Brussel Sprouts

I hated brussel sprouts. Well, hate might be a bit over the top, but I didn’t eat them for about 60 years after the age of 6. I lived with my Pakeha grandparents for just over a year when I first started school. We didn’t have a school where we lived.

My grandmother was English, brought home after WW1. Her cooking was standard working class English; meat and two veg. And they didn’t have electricity or refrigeration of course in those days. So we ate fresh caught fish, fresh meat occasionally, and a lot of corned beef or corned mutton, mostly corned beef. Didn’t need refrigeration to keep corned meat. We had a big vegetable garden and I don’t know why but it seemed to me to be mostly brussel sprouts, and cabbages.

Anyway we ate a lot of corned beef and brussel sprouts, and corned beef and cabbage, boiled.

I was chatting with my last surviving aunt a few months ago, over lunch, and mentioned that I hadn’t touched brussel sprouts from the age of 6 to a few years ago. At the time she, being the youngest, was still at home. She told me she hadn’t ever eaten corned beef since she left home.

A few years ago I was idly watching the Graham Norton Show on the TV. Gwyneth Paltrow was a guest. She’s a bit wierd but also a bit of a foodie. For some wierd reason she started talking about brussel sprouts, and how she cooks them. I thought to myself, “Maybe they’ll taste OK cooked like that”. So I tried it, and I’ve been cooking and eating them regularly ever since. Healthy kai.

Cut the base off the sprouts and cut a cross into the base.
Steam them until they’re half cooked.
Saute them in olive oil in a frying pan.
When they’re nearly done, add a generous splash of balsamic vinegar, or caramelised balsamic vinegar if you have it.
Continue cooking until the vinegar has reduced to almost nothing.


Vegetable, Fruit & Nut Tagine

This is a no meat version of an original North African dish. Best cooked in a tagine, the distinctive North African cookware.


1 Onion (sliced)
Flaxseed Meal
Ras el Hanout North African spice mix
Coconut oil (or other cooking oil)

1 handful pistachio nuts (try peanuts for a different taste)
4 dried apricots (sliced)
4 dried figs (sliced)
4 dates (sliced)
1 preserved or fresh lemon (sliced)
1 apple (sliced)
1 can white beans (or 2 cups pre-soaked dried white beans)
1 or 2 handfuls shredded coconut

Green beans
Other vegetables

Saute the onions, garlic, chilli, ginger, flaxseed meal and Ras El Hanout in the cooking oil, in the tagine. Add the nuts, fruit, beans and shredded coconut, one or two tomatoes, and water. Bring to the boil on the hob, turn the heat down very low, and simmer for at least 60 minutes. Slice whatever vegetables you’ve decided to use, including another one or two tomatoes, add them (and more water if needed) about 30 minutes before serving, bring to the boil again, then simmer for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked.

Try not to lift the lid more than you have to. The steam and juices are trapped inside the lid, and run back down into the dish, trapping all of the many flavours.

Serve over rice or quinoa and garnish with herbs or chopped apricot.


Heaven and Hell

Onions and Apples

This is an easy, different, and tasty dish. Whole Food Plant Based of course.


2 onions
2 Granny Smith apples
1 large potato
1 large kumara
Frozen peas
2 Cinnamon sticks
Mixed herbs (handful)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil (about a tablespoon)

Thinly slice the onions, apples, potato and kumara.

Layer the onions on the bottom of a casserole or similar oven dish with a reasonably heavy lid (I use a cast iron dish), and layer the apples over the onion. Layer the potato and kumara over that, with more layers of onion and apple if you have any left over. Throw in the peas, beans or any other vegetable in between the layers.

Place the cinnamon sticks in the middle somewhere, season with the herbs, salt and pepper. Drizzle the olive oil over it, and add about a half a cup of water.

Put the lid on and place in the oven at 200 degrees, cook for 95 minutes. By then the onions and apple will have caramelised. Serve on its own or with another vegetable.

Feeds two.


The Breakfast Smoothie

A totally different topic:

People always ask me about my breakfast smoothie, mostly out of curiosity rather than from any intention to adopt my peculiar dietary habits.

It’s strictly a no animal products (Whole Food Plant Based) for I’ve been that way for over fifteen years now (2016), and vegetarian for fifteen years before that. This smoothie, and variations of it, has been my main daily meal for about 12 years. It combines the nutritional essentials of protein, fats, carbohydrates and fibre. There is plenty of fibre in the fruit, greenery and nuts to maintain good gut health. I figure that the smoothie gives me all the nutrients I need, including essential minerals, vitamins and amino acids.

Except for Vitamin B12, which I take as a daily supplement.

The smoothie keeps me going all day without ever feeling hungry. Without ever feeling the effects of low blood sugar. I have two meals a day; this smoothie and dinner. I rarely snack between meals. And it powers me through my daily exercise late in the day – about 10k daily walking plus occasional weight training.

It’s made in a standard 600ml smoothie maker (Kambrook, George Foreman, Nutribullet, etc) and is one third fruit, one third greenery and one third nuts, with a few other ingredients, in plain water.


Whatever fruit is in season, but my staples are:

  • Pineapple,
  • Orange or grapefruit, or sometimes a lemon or lime, just for a change.
  • Blueberries and
  • Banana.
  • My son adds avocado which gives the smoothie a creamy texture, and avocado is rich in health promoting nutrients.


Kale is the hipster fad of the moment but I use:

  • Celery, or
  • Spinach, or
  • Silver beet, and
  • Herbs (usually mint, basil or parsley). Usually the dominant taste in the smoothie, and
  • sometimes I use Kale because there’s some in the garden, not because I’m into the hipster fad.

A Combination of Raw Nuts (protein, fat and fibre)

  • Walnuts, and
  • Cashews, and
  • Almonds, and
  • Brazil nuts.
  • Peanuts make it taste like peanut butter, if that’s what you like, and they’re a legume rather than a nut, but still very healthy.

