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The Māori in the Room

The Māori in the Room

I had one of those “only Māori in the room” moments yesterday. I have a lot of those. These moments don’t offend me. I work in mainstream tertiary education, I’m Māori and I profess to know something about things Māori. I’ve worked in my field for 10 years. So what did I expect?  Despite all that, these moments can be awkward. So yesterday,  I was in a meeting about a research funding proposal with very clued-up academics from various faculties. The heads swivel in my direction as I am asked my opinion on what I think the best direction for Māori would be in regard to X or Y of the proposal. There is a pause.

Expectations hang heavy in the air. The words I say are to be weighed and perhaps given a weight disproportionate to their value.  Or perhaps the reverse. Sometimes, in moments like these, I can feel my cheeks flame, and sometimes blind panic threatens to set in. On this occasion however, I just snorted, laughed and said, “well, I don’t know!” I may even have thrown my hands in the air.  That’s usually how it is. I really don’t know what Māori need, what Māori want; what direction would be best for Māori, how best to cater to, provide for, uphold, respect, all things Māori. I have no portal into the Māori hive-mind. I take educated guesses in context.That’s all I can ever do.

Of course, a lot of things have had to happen for me to have been the only Māori in that room. The absence of other senior Māori academics weighed more on me than did the cumulative weight of Pākehā expectation. There has been recent research done on the experience of senior Māori and Pasifika academics, so I’m not about go over over the ground that you can read about for yourself here. Suffice to say, my experiences are hardly isolated, as a member of the 6% of the academic workforce who identifies as Māori.

Actually, my ruminations headed in a different, but related, direction. Because I am not just assumed to be an ethnic representative of a people or peoples at moments like this, I am expected to be a proponent of, and knowledgeable in, Māori culture to some degree.

Ah, culture. You marvellous double edged sword, you.

After my meeting, I came home to a Facebook post that underscored the deep ambivalence I have towards our dominant notions of Māori culture.  And here it is; from an article outlining recent efforts being made to get young Māori into information technology.

Computer graphics company Animation Research’s founder Ian Taylor [Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngā Puhi] said the lack of Māori engagement in ICT was disappointing, as in his experience when Māori got their hands on technology they adapted very quickly.

“I believe that Steve Jobs, he didn’t realise it – but he designed the iPad for young Māori. It wasn’t in our DNA to use paper and pen, never has been. We use our hands, we carve, we tell stories. We’re great storytellers and technology has allowed us to engage in that way.”

Reading this reminded me of another such moment in 2014 and another public statement from a prominent Māori educationalist, which I paraphrased at the time:

Terehia Channings of [the recently closed] Turakina Māori Girls’ College, speaking on Te Tēpu tonight of the benefits of Kapa Haka for kids said (I’m paraphrasing) “Well, Maori are practical people. We have problems with maths and science, we learn best with our hands.’

In both cases (and you don’t have to search too far to find other such presumptions bubbling up amongst friends and whānau) an ossified and essentialist understanding of Māori culture is held up and venerated. Māori people are practical, we make things and do things. We tell stories, we perform stories, but we don’t write them down for others to read. And we probably don’t read them either.

[Forgive me if I take a moment off-screen to bash my over-educated head against a rather inviting pale red brick wall.

OK I’m back.]

I remember interviewing the actor and all-round extraordinary bloke Wi Kuki Kaa in 1992. He mused that people had often said to him that Māori were “naturals” at acting, at rugby, and kapa haka.”Nah”, he reckoned. In his view, if he had been raised in another family in another culture he would have been good at the things in those cultures. Māori weren’t “natural” at kapa haka…they were taught to be that way. There may be a genetic inheritance at work, but that can always be retooled in other cultures.

Culture is a human creation, that is all. It is the product of generations of people doing, saying, writing, thinking, eating acting, singing, playing, and being together. Rinse, and repeat. There is no magic formula, there is no high watermark of culture. There is no line we cross exactly when we know a cultural practice or a whole culture has died or forever changed. We just forget. And then we forget that we ever knew.

But culture, despite its blurred edges, performs an important function. Adherence to, or membership of, a culture (over and above mere ethnicity) grants us entry into something transcendent, beyond ourselves as individuals. Membership of a minority culture in particular gives us access not only to that culture and to a meaningful cultural life, but the rights of protection that accrue to that culture at international and in domestic law. If there is no collation of practices, characteristics and products that can be identified as being ‘of’ a given culture then it cannot be protected.

On the one hand we might tend to view culture as a mysterious unifying quality that marks out one set of human beings from another set of human beings. On the other hand, culture is a constraint. Once the hallmarks of a given culture are identified, reinforced and repeated, it becomes really difficult to challenge. Innovation and change pose huge risks to those who identify, particularly with an indigenous or minority culture.

So the very moment we call on culture to help us advance a position, identify solutions to political problems, create unity, affirm kinship, it bites us on the backside and orders us back into the box of our own bloody making. There is no phrase that fills me with more dread than “Māori are…”. And yet, sometimes I use it. Because how else do we target and speak to Māori without identifying who we think Māori are? How do we employ Māori knowledge or seek it, without being open to seeing such knowledge is peculiarly Māori in the first place? How do we challenge Māori culture without first acknowledging that it exists?

I guess the answer is in common sense and moderation. We should reject essentialism and the constraints it places on our evolution as a people. We should reject the position that sees no culture: that way lies hegemony and oppression all over again.

And for the Māori in the room? She had better be a good tightrope walker, is all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Banning Karakia in schools? A cultural can o’ worms, or beat-up?

My eye was drawn to a catchy headline thrown to me by my Facebook feed the other week. The headline read:

Karakia could fall foul of ban on Bible teaching in state schools

Upon clicking, I discovered AUT Professor Paul Moon had asserted  that: “Banning religious practices in schools, may inevitably extend to removing karakia from schools as well”. This piece was followed up by a report on Te Karere.

My first response to these reports was a swift stab of, “Oh, no you bloody don’t!” Many, many Māori would have had their hackles raised at the mere prospect of State interference in what many consider to be primarily a cultural, rather than a religious, practice. I can’t think of a serious endeavour, or hui, in everyday Māori cultural life, where karakia don’t have some kind of presence, even if a muted one. The most irreligious of Māori will often still take part in karakia. Would kids and teachers in kura kaupapa Māori, for example, really be faced with a ban on saying karakia? I wondered.

So why has this issue been raising its head (and not for the first time)? You may have missed it, but an important case was due to be heard in the High Court last month. Jeff McClintock had filed a claim against Red Beach school in Auckland for alleged failures of its duties under the Education Act 1989 in regards to the allegedly discriminatory treatment his daughter received after she opted out of Bible classes. The matter morphed into a national issue and by early April this year, the big guns were lined up to be joined as parties to either side of the action; including the Human Rights Commission, the Secular Education Network, and the Churches Education Commission.

Interest had been building over the past 18 months or so, tensions were rising…and then; nothing. Mr McLintock failed to get some papers into the court on time, and the case was thrown out, its central claims left un-argued. Despite this damp squib anti-climax, there may yet be some progress on this front, as an appeal has been lodged against the court’s decision.

So what is the connection between McClintock’s issue and karakia? The article I read did not identify exactly how karakia might qualify as ‘a religious practice’ or how it could be controlled or banned, let alone if , or how, such a path could even be implemented. There are a few building blocks that need to be put in place before we can agree with the Secular Education Network’s confident assertion that McClintock’s case (if it does get heard) would not result in the banning of Maori cultural practices.

First of all; just what are we allowed to do, in our public education system? Some of the answer is in s77 of the Education Act 1964:

every State primary school shall be kept open 5 days in each week for at least 4 hours each day, of which hours 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon shall be; and the teaching shall be entirely of a secular character.

So, our primary public education system is a secular one, and has been since the inception of free, compulsory education in 1877; separation of church and state, and all that.Except..when it may not be.

(And interestingly, secondary education need not be secular, and Boards of Trustees have discretion to allow non-discriminatory religious instruction under the Education Act 1989; arguably a hangover from the days when education was not compulsory beyond the age of 13)

s78 of the 1964 Act says that primary schools can close for short periods of time during the day:

for the purposes of religious instruction given by voluntary instructors approved by the school’s board and of religious observances conducted in a manner approved by the school’s board or for either of those purposes; and the school buildings may be used for those purposes or for either of them.

