising accounts of ethnic tensions between Māori and Aboriginal populations in recent years ( I know of several Māori who have headed to Australia to work with Aboriginal communities at least partly on the basis of a shared indigenous experience of colonisation. I’m also interested in the extent to which Māori may, by the establishment of Mārae and pou in the indigenous soil of Australia, end up claiming a portion of Australian civic identity. By this I mean that Māori seeking to create spaces of belonging that are not only private spaces, but also form part of the civic, public narrative. The new pou definitely provide a way of creating a public Māori presence and the planned marae, no matter how they are funded, will be, to some degree, public entities, with a visual imprint upon the civic landscape. I’m not for a moment seeking to dissuade Māori from creating and establishing marae in Australia. And it is hardly a new thing for migrant communities in Australia to create spaces within which to celebrate their own culture. Māori cultural spaces will barely raise a ripple, I’m sure. I just hope that those developments are carried out with consideration and consultation with the local Aboriginal peoples. If it is right to value the freedom of a people to decide to create/affirm civic identity and civic space, that freedom ought to belong first and foremost to Aboriginal voices and Aboriginal stories. I just hope we remember this truth in our understandable rush to create our own whānau ora narrative in Australia.

Shane and the Dragon: the risks of appealing to difference

It’s very tempting to believe, as a Māori, that I have some kind of connection to an essential cultural truth that is just a little different, and a little bit better than others around me without that connection. The feeling might occur in unexpected moments; in a joke shared in the reo, in singing a song at a tangi, in an offhand comment at the supermarket, in catching Pūkoro on Māori TV after school. As someone who has had to learn to be Māori, I’m quite conscious of being privy to something greater than myself. Fortunately for me those ‘connection’ moments are far more common now than in my more culturally tentative 20s.

This feeling of special connection, as well as whakapapa connection, is useful, after all; it can be a bulwark against the torrent of all the other messages I might receive over the course of my adult life, the ones about how being Māori is a passport to the bottom-of-the-heap statistics. But it is not much of a leap from this sense of being ‘set apart’ culturally, to a sense of playing by a different sets of rules in other ways. So these words leapt out at me from an RNZ Manu Korihi report yesterday in regards to the report released recently on Shane Taurima’s activities at TVNZ:

The panel members were particularly interested in [Shane Taurima’s] response about how he managed conflicts in the Maori world.
He told them that Maori journalism was different.
He said instead of reporters having topics to cover, such as health and business, tangata whenua tended to be assigned to tribal areas from which they come from.
Mr Taurima said Maori journalists were challenged by whanau and friendships everyday.
But an advisor to the board carrying out the investigation, the former correspondent Chris Wikaira, rejected the explanation.
He saids basic journalism such as balance as fairness, was universal and did not change because of a person’s ethnicity.

The report itself fleshes Shane’s observation out a little more: (available at:

The world of Māori broadcasting and journalism, and particularly Māori language reporting has differences from reporting in the Pākehā world. We are challenged by our whānau and friendship relationships every day, which mean that conflicts of interest and the potential for perceptions are at the forefront of our minds every single day, as we believe those relationships, whilst ensuring that they do not stray into our onscreen or editorial work.”

I find the characterisation of a “Māori broadcasting and journalism world” and a “Pākehā” world of journalism and broadcasting to be interesting, as if there is a veil through which we must pass to operate in either world. I suspect Shane was making an appeal to difference here, that somehow the rules are different in each world. It’s pretty easy for those of us who have ever worked in broadcasting to believe that. But here there be dragons, maybe taniwha, if you don’t know where your ethical waka is heading.

On one level I completely agree with Shane that Māori journalists and broadcasters do have to operate differently just to be able to do their jobs properly, in the same way that Māori lawyers ‘do law’ differently, in the same way that Māori psychologists work differently with Māori clients. The point of ‘doing it differently’ in different contexts is to benefit Māori professionals, Māori clients and Māori in the community generally, to ensure ultimately that Māori are served properly by whatever profession is in focus. At the heart of these ‘different’ ways of doing things is the practice of whakawhanaungatanga, the establishment of common ground and right relationships between the Māori professional and the Māori client in such a way that that client (and by extension the Māori community) gets the right service. It makes complete sense that Māori journalists will have to operate differently in order to have their fingers on the pulse of what is going on in Māori communities, so that those communities will see themselves reflected in the work of that journalist, of that broadcaster, and not some imagined caramel collective with only a passing resemblance. Sometimes, as in the recent Native Affairs investigations, the image that is reflected back to the community may be true (or at least a version of true) but not flattering.