According to this scientific meta analysis higher nut intake is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality, and mortality from respiratory disease, diabetes, and infections.

And there is some scientific evidence that a daily nut intake will help prevent erectile dysfunction. Who needs to support the billion dollar Viagra business.

Supplements (essential ingredients)

  • Turmeric root or powder (about half a teaspoon); and
  • Spirulina (about one teaspoon).

Non-essential supplements, but I add them anyway

  • Seeds (whole or ground), i.e. flax, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin.
  • Coconut yoghurt, just because coconut is an ancient tipuna kai (ancestral food) I suppose.
  • Ginger root, because its good for you.
  • Garlic is good for you too but I can’t stand the taste of garlic in my smoothie. I tried it once and it was overpowering.
  • I’ve been known to add miso paste because it’s a complete protein, is said to aid digestion, and as a fermented food helps maintain a healthy gut biota. But it does become the dominant flavour (omnivores can use an ordinary yoghurt for the same purpose).


I experiment, trying new healthy ingredients from time to time, always maintaining the 1/3 fruit, 1/3 greenery, 1/3 nuts formula, with the essential ingredients.


I prepare it the night before, nuts first, then the fruit and the greenery, with the supplements last, top with water, and leave it in the fridge overnight. I will usually make about three days’ at a time. In the morning I add an ice cube for an extra chill, whizz and drink.

Some people think that they need to drink a bit of the smoothie at a time throughout the day, to power them through the day. I find that taking it all at breakfast is more convenient, and still powers me through the whole day, without ever feeling hungry.

Fishing for Prawns – Maori TV & Mihi Forbes

After a recent allegation, aired in the media and provoking outrage on social media, that former Maori TV presenter Mihingarangi Forbes had without permission taken her employer provided wardrobe with her when she left the job, I penned a few words of disbelief about the whole controversy, including:

“The Indonesians have a pepeha “Ada udang dibelakang batu” which means literally “There’s a prawn behind the rock” or “There’s more to this than meets the eye“. And a long time ago, long long before TV and the Internet my grandmother taught me never to believe anything I read in the newspaper or heard on the radio, and to believe only half of what I saw and heard for myself. She might well have said don’t believe anything you read on Facebook or Twitter. Suspending judgement and waiting for the full story to reveal itself, sometimes digging for the full story myself, always works for me. I suspect there’s two sides to the real story and we haven’t heard either of them yet”.

“My advice to those who are upset by the allegation, even outraged, is to take a deep breath, to abide by the wisdom of my grandmother and don’t believe any of it; from either side. This wardrobe stuff is just a ripple on the surface of the pond. There’s a prawn behind the rock and we haven’t seen it yet”.

Thinking on it for a few days I decided to go fishing for prawns. It’s a small pond and it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a prawn behind a rock somewhere.

It all starts in 2013, I think, with the decision by former MTS CEO Jim Mather to move on. The media hints that his decision to seek new challenges might have been assisted by a difference of opinion with the chair of MTS, Hon Georgina te Heuheu. Whether or not that is the case he resigned and the board set about advertising for and appointing a replacement. Jim Mather had in his eight years as CEO stabilised the channel, installed sound management practices and built competent production and news teams. Maori TV was thriving.

Maori TV had also reached out to new audiences and it was reported from time to time that its Pakeha audiences at times outnumbered its Maori audiences. There has always been tension at Maori TV between those who would privilege its founding kaupapa of language retention and revival above all else, and those who would reach out to a broader audience; some of those with a more commercial bent. That tension has always been present at staff and board level. Under Jim Mather and his core team some saw Maori TV moving away from the original kaupapa, becoming “more Pakeha” even.

The truth of that position depends entirely on your own preferences and perceptions and not on any objective measurement. Maori TV is Maori TV still by Maori mostly for Maori regardless of its editorial direction. However perceptions are infinitely more powerful than substance. But whatever management and the public might think, it is the prerogative of the Board of Directors to set the strategic direction of the organisation including its editorial direction, without of course interfering in day to day editorial matters. Boards have that in mind when they select CEOs.

The Board of Directors set about the recruitment and appointment of a new CEO. There were quite a few applicants and four were shortlisted by a committee led by Deputy Chairperson Tahu Potiki. Chairperson Georgina te HeuHeu had, so it later transpired, declared a conflict of interest because of friendship with one of the leading applicants, and left the process to her deputy. The shortlisting of her friend Paora Maxwell, and the elimination of MTS executive Carol Hisrchfeld, kicked off a long running controversy in the media and in Parliament. Additionally in some quarters Maxwell was not a popular choice, especially among MTS staff.

The four on the shortlist were Paora Maxwell, Carol Hirschfeld, Richard Jefferies and Mike Rehu. After Hirschfeld and Rehu were eliminated it became obvious to most that Maxwell would get the job.

The only real contenders were Maxwell and Hirschfeld. Regardless of their likeability and professionalism they represented two entirely different philosophies regarding the future direction of Maori Television. It was those philosophies that clashed and broke out into a public controversy. The real issue of the future direction of Maori Television was never publicly canvassed and debated but was buried in the controversy that erupted about whether or not Georgina te Heuheu had acted improperly and promoted her friend onto the shortlist of four, into the shorter list of two, and then into the job.

In retrospect the MTS Board was making a controversial decision to change the direction of MTS as much as it was making a decision about who should lead it in that direction.

Some on the MTS Board did not agree with the decision. Ian Taylor resigned from the Board and it was reported that Rikirangi Gage had disagreed as well. But the real opposition came from MTS staff. And there is some evidence that the whole public controversy, in the media and in Parliament, was generated from within MTS itself. MTS staff organised a petition in opposition to Maxwell and it was reported that 68 of the 170 staff had signed it. Apparently it was never presented to the Board but mainstream media certainly knew about it. Someone was certainly feeding the media and stoking the controversy. The media also reported that Jim Mather had sent an email to Georgina te Heuheu warning her that if Maxwell was appointed several staff would resign.