So. religious instruction and religious observation can be carried out at secular primary schools during periods of agreed closure. As an example, during lunchtimes, schools are ‘closed’ for instruction, so available for Bible classes as matters of religious instruction (teaching children what to believe, not teaching about religions). This is when the children who opt out might be set aside to read a book, or even wash dishes, or some other alternative activity.

Yes, opt out. Under s79(1) children may opt out of any such instruction, as long as their parents or guardians request this, in writing, of the school. Not opt-in, whereby parents or guardians request in writing that children ‘sign up’ for such instruction.

Ah. You see; this system also applies to religious observation, not just instruction. And that is where we have to look more closely at what karakia may, or may not, be. Because if karakia count as religious observation under s78 then schools need to ‘close’ during the day in order to facilitate such observation, and parents have to notify their schools in writing if they wish their children not to participate in karakia. And if a case such as McClintock’s succeeds in prompting law change, for example changing opt out to opt in, then religious observation would be included, and parents and guardians would need to write in for their children to be able to participate in religious observation; IF karakia can indeed be called that. To say that such a change would threaten a chilling effect on cultural practices at the very least would not , to my mind, be scaremongering. A ban would not be technically correct, but it wouldn’t have to be.

So we have to grapple with this question: what the heck are karakia anyway? There is no doubt that sometimes prayers occur in New Zealand primary schools that are Christian in nature, but that called karakia (and sometimes called īnoi). As alluded to above, we have been down this track before. Three years ago, some staff at a Christchurch primary school were unhappy about prayer being used during school hours.

Children from the Avondale primary school’s Maori bilingual unit lead pupils and staff in daily prayer, a tradition stretching back two decades in a school that is a melting pot of race and creed.

Principal Heather Bell says beginning the day this way brings a sense of grounding to the school and creates a sense of belonging.

Translated, the brief Maori prayer penned by the school’s kaiarahi reo or Maori language assistant, says: “Lord look after us, guide us with your work today, in your holy name.”

Some, perhaps many Māori will say such prayers are not, in fact, karakia at all. Ngaire McCarthy is a keen proponent of the view that karakia have been co-opted by Christianity, and that at their traditional core, karakia are in no way religious:

The traditional karakia that is used to open and close ceremonies is not a Christian prayer, it is a ritual chant, a set form of words to state or make effective a ritual activity. Karakia are recited rapidly using traditional language, symbols and structures.

The early missionaries saw Maori traditions through a Biblical framework and believed that karakia was always a prayer, so they took the word and reinterpreted it to mean Christian prayer. The word karakia then became just another tool of colonization.

If the few kaumatua (elderly Maori) who articulate the karakia, are Christian, they will continue to misrepresent our customary karakia. This puts them into direct conflict with our pre-colonization customary traditions.

According to 19th century sources; karakia were used to ensure correctness of process, to mark transitions, to ensure safety (among many other things). Te Mātāpunenga defines karakia in the following way:

Karakia. A set form of words to state, confirm or make effective the intent of a ritual activity, and the reciting of these words, thus often translated by terms such as “incantation”, “charm”, or “spell”. In modern usage the term has been extended to include Christian and other religious services (for example, a church is often referred to as a whare karakia). In traditional ritual activity strict adherence to the proper the form of the karakia was essential; hesitation, mispronunciation or omissions in its recitation could negate or reverse its intended effects and bring harm to those involved. The word is Proto-Tahitic in origin, with similar meanings in Tuamotuan, Rarotongan and Mäori.

On one view then, karakia are cultural ritual without religion, and ought to be entirely safe for use within the primary school environment. On this view culturally bastardised prayers are masquerading as karakia, and fall foul of the law.

I really question this dualistic approach to understanding karakia. For one thing, the moment any traditional karakia envisages, propitiates, or acknowledges any power or entity outside of the human experience; that karakia takes on a spiritual dimension, and it becomes a matter of definitional point-scoring in determining when matters spiritual shade into matters religious.

Further, the presumption that Māori traditionally had no religion sometimes stemmed from ethnologists and writers of the 19th and 20th centuries (a great collection of such attitudes are listed and traversed in detail in Elsdon Best’s Māori Religion and Mythology) who assumed that Māori practices lacking temples, and in most cases, reference to a supreme being, could not comprise “true religion”. This attitude smacks of a similar insistence that Māori law could not comprise “true law” because there were no courts or Parliament. The extent to which Māori religion remains in modern New Zealand, as with law, is an open and fascinating question.

The courts in New Zealand, and Canada have all had to consider what counts as ‘religion’ as Fiona Wright identified in 2007:

Australian and New Zealand courts have said that religion involves belief in a supernatural being, thing or principle as well as canons of conduct that give effect to that belief…Canadian courts have described religion as a “particular and comprehensive system of faith and worship” combined with “belief in a divine, superhuman or controlling power” [..] In essence, religion is about freely and deeply held personal convictions or beliefs connected to an individual’s spiritual faith and integrally linked to one’s self-definition and spiritual fulfilment, the practices of which allow individuals to foster a connection with the divine or with the subject or object of that spiritual faith.

So depending on your definition of religion karakia can be defined as religious observations for the purposes of the Education Act 1964.  Or depending on your definition of religion, karakia are not religious and won’t count for the purposes of the Act.

On either reading, karakia are still cultural practices. This is arguably the line skated in Te Aho Matua (the curriculum followed by Kura Kaupapa)  which ascribes a special place to karakia:

5.2 Ko te tino painga o te karakia he mea whakatau i te wairua, whakawatea i te whatumanawa me te hinengaro, whakarata i te ngakau, whakataka i ngā raru, kia ngawari ai te whakauru atu ki te mahi kua whakaritea hei mahi.

[Kura kaupapa Māori] practise karakia as a means of settling the spirit, clearing the mind and releasing tension so that concentration on the task at hand is facilitated.

 

But there will be times when merely ‘settling the spirit’ involves invocation of a deity or deities, and the cultural thus arguably includes the religious.

So if the McClintock case ever does get argued, and if restrictions do end up being  placed on religious instruction in primary schools, in order to protect secular education, and to uphold the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion (in NZBORA, s13), Māori cultural rights (protected under s20 of the BORA) will most definitely be under threat.

And I wonder (with my tongue in my cheek..but only just) about implementation. Who will put their hand up for the job of karakia police, patrolling schools and kura, watching and listening for karakia and those code words in Māori that sound suspiciously religious (depending which official is defining ‘religion’ that day), and must face strict control, rather than those that sound merely ‘cultural’, that can be left alone. How would any kind of regulation not involve cultural interference?

After all that, I think I’m back to my old gut instinct with which I started this piece: “Oh no, you bloody don’t!”

 

[Please note: this post is an updated version of the original posted on E-Tangata http://e-tangata.co.nz/news/if-we-ban-the-bible-from-schools-will-karakia-be-next]

 

 

 

On that sad height; Māori, Pasifika and the assisted dying debate.

This is a picture of a tin. A very important tin.

NanasTin

It looks like Nana’s biscuit tin, but is actually the tin from which ‘members’ bills’ are drawn ‘from the ballot’ every second Wednesday of the month in Parliament. If we were to see inside the tin on such a Wednesday we would see roughly 80 of the numbered plastic tiles in the photo above, each one identifying one MP’s private bill waiting to see the light of day. Many of them won’t.

Private members’ bills provide for some of our most important social reforms.Louisa Wall submitted her private member’s bill on same-sex marriage in May 2012; it was drawn in August 2012, enacted into law by April 2013. Legal and social history was made.

In October last year another tile went in the tin; David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill. And there it waits. It is the latest in a growing line of such tiles; last year Maryan Street’s End of Life Choice Bill was withdrawn after languishing for 18 months, and a lack of enthusiasm shown by Labour leader Andrew Little in 2013, an election year. Back in 2003 NZ First MP Peter Brown’s “Death with Dignity” bill was only narrowly defeated in a conscience vote 60-58 at its first reading. In 1995 Michael Laws also had a go; only to be defeated by a much wider margin (61-29 against).

Euthanasia is not a new issue, but it seems to me that medically-assisted dying, as one kind of euthanasia, has received a lot of positive media comment and profile recently.