Whakawhanaungatanga is critically important as a way of Māori connecting with each other, discovering and reinforcing whānau, hapū, or iwi ties, or in the absence of those, some other shared identity that makes sense in that moment. Isn’t this mode of practice then at odds with the usual pressure upon professionals, legal, journalistic, or whatever, to create space between the professional and the client, for the professional to maintain disinterest? Not at all, if whakawhanaungatanga is exercised in honesty and transparency. When I was a probation officer (many moons ago) writing reports on offenders it could be essential to spend time with an offender (love those labels) talking about our shared ancestry, where he and I grew up, or whatever else was right for the moment to create that spark of fellow-feeling between us. I might still recommend imprisonment at the end of the process. He knew it, I knew it, but the whanaungatanga was still there, and still necessary, even within the giant monolith of our criminal justice system.

It is, of course, so much harder for someone who was in Shane’s position of being under direct and constant pressure from his whānau and iwi to return to politics to balance the demands of his people with the demands of transparency and accountability to TVNZ. The pressure must have been enormous, but the demand for transparency and honesty in the preservation and exercise of whakawhanaungatanga remains the same. Chris Wikaira’s reported response to Shane’s quote above is also worth quoting in full from the report:

Mr Wikaira reviewed the transcript of the Panel’s interview of Mr Taurima. His view was thatthe basic tenets of journalism, ie balance and fairness, are universal and that a conflict is aconflict regardless of the ethnicity of the person at the centre of it. Furthermore, while he acknowledged that Māori journalists often have more interests to balance (be they familial, tribal or political), the management of these needs to be consistently applied. The potential reputational damage to TVNZ overrides any cultural nuance, and it required Mr Taurima to disclose these activities. He noted that this issue was less about tikanga Māori and cultural nuance and more about a senior manager in a mainstream media organisation managing his political aspirations in a mainstream political party.[99]

I’m sure few of us are blameless when it comes to blurring lines between our professional and private responsibilities. I’m not. But nothing in the Māori rule-book excuses Māori professionals from the other professional demands on us. I don’t have, as a condition of my Māoriness, an entitlement to throw away the rule on client confidentiality, or objectivity. Nor, in legal practice did I have an entitlement to ignore conflicts of interests in that context. In my current job I don’t get to appeal to difference to justify dispensing with fairness in marking my students’ exam papers (much as I dearly want more Māori to be passing those blimmin’ things). If I want to be good at what I do, I have to exercise whakawhanaungatanga in all those contexts, and keep up with those other professional demands. And bear the cost.

For me to appeal to difference, to specialness to justify dispensing with those other professional demands suggests that I might think it’s OK, as a Māori, to engage in whakawhanaungatanga without transparency and honesty (or tika and pono, to put it another way) with all those relationships. For me, that’s a level of comfort that I’m … well, just not comfortable with.

A connection between Konrad, Judith & Maurice? You betcha.

I blame Paul Henry for my current curmudgeonly state of mind. There was I, innocently browsing the net on my laptop when I spied, out of the corner of my eye, Paul Henry on the TV in the corner of my lounge bobbing his head up and down in the imitation of…oh dear. A thinly disguised act of intimacy. He was, of course, doing a Henry in regards to the Konrad Hurrell and Teuila Blakely’s little home video that has been in the news lately. Not having seen the video, I nevertheless still have a charming set of images in my mind, thanks to Paul. In truth, I had been getting grumpier as the last couple of weeks have progressed as New Zealanders have had, inflicted upon them, story after story with a very similar central theme. That theme is one of hubris: exaggerated pride or self-confidence, and an entitlement by individuals in positions of power/influence to behave badly in defiance of their respective teams. It takes an extraordinary amount of belief in one’s own competence and value to justify, promote, excuse behaviour that is probably dodgy, if only one takes a moment to step back and take a pause. It takes an absolute refusal to live by that wise old adage ‘may you see yourself as others see you.’