Fuelled by leaks from within MTS it turned into a public controversy about Georgina te Heuheu’s (declared) conflict of interest and about accusations of editorial interference. The content of that public controversy was heavily influenced by MTS staff. The real issues were ignored.

The core staff that Mather had built into his news team and who were leading MTS in a certain direction were Carol Hirschfeld, Julian Wilcox, Annabelle Lee Harris and Joanna Mihingarangi Forbes. The media reported that Hirschfeld had presented a written proposal about the direction she thought MTS should take. It was obviously not accepted by the Board.

The media team had also been in a legal battle with Te Kohanga Reo National Trust (TKRNT) about its intention to air a Native Affairs programme alleging impropriety in TKTNT financial affairs. MTS won in court and the “scandal” went to air in two episodes. Lee Harris and Forbes were the public faces of that campaign. It caused considerable public controversy and some accused Native Affairs of becoming too Pakeha in attacking establishment figures in Te Ao Maori. The substance of the MTS allegations was later proven to be largely unfounded although based on minor impropriety within a subsidiary company. But the allegation against MTS about being too Pakeha was also way over the top.

Some saw it as an intergenerational thing with a stroppy young generation attacking and disrespecting their elders. I just saw it at the time as a group of journalists trying to make their mark but employing bad and biased journalistic practice. Their allegations were taken at face value and no-one bothered to look behind the story to the real story.

In my commentary on that controversy I found the journalistic professionalism of the Native Affairs team to be lacking.

However, that controversy was linked to the other controversy over the appointment of the new CEO with allegations of political interference and editorial interference. This is how it was reported in the NZ Herald on March 21st 2014:

“Native Affairs uncovered a scandal over mis-spending of Kohanga Reo funding, which led to the whitewash report from EY (Ernst & Young), commissioned by Education Minister Hekia Parata. Subsequently, the Government did a turnaround and asked for a Serious Fraud Office investigation, saying more information had come to light – though many failings had already been identified by the show.

“It was gutsy coverage and the Maori TV board has been troubled by this story. Sources say the board came under intense pressure from figures in the Maori establishment, unhappy with the allegations against high-profile Maori leaders.

“Supporters of Native Affairs and its assertive approach to the Kohanga Reo story are dismissive of the criticism, saying elements within Maoridom – including some on the Maori TV Board – are resisting modernity. In my opinion that is understandable, given the Herculean effort many people put in to get Maori TV established.

“Some people achieved that through activism, and those activists are now part of the establishment. They do not like the stroppy team at Maori TV who are not afraid to question authority and have their own definition of deferring to elders. The question now is whether the old school stomps on the new breed of Maori broadcaster”.

The real goings on in Te Ao Maori are more often than not quite nuanced and unstated, and often concealed behind the public manifestation of a disagreement or argument. More often than not journalists, politicians and commentators are easily misled and totally miss the nuance. So it was in this controversy.

Underneath it all this controversy was also about the cult of celebrity that now dominates mainstream media most noticeably mainstream TV. TV journalists/front persons and radio shock jocks (and some bloggers) build their visibility and salaries on celebrity and not always on journalistic substance. Two of the most successful in the celebrity stakes were the late Paul Holmes and the ever present John Campbell who did both bring substance to the screen as well as celebrity. There are now many minor celebrities of varying degrees of substance surfing the airwaves in their wake.

Maori Television was built from the beginning on an entirely different platform; a Te Reo revitalisation platform. At least four of the MTS Board members were long time proponents of and activists for that Te Reo platform. As Native Affairs developed under Jim Mather and his team Native Affairs became the face of MTS and MTS became more and more a platform for the minor celebrity of Ms Forbes. The Kohanga Reo story, apart from being poor journalism in that it concealed more than it revealed, did openly reveal Native Affairs as celebrity platform.

And that would have been the nail in the coffin for Native Affairs and those who had promoted it as the face of Maori Television. Intentional or not it directly challenged the primacy of the original platform or kaupapa based solely on Te Reo revitalisation, and would have directly challenged the governing philosophy of a majority on the MTS board.

“Political interference” and “editorial interference” became their war cry, shorthand obfuscation in the battle for control of the Maori Television kaupapa. They lost of course.

When Maxwell subsequently reorganised MTS and reorganised some of the senior staff out of a job it was portrayed as “political interference” and “editorial interference”. Given their fierce public opposition to his appointment and to the new direction the Board hired him to take, Maxwell was never going to retain Mather’s core news team. He would have been mad to try to work with them. Which is not a reflection on their competence but on their kaupapa.

I should point out that I don’t know Maxwell and have no opinion about his competence or suitability for the job.

It is his job to appoint staff who will implement the strategic direction of the Board and the CEO, then let them get on with it. It is his job to sideline or remove staff who might be opposed to that direction and to appoint staff who would implement that direction. The real underlying issues were the intrusion of the cult of celebrity, the amount of English language programming, and the future direction of MTS which is entirely the prerogative of the Board to decide.

Carol Hirschfeld, Julian Wilcox, Annabelle Lee Harris, Mihingarangi Forbes, Semiramis Holland and Jodi Ihaka all eventually moved on. They were replaced by Maramena Roderick, Ward Kamo, Billie-Jo Hohepa Ropiha, Matai Smith, Maiki Sherman, Rewa Harriman and Wena Harawira. And that should have been that. Just one team replaced by another with MTS heading off in a new direction. End of story.

Except of course for lingering personal animosities. In amongst that broader conflict over control of the MTS kaupapa some personal stuff developed. Given that the recent target of some of that animosity was Mihingarangi Forbes, and given that there are always two sides to a dispute, I would tend to believe a media report that it revolves around her and Maramena Roderick who replaced Carol Hirschfeld as head of news, and that neither side is blameless or free of conflicts of interest. An article in “Scout” on 13th April 2016 says in part:

“There is no love lost between Roderick and Forbes, who said she quit Maori Television last year amid concerns about editorial interference.