  • Maryan Street’s submission of a petiton to Parliament seeking law change to allow assisted dying received good coverage here, here and here. In fact, the Health Select Committee has launched a Parliamentary inquiry as a result of the petition, for which submissions closed on 31 January.
  • Lawyer Lecretia Seales sought to have the Courts interpret the Crimes Act 1961 in such a way that her own doctor would not face prosecution for helping her to die. The Courts declined the opportunity just before her death, leaving any such reform to Parliament.
  • Trade unionist and former head of the CTU Helen Kelly, in coming to terms with her own terminal illness, has also sought the right to assisted dying.
  • Cases involving people seeking to end their own lives at a time of their choosing is being reported perhaps more favourably in the media as a prime example, Peter and Patricia Shaw who killed themselves in October last year).
  • There has been some considerable debate within mainstream media outlets about euthanasia. I know this because Stuff has a tab under its ‘National’ news page called ‘Euthanasia’, so it must be true.

In my view there is considerable work has been done that is preparing the ground for David Seymour’s Bill to be ushered into law should it be drawn. Of course politics being what it is, the Bill may not succeed anyway. Nevertheless the time is ripe now for Māori and Pacific peoples to be heard in what is developing into a nation-wide debate. Except I’m not hearing them. Well, that’s not entirely true. There are a few opinion pieces here and there, but nothing like the furious debate at the time of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification (200 submissions were received by Royal Commission from Māori, for example), and the attention (rightly) given to Māori suicide prevention generally.

What might Māori and Pacific practices around death and dying have to reveal about assisted dying? What might tikanga reveal? While religious creed might uphold the sanctity of life, how might such creeds influence or cohere with tikanga Māori perceptions of the sanctity of life? In the scraps of material I have seen Māori and Pacific peoples are divided; there is no one view about euthanasia, including assisted dying. There are few signals coming from Māori politicians; the Māori Party is non-committal although ‘open to a debate’ while Marama Fox is unconvinced assisted-dying legislation is needed. Metiri Tūrei has voiced support for the current Parliamentary Inquiry, but little more.

To be fair, there may have been a plethora of Māori and Pacific voices included in the submissions to the inquiry that closed three weeks ago. I hope so, but I feel somewhat doubtful, given the lack of chatter about the issue detectable on social media at least. We’ll see once the inquiry progresses. The late Amster Reedy was cited by the Nathanial Centre in its own submission to the current Parliamentary inquiry:

“We bring people into this world, we care for them right from the time they are conceived, born, reared, in health, sickness and in death. The rituals still exist for every part of our lives – we just need to have faith in our ancestors. Euthanasia is foreign to Māori and has no place in our society.”

Penehe Patelehio (Tokelauan, Samoan, Cook Island) was cited in the same submission:

“When someone is ill or dying, the idea of assisted-suicide or euthanasia is entirely foreign to us. There is no word in our language for this concept and consequently it does not enter into our thinking. The opportunity to care for and look after someone who is ill or dying/suffering is seen as a blessing even though it may present significant financial and other challenges. At such times the extended family and community networks come to the fore – it is common for immediate and extended family and community members to visit, provide food, and massage and converse with the person who is ill.”

 

For me personally the debate is not really about the value of life vs the value of personal autonomy to choose to die. Both things are good and neither are absolute. I recognise that the value of life, or the right to life will not always win over other considerations (the ability in law to defend oneself to the death from attack is an example where the life of the attacker is not to be preserved at all costs). In my mind that debate is actually a little sterile, but important for those who want to contribute to it. I want to ask instead: how vulnerable might elderly or sick Māori and Pacific peoples be within a regime that allows assisted dying?

One of the oft-cited great risks of any assisted dying regime is that elderly people facing the end of their lives due to illness will seek to end their lives prematurely so as not to be a ‘burden’ on their families. Others might seek assisted dying, not so much at their own behest, but at the behest of others family members. In a society where 1 in 10 older persons (and proportionally more Māori) are reported to experience some kind of abuse especially connected to vulnerability and coercion, such risks must not be ignored.

To be honest, the idea of assisted dying frightens me. I am not really frightened of the idea of humanely ending the life of someone in terrible and terminal pain, although I cannot extricate my Christianity from my position that life is worth preserving. I can understand, though, why there appears to be so much public support for such a choice to be allowed. Many of those who voice such an opinion have watched their own friends and/or family die. Who am I to gainsay their experience?

Indeed my fear stems also stems from personal experience: from our mother dying from lung cancer last year. We were fortunate enough to have been with her over those last weeks and months of her life as her physical presence declined and her mind became incapable of lucid decisionmaking. I wrote a post on this blog about our experience at the time. Her death did not frighten me; it was the realisation of the power we had over her shrinking life. We had absolute control over her money. I, and my brothers made the decisions about where she lived and where she died. Her possessions became ours in practicality well before her will made that legally possible. I had real power over my mother’s life. What frightened me was the prospect that I should have had any power whatsoever over her death. My mother would have, without hesitation, signed any end-of-life directive (had that been available to her) to absolve medical staff of responsibility, or naming me or one of my brothers the decision-maker regarding termination in the event of her mental incapacity.

To be fair to David Seymour his Bill is careful to ensure some safeguards that will minimise at some of the risk that vulnerable people might face; and makes no provision for the kinds of advance directives that would have given us the power to end Mum’s life after she lost the capacity to decide for herself. But the Bill only goes so far; the initial medical professional who receives a request for assisted dying under clause 8(2)(h) must:

do his or her best to ensure that the person expresses his or her wish free from pressure from any other person.

Forgive me, if these few words seem oddly subjective and lacking in effectiveness. The medical practitioner is not charged with ‘ensuring’ the absence of coercion (and perhaps this is simply not possible), just doing his or her ‘best’ to ensure such. Whatever ‘his or her best’ might mean. If that clause is all that stands between a coercive and abusive family and an elderly person choosing to die as a result of that coercion, I am not yet reassured. Should the Bill be drawn, surely this clause will need one heck of a lot of work.

We all know the law and lived reality are two very different creatures. Make no mistake; today there are elderly people, at least some of them Māori or Pacific; who will likely be subject to some degree of coercion, if assisted dying becomes legal in a country already distinguished by high rates of Māori suicide, and growing rates of suicide among the elderly. Surely it is time for more Māori and Pasific speakers to step onto the marae ātea for this issue. In readiness for the time a certain tile comes out of Nana’s tin.

 

[Please note this post is available at E-Tangata in a slightly edited form.]

 

Mā te Whakamā: culture shaming & the China syndrome

Mā te Whakamā: culture shaming & the China syndrome

It was the feeling of dread that first alerted me. A post had slipped by on my feed, a beautiful young woman with a moko kauai, on one knee, glaring at me through my screen. “Miss New Zealand performs haka in China.” Hmm, beauty pageants and haka. ‘This might not end well’, I thought to myself. After some initial reluctance I gave in, and watched it. I actually hid behind my hands and peeked, so convinced was I that the performance would make me cringe; that I would feel embarrassed by it. Watch it here; you can judge for yourself, it is not up to me to tell you how you ought to think or feel about Dr Deborah Lambie’s performance. That is not the point of this post. What interests me instead is the response she has garnered from many Māori, and what that response may or may not say about our differing levels of cultural security.

Science can explain some of my initial reaction; a phenomenon sometimes called vicarious embarrassment, whereby the observer can put themselves in the shoes of the person embarrassing himself and imagine some of his forthcoming mortification. The Germans even have a handy word for it: fremdschämen, or ‘external shame’.

Cringe factor aside though, my own ideas of “proper”,”correct”, “authentic” or “tika” culture certainly played its part in my response. I was deeply afraid that one Pākehā woman on her own performing a haka, or even just part of a haka, for a panel of beauty contest judges in a faraway land would be very risky for that woman at least on social media. Haka are usually (but not always) performed in a kind of group context, so those weak in performance derive a level of protection from those around them, even if only a share of the blame if it all goes wrong. Haka are usually performed for some kind of defined reason: challenge, political expression, part of a ritual of encounter; acknowledgment, or for competitive performance. Many haka are considered preserved for male-only performance. I worried that a young woman performing alone & unsupported would thus become a target of cultural shaming.

