The Inanity of Identity Propaganda

“Maoridom” Is A Meaningless Construct
David Garrett has written a guest post in Kiwiblog which is worth a read.  It is about “Maoridom”–which is to say, it is about identity politics.  What Garrett describes and rejects is the same mindset that equally applies to feminists who both claim and assert that there is a “woman’s perspective” or ideology.  The most egregious example in recent times is Michelle Obama ridiculously claiming that women who vote Republican are not really voting according to their “true selves”.  
Another topical example is “African Americanism” in the United States.  For the reasons Garrett finds Maori identity politics to be stupid and meaningless, so with all forms of identity politics and propaganda. 

Following the shock defeat of all Maori Party candidates at the recent election, there were lots of comments – from all sides of the commentariat – about how “Maoridom” were affected, and how this mythical beast would feel about what had happened. I have often wondered about this odd construct, which implies that all Maori think alike, and all Maori view all issues – including political issues – in the same way. That surely makes no more sense than referring to “pakehadom”. Grant Robertson and I are both middle aged white men, but other than that,  I have  about as much in common with him as I have with Kim Jong -Un.
So let’s look at “Maoridom” more closely, perhaps by comparing the attitudes and values of  two Maori I know, one very well, the other not so, who coincidentally come from the same rohe, and belong to the same iwi, Ngapuhi. I have chosen Hone Harawira and my good friend Northland Wahine, who posts here often. They are actually  known to each other – and I think Hone is more than a little scared of Wahine.

For a start, Hone is an unashamed racist, and makes no bones about it, whereas  Wahine doesn’t have a racist bone in her body. Wahine mixes easily with all races, and  her youngest son is half pakeha. Remember when Hone famously said he would be most unhappy if his daughter brought home a white boy? I am quite sure – she will no doubt correct me if I am wrong – that Wahine couldn’t give a damn who her boy  brings home when he has discovered girls. And handsome young chap that he is, I’m sure he will have plenty of choice.

Although she is proud of her tribal heritage, and the fact that she is Maori, I don’t believe that NW sees her existence as being dictated by her tribal affiliation. Hone on the other hand is a Ngapuhi first, a Maori second, and – well, I am not  sure he even thinks of himself as  New Zealander at all. Who he is, and what he thinks and believes, is inextricably linked to his tribe and his race.

Politically of course, Hone and NW could not be further apart. As NW has made plain on here, she is a National supporter. I doubt she is actually a member of the party, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she was. She is as appalled by Maori violence – or I should more accurately say violence committed by anyone – against defenceless children as I am.  Wahine took the day off work to protest the sleazy plea bargain that saw the killers of little Moko have their charges downgraded from murder to manslaughter. She told me with disgust that the march to the Manukau District Court was very poorly attended, and she was one of the very few Maori there.

Hone of course wouldn’t be seen dead at such a march; that would mean he would have to acknowledge that the disgraceful and brutal  violence against children was overwhelmingly committed by Maori, and he  might have to do something about it. Speaking of that march, I was one of the 600 who marched in Rotorua on that  dreadfully cold and wet day, the biggest protest ever seen in the town. Many of the marchers were Maori –  from young girls pushing babies in prams to old ladies – however  leaders like Hone were conspicuous by their absence. But I digress.

Wahine has high expectations of all of her children, and is not interested in ANY excuses when one of them disappoints her – especially not the “colonization” excuse that Hone and his ilk trot out for every Maori ill. I wonder if it ever occurs to Hone why,  if all his people’s problems are down to colonization, the stats were so much BETTER fifty years closer to the dreadful event? Because the fact is they were – the gross over-representation of Maori in the crime stats for example is a relatively recent phenomenon; until the end of the 1960’s, Maori were UNDER represented in prison…but again I digress.

So my two comparators could not be more different: in the degrees to which they primarily identify as Maori;  in attitudes to their fellow New Zealanders of a different race; in their political attitudes; in their beliefs about the causes of their people’s many problems.

And surely Hone and Wahine are not unique: I will wager than anyone reading this who mixes closely with Maori – and that is most of us – will know several Hone’s and several Wahines. The major thing they have in common – and perhaps even the only thing – is that they are Maori.

For me, here are two more: Tariana Turia thinks gangs are “just another form of whanau”; my old friend Pauline, with whom I drove taxis 100 years ago, got so irate when the Mongrel Mob or Black Power were featured on the telly that I used to have to turn it off lest she do herself a mischief. And Pauline was a proud Maori too – but from Ngati Porou heritage, so she didn’t think much of Wahine’s lot!

So for me, Maoridom is a nonsense concept. It suggests that all Maori think the same, act the same, and have the same values and prejudices. All of that  is patently and demonstrably untrue, as anyone who knows more than one Maori person from differing backgrounds knows. Perhaps the journos who are so fond of pontificating about “what Maoridom thinks” ought to get out more.

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