“Scout understands there is bitter bad blood between the two women, and Forbes had hoped she would get the role of news boss herself. Sources have said Mihi and her camp sought several OIA requests about Maramena’s appointment at the time”.

In the change of strategic and editorial direction Ms Forbes also lost her celebrity pulpit.

Whoever was responsible for airing the allegation about Forbes’ wardrobe was certainly stooping low; it was a low blow, way below the pito. On the other hand, whilst I accept completely that Ms Forbes did not steal or otherwise misappropriate her wardrobe, I am not at all convinced of her innocence in the unseemly dispute the tip of which became public in a most unfortunate manner this week. Whatever did she do or say to provoke such a low blow?

And whoever did decide to give it an airing the day before Ms Forbes new TV programme was to launch, in direct opposition to MTS’ Native Affairs, is an absolutely lousy strategist. It backfired badly and gave Forbes loads of sympathy and enormous free publicity. If Forbes were Machiavelli she might have organised the leak herself. Nah. She’s not that smart.

The Indonesians were right. I found a prawn behind a rock. I followed the smell and it was right off.

Maori Television, Mihingarangi Forbes & Her Wardrobe

Once again what seems to be a dispute between past and present executives and news staff at Maori Television hits the news. This time supposedly about an allegation that Ms Forbes misappropriated her employer provided wardrobe when she left MTS. See the news report here.

Most commentators are linking this revelation back to the Native Affairs series of exposes about Te Kohanga Reo National Trust (TKRNT) and its subsidiary Te Pataka Ohanga Ltd, commented on by Te Putatara here. The Twitterati and Facebook crowd have also linked the removal of several news executives and presenters from Maori TV to the same TKRNT episode, and have assumed an ongoing feud between them and MTS, caused by the Native Affairs team taking on the Maori Establishment.

It all seems too simple to me. One thing I’ve learnt from decades of Maori politics is that nothing is ever what it seems to be.

The Indonesians have a pepeha “Ada udang dibelakang batu” which means literally “There’s a prawn behind the rock” or “There’s more to this than meets the eye“. And a long time ago, long long before TV and the Internet my grandmother taught me never to believe anything I read in the newspaper or heard on the radio, and to believe only half of what I saw and heard for myself. She might well have said don’t believe anything you read on Facebook or Twitter. Suspending judgement and waiting for the full story to reveal itself, sometimes digging for the full story myself, always works for me. I suspect there’s two sides to the real story and we haven’t heard either of them yet.

What we’ve heard is what they want us to hear. What’s more important and ultimately far more interesting is what they don’t want us to hear.

But is it really important, this spat between a minor Maori celebrity and her supporters, and some unknown and therefore unimportant detractors, presumably associated with MTS?

My advice to those who are upset by the allegation, even outraged, is to take a deep breath, to abide by the wisdom of my grandmother and don’t believe any of it; from either side. This wardrobe stuff is just a ripple on the surface of the pond. There’s a prawn behind the rock and we haven’t seen it yet.

"A Dowry for the Sultan"

Book Review – “A Dowry for the Sultan: a Tale of the Siege of Manzikert 1054” by Lance Collins

Self published by the author in Australia.
© Lance Collins 2016
ISBN 9780994540904 (paperback)

Reviewed by Ross Himona

A novel set in Central Eurasia in 1054 against the background of conflict between the Byzantine (or Eastern Roman) Empire and the Seljuk Turks. This tale is about the Battle of Manzikert in 1054 in which the Byzantines prevailed against the Turks in their attempt to lay siege to and capture the city of Manzikert. In 1071 at the next Battle of Manzikert the Turks were victorious and seized control of much of Asia Minor. The fall of the Byzantine capital of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire in 1453 finally ended the Byzantine Empire.

At the time of this novel the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire was Christian and culturally and linguistically Greek. Hence its citizens and soldiers were described as both Roman and Greek which is sometimes confusing. Frankish mercenaries also feature prominently in the novel. The Franks were a Germanic people from the Western Roman Empire who eventually gave their name to the modern France. The other main characters (apart from the Turkish invaders) are the Armenians. Armenia was the first state to become Christian (late 4th Century & early 5th Century) and was absorbed into the Byzantine Empire in 1045, soon after to be invaded by the Seljuk Turks. At the time of this novel Manzikert in Armenia was a key strategic city on the eastern border of the Byzantine Empire.

Central Eurasian history is extremely complex, involving the rise and fall of empires and the waxing and waning of thousands of tribes over many millennia. Although “A Dowry for the Sultan” is set in just a short period in this vast history it has obviously required a great deal of general historical research as well as specific political and military study by the author. That shows in the authenticity of the depiction of cultural, political, military and intelligence aspects of the story. The author’s own background as a military officer and intelligence analyst shines through in the detail of strategic, tactical and intelligence operations central to the story. As a former military officer and intelligence analyst myself I greatly enjoyed that authenticity. Although the central characters brought the book alive for me that authenticity added an extra layer of enjoyment.

Apart from historical, political and military authenticity there are the wonderfully portrayed diverse characters of many ethnicities with whom we are led to intimately engage. In this book the main characters are both human and animal, for in those times horses were the main mode of transport and formed an intimate warrior partnership with the fighting man. We come to know the horses in this story almost as well as we know their owners. The author’s country upbringing and his lifelong love of his own horses shines through. The detail of the partnership between horse and rider is quite astonishing. The people however, the politicians, soldiers, townspeople and their womenfolk, and their stories, are what draw us in and hold our attention from the beginning to the end of this well told story.

