A Longhouse in Borneo

Day Whatever + 8.

Well.

There were 14 people queued outside the Four Square, a dozen more than usual, and some of them metrically challenged. I didn’t bother to count the cars at New World. There were well over 100, and the queue was over 100 metres. This contradicts my earlier unfounded conclusions but there is a confounding factor.

It must be benefit day. I think I read earlier this week that the government was bringing the payments forward because of the Easter staycation. I made the mistake, soon after I arrived in Dannevirke, of doing my grocery shopping on benefit day. Vowed never again.

I’m off to the hospital this morning to get my influenza vaccination. We’re supposed to queue in our cars outside the hospital and drive into the carport at the front entrance to get jabbed through the car window. I told the receptionist it would be quicker for me to walk than to get the car out of the garage. She said that would be OK and I could stand in the car queue.

I’m thinking I’ll pretend I’m a car just to see how the nurses react. I’m off shortly.

Bye for now then.

But before I go. On Day Whatever Robin Payne commented that she was “still waiting for all the chapters on Borneo”. So this is a bit of memoir I wrote a few years ago about my time in Borneo in 1966. It’s quite a bit longer than these daily musings. But you might find it interesting.

A Longhouse in Borneo

Conspiracy Theories

Day Whatever + 9

Freezing out there this morning. Forgot to take my gloves. Bear with me. This edition was a tough assignment.

So I got vaccinated yesterday. You all need to get it done if you haven’t already. Mind you, you need to be aware that it doesn’t immunise you against being infected by my daily dose of mindstuff.

The mangled sign has been removed from the signpost. Whether by the COVID-19 infected signpost vandal or an essential signpost maintenance worker I don’t know.

By now of course you’ve all bought into and are totally convinced by my theory of viral induced signpost vandalism. I’ve done it through storytelling, through homespun secular homily, and oddball humour. I’ve slipped it past your intellectual defences while you’ve been enthralled by my recollections of family, and while you’ve been laughing, distracted by my strange sense of humour.

Some of you have been distracted by your own focus on the autobiographical nature of it.

All the while my purpose has been to slip ideas into your unconscious minds unfiltered by the conscious mind. To ensure that those ideas are embedded in the metaphorical arsehole of opinion and belief and that they remain there.

There is madness in my method.

The pandemic has provided a golden opportunity for just that. The viral-like spread of conspiracy theory. The effects of the pandemic and lockdown on the mental balance and well being of liberal democracies, and social cohesion, could well be as damaging and longlasting as the effects on economies.

The anti-vaccination conspiracy is an obvious example.

As is the conspiracy theory linking 5G cell towers to the spread of the virus. It has taken hold around the world and is becoming rampant in New Zealand. I’ve mentioned earlier that 5G radiation is non-ionising and not harmful, whereas the sun’s radiation is ionising and potentially harmful. The science means nothing however, in the face of belief. We have already witnessed an attempt to burn down a tower. Many believers, being ignorant of which towers are 3G, 4G or 5G-capable have focused their attention on all towers. Ironically they actually spread their conspiracy theories through the very communications networks they rail against, and on which we all depend for our health and safety in these trying times.

What most people don’t know is that these conspiracy theories have been picked up and are being widely and actively promoted by the same groups that infected the mind of the Christchurch mosque killer, with the purpose of sowing discord and creating chaos in the liberal democracies of the world. They have become very active in the pandemic for it has created the perfect climate of alarum and despond in which conspiracy theories flourish.

The methodology was trialled by Russia in it’s 2016 online meddling in the Ukranian elections, and deployed again soon after and with some effect in the USA elections. Cambridge Analytica used the same methodology to manipulate voters in the Brexit referendum in the UK, and in elections elsewhere. Sowing scepticism and discord, and creating a climate of distrust in government, in science and other expertise, is at the core of the methodology.

Coincidentally or not, soon after Steve Bannon was ejected from the White House the QAnon conspiracy theory appeared in the USA. It is an all enveloping theory thats enfolds within itself a variety of other conspiracy theories like deep state fearmongering, satanic pedophilia, New World Order paranoia, and anything else that can be attached to it.

It uses essentially the same methodology as that developed by the Russians and Cambridge Analytica, without the need for the same level of financial backing.

It had its home in a webportal called 8chan, which hosted a range of Alt-Right, neo-Nazi, racist, white supremacist, anti-semitic, anti-muslim groups, and was instrumental in the promotion of hate crimes and mass shootings, including the Christchurch massacre.

Qanon is essentially a white nationalist alt-right indoctrination movement that has poached and continues to poach serious concerns and conspiracies, from right across the political spectrum, and to suck people into its mire. The central purpose of the movement is to cause hyper-isolation of its members. Phase 2 is desensitisation, and the final phase is direct violent action in support of the white nationalist agenda.

Which is to disrupt and throw into a state of chaos the liberal democracies that are the target of their indoctrination, in order to instal a new white nationalist order. Sounds hopelessly utopian and it might be, but they are nevertheless trying, and they are very good at what they are doing. It is a sophisticated operation.
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The Christchurch shooter had been caught up in the same hyper isolation and desensitisation on 8chan before he went into the two mosques and murdered 51 people.

8chan was ripped offline by concerned online activists last year. But the movement has moved on and flourishes still, especially so during the enforced isolation of these times. The pandemic has achieved for it the physical and mental isolation necessary for the promotion of its further aims. The pandemic has provided the ideal climate for the spread of its aims camouflaged within whatever concerns and conspiracies are appropriated to its own use.

QAnon ideas have now made their way into Maori political discourse. It is hugely ironical that this white nationalist alt-right indoctrination movement has now enfolded within itself an increasingly large number of Maori, as well as other New Zealanders. As at this morning the “Kotahitanga Movement Aotearoa NO 5G” group on this platform has 12,890 members. It is not the only New Zealand based anti-5G movement being manipulated at arms length by QAnon activists who are providing the fast circulating memes picked up and adopted as reality by unsuspecting folk on social media.

This particular 5G conspiracy theory has also leaked into the network of military veterans.

As a conspiracy theory in New Zealand it is at first glance hard to see how it might be linked to a white nationalist agenda. And it isn’t directly linked. 5G activists however are already becoming involved in actual and threatened acts of arson. Some in my wider network have been abused and threatened with violence for opposing the conspiracy theorists. We have countless thousands of vulnerable folk sitting at home, isolated and vulnerable to insidious mindstuff. Many of them becoming more and more agitated and angry at being cut off from their perception of themselves.

Where might it end? With social and economic disruption assured, what are the chances of this becoming a serious problem. We have already seen how it motivated the actions of just one person in Christchurch.

Having already let you in on the secret that I myself have been attempting to infect you with my own conspiracy theory, I won’t be offended if you interpret all this as another.

Walking On Out The Door

Day Whatever + 12

Wind and rain when I got up this morning. Quite fierce too.

And I made the tragic mistake of wondering whether I really would head out the door. Heading out the door you know is a matter of faith not rational decision making.

I’ve been heading on out the door into rain, hail or storm all my life. Snow even. From early days out milking the house cow morning and afternoon in freezing Hawke’s Bay winters, as an Infantryman getting out and getting on with the job regardless of weather, season or terrain, as a cross country runner and coach splishing and splashing and sploshing my way through endless Wellington winters, and on into the winter of my own life for the last 30 years or more, just coating up and heading on out the door.

I annoy people by telling them that weather is all in the mind.

In a harrier club in Wellington for a few years I coached junior runners, teenagers and young men and women under 21. The cross country season began in late autumn and early winter. My favourite early season run was to take them all out into the teeth of the first southerly storm. They got it. To train and race your way through a Wellington winter you needed to be able to ignore the weather. To enjoy it even. And they would quickly get into the swing of it, playfully jumping into puddles, splishing and splashing each other, and laughing defiance in the face of the storm.

I thought about all of that. It’s an enjoyable memory.

But having made the mistake of wondering whether I would head on out the door I sought inspiration on You Tube. I did. I kid you not. Silly old bugger. I watched a video of Gene Kelly singing and dancing in the rain. Twice. And then I thought to myself, “You dopey bugger Gene Kelly”, and decided not to get wet. And to work out indoors. But admitting, even to myself, a deep sense of guilt.

10km on the exercycle, 5km on the rowing machine, 30 minutes of kettlebell and dumbbell free weights, and 15 minutes on the Swiss ball still didn’t assuage my guilt. And the wind and the rain didn’t last very long anyway, making me feel even more guilty.

But don’t worry folks, I got this, I can handle it without wallowing in it. I’m a former soldier after all, nostalgically imagining that I’m still rough, tough and dangerous despite the passing of too many seasons and too many decades. Why else would a 76-year old dopey bugger still be heading on out the door into freezing cold, wintry wind and rain, year after year, after year.

Winter’s not yet upon us but this pandemic lockdown is like an early onset winter isn’t it, sending us all scurrying and sheltering indoors, lest we succumb.

And although it’s not yet winter I thought I’d share this with you in this pandemic winter. I wrote it a long time ago. I do enjoy winter in a capricious sort of way.

WINTER

The Old Man arrived today,
rushing in from over the Strait,
across Tapu-te-Ranga, and
sweeping all before him,
sand-blasting cars and lawns,
making new dunes behind
fences far from shore, and
in my hair and down my neck;
Winter’s here.

Saw your clouds gathering,
and quickened my step Old Man,
remembering you do this every year,
hiding out there behind the horizon,
your version of humour no doubt,
to spring your blustery ambush,
on summer clad runners (and walkers),
telling us who’s boss around here;
Now you’re back.

And I sprint for home but not before
you plummet the temperature,
and try to freeze my balls off, then
with sand in my hair and icy crutch
you send it down in buckets,
knowing you’ve only got five minutes
to finish the job before I reach refuge,
and laugh at you behind thick windows;
And chattering roof.

Welcome back Old Man, you’re late.

That drenched young girl down the road said,
“Isn’t Winter terrible”, but I said, “Not for me.
He comes every year, and at my age,
he’s an old friend, and even though,
he’ll try to overstay his welcome, for a time
there’s comfort in his presence, and
anyway, your friend Spring is not far away”.

She thinks I’m mad.

Great Great Great Grandparents

Day Whatever + 11

54 cars at New World. Longest queue yet for that early in the morning. Snaked right across the back of the carpark, out onto and along the street. Be a good idea to borrow a wheelchair before joining a queue like that. There was an essential worker out there filling in for the Easter Hare and handing out Easter eggs.

Apropos of nothing. But adding a little off-beat perspective to COVID-19. I tweeted this yesterday.

“Every year worldwide about 75 billion animals are killed for humans to eat”.

Went down like a lead balloon.

Moving on.

Dannevirkians could be forgiven for thinking I was a little harsh yesterday, on them and on our town. But it’s all about perspective.

You see, all of us, yes all of us, have “murdering, enslaving, raping, looting, burning, thieving, pillaging and plundering” ancestors. In those times they weren’t really “all-round historical criminals of the worst kind”. It was just the way it was in the dim dark past. Except of course for the “musket armed thugs from several northern criminal gangs who came marauding through our region” in the early 19th Century. I’ll make an exception for them.

The philosopher A.C.Grayling wrote that we are all probably descended from both slaves and slave owners. Victims and perpetrators. The Slavery Abolition Act was passed in Great Britain as late as 1833. It abolished slavery in Britain and in her colonies. That was about the time that slavery came to an end in Aotearoa.

Human slavery after all had been the main source of energy before and alongside the elephant, the horse, the bullock and whale oil; and before steam, fossil fuels and renewables. Although before renewables became a thing wind and water had long been sources of energy.

We avoid acknowledging that human flesh was a source of food energy in most if not all cultures at one time in their evolution, and that infanticide was a widespread form of population control especially in times of food crisis.

We consign all of that and much much more to the Great Forgetting, until academic historians and hard-wired iconoclasts like me tip it out of the dustbin of cultural forgetfulness and annoy the hell out of people.

Cultural evolution is about forgetting and about remembering, mostly about forgetting. We conveniently forget that which doesn’t accord with our perceptions of who we are, and we sanitise, reimagine and reconstruct our remembrance, the stories and narratives that shape our culture, and our image of ourselves.

Novelist Daniel Quinn described culture as “a people enacting a story”; and to enact a story as “to live so as to make the story a reality”.

Dannevirkians in their “unhealthy obsession with Vikings” mirrored within their settler museum are enacting a reimagined and reconstructed story so as to make it a reality. We all do it.

This morning as I powered around Dannevirke I remembered another of the stories told in my whanau.

It has long been told in our whanau that as a young girl our great grandmother, the one in the museum, tasted the flesh of a white man. I don’t know whether it’s true or not. I knew her when I was very young and didn’t hear it from her own lips. I’ve heard the same story said about a lot of others’ ancestors who lived in the early days of settlement and colonisation. So it could just be a bit of reimagined whanau mischief making. My great grandmother was known to make a bit of mischief herself.

But if it is true it would indicate a very close link indeed between my whanau and the early Scandinavian settlers.

That story led me to remember another that happened about the beginning of the 19th Century, quite a while before the Vikings invaded. It happened right here in the middle of Dannevirke, except that Dannevirke wasn’t here already of course.

A war party of people from a tribe to the near north, from Ngai Te Whatuiapiti led by one Marangaihenuku, raided us here at Tamaki-Nui-A-Rua and killed two brothers, Te Hokitonga and Tuhakoria. Our tribe Ngati Rangiwhakaewa quickly deployed our own war party, then closed with and engaged them in a battle called Te Whakarapaki. The aforementioned Marangaihenuku was captured. The grieving sister of the two who had been killed, Wheraka-i-te-rangi (Wheraka for short), called out that he was not to be killed until she arrived.

She killed Marangaihenuku herself, ripping his still beating heart from his chest.

Her enemies composed this song-curse about and against her.

Kati, kati, tu ai taku kai nei a Wheraka
E utu ana koe tohou matenga
Koia i aranga na ko Te Whakarapaki
E kai e te hau ki runga I nga iwi
Tatau e te kohu ki roto o Kahotea
Ka maunu hoki ra te ika I tona rua.

Kei te komaingomaingo oku rau e rua mot e upoko, e,
Mohou e Tioirangi e herepu mai na kei tou hemihemi.

Behold there stands my food, Wheraka.
You are avenging your loss
Which gave rise to Te Whakarapaki.

Blow, o wind, on the hilltops,
Descend, o mist, on Kahotea,
The fish has come forth from his lair.

My two plumes are yearning for a head
It is for you, Tioirangi, to bind them in your hair.

Wheraka-i-te-rangi is my great-great-great-grandmother.

I discovered years and years ago that holding a grudge, historical or personal, is a total waste of time and energy. The grudger is the one infected, and the grudgee totally unaffected.

It wouldn’t make sense in this case anyway, for the biological and peace-making imperatives of lust and multiplication have conspired some generations later to land me on both sides of that exchange, Ngati Rangiwhakaewa and Ngai Te Whatuiapiti.

Some years later another tribe from south-west of here was trying to impose itself upon and install itself in our lands here at Tamaki-Nui-A-Rua and further north in Hawke’s Bay. They captured Ngarara, a member of our tribe Ngati Rangiwhakaewa, and took him off to their place called Paranui, near present day Foxton. They killed him and consigned him to the oven. Ngati Pakapaka, one of our tribes here in Tamaki-Nui-A-Rua was then named in remembrance of that foul deed. We don’t forget.

Ngarara was the husband of Wheraka-i-te-rangi. He was my great-great-great-grandfather.

You will remember that I don’t bear grudges, historical or personal. But I don’t forget. At 76, not yet anyway. So although I’m a forgiving soul, my great-great-great-grandmother was not so inclined, and you would be wise Ngati Raukawa to be careful not to cross me anytime in the next 25 years.

I must investigate whether the Vikings brought with them their own propensity for tribal and family feuding. This could be a dangerous town.

O Dannevirke, Dannevirke

Day Whatever + 10.

73 cars at New World. They must have run out of toilet paper already. Stands to reason. People have got nothing better to do in lockdown than eat and drink and eat. And you know what.

As you drive into and out of Dannevirke, when you’re allowed to, you are welcomed and farewelled (Farvel) by a giant cartoon version of a murdering, enslaving, raping, looting, burning, thieving, pillaging and plundering all-round historical criminal of the very worst kind – a cartoonist’s representation of the marauders of the Viking Age in Europe from the 8th to the 11th Century.

Mind you, my Rangitane ancestors who were here several hundred years before the Scandis arrived were not averse to a bit of biffo themselves. But the murdering, enslaving, raping, looting, burning, thieving, pillaging and plundering crims were from other tribes of course. Especially so in the early 19th Century, before the Scandis arrived, and during the so-called Musket Wars when musket armed thugs from several northern criminal gangs came marauding through our region.

So.

There’s another cartoon character in the middle of town. These Vikings are actually representations of modern Viking mythology, not historical fact. The cartoon characters wear horned helmets when there is no evidence whatsoever that they actually did. The word “Viking” in popular mythology comes from a poem, “The Viking”. It was written by Erik Gustav Geijer and it propagated the romantic mythology of the Viking, a version that was far from historical fact. The poem was written at the beginning of the 19th Century, not long before the Scandinavian settlers came to this part of New Zealand. They brought the popular romanticised modern mythological version of their history with them.

Or perhaps they didn’t. Perhaps it’s their modern descendants in Dannevirke who have latched onto the mythology and transported a relatively modern mythological Viking mindscape into the midst of and surrounded by our ancient Rangitane landscape; now devoid of the magnificent forests it was once clothed in, thanks to the Scandinavian tree fellers, or fullas.

Anyway. Some Dannevirkians seem proud to pretend to themselves and to the world at large that they descend from these mythologised and sanitised criminals. But their ancestors who came to New Zealand were actually law abiding woodsmen and labourers, and other economic migrants.

I’m not the only one to note the incongruity of it. A tongue in cheek author has this to say about Dannevirke:

“Tararua eyesore Dannevirke has just two points of interest: a sewerage system clogged with rats and fat, and an unhealthy obsession with Vikings”.

– Author unknown, “Sh*t Towns of New Zealand”, Allen & Unwin, 2018, p 96.

Well Dannevirke did have a clogged sewerage system a while back.

And this:

“Dannevirke is one of the only places in New Zealand where you can buy second-hand dentures.”

Which I haven’t been able to confirm although I’ve been looking for a cheap set since I arrived in town a couple of years ago. There are quite a few second-hand shops and op shops in town. But no dentures.

Anyway.

I went into the Dannevirke Museum a few months ago, out of curiosity. It’s a settler museum. It celebrates a Danish heritage, Danish and other Scandinavian settlers, and generations of notable and not-so-notable citizens of a not-so-quaint country town and surrounding district. It’s pretty much like any other settler museum in rural townships across the nation, except for its focus on Danish origins. It seems that it is a major attraction for minor visitors from Denmark.

But I was mistaken about its ethnicity. Slightly mistaken. For there was actually a single display case with a small number of photographs of Maori, and a few Maori artefacts.

The tangata whenua here are the Ngati Rangiwhakaewa people of Rangitane origin. We have offices in town but our three marae are all on the margins just out of town; Makirikiri (Ngati Mutuahi), Kaitoke (Ngati Pakapaka) and Whiti Te Ra (Ngati Mutuahi). Our people have been in and around the whole area for countless generations before the Scandinavians arrived to cut down the forests. And we are still here, comprising some 30% of the population of the district I’m told. But about 0.003% of the museum display.

And looking at me, from inside that lonely display case, was my great grandmother. It was a photocopy taken from an out-of-print limited edition book of pastel drawings by a local artist. My revered great grandmother of high noble birth who raised my father here in Tamaki-Nui-A-Rua.

She looked so lonely and out of place in that place. Did anyone ask permission to put her in there? I wonder. Does anyone know or care that she lived to be 100 and now lies just south of town in our urupa at Tahoraiti, alongside her daughter, my grandmother, and amongst her many descendants and kinfolk. Or that her parents, siblings and numerous descendants were and have been around before and since the arrival of the folk from Scandinavia. And that not a single one of them is featured on the walls of that museum in the row upon row upon row of big and small notables.

None of our Rangitane chiefs, church leaders, professional men and women, holders of high office, artists, All Blacks, and other sporting greats. Not one that I could see.

We call ourselves Ngati Rangiwhakaewa after our eponymous ancestor. We call our district including the town Tamaki-Nui-A-Rua. Others call the district Tararua. We live in Tamaki-Nui-A-Rua. And in Dannevirke when we’re engaging with people who don’t know where Tamaki-Nui-A-Rua is. Confused?

To make it even more confusing, up in the Dannevirke Services & Citizens Club on Princess Street is a large glittering sign, “Dannevegas”. It’s quite a common name these days, a far cry from the Scandinavian one. Seems we’re also some sort of entertainment destination. Perhaps they come from far and wide to look at the cartoons on the roadside. Or to gamble on the pokies at the Saigon Hotel on the corner of High Street and Barraud Street. To call in momentarily at any one of the many fast food joints on High Street. To join the Viking latte set in one of our up-market cafes. Fine dining at our restaurants. And to drink, dine and be entertained at the Club of course.

So if you’re passing through Dannevegas do stop awhile and partake. You won’t be disappointed. True. Cross my heart. Visit the museum even. Even if just to check out the truth of my one-sided observations.

I’m not totally biased though for I do have a Scandinavian link myself you know.

My beloved godmother Aunty Sylvia was born to Swedish parents at Ngamoko, west of Norsewood, up on the headwaters of the Manawatu River.

She married into another of my hapu up in Hawke’s Bay. Her husband and one of my two godfathers was the great-great-grandson of Te Hapuku, chief of Ngai Te Whatuiapiti and Ngati Rangikoianake.

Aunty Sylvia befriended my mother, daughter of Grandfather Fred and Grandmother Galloping Gertie, when she was still single and working at the Te Aute Hotel.

Before I came along.

Sheepshit

Day Whatever + 7 😎

Passed by this mid-sized carefully coiffured dog taking her mid-sized carefully coiffured huwoman for a walk. Looked as though they’d both been to the same expensive hairdresser. We call the female of her species a bitch. So what might they call the female of our species.

Dangerous territory. Let’s not go there Ross. But you did didn’t you, you dopey bugger.

73 cars at New World. And it looked as though the curve might have been trending downward. Goes to show that you really can’t draw valid conclusions from limited datasets.

A truck and a car at Mobil. A truck at BP and a tanker again, delivering fuel. Going to need more data to populate this dataset before some of us can draw invalid conclusions even.

No one at the Pharmacy. A youngish woman waiting for the dairy to open so she could get her nicotine fix. She was definitely a smoker. This ex-smoker being smugly judgemental.

And so to today’s theme. Sheepshit.

What? I said it for you.

You already know that I grew up in a shearing gang. Us and the cousins of varying degree plus a few others. We referred to ourselves as the “Gang”. This was long before we fell into line and called ourselves “Whanau”. Well, we always were whanau but you know, we were the gang. A tightly knit work bubble gang.

The background odour to my childhood and teenage years was the sweet smell of sheepshit. Grass fed sheepshit.

And we worked on farms during the off-season. One job from an early age was helping to dock the lambs. Unlike the pelleted sheepshit of the adult, this was immersion in the sweeter smell of runny milk fed lambshit. Juvenile sheepshit as it were.

We kids raised orphaned lambs. Everyone did. The smell of lambshit at the back door. We didn’t consider them pets and give them names. If we did give them a name it would have been “Christmas Dinner”.