How right I was, even as I am aware that commenting here is quite possibly adding to the problem that now exists. But I think looking at the responses to Dr Lambie’s performance (rather than at the performance itself) might be useful to gauge our own responses to such events.

So follow me, if you will, into the murky world of FB comments and cultural shaming. It was an uncomfortable read for me, so likely to have been a very painful one for Dr Lambie. Here there be [a selection of]  taniwha. You can read them yourself, all 650-odd comments here.

‘Waiho mā te whakamā e patu – ‘Let Shame Be Your Punishment’

What is going on in the posts is obviously a form of public shaming; whereby the observers unleash disapproval on the person or persons who have overstepped the socio-cultural line. The effect of the shaming is expected to be that the person or persons don’t do the sanctioned behaviour again, and her punishment constitutes warning to all others to not do the same lest they also be shamed.

In recent months and years there has been considerable focus on what has been termed ‘slut-shaming’. One simple definition of this kind of shaming is: ‘making a female feel guilty and inferior for behaving in a way others deem to be sexually inappropriate.’ More than this notion of making females ‘feel guilt’ for perceived behaviour, slut-shaming is a method of social control;  indeed, a mode of displacing blame for the actions of others on to women who may are perceived to dress provocatively, or engage in extra-marital sex. Don’t blame the rapist for raping, blame the victim for her social boundary crossing. In the process the woman as she really is effectively eradicated from consideration; and reduced to a collection of bad behaviours and body parts.

Now the shaming in regards to Dr Lambie’s performance is different, and, because most of the comments have come from Māori, offers something of an insight into a more collectivist notion of using shame as a method of social or cultural control. (Recent study has confirmed Māori exhibit higher degrees of collectivist thinking than do Pākehā, although the differences are not perhaps as stark as some might like to think). Social media now offers an immediate way of shaming, one as divorced from its cultural context as Dr Lambie’s performance was alleged to be by some of her most ardent critics.

As Joeliee Seed-Pihema identifies, when discussing the whakatauakī,  Waiho mā te whakamā e patu – ‘Let Shame Be Your Punishment:

Shame was often used as a form of retribution or utu and social control. Māori prided themselves on their image and the opinion of others greatly affected their behaviour and mana. This shaming process was very effective due to its public nature; the offender was put on trial in front of the whole hapū and/or iwi [.]

There is a lot of social retribution going on in the FB critique of Dr Lambie that marks out a particular kind of cultural shaming. Going by these comments as a reasonable example of the type, cultural shaming requires:

  • a firm belief that there is a ‘right’ way to present and portray Māori culture;
  • there is collective responsibility for any given portrayal of Māori culture;
  • the largest share of shame ought to be directed at those with knowledge rather than those without; and
  • that women and men have defined roles that ought to be upheld, for women to step outside of those roles can be dangerous.

A right way of doing things

Many posts made clear that the writers considered that a cultural standard had been breached, and that they knew the standard, and the gravity of the breach. There was a ‘tika’ or ‘authentic’ or ‘correct’ way to perform a haka, and by presumption, an accompanying duty to uphold that standard. Even supportive voices acknowledged the existence of such a standard, but did not see her breach as problematic.

Maybe whoever taught you, should teach you about the maori culture. As for the “elders” who agreed for you to do this, is appalling. You haven’t and are not appreciating the Maori culture, you’re embarrassing it and just plainly rubbing it in the dirt.

…if you want to represent Maori culture you might want to try respecting tikanga.

Check out all these Maori experts.. Good on you for giving it a go Lady.. Maori Culture will get nowhere If one of our own wants to learn her culture and is ridiculed for not being up to standard..??Who are you to judge?? she just learnt it, She didn’t claim to be an expert.

Collective responsibility for performance, and the greater responsibility of those with the requisite knowledge

While almost all comments were directed at Dr Lambie (this being her Facebook page, and all) the harshest critique was often reserved for those who advised her, rather than Dr Lambie herself. These tutors have also had to defend themselves in the media against questions of their own cultural integrity. Several of the posts also focus on Dr Lambie’s apparent isolation; while haka is a collective enterprise, she performed on her own, without visible assistance.

Nga mihi girl.At the end of the day some Maori would have taught you .It’s a shame they didn’t teach you something more appropriate. All credit to you for giving it your best shot .Come on people give the girl a break !!! A bit of encouragement or constructive criticism would have been more advantages to the young lady.For those who have just outright critisised her,I think you are all just as bad.

I’ve never seen a haka solo before? From what I’ve learnt you embrace the power of a haka from the surroundings of those around you do yes I think a poi or song may have been the better option but hey good on you for putting yourself out there snd giving it a go.

Is anyone going to call out those who taught her??? Man!! Nā rāua te he!! They should have known better… Oh well MA TE WHAKAMA E PATU! Aua atu mo te kuware o te kotiro nei…

Can’t really blame the girl.
Her kapahaka tutors taught her & her haka is the result of their work with her.

Roles of men and women ought to be upheld

One of the strongest themes in the comments was significant unease that the haka chosen was one composed to be performed by men, or at least that the style of performance was ‘unfeminine’, and somehow dangerous. You can see an example of a ‘feminine’ haka here.  That’s an interesting notion; that being feminine represented safety, being perceived as masculine however, was dangerous, even justifiably so:

Should’ve done a poi song or tititorea to be on the safe side..
We mana wahine have grace and do not need to put ourselves in a position such as she has done.

I’m all for wahine doing haka but why was this girl taught to do this paticular haka? There are “haka wahine” made specifically for wahine…

I grew up living and breathing haka, it would have been much more pleasurable had you done a soft sweet waiata instead of trying to express it in such a manly way. We women never stand as a man in the haka but we do show as much mana as our men. I believe you misinterpreted the role of our wahine in the haka and displayed only what you expect the world to see from our haka.

Well I’m a traditionalist and our women like bak in the old days should not be preforming the haka it is the last resort befor going to war for us men she should have done the poi more women like

 [reply] But traditionally the poi was a mans weapon??
     Yea but the hakas not for the women isn’t it jus like everything in        the world wanna be equal to men that’s y they get the jake the         muss treatment.
I don’t want to over-egg any puddings, and it may be that what one commenter described as the “horizontal violence” directed at Dr Lambie is just evidence of bad internet behaviour, or the usual shaming without a special ‘cultural lens’ at all.
Nevertheless I thought there was something distinctive at work, perhaps if only because I have felt the sting of cultural shaming myself, on a smaller scale, so it feels familiar to me. I know what it feels like to be blasted by a Tūhoe male for leading a whakaeke in the wrong gender. I know what it feels like to get our own karanga tikanga wrong. I know the shame of providing insufficient kai for visitors and bearing collective responsibility for that. I know Mortification well, and she me.
Those of us who have had to learn to be Māori, and those of us to-the-marae-born have all experienced degrees of such shaming; it’s what moulds us into some kind of cultural shape. Some of us, after a shaming experience, never return to the culture or the language. And that is a great shame and loss in itself. But then without cultural shaming how are we to know what is tika? How are we to know what the boundaries of Māori culture are? If all is acceptable, then nothing is.
And for completeness, the entire whakatauakī, nō Ngāti Awa, is:
‘Waiho mā te whakamā e patu; waiho hai kōrero i a tātau kia atawhai ki te iwi’ ‘Let shame be their punishment; let us be renowned for our mercy toward the tribe.’
This is what the tohunga Te Tahi-o-te-rangi responded to a suggestion that the culprits who committed a hara ought to be turned out of their canoes. Nothing more than whakamā was necessary to return to equilibrium.
The real (perhaps answerless) question here is instead: just how ought we in Māori communities, virtual or otherwise, seek to police the edges of Māori culture? Surely the better path would be for us to grow and develop tikanga and culture to such an extent that such distinct act to create shame are simply un-necessary. The shame exists, and fulfils its function, but because of a shared understanding of what was breached, not because of any kind of public word-stoning.

Mormonism & the Art of Exclusion

When I converted to Christianity about 15 years ago my dear, late Mother was not impressed. An avowed agnostic, (if perennial fence sitters can be said to be ‘avowed’ in anything) her very first words upon my telling her were: “Really? I thought you were more intelligent than that.” Can you hear the dismissive sniff at the beginning of that sentence? So did I.