The unfolding love stories set against the background of warfare in which men and women often worked and fought side by side were what got me in the end. They are beautifully told. They showed that even in times of constant political intrigue and warfare, and in times in which human life was often valued cheaply, in which rape, pillage, plunder, murder, slavery and genocide were commonplace, there was also beauty in the human relationships. These love stories are islands in an ocean of human misery for this is the story of the clearance of a countryside of its people, animals, crops and treasures by a ferocious invader, and of a fierce battle to eventually defeat him. There is much death and much misery as there was in those times, and as there is still in the Middle East today. Then as now in the to and fro of geopolitical relationships the strong do what they will and the weak suffer what they must.

A Byzantine officer, Leo Bryennius and his soldiers, accompanied by a Frankish mercenary, Guy d’Agiles and his small party, ride from Constantinople to Manzikert to bolster the defences of the city commanded by the Byzantine Basil Apocapes. At the time Manzikert was thought by some to be threatened by Tughrul Bey, the sultan of the Seljuk Turks, although not everyone agreed and it was therefore not adequately garrisoned to repel a determined invader. Bryennius and his men arrive after an incident filled journey to find an undermanned city garrison that would be greatly outnumbered by the Turkish army. The main story revolves around the creative and inventive intelligence operations, strategy and tactics employed by Apocapes and Bryennius to see off Tughrul Bey, and the collective and individual courage and heroism of the defenders of the city.

There is also much intrigue in the employment of spies by both sides. Accurate intelligence was an essential component of the eventual victory.

The novel began to form when the author heard of an incident in history involving the courage of a single soldier about whom virtually nothing was known. He has given Guy d’Agiles that role in the novel and woven the incident into this story. In this fictional account it becomes the key courageous event that finally defeated the Seljuk Turk army and enabled the Byzantine victory at Manzikert in 1054.

A riveting read.


Click through to buy from Amazon
Or from iBook.

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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”.

New Zealand's Quiet War in Malaya & Borneo 1964 -1966

Did the British and Americans start Confrontation?

Book Review: “The Genesis of Konfrontasi, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia 1945-1965
By Greg Poulgrain, published by the Strategic Research & Development Centre (SIRD), Malaysia, 2014.

In this essay I try to cover the main points of Dr Poulgrain’s thesis with some reference to other sources. It is a book packed with detail and the essay is therefore detailed and quite long.

Konfrontasi or Confrontation was the war that New Zealand’s armed forces were committed to from 1964 to 1966 as part of Commonwealth military assistance to the Federation of Malaya and the British Borneo states. At the time Malaya was enmeshed in the process of federating with Singapore, and with the Borneo states of North Borneo (Sabah), Brunei and Sarawak, to form the Federation of Malaysia. Indonesia was opposed to that and engaged in political and military Konfrontasi.

The main NZ units in Konfrontasi were 1st Battalion Royal NZ Infantry Regiment (1 RNZIR), detachments of NZ Special Air Service Squadron (NZSAS), 41 Squadron RNZAF (troop and supply carrying), 14 Squadron RNZAF (Canberra bombers), HMNZS Otago, HMNZS Taranaki and HMNZS Royalist. 1 RNZIR was at the time permanently stationed in Malaya as part of the 28th Commonwealth Brigade. Parts of the British response to Konfrontasi especially its “Claret” cross border operations in Borneo were very secret. It was also a war that was mostly beneath the radar of public awareness in New Zealand.

The reviewer served in 1 RNZIR for part of that period from November 1965 to December 1967 and deployed with the battalion to Sarawak on operations in 1966.

Retired NZ Army officer and military historian Christopher Pugsley states in his book “From Emergency to Confrontation, the New Zealand Armed Forces in Malaya and Borneo 1949 – 1966”:

    “The principal trigger for the Confrontation between the Republic of Indonesia and the United Kingdom and the Federation of Malaya was the outbreak of a rebellion in Brunei.”

      2003, Oxford University Press, Ch 7 Confronting Intruders.

To this day that has been the orthodox official and historical line from the time of the rebellion (also called the Brunei Revolt) on 8th December 1962 and it is true to an extent. However Dr Poulgrain, an Australian political historian specialising in South East Asia, has unearthed compelling new evidence to suggest that the Brunei Revolt was started by British Intelligence and that the CIA was also complicit in fomenting unrest in Sarawak, condoned by British Intelligence. It that was so then it could be said that Konfrontasi was started by British Intelligence and not, as history records, by Indonesian President Sukarno.

This new evidence contradicts the orthodox historical version stated by Pugsley:

    “… it was the attempted coup d’etat in Brunei by Inche A.A.Azahari Mahmud [sic] and his Patai Ra’ayat on 8 December 1962 which prompted the Indonesian action against Malaysia’s formation that was known as Konfrontasi (Confrontation)”.

That contradiction is explored in detail later in this essay.

The Genesis of Konfrontasi” traces the relationship of Indonesia and British Colonialism in South East Asia from the end of World War II through to the events leading up to the outbreak of Konfrontasi. To gain a fuller appreciation one should also read Dr Pougrain’s companion book “The Incubus of Intervention, conflicting Indonesia strategies of John F Kennedy and Allen Dulles” (SIRD, Malaysia, 2015).

Post war decolonisation in Indochina (Vietnam, Laos & Cambodia), Philippines, Indonesia. Malaya, North Borneo, Brunei and Sarawak provides the broad background in which Britain and the USA generally cooperated but also had conflicting interests and goals.

The USA was also internally conflicted in that the CIA under Allen Dulles was conducting a covert programme in Indonesia at odds with President Kennedy’s own policy. The CIA programme aimed at regime change by unseating President Sukarno and replacing him with a USA-friendly military led government. President Kennedy on the other hand befriended President Sukarno and wanted to provide economic assistance to bring Indonesia into the USA’s sphere of influence. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963 and the CIA prevailed. To implement their own programme the CIA had first to unify Indonesia’s various military commands into a single powerful national force and also to ensure it was trained and equipped to assume its new role. As part of that programme the CIA fomented rebellion in various outer islands in Indonesia, covertly supplied the rebels with arms, and also provided Intelligence to Indonesia’s armed forces to ensure they put down the rebellions, thus building themselves into a legitimate national force.