I suppose I was in and around the shearing shed from about the age of 10. Spent most of the Christmas holidays at the shed. Drew a good wage from about 12. At some point I became a member of the Shearers & Shedhands Union. Left the gang at 18 and joined the Army. For my first four years in the service I would go home on Christmas leave and head for the shed. Was still a member of the Union. Had the Brass known that they had a Red in the bed they might have had something to say.

In Australia during that time I had nothing to do with sheep. Other than during Christmas leave back home. Except that the Australians used to refer to us as sheepshaggers, and they had an endless repertoire of sheepshagger jokes. It was the pot calling the kettle black actually.

After all, listen carefully to the lyrics of “Waltzing Matilda”. I’m convinced it’s really an ode to a sheepshagger.

I’ve got this superb sheepshagger joke though, that totally turns the tables on any Australian that indulges in sheepshagger tales in my presence. It’s only mildly crude so I might tell it to you one day. Not today though.

After I was comissioned I left the shed and the smell of sheepshit behind me except for occasional visits to catch up with the folks back home. Until my dad died. I flew home from Singapore to see him off, then took a few weeks leave to help tidy up his affairs. I didn’t tell the Brass that meant taking the gang back out to the shed to finish the shearing run for the season. That was pretty much my last experience of the sweet smell of sheepshit.

“The Green Green Grass of Home” is running though my head at the moment for some reason.

That was until I moved to Dannevirke two years ago. Why Dannevirke? Well, it’s where my dad was raised by his grandmother, it’s half way to everywhere, in the middle of my many hapu / tribes, the house prices were good, and it was time to move back home to sheepshit heaven.

I knew I was back home almost from the moment I arrived.

State Highway 2 runs straight through the middle of town. Trucks of all types and cargoes rumble down the main street on a regular basis. Including lots of sheep trucks, leaving behind them wafting along the street the lingering sweet odour of sheepshit. Any day of the week, except Mondays when the cafes are closed, you can sit at a pavement table outside a cafe drinking a soy hot chocolate with the sweet aroma of sheepshit up your nose.

I told you. Sheepshit Heaven.

Even during lockdown. Well, not at a cafe any more, but the sheeptrucks are still rolling, only not as many as before. One went by when I was outside the dairy this morning.

In the absence of sufficiently populated datasets at New World and at the petrol stations, the sweet smell of sheepshit is as good an indicator as any of the economic health of rural Tararua. It ain’t as sweet as it was but it’s still working..

Who in his right mind would write a discourse on sheepshit.

The Easter Bunny

Day Whatever + 6

I missed my grocery pickup from New World yesterday. They had a bit of a snafu over the weekend and have rescheduled me for 2.30pm today, touch wood.

Great to see that yesterday Jacinda Adern declared the Easter Bunny to be an essential worker, but there are no Easter eggs in my order. There are a few dark chocolates though. Looking forward to an after dinner chocolate tonight, with my McGuigan Zero alcohol-free Shiraz. Or maybe an Edenvale alcohol-free Shiraz. Wonderful to have choice in the Season of Lockdown.

E hoa ma, do you know why the Easter Bunny brings Easter eggs wrapped in brightly coloured foil?

Well. Let me tell you. No bullshit. This is the true story.

In springtime in Europe, around about Easter time, hares gather together in open grassy fields for their annual ritual of courtship and mating, to put it politely. What would it be like if we did it only once a year?

Anyway, the Jack Hares compete with each other for the favours of the Jill Hares. Such is the strength of their lust that when humans venture into the same fields randy Jack Hare stands his ground. He’s not going anywhere. Not for anything.

And from time immemorial those human interlopers noticed that the hares were often seen standing alongside nests of coloured or variegated eggs. Those naïve folk put the two together (correlation) and concluded that the hares laid the eggs. Don’t scoff too soon. Because today we celebrate Easter with bunnies, and chocolate eggs wrapped in coloured foil.

The alternative and real explanation (or confounding factor in scientific terms) is that at springtime in Europe the lapwing lays its eggs in nests on the ground in those very same fields. The lapwing doesn’t stand its ground when humans come canoodling or whatever, but quietly disappears, leaving its eggs to be seen in the care of hares (or rabbits if you don’t know the difference).

We celebrate a tradition based on faulty reasoning about cause and effect, confusing correlation with causation. The transposition of rabbits and hares is another matter, probably to do with marketing. Easter Hares. I don’t think so.

Why don’t you tell the kids that the Easter Bunny tradition actually celebrates the fornication of hares. No. On second thought tell them it’s about the lovemaking of bunnies. That’ll make a good lockdown story to keep them amused.

Of course we adults see that correlation is not causation. Blind Freddy can see that the bloody hares don’t lay the eggs.

But Blind Freddy and most everyone else does confuse corrrelation with causation. All the time. Like vaccines cause autism. Like 5G causes cancers. And COVID-19 infection. Like windmills cause the birds to die (that one from the Cockwomble-in-Chief in the White House). Like COVID-19 causes street sign vandalism (that one from some mad lockdown scribbler).

I saw a family of three out today wearing Hi-Vis. Yep. Hi-Vis protects against the virus because they haven’t got it.

The anti-vaxxers are going to be out in force when the scientists do create a vaccine for this one.

43 cars in the New World carpark this morning. A short queue. Could be the beginning of a trend but not enough data yet.

There were three people at the Four Square on High Street. Uncle Lui Paewai’s corner shop used to be on that site, a long long time ago. You know. Uncle Lui. The All Black.

Three people at the Pharmacy. The dairy wasn’t open already.

There were three cars at the Mobil petrol station and one at BP. Insufficient data to draw any conclusions yet.

But those instant experts out there are hard at it advising us of their expert conclusions drawn from bugger all data.

My roses are looking great.

Roses

Laughing My Way Round Dannevirke

Day Whatever + 5

Beautiful sunny morning in Dannevirke.

Couldn’t wait to get out the door. For some, walking out the door at the end of lockdown might be like getting out of prison.

Watched a video last night. My friend Tame Iti. Mentioned in passing that although his nine months in Waikeria Prison was good preparation for the lockdown, he’d much rather be in lockdown. I reckon. It’s all relative, as Albert Einstein might have said. Or might not.

Anyway. The sign at Waterloo and McPhee is still mangled. I suppose street sign maintenance is not an essential service. Pity that. Street sign maintenance is important.

A few more people on the street today.

Passed by one dude who was all covered up and wearing a mask. Maybe he thinks that you can catch COVID-19 from sunbeams. Or maybe he’s discovered that the ionising radiation of the sun can be dangerous, and that the non-ionising radiation from 5G towers is absolutely harmless.

Where the hell did that random loose thought come from?

Or perhaps he’s the street sign vandal responsibly covering up to prevent the spread of that virus.

I know, I know, I know, I hear you. You’re being a dopey bugger Ross. Well, one of the joys of life you know is allowing yourself to be a dopey bugger from time to time. Particularly in times like this. When you’re trying to think of something to write. But of course it’s really important to KNOW when you’re being a dopey bugger. That ability alone might disqualify you from becoming a politician you know.

Heading up a very small hill on Ruahine Street I passed this middle aged couple and dog. They were obviously not seasoned streetwalkers. Like me. For they were dressed like walkers in a hiking magazine. He had one hiking pole and she had two hiking poles. On the bloody paved street in town the dopey buggers, neither of them actually using the hiking poles to propel or steady themselves. But they looked the part, if only they’d been a few miles west in the Ruahine Ranges.

Then as I turned the corner onto Guy Street I came up behind a couple of middle aged guys walking and talking in formation, one in the middle of the footpath, the other out on the street itself. About four metres apart. Very carefully observing the correct social distance.

The one out on the street was dressed in shorts and T shirt. On the back of the T shirt were printed the words, “I didn’t do it”.

So I looked back to see if there was a turd in the middle of the street.

Satisfied that he wasn’t discarding infected faecal matter I joined the formation and completed the right triangle with the blunt end leading and me at the trailing sharp end. And so we progressed with me at a good fifteen metres social distance. Until I got sick of that and crossed the street and powered on past them.

Still wondering what it was that he claimed he didn’t do.

Quite a few dogs out this morning taking their humans for a walk. On leads of course. Responsibly. In these times when we are discovering that we humans (and huwomans) don’t actually rule the world, it might be time to question whether we domesticated the dog, or whether the dog domesticated us.

I didn’t dream that one up by myself. I read it somewhere a few years ago.

There was this one dog that looked exactly like his human.

Reminds me that a long time ago I tried to convince my children that the other animals invented zoos so that they could observe the human version.

One car at the BP petrol station, and a tanker delivering fuel. One young woman came out of the dairy on High Street with a bottle of Coke. Really. A corpulent young guy came out with a pack of cigarettes. At over $40 a pack I thought how glad I am that I gave it away on ANZAC Day 1983. Took me about 34 years to fully live up to Grandma Galloping Gertie’s advice about health.

Three people queueing at the Pharmacy. Two mobility scooters (and their drivers) on the street. Hadn’t seen them about since Day Whatever minus Whatever. A while ago, when there used to be lots of them on the street.

Only 42 cars in the New World carpark and three people in the queue. Seems like there might be a downturn in the curve. But of course one swallow does not a summer make.

Nor one dopey power walking scribbler a literary giant. But I enjoy it. And it keeps me sane. Mostly.

The Rhythm of the Crosscut Saw

Day Whatever + 4

Daylight saving over. Woke up an hour early. Or was that actually the same time but earlier. Time. An invention of humankind that doesn’t have much use in lockdown, except to drag out the boredom, if you’re inclined to boredom. As a septuagenarian I’m inclined to measure life by the passing of the seasons, this being the season of lockdown, although my garden says it’s Autumn.

But if you look across the millennia you’ll see that the seasons of Plague and Pestilence have long been with us, only not as regular and predictable as Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.

Today in the Coronavirus Chronicles. Musings on rhythm. No, not the rhythm family planning method. But the rhythm of lockdown. Mind you, the lockdown might require some careful family planning. It’s like living next to the railway isn’t it.

52 cars in the New World carpark this morning. A short queue. Sunday. Dairy closed. I might have been a bit early. Pharmacy closed. No cars at the petrol stations. Street signs intact. All’s well in Dannevirke.

Grandfather Fred, he who brought home the power walking war bride, was a bushman. Before and after WW1 he cut down trees for a living. He was a master of the crosscut saw. He taught me the rhythm of the crosscut saw, and the rhythm of the scythe. I was far too young to be of any use on my end of the saw, and dwarfed by the scythe, but he taught me that rhythm was the key, not muscle.

One day, when he was well into his 70’s, he arrived at my aunt’s place on his bicycle with his crosscut saw and axe, ready to help the son-in-law cut down and turn a big old tree into firewood. The uncle-in-law muttered under his breath that the old bugger would just be getting in the way, but they got to work.

At the end of the day the uncle-in-law was stuffed. Grandfather Fred had hardly raised a sweat, and he stood leaning on his crosscut saw in the middle of piles of firewood, with a wicked smile in his eye. He’d delivered to the son-in-law the same lesson he’d taught me years earlier. Rhythm, and a few other things besides.

Later I was to witness and learn the rhythm of other forms of labour. In the shearing shed, out on the fenceline, on the chain at the freezing works. Rhythm rather than muscle made the work easier and the working day flow on by. There was rhythm and harmony in the whole way our whanau shearing gang worked twelve hours a day, six days a week. But a few shearers in our gang were inclined to muscle their way through the long day. The best of them flowed through the day.

The crosscut saw and the shearing gang as metaphors for life.

There is rhythm in everything. The athlete in the zone has found her rhythm. The artist in the act of creation has found his rhythm. There is rhythm in the way of the soldier, the merchant, and the artisan. There is rhythm in the whole of life, and there is rhythm in the Void. Rhythm is everything. Disturbances in the rhythm are the source of much of the chaos in society.

We have been advised to establish routines in the lockdown. But more than that we need to find rhythm in the lockdown. The unconscious mind is hardwired to fiercely resist change and shifting from the rhythm of before COVID-19 and finding rhythm in the lockdown may not be easy for those inclined to muscle their way through life. It will not be easy for them after Lockdown either. The whole world is changing and we will need to change with it.

The pathogens are showing us that humankind is not the only musician in the band. We resisted that truth in our collective denial of climate change. There is no resisting the virus.The rhythm of our lives is being changed for us. Best we use the lockdown to find that rhythm.

An American colonel of my acquaintance once observed that I march like a drummer in a rock band.

Coronavirus and Street Sign Vandalism

Day Whatever + 3

First thing in the morning before making that decision to walk out the door I attend to my Te Karere Ipurangi (Maori News Online) Twitter feed (@Karere). It’s been going for 11 years and amalgamates news about and for Maori. As at today there are 3,747 followers, mostly in New Zealand but with quite a few international TwitterFolk.

This morning I noticed a new follower; a new member of my TwitterVolk. Magenta Gutenberg (@SnapperQuota). She (I think) describes herself (I think again) as a “German Kiwi” who is learning Te Reo, ” Kei te ako tonu au i te reo Māori”. But the thing that really caught my attention was the hashtag, #LandOfTheLongWhiteKraut. That brought a broad smile to the dial, and set me up for the rest of my day.

47 cars in the New World carpark this morning, and no queue outside. Not so many people on the streets.

Some time back, around the time that COVID-19 first appeared in New Zealand, I noticed that the street sign on the corner of Waterloo Street and McPhee Street had been vandalised and pulled out of the ground. The next day it had been moved a couple of blocks and left on the footpath. A few days later it was replaced and then later sawn down. It was erected again. This morning one of the street signs had been partially wrenched off the post and left danglng.

Which set me to wondering. Being well aware of course (unlike many of the instant COVID-19 experts) that scientifically speaking, correlation is not causation, I nevertheless wondered whether street sign vandalism might be a yet to be identified symptom of coronavirus infection. After all, it is no more ridiculous than most of the fake stuff and conspiracy theories on social media.

If so, there is as yet no evidence of community transmission, given that all the other street signs on my daily quest for health and fitness are still intact.

So it must have arrived from beyond our borders at Dannevirke, from Woodville or Norsewood perhaps. Maybe even from overseas, like the United States of Amerika. Which is a reasonable assumption. Over the last 30 or 40 years the world has been infected by many dangerous and ridiculous viral-like ideas that germinated in the USA. Like neoliberal dogma and practice. Like the quest to democratise the Middle East by creating ISIS. Like the Tii Paati virus that mutated into a Cockwomble-in-Chief in the White House. The Virus-in-Chief as it were.

But this COVID-19 virus is more powerful than any of the stuff that has come out of the USA and just goes to show that Trump’s Amerika is never going to be as great as the viruses and bacteria that really rule the world.

And while we wait patiently for relief from the grip of the virus I carefully inspect all the street signs for any indication of community transmission.

You all think I’ve come down with cabin fever don’t you.

Healthy Lungs, Healthy Hearts and Kapa Haka

Day Whatever + 2

I reckon if you don’t keep count of the days in lockdown the days pass much faster.

57 cars in the New World carpark this morning. No one at the pharmacy. No one at the dairy that has reopened on High Street. A few more walkers this morning including a few mothers walking the excess energy off their children. Fathers probably on the couch watching rugby replays.

So what was I thinking about on this morning’s constitutional? Healthy heart, healthy lungs and kapa haka.

On Day Whatever of these musings-in-public my (real) friend Robin Payne commented that I still need to write about Borneo. I’ll get to that Robin. Soon.

Robin was the Director of Toi Whakaari / NZ Drama School when I joined the board back in the 1990s sometime. Among her many dramatic talents is that of voice tutor. She is an outstanding voice tutor.

Watching her work, I remember back then being reminded of my own voice training in the military; being trained to throw our voices the length of a parade ground, and to pitch the voice above the noise of battle. You need strong healthy lungs to do that.

A few months ago I reconnected with Toi Whakaari at the invitation of the new director Tanea Heke. Tanea was a student when Robin & I were at Toi Whakaari. I was overjoyed to see her become Director. I spoke to her about kapa haka.

COVID-19 has put a stop to kapa haka regionals and has probably postponed the national competition, Te Matatini. But have you noticed that most performers at regionals and nationals have not been voice trained. Some of those groups are almost screeching. Quite a lot of those groups actually. They need professional voice training. It would make a tremendous difference – to borrow a superlative from the Cockwomble-in-Chief in the White House.

I remember once being blessed to be in an ope with Keri Kaa, Rose Pere and Tungia Baker as our kaikaranga. Those three deliberately started the karanga a good 500 metres before any others would, such was the power of their voices, coming from deep down in the puku, off the top of powerful diaphragms. It was an awe inspiring performance that I will remember for the rest of my days.

So I talked to Tanea about how she might become involved in kapa haka. Another string to the Toi Whakaari bow. By working with one or two kapa haka to train all of their voices to the same high standard achieved by our acting graduates. From such small beginnings the impact on performance at Te Matatini could be quite dramatic.

But the best results are gained by those with healthy lungs and healthy hearts. The best defences against COVID-19 and any future viral pandemic are healthy lungs and healthy hearts. Which finally explains the connection between my daily constitutional and random thoughts about Toi Whakaari and kapa haka.

And a wistful thought that maybe kapa haka could become the main health promoting vehicle for our people. Most everything else that has been tried hasn’t lived up to expectations. With our Pasifika cousins we’re still most at risk of death by virus.

Advice from my Grandmother about COVID-19 Bullshit

Day Whatever + 1

56 cars in the New World carpark this morning. You’ve discerned by now that one of my strange little lockdown routines is counting cars at the supermarket. Don’t scoff. We all have these odd little rituals and routines in our lives. You too. It’s an intrinsic part of the human condition.

The 10k walk you know is not only about exercise and health. Quite often i will arrive home with an essay or article fully composed and ready to be written. Like this morning. And yesterday of course.

Anyway. In July 2016 I presented testimony at a Waitangi Tribunal hearing concerning Maori and war service. I was debunking some of the mythology about our Vietnam service, mainly about Agent Orange. I mentioned in passing that I did not myself at that time have any medical, physical or mental ailments that could be attributed to Vietnam. Except for one.

The many Vietnam veterans present had read my Brief of Evidence and had unanimously diagnosed me as a pain in the arse. Tribunal member Dr Angela Ballara then suggested that I apply for a veteran’s disablement pension for the condition.

Over three years later I’m still seriously considering doing just that.

I’ve always been a pain in the arse, one way or another, and I blame it on my grandmother Galloping Gertie.

You see, when I lived with her in 1948/49 she told me lots of her stories and histories. Even at that young age I worked out that some of them were pure fantasy and were meant to entertain rather than educate, but mixed up in it were some serious lessons.

One that has stuck with me for the whole of my life is about bullshit. She told me that I should never believe anything I read in the newspapers, or heard on the radio, and that I should only believe half of that which I witnessed myself. It has led to a lifetime of fact checking, long before the era of the Cockwomble-in-Chief in the White House. Google it – go on !!!

I challenge opinions and beliefs and debunk mythologies, ancient and modern. I have variously been labelled a smartarse, a pain in the arse, a contrarian, a dissident, a sceptic, a non-conformist, and an iconoclast, among other not-so-nice things. Sir Wira Gardiner once called me the Thomas Paine of Maoridom, which says as much about his obsession with military history as it does about my obsession with knocking over icons. And other peoples’ opinions and beliefs.

It is said that opinions are like arseholes in that everyone has one. Some wit added however that unlike arseholes our opinions should be taken out regularly and subjected to close scrutiny. Changing our own opinions and beliefs in the light of new evidence is a tough call, but if one is inclined to challenge the opinions and beliefs of others then one ought to regularly inspect one’s own metaphorical arsehole.

Which finally leads me to the point of these musings.

Facebook, Messenger, Twitter, Tik Tok, Telegram, and every social media platform, are all being inundated with instant experts, false prophets, conspiracy theorists, confabulating commentators, meme generators, and just ordinary people who pick up on it and pass it around. I take my advice from Jacinda Adern and Dr Ashley Bloomfield, who take their advice from their teams of experts, and in the face of every instant expert demanding more of this and more of that, have to balance what is desirable with what is possible, and to determine how to do it within what timeframe.

As Galloping Gertie taught, we should not believe anything we read in the newspapers, or hear on the radio, and only believe half of that which we witness ourselves. Without checking the facts. She would have added TV and social media of course.

By the way. I neglected to tell you that Grandmother Gert lived by the sea. and that over the Ditch the West Islanders have memorialised her in a little song that they sing all the time. Listen carefully. to my grandmother’s song.

Power Walking the Lockdown With Galloping Gertie

Day Whatever.

They say we need to adopt a lockdown routine. I patrol the neighbourhood.

So. At 7.30 each morning I’m out the door for my 10k power walk around the neighbourhood. Walking out the door is the hardest part of a 10k power walk. Our grandmother Gertrude was a power walker. Walked everywhere. She would stride off to the shops about two miles away at a great rate of knots. She was known affectionately to everyone in her Hawke’s Bay village as “Galloping Gertie” or “Goldrush Gert”. I must have inherited my power walking from her.

Along with a bit of hayfever. The whole Nicholls/Kemsley clan inherited asthma, eczema or hayfever from Gertrude’s father Frederick Kemsley in England. Called in at the Pharmacy on my way home this morning to get some anti-histamine.

So. Out walking, cops on patrol don’t seem concerned that a Septuagenarian is loose on the streets. Streets are mostly deserted. Seems that Dannevirkians are studiously avoiding the Exercise bug as well as the Covid-19 virus.

I caught the Health bug from my grandmother as well. Touch wood. She instilled in me from the tender age of 5 that my most precious asset would always be my health. She grew up in England in the perilous times before disinfectants, antiseptics, antibiotics and vaccines. And hand washing and social distancing.

50 cars in the New World carpark at 8.30 this morning. Long queue waiting outside. Ordered my food and groceries online yesterday. Long lead times though. Delivery about 9 days. Pickup about 6 days. Opted for pickup with mask and gloves between 5 and 6pm on Monday 6th.

Not urgent anyway. Got plenty of vegan kai in my pantry.

Onwards. Old folk in their cars queueing at the hospital for their influenza vaccination. Better get mine soon.

April 1st. Not long before ANZAC Day. Maybe on April 25th I’ll put on the medals and beret and power march the daily 10k. Stop on the way at the Cenotaph to lay a poppy in remembrance of the grandfather who came home from the Great War with a war bride – Galloping Gertie.

Hobson’s Pledge

Extract: “Te Putatara”, 2/90, February 1990.

“He iwi tahi tatou”


“The change of plan caught Hobson by surprise. He was summoned ashore late in the morning, arriving in plain clothes, having hastily snatched up his plumed hat. Several hundred Maori were waiting for him in the marquee and more stood around outside. Only Busby and a few Europeans had turned up, among them the Catholic Bishop Pompallier.”


“The signing went ahead. Busby called each chief by name from a list he had. It was probably Williams who told Hobson to try a few words in Maori. When each chief had signed, Hobson shook hands with him and said, “He iwi tahi tatou.”

– Claudia Orange, extracts from “The Story of a Treaty”, 1989.


“He iwi tahi tatou – We are one people.” This, the oft quoted version of Hobsons choice of words, is the most commonly accepted, although at least one Maori oral version records that he actually said, “Kua iwi kotahi tatou.” Others say that the words were “He iwi kotahi tatou.” All mean the same thing, “we are one people”, but the differing versions do point to the possibility that they are all wrong.


The most common version, quoted above by Claudia Orange, was recorded by William Colenso (who was present at the signing) in “The Authentic and Genuine History of the Signing of the Treaty of Waitangi”, Wellington, 1890. However, I have always wondered whether this was just a missionary fiction, designed to strengthen their efforts to bring all Maori under the mantle of the Christian church; whether in fact Hobson didnt say something much more mundane.