That sentence stung me, and has stayed with me ever since; a reminder that doubt, uncertainty and questioning of faith are to be welcomed and not feared. I found myself a church that encouraged me to think rather than just emote, and I have stayed there ever since.

As an aside, I suspect it is easier to be secular, agnostic, atheist, and/ or anti-theist in a country that is now predominantly a combination of all of those things (if religious affiliation figures from the 2013 Census are anything to go by. Churchgoing hails, it seems, from the province of the quaint, the sphere of the irrelevant. In some ways I also think it is easier not to be Christian and Māori (outside of Māori faith communities), when many Māori now see rejection of the Christian message as concomitant with the revisioning and rediscovery of mātauranga Māori. Christianity has become symbolic of the oppression of Māori culture and ways of doing things. a 19% drop in Māori identifying as Christian since 2001 supports, if not proves this observation.

Nevertheless there is one religion where Māori figure very prominently; the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS, or “Mormons”). Although I can find no figures on the 2013 census, 50% of self-identified Mormons in the 2006 census were Māori. Indeed the Māori identity of the Church is sometimes seen as something of a hindrance to Church expansion:

The Church continues to experience challenges converting Anglo New Zealanders due to lower receptivity incurred by secularism, materialism, and disinterest in organized religion.  Public perception that the Church is a predominately Maori and Pacific Islander institution has appeared to also reduce receptivity among white New Zealanders.

I had direct experience of the Church’s appeal in my own life. As an 8 year old growing up in an irreligious household, I looked for other people outside my own home who seemed to sense a God presence in the way I did. I built a relationship with a family whose house I used to pass every day on the way to school. I just started talking to their whāngai son, a boy of my own age, and then I started talking to the rest of the family, and then one day I ended up in their station-wagon on the way to their church, the Church of Latter-Day Saints. I kept going to church with them for the next 8 years. As a result the missionaries became a regular feature at our house. Mum would let them meet with me and teach me, and they would dub me on their 10-speeds up and down the drive and play basketball with me. They introduced me to Air Supply (the 80s, OK?). And they listened to me. And I loved them.

But I knew they had a mission to compete: to get me baptised. My mother was resolute: no baptism until I was 16. That was the age she believed I would know my own mind well enough to make that kind of decision. I knew better of course, and so did the Elders. You see, 8 has always been the age of accountability in Mormonism. That is when children are deemed to know right from wrong, and when they are able to choose the right or wrong path in life. I went to many baptisms, many Testimony Sundays, and while I was always accepted and tolerated I knew I was only ever what the Church calls ‘an investigator’; someone checking out the wares; not willing or not able to commit.  Until I baptised I was only partly there, partly integrated. Eventually I drifted away, and by the time I attained the magical age of 16 I no longer cared for the Church, although the cadences of LDS prayer, the hymns, some of the theology, and my sense of deference to male authority figures stayed with me a long, long time. I remain comfortable in Mormon environments, and I married a returned Missionary (now excommunicated). Every so often we have knocks on the door and we invite the elders or sisters in for kai. It’s not hard.

So, Māori Mormonism is a force to be reckoned with, and thousands of Māori turned to LDS teachings in the 19th century, partly because of its focus on Old Testament teaching and a claim that Māori were descendants of the lost tribe of Israel, or as the descendants of the Mormon prophet Lehi, and partly because of the efforts of missionaries such as Matthew Crowley in the 1880s.  Sometimes, Māori were just hacked off at how they had been treated by Anglicans and Catholics, and turned to Mormonism instead. See here for an explanation of those particular connections. Or if you would prefer something a little more scholarly, try here.

My residual fondness for Mormons and the LDS church has made all the more appalling the item I read in the newspaper today. The Church has issued new rules on how to deal with LGBT members, and their children. Given Māori membership of the church, these new rules are likely to affect Māori disproportionately. Here is a taste:

The new rules stipulate that children of parents in gay or lesbian relationships, be it marriage or just living together can no longer receive blessings as infants, be baptised when they are about 8 years old, or serve mission as young adults unless they:

  • Disavow the practice of same-sex relationships.
  • Turn 18 and no longer live with gay parents.
  • Get approval from their local leader and the highest leaders at church headquarters in Salt Lake City.

The church views these key milestones as acts that bind a person to the faith and as promises to follow its doctrine.

Just to be clear, now being LGTB is also grounds for excommunication.

Now, lest I be accused of being a pot calling a kettle inky, I belong to a church that does not (yet) endorse same-sex marriage throughout the Anglican Communion, and in view of the enormous schism such support would cause between the African Church and the rest of Anglicanism, that situation will likely remain for a while. I’m open to that charge of hypocrisy. But there has never been such an edict against children that I am aware of in my church, and I’m not sure there ever would be.

I cannot emphasise how much of a cultural death sentence this is for Mormon children of LGBT parents. They are being effectively excluded from the rituals of belonging that punctuate every young Mormon person’s life. Without baptism, Mormon children can’t take sacrament (communion). The young boys cannot receive the Aaronic priesthood at age 12 that allow them to be deacons in the Church. These kids cannot participate fully in the life of the Church and they cannot work towards the high goal of so many young Mormons: serving a mission. Well, they can, provided they disown their LGBT parents. Now, there’s a choice.

And what about the parents of LGTB kids and their communities of faith? Well, those kids are now apostates, if, of course, they admit their sexualities.

One of the most successful aspects of the Church is its ability to create a culture that is attractive and that its people, particularly Māori in this country, seem to want to be part of. Like Catholics, Mormons understand the importance and unificatory power of being culturally, as well as religiously, Mormon.

So this edict is no mere technicality; it is cultural and spiritual exclusion of the highest order for people that are the least equipped to fight or mitigate it: children. I well remember singing this song at church…

I am a Child of God

and He has sent me here

has given me an Earthly home with parents kind and dear.

When I was kid in the Church I always knew I was a Child of God. Because I could get baptised some day. Maybe even soon. Even me, an investigator with an recalcitrant mother. I was worth baptising. Now some kids, likely Māori, will know they are not.

Auē.

Māori broadcasting & the year of living dangerously

Māori broadcasting & the year of living dangerously

This week there will be yet another one of those end-of year functions. Perhaps you are familiar with such things. Perhaps you have been press-ganged into a few yourself. Or perhaps you have managed (like me) to use your children as an excuse to avoid anything remotely Christmassy/Secret Santa-ish. Well. spare a thought for one of those functions that will be held this week; the break-up, in more than one way, of the Māori and Pacific programmes department at TVNZ.  There will be, no doubt, much kōrero, sadness and reflectiveness as the current staff look back over many decades of service that this department has given in the pursuit of New Zealanders understanding ourselves just a little bit better. Ernie Leonard, Whai Ngata, Mihingarangi Forbes, Stephen Stehlin, Ngaire Fuata, Mātai Smith, Hineani Melbourne, Quinton Hita, Osone Okesene, oh crikey. Need I go on? You get the picture. A whole lot of talent pooled in order to create some damn fine TV over three decades, or near enough to.  As you might be aware TVNZ  announced in October that it will divest itself of most Māori and Pacific programming. In fact, TVNZ announced last week its preferred production companies to take on producing the other shows. but rest assured, TVNZ will still charge those lucky independent programme makers premium rates for the use of TVNZ facilities to make the same programmes. So…effectively this  “cornucopia of Māori production” will be no more (except for Te Karere). Whither now TVNZ’s legislative function that sets out, in s12(3) of the TVNZ Act 2003 that TVNZ  “must provide high-quality content that— […] reflects Māori perspectives” I wonder. I certainly don’t doubt the talents and skills that reside in our young, independent production houses. I wish them all the best for this new, and no doubt, exciting path. But make no mistake, the indefinable something, that collective enterprise that was just big enough to make a change to NZ broadcasting culture, that  trained and welded generations of Māori and Pasifika broadcasters, journalists, technical staff together to create something bigger than the sum of those individuals, will vanish. That job of cultural transformation must not be left to independent Māori and Pasifika vehicles. There must be space for difference within the machinery of the mainstream. More on this later. But for this moment…spare a thought on Thursday night for that sad celebration. Actually 2014 is a red-letter year for Māori broadcasting, it seems to me. For one thing, it was the 10th anniversary of another important source of Māori images and voices: the Māori Television Service, MTS, or better known just as Māori Television. Actually, the most annoying thing Judith Collins ever said, in my view, happened way back in May 2014 at the time of the 10th birthday celebrations.  Now, I get that some people will be somewhat ideologically ill-disposed to MTS. Fair enough. Each to their ideological own. But this reported comment, made with the trademark Collins curled lip,  got my goat and just about killed it:

Mrs Collins said most of the time when she tuned in the station was broadcasting “reruns of things that were running 30 years ago”. “I would like Maori TV to be considered one of our icons but at the moment it is not,” Mrs Collins said. “It’s not dealing with the big issues. And when it does deal with them it is often seen not to be evenly handed in its treatment of them.”