That CIA programme is documented in “Incubus of Intervention” and it provides information vital to understanding the CIAs role in Konfrontasi.

Whereas the USA aimed to decolonise South East Asia as soon as possible after WW2 Britain was less enthusiastic. Undoubtedly the USA wanted to establish its own military and economic hegemony over the region, in its own interests and also as a Cold War strategy to restrict the influence of China and the USSR. Britain was reluctant to give up the last vestiges of empire and its access to strategic assets notably Brunei’s oilfields.

The Philippines gained its independence from the USA in 1945. Indonesia declared independence in 1945, fought the Dutch and gained UN recognition in 1949. Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia fought the French and gained their independence in 1954. Britain granted independence to the Federation of Malaya in 1957 but continued to maintain its military and economic influence. The territories of Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak remained British until the formation of Malaysia in 1963. Singapore left the Federation of Malaysia to become an independent nation in 1965.

Malaya was an important producer of tin, rubber and palm oil. Brunei was a major source of oil. Singapore was a centre of regional power and control with its port and trade facilities. Those facilities were also used in the export and import trade with the resource rich Indonesian archipelago. British companies controlled most of that economic activity. To ensure that the cash continued to flow from those assets Britain had to ensure that Indonesian influence in the British sphere of economic interest was eliminated or that the leadership in Jakarta was not anti-British. To this end Britain engaged in a series of covert provocations towards Indonesia. President Sukarno’s firm stance of anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism and non-alignment meant that he had to be removed and replaced. In this respect, and from an Indonesian viewpoint, Konfrontasi is seen not as a premeditated act or as a policy by design but partly as a response to British provocation.

Dr Poulgrain writes extensively about the post-WW2 relationship difficulties between Britain and Indonesia leading to Britain’s determination to oust President Sukarno.

Konfrontasi may also have been a ploy in the presidential ambitions of Indonesia’s foreign minister Dr Subandrio who might have been Britain’s preference as president.

British Intelligence

Singapore was important not just as a transit port for South East Asian imports and exports but as the centre of British control and power over the region.

Much of that control and power was exerted through its Intelligence operations commanded and coordinated from Singapore. Hong Kong and Singapore were major spy bases in the region. During the Malayan Emergency High Commissioner Sir Gerald Templer who had served in Military Intelligence overhauled British Intelligence in Malaya and from that time it became a potent coordinated force. His innovations were repeated in the other British territories. The Police Special Branches were primarily responsible for Intelligence operations in the British colonies and former colonies. They were supported and virtually controlled by MI5 officers who were often appointed to senior positions in Special Branch.

MI5 was the lead agency for Intelligence within the colonies and former colonies, although in Malaya, Singapore, and the British Borneo states Special Branch was the lead agency for internal security and Intelligence. The Joint Intelligence Committee Far East (JICFE) was located in Singapore as was Security Intelligence Far East (SIFE) which was a joint Intelligence assessment agency (MI5, MI6, Military and Police Special Branch). MI6 had had a station in Singapore since the 1920s and eventually took over the lead role in Singapore from MI5 after British withdrawal from the region. The CIA had had a station in Singapore since the 1930s and was represented at JICFE and SIFE.

In 1954 MI6 and the CIA concluded the “Four Square Agreement” in which the CIA retained intelligence responsibility for the Phillipines and British intelligence services looked after Malaya, Singapore and Burma. Both the CIA and MI6 agreed to cooperate in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Indonesia.

Intelligence operations throughout the region included covert MI6 operations in Indonesia aiming to undermine President Sukarno.

GCHQ, the British signals intelligence agency now known to be part of the Five Eyes network, had a major listening post in Singapore until well into the 1970s (and one in Hong Kong). It was of crucial importance in the Malayan Emergency and leading up to and during Konfrontasi. In the mid-1970s it was revealed in the Australian media that it had operated as a joint British/Australian intercept station for some time. The Australian signals intercept station in Darwin was also an important source of Intelligence.

    See Calder Waldron, “Empire of Secrets, British Intelligence, the Cold War, and the twilight of Empire”, William Collins Publishers, London, 2013.

    For details of the Intelligence structure and responsibilities see also Leon Comber, “Malaya’s Secret Police, The Role of the Special Branch in the Malayan Emergency“, Monash University Press Melbourne and Institute of SE Asian Studies Singapore, 2008.

This coordinated Intelligence network was to play a major role in the genesis of Konfrontasi.

By 1960 the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) under the leadership of Ralph Harry had created independent stations in Jakarta, Tokyo and Dili and had several officers working with allies in Hong Kong and Singapore. The ASIS officer in Singapore worked on the staff of the Head of MI6.

In the early 1960’s ASIS had mounted six covert operations in Indonesia including propaganda campaigns, medical assistance to President Sukarno’s opponents, and ‘more direct’ attempts to engineer President Sukarno’s political demise. These would have been in conjunction with Britain’s MI6 and probably the CIA.

    See Robert Macklin, “Warrior Elite”, Hachette, Sydney, 2015.

In the book Dr Poulgrain refers simply to SIFE as the main agency involved in the genesis of Konfrontasi but the Intelligence apparatus was much greater than SIFE which was a coordinating agency.

Indonesia’s Anti-Colonial Campaigns

Following its successful fight to gain independence from the Dutch from 1945, Indonesia engaged in two anti-colonial campaigns in the 1960s. The first was against Dutch control of Netherlands New Guinea (now Papua and West Papua). Indonesia invaded in 1962 and gained control in 1963. It was a simple matter of ejecting a colonial power and gaining territory and control of its economic potential. The second campaign against the formation of Malaysia erupted about three months before the May 1963 assumption of sovereignty in New Guinea.