Since 1840, tauiwi have used Hobsons alleged choice of words to justify their contention that we are “one nation, one people.” “He iwi tahi tatou” has been used to justify both assimilation and integration, and the aim has always been to eradicate Maori culture. Today the same call is taken up by the One New Zealand Foundation, and by others such as Sir Robert the Jones, Sir Robert the Great Muldoon, Hon Peter Tapsell and Mr Winston Peters.


Well, I was right about those words. Te Putatara has now discovered new evidence, recorded by a founding member of the kumara vine who was present at the signing on 6 February 1840. Our man was close to the action and heard every word. E hoa ma, this is what really happened.


As Hone Heke stepped up to sign the Treaty he pointed to Hobsons plumed hat and he said, “Mr Governor, thats a fine chook you wear on your head!”


Quick as flash Hobson said, “Thats no chook mate. Those are genuine kiwi feathers. Te kiwi tuatahi ahau.”


Yes he did. “Im the Number 1 Kiwi.” Nothing at all about this “one people” rubbish. Hika ma!


And thats why, e hoa ma, to this very day, Pakeha New Zealanders still call themselves “KIWIS”. You know, it always puzzled me why they were called Kiwis. Now we know eh.

Should Maori Policy be Targeted or Universal? From Whanau Ora to a Universal Basic Income.

Looking back, five years ago on Boxing Day 2013 I wrote:

For poor and struggling Maori Christmases come and go with monotonous regularity marking neither change nor advancement in their lives but just the passing of another 365 days of struggle and the prospect of another 365 days exactly the same. For most of them the past is the present and the present is the future.

“They are the ones described in “Duino Elegies” by the Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke as the “disinherited ones to whom neither the past nor the future belongs”.

Nothing much has changed.

In previous essays on Maori policy I have decried the narrow focus of Maori policy of the last few decades, specifically its focus on cultural and language revival, and on settlements and business development through neo-tribal organisation, at the expense of policy designed to lift all Maori out of the quagmire of poverty and inequality that still entraps large numbers of Maori at the bottom of the socio-economic heap.

I have advocated that the makers of Maori policy focus instead on the much wider national macro- and micro-economic policy settings that actually determine the place of our people in society, and that have worked against the narrow Maori policy settings of the last thirty-plus years. And in focusing on the political economy I have made a case for a moral underpinning of economic policy, and for mana tangata to be enshrined as the pou tokomanawa of all national economic policy. People first. He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

I have been ambivalent about the Whanau Ora programme currently under review, having in my lived experience seen some 60 years of targeted Maori policy and programmes come and go without much long lasting and overall effect for all Maori. I commented that I expected Whanau Ora to go the way of all such programmes, to Programme Heaven.

From the website of Te Puni Kokiri we learn that:

“Whānau Ora is an approach that supports whānau and families to achieve their aspirations in life. It places whānau at the centre of decision making and supports them to build a more prosperous future.

“Whānau Ora is about increasing the wellbeing of individuals in the context of their whānau, it is whānau-centred. It differs from traditional social and health approaches that focus solely on the needs of individuals.

“Whānau ora recognises the strengths and abilities that exist within whānau and aims to support and develop opportunities that fulfill potential.

“The whānau-centred approach:

  • starts by asking whānau and families what they want to achieve for themselves, and then responding to those aspirations in order to realise whānau potential
  • provides flexible support for whānau and families to move beyond crisis into identifying and achieving medium and long-term goals for sustained change
  • focuses on relationships, self-determination and capability building for whānau to achieve positive long-term outcomes
  • uses a joined up approach that focuses on all factors relevant to whānau wellness, including economic, cultural, environmental factors, as well as social factors
  • recognise that each whānau has a different set of circumstances, and what works well for one whānau does not work well for other whānau
  • recognises that whānau and families have skills, knowledge and experiences that contribute to their own resilience, and can provide a platform for whānau and families to become more self-managing and independent.”

That is pretty much a cut-down version of classic community development principles aimed not at community but instead at just one of the building blocks of community; whanau. It misses the point of community development, in that the whole community needs to be developed. The institutions of community are equally important in the development process, as those institutions need themselves to adapt and develop their policies and practices in response to the self-identified aspirations and goals of whanau. And to the aspirations and goals of the whole of the community they serve. Those institutions are both non-governmental organisations, and the institutions of central and local government. And thus we are led inevitably and inexorably back to the policies within which those institutions function, primarily to economic policy.

Whanau Ora is not a policy. It is a programme. What Whanau Ora is doing is enabling some whanau to make some headway in the existing policy environment. It seems that it has also generated an economic dividend for some who don’t need it. It is not about designing and implementing policy settings that will change and improve the total living environment for all Maori.

For that is a challenge more universal in its vision, aims and objectives.

The challenge is to acknowledge, actively promote, and celebrate the mana of all New Zealanders; a social justice challenge. To create policy for the greater good of the greatest number, including the greatest number of Maori.

The challenge is to eradicate poverty, especially child poverty. The challenge is to significantly reduce the extremes of inequality, both income inequality and wealth inequality; to create a more egalitarian society for all, Maori and non-Maori.

And in so doing to promote equal access to quality housing, health and education. With subsidiary aims of reducing crime and imprisonment.

The first step is to eradicate poverty.

We were promised, over thirty years ago, that the now discredited neoliberal policy agenda of the radical Labour and National governments (1984-1999) would create wealth that would trickle down to all, and that the rising tide would lift all boats. Instead it lifted about 10% of the boats, some much higher than others, and at least 50% of waka Maori were left bottomed on the mudflats. It was a rising tide of inequality.

Is there a universal policy tide that will lift all boats?

Well, we already have one. We need look no further than New Zealand Superannuation which is paid to all New Zealanders over the age of 65 regardless of status, income and wealth. There is a slight anomaly that needs fixing, regarding marital status and gender equality. However, since the concept was introduced in 1938 it has largely solved the problem of poverty of the aged. That 80-year trial of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) for old folk seems to have been quite successful.

We used to have a UBI for children – the Family Benefit that was paid from 1946 to 1985, paid to the mother, for all children up to the age of 16, or 18 for those still in education. That worked too. Then it was replaced with targeted benefits as part of the benefit slashing and beneficiary bashing of the neoliberal ideologues.

We now have a plethora of targeted benefits that don’t work. The increased incidence of poverty and homelessness, and all other indicators of an uncaring society bear testament to that assertion. It can be traced directly back to the benefit slashing and beneficiary bashing brought on by Minister of Finance Ruth Richardson’s 1991 “Mother of all Budgets” and by her “Ruthanasia” economic reforms. The targeted benefit system stigmatises beneficiaries instead of recognising their mana, and the inherent dignity of every person. It criminalises those who cheat the system in order to live. And it creates an administrative and compliance regime that is huge, unwieldy, costly, and that robs beneficiaries of their dignity. It has done nothing to eradicate poverty, and to reduce inequality. It has instead embedded poverty and inequality.

It panders to the bigotry of those who look down upon the less fortunate, and who blame them for their own misfortune. It functions alongside a tax system that taxes the income of all (except those who are already wealthy and able to evade taxation), that regressively taxes the consumption of all (GST), the burden falling most heavily upon those who can least afford it, and tax-exempts the wealth and rent seeking of the fortunate. Together the targeted benefit system and the targeted tax system prop up the structural inequality that maintains the privileged position of the fortunate few.

The proponents of the system of targeted benefits piously pretend that it builds a caring safety net. It is uncaring and robs people of their dignity. Takahi mana.

The reinstatement of a Universal Basic Income for children (previously the Family Benefit), and the introduction of a Universal Basic Income for all adults aged 16 to 64 would change all that. It would in one step raise all waka on a rising tide, begin to deal to poverty, begin to deal to inequality, and have significant downstream effect. It would remove the stigma of the beneficiary label and begin to restore the mana of present day beneficiaries.

And it would mostly disestablish the costly and much loathed administration and compliance apparatus.

How to pay for it? Apart from wiping out most of the costs of administration and compliance, that’s where the tax system comes into play. Perce Harpham has proposed a 33% flat tax regime that tax exempts those most in need, and progressively recoups the UBI payout from those who don’t need it. Additionally he and The Opportunities Party have both proposed forms of Asset Tax that aim to reduce wealth inequality and to help pay for a Universal Basic Income.

The targeted benefit and taxation regimes currently embed poverty, income inequality and wealth inequality into New Zealand society. A Universal Basic Income system and a new taxation regime can begin to reverse that situation.

Is it sustainable? It has to be. Faced with the uncertainty of paid employment in the digital age and gig economy, and in the developing age of automation and robotics, alongside the looming climate crisis, we have to move towards a political economy that aims to equitably share the national income and wealth, regardless of employment status. The alternative is widespread unrest, disruption and chaos. We will also need innovative new ideas about how to create a national income and national wealth that will sustain the whole nation. New ideas have always been the basis of progress. Old ideas that don’t work are for discarding. Ka pu te ruha.

Aiming far beyond the limiting confines of targeted Maori policy this is universal policy that will lift all waka. And begin to restore the mana of our people. Particularly those who can only gaze through the windows at the Boxing Day sales.

Boxing Day 2018.

See also “Economic Review of the Status of Beneficiaries in NZ” by Gail E. Duncan

Tomorrow’s Schools Yesterday.

Rigged policy and a shocking abuse of power.

So we’re finally getting an overhaul of a failed neoliberal education policy (“2018: System review ofTomorrow’s Schools – 2018 Tomorrow’s SchoolsTaskforce Report”).

It was rigged policy anyway.

“The Government sought a response to the [Picot Task Force] report both from the general public and from educationalists. The Associate Minister of Education and other colleagues joined me in conducting a series of inquiries throughout the country. More than 20,000 responses to the report have been studied.

“The need for reform was generally accepted.”

  • David Lange, “Tomorrows’ Schools: The Reform of Education Administration in New Zealand”, August 1988.

That was a lie.

Following the 1988 Picot Report a nationwide consultation process was carried out. But the report of that process was ignored. The Tomorrow’s Schools policy had already been written before the consultations were complete, analysed and reported. 20,000 responses indeed. It was sham consultation.

In 1986/87 I had engaged a communications company to measure attitudes and opinions in a range of community and government sectors about a sometimes controversial programme I was running.  A senior consultant whom I shall call “Peter”did the work and I was impressed by his professionalism. I later engaged him to tutor me through the principles and practices of his profession, and to teach me as much as he could over a long weekend. We discovered that in a previous life as an intelligence analyst I had employed those same principles and practices as part of the military intelligence process. We got a lot done in a single long weekend. He was very good.

We became friends.

The Picot Task Force report “Administering for Excellence” was published in April 1988. New government policy was published as “Tomorrow’sSchools” in August 1988. There was so much neoliberal policy reformation going on at the time that I did not take much notice.

Until Peter turned up on my doorstep; agitated, depressed, and extremely frightened.

His company had been engaged by Government to advise and participate in the consultation or inquiry process following the Picot Report. Peter was the lead consultant on that contract. The cause of his extreme anxiety was that he had the evidence that the inquiry process had been totally ignored, that he had expressed his concerns about that, that it was thought he might turn whistle-blower, and that the Government had thrown the full weight of the State at him to frighten him into silence. It worked. The Government and his company also tried to recover any evidence he might still have had in his possession.

He ran to me, as the one person he thought he could trust, other than his wife. That was partly because I’m Maori, and partly because I was known to be a critic of government policy making, and not easily intimidated. He actually said he didn’t know any Pakeha he could trust to support him against the government machine. I supported him through an alarming abuse of state power over the next weeks and months.

His company had summarily dismissed him, repossessed his company car, and tried to retrieve any evidence he might have kept. He was fitted up with false criminal accusations and was confronted, searched and interrogated by the Police Fraud Squad over a period of weeks. His wife was also subjected to that attention. Either his company or the Government had hired a former policeman turned private detective to investigate him. It seemed to me that was intended to further intimidate him.

The private detective eventually turned up on my doorstep. I invited him in and he tried to interrogate me about Peter. Instead, he got severely grilled about why he was intimidating my friend. He did not enjoy the experience.

Eventually the intimidation and harassment subsided without any charges being laid but it was a terrifying experience for Peter and for his wife for the month or two that it lasted. And it achieved its purpose. They moved away and started a new life out of the limelight.

And for the next thirty years we lived with a policy based purely on predetermined ideology. I served on school boards of trustees under that policy.

And Peter quietly disappeared from sight.

I got a Google Home for Christmas

A personal journey in technology.

Google Home:

  • I can tell the thing to play whatever music I want to listen to, streamed from Spotify, and even tell it to play it through my home theatre sound system.
  • I can ask it how old Lorde is.
  • Or whether the nearest supermarket or café is open.
  • Or where I can buy a new smartphone of a particular make and model.
  • And loads of other shit.

My son told me about these things a few months ago when he was thinking of getting one. But I looked at it and asked myself why I needed something like that, unless I get senile and can’t do all those things for myself, like doing a Google search on the computer, or tablet, or phone.

I was also concerned in this age of the Internet-of-Things about new technology that might be able to be hacked and used to eavesdrop. I wasn’t going to buy one. But now I’ve got one.

We’ve come a long way.

I was born in 1943 and for the first five years of my life we lived on a farm in the coastal hills of Hawkes Bay, miles from civilisation. We didn’t have electricity, or any of the things that ran on electricity, like electric light. But we did have a valve radio that ran off a 12V car battery. We didn’t have a telephone, or a car. None of the workers on the station had a car. My dad had a horse. On summer weekends all the families would pile onto the only motor vehicle, the farm truck, and head off to the beach for swimming and a picnic. That was fun.

When I was five I went to live with my grandparents who lived only a couple of miles from a school, just a short walk away for a five year old. I lived with them for about fifteen months. They were only about six or seven miles from both Napier and Hastings but they didn’t have electricity either. Or a radio. Or a telephone. Or a car. My grandfather had a bicycle and he was well known for biking for hours to get to where he was going. He biked four miles to work every day, eight miles a day. My grandmother was a power walker who would storm off two or three miles down the road to catch a bus to get to where she wanted to go.

My parents must have missed me because they moved into civilisation, or near enough, still out in the country. We were country people through and through. But we were just a couple of hundred yards from a country school. We still had a horse paddock at the school because half the kids rode to school. We didn’t have a school bus. Not even for the Pakeha kids.

And we had electricity and a telephone. But the phone was on a party line and you could guarantee that all the kids in a five or six mile radius would be listening to your conversations. We had electric light and electric hot water and the old radio now ran on electricity. But we didn’t have any other appliances like a washing machine or vacuum cleaner. The washing machine and vacuum cleaner came later, much later. Our mother did all of her cooking on the big old coal range until she finally got a small electric stove in the pantry to do some of her baking. The small stuff. Rather than firing up the big old coal range. And we got a car, an old 1937 Chevrolet coupe. We were technologically advanced at last. Nearly.

Mum didn’t need a vacuum cleaner. She just banned all cats and dogs from the house, and banned all boots and shoes. She banned all the men she didn’t like too. Standard country stuff. Mind you she loved her vacuum cleaner when she got one years later. We upgraded the car to an old Chevrolet sedan quite a few years later when the family outgrew the coupe.

But I was proficient in using country technology. My grandfather taught me to use a scythe and a sickle and a crosscut saw. He’d been a bushman in his younger days and even in his seventies could still cut down and cut up trees faster than men half his age, before the invention of the chainsaw. My father made sure I was proficient with a spade, shovel, rake, lawn mower, hedge clippers, hammer, saw, and all that stuff. Including the fence building and shearing shed stuff. Country technology included the all-purpose knife we all carried, the shotgun and the rifle. Ducks and rabbits and possums, and deer and pigs, you know.

That was it until I left home to join the Army when I left school. That brought on a technology revolution in my life. Well, I’d already used rifles and machine guns and wireless sets in the school cadet unit, but this was full on weapons and technology. I did that stuff for twenty years.

I did my training for a few years in Australia. That meant my first flight. I think it was the first flight anyone in my whanau and hapu had taken. When I got there in 1962 I discovered TV. They had TV in the barracks – black and white – we few New Zealanders were mesmerised by it.

Anyway, I became proficient in the use of HF and VHF wireless/radio and how to erect aerials to get communications out of out-of-the-way places, like deep in a South East Asian jungle. I think the main technology in the jungle was the boots, pack and rifle, and the radio. Carrying the heavy spare radio batteries was a pain. The world was moving on and in 1968 I did my first computer programming course as part of an Army mobilisation plan we were aiming to shift onto a mainframe computer at a university. About the same time I bought a very expensive state of the art electronic calculator. Wonderful new technology. It cut a lot of time and effort out of some work. Today much more calculating capability is a small part of every phone.

In 1970 I went back on attachment to Australia for a few years and got to work with a mainframe computer. Not me personally, but to use it to make short work of a lot of what we were doing. With its card readers and storage and printers and other peripherals it filled the basement. Today much more than that basement full of computing power is in my pocket.

By the late 1970s my technology had grown. Whereas in the mid to late 1960s I had one or two radio operators carrying my radios, I now had two, three and sometimes four radio operators carrying my radios through the jungle. But they were the same radios we had used in the mid to late 1960s.

It wasn’t until 1980 that the Army got a facsimile machine. We had one at our HQ in Wellington, but only the operator was allowed to use it. It was a big old, clunky old thing too. Well brand new actually. But clunky.

So I left the Army and in 1982 got a desktop computer. In my last few years in the Army I hung out for desktop computers to seriously cut back on the paper work we had to do, but they didn’t get them before I left. After I left the Army I taught myself to use a PC and computerised the management and finances at a place I worked for a couple of years. I’ve had a computer on my home desk ever since 1982. I remember when I bought an 8Mb RAM card to upgrade the memory on my first desktop, and when I got 64Mb of hard disk. This laptop is running 4Gb of RAM and 500Gb of hard disk storage. There’s another 14Tb of storage on the desk. And it’s an old laptop.

Back in the day we had Chief Clerks and hoards of filing clerks to keep track of the paper, and we had typists’ pools to create all that paper. The head typiste was the gatekeeper to happiness and if you displeased her your work got pushed to the bottom of the pile and you got into trouble for not meeting your deadlines. True happiness was doing your own typing, and keeping only electronic files. Your electronic messages were handwritten, then passed to the Communications Centre where they typed up your message and sent it electronically on the Telex. SMS is great. Depending on the classification of those messages they might be encrypted by the operators before they were sent. Messages sent by WhatsApp, Signal, Wikr, Telegraph and Facebook Messenger are all encrypted these days. Straight off your phone.

!n 1986 Sir Wira Gardiner and I were contracted to the Board of Maori Affairs working alongside the Department of Maori Affairs and running a new programme. I had the only desktop computer in Maori Affairs. It caused a bit of a stir. They had a mainframe computer but you had to be one of the IT elite to use it; never for mundane day-to-day stuff. Then we decided we needed a fax machine. Maori Affairs didn’t have one. They communicated by telephone mostly, and by letter and telegram.

Remember the telegram?

We asked Maori Affairs for a fax. They said no. So off we went and leased one from the Post Office, and put it onto the Maori Affairs telephone account. They spent a fortune on telephone calls so we figured no-one would notice fax hire and fax calls. They never did. But we had no-one to send faxes to. So we started sending faxes to Maori Trust Boards and heaps of other organisations via the Post Office Bureaufax service. The fax would say “please ring so-and-so on such-and-such a number and ask him or her to call and pick up a fax”. We sent them far and wide. And very soon they all started buying their own fax machines. We sent faxes to all the Maori Affairs districts and they started asking Head Office if they could have fax machines. Head Office said “absolutely not” so the districts went out and bought them anyway. Soon Head Office was the only office in the Department without a fax. So we started getting faxes for Head Office on our machine. We’d read them of course and take a copy of the interesting ones before passing them across the road. Then Head Office staff started coming across the road to send their faxes. We’d read them of course and take a copy of the interesting ones. Some of the so-called “Maori Loans Affair” scandal of December 1968 passed across our fax machine.

Well, soon I got a call from the private secretary to the Minister for Maori Affairs, Koro Wetere. He said the minister wants a fax machine. I said ask Parliamentary Services or Maori Affairs. He’d asked them and they both said absolutely not. So off I went and leased one from the Post Office and booked it up to Maori Affairs. They never noticed that one either. Then I told everyone what Koro’s fax number was so the whole of Te Ao Maori could fax him direct. And they did.

Remember the fax machine?

Then the Board of Maori Affairs asked me to oversee the installation of a PC network, in one of the sections of Maori Affairs Head Office. The opposition from the IT department and from senior management was huge. But we got in the experts and built the first PC network in Maori affairs. It was magic.

A couple or more years later Wira Gardiner became CEO of the Iwi Transition Agency (Te Tira Ahu Iwi). I’d long since stopped working alongside or with Maori Affairs. Anyway in his first week on the job he rang me from his office (the old Maori Affairs) on a Sunday. He said how do I get into this PC network. I said I’m no longer authorised. He said you built it, how do I get in. So I relented and he was logged in in no time at all.

It must have been in the late 1980s or 1990 when I got my first cellphone, a Motorola Brick. It cost a fortune, had a short talk-time and took forever to charge. But it was magic. I was on the road a lot and my kids could call me wherever I was, and I would never miss a call from a business client. It was clunky though and I carried it in a small kete one of our whanaunga had woven for me.

The Brick

That’s twenty seven years ago. I’ve had dozens of mobile phones in that time, including a lot of Blackberries. I got a Blackberry as soon as they came on the market in New Zealand. Now into Android though, and interestingly, the current phone is a Motorola Moto G, the same make as my very first phone. That computer and communications device in my pocket has more computing power than a 1970 mainframe, and more communications power than I ever had in the military, which functions on communications networks.

The Internet came on stream. I hooked up to the Net about 1994 or 95. Got into email, and chat rooms. We chatted in chat rooms or on bulletin boards, or in the Use Groups. Remember those? Course you don’t.

The World Wide Web had been invented but it took the development of the browser to make it available to the ordinary user. I used the Web without a browser and was glad when Netscape arrived to make browsing easy. Then I noticed that there were hardly any Maori online, and that Maori stories and news were being appropriated and told through a Pakeha lens. That pissed me off.

So I went on a crusade to challenge all of those purporting to tell Maori stories, and built the first Maori website at www.maaori.com . It’s still there although I haven’t written any new stuff for ages. And I started Te Whanau Ipurangi / Maori Internet Society and built a few other websites and started a few other online initiatives.

Me and my small group of Maori Netizens were the first Maori into a lot of the social media, just having an ihu, watching as more and more Maori came online and subscribed to the various offerings.

Now in 2018 the Internet is old hat, email is old hat (none of my mokopuna use it), the World Wide Web is old hat, hardly anyone builds their own websites any more, social media stuff is getting to be old hat. President Trump governs via Twitter and the media sucks it up.

We’ve got solar panels on the roof, broadband to the home, we check what’s happening on the roof over the Internet; we’ve got wifi, satnav built into the car, a phone and tablet full of apps, online shopping, electric cars, portable bluetooth speakers, smart TVs, Fitbit things, VOIP telephones, VPNs, and all the rest. Coming at you is the Internet-of-Things; fridges and stoves and dishwashers and light bulbs and home security systems and teddy bears, all connected to the Internet. All with lousy security and easily hackable.

We’ve got mass surveillance by governments and corporations, and breaches of privacy, and identity theft, and online scams and fraud, and cyber-bullying, and a whole lot more besides.