The absolute barefaced untruth of the first line of this comment was easily demonstrated by the most casual perusal of the channel’s programming for that month. So it was quite obvious she had either never actually tuned in to Māori Television more than, you know, that ONE time [at band camp], or she had happened one day upon a repeat screening of Koha or Tangata Whenua on Heartland and thought she was really was lost among the natives. This insulting dismissal of all that MTS has tried to achieve over ten years felt like a punch in the gut to me, and I don’t even work there! Nor do I think the programming is perfect either, but the accusation she makes is one of which that station is simply not guilty. And as far as I’m concerned, her egregious first comment negates what might have been marginally debatable points in the other lines. People who just make things up simply don’t get to be a critic that anyone listens to. But her comment did raise food for thought at the time, and still does. What is it that we expect an organisation like MTS to achieve? And, likewise, what do (or did…) we expect of our more ‘mainstream’ broadcasters such as TVNZ, RNZ and others in regards to promoting Māori content, training new broadcasters and, oh I don’t know, upholding or creating the authentic vision of how we think Māori ought to be portrayed? Let’s just say that there have been some pretty big events this year that are setting the scene for Māori media in this country. I don’t really know how the cards are going to fall, but there is a lot of shuffling going on at the moment. in addition to the gutting of Māori and Pacific programming at TVNZ we also have:

  • MTS in the middle of a restructure, and ‘scoping’ a possible move,  with a couple of its high profile figures (and a few others not so high profile) recently jumping ship; Julian Wilcox and Carol Hirschfeld.
  • Native Affairs (on Māori Television) is still weathering some ongoing ructions about the nature of the programme, and  debate about the future of investigative journalism at MTS. A particular series of examples arose in the election campaign pursued by Hone Harawira and the MANA Movement to highlight what they claimed to be threats  against NA and Te Kāea by MTS and its Board. This series of claims has been running for a few months now, culminating a few weeks ago in Harawira’s accusations about political interference in the content of Native Affairs by Paora Maxwell (MTS Chief Executive) reportedly rescinding an invitation for Hone Harawira to attend the final show of the year (although we only really have Hone’s account to go by). In addition, there are the ongoing consequences from Native Affairs’ investigation into the commercial arm of the Kohanga Reo National Trust,  Te Pataka Ohanga. For all the many admirers of Native Affairs investigative journalism in the Pākehā world (see here, and here for example), opinion is more divided within Māoridom (see the second half of this Te Putatara post  critiquing Native Affairs’ objectivity in that saga, and We Take Manhatten’s account of some of those critiques).
  • The current progress of the Māori Language Bill through Parliament and the forthcoming implementation of Te Mātāwai, a new governance agency that will provide direction on the future directions for te reo Māori, taking control of Te Taura Whiri i Te Reo Maori (the Maori Language Commission) and Te Mangai Paho (the Maori Broadcasting Fund Agency). This new entity will also absorb Te Putahi Paoho, the electoral college for Maori Television;
  • In May this year Māori radio stations received a boost in funding of $12 million, for the next four yearthat has set up a challenge, and perhaps a point of debate and even tension for those stations about how best to use that funding and develop the existing stations and yet still keep a door open for new radio stations to develop.
  • and then there has been the launch, this year of the first modern Māori mainstream newspaperMāngai Nui in collaboration with the Rotorua Daily Post.

Crikey. That’s quite a lot to be going on with. There is always risk in expecting any one organisation to bear the weight of all Māori and Pākehā expectations of what Māori media should be.  One of our problems is that we are not always sure what it is we think Māori broadcasting ought to achieve, so, when big changes are signaled we don’t quite know how to read them. Or at least, I haven’t been sure. Take MTS, for example. What will be the result of the current changes at MTS? It may, actually, be better and more focused on doing what it was set up to do, provide a way and means of protecting, preserving and promoting the Māori language and tikanga Māori. Actually, however much we might want MTS to reflect the diversity and dynamism of modern (Māori) New Zealand, however much we might want it to be THE public broadcaster, it wasn’t set up to do that. The fact that it does those things, and with aplomb, is a testament to its staff and its ingenuity. But make no mistake…it has a legislative job to do. s3 of the Māori Television Services Act sets out the recognition that Crown and Māori together have an obligation under the Treaty of Waitangi to preserve, protect and promote te reo Māori. S8 of the Act sets out the principal function of the Act, which is:

…to promote te reo me ngā tikanga Māori through the provision of a high quality, cost effective Māori television service, in both Māori and English, that informs, educates, and entertains a broad viewing audience, and in doing so, enriches New Zealand’s society, culture and heritage.

In 2009 the review of the Act found that there was an inconsistency between the implementation of ss3 and 8. The reviewers said:

In effect the Act is successful in providing for the promotion of te reo Māori, but is less clear in providing for its preservation and protection.

But legislation be blowed, in on sense. Programme-makers, broadcasters, journalists, writers, presenters..all these people bring themselves into the public sphere in some way and change our cultural landscape even when we don’t know they are doing it. Whatever our Treaty-based, legislative, cultural or emotional expectations of our Māori media in general, and broadcasters in particular, this country owes a massive debt to Māori media in all its forms. This has been the case ever since the beginnings of Māori newspapers in the 1840s. Māori media, with all their faults, and variance and ideologies and truth-constructions,  have helped to foster a sense of connectedness and fellow-feeling between disparate members of Māori communities. They  have reflected Māori back to ourselves, even as we can argue endlessly over what distortions might be writ large in those images, words and sounds. They have given true glimpses of Māori life to those who don’t share that life. And Māori media have, for over 160 years, offered a portal into Māori thinking that is rarely offered within what we now offhandedly refer to as MSM, or mainstream media. Perhaps I had better be clear on what I mean by Māori media. I am not referring only to Māori run organisations independent of larger ‘mainstream entities’. Sometimes Māori media has extended its reach into Māoridom more by way of the Trojan Hoiho technique. Some of the Māori newspapers, for example, were government organs, but letters to the editor, and some editorial material did a pretty fine job of reflecting Māoridom, notwithstanding the intent that such organs be instruments of Crown propaganda. When The NZBC appointed Māori broadcasters in the 1930s and 40s, they were to provide an extraordinary legacy within Māori media (and broadcasting history). As written by one of the towering figures of Māori broadcasting, Henare Te Ua, some years ago:

Who were, these pioneers? Professor James Shelley, Director of early broadcasting, during the 1930s appointed four air-staff Māori, one each in the four main centres. In Auckland, Ngāti Whātua’s Lou Paul a skilled singer and musician, in Wellington, Kingi Tahiwi of Ngāti Raukawa’s musically talented Tahiwi whānau – he died over North Africa while serving with the Royal Air Force, Ngai Tahu’s Te Ari Pitama was appointed in Christchurch, and Wharekauri (Chatham Islands’) Airini Grennel in Dunedin. While not appointed as “Māori broadcasters”, they were bi-culturally adept broadcasters who were Māori, each possessing style and flair and te reo which they used on-air. My opinion is that their personal, outgoing charismas quietly opened their Pākeha colleagues’ insights into te ao Māori – the Māori world – and were at the genesis of Māori broadcasting

I think the second paragraph is very apt. It is a lonely thing sometimes to be ‘the Māori voice’ within a mainstream organisation. But those lonely voices are absolutely vital, in any form of broadcasting or media, and, I would venture, in any organisation with public relevance, actually. The problem with being the lonely voice is that it can more easily, and with relative impunity, be silenced. So. Here’s to both the lonely Māori and Pasifika voices in within mainstream media, wherever they are found, and those voices of other Māori and Pasifika who are able to paddle their own media waka. Kia mau tonu koutou.