Dr Subandrio was prominent in both campaigns and it was he who declared Konfrontasi.
Although many British government and other commentators have declared that the simple aim was territorial expansion the actual aims of Konfrontasi were never clearly delineated, remained unclear throughout the three years it lasted, and remain unclear to this day unless Dr Poulgrain’s thesis is correct.

The Research

His research has been painstaking. In the extensive bibliography he lists over 120 Colonial Office records, and records from the Foreign Office, War Office and India Office. He lists 62 interviews across all sides of the conflict. Some of the main interviews were A.M.Azahari who it was widely claimed started the Brunei Revolt, Oei Tju Tat a Chinese lawyer appointed by President Sukarno as the leading civilian coordinator for Konfrontasi, General Soehario former head of the Indonesian Army in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) and General Nasution former Indonesian Chief of Staff. On the other side he interviewed Sir Alexander Waddell former Governor of Sarawak, Roy Henry former head of Special Branch in Sarawak and Brunei and a number of former oil company employees of British Malayan Petroleum (BMP, later Brunei Shell).

The late Roy Henry provided crucial new verbal evidence for this book concerning his time as Head of Sarawak Special Branch, which made him the head of British Intelligence in Sarawak and Brunei before and during Konfrontasi. He was a very credible witness for after Special Branch he was appointed Commissioner of Sarawak Police, Commissioner of Police Fiji, then Commissioner of Police Hong Kong.

BMP had been exploring for oil in the region since the 1950s and operated the known very lucrative oilfields. In 1963 BMP discovered, or announced the discovery of the giant offshore oilfield known as South West Ampa just off the coast of Brunei. BMP built its own Intelligence capability and was covertly active in combating threats to its vested economic interest. So close was BMP’s relationship with British Intelligence that Chinese speaking members of the BMP intelligence network were made available to Special Branch. BMP also had close relations and influence with the Colonial Office in London.

The history of Konfrontasi would not be complete without an examination of the role of BMP.

The Colonial Office Agenda

Public Office records reveal that the Colonial Office had two aims in the decolonisation programme. Firstly to ensure that the new political leaders were those amenable to continued British investment and secondly to ensure that the political environment of the region did not include Sukarno as President of Indonesia.

The Colonial Office drew up the format for decolonisation and the formation of Malaysia as early as 1953 but had a number of political and security hurdles to overcome before it could be implemented. Foremost among those was the large number of Chinese resident in Malaya, Singapore and the Borneo states. All Chinese were thought to be potential communists. The solution in Malaya was a constitution that gave most political power to the Malays and diminished the political influence of significant Chinese and Indian populations, and a military and Intelligence campaign (Malayan Emergency) against Chinese communists. By about 1960 many Chinese communist leaders had been eliminated or driven north into Southern Thailand. Malaysia would continue to combat that threat until about 1989.

Singapore was mainly Chinese and in the mid-1950s there were large scale riots blamed on communist led unions. But British Public Office Records reveal that the largest of those riots in October 1956 was deliberately provoked by British Intelligence to enable the arrest of prominent anti-British activists. British Intelligence was also active in supporting the political rise of Britain-friendly Lee Kuan Yew who later became Prime Minister of Singapore and who probably had close links to British Intelligence.

In Sarawak the Chinese dominated commercial and political activity and comprised one third of the population. The Sarawak United Peoples Party (SUPP) was the most prominent political party and was Chinese dominated with some underground communist support. The political direction in Sarawak was changed by Konfrontasi by reducing the influence of the Chinese and causing Sarawak to seek greater security in the Federation rather than statehood in its own right. British interests were furthered by Konfrontasi in that it made the British decolonisation plan possible.

On 15th August 1991 Dr Poulgrain interviewed Roy Henry the former head of Special Branch in Sarawak and Brunei and he admitted that he had a direct hand in starting the Brunei Revolt. At the time Henry was the overall head of British Intelligence in Sarawak and Brunei. He also admitted that the CIA had a hand in supplying arms and fomenting rebellion in Sarawak prior to Konfrontasi thus allowing the British to reduce Chinese influence through Special Branch operations whilst blaming it on Indonesia. British Intelligence was well aware of what the CIA was doing.

The Brunei Revolt

Brunei and its oil was vital to British (and BMP) interests and Britain tried to include it in the Federation of Malaysia, with the Sultan of Brunei given a governance role much as the ruling sultans in the Malayan states had been given roles in the Federation of Malaya.

However political leader Sheikh Azahari bin Sheikh Mahmud better known as A.M.Azahari was opposed to the British plan and proposed a Kalimantan Utara (North Kalimantan) federation of Brunei, British North Borneo and Sarawak with the Sultan of Brunei as titular head. He and his Partai Rakyat Brunei (PRB – Brunei Peoples Party) favoured joining the Federation of Malaysia but as a unified North Kalimantan grouping. They thought that would shield them from the dominating influence of Malay administrators and Chinese merchants.

In fact Azahari had promoted his version of federation as early as 1955 before he formed the PRB. By 1962 he had gained support for Kalimantan Utara across all three Borneo states and had become the most likely politician to lead the proposed new state. Azahari was then and is still depicted as being opposed to the Federation of Malaysia but in fact he supported it, just not in the form proposed by Britain. Just as he was not anti-Malaysia he was not anti-British and not anti-Sultan although that was the British propaganda of the time and the most common historical version to date.

Azahari was actually close to the Sultan and trusted by him. The sultan supported Azahari’s Kalimantan Utara alternative. That was anathema to the British who had to get rid of Azahari in order to defeat it. In fact British Intelligence working hand in glove with the oil company’s (BMP) managing director had been trying to destroy Azahari’s influence since at least 1957.