But I wouldn’t be without my technology. And I do use the secure Tor browser, end-to-end secure cloud storage, end-to-end encrypted email, and end-to-end encrypted messaging and voice.

Now I’ve got Google Home waiting for me to say “Hey Google, stop eavesdropping”.

Operation 8: The NZ Police Intelligence “Analysts”

The two NZ Police officers at the centre of the Operation 8 intelligence gathering and analysis were Detective Inspector Bruce Good and Detective Sergeant Aaron Pascoe.

Detective Inspector Bruce Good

Bruce Good retired in April 2016 after leading the Auckland Metro Crime & Operational Services (AMCOS) in Auckland, that became the Organised and Financial Crime Agency New Zealand (OFCANZ), and is now the National Organised Crime Group. Good spent forty years in the Police, the last sixteen in orgqanised crime units.

Former Police Association President Greg O’Connor wrote this about Good’s retirement on 11th April 2016:

“Bruce is one of four long-serving, high-ranking detectives who will leave in the next couple of months. Those departures would appear to signal a change in the traditional investigative approach. History will judge the wisdom of the new direction.”

Hinting perhaps that Good was moved along for one reason or another.

In his role at AMCOS good oversaw the work of Aaron Pascoe in the Auckland Special Intelligence Group (SIG).

Detective Sergeant Phil Le Compte also worked for him at AMCOS. Le Compte was obliquely involved in Operation 8.

Detective Sergeant Aaron Pascoe

Aaron Pascoe was the lead “analyst” for Operation 8. He has since been promoted to Detective Inspector and has drawn some adverse comment about his activities.

Sergeant Phil Le Compte, formerly Detective Sergeant

Phil Le Compte features in the Operation 8 series. Shortly after Operation 8 he was moved back into uniform and sent to the Far North.

Read the complete Operation 8 series

 

Silly Bugger Kiwi

A few days ago I watched a You Tube video of the 2015 Kea World Class New Zealander Awards where Helen Clark won the supreme award. Right from the beginning some of these “world class” New Zealanders were calling themselves “Kiwis”, over and over and over again. To me it sounded absolutely ridiculous. World class silly buggers more like it.

And at a wedding recently an Australian guest thought he had offended me when I told him I was a New Zealander, not a Kiwi. It was a conversation stopper but he was just being friendly. I suppose I ought to be kinder to Australians who don’t know better. New Zealanders though, world class or otherwise, deserve my opprobrium.

I’ve been doing it for years now. I do it all the time, regardless, just a gentle rebuke to those who compare me to a nocturnal, flightless and fat-arsed dumb little bird with a sticky beak. Or perhaps to an egg-shaped furry little greeny-brown fruit that used to be called a Chinese gooseberry back in the dark ages when I was a child.

I’m an oddity. One of a minority it seems who doesn’t appreciate being likened to a ridiculous bird, or to a minor ingredient in my breakfast smoothie (fruit, greenery, herbs, nuts, flaxseed oil, coconut yoghurt, spirulina, turmeric, ginger, lecithin, water and ice cubes – in case you’re interested). I’m a Maori vegan oddity as well. Or a vegan Maori oddity.

It’s probably the Maori heritage in me that gets me going on about being called Kiwi. I’m not so vegan that I object to being called Kiwi out of political correctness.

For me it’s about whakapapa or genealogy. You see, I’m tangata Maori, a Maori person. I’m not manu Maori, a Maori bird. Nowhere in my extensive whakapapa going back over thirty generations and across multiple lines into multiple hapu or tribes can I find a single bird let alone a kiwi bird. Try as I might, not one. There are a lot of distinguished rangatira or chiefs in that whakapapa and not one of them is a bird. Or even a foreign fruit. Strictly speaking my early ancestors were indeed foreigners who migrated here from Eastern Polynesia. But colloquially they would have been called coconuts perhaps, rather than Chinese gooseberries.

But I can see why most New Zealanders don’t mind being called Kiwi, and even describe themselves as Kiwi. It’s easy to understand. There’s a simple explanation. They’re silly buggers. New Zealanders are silly buggers. Except for me. And my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

On the other hand, in this highly urbanised society more and more divorced from the natural world where heaps of people don’t know that milk comes from a cow’s tit and bacon is pig’s bum, maybe they just don’t realise any more that a Kiwi is actually a flightless, nocturnal, fat-arsed and dumb little bird with a sticky beak. Mind you there seem to be a lot more fat-arsed dumb New Zealanders with sticky beaks around these days. Maybe the distinction between New Zealanders and Kiwis is not as great as when I was growing up and being taught the difference. Maybe there’s a genetic evolution in New Zealanders towards fat-arsed dumb bird-persons. I think I’d rather my descendants became intelligent fruit.

Nah. I agree with you. That’s all a bit far-fetched. I think I’ll stick with the silly bugger explanation.

Which sort of leads me to the inevitable conclusion that my forebears in the New Zealand military were silly buggers. Don’t get me wrong they were soldiers not bears, and there were a lot more than four of them (in case you’re getting confused) but they did originate this silly Kiwi stuff. In the Boer War and then in World War I a New Zealand regiment and then all New Zealand forces adopted the kiwi as their regimental then national logo.

Don’t ask me why. It defies logic. Who in their right mind would choose a nocturnal, flightless, fat-arsed and dumb little bird with a sticky beak to represent New Zealand’s finest? Some stupid bloody staff officer for sure. Or perhaps it just started as a joke in the workshops and a vehicle mechanic or a sign writer with a sense of humour painted a kiwi on the staff officer’s car. In these more liberal days it would be a likeness of the officer’s head shaped like another part of his anatomy.

Now I can vouch for the fact that military vehicle mechanics and sign writers have a sense of humour. All of the Australian vehicles in Vietnam had a small red kangaroo painted on the door. Overnight they all had white kiwis painted on them, mounted on the red kangaroo, in flagrante delicto. True story.

And you never know, that staff officer might have had style and a sense of humour himself. He might have turned a soldier’s mockery into a national symbol and had the last laugh. He’d still be laughing in his grave. Maybe the whole bloody New Zealand Expeditionary Force was in on the joke. Surely the flower of New Zealand’s manhood didn’t seriously compare themselves to nocturnal, flightless, fat-arsed and dumb little birds with sticky beaks. Or to a Chinese gooseberry.

Anyway, New Zealand soldiers used to be called Maorilanders, EnZedders, Fernleavers (after a badge they wore), Diggers and Pig Islanders, but by about 1917 they were being called Kiwis and were calling themselves Kiwis. The original silly buggers were our WW1 heroes. It didn’t take long to catch on and by the time the war ended in 1918 all New Zealand soldiers were being called Kiwis. I suppose it was better than Pig Islanders.

By the way did you notice that we used to be called “Diggers” too, until the Aussies stole it, like Pavlova and Phar Lap and Crowded House and Jo Bjelke-Petersen.

Then sports teams picked up on it and pretty soon all those silly New Zealanders were calling themselves Kiwis. Except for my grandfather, and my father, and me. In fact, growing up in Ngati Whatuiapiti I never once heard anyone refer to themselves as Kiwi. I guess we all knew we were tangata persons not manu birds. Either that or there were no silly buggers in Ngati Whatuiapiti. Which is stretching credulity a little. Believe me.

For me it’s about mana – dignity, self-respect, mutual respect, prestige even. In Ngati Whatuiapiti we all descend from our illustrious tipuna (ancestor) Te Whatuiapiti; the red-haired one who won many military and economic battles, regained the lands stolen from his father and grandfather, and held off marauders from the North trying to take them again, without doubt Hawke’s Bay’s most outstanding leader, warrior and statesman, ever. We bask in the inherited glow of his mana. None of us descend from Kiwi. Ours is mana tangata not mana manu. Ngati Kiwi is some other tribe, a tribe for silly buggers who think of themselves as nocturnal, flightless, fat-arsed dumb little birds with sticky beaks. Or Chinese gooseberries.

I didn’t get called Kiwi until I left school, took leave of Ngati Whatuiapiti, joined Ngati Tumatauenga (NZ Army), and went off to Australia for officer training. There we were called Kiwi and Pig Islander and a whole lot more besides, including “Shaky Islander” which I didn’t mind. We were also called “Sheepshagger” which I did mind of course, although I did quietly admire the sheer audacity of the pot calling the kettle black. The inventiveness of Australian nomenclature has never ceased to amaze me. Yet somehow they have avoided being called Kangaroos or Wallabies or Dingos or Wombats or Galahs or Cockatoos or Dingbats. Except for their sports teams and their politicians of course. “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie” seems to satisfy their sense of nationality. “Oi, oi, oi” their finely tuned sense of the ridiculous.

Aussie. I suppose if I had to choose between “Newzie” and “Kiwi” I’d have to go with “Kiwi”, much as I hate to say it. “Newzie, Newzie, Newzie”? Nah. The bloody Australians would laugh us out of the stadium.

I served in the New Zealand Army for twenty years “Under the Kiwi” as it were. I have to admit it. I wore a hat badge with a kiwi on it for most of those twenty years, and I’ve still got my cravat that we wore when we deployed to Vietnam in 1967; a black cravat with a small white kiwi that I never wear any more, not for decades. And I’ve still got a very artistic kiwi lapel pin that I never wear any more, not for decades. I used to wear them once upon a while ago.

A sense of humour goes a long way in the military. A joke in the form of a nocturnal, flightless, fat-arsed dumb little bird with a sticky beak is the legacy of my military forebears.

What does it say about the Royal New Zealand Air Force that they still sport a kiwi in the middle of their RNZAF badge and in the middle of the roundels on their aircraft. Silly buggers. Or are they just perpetuating the joke. My beloved Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment still sports the kiwi in the badge. That’s OK though because they’re not silly buggers; they’re good jokers.

That’s all behind me now. But I suppose a film about my own life might be called “Once Were Silly Bugger”. Ah well. I’m definitely a New Zealander now; Ngati Whatuiapiti and New Zealander. I’ve returned to my roots and there ain’t no kiwi there. Just a few stray pukeko running across the road into the swamp.

So don’t you dare call me “Kiwi” you silly bugger you. Or “Pukeko”.

He Tangata – Maori Policy, Economics & Moral Philosophy

The Moral Challenge to the Status Quo and to Neo-liberal Theology

The slogan “It’s the economy, stupid” coined during President Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 election campaign perfectly describes Maori policy that would deliver for all Maori people.

By “economy” I don’t mean the grandiose idea of the “Maori economy” or the mythical “iwi economy”. I mean the real economy.

I have been writing that the national economy ought to be the primary concern of Maori policy makers, because of its crucial impact on the wellbeing and livelihoods of all Maori especially the poor and the unemployed, the disenfranchised and the disinherited. I’ve approached that economic theme from different angles in these four essays.

The Maori Worldview & Maori Policy
Perspectives of time, small prophecy and Maori policy
Draining the Swamp – Some Fundamentals for Maori Policy Makers
Challenging the Status Quo. A Call to Reengage in the Struggle.

Twelve months ago in full flight writing this series I was like all of the activists and the Maori policy establishment; economically under-endowed. Understanding the need to focus on the national economy in Maori policy was one thing. Understanding just how national economic policy might better serve the needs of all Maori was something else again. Thus began a long hard journey into economic theory.

For it is hard work. This essay is a start and it will be hard work too. I promise.

Too much of our activism focuses on issues which are symptoms not causes. TPPA is a case in point; a serious symptom but a symptom nonetheless. We need to focus on the underlying cause, the current political and economic paradigm, and that is going to be hard work. Focusing on the symptoms is the easy way forward, and in the long run the least effective. We’ve been doing that for the last thirty years while macroeconomic policy and practice has totally undermined all of the supposed gains in Maori policy. In theory and in practice we have to make the connection between economics and Maori policy.

So I’m still reading political economy with a lot more knowledge but I’m probably not much wiser. It’s a truism that the more you know the more you realise how much you don’t know. Which can be frustrating. But the political economy is too important in our lives to be left to politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, economists and the media. An early realisation was that politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, economists and the media don’t know much about economics either.

Which is not to say that economists don’t know about economics. The trouble is that there are widely differing economic theories and even the economists can’t agree on what theories to apply in what economic circumstances, or even what causes the different economic conditions in which they might apply the economic remedies they can’t agree on. Let alone predict those economic conditions. And there are economists who can’t agree with themselves (on the one hand this, on the other hand that). “Give me a one-handed economist”, famously said US President Harry S. Truman.

Sometimes the political and economic debate can get quite heated and it is almost always decided by vested interest and ideology. What usually happens is that between the economist and the politician they get it arse about face and apply the wrong remedies at the wrong time, or the right remedies at the wrong time, or the wrong remedies at the right time. You know what I mean; we rarely get the right remedy at the right time.

The question is “How does one grasp the essentials of economic theory and practice and apply that knowledge to Maori policy?”

It’s a tough one. Enlightenment is not easy to come by. I was early on reminded of the long standoff between science and religion. In economics the two come together. Economics seems to me to be a pursuit sometimes but not always intellectual and conceived as science, and in its application almost always religious and practised as dogma. Additionally economists seem determined to avoid incorporating human nature into economic theory preferring instead the easy path of assuming that all humans will act rationally and according to the concept of Homo Economicus. It is a study of human behaviour without the encumbrance of human nature.

Now I’ve read economists who “prove” that all economic decisions are rational decisions even if the makers of those decisions don’t realise it or understand the rationale behind their decisions. The proofs can be quite convincing. But I’m inclined to think that these are ex post facto rationalisations; rationalising the irrational after the event. Humankind is extraordinarily gifted in that regard; even economists.

These are important lessons for the maker of Maori policy, even before we begin to grapple with economic theory. We are not alone in our ignorance and we should never bow to those who claim expertise, especially not to the politician who is usually the least expert among us.

Enlightenment burst upon me from out of left field in a recent book by James Lovelock, independent scientist and inventor, and the originator with the late Lyn Margolis, of the concept of Gaia describing Earth as a living ecosystem. In one of his latest books “A Rough Ride to the Future” he wrote about climate change. He caused me to realise that none of us has the answers, certainly not the politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen and media, and not even the economists.

Lovelock wrote that twenty years ago climate scientists had after much research uncovered so much about atmospheric climate that they thought their mathematical computer models were quite reliable. Then about ten years ago they realised that they needed to know a lot more about oceanic climate and the huge effects that oceans have on climate. Today the computer models incorporate all they now know about the oceans but still they are deficient. Now they have to research and incorporate into their models as much data as they can about the huge influence of the biosphere on climate, the influence of all living things including the bacteria.

Climate scientists are still at the point where they don’t know it all. They know a lot more than everyone else including all those political, religious and corporate climate change deniers but they still don’t know it all, or even enough to guarantee that their models and predictions are reliable. That’s science.

Human activity has some influence on climate and some of it is undoubtedly negative and causing some degree of worrying climate change. But nevertheless the main influences are the Sun and the Moon, the solar system, the greater Universe, the land mass, the atmosphere, the oceans and the sum total of the biosphere. These main influences are relatively stable over enormous periods of time with disturbances in the Force from time to time, measured in thousands and millions of years.

By comparison the global economy and our national economy are entirely human constructs, enormously unstable and unpredictable and affected daily by the economic decisions of seven billion humans, and the self-interested decisions of hundreds of governments and hundreds of thousands of corporations, not to mention the modern economic plague – an electronic herd daily placing billions of bets in the gigantic casinos that are the global capital and commodities marketplaces. Once bastions of financial conservatism the banks are now active participants in the global casino. Trust and morality have evaporated.

I suspect that as the technological revolution exponentially increases the pace of change in all human affairs the economic theorists are being left further and further behind, applying theories that applied to past events against a barely understandable present and a totally unpredictable future. The growth of the new BRIC super-economies of China, India, Russia and Brazil is adding little-understood and daily unfolding complexity to the global economy. When China sniffs we all sneeze. So how can anyone possibly understand it all or build a computer model of the economy that is even 50% reliable. They can’t and they don’t.

I am of course being terribly unkind to economists. We know that the future is increasingly unknowable and unpredictable and that the future now comes upon us at a pace unimaginable just fifty years ago. Yet we expect economists to act as a modern caste of oracle or soothsayer and to predict it for us. We may as well consult the horoscope. Except in hindsight no one anticipates mystical disturbances in the Force like the 2008 global financial crisis and other greater and lesser crises, like for instance depressions, recessions, bubbles and the raising and lowering of oil prices by OPEC, or the increase or decrease of supply by Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately many economists (and too many politicians) try to live up to our irrational expectations of them and try, whether from hubris or ignorance, to don the mantle of oracle, soothsayer or prophet.

Treasury produces forecasts based on enormously complex but ultimately unreliable computer modelling attempting to predict the outcome of different policy choices, and governments act on the forecasts. These are mathematical models lacking animation by human nature, and ethical or moral moderation; lacking also the randomness and chance of the events that shape our lives, including economic events. And in truth all macroeconomic forecasts venture into the realm of prophecy. In producing his (and maybe her) annual budgets the Treasurer is acting as fortune teller, or more commonly as the fortune teller’s stage assistant. The prophecies are typically about the next four or five years but we focus only on the current year and don’t actually notice that the longer term prophetic forecasts are usually just a mathematical wish list of hogwash.

It’s an annual exercise in pulling the wool over the eyes of the electorate; buying the votes that matter and for the rest of us creating a semblance of economic mastery, for we are inclined to vote for those who are able to subliminally convince us of their economic credentials where none exist. In reality we just muddle through from year to year and scramble to deal with disturbances in the Force. A bit like life in general.

Meanwhile economists keep searching on their quest for the holy grail of economics; a rational explanation for economic and business cycles and a theory that will allow them to be predicted, and hopefully make budgets a scientific pursuit. Mystical disturbances in the Force might be a more useful thesis. The mystical has served us well ever since the dawn of civilisation and there are still identifiable traces of mysticism in much economic theorising. The “invisible hand of the market” is the most well-known mystical belief, much revered in neo-liberal metaphysics. “Homo Economicus” is a mystical construct. Money itself is not about the value of the paper it is printed on or the metal in the coin, but is a matter of trust, of belief and faith in the value of exchange that it represents.

With such widespread faith in metaphysical belief little wonder that “money” has achieved the status of a god, and in this day and age “market” is not far behind.

Escaping from the abstract back to the material, in this globalising and technology driven economic environment transnational corporations have usurped and continue to usurp the economic functions of nation states and to evade any obligation to the nation state; notably taxation. Totally motivated by profit they care nothing for the health of national economies or the wellbeing of the people. Neither do they yet have any regard for the health of the soil, the water, the air, or the planet. They are ungovernable by national governments, democratic and otherwise. Thus is global business and the global economy ungovernable, and becoming increasingly so, by anyone. Most nation states are already in the position where they can only manoeuvre in response to forces beyond their control.

In New Zealand’s case perhaps it was always so despite the aura of expertise and control our politicians like to project.

The secret Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) is disguised as a free trade agreement but is more likely a strategic plank in America’s attempts to shore up its global dominance in the face of an increasingly powerful Chinese economy, accompanied by increasing Chinese economic, diplomatic and military reach. A large part of the US economic strategy seems to be based on gaining for US corporations much more legal, political and economic power within the TPPA and similar agreements. The US seems to be trying to counter centralised Chinese economic power with globally distributed US corporate power and by handing economic governance to the corporates. As a plank in the projection of global economic power the TPPA and many similar US initiated agreements sit alongside America’s continuing global projection of military power to control the oceans, space and cyberspace, and the now infamous “Five Eyes” projection of global surveillance.

Concealing these imperial geopolitical aims from us our New Zealand negotiators promise economic benefits but as always the US will attend to its own interests first and foremost regardless of what is promised in any agreement. It can be 100% guaranteed that none of our negotiators really knows the consequences of TPPA. The benefits are about hope rather than certainty. Much like economic theory itself. The proclaimed economic benefits of the TPPA are based on economic modelling that has been shown to be deeply flawed but if a model “proves” what its proponents want it to prove then it becomes infallible. The unintended economic and other consequences of TPPA await us.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions”

So. Does anyone really understand the economy, and does anyone really know how to control what happens in our national economy?

    The politician and economist is like a person at the oars of a raft in white water – there is no control, only expert or inexpert attempts to steer, mostly inexpert. The river is in control”. (Richard Manning, “Against the Grain”).

Tossed about on this wild river we must try to steer our way into policy that benefits all New Zealanders and in our case, all Maori. To extend the metaphor we are reminded of the navigators of old setting sail across vast oceans. Those intrepid wayfinders found certainty in the stars they steered by. We too should have clear and certain stars to guide us. A good place to start is with Adam Smith, the “grandfather” of modern economics and one of its original steersmen.

Before I started this odyssey into the theory and practice of political economy I already knew that almost everyone who quoted Adam Smith had never read let alone studied Adam Smith. That is especially so of politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen and the media but also surprisingly or not, of economists. He is most quoted these days in support of neo-liberal ideology. His almost throwaway remark about the “invisible hand” is much quoted to validate theories about the free market or market liberalism. His “Wealth of Nations” is his only work ever quoted in an economic context. If we are to challenge the orthodoxy of these times we need to get to know Adam Smith.

Adam Smith and the Enlightenment

Adam Smith (1723 – 1790) was first and foremost one of the intellectual leaders of the 18th Century British Enlightenment which unlike the French and the American Enlightenments emphasised the sociology of virtue rather than the ideology of reason (France) or the politics of liberty (USA). There was however considerable crossover of ideas between the three of them and other centres of Enlightenment thought including Germany.

The Enlightenment has been many things to many philosophers but it might be described as a project to achieve a condition in which human beings think for themselves rather than in accordance with the dictates of authority such as tradition and religion, or princes and priests. It championed the use of reason in the moral and practical affairs of humankind. It displaced the ruling and property owning classes of the 17th & 18th Centuries and brought forth a number of institutions including:

    • Representative democracy;
    • Legal systems protecting the rights of individuals;
    • Free market economy; and
    • Public education.

Enlightenment thinkers applied reason to the study of moral philosophy, seeking the nature and content of moral rules in reason rather than in the authority of tradition and religion. Among them were Locke, Hume, Diderot, Bentham, Robespierre, Jefferson and Kant.

Adam Smith was one of them; a moral philosopher. His earlier work is his “Theory of Moral Sentiments” which he himself regarded as his major work and which he continued to revise long after the publication of “Wealth of Nations“, his much misquoted treatise on political economy.

Adam Smith clearly believed that the practice of economic management had both intellectual and moral dimensions. The economic Master of the 20th Century, John Maynard Keynes, was also absolutely firm in that belief.

In our own time it is clear that the global economic downturn following the near collapse of the global economy in 2008-2009 is fundamentally due to both intellectual and moral failure; that is to the failure of the economic theories of the times themselves devoid of moral context.

The Morality of Power

In this essay we shall explore the moral dimension as it relates to the political economy. The broader study of moral philosophy is highly intellectual and highly technical and could give us a headache trying to get to grips with it; so we won’t try. Well I won’t anyway.

The intellectual dimension of the political economy will be the subject of the next essays in this series.

In my previous essay “Challenging the Power Elite and Challenging the Status Quo” I called for us “to commit again to the struggle to challenge the status quo and to break the political, social and economic paradigm that consigns so many of our people to the serried ranks of the disenfranchised and disinherited”.

The first challenge is to the legitimacy of the power that maintains that paradigm. The power elite must be challenged to justify their power and their use of it. Does it serve the interests of the disenfranchised and disinherited. Does it serve the interests of society, of the future or the environment. But the most fundamental challenge is this – what is the moral justification for the possession of that power and the policies it spurns.