The curious case of Korotangi Paki and inherited privilege in modern New Zealand.

The curious case of Korotangi Paki and inherited privilege in modern New Zealand.

The news today that Korotangi Paki has now had a conviction entered against his name for Excess Breath Alcohol reminded me of a conversation I had with my mother a few months ago when the news broke that he had, at that time, escaped conviction.  “What!” She yelped. “How did he get off? That’s not bloody fair! And anyway, the Kingitanga’s not even bloody REAL!” My Mum’s Pākehā. I’m pretty certain my Dad (nō Te Rarawa), were he still alive, would have had pretty much the same response. That Korotangi Paki’s story has had legs for a large chunk of this year is in part because of a powerful idea in the mainstream New Zealand public imagination. People with privilege should not be treated more gently than the rest of us plebs, especially when such privilege is based on birth and inheritance. Every so often some issue such as this swells in the public consciousness and has people claiming loudly and broadly about equality for all. On a good day I can see that kind of response as some kind of evidence that the reputed strong egalitarian streak in the New Zealand psyche is alive and well in our heads if not in real life, and some degree of disdain for inherited privilege is pretty healthy.

Privilege is an interesting topic as it has so many manifestations. And of course, the slightly notable thing in Paki’s case is that the charge has always been that he was was a Māori supposedly claiming inherited privilege.  The general tenor of this kind of criticism on a popular, dedicated Facebook page is easy to spot:

This is an outrage! […] This shows the Kingitanga as an excuse for featherbedding and protection of tribal privilege. The rest of us would have to take our lumps!…

Should’ve been given a GOOD OLD WORKINGMANS BOOT UP HIS ROYAL ARSE…

Unfair justice. No matter who you are or where you come from, If you do the crime, do the time!!! Is it fair to say, if we got caught for theft, burglary & drink driving we can ask the Maori king to get the case DISCHARGED without conviction too? FAIR JUSTICE for all…just saying..

Of course, this criticism is also interspersed with even more comments bemoaning so-called racial (as opposed to inherited) privilege. and, curiously, many, many comments scorning King Tūheitia for being a truck driver with that fact being held up as evidence that the Kīngitanga isn’t a real monarchy anyway. Hmm. Well, be that as it may… Certainly, in Māori thinking, often lineage does count for something.  This fact is often perceived to be in direct tension with New Zealand’s long-lived love affair with the idea (if not the reality) of classlessness/equality. Focus on lineage is often easily conflated with the presumption of inherited privilege.

Lineage is extraordinarily important in Māori thinking, but not so much because it comes with attendant wealth, but because whakapapa (genealogy) is the pre-eminent organising principle of Māori life, even among many Māori who profess no Māori cultural life otherwise. Māori commonly seek connection with each other on a familial basis for any number of purposes; to decide on the speaking order on the paepae, perhaps, to help a therapist and client create a good therapeutic relationship, to make slyly apt jokes hidden in the lyrics of a particularly lascivious haka, to smoothe the way in creating a relationship between newly introduced strangers. Whakapapa, as the basis of collective action, is now commonly referred to as a teaching tool and necessary focus in some rehabilitation frameworks.  Whakapapa can help determine those who might best serve on a hapū negotiating team, given the connections that could be created with other hapū to get the most combined traction. And obviously whakapapa can determine ownership of land. Like the gossamer threads of the spiderweb, whakapapa, is everywhere, connecting pretty much everybody and everything. This is no misty spiritual abstraction; whakapapa is a bloody useful tool.

Undoubtedly, whakapapa can, sometimes, bring with it wealth and influence, and opportunities not open to others, which is why the privilege presumed to apply to Korotangi Paki, as the second son of King Tūheitia, has received such a public airing. This idea of privilege based on whakapapa, although relatively less exercised among Māori, is probably quite familiar to most New Zealanders who recognise, and deeply distrust, lineage-derived privilege. But how deep does this distrust really run, I wonder? And can we see it in our own mirrors, I wonder?

I wrote two wills, this year. One for an older female relative on the Pākehā side of my whānau , one for one of my older whanaunga in my Dad’s family. In doing up these documents I got a pretty clear idea of how inherited privilege can work even just within my own family. Although my Pākehā relative has been a beneficiary (DPB and Super) for more than 40 years she inherited some money from her stepmother when she died, and when she received a similar amount from her own mother who passed away, that was enough to pay the remaining mortgage on her home, about 12 years ago. So all she has in her house, but she owns that, and absolutely nothing else. When she passes away her adult children will inherit some part of that legacy which will then bolster whatever they have managed to accrue for themselves over their adult lives. A smaller share of her legacy will also be divided between the grandkids to be held on trust until they are old enough preferably for use in tertiary study or for partial house deposits. In turn, the grandkids themselves will also inherit their parents’ shares of that legacy providing for some level of economic stability for decades to come, that, most likely will only increase in value and carry on down the generations to come. That’s inherited privilege, isn’t it?

My whanaunga’s will on my father’s side of the whānau represents an entirely different situation. There is a large amount of land, and a house on its section. Neither is owned outright by my whanaunga. Instead the land is collectively held in different areas around the North Island with literally hundreds and hundreds of other people. The house and section are in a whānau trust under the Māori Land Act. My whanaunga worked all his life until retirement, but there is no inherited wealth, other than his actual lineage and whakapapa connections that already belong to his adult children anyway. Of course there is the wealth of the homestead itself and the landscaping; a wealth of memories and connections that will remain. So much for our dual legal system with ‘special laws’ bestowing privilege on that whānau. There is no increased capital value that will enhance the lives of his children or grandchildren.

I want to be clear that I don’t think I am talking here about ‘white privilege’ per se. While inherited privilege will often accrue to white people, in my unsophisticated view, white privilege refers to a degree of racial and cultural privilege experienced by, well, white people.  I am speaking here specifically of inherited privilege. Often the two will coincide, but not inevitably. And yes, of course there will be a significant number of Māori families who will have exactly the same kind of individual wealth as I described above. Provided, of course, that they have managed to accumulate individual wealth outside of the Māori land system. It is probably also entirely possible now to talk of an inheritable collective privilege, as iwi and hapū develop and grow their asset bases and engage in post-settlement reconstruction. So obviously I don’t consider Māori to be excluded from the notion of inherited privilege. However I consider it far more likely that Pākehā families will benefit more directly and more materially from inherited privilege.

For one thing, I’m pretty sure I see inherited privilege most days I go to work at my university, and I’m the beneficiary of it myself, from the Pākeha side of my whakapapa. I wonder how much outrage generated against Korotangi Paki was created by people who themselves owed something significant to their own inherited privilege. How many of those people end up being somewhat insulated against the possibility of being claimed by the criminal justice system because of their birth privilege, I wonder? Chuck Collins in a post last year identified certain kinds of students whose inheritance determines, at least to some degree, the nature of their futures. This quote is a lengthy one, but worth including (bearing in mind the US context). Collins imagines a scene that could happen in any uni cafe around NZ: two 21-year-old students sit down in a cafe to study for an upcoming test:

Behind the counter, a barista whips up their double-shot lattes. In the back kitchen, another young adult washes the dishes and empties the trash. One of the college students, Miranda, will graduate without any student-loan debt and will have completed three summers of unpaid internships at businesses that will advance her career path. Her parents stand ready to subsidize her lodging with a security deposit and co-signed apartment lease and will give her a no-interest loan to buy a car. They also have a network of family and professional contacts that can help her. Ten years later, Miranda will have a high-paying job, be engaged to another professional, and will buy a home in a neighborhood with other college-educated professionals, a property that will steadily appreciate over time because of its location.

The other collegiate, Marcus, will graduate with more than $55,000 in [student loan], a maxed-out credit card, and an extensive résumé of part-time food-service jobs that he has taken to pay for school, both during summers and while in college, reducing the hours he can study. Though he will obtain a degree, he will graduate with almost no work experience in his field of study, and begin working two part-time jobs to pay back his student loans and to afford rent in a shared apartment. Ten years later, Marcus will still be working in low-paying jobs and renting an apartment. He will feel occupationally stuck and frustrated in his attempts to network in the area of his degree. He will take on additional debt—to deal with various health and financial problems—and watch his hope of buying a home slip away, in large part because of a credit history damaged during his early twenties.