I can only imagine that Konrad thought he really was the Mantis as he broke heaven knows how many road regulations, and trashing his momentary partner’s own reputation in the process by sharing his wee movie, which saw it SnapChatted immediately. The usual mollycoddling excuses came out shortly thereafter, he’s a young guy, he made a bad call, it’s unfortunate, move on, people. ”They get a lot of education on this but they are still young men. They have got physically matured bodies, but maybe not in the mind. Sometimes you make the mistakes and he has made one and he is going to have to live with that.’

I think this is right, and too much ought not be made of the incident itself, certainly he should be dealt with proportionately, and the $5k fine appears to do this. I wonder though, if his own hard-earned status as an NRL player, in the Warriors, of at least 42 games, with a pretty lengthy list of social network videos already to his credit, has meant that Konrad lost sight of how vulnerable he really is to same slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that all high performing sportspeople are. His own attitude does seem a bit ambivalent. He said: “I am so sorry this has happened and want to apologise for the trouble I have caused”, ( Curious choice of words, that: “I’m so sorry this has happened”, as if he was somehow passive in the matter. As if hitting ‘send’ was not an entirely voluntary act. Regardless, he is highly social media-savvy, he knows the power of wider media to enhance his own profile as well as that of his team, as a whole. It defies belief that when he shared the video he did not foresee what would happen to it. He just didn’t appear to care. He certainly didn’t waste any of his time asking himself ‘Now, as a Warriors league player wanting to get selected for the next game coming up..should I send this? How will this affect the team?’ Nup. If only.

Other commentators have written at length about Maurice Williamson and Judith Collins’ behaviours (with Donghua Liu and Oravida respectively) and their insistence, initially, that their actions were entirely normal and justifiable and of no moment to the New Zealand public, or their team-mates. While the clock is still ticking for Collins, the jury is well and truly back on Maurice, and the verdict has taken a regrettable toll on a well-liked and ebullient individual. Notwithstanding, I’m less interested in the behaviours themselves as opposed to the overweening confidence that both Ministers appeared to have had that their individual, personal connections, charisma and positions would justify their actions. At no point do either of them seem to have taken pause and asked themselves, as a Minister should I….[pick up the phone and call the police about this man] / [embark on a ‘royal tour’ of this commercial company and go for dinner with individuals including at least one official that can open pathways for that company?]. Neither appears to have considered the impact of their actions on their team-mates. Perhaps it was their positions and their confidence in their individual status that prevented them from seeing what has been so obvious to so many of us from the outset: you can’t use your ministerial position to create benefit for a commercial company, or to influence criminal prosecutions. These are not very complex propositions.

Arrogance is not solely a right-wing problem, contrary to what many on the left might wish. It is not solely the preserve of the well-heeled nor of those in the public eye. Arrogance, even hubris is found everywhere, nevertheless it is an occupational hazard for some people more than others. Supreme self-confidence is required by all three of these individuals mentioned here to stand out in the ways that they have. This is a necessary tool to enable them to get selection, to pull off the moves that get them noticed, that guarantee them some kind of a future in their particular blood sport.

But there should also be a moderator; the necessary creature that keeps that hubris under control, and enables such strong individuals to be a part of a team. This moderator is something we barely ever mention anymore: shame. Shame is a concept that has fallen into disfavour perhaps in these meritocratic, individualistic times. Shame is often now seen as a disabler, something that keeps women in their place and sexually denigrated, a holdover from earlier, socially restricted, communitarian times. But shame (whakamā) has its place. An ability to feel shame, that is, guilt, regret, or embarrassment is a necessary thing to stop ourselves from bringing harm to others that are close to us, by our own actions. One might feel shame indeed, after having done something egregious. Williamson, Collins and Hurrell have all expressed such regret that they caused some degree of harm to their colleagues, their teammates, for example, but even now I suspect both Collins and Williamson perceive themselves as being treated unfairly as individuals. But what is equally important is the ability to imagine the feeling of shame if we undertake some course of action that will lead to guilt, regret, or embarrassment for those around us. This ability to imagine how our actions impact upon the others close to us, those in our team, is crucial, and clearly, in these three cases at least, neglected.