What follows is a (fairly) long exploration of moral philosophy in relation to the political economy. Its primary focus is on one of the absolutes of modern economics; the theory of the invisible hand of self-interest guiding market perfection and in determining all economic behaviour.

The Sociology of Virtue

The core thinking in the British Enlightenment was variously described as the promotion of moral sense, moral sentiments, social affections or social virtues. Those virtues included benevolence, pity, sympathy, compassion and “fellow-feeling”. That period has been described as “The Age of Benevolence” and “New Humanitarianism”. Those attitudes that were not considered virtuous included self-affection, self-love, self-interest and self-good. This was the thinking of the “grandfather” of economics, Adam Smith.

It espoused the concept of the greatest good for the greatest number and contained within it the seeds of egalitarianism that later came to be thought a quintessential part of the New Zealand character.

The Enlightenment and Enlightenment thinking led to the abolition of slavery, to many social reforms, and to an age of philanthropy. Economics was itself one of the pinnacles of Enlightenment thought.

It also gave rise to an era of world-wide evangelism. Enlightenment theologians refashioned beliefs as a solution to the religious dogmatism and intolerance of previous centuries. They espoused rational theology, moderation and reason. The Church Missionary Society (CMS) which evangelised in early New Zealand was a product of the Enlightenment. Apart from its evangelical mission the CMS was dedicated to giving practical form to both the religious and secular moral philosophy of the British Enlightenment.

Education for the poor became part of the Enlightenment mission. This too found its way to New Zealand expressed in a different context in the early establishment of schools for Maori by the churches and state. That of course included Te Aute College in 1854, established on Enlightenment principles, both religious and secular.

Captain James Cook, Joseph Banks, Samuel Marsden, Thomas Kendall, William Colenso, Octavious Hadfield, Henry Williams, William Williams, Edward Gibbon Wakefield and many other settlers, colonisers and missionaries were all influenced by the Enlightenment and Enlightenment thinking.

Adam Smith’s “Moral Sentiments” was one of the main influences of his own time and into the New Zealand colonial period. In the last year of his life, some years after his text “Wealth of Nations” on the political economy was published, he revised “Moral Sentiments”. He added a final chapter entitled “Of the Corruption of Our Moral Sentiments, Which is Occasioned by This Disposition to Admire the Rich and Great, and to Despise or Neglect Persons of Poor and Mean Condition“.

He wrote:

    “Hence it is that to feel much for others and little for ourselves, that to restrain our selfish and to indulge our benevolent affections, constitutes the perfection of human nature“.

He also wrote:

    “The rich and the great are too often preferred to the wise and the virtuous”.

He seems to be describing our own times.

This Adam Smith was no neo-liberal economist but his writings are often quoted totally out of context to add lustre to neo-liberal theology. He was a promoter of the free market but not totally unrestrained markets. His markets were those constrained by moral sentiments.

In Adam Smith’s time the economy and business was subject to the sort of moral constraint that the moral philosophers advocated. Today all of those restraints have gone and with them the true import of the type of economy that Adam Smith described in “Wealth of Nations“. His economic analysis and his key economic assumptions remain at the core of microeconomic theory today but the context has changed totally.

The important first principle of Adam Smith’s thinking on the political economy is that he understood economics to be a subset of moral philosophy. Adam Smith understood economics to be a subset of moral philosophy.

So the challenge and the message to the power elite is that if you choose to privilege self-interest over the common good you won’t find your justification in Adam Smith no matter how hard you try.

And try they do. Would you believe that when the University of Chicago published a bicentennial edition of “The Wealth of Nations” they distorted the original text because Adam Smith was actually strongly opposed to all of the stuff the neoliberals spout in his name. The introduction to that “scholarly” text is opposed to Smith’s original text on many points. A whole passage of the original text on the division of labour was simply deleted. The University of Chicago is the birthplace of modern supply side and neo-liberal economics.

The moral philosophy underlying any economic policy, theory and practice is something we can all readily understand. It’s not rocket science. It is a debate in which we can all equally participate. It should therefore be at the centre of all public debate and public policy formation. All of the rest of it is technical mumbo jumbo most often deployed to confuse the public and to give the appearance of expertise. The mumbo jumbo is deployed also to conceal the real moral philosophy in economic practice, or indeed the lack of moral philosophy.

In public policy first we define (or neglect to define) our moral principles and goals (or lack thereof) then we reach for the requisite social, political and economic tools to achieve our moral (or other) purpose.

The start point then in economic and Maori policy is to clearly define a moral philosophy on which policy is built. We need to shift the debate from the techniques of economic management to what it is supposed to achieve.

The moral philosophy of Adam Smith and other thinkers of the British Enlightenment had a profound effect on New Zealand society in general and on Maori society as well. As we have seen the Church Missionary Society and its clerical and lay missions to the colonies including New Zealand were heavily influenced by British Enlightenment thinking. So too were many of the earlier government officials. That thinking led to a gentler colonisation of New Zealand than had occurred in earlier colonisations. Like all sets of principles, values, morals and ethics it was often breached in practice but nevertheless that thinking did to a significant extent moderate colonial practice. It would have been much worse in an earlier time. One has only to look across the ditch to Australia to appreciate that.

The Williams family of clergymen and Enlightenment thinkers included Archdeacon Samuel Williams who founded Te Aute College in 1854. John Thornton who was its headmaster for about 24 years (1878 – 1912) and who was similarly influenced by the Enlightenment had an enormous influence on the thinking of a whole generation of Maori leadership (Apirana Ngata, Te Rangi Hiroa, Reweti Kohere, Tutere Wi Repa, Maui Pomare, Edward Ellison and others) while they were at school and afterwards. Their “Association for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Maori Race” was a classic Enlightenment project. It later morphed into “Te Aute College Students Association” and then into the “Young Maori Party”.

Thus it was that Adam Smith and other Enlightenment thinkers indirectly influenced a whole generation of ground breaking Maori leadership. And you thought they were influenced entirely by tikanga Maori?

John Maynard Keynes (1883 – 1946)

Keynes was the economic master of the first half of the 20th Century at about the time when the Maori protégés of Williams and Thornton were making their mark on New Zealand and Maori society. His “Keynesian” legacy lasted for some twenty years after his death until displaced by the present neo-classical or neo-liberal orthodoxy. We will leave an exploration of his economic theories and impact until the next essay(s). However he is an important figure in our present study of the moral dimension of political economy.

John Keynes studied political economy under Alfred Marshall at Cambridge University. Marshall (1822 – 1924) was a classical economist and his “Principles of Economics” set the stage for 20th Century economics until the theories of Keynes. Marshall was also grounded in philosophy and ethics and wrote:

    Ethical forces are among those the economist has to take account”.

Keynes did not think of himself as an economist but rather as a moral philosopher with a practical bent and a mission to forge economic practices that promoted the common good. He was not as many think a socialist but was a capitalist and investor with a moral conscience. He was one of the most brilliant minds of his time, admired even by the immensely clever philosopher Lord Bertrand Russell.

He was enormously influenced by the philosophy of G.E.Moore, a contemporary of Bertrand Russell and with Russell one of the leading 20th Century analytic philosophers. Moore wrote and taught at Cambridge University, where Keynes was educated and where he lived and taught for the rest of his life when he wasn’t in London, Versailles or Washington advising governments on economic policy.

Keynes was many things other than an economist and capitalist with a social conscience. He was a member of the London based “Bloomsbury Set” which challenged the status quo, the traditions and standards of their times some forty years before the cultural revolution of the 1960s. He mixed with writers, poets and artists and brought a creativity and flexibility of mind to his work in economic theory and practice.

But underlying it all was his intellectual base in the moral philosophy of G.E.Moore. In that respect he was not unlike Adam Smith although his ideas broke away from Smith’s classical economics.

Virtue Ethics

There are a diverse range of approaches and equally diverse theoretical constructs within the broad study of moral philosophy. Both Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes can in some ways be seen as part of the whakapapa of the modern branch of moral philosophy known as virtue ethics. It is this intellectual stream that we will tap into in our present exploration of the moral dimension of the political economy and Maori policy.

Stating it very simply virtue ethics is about “rightness” and about how one should lead one’s whole life including the economic life. It has deep historical roots in Western society especially in the thinking of Aristotle. In many ways it can be seen as compatible with the deep historical roots of the virtues in Maori society. Later in the essay we will explore a Maori moral dimension along the same lines.

Alisdair MacIntyre is a key figure in the field of virtue ethics.

In 1981 he wrote “After Virtue” widely considered to be one of the most important works of moral and political philosophy in the 20th Century. He thought that the Enlightenment project, in rejecting the old and espousing the new had led ultimately to the rejection of moral rationality altogether by many subsequent influential thinkers. His aim was to revive the idea of the virtues espoused by Aristotle, updated for the modern context, for he contends that all modern attempts to construct moral philosophy are in one way or another dependant on Aristotle.

According to MacIntyre moral disputes take place between rival traditions of thought that we have inherited from the distant past. Our moral ideas of today have an intellectual whakapapa and to understand why we think the way we do we need to understand that whakapapa.

MacIntyre begins with the question about what comprises a good human life, a question the ancient Greeks grappled with. Before Aristotle Homeric values emphasised competition whereas Athenian values prized cooperation, the one being the basis of an heroic individualistic society and the other a society based on the common good. Heir to those influences, Aristotle sought to define a society based on the virtues.

On another parallel whakapapa line the two strands of teaching of the scriptures and of Plato were integrated into the Augustinian view of Christianity. Later still Thomas Aquinas merged the Augustinian and Aristotelian into what became the theological and intellectual basis of modern Christianity. Still later Calvin and the Enlightenment thinkers such as Hume and Smith, according to MacIntyre, by breaking continuity with the ideas of the past opened the way for what eventually became today’s liberal individualism.

In that sense whilst Adam Smith did not himself espouse liberal individualism he may well have unwittingly helped pave the way for its eventual dominance.

Two hundred years ago that whakapapa of ideas collided and slowly merged with the Maori concept of society, morality and virtue. It was of course a society in which the collective was privileged above the individual and although it has rapidly evolved alongside and sometimes within the other the key concepts need not be subsumed.

Few people in the policy domain really understand where their ideas and ideology originated and for the maker of Maori policy, seeking to challenge the status quo, knowing why people think the way they do is an important intellectual weapon. For in challenging the status quo we are challenging ideas and ideology. In that respect the work of MacIntyre in moral and political philosophy is instructive. This brief explanation barely touches the sweep of his ideas but serves to introduce him in the context of moral philosophy and Maori policy and to bring Aristotle into our exploration of the moral dimension of the political economy.

We should know why we think the way we do. Most of this essay is an attempt to answer the question about why some of us privilege self-interest and some of us the commons.

A Scientific Dimension
Neuroscience

In science there are developing new lines of thought on the moral dimension. In fact many scientific researchers are turning to the moral philosophy of Adam Smith in “Moral Sentiments” to provide a contextual understanding of their laboratory experiments.

    “Experimental economists have discovered that people often act from a variety of motives, including self-interest, benevolence and justice. Neuroscientists have also discovered a mirror neuron network in the brain that mimics fellow feeling, and the hormone oxytocin associated with emotional bonding. These discoveries provide evidence for Adam Smith’s moral sentiments theory.”(Jonathon Wright, 2015, “Ethics in Economics, An Introduction to Moral Frameworks“).

We should watch closely the evolution of this line of inquiry.

Socio-biology – The Evolution of the Social & Moral Dimension

As well as neuroscience there is another new stream of interesting scientific research. The writings of Edward O. Wilson in social biology or socio-biology are particularly interesting and relevant, specifically his “The Social Conquest of Earth“.

E.O.Wilson’s ideas are not universally accepted or popular and are vehemently opposed by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, author of “The Selfish Gene”. This is essentially an intellectual duel between two Darwinists and evolutionists, the one (Dawkins) promoting genetic and individual evolution and the other (Wilson) proposing co-evolution, both genetic and social evolution, individual and group evolution, or multi-level evolution.

Nevertheless Wilson does provide us with some useful ideas on which we might base our moral philosophy. In his theory about the origin of morality in answer to the age old question about whether mankind is innately good but corruptible by the forces of evil, or innately wicked but redeemable by the forces of good, he proposes that we are both. This dilemma of good and evil was created by the process of multi-level evolution in which:

    “Individual selection and group selection act together on the one individual but largely in opposition to each other. Individual selection is the competition for survival and reproduction among members of the same group. It shapes instincts in each member that are fundamentally selfish with reference to other members. In contrast, group selection consists of competition between societies, both through direct conflict and in differential competence in exploiting the environment. Group selection shapes instincts that tend to make individuals altruistic toward one another (but not towards members of other groups). Individual selection is responsible for much of what we call sin, while group selection is responsible for the greater part of virtue. Together they have created the conflict between the poorer and better angels of our nature“.

In bringing together research in molecular genetics, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, archaeology, ecology, social psychology and history into a theory of social evolution. he proposes that Homo sapiens is a “eusocial” species, in which group members containing multiple generations are “prone to perform altruistic acts as part of their division of labour” and bonding within the group is based on cooperation. Nevertheless evolutionary selection at the group or social level is based on altruism, cooperation, competition, domination, reciprocity, defection and deceit. We are all of us both selfish and selfless, a balance of altruism and self-interest. We are as individuals prone to sin and as cooperating groups given to virtue; part saint and part sinner.

According to Wilson it was group selection that catapulted our species to its present advanced state of civilisation compared to all other species. We are therefore genetically inclined to seek membership of a group or groups whether they be tribal, religious, sporting, vocational and many other groupings, and to act in the best interests of the group. The only precept that appears in all organised religions is the altruistic Golden Rule; “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you“, or variations on the same theme.

He states that the iron rule in genetic and social evolution is that “selfish individuals will always beat altruistic individuals, but that groups of altruists will always beat groups of selfish individuals”.

In sociobiological terms we evolved selfishly and altruistically into tribal and hapu societies both in the Old World and in Aotearoa New Zealand. In those societies there was competition for status and reproductive rights but group cohesion and solidarity was paramount in the eternal struggle against other tribes or hapu for dominance and resources. In the Old World after the agricultural revolution and with more plentiful supplies of food larger societies evolved and about 5000 to 7000 years ago religion and government arose to impose social control and political harmony on those larger societies. Wilson saw organised religion as an expression of the earlier tribalism. That situation persists although the British Enlightenment and its ideas about the sociology of virtue loosened religious dominance and reformed political practice.

In Aotearoa New Zealand the hapu and its tikanga predominated until the arrival of the Old World, its religion, its government and its relatively recent Enlightenment ideas.

Morality as social cohesion and control can be traced through that evolutionary path to the present day. Except that over the last thirty years the trail has become less well signposted. But we need to be clear about our moral philosophy as the foundation of policy.

In forming a moral philosophy for today and for today’s policy we must decide whether we tend towards the poorer or better angels of our nature, towards the altruistic or selfish, towards cooperation or competition. Realistically of course we need to be clear about how we harness both sides of human nature in the service of society. We are forced to form a view of the human nature and of the moral philosophy at the centre of our economic, Maori and other policy.

Socio-economics – The Social & Moral Dimension in Economics

We move now from socio-biology to socio-economics to explore the same issues. Whereas E.O.Wilson sees our subject from a biological and social evolutionary perspective In “The Moral Dimension – Towards a New Economics” communitarian Amitai Etzioni explores the duality of our natures, altruism and self-interest from within research and evidence in the social sciences.

Throughout this essay and in this section I refer often to paradigms. Etzioni provides us with a useful definition:

    Paradigms provide an orderly way of thinking about a disorderly world”.

The paradigm is not the world, and often not even remotely like the world it seeks to simplify. Such is the case with the neo-liberal paradigm.

    “Assuming human beings see themselves as members of a community and as self-seeking individuals, how are the lines drawn between the commitments to the commons and to one’s self? At issue is the paradigm we use in trying to make sense out of the social world that surrounds us, and of which we are an integral part; the paradigm we apply in the quest to understand and improve ourselves, those dear to us, and those not so dear”.

He sees two dominant paradigms:

    • An entrenched utilitarian, rationalistic-individualistic, neoclassical paradigm in which neoclassical (neo-liberal) economics has a flagship role; and
    • A social-conservative paradigm that sees individuals as morally deficient and often irrational, hence requiring a strong authority to control their impulses, direct their endeavours, and maintain order.

The two are not mutually exclusive and can be held both at the same time by the same people, for instance in economic (neo-liberal) policy and in security (social conservative) policy. Paradigmatic schizophrenia if you will. Perhaps those so afflicted are simply lacking a defined and guiding moral philosophy.

The neoclassical paradigm does not recognise community or society as an entity in itself but only as a collection of self-interested individuals. The neoclassical paradigm holds that it is the sum total of the activities of self-interested individuals that creates prosperity for all and that there is no place for community in the economy, especially if community is represented by government.

In this book Etzioni is concerned about the first paradigm, the one that has governed economic activity for the last thirty years. He does not seek to extinguish that paradigm but to moderate it by including it within a new paradigm that serves the common good as well as harnessing individual self-interest. To achieve that he proposes that the assumptions underlying the neoclassical paradigm be modified:

    • That the neoclassical paradigm that maximises just one utility (pleasure, happiness or consumption) is extended to maximise two utilities (pleasure and morality);
    • That whereas economic decisions are held to be made rationally we also recognise that values and emotions also play a part in decision making in both the social and economic spheres;
    • That where the neoclassical paradigm holds that the individual is the decision making unit we recognise that social collectives (ethnic, racial, peer groups, work groups, neighbourhood groups) are also part of the decision making process and that even individual decisions often reflect group values;
    • That whereas the market economy is seen as a separate system, a self-containing, perfect competition model we should see the economy as a sub-system of society, polity and culture.

The social context in which there is a partial overlap of the values and priorities of the individual and the commons is the essential difference between the neoclassical paradigm and the new paradigm proposed by Etzioni.

In relation to morality he too goes back to and quotes from Adam Smith’s “Moral Sentiments”;

    “How selfish so ever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him”.

He explores and cites the research and evidence concerning:

    • Morality, doing what is right rather than what is pleasurable;
    • Altruism, interest in the fortunes of others; and
    • Commitment to the commons, or to the common good.

The premises of this socio-economic position encompass moral duty, altruism and a commitment to the commons as well as individual pleasure.

    “Examination of behaviour shows that individuals who seek to live up to their moral commitments behave in a manner that is systematically different from those who act to enhance their pleasures”.

The balanced approach is to advance individual well-being and to act morally.

So if we accept that there is a moral dimension to our lives as individuals and as a society, and the evidence clearly suggests that there is, then we ought to decide just how that moral dimension should influence policy. That calls for a modification to the prevailing neo-classical or neo-liberal paradigm, for the logical extension to that paradigm is either that we no longer live according to the moral dimension or we that we exclude the moral dimension from public policy consideration.

The logical extension is that moral values be replaced by market values.

Political Philosophy

Michael J. Sandel is arguably one of the leading philosophers and public intellectuals of these times.

He is a political philosopher and a professor at Harvard University where he has taught his famous “Justice” course for over two decades to over 15,000 students. He has published the content of this course in “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” (2010) and it is the basis of a free online extension course and radio and TV documentaries. He has also published on ethics and morality in politics. Specific to our subject of moral philosophy in economics is his “What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets” (2012).

In it he argues that:

    “We live at a time when almost everything can be bought and sold. Over the past three decades, markets – and market values – have come to govern our lives as never before. We did not arrive at this condition through any deliberate choice. It is almost as if it came upon us”.

    “As the Cold War ended, markets and market thinking enjoyed unrivalled prestige, understandably so. No other mechanism for organizing the production and distribution of goods had proved as successful at generating affluence and prosperity. And yet, as growing numbers of countries around the world embraced market mechanisms in the operation of their economies, something else was happening. Market values were coming to play a greater and greater role in social life. Economics was becoming an imperial domain. Today, the logic of buying and selling no longer applies to material goods alone but increasingly governs the whole of life. It is time to ask whether we want to live this way”.

The last thirty years has been a time of market faith and deregulation, the faith that markets are the primary means of achieving the public good, described by Sandel as an era of market triumphalism. It began with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, and in New Zealand with Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson (and the bureaucrats and corporates who did their thinking for them). In New Zealand we are now applying the market to social service provision.

The 2008 global financial crisis brought that market triumphalism to an end casting doubt on the ability of markets to allocate risk efficiently and fairly. It also caused widespread belief that markets have become detached from morality and that we need somehow to reconnect them. That detachment comprises the central thesis of “What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets”.

The major cause of this transition was not just greed. Greed played a role but the most fateful change was the expansion of markets and of market values into spheres of life where they don’t belong. We now need a public debate about the moral limits of markets. Sometimes market values crowd out non-market values worth caring about. We don’t all agree what values are worth caring about but in policy we ought to debate and decide what values should govern the various domains of social and civic life.

Drawing on research in behavioural economics and social psychology Sandel shows using many real life examples that commercialisation of an activity changes it and that:

    • money corrupts;
    • market relations crowd out non-market norms; and
    • market values crowd out moral values.

In that debate we need to consider what are and are not appropriately treated as commodities or consumer goods, and what individual and civic rights should not be governed by the market. How we value things such as health, education, family life, nature, art, civic duties and so on are moral and political questions, not merely economic ones. The debate needs to decide whether we want a market economy or a market society.

Some politicians and economists don’t see it that way.

Their argument goes that we should not rely too heavily on altruism, generosity, solidarity or civic duty because those moral sentiments are scarce resources depleted with use. Markets or self-interest spare us from using up the limited supply of virtue. It is a specious argument. For the virtues are not commodities that are depleted with use. They are like muscle, the more they are exercised the stronger they grow.

Principles, Values, Ethics & Morals

We began this enquiry into various aspects of moral philosophy in the 18th Century thought of the philosophers of the British Enlightenment and with Adam Smith in particular, as he was both a leading figure in the British Enlightenment and the “grandfather” of modern economics.

If we accept that we need to start by clearly defining a moral philosophy to guide policy, in this case national economic policy and Maori policy then we ought to embark via public debate on an exercise to reach a consensus. The problem with politics is that there is too little moral argument. Political debate is vacant, vacuous and empty of moral content. It fails to engage the big questions that people care about.

What do we care about? Poverty? Unemployment? Inequality? Affordable housing? Equal access to higher education? How do we want to share in a common life? How do we want to live together? Is everything up for sale? Or do we have certain moral and civic goods that markets do not honour and money cannot buy? These are just a few of the questions we need to debate.

By establishing principles we are able to simplify and clarify matters in a world of competing demands, information overload, and political, corporate and media spin and propaganda. They help us to identify and weed out the bullshit in political discourse. Directly in opposition to that is the promotion of ideological political paradigms that seek merely to simplify but through the suppression of informed debate and the imposition of ignorance.

Do we think that policy should be underpinned by moral philosophy? Should we strive for a balance between altruism and self-interest? Do we believe in survival of the fittest or in the survival of those who cooperate for the common good? Should we seek to balance competition with cooperative relationships? Our principles thus established inform our choice of values, morals and ethics. Values motivate, and ethics and morals constrain.

Values are what we think important and motivate our thinking and actions. There are many competing and sometimes diametrically opposed values. That is why it is important that political parties ought to be forced by the electorate to declare their principles and values so that we can be absolutely clear what we are voting for, and so that we can hold them accountable. In the absence of clear principles and values politics and elections are little more than contests of personality and lotteries of chance. The politically informed and politically engaged know well the true principles and values of their preferred party regardless of party propaganda broadcast to the electorate. The non-engaged comprising most of the electorate are left in the dark.