Tony, the barista, has the benefit of not taking on mega-debt from college. He will eventually enroll in some classes at a local public university. But his income and employment opportunities will be constrained by not having a degree. He will make several attempts to learn a building trade and start his own business, eventually landing a job with a steady but low income. The good news for Tony is that his parents, while not college educated or wealthy, are stable middle-class with modest retirement pensions and a debt-free house, acquired by Tony’s grandfather with a low-interest [..] mortgage. They are able to provide a bedroom to their son. That home will prove to be a significant factor in Tony’s future economic stability, as he will eventually inherit it.

Cordelia, working in the kitchen, has even less opportunity than Tony for mobility and advancement. Neither of her parents went to college nor have significant assets, as they rent their housing. Though she was academically in the top of her urban high-school class, she did not consider applying to a selective college. The costs seemed daunting, and she didn’t know anyone who went away to college. There were no adults or guidance professionals to help her explore other options, including financial aid available at private colleges, some of which would have paid her full tuition and expenses to attend. Instead, she takes courses at the local community college where she sees many familiar faces. Cordelia will struggle with health issues, as lack of adequate health care and insurance means she will delay treatment of several problems. Over time, she will have a steady and low-wage job, but she will also begin to take more responsibility for supporting members of her family who are less fortunate.

So while many of us might be pretty happy about Korotangi Paki’s shiny new conviction (or not) I think it’s worth a moment of reflection to ask what role, if any, some manifestation of inherited privilege might play in our own lives. Just a thought. Not a judgment.

The children of the Takamore case: scaling the unscaleable?

When the news started filtering through from late 2007 about the dispute over James Takamore’s tūpāpaku I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Being a Christchurch-raised urban Māori with a Pākehā mum, with almost no contact with my hapū or iwi until my 20s I suspected that, however the dispute ended up, the adult children of James Takamore would suffer disenfranchisement, loss and estrangement from their whakapapa, and that this suffering would last generations. 7 years later, and the niceties of the legal issues and disputes aside, I still have the same feeling.

A small digression to put my sinking feeling into context. I remember the one and only time I visited my father’s marae and kāinga in Ahipara as a 7 year old skinny white Māori girl with patent leather shoes (really, and in a navy-blue sailor suit, no less) how terrifying and strange it all was. And that was with people who cared about me, and wanted me to be there. It wash’t until my nephew died some 8 years later that I returned, and then again, another several years after that until a third visit. And then another, and then another. I’d love to say that me and my hapū are tight now, but it wouldn’t be strictly true. I have some pretty good relationships now, but the real-life ties (as opposed to the metaphysical ones) are still pretty fragile. That’s often the way for us urban-borns. Of course I can’t presume to speak for all of us, but some of us will never truly make those ties that enable us to really be part of the functional group. We will remain liminal creatures, some talking up the mysterious nature of the connection we feel with the ancestral land of our tupuna in an attempt to feel the connection. In most cases those feelings will be absolutely heartfelt, but for some, grounded in little reality. Take us to that place, let us out of the car outside the homestead, with that pathway leading up to the front door, and that journey of a few steps becomes very long indeed.  A few months ago, I attended a wānanga at one of my marae, did the karanga on behalf of those coming on, only to learn I had completely botched one of our Northen tikanga. I was told gently by my aunty a couple of days later. After the feeling of mortification had passed, and the flaming in my cheeks had subsided, I was OK with it, failure at our tikanga is just something to be expected for those of us not raised in it. All I can do is try and be better. Some 12 years ago the late, and lovely Associate Professor Nin Tomas, a whanaunga of mine externally marked a law assignment of mine, where I mentioned in its pages my own default disenfranchisement from hapū and iwi dynamics. She wrote in the margins: “So come home.” Perhaps it could be just that easy for us, the children and grandchildren of the urban migrations. Except, for many, it’s not.

I can’t presume to know how the adult son and daughter of James Takamore feel or have felt over the past 7 years experiencing their own cultural estrangement in such an horrifically public and prolonged manner. From public documents it’s pretty plain that at the time Mr Takamore was taken north, the children, and their mum were at a significant cultural disadvantage in negotiations with the Kutarere-based whānau who came to Christchurch to ask for his tupapaku to be able to return to them. The following excerpt comes from the Supreme Court judgment available here:

Ms Clarke and Mr Takamore’s son resisted the request but Mr Takamore’s Kutarere family continued to press into the night the claim that he should return with them to the Bay of Plenty for burial. The discussion was heated and, for Ms Clarke and her son, distressing.

[19] After the son appeared to acquiesce reluctantly, Mr Takamore’s paternal uncle (who also lived in Christchurch) intervened to say that the son was being pressured and that the discussion should be continued the following day. At least one member of the Kutarere family stayed with Mr Takamore’s body while Ms Clarke and their son went home. The next day, after some delay and after it appeared that Ms Clarke was reluctant to return to resume the discussion, the Kutarere family, now with the support of the uncle who had intervened the night before, took Mr Takamore back to Kutarere. The Kutarere family believed their actions to be justified according to tikanga. They may have considered that the son (whose views were culturally of particular importance) had sufficiently acquiesced to give them the moral authority according to tikanga to take Mr Takamore home, at least when there was no resumption of discussion the next day and they were left with Mr Takamore’s body. If so, there was significant cross-cultural misunderstanding. For their part, Ms Clarke and her children were completely at a disadvantage, since they had no understanding of the process being followed and the risk they ran in appearing to withdraw from contending for their rights. [paras 18-19]

I read that passage and the clash of rights aside, I can at least imagine how traumatic this episode must have been, how unsure of the cultural landscape they must all have been, while fresh in their own grief for the sudden death of their Dad.

There is no doubt that tikanga, when allowed to operate as designed, can be a wonderful instrument to achieve equilibrium, but this case shows that it can create disequilibrium (albeit as a result of a clash with Pākehā law as well) in the pursuit of some larger goal of the larger collective entity. I can’t presume to make any judgment on the correctness or otherwise of the tikanga used in 2007 or in succeeding years up to and including yesterday’s attempted exhumation. I’m wondering instead how tikanga can henceforth be used to reconcile and repair. Counsel for the Kutarere whanau at least acknowledged this longterm view of the role of tikanga, before the Supreme Court in the transcript of argument:

I would say on the evidence [tikanga] imposes obligations that ensue beyond the decision and, with respect, the Court cannot compel those of any party in the sense of that restorative long-term process and, you know, I don’t know what will  be the situation, but in a generation’s time when, as I say, Mr Takamore’s mother has passed, if Ms Clarke has passed, is it, would it be a different conversation that those future generations are having about all of this and where they all sit? Possibly, one can’t guarantee that.

So perhaps the Tūhoe based whanau are prepared to accept the cost in the short to medium term at least that their whanaunga in Christchurch must suffer in order that the interests of the collective   are met, on the presumption that generations to come will heal the rift, that utu will be restored. I don’t know. But knowing how hard it is to make that cultural journey just when all that gets in the way is unfamiliarity and insecurity, how much harder will it be for the Christchurch whanau, left with the legacy of pain and perhaps even humiliation they now have, to take those steps? When tamariki and mokopuna come (if they have not already), what will being Māori mean to them? Regardless of the means, tikanga, Western law, whatever, used by both sides of the dispute, how will the children and grandchildren of each side of this dispute feel about each other in years to come? Maybe, and this is the heartbreaking risk, just maybe, they won’t think of each other at all. Maybe that is the ultimate price the children of this case will pay.

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. http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/te-manu-korihi/244960/maori-pou-to-be-erected-in-nsw

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.

BlackTownWorkers

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. (http://www.blacktownsun.com.au/story/240937/calls-for-two-of-blacktowns-aboriginal-heros-to-be-honoured/)

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.”

(http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2014/02/11/aboriginal-elders-object-maori-poles-blacktown)

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 (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2167613). 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 (https://www.facebook.com/MaraeMelbourne) and Sydney (https://www.facebook.com/sydneymaraeappeal) 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 (http://nzh.tw/10491857). 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.

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/te-manu-korihi/244163/maori-journalism-excuse-rejected

The report itself fleshes Shane’s observation out a little more: (available at: http://www.3news.co.nz/Portals/0/images/TVNZ_independent-report.pdf):

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.

Holly Walker

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