Thank Heavens for Donald Sterling and other Lightning Rod Racists

Make no bones about it, Donald Sterling helps many of us sleep better in our beds at night. The owner of the LA Clippers gives form to the formless. Like a lightning rod he draws the ire and righteous anger of all of us who pride ourselves on our ability to tolerate difference. He ticks all the right boxes, powerful, super-rich, white, curiously formed (looking as if he has been carved out of aged Lucite), not to mention helpfully braying racist claptrap to his latest (wired-up?) lovely in the grip of his papery claws. (see He is in the mould of the equally odd local multimillionaire Louis Crimp…remember him from a couple of years back? Old, bigoted, wealthy:

“All the white New Zealanders I’ve spoken to don’t like the Maoris, the way they are full of crime and welfare.” (

There is a kind of functional purging that happens when such obvious bogeymen are exposed in this Western society. It reminds me a little of what Aristotle named ‘catharsis’; the ‘pity and fear’ an audience to a tragic play felt when the protagonist invariably fell from what had been a lofty height (Oedipus, Agamemnon and so on). Catharsis in that ancient context meant feeling pity for the plight of the doomed protagonist, and a kind of compassionate fear for ourselves lest we undergo a similar fate. Well. I don’t detect pity for Louis & Don, this kind of modern catharsis is a little different, we feel a kind of cleansing revulsion.

Yet underneath all that disgusted wrath perhaps we also feel a little bit of fear lest we are revealed to have similar bigotries within us. This fear is perhaps at the heart of our curiously formalistic approach to eradicating racist and sexist symbols from our language and our public actions. As Jeremy Clarkson has just discovered, uttering the N-word creates a moment of talismanic horror that he can atone for on the public altar of Twitter ( Eradicating such obvious symbols from our overt actions and words saves us from having to examine what we really think and feel. Replacing these symbols with new ones can also be handy. Keen to be seen as a non-racist? Why, take a selfie with a banana in honour of Dani Alves’ pretty wonderful response to thuggish banana throwers in a football match at Villareal on Sunday. When the banana landed near him as the Brazilian was about to take a corner he picked it up, ate it and carried on. The fact that this was apparently a preplanned marketing campaign is overlooked in favour of the simple beauty of the new inclusive symbol, so right for t-shirts, now selling for 25 Euro each.

I’m not going to engage in a sociological examination (you’ll be relieved to know) of the dynamics and causes of racism, sexism or homophobia. I understand the analysis that tells me that racism (and other isms) is produced from ‘power dynamics’ in society. Those with power can exclude consciously, or otherwise, those without power, based on a denigration of the race, ethnicity, gender or sexuality of the excluded. I get that. What worries me about that analysis is that it (superficially) excuses us, if we ourselves fall into any one or more of the excluded groups, from examining ourselves. I can’t be racist, I’m Māori. Well, I’m less interested in whether an ‘ism’ can be attached to my outward language and behaviour. I’m more interested in the failure of imagination that I am definitely in danger of sharing with Louis and Don. We are all at risk of this kind of failure, regardless of the label we put upon it.

I have a young female relative in my large extended family whom I love dearly. She’s a teenager, a gorgeous, bright, talented girl. And she is ashamed of being Māori. She doesn’t acknowledge her own Māori name, she wonders why the only Māori women she sees (outside of her family) are fat and why the men are all criminals. She can’t yet imagine, you see, that there are other Māori realities, other Māori futures. Even when she sees Māori that don’t fit that mould she may not shift her thinking. Perhaps those ‘other Māori’ are just aberrations to her perceived truth. Like Don, Like Louis, she makes false deductions from limited information, and won’t or can’t (yet) imagine how things could be different. All is not lost for her, and I am ever a believer in the power of human imagination to create change. Eventually I think she will be able to imagine Māori differently. Louis & Don haven’t managed this leap of imagination, it appears, but I would wager that none of us is totally cured from this particular condition. Some people have more power to harm than the rest of us, based on their bigotries, which is why we need protective laws and actions designed to counter and prevent harms from racism, sexism and the like. But let’s not be fooled, Louis & Don are not strange or remote, they are in the room with us.

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