Values include in no particular order – material success, individualism, efficiency, thrift, freedom, liberty, courage, hard work, prudence, competition, cooperation, patriotism, compromise, punctuality, social justice, social cohesion, social harmony, fairness, personal wealth, health, wisdom, and many others.

Once we have clarified our principles and values then ethics and morals are what guide our judgement about what is right and wrong, and our choice of policy settings.

Christianity & Religion

Christianity has played a major role in the development of a sense of morality in New Zealand in the lives of both Maori and Pakeha; in establishing shared principles, values, ethics and morals. It remains a strong influence in Maori society, not so much in the wider society. In the New Testament Mathew 22:37-40 contains the essence of this:

    “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it. Love thy neighbour as thyself. All the Law and all the Prophets hang on these two commandments“.

Whether or not we believe in a god the second can certainly be applied to our management of the political economy.

The problem with basing economic policy on Christian values is that Christianity has long been claimed by all political ideologies and has been used as justification for behaviour both virtuous and vile. Justification for almost anything can be found in the Bible, especially the Old Testament.

Of course there are long established moral precepts in Christianity and these were incorporated into Enlightenment thinking as the sociology of virtue. The Enlightenment secularised the morality previously the sole preserve of religion.

Novelist and essayist Mario Vargas Llosa in “Notes on the Death of Culture, Essays on Spectacle and Society”, Part VI “The Opium of the People”, whilst not necessarily subscribing to a belief in God, and who describes secularism as absolutely necessary for the promotion and maintenance of democracy, nevertheless sees a very necessary role for religion in society. He writes:

    “It is still an incontrovertible reality that, for the great majority, religion is the first and main source of the moral and civic principles that buttress democratic culture.” Also. “The evisceration of spiritual life is happening in all strata of social life but it is in the economy that the effects are most visible.”
    “All the great liberal thinkers, from John Stuart Mill to Karl Popper, including Adam Smith, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Isaiah Berlin and Milton Friedman, argued that economic and political freedom achieved its full civilizing function, creating wealth and employment, defending individual sovereignty, the rule of law and human rights, only when the spiritual life of a society was intense and fostered a hierarchy of values respected and adhered to by that society”.
    “The great failure and the crisis that the capitalist system faces again and again – corruption, the spoils system, mercantilist manoeuvres to gain wealth by infringing the law, the frenetic greed and fraudulent activity of banks and finance houses – are not due to inherent faults in the institutions of capitalism themselves but rather to the collapse of moral and religious values, which act as a curb that keeps capitalism within certain norms of honesty, respect for one’s neighbour and respect for the law. When this invisible but influential ethical structure collapses and disappears in many areas of society, among all among those who have the most responsibility in economic life, then anarchy spreads, bringing about an increasing lack of confidence in a system that seems to function only for the benefit of the most powerful (or the biggest tricksters) and against the interests of ordinary citizens who lack wealth and privilege”.

Tikanga Maori

An underlying theme in this essay is that we have to take our argument outside of tikanga Maori, beyond the Treaty of Waitangi and into the intellectual domain of the other tikanga if we are to successfully challenge the status quo. Arguments based entirely in kaupapa Maori are self-limiting and self-marginalising.

So although it might seem that the proper place to start to define a moral philosophy for political and economic management in support of Maori policy ought to be in Tikanga Maori or Kaupapa Maori, this policy will serve all New Zealanders and ought to be based in both strands of tikanga. Which is why I have traced the influence of Tikanga Maramatanga (The Enlightenment) into New Zealand and into the thinking of Maori leadership in the first half of the 20th Century. Which is why I have discussed insights from the physical and social sciences and from moral and political philosophy. The principles, values, morals and ethics that will comprise the moral philosophy underlying economic policy and practice will need to be expressed in terms embraced by all New Zealanders.

A trap that we must avoid in Maori policy is to equate policies that privilege society, community and the common good with policies that privilege “iwi” or “corporate iwi”. For we need to know just what communities Maori do engage with on a daily and weekly basis. Do most Maori regularly engage with their iwi or is that engagement nominal only. The research has not yet been done. Iwi engagement as opposed to iwi affiliation is a matter of cultural faith rather than proven reality.

Given that most Maori are urban Maori and effectively detribalised how do they engage in the commons and in the economy? The reality is that the age old functions of tribal leadership in matters of law, security, health, education, housing, welfare and economics have all been taken by government. Maori, even the minority of Maori living in the old tribal homelands, engage with government for most of their personal and communal needs. WINZ is our primary provider. Local government provides our community services.

Which is not to say that Tikanga Maori values should not play a prominent part in the moral philosophy. These will include the principles of tika and pono and the values of whanaungatanga, manaakitanga, mana and tapu. They are of course not at odds with Aristotelian, Enlightenment and religious virtues, principles, values, morals and ethics. Mana, that which is the innate possession of all persons and that which ought to be respected in all policy might be the basis of a moral philosophy based on Tikanga Maori.

Tikanga values are the virtues in Maori culture much as Aristotelian values are the virtues in the other. “Tikanga Maori, Living by Maori Values” by Hirini Moko Mead and “Nga Pepeha a nga Tipuna” by Hirini Moko Mead and Neil Grove are probably the two primary texts to guide a moral philosophy based on Tikanga Maori.

If we base our moral philosophy on Tikanga Maori we should never assume that all Maori subscribe to the ancient communal values, for we are now a diverse people and many in the influential Maori development sector and in academia have already been converted to the ideology of liberal individualism. We need to preach to our own as well as the other.

Challenging the Status Quo

There are at least two dimensions to the study of economics, the moral and the intellectual. Indeed some of the greatest thinkers in the evolution of economics have considered that the study of the political economy is subordinate to the study of moral philosophy. This essay has been about the moral dimension.

In challenging the status quo in relation to Maori policy a challenge to the moral basis of the present economic orthodoxy that now reaches into all corners of policy and society is the first and most important challenge.

In policy in general, and in national economic policy and Maori policy in particular, the thesis of this essay is that policy should be based first and foremost on a moral philosophy, hopefully a widely shared moral philosophy. At the very least the moral basis of any policy should be clearly enunciated; transparent to all.

The corollary of this proposition is that if policy has little moral basis or no moral basis whatsoever that too should be transparent to all.

We should evaluate and judge all government policy, and hold governments to account, based on the principles, values, ethics and morals upon which policy is based (or not) rather than on the spin and propaganda deployed in the marketing of policy to the electorate; or worse still on bland assurances that the power elite knows what is best for us, or on blind or apathetic trust in our political leadership.

The assumption underlying this approach to policy is that principles, values, morals and ethics in private and in public life have not been entirely extinguished and ought to remain the bedrock of New Zealand society and culture. Or are we content to allow market values to spread into all aspects of our social and economic lives and to extinguish moral values. Do we for instance privilege market values over social justice, or the primacy of the market over the mana of the people.

These notions are drawn from the many strands of our exploration of moral philosophy. If we accept the view of morality and society extant from ancient times in tikanga and in religion, in the 18th Century sociology of virtue of Adam Smith and the British Enlightenment that informed thought in early colonial and post-colonial New Zealand, both Pakeha and Maori; and if we accept the same or similar views from the perspectives of socio-biology, socio-economics, the political philosophy of Michael Sandel and the moral philosophy of Alisdair MacIntyre, then in coming to a view of Maori policy, economics and moral philosophy we would incline towards a belief that policy ought to provide for the greater good of the greatest number including the greatest number of Maori, and that that ought to be the basis of both national economic policy and Maori policy.

For the greater good of the greatest number including the greatest number of Maori.

We might say it thus:

Unuhia te rito o te harakeke, kei hea te kōmako e kō?
Ui mai ki ahau, ‘He aha te mea nui o te Ao?’
Māku e kī atu,
‘He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.’

If you remove the central shoot of the flaxbush, where will the bellbird rest?
If you were to ask me, ‘What is the most important thing in the world?’
I would reply,
‘It is people, people, the people.’

Related Essays

Mai i Hawaiki ki Hawaiki: The Evolution of Maori Culture
The Evolution of Pakeha Culture
The Maori Worldview and Maori Policy
The Mythology of the Whanau-Hapu-Iwi Construct
The Origins of Corporate Iwi
The Maori Economy – A Fanciful Notion
The Myth of the Maori Entrepreneur
The Treaty of Waitangi Revisited
Te Ture Whenua Maori Review – Who Benefits? 
Perspectives of Time, Small Prophecy & Maori Policy
Draining the Swamp – Some Fundamentals for Maori Policy Makers
Maori Policy: Challenging the Status Quo – A Call to Reengage in the Struggle

Maori Policy: Challenging the Status Quo. A Call to Reengage in the Struggle.

And let’s take a good look at ourselves while we’re at it.

    “It behoves politicians, bureaucrats, academics, researchers and activists to become not just economically literate but economically expert if they are to challenge the status quo. This is no short term quest”.“Draining the Swamp” the previous essay in this series on Maori policy.

I wrote in that essay that becoming economically literate and building economic expertise was a necessary step towards gaining access to the levers of New Zealand’s economic policy settings. The policy settings that must be changed in order to design and implement economic policy that would benefit all Maori, not just the Pakeha elites and to a much lesser extent the Maori elites.

But that comes later I now realise.

Before that can happen the authority and control of the power elites must be challenged and broken for they control and manipulate those economic levers to suit themselves. The power elites are by definition in Aotearoa New Zealand overwhelmingly Pakeha, and male, and they will not take their hands off the levers without a struggle. In an earlier struggle it was the unions and the Labour Party that led the way. Alas, the unions are no more and the Labour Party has turned away from its founding principles and has forsaken the poor and the downtrodden.

Power elite” is a term borrowed from American author C. Wright Mills and his 1959 book “The Power Elite”. It was about the structure of power in the United States focusing on the military, corporate and political elites and their control over the supposedly democratic processes of government. The idea in contemporary times is often expressed as the “deep state”, the “permanent government” or the “shadow government” and although a topic of serious research and commentary it is often adopted by conspiracy theorists. As a concept of power relationships however “power elite” fits the New Zealand context, certainly since the neo-liberal revolution of the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Power is the root of the long struggle we now politely label “Maori development”. The relationship between Maori and Pakeha, between Maori and government, has always been a relationship of unequal power and our struggle to regain lost power. We call it rangatiratanga.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s the late Bruce Jesson chronicled the rise of a new power elite in New Zealand; a power elite he described as the “New Right” and the “Libertarian Right”. The actors in that power elite were drawn from politics, the economic bureaucracy, corporations and academia. See “Pakeha Networks” in the September 1988 edition of “Te Putatara”. That 1988 analysis was drawn from Bruce Jesson’s “Behind the Mirror Glass” (Penguin, 1987).

In his posthumously published “Only Their Purpose is Mad, The Money Men Take Over NZ” (Dunmore, 1999) he described how the power elite, particularly the finance sector, had taken over the country. See here for a review. His analysis was prescient as nine years later in 2008 the finance sector had taken over the global economy and brought it to its knees.

Nowadays no-one seems to be keeping tabs on the elites but in the sixteen years since that last Jesson book a new generation of actors has joined the power elite, and their neo-liberal agenda has been firmly embedded as political and economic orthodoxy; the new status quo. A key aim of that agenda is to entrench itself so deeply that no future government will be able to reverse it. It has worked so far.

The four wings of the power elite are:

  • political;
  • bureaucratic;
  • security, intelligence and law enforcement; and
  • corporate.

The political wing of the neo-liberal power elite is today is led by John Key, Bill English, Stephen Joyce, Gerry Brownlee and the fast rising Paula Bennett. Judith Collins is the cheerleader for the extreme right of the power elite. Prior to them the political wing was pretty much dominated by Helen Clark, Heather Simpson and Michael Cullen. The underlying neo-liberal agenda was the same in both cases. Although on the surface and according to its propaganda Labour policies might have seemed somewhat progressive at a microeconomic level, at the macroeconomic level nothing had changed from previous governments. Indeed the Labour Party of today sits on the neo-liberal right of Robert Muldoon’s National Party of the early 1980’s.

Since 1984 the different shades of politician have cycled and recycled through government but the macroeconomic agenda has remained constant. Little change can be expected if Labour manages to unseat National again.

The powerful bureaucrats in the control ministries and the economic ministries remain in place throughout, totally committed to defending their neo-liberal agenda. They are from Prime Minister and Cabinet, State Services Commission, Treasury, the Reserve Bank, Ministry of Business Innovation and Enterprise, Ministry of Primary Industry and others. A formidable force they are in a very real sense a permanent government and defenders of the status quo.

The security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies have gained more and more power from gullible and compliant parliaments since 2002 and are part of the power elite. Their agenda is not primarily economic although the intelligence agencies do gather economic intelligence. They do however serve to reinforce the dominance of the power elite through ever increasing controls over the population. The NZ Police in particular over recent years have demonstrated their disposition to silence democratic dissent; to indulge in political intelligence and surveillance, in heavy handed suppression of protest and demonstration, and unlawful investigation in the service of the power elite.

Corporations are deeply embedded in the power elite with ready access to political and bureaucratic policy makers. They and those they serve are perhaps the main beneficiaries of the present political and economic paradigm. The access of Time Warner (Peter Jackson), Sky City and MediaWorks to this government are publicly revealed examples.

The most glaring example of access to and exercise of power was in the negotiations towards the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). In those negotiations politicians, bureaucrats and influential corporates acted together in secret on behalf of the people of Aotearoa New Zealand who were, with most of their elected representatives, totally excluded. The TPP negotiations were a blatant exercise of power by the elected and unelected elites acting together for their mutual benefit. Corporates from across all TPP countries actually wrote much of the agreement.

In Aotearoa New Zealand corporate membership of the power elite now includes the finance sector, energy, media, transport, telecommunications, the primary industries and others. Prior to 1984 large parts of those industries were publicly owned and controlled. Privatisation has meant much more than passing of ownership from public to private hands. It has resulted in those private hands now being part of the power elite; the ones in control of our lives. The neo-liberal agenda of the 1980s and 1990s was not just about economics and business and the transfer of capital; it was about a massive transfer of power from the people and their elected representatives to the unelected.

The main corporate umbrella is The New Zealand Initiative formed in 2012 from a merger of The New Zealand Business Roundtable and the New Zealand Institute. It is a neo-liberal think tank and membership organisation with about forty corporate members listed in its website which states:

    “Our members come from various backgrounds and represent the New Zealand economy in all its diversity”.

Which can only be so if you believe that those New Zealand businesses represent the New Zealand economy, which also quite surprisingly comprises about 4.5 million individuals, their civil society organisations, thousands of small and medium size businesses, as well as the forty or so business members of the NZ Institute and however many individual members they have. They actually represent the big end of New Zealand business.

It further states:

    “Together the members of the NZ Institute form a network of high profile individuals and firms united by their passion for good public policy”.

Good public policy” meaning of course what is good for big business and what is good for the power elite. Unless of course you really believe that what is good for them is good for everyone, all 4.5 million of us. The statistics put the lie to that.

Max Rashbrooke’s recent book “Wealth in New Zealand” (Bridget Williams Books, 2015) contains statistics that show just who benefits from this concentration of power in the hands of the few:

  • The wealthiest 1% of New Zealanders own 18.1% of the nation’s wealth;
  • The wealthiest 5% own 39.4%;
  • The wealthiest 10% own 53.5%;
  • The wealthiest 50% own 96.1%; and
  • The next 50% own under 4% of the nation’s wealth. Among them are the disenfranchised and the “disinherited ones to whom neither the past nor the future belongs”.

Ethnic statistics show that:

  • Pakeha (71% of the population) own 85% of the nation’s wealth;
  • Asians (10%) own 7%;
  • Maori (12%) own 5%; and
  • Pasifika (5%) own 1% of the nation’s wealth.

Those figures combined with the statistics in a previous essay “The Maori Worldview and Maori Policy” graphically illustrate that inequality and poverty are now accepted and quietly promoted by the power elite as the new status quo. It is a status quo that must be challenged and broken if Maori policy is to have any chance of bringing hope and dignity to most if not all Maori people; and to all of those who are the disenfranchised and the disinherited. The discarded.

Policy that would matter to the disenfranchised and disinherited never makes it onto the policy agenda. Poverty and inequality are dirty words. Policy that would matter is rarely if ever seriously discussed and debated in the halls of power. Politics and policy formation in this day and age are about mindless rhetoric, about avoiding the challenge of ideas, dumbing down policy debate, about discouraging the disenfranchised and disinherited from any engagement in the political process, and pushing through the agenda of the power elite in the guise of economic policy. In neo-liberal LalaLand the disenfranchised and disinherited are blamed for their own plight.

Policy that would matter to the disenfranchised and disinherited would be about people not just property and profit, about the dignity that all citizens are entitled to in a democratic society, and about the representation of their interests in the democratic process. About the mana of the people. But we are moving away from democracy and towards plutocracy; rule for the wealthy by the wealthy and those who serve them. The statistics in this case do not lie. We are becoming a plutocracy disguised in democratic form.

How can that status quo be challenged and reversed? It will not be without struggle. Who is up for the struggle? I fear that we are not up for it.

Kohanga Reo, Kura Kaupapa, iwi radio, Maori television, Maori health provision, Maori fisheries, the return of lands, Treaty settlements, corporate iwi, and much more besides; all of that was gained through struggle. It was gained through the activism of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s and it did not come lightly. It was gained on the streets and in the courts. Many were arrested, some imprisoned for their activism. Many more put their own futures on the line. That activism built to such a crescendo that governments had to concede lest their imaginary “we are one people” pleasant and harmonious New Zealand society collapsed around them. Fear drove them to seek to co-opt us rather than to continue to ignore, suppress or even oppress.

They masked those political concessions as altruism and goodwill and bought us off. It was good politics. They bought our compliance and over time co-opted us to their neo-liberal agenda. They seem to have convinced us that the limited wealth they have transferred into a few Maori hands will eventually trickle down to the many. It hasn’t and it won’t.

It was the activists who made all of the gains possible and forced open the doors. Both Maori activists and conservative Maori walked through those doors and created the many initiatives, projects, programmes and organisations of the “Maori Renaissance”. Then in a short timeframe the activists were pushed aside and the conservatives took over governance and management of almost all of the new Maori development sector. But the original kaupapa of raising living conditions, reversing all of the negative social and economic indicators, and creating a measure of prosperity for all Maori had not been achieved. We were blinded by limited concessions and successes after decades of struggle.

And we gave up the struggle. We focused on the money, or fish, and how we would share it out, or not. The decade long battle over the capture and allocation of fishing assets illustrates just how we became totally diverted from the original kaupapa. We squabbled over the gold cast across our pathway. In fisheries and in other settlements we spent all our time and energy staking our claims at the Waitangi Tribunal, and afterwards turning ourselves into mandated recipients of the limited gains. It became the Grand Diversion. The government of the day even put a price on it – one billion dollars. But what of its value?

We have not achieved the aims of the long struggle but we seem to have convinced ourselves that we have. The present generation, the Maori elites who have taken over governance and management in the Maori development sector, are interested only in the benefits they accrue from the struggle of the previous generation. They seem to have convinced themselves that their management of those billions of dollars’ worth of communal Maori assets will do the job for all Maori; that the struggle is over. They have been co-opted to the neo-liberal agenda of the power elite. Some of them are delusional in their aspiration to become part of that power elite.

Not all of them of course. In my own many hapu from Heretaunga to Wairarapa and Te Tau Ihu dedicated people have laboured away for decades on behalf of all of us and we are now starting to gain mostly monetary settlements for past injustices. They are good people working on behalf of the hapu. It is no reflection on them or their mahi but the gains are really just a pittance.

The struggle is not over. Whilst a few benefit from those limited gains the people are still the disenfranchised and disinherited; the discarded of the neo-liberal agenda. Yet we have given up the struggle. And I don’t see a new generation of activists waiting in the wings. At this time the main political cause is the intent of the Maori elites to reframe Maori land legislation in the hope of creating more wealth in the Maori development sector. Whether or not it is justified, the fear of the many is that through new land legislation the Maori elites will disinherit their own; the already disenfranchised and disinherited.

We have lost our way.

In part however that was the result of faulty conceptualisation and design in the initiatives and programmes that theoretically aimed to reduce the social and economic disparities between Maori and Pakeha.

One of the main aims of the early activism was the revival of cultural identity and language. That resulted in successful Te Reo Maori educational and broadcasting initiatives but not a longer term widespread use of Te Reo and not, as many of its promoters thought, in the general lifting of Maori aspirations leading to a reversal of negative social and economic statistics. As a cultural identity initiative it has been moderately successful. It has not however led to overall social and economic success.

Hui Taumata 1984 (Maori Economic Summit) resulted in a primary focus in the Maori development sphere on economic development. However “economic development” then became narrowly defined as Maori business development rather than overall improvement of the economic status of all Maori. It shared with the neo-liberal agenda the belief and rhetoric of the now discredited “trickle down” theory. That narrow focus has resulted in a growing Maori business sector within a new Maori development sector of the New Zealand economy but not in any appreciable improvement in the social and economic status of Maori in general. It also resulted in the notion of the mythical “Maori Economy” and in the belief that the “Maori Economy” would trickle down and deliver for all Maori.

The Maori Party’s later “Whanau Ora” social development programme is aimed as its name suggests at working with individual whanau in need and not at dramatically changing the total social and economic environment in which those whanau struggle for survival. As I wrote in “Draining the Swamp” it aims to rescue a few whanau from the swamp rather than to drain the swamp. Within its narrow terms of reference “Whanau Ora” is not doomed to failure; neither will it be successful in achieving the aspirations of its programme designers.

Whether by design or happenstance or both we have lost our way.

Not entirely of course. The Mana Party tried to reengage in the struggle but a combination of tired old rhetoric from a collection of tired old minds, incredibly lousy strategy and poor leadership all but wiped them out at the last elections.

In a parallel domain, in academia, we have also lost much of the intellectual impetus behind Maori development policy and practice. Throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s most Maori academics were actively involved in the struggle, some at the forefront of protest and demonstration. Indeed much of the activism was launched from within the universities with students and the newly graduated at the barricades. Almost all were politically engaged in challenging the status quo. Senior Maori scholars including Ranginui Walker, Patu Hohepa, Ngapare Hopa, Robert Mahuta, Tipene O’Regan, Hirini Mead, Api Mahuika, Katerina Mataira, Whatarangi Winiata and others provided intellectual frameworks and direction and were themselves actively involved.

The next generation of scholars were equally engaged and led by Graham and Linda Smith developed and entrenched a Maori specific domain within the universities across a number of disciplines, notably in education, perhaps the most important site of struggle within and beyond the university. Their “Kaupapa Maori” intellectual framework now informs most Maori specific scholarship. Wally Penetito also led the way in Maori education. Mason Durie developed intellectual frameworks across a number of areas notably in Maori health and Maori education. There are many others.

The next generation of Maori academics seems to be disengaged from the political process which is the only avenue to serious reduction of the poverty and inequality that afflict too many of our people. There are some who are active in the Maori Party but the Maori Party, despite its good intentions, serves only to legitimise the neoliberal agenda of the power elite in relation to Maori issues. The Maori Party is our only Maori party and it should lead the political struggle. But it expends its considerable Maori Development budget on standing still.

That $244 million serves mainly to buy its political support for another year. It maintains the status quo and doesn’t move us forward in any appreciable way.

The 2015 budget allocation for Vote Maori Development was about $244 million. $54 million of that was for the Whanau Ora programme, $82 million for the promotion of language and culture and $33 million to pay for the Maori development bureaucracy leaving about $75 million spread across a range of social and economic programmes. That and similar budget allocations throughout the seven years of the Maori Party’s alliance with the National Party has done little if anything to reduce Maori poverty and the unequal place of Maori in New Zealand society.

One would expect those academics involved in the Maori Party to develop new intellectual frameworks and strategies; to try something different. However it seems that the Maori Party is tied to the tired old policies and programmes that haven’t delivered and has no new ideas despite the evidence that new ideas are desperately needed. Not just new versions of old programmes.

“Ka pu te ruha, ka hao te rangatahi”

The Maori Party needs to seriously engage with academia and with the creatives. It needs to pull in some intellectual and creative heft and to reinvent itself.

There is also some evidence that Maori academics are increasingly disengaged not only from politics but also from their Maori communities. Some have become what Graham Smith has called “privatised academics”, engaged in scholarship for their own benefit rather than the benefit of Maori communities and Maori in general. Some co-opt the “struggle” to enhance their own mana. They talk about the wellbeing of the people but don’t walk the talk.

Has academia abdicated its Maori development leadership role? Perhaps the unintended consequence of success in creating a Maori specific space in the universities has been an increasingly inward focus by Maori academia.

There are of course many academics working in their own tribal communities. However most Maori are urbanised and detribalised. Who is advocating for them at a pan tribal and national level?

Perhaps a shift in the leadership of Maori development away from its intellectual platform in the universities and whare wananga towards the Maori business sector, corporate iwi and “iwi leaders”, towards bureaucracy and conservative governance and management, was causal in narrowing the intellectual capacity, the focus and direction of Maori development, and ultimately in sending us in the wrong direction.

It may be that the universities and whare wananga need to reset the compass and to reclaim Maori development leadership from “corporate iwi” and “iwi leaders” who are by definition motivated by a form of self-interest, albeit in the name of “iwi”. We are in need of a much broader and deeper perspective, a perspective that acknowledges modern realities rather than neo-tribal nostalgia.

Maori academia would begin by becoming deeply reengaged in the political process.

All of this is indicative of a failure of strategy, a failure to keep our gaze on the far horizon, becoming focused instead on near term gains. The great samurai strategist Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645) in “The Book of Five Rings” put it this way:

    “The gaze should be large and broad. This is the twofold gaze “Perception and Sight”. Perception is strong and sight weak. In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things”.

It is the role of the intellectual and the strategist to promote perception, to maintain our gaze on the far horizon, to keep the distant things close. We need a new generation of Maori public intellectuals, learned across a range of disciplines in both humanities and sciences, advocating for all Maori. But they need to bring new ideas into the public domain. The old ones have been around far too long.

In his 1967 essay “A Call to Celebration” (published in “Celebration of Awareness: A Call for Institutional Revolution”, Marion Boyars, London, 1971) the late Ivan Illich expressed this hope for the future of mankind:

    “I and many others, known and unknown to me, call upon you:

    • to celebrate our joint power to provide all human beings with the food, clothing, shelter they need to delight in living;
    • to discover, together with us what we must do to use mankind’s power to create the humanity, the dignity, and the joyfulness of each one of us”.

And this:

    “We are challenged to break the obsolete social and economic systems which divide our world between the overprivileged and the underprivileged. All of us whether government leader or protester, businessman or worker, professor or student share a common guilt. We have failed to discover how the necessary changes in our ideals and social structures can be made. Each of us therefore through our ineffectiveness and our lack of responsible awareness, causes the suffering around the world”.

    “The call is to live the future. Let us join together joyfully to celebrate our awareness that we can make our life today the shape of tomorrow’s future”.

Ivan Illich was one of the main intellectual influences in the work of Professor Ranginui Walker. Ranginui was and is the preeminent analyst of our own need for institutional revolution. His 1990 book “Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou” was subtitled “Struggle Without End“. In it Ranginui related the story of the long struggle from the very beginning up to 1990. He needs to be read again to remind ourselves of just what we were struggling for. In the Introduction he wrote:

    “As portended by the freedom fighters at Orakau that the struggle against an unjust social order would go on forever, the urban Maori have taken up where their forbears left off. This book is about the endless struggle of the Maori for social justice, equality and self-determination, whereby two people can live as coequals in the post-colonial era of the new nation state in the twenty-first century”.

Have we just taken a break or have we brought the struggle to a premature end?

Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou

The call then is for each of us personally, in our search for direction, policy and action that benefits all Maori, to admit our common guilt in wilfully falling short of the aims of the so called Maori Renaissance; in wilfully being distracted by the glint of gold. And to commit again to the struggle to challenge the status quo and to break the political, social and economic paradigm that consigns so many of our people to the serried ranks of the disenfranchised and disinherited.

Are we up for it?

Next Essay

He Tangata: Maori Policy, Economics and Moral Philosophy – The Moral Challenge to the Status Quo and to Neo-liberal Theology

Related Essays

Mai i Hawaiki ki Hawaiki: The Evolution of Maori Culture
The Evolution of Pakeha Culture
The Maori Worldview and Maori Policy
The Mythology of the Whanau-Hapu-Iwi Construct
The Origins of Corporate Iwi
The Maori Economy – A Fanciful Notion
The Myth of the Maori Entrepreneur
The Treaty of Waitangi Revisited
Te Ture Whenua Maori Review – Who Benefits? 
Perspectives of Time, Small Prophecy & Maori Policy
Draining the Swamp – Some Fundamentals for Maori Policy Makers

Operation 8: The Truth, the Whole Truth & Nothing but the Truth?

Read the complete analysis of alleged Maori terrorism in the Urewera

Yeah right!

A blanket has been thrown over the process by which Cabinet authorised the anti-terrorism raids on 15th October 2007. This post and previous posts lift a corner of that blanket and the whole high level process doesn’t pass the smell test.

Although there is some visible evidence of the intelligence process at the working level (in affidavits, warrants, indictments and police evidence provided to the lawyers of the accused) there is no visibility or transparency above that. The intelligence process intimately involved the decision-makers from the analyst Detective Sergeant Pascoe’s immediate superior Detective Inspector Good, to Assistant Commissioner White, to Deputy Commissioner Pope, Commissioner Broad, to the Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination (ODESC), and to the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

We know that the SIS at least knew of the ongoing operation. We do not know if the SIS and GCSB were actively involved in Operation 8. It is reasonable to assume that the minister in charge of the SIS, Prime Minister Helen Clark, would have known in advance about the operation even if Annette King then Minister of Police, by her own testimony, did not know until the night before.

We know from public statements after the event that Commissioner Broad and the Prime Minister were both involved in the decision-making that launched the Operation 8 raids on 15th October 2007. What is not transparent is the advice presumably based on intelligence product that informed those decisions. What is also not transparent is the substance of those decisions.

Without that information there can be no full analysis of the professionalism and competence of the intelligence process. Operation 8 was not just a failure of intelligence at the working level but a failure of intelligence all the way up the chain of command and in the Cabinet itself. Intelligence failure at that high level level is not uncommon. Indeed in the world of Intelligence it is the most common level of failure.

This series has analysed in some detail the intelligence failure at the working level. The failures at the Police command level, at the senior officials and advisors level (ODESC) and at the political level remain hidden under the blanket; covered up.

The original intent of the investigators, presumably sanctioned and approved by the chain of command and Cabinet, was to prosecute under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. That was disallowed by the Solicitor General. Then the charges changed.

  • What was it that the legal advisors, the chain of command, ODESC and Cabinet believed at the time that convinced them to mount a full scale anti-terrorism operation?
  • Or was the use of the Suppression of Terrorism Act just an excuse to employ the wider surveillance powers allowed under that act?
  • And were they all just hoping that the seizure of computers around the country would provide sufficient evidence to allow them to proceed and use evidence secured under the Suppression of Terrorism Act?
  • If so, was the use of the Suppression of Terrorism Act to obtain the warrants and to mount a full scale anti-terrrorism operation totally unlawful like so much of the operation?

Given the lack of transparency of that higher level of decision-making it may only be discovered through a formal inquiry process by subpoena of witnesses, instructions and written orders, reports, assessments and minutes. And if that were to happen how might that evidence reflect on the outcome of the trial of the Urewera Four accused?

  • What was the chain of command and what were they telling each other?
  • Who did Detective Inspector Good and Detective Sergeant Pascoe report to? What did they report? Is there a written record of that report? Who reviewed and evaluated their analysis? Is there a written record of that review and evaluation?
  • What were Detective Inspector Good’s and Detective Sergeant Pascoe’s orders from their immediate superior? Were they written orders? Or were they just freewheeling on their own without formal intelligence management oversight? The scapegoat question I fear.
  • What was the complete chain of command from Detective Sergeant Pascoe to Commissioner Broad? What advice was given to Commissioner Broad and by whom? Is there a written record of that advice?
  • Was legal advice sought and given prior to the October 15th armed paramilitary anti-terrorist operation? Who gave the advice? Was it the Solicitor General? Was it prosecutor Ross Burns? Was it written advice?
  • Was Deputy Commissioner Pope involved in the decision to launch an anti-terrorism operation? What was his exact involvement?
  • What advice if any did Commissioner Broad give to the Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination (ODESC)? Who was present at that meeting? Were the professional security and intelligence agencies present? Did they offer their professional assistance? Is it true that Commissioner Broad declined such assistance? Are there minutes of that meeting?
  • What advice if any did ODESC give to Commissioner Broad? Is there a record of that advice? If not, why not?
  • What advice if any did ODESC give to the Prime Minister and Cabinet? Is there a record of that advice? If not, why not?
  • Did the NZ Police ever call upon the superior intelligence gathering and assessment skill and experience of the dedicated security and intelligence agencies? If not why not? Was SIS or GCSB involved?
  • When did Commissioner Broad meet with the Prime Minister and Cabinet? Who was present at that meeting? What advice did he give to Cabinet?  Was it written or verbal or both? Are there minutes of that meeting, including authorisation to proceed with a full-scale anti-terrorism operation?
  • Is it true that Commissioner Broad was asked several times at that Cabinet meeting to confirm that there was a plot to overthrow government, and did he so confirm? We have this one public account only.
  • What orders were given to the operational units that carried out the Operation 8 paramilitary operation? Were they written or verbal orders or both?
  • What reports were submitted after the paramilitary operation? Are they written reports?
  • Was the Solicitor General formally asked to authorise prosecution under the Suppression of Terrorism Act by written request? Did he write a formal rejection of the request stating his full reasons for that decision? Apart from those he publicly stated?
  • Why were the contracts of Commissioner Broad and Deputy Commissioner Pope not renewed? Was it because new brooms were needed to bring in a new culture in the police, as was publicly stated? Or was it really because of incomptence and because they had misled Cabinet in seeking authorisation for the armed anti-terrorism paramilitary operation?
  • Is the real reason for the non-renewal of their contracts part of a cover up?

The final questions are raised in the wake of the GCSB scandal and cover up legislation, and the revelations about the extent of the 5-Eyes global population level electronic surveillance.

  • Was Operation 8 initiated as a result of GCSB eavesdropping on the nation’s communications?
  • If so, was the police evidential trail manufactured in the process known in law enforcement as “parallel construction” to disguise the actual trail of evidence leading from GCSB? This would be another instance of unlawful behaviour by the police.
  • Were GCSB and SIS involved in Operation 8 surveillance?
  • Were GCSB and SIS involved in the analysis of information including data mining, traffic analysis and social network analysis?
  • If GCSB was involved was it at the request of NZ Police and what was the lawful (or unlawful) basis of that request?

In a post on 23 October 2013 Jeremy Bioletti, the trial lawyer for Rangi Kemara, infers that these are very important questions:

“The issue of possible GCSB surveillance in operation 8 is important. Why? Because if there was illegality involved it may have tipped the balance in the Supreme Court and resulted in the exclusion of the evidence which allowed the Urewera Four to be put on trial and convicted for the firearms offences and subsequently imprisoned. I am certain that there was involvement because from memory there were personnel involved in the police operation which counsel were not allowed to ask questions about”. 

The incompetence and ineptitude of the intelligence operation, and the evidential  inconsistencies that would have been revealed by a much more thorough analysis of that process may also have tipped the balance in the Supreme Court and resulted in the exclusion of the evidence which allowed the Urewera Four to be put on trial and convicted and sentenced.

I am saying that none of the Operation 8 evidence should have survived beyond the Supreme Court hearing in May 2011, and the Supreme Court ruling a few months later in September, and that had justice been done the Urewera Four would not have gone to trial.

The only way to fully assess the Operation 8 intelligence management and analysis process is to discover all or most of the above information, through a formal inquiry. That formal inquiry is also required to discover which police officers breached their constables’ oath and broke the law in using unlawful means to acquire information, and which commissioned officers also breached the terms of their commissioning by the Queen of New Zealand. These are serious legal and ethical issues. The rule of law in a democratic society ought to apply equally to every citizen and the NZ Police must be seen to scrupuloulsy uphold the rule of law.

The only conclusion that can be drawn from the suppression of all that information and the refusal of both the Labour and National Parties to support an inquiry is that there is a cover up and that what is being covered up is political and bureaucratic incompetence and embarrassment, and a degree of illegality.

Smelly indeed.

Links: The Operation 8 Series

Reflections on ANZAC Day

This essay was republished in “Tell You What: Great New Zealand Nonfiction 2016” (Ed Susanna Andrew & Jolisa Gracewood, Auckland University Press, 2015).

A lot of money has been spent on commemoration, a lot of hype generated, mythology recycled, and there’s been a lot of criticism of the expenditure, the hype and the mythology on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign. There have been calls by Maori and others for the dead of the New Zealand Wars to be mourned as well as the dead of foreign wars.

What does ANZAC really mean?

Grandfather Whana of Ngati Kere (Porangahau) and Ngati Hikarara (South Wairarapa) didn’t enlist for World War I. At that time enlistment was not a popular option for Maori so he was not one of the approximately 2227 Maori who did enlist. By 1914 he was 35 years old, a dairy farmer, and the father of four of his eventual nine children. He had responsibilities at home. We don’t know what his views were about the British Empire but as staunch Mormons who regularly hosted Mormon missionaries in their home in South Wairarapa both he and my grandmother were members of a congregation that drew their attention and allegiance more towards the USA than towards England.

On the other hand as a dairy farmer he would have known that he relied on a buoyant New Zealand economy for his livelihood and that depended heavily on continuing sales of primary produce into a stable British market.

Grandfather Fred of East Clive in Hawkes Bay did enlist. He was about the same age as Grandfather Whana and he was a first generation New Zealander born at Waipureku a.k.a. East Clive. His father was born in Cornwall and his mother in Devon. They came to New Zealand in 1872 as economic migrants and they were steadfastly British with an abiding loyalty to Mother England. That loyalty was shared by their many children, most of them born in New Zealand. At the start of the war Fred was a single man working as a bushman. He tried to enlist but was rejected because at 37 he was too old. Over two years later when the NZEF needed more recruits he was accepted, joined the Third Battalion of the NZ Rifle Brigade on the Western Front, was badly wounded at Passchendaele in October 1917, was invalided to London and after he recovered was sent on light duties to the NZ Rifle Brigade rear echelon at Brocton Camp in Staffordshire. There he remained for the rest of the war, met and married Grandmother Gertrude and eventually came back to New Zealand with his wife and daughter towards the end of 1919.

Grandfather Whana died young just a few years before World War II a victim of metabolic diseases brought on by the too rapid adoption of the European lifestyle and the European diet, especially sugar, flour and milk. Ironically it was the European diet that did for far more of our people than the European wars, and continues to do so to this day. The 1918 European influenza epidemic brought home from the war also did for many more Maori than the war itself. Grandfather Whana was involved in local efforts to treat the disease and to contain the epidemic.

My father didn’t enlist for World War II. A few of his wider whanau did but not many. Most of his whanau did not get caught up in the fervour of Sir Apirana Ngata’s drive to recruit and reinforce the 28th Maori Battalion. Our whanau was still not into other peoples’ wars. His best friend, my godfather, did enlist and served on Norfolk Island and then in Italy but in the Army Engineers not in the Maori Battalion. Twenty years on I broke the mould on my Maori side and served in the NZ Army for just over twenty years including active service in Borneo and in South Vietnam.

I march on ANZAC day. But I cringe at the myth making and hype surrounding ANZAC these days. I wonder about the tens of thousands who now turn out to dawn services across New Zealand and Australia. Are they there to mourn or are they there to bask in the hype and to celebrate the mythology fed to them by politicians and media. How many of them really know or fully understand why they are there. I march for simple and clear reasons.

I don’t march in remembrance of the dead of the New Zealand Wars for reasons I will explain later. However I do mourn the loss of land whether through war and confiscation or through questionable sale. But I’m not sure how we might memorialise that, or even if we should.

Grandfather Fred was like a great many men who went to war for New Zealand and Australia who were either born in Britain or were the children of British parents. He would have felt it his bounden duty to rise to the defence of the British Empire. His generation were becoming New Zealanders but still staunchly British. The evolutionary process of becoming New Zealanders actually took us a long time. We didn’t gain NZ citizenship until 1948, thirty years after World War I and three years after World War II. Up until then we were British subjects and from 1948 onwards until 1983 we were British subjects and NZ citizens. I remember as a child in the 1950s that most of my Pakeha schoolmates were still proud to be British subjects.

It is easy to look backwards 100 years after Gallipoli and decry the folly of going to the other side of the world to fight a war that in no way threatened New Zealand’s shores, in campaigns that senselessly slaughtered millions of young men; often badly conceived campaigns. But I see World War I through the perspective of Grandfather Fred and through the perspective of his times. He went out of duty and loyalty to England and to his British Empire. It was his war not someone else’s war. I honour him for that.

He may also have gone for the adventure and to visit the land of his forefathers. Having signed up for a bit of travel and adventure myself 45 years later I can understand that too.

Too many of today’s talking heads who comment about the relevance of ANZAC and the mythology of ANZAC are walking in their own comfortable shoes instead of in the boots of those World War I warriors. Not that I disagree with all of the commentary about ANZAC mythology but to be understood history has to be perceived through the eyes of its participants or observers, not just from the distance of 100 years and through the lens of modern ideology. I try to see World War I through the eyes of my grandfathers.

So in this second decade of the 21st Century what do I think of ANZAC?

I grew up with ANZAC. As a school cadet in the 1950s and early 1960s I was proud to be a uniformed member of catafalque parties at country memorials on ANZAC Day. When I was a teenager in uniform World War II was just ten years gone, the Korean War had just ended and the Malayan Emergency was still going. Grandfather Fred, veteran of World War I, died about that time well into his eighties. ANZAC Day was a funeral, not a celebration of anything except perhaps the lives of those who died. It was a mourning of the dead including the very recent dead by families, comrades and communities.

All of those war memorials in cities, towns and villages were not erected to glorify war or to glorify sacrifice or to celebrate the defence of freedom and liberty, or to promote militarism. They were erected as substitute tombstones for the thousands of soldiers who lie buried in foreign lands, some in unmarked graves. Lacking graves and headstones and the ability to travel to where the dead lay they became the focus of mourning. ANZAC Day was not about celebrating a failed campaign in the Dardanelles, or the mythical founding of a nation or a celebration of democratic values or the gallantry of the ANZAC soldier. All of that is legend or mythology. ANZAC Day was a service for the dead. Its ritual was and is still the solemn ritual of a military funeral.

It was also and remains an annual reunion for those whose incredibly strong bonds of trust, brotherhood and comradeship were forged in war. Only the veteran knows the power and the strength of that bond. In that sense everyone else is an onlooker or a bystander.

That remains for me the meaning of ANZAC Day. I remember and honour the dead and the physically and psychologically wounded of all wars. I honour too all who fought in those wars especially those whanau and friends who have since faded away. Regardless of the strategic, political and economic necessity or futility of those wars I honour the casualties of the wars, both the dead and the living. I remember and honour Grandfather Fred.

I honour also Grandfather Whana’s and my father’s decisions not to fight other peoples’ wars. Their loyalties rightly lay elsewhere.

For me the debate about the necessity or futility of war, past, present and future is for every other week of the year. Raising that debate in ANZAC week even in response to the maddening hype and mythology is just as inappropriate as the hype and mythology itself. Like the tangihanga itself ANZAC week is a time for restraint and respect.

However in that larger debate I do decry the political and commercial appropriation of ANZAC for base motives that dishonour the dead. We should read the academic military historians to learn the unadorned facts about ANZAC. But their work does not seep into popular consciousness. Not many are interested. What does pass as fact is the work of popular historians who perpetuate and reinforce the propaganda and mythology of ANZAC and who along with politicians and the media distort reality and so shape false perceptions for the next generations.

So what about mourning say, the dead of the New Zealand Wars, as well as the dead of the more recent wars.

Well, down our way Grandfather Whana’s father and grandfather didn’t go to war to try to keep their lands. They didn’t have a strong enough military base. They lost their lands mostly but not always by reluctant sale. The New Zealand Wars like the later World Wars were other peoples’ wars. Indeed some of the tribes who did fight actually fought on the side of the settler government. And some of those were also the tribes who made the greatest contributions to the Maori Battalion of World War II. No doubt they had their reasons but it might not be profitable to mine that seam too deep.

Some forty years before the New Zealand Wars our rohe was infested by marauding hapu during the Musket Wars attempting to dispossess our many hapu of our lands. They initially succeeded but were eventually repulsed as we acquired muskets and as the missionaries intervened. No doubt some of my tipuna would not have been at all inclined to mourn the dead of those invading hapu in the New Zealand Wars. We don’t all share a common history.

So I’m a bit ambivalent about commemorating other tribes’ wars whatever side they fought on. But if those tribes want to set aside their own day of mourning that’s OK by me. Mourning the loss of land might be something we could have in common. It would be a bit like mourning the loss of lives in war I suppose. It sounds like a good idea but it’s a bit more complex than it sounds.

Should we really set aside a day to mourn what divided my two grandfathers, or seek instead to celebrate what joins us. Much modern day ANZAC belief lies in the myth that New Zealand came of age, or achieved nationhood on the World War I battlefields, especially Gallipoli. Of course it’s pure rubbish. Grandfather Whana’s people were here in this land for some 700 hundred years before Gallipoli. Grandfather Fred’s people were here for about 150 years before Gallipoli. We try to celebrate the joining of these two strands of migration on Waitangi Day, not very successfully because we are still divided over what Waitangi means to the nation as a whole. Grandfather Whana seems to be pulling in one direction and Grandfather Fred in another.

They never met but as men of the land I’m sure they would have found much in common. A shared love of the land perhaps; the farmer and the bushman. Neither of them was much interested in politics. Grandfather Fred like most of his generation didn’t much like Maori. He did change his attitude a bit after he acquired a Maori son-in-law and Maori mokopuna. Incidentally he didn’t much like Catholics either and didn’t ever approve of his Pakeha Catholic son-in-law. Those were his times. Grandfather Whana didn’t go to war but I’m sure he would have understood and honoured Grandfather Fred’s decision. He did after all name one of his daughters Lemnos Mudros after the island and its harbour from where the Gallipoli campaign was launched. It’s a mystery. I’ve no idea why but he did.

I’ve no idea either how we might celebrate the real birth of this nation formed primarily from twin strands of migration through a clash of cultures, a short period of armed conflict in some parts, a long period of inter-cultural political and economic turmoil in most parts, and an even longer aftermath through which we are still finding our way. Perhaps if we’re patient the answer will in time reveal itself. Perhaps it will be in finally cutting the ties to monarchy and all it represents and in the birth of a new republic. Our day of celebration of nationhood might lie not in the past but in the future.

In the meantime let ANZAC Day remain simply a mourning for our dead in the conflicts where a lot of us fought on the same side, for whatever reason.

Lest we forget.

Draining the Swamp – Some Fundamentals for Maori Policy Makers

In previous posts I have been looking at Maori policy and have come to a few conclusions about past and present policy, primarily;

  1. Channelling policy initiatives through neo-tribal organisations or corporate iwi has not and will not address the development or advancement needs of most Maori;
  2. Such policy most benefits the Maori elites rather than Maori most in need;
  3. A focus on the Treaty of Waitangi and on cultural and language retention and revitalisation, whilst a beneficial policy for Maori, has not and will not address the real social and economic advancement needs of MOST Maori.

I am yet to be persuaded about the present Whanau Ora initiative. It seems to me to be an “ambulance at the bottom of the cliff” policy focused on helping whanau to cope with life at the bottom of the socio-economic heap, perhaps giving false hope that they might be able to climb out of where they are, rather than dealing to the complete environment and to the societal and economic reasons why they are trapped at the bottom of the heap.

If that is so what then should be the focus of Maori policy.

  1. It should focus on the social and economic advancement of all Maori wherever they are and where they are, in relatively large numbers at the bottom of the socio-economic heap, and mainly in the cities rather in than the rural homelands which are the domain of most corporate iwi,
  2. It should prioritise the needs of those Maori MOST IN NEED and should DIRECTLY address those needs;
  3. It should address causes of disadvantage rather than symptoms or effects.

Statistics that form the narrative of Maori disadvantage have been used as the basis of Maori policy for decades beginning in my living memory in 1961 with the Hunn Report on the Department of Maori Affairs. Perhaps the main consequence of that report was a rapid rise in migration of Maori to the cities. In the last thirty years that same but evolving narrative has underpinned a bewildering succession of reports and policies. Te Putatara has a somewhat different perspective and statistical narrative (see here). The telling and retelling of the statistical narrative by the policy makers has rarely resulted in policies that meet the above criteria.

There are perhaps three reasons why that is so:

Firstly, once the narrative has been retold in the form of yet another report policy purportedly designed to address the identified needs has actually been designed to conform to prevailing beliefs and ideology rather than real need. The belief in the relevance of iwi, based on the false post-colonial whanau-hapu-iwi construct, has dominated since the 1980s and has resulted in the formation of corporate iwi and in their capture of resources, and the present dominance of “Iwi Leaders” in matters of Maori policy. A belief in a neoliberal “trickle down” theory of economic policy has resulted in the present focus on Maori business grandiosely described as the Maori economy, and despite the telling and retelling of the success of this mythical “Maori economy” little movement can be seen at the bottom of the heap.

The retention and revitalisation of language and culture was a powerful pou whakapono that brought with it many policies notably in education and broadcasting. Those policies were believed by many of their ardent proponents to be the key that would unlock the social and economic barriers to Maori social and economic advancement. It has not been so. Having said that I do not quibble with the desirability of cultural and language retention. I do however question it as a policy designed to address the social and economic advancement of those most in need. An intellectual justification can be found in the argument that identity and self-esteem should be enhanced through cultural and language revival and that may lead to greater success in climbing out of socio-economic disparity. But the statistical record says that that is no more than theory.

The Treaty of Waitangi was another powerful pou whakapono used to drive the so-called Maori Renaissance and to justify much policy but of and in itself has delivered little to those most in need and much to the elites who control Maori resources.

A great deal of Maori policy has therefore delivered the ideology and has not dealt to needs.

Secondly, using poverty as an example, policy seems not to take into account the phenomenon of reproductive replacement.  For instance every person or whanau that is moved out of poverty into the middle class, whether by their own efforts or with help from community or state, is replaced by those who are born into poverty (or other disparity). Policy designed to move people out of poverty must aim to do so faster than the birth or replacement rate. To do otherwise is to accept that no matter how many are rescued from poverty the number of poor will nevertheless continue to increase.

The lesson is that framing policies aimed at individuals or their whanau rather than at the whole problem of poverty will be self-defeating except in the case of fortunate individuals or individual whanau.

Thirdly, policies that would address the real needs of those most in need are too hard, beyond the purview of Maori policy makers, and beyond their ability to deliver policy that would work. And that is because those policies that would work would focus almost entirely on broad national social and economic ideology and policy rather than just on Maori. National social and economic policy is itself driven by prevailing ideologies, at the moment a political and somewhat corrupted version of neoliberal economics. Ministers of Maori Affairs or Maori Development do not have their hands on the social and economic levers of power and are therefore powerless to make a real difference, even if they knew how.

What they and their policy advisors then do is to focus on what they can do within Vote Maori and that is invariably guided by their own ideology and by the prevailing ideology of the Maori elites and so the circle is complete and we are back where we started.

The levers of power that if pulled in the right direction would deliver real social and economic advancement to those Maori most in need are the economic levers held closely by the small group of cabinet ministers in the inner sanctum, whatever their political hue. For at least three decades social policy that might address the real needs of most Maori has been subservient to questionable economic policy. Only when economic policy is designed to serve society and social policy will those needs be addressed, not just for Maori but for all those in need. At the moment policy first addresses the interests of the elites, whether Maori or Pakeha.

The landscape over which this policy saga plays out stretches from the low lying swamp in which the least well off survive, to the distant mountain and the clear air where the rich have their palatial homes. In between the two are the lowland plains where most New Zealanders live and the foothills of increasing height that are the domain of the better off. In the highest of these foothills is the castle called Parliament which houses the levers of power over this whole landscape. It also houses those who have their hands on those levers and are the lords of the landscape but who are by choice (i.e. ideology) also the servants of the mountain dwellers. A few of them are themselves mountain dwellers.

The swamp is where disease is most prevalent; diseases of both body and mind and the diseases of society including chronic poverty and unemployment. There are alligators in the swamp in the form of drugs and alcohol, crime and violence. The alligators not only devour many of the swamp dwellers, they also serve to corral them inside the swamp. On the banks of the swamp are the tents of the well-meaning including the Whanau Ora tent, It is from these tents that intrepid community and social workers, health workers and educators, both state and volunteer, venture into the swamp to work with the swamp dwellers to try to alleviate the condition of their lives and hopefully to bring some individuals and whanau out of the swamp onto the plains.

The statistical evidence clearly indicates that they are fighting a losing battle.

An engineer would approach the challenge of the swamp in an entirely different way. The engineer would drain the swamp and convert it into fertile ground, an extension of the plains.

The lords of the landscape and their mountain dwelling puppet-masters have absolutely no interest in diverting resources to the engineers to apply their expertise to the challenge. Over the last thirty years the resources have been moving in exactly the opposite direction, from the swamp and the plains into the foothills and up the mountain. That has been despite thirty years of assurances that the more resources the mountain dwellers acquire the more will trickle down to the plains and the swamp. Money it seems does not behave at all like the water that falls on the mountain and eventually forms the swamp. The mountain dwellers know that and do whatever it takes to preserve the status quo and the lords of the landscape remain blinded by perverse ideology to the dominant agenda of the mountain folk.

The hill dwellers also benefit from this reverse flow of resources. And it is in these hills that the Maori elites dwell, some of them on the hill they have named the Maori Economy. Somewhat amazingly some on that hill maintain that they too live in the swamp alongside their less fortunate whanaunga.

The challenge for Maori policy makers is first of all to free themselves from the ideology of the Maori elites and then to obtain and divert sufficient resources to the engineers. To do that Maori have to storm the castle called Parliament and get their hands on the levers of power. Maori have actually been storming that castle for decades now and have established footholds on the ramparts. Indeed the Maori Party has accepted an invitation to climb down from the ramparts to dine at the long table in the great dining hall. There they feast with the lords of the landscape and send doggy bags of goodies to the Maori elites and crumbs to the plains and swamp dwellers.

But they still do not have their hands on the levers of power for those are safe within the inner sanctum or citadel. They talk of having to sit at the table before anything can be achieved. They try to convince themselves and the rest of us that the great dining hall is the citadel. But it isn’t. That’s deep inside the castle and has its own moat and drawbridge. The Maori Party have been given the keys to the house but not the combination to the safe.

How then do Maori get their hands on the levers in the safe; in the citadel. The bald reality is that Maori cannot do it alone. The swamp is home to Maori, Pasifika and Pakeha and the draining of the swamp will be a joint undertaking. The storming of the citadel will also need to be a joint campaign which will require a broad political coalition of Maori, Pasifika and Pakeha with the singular intent of draining the swamp through making economic policy serve the needs of society rather than the reverse.

So much for the metaphor of the swamp, the plains, the foothills, the mountain, the castle, and the citadel. Almost.

The storming of the citadel is not a narrow Maori policy matter. It is a matter of broad social and economic policy which are areas largely ignored by Maori policy makers including Maori politicians, cabinet ministers, their advisors, Maori academics and researchers. It follows then that what is urgently needed in Maori policy is to refocus from the present narrow scope of policy deliberation onto broad social and economic policy. And economic expertise in Maori policy making is the single greatest deficiency preventing that.

The rationale for draining the swamp cannot be developed without it. It behoves politicians, bureaucrats, academics, researchers and activists to become not just economically literate but economically expert if they are to challenge the status quo. This is no short term quest.

There are those on the “Left” who are advocating a coalition of the Labour, Green, Internet and Mana Parties to defeat the Key-led Government in the coming elections who might interpret this article as support for that notion. You’re dreaming. “Te Putatara” doesn’t support any political party. And in any case there is no-one with economic literacy or expertise in the Mana Party, none visible in the Internet Party, perhaps one person in the Green Party and certainly none in the parliamentary Labour Party. So you’re dreaming anyway. Even if you do pull it off you’ll need more than ideological intent to defeat the entrenched economic ideology in the Treasury, Reserve Bank and many other government agencies, you’ll need real economic expertise. You don’t have it. Mind you nor does the parliamentary National Party but they don’t need it. They’ve got Treasury pulling their strings, as Treasury has done ever since it subverted and captured the Lange/Douglas Labour Government in 1984. You’ll need to capture Treasury as well.

In the next post I will explore what economic literacy and expertise looks like.

Related Essays

Mai i Hawaiki ki Hawaiki: The Evolution of Maori Culture
The Evolution of Pakeha Culture
The Maori Worldview and Maori Policy
The Mythology of the Whanau-Hapu-Iwi Construct
The Origins of Corporate Iwi
The Maori Economy – A Fanciful Notion
The Myth of the Maori Entrepreneur
The Treaty of Waitangi Revisited
Te Ture Whenua Maori Review – Who Benefits? 
Perspectives of Time, Small Prophecy & Maori Policy

Perspectives of time, small prophecy, and Maori policy

Whimsical ruminations and ramblings of an unbeliever in which there might be a sliver of truth, or might not depending on your time perspective and ideological mindset.

Our time perspective is a learned state of mind. It is one of the most influential and least recognized factors in the psychology and lives of all of us.

“Ka mura, ka muri”

Walking backwards into the future” was a perception of time common in many cultures before the onset of the modern era and with it our raging addiction to discovery, progress, and relentless and rapid change. The ancient Egyptians feared and hated change. It was the great obsession that they held to for three thousand years trying to stop time by avoiding change. Fundamentalist religion is equally devoted to staving off the future. I know Maori, some highly educated, who fiercely try to hold off change and to live in the past, albeit an imagined nostalgic and romantic past.

To resist living in one’s own time, to attempt to live in an imaginary past, is human in the same way that being neurotic is human.” – American scholar Edward Mendelson.

Apprehension about the future is still common in the present era but unlike the Egyptians of old we can no longer hold it at bay. However we still tend to cling to the past, or to a romantic and nostalgic version of it for we are much more kindly disposed to the past than to the future. To many or perhaps most people the past is a safe and comforting retreat from the uncertainty of the future.

But the future, however uncertain or even threatening, is the inexorable and inevitable continuation of the past. See Mai i Hawaiki ki Hawaiki”.

There are those who live entirely in the past and everything in the present is viewed through the lens of the past, whether real, re-imagined or reconstructed, mostly re-imagined and reconstructed, for that is how the human mind remembers the past. The past is invariably re-made to serve the perceived needs of the present. Much Maori policy is built from within this viewpoint. Whether or not the past is viewed from a positive or negative perspective will greatly influence the life being lived. It will also influence Maori policy for there are positives as well as negatives in our post-settlement history and to dwell upon the one at the expense of the other is to cast policy into grievance or victim mode.

Then there are those who live only in the present with little or no perception of the past or regard for the future, or for the consequences of present day choices. Those who are drug or substance addicted, gambling addicted and food addicted, are extreme examples. Hedonists living only for the pleasures of the present are another example, usually in adolescence or early adulthood, but often persisting into maturity. Fatalists are those who believe that their lives are controlled entirely by forces they cannot influence such as religion or other beliefs about predestination. Fatalists can also be those who adopt the mantle of victimhood and believe that there is nothing they can do to raise themselves out of their present state, perhaps even that the whole of society is conspiring against them. They live entirely in the present.

There are degrees of present time focus. It is short term thinking and Maori policy interventions are often the result of this type of thinking.

Socio economic status is closely related to time perspective. Those on the lowest income levels and those with higher school dropout rates are more likely to be present oriented. Their time perspective may be a result of their station in life but their station in life may also be attributable in some degree to time perspective; to their psychology. Those who are able to lift themselves out of the lower socio economic group are invariably future focused.

Research indicates that those who are future oriented adults exhibit some of the following:

  • Live in a temperate zone;
  • Live in a stable family, society and nation;
  • If religious are protestant or Jewish;
  • Are educated;
  • Are young or middle-aged adults;
  • Have a job;
  • Use technology regularly;
  • Are successful;
  • Have future-oriented role models; and
  • Are recovering from childhood illness.

However, most future oriented people also tend to view the future through the lens of either the past or the present, or both. In fact most people tend to live in an immediate past and do not even see the present as it really is. In this rapidly changing modern world most people do not keep up with what is happening around them, or what is happening in the wider world. Important scientific discoveries for instance are unknown to most people for decades even though the knowledge and perspectives gained from those discoveries will change forever our understanding of the world and our own lives. We do not keep up with change and therefore consign ourselves to living life in an immediate past rather than the actual present.

In the main it is not a harmful perspective. Except in the case of the frog in the pot of water being slowly raised to boiling point without taking notice.

Academics and policy researchers are not immune to the frog in the pot phenomenon. Academics tend to construct their lifelong professional perspectives early in their careers through their undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate research, and through their interpretation of that research in theses. If they further their research and studies it is usually built upon the conclusions of their initial research rather than upon new interpretations of old knowledge in the light of new evidence, or new knowledge as a result of new research. Their teaching careers are almost always built upon their early studies and qualification. Academics like most people from all walks of life rarely re-evaluate their beliefs and change their worldviews in the light of new evidence. Few even seek out new evidence that might result in changed beliefs and worldviews.

Thus it is in the academy that old knowledge and old ideas are passed on from old minds to new minds. Some of those students become policy makers. Thus it is that the past is perpetuated.

Outside of academia people rarely discard the core beliefs and worldviews they adopt in childhood and adolescence, whether from their churches, their families or from their peer groups. Outside their own academic disciplines academics also retain the core beliefs and worldviews of their childhood and adolescence. So in that sense most of us are living within a time perspective framed in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood, depending on our level of education both formal and informal, and subsequent experience. Even though we may be future oriented that future is seen through the lens of our perception of past or present.

It is said in the Talmud, the central text of Rabbinic Judaism:

“We see things not as they are but as we are”

The ancients, without the benefit of the modern science of cognitive psychology, understood the human mind and its propensity to see the world as a reflection of itself and to build the narratives it wants to believe. We in the modern world still see the world as we are, not as it is, and there are many factors that influence how we are and how we see things, our time perspective being one of the most influential and least recognised.

What has all that got to do with prophecy?

Prophecy is not necessarily the ability to see into the future. Most often it just involves describing the present that others don’t see or don’t yet see. To them it seems like foretelling of the future. It has to do with perceptions of time. I describe this as small prophecy as opposed to the grand prophecy of soothsayers and matakite, the perception of that which is beyond perception.

Small prophecy is the ability to set aside one’s own time perspective, beliefs and worldviews, to search out and discover what is actually happening in the present, and then to describe it. Small prophecy is seeing the present. Grand prophecy is seeing the future.

The previous essay “The Maori Worldview and Maori Policy” was a small essay into small prophecy, describing the condition and status and worldviews of Maori as they are in the present.

The maker of small prophecy, the seer of the present, must also be prepared to change beliefs, worldviews and perspectives in the light of new evidence. Changing one’s beliefs even in the face of the most compelling evidence is one of the hardest things for a person to do, after public speaking and accepting the inevitability of death. Given that most people are not fully aware of the present, and may not become aware of present reality for years, or decades, if ever, the act of describing the present is an act of prophecy. For most people it is a distant reality in their own knowledge and understanding for even if they hear it or read it they may not actually perceive it until sometime in the future.

For those who lives are framed entirely in the past perspective any telling of the actual present is beyond belief. Politicians and the ideologically fixated as a class seem to be drawn in disproportionate numbers from the inhabitants of an imagined past.

The work of academics and policy makers informs Maori policy. Although future oriented much of it is built upon past perspective or upon a present perspective that is out of synch with present reality.

Layered upon that is the political governance of ministers of the Crown who drive the direction of policy which is invariably ideological and based in the beliefs, worldviews and perspectives of the politician, formed in his or her childhood, adolescence or early adulthood, hopelessly out of synch with present reality and future needs.

To state the obvious, policy is therefore inexact and unlikely to provide direction to meet long term needs, or even short to medium term needs. That applies as much to economic policy, health, welfare, education, foreign affairs, defence and national security policy as it does to Maori policy. As nations we seem to muddle through. Governments change but policy direction does not change dramatically despite the initial flurry of post-election policy activity before policy inertia sets in again. Policy might not achieve much that is useful but it can and does hinder the beneficial evolution of our individual and collective lives and livelihoods.

That can be a somewhat pessimistic outlook on life. The engaged optimist therefore either ignores the reality of policy inexactitude and prejudice and simply believes for believing is much easier and more comforting than thinking; or being an ideological unbeliever seeks solace in a better future by indulging in small prophecy about what really is and what might be, guarding against the innate human tendency to wishful thinking and ever mindful and accepting that no one is listening.

Most people aren’t engaged and simply don’t care. Most people follow the sports news or the celebrity news rather than political news and remain happily ignorant of policy until it affects them personally. It is probably the most sensible if somewhat fatalistic approach.

Every now and then, in the modern timeframe about every thirty to fifty years, there is a policy jolt and we are forced by circumstance to catch up on decades of time denial and policy lethargy. The optimist of small prophecy is partially vindicated as prophecy belatedly becomes reality. There is an “I told you so” moment. But even then policy makers and legislators invariably misread the signs in the goat’s entrails and send us off into yet another policy time warp in which a version of the past is mistaken for the present and the future is divined through a combination of ideological day dreaming and wishful thinking.

One would think that it would be an easy matter for law makers and policy advisors to understand all of this and to sit down and rationally and logically discern the actual present as opposed to an adolescent, idealistic or ideological version of the past substituting as the present. To engage in small prophecy and at least to devise policy for the actual present.

Were that the case in Maori policy we would not:

  • Aim policy at the needs and aspirations of the Maori elites who in reality are not in need of policy assistance;
  • Pursue language and cultural revival as a substitute for overall Maori advancement; and
  • Focus on the development of corporate iwi and on business development as a substitute for overall Maori economic development.

We would:

  • Focus instead on the real needs of most Maori people, especially the poor and struggling;
  • Let the elites look after themselves; and
  • Be specific about the aims of policies of language and cultural revival, and corporate iwi and business development, instead of cloaking them in the mantle of “Maori development”.

It is I know a giant and impossible step from there to devise policy that recognizes the multiple possibilities of an uncertain future flexible enough to adapt as required. Unfortunately ideology is diametrically opposed to recognition of multiple uncertain futures and to flexibility of both mind and policy. But we could just focus on the actual present; on the evidence before our eyes.

However none of that is possible in Maori policy without a re-alignment of macro-economic policy. One of the delusions of legislators, policy makers and policy advisors is that their policy makes a beneficial difference. Most of it doesn’t but macro-economic policy does make a difference, beneficial or otherwise, and it has long term effects.

After World War II Keynesian economic policies and trade union advocacy helped lift thousands out of poverty and into the middle class but eventually Robert Muldoon took it too far and created a command economy akin to the communist/socialist economies he detested. Whereas Muldoon had tried to hold back the tide Roger Douglas corrected the excesses of Muldoon and brought the New Zealand economy into the real world. But Douglas and after him Ruth Richardson took it too far and brought in harsh neo-liberal ideologically driven policies that over the next thirty years entrenched inequality and poverty into the political economy.

” … almost all the increase in our economic inequality stems from the reductions in the effectiveness of the redistribution system as a result of the lower taxes on the rich introduced by Rogernomics and of the benefit cuts under Ruthanasia”.

– Brian Easton, Book Review of “Inequality: A NZ Crisis”, Listener, 10 Oct 2013.

Ironically Maori policy over that same period has ostensibly been aimed at improving the lot of most Maori yet macro-economic policy has worked powerfully in exactly the opposite direction. Policy aimed at overall Maori development and Maori advancement makes very little if any difference to the lives of most Maori unless macro-economic policy is aligned. It is not aligned, not in the least. Maori policy over the last thirty years has however succeeded in aligning the mindset of a minority of Maori, the elites, with the neo-liberal agendas that drive it.

Unfortunately for Maori and for Aotearoa New Zealand the political and economic elites still have their noses buried in the imagined past and their eyes fixed on a delusional future divined in ideological day dreaming and wishful thinking. Neo-liberal macro-economic policy sometimes described as zombie economics reigns still despite the evidence of the collapse of financial markets in the Global Financial Crisis due to naked greed and a lack of political will and regulation to curb the greed. Neo-liberal policy reigns still despite the evidence of growing and increasingly entrenched inequality and poverty.

Which is what defines most Maori despite thirty years of Maori policy; inequality and poverty. The evidence is there in the present for all to see yet few seem aware of the reality of the present. It is the hugely influential psychological phenomenon of time perspective at work.

The Maori elites themselves, influencing and making Maori policy, seem seduced by their own achievement and somehow convinced that more of the same policy and the benefits they have accrued from it will somehow trickle down and raise the standard of living for the rest of Maori. They too are living in a re-imagined and reconstructed past, an imagined present and focused on a delusional future.

So much for the whimsical ruminations and ramblings of an unbeliever, yet ever an optimist. A long-term inter-generational perspective is required of an optimist. Things do gradually get better over time despite unhelpful time perspectives, ideological backwaters, side channels and dams, and despite politicians and policy makers and their stop-go, around-and-around-and-around-and-around policies.

For poor and struggling Maori Christmases come and go with monotonous regularity marking neither change nor advancement in their lives but just the passing of another 365 days of struggle and the prospect of another 365 days exactly the same. For most of them the past is the present and the present is the future.

They are the ones described in “Duino Elegies” by the Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke as the “disinherited ones to whom neither the past nor the future belongs”.

Boxing Day, 2013.

Related Essays

Mai i Hawaiki ki Hawaiki: The Evolution of Maori Culture
The Evolution of Pakeha Culture
The Maori Worldview and Maori Policy
The Mythology of the Whanau-Hapu-Iwi Construct
The Origins of Corporate Iwi
The Maori Economy – A Fanciful Notion
The Myth of the Maori Entrepreneur
The Treaty of Waitangi Revisited
Te Ture Whenua Maori Review – Who Benefits?