Legislative Council elections were held in Brunei in August 1962 and Azahari’s PRB won a sweeping victory with 54 of the 55 seats. The independent 55th member promptly joined the PRB. The PRB then announced that a motion would be tabled requesting the British Government to return sovereignty of Sarawak and North Borneo to the Sultan of Brunei, and to federate the three British Borneo Territories. Azahari was determined to avoid violence and maintained a commitment by PRB to achieve power by constitutional means.

While he was in the Philippines in December 1962 one of his PRB executives, H.M.Salleh, instigated armed rebellion. He did it in response to a predicament engineered by Roy Henry and Special Branch. Henry created the situation by arresting several PRB members in Sarawak and then “leaking” information that he had threatened similar arrests in Brunei. He led them to believe they had only limited time to act. His message was relayed to the PRB by a magistrate (Jaya Latif) whose uncle became one of the eight executive members who panicked and started the Brunei Revolt.

While in the Philippines Azahari had obtained a document proclaiming the official agreement of the Philippines Government to forego all claims to North Borneo and recognising the claim of the Sultan of Brunei. It was the first international recognition of Azahari’s Kalimantan Utara concept with the Sultan of Brunei as constitutional monarch. It was an important document and Azahari had intended to produce it at the United Nations. On the morning of the revolt the PRB officials bearing the document were physically prevented from reaching the Sultan’s palace.

    “Shaken by the tumult and commotion, and believing the explanation given him by British intelligence the he would have been kidnapped, the Sultan turned against the PRB rebels, and against Azahari”.
    “British Intelligence succeeded in turning the Sultan away from the concept of Kalimantan Utara, and Brunei subsequently became an isolated oil enclave under British protection”.

That isolation also robbed the new Federation of Malaysia of much needed oil revenues and preserved them in British hands. Had Azahari’s plan been successful Malaysia would have shared in the benefits.

In his interview Roy Henry stated that all of the political organisations in Brunei and Sarawak including Azahari’s PRB were well penetrated by Special Branch, the PRB at executive level. That being so his manipulation of events would have been relatively easy.

After the Brunei Revolt

The aftermath across all of the proposed Malaysian states was diabolical. In Singapore Lee Kuan Yew accused Lim Chin Siong of being complicit in the Brunei revolt because Siong had met Azahari (on another matter entirely). Nevertheless in Operation Cold Store on the night of 2nd February 1963 Lee Kuan Yew arrested Siong and 112 political activists. It was almost his entire left wing opposition. Evidence in the British Archives and provided to Dr Poulgrain in interviews with British government and security service officials clearly show that this was a political contrivance.

In Malaya a dozen of the top left wing opponents of Federation were arrested on 13th February 1963. As a result of the Brunei Revolt the leading figures in the left wing political parties in Malaya, Singapore and Sarawak were detained prior to the formation of Malaysia. Azahari and Siong were probably the two most influential opponents of the British plan and both were removed.


So far in this review I have dealt (at great length) with the first Colonial Office objective in decolonisation: to ensure that the new political leaders were those amenable to continued British investment. Intelligence operations towards achieving that objective included the Brunei Revolt which helped lead to the achievement of the second objective, to ensure that the political environment of the region did not include Sukarno as President of Indonesia. In other words to Konfrontasi, although it should always be remembered that the CIA was primarily responsible for the removal of Sukarno and that the British Commonwealth response to Konfrontasi was a sideshow in that programme. It is probable that Britain’s MI6 (SIS) and perhaps its branch office (Australia’s ASIS) were involved with the CIA in Indonesia.

Just how the Brunei revolt led to Konfrontasi, or even if it did, is still shrouded in mystery.
The British immediately sent troops to quell the revolt. That reaction may or may not have been pre-planned. The Intelligence hierarchy in Singapore would certainly have known about Roy Henry’s manipulation of events in Brunei. Historians have written that the Sultan himself asked for military assistance “yet, according to The Straits Times, the request came from W.J.Parks, the aide-de-camp of the High Commissioner Sir Dennis White, who was then on sick leave in London”. The Brunei constitution at the time allowed the Colonial Office to bypass the wish of the Sultan.

    “Soon after the rebellion started British troops from Singapore went straight to Sarawak, causing the exodus of many Chinese youths into neighbouring Indonesian territory. Whilst these youths were regarded by Indonesia as part of a clandestine communist organisation engaged in a righteous anti-colonial struggle, what Indonesia did not realise is that they were armed with weapons only because they had been supplied by William Andreas Brown and Frank C. Starr, both linked to the CIA”.

The involvement of those two Americans was revealed by Roy Henry during his interview.

    “The absence of any real communist threat in Sarawak in the days before Konfrontasi was precisely what necessitated the CIA supply of weapons, in order to boost the political profile which previously the ‘underground group’ in Sarawak did not have”.
    “This exodus caught the attention of Indonesia and, after some bitter recrimination between Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta (with some crucial addition by Subandrio) the argument expanded into Konfrontasi. The threat of Indonesian incursion into Sarawak now ensured that the previous reluctance to join Malaysia suddenly evaporated”.

After the Brunei Revolt and the exodus of Chinese from Sarawak hostilities in Sarawak between Indonesia and Britain and Malaysia gradually escalated. The rhetoric on both sides became so offensive that armed Konfrontasi became inevitable. It began on 12 April 1963, when about 30 armed raiders from Indonesian Kalimantan overran a police border post in Sarawak.

Dr Poulgrain explains in detail how those hostilities were started by British and American Intelligence. He also details the role of Indonesian foreign minister Dr Subandrio in increasing the tension between Indonesia and Malaysia/Britain, thus providing fertile ground for Konfrontasi.

The three rival power factions in Jakarta were all involved in Konfrontasi; the political elite led by Dr Subandrio, the military, and the PKI (Communist Party). President Sukarno did not initiate it but moved to try to take control after it started in 1963. Whilst Konfrontasi suited the agenda of the CIA President Kennedy wanted it to stop. In 1963 he arranged to visit Indonesia early in 1964 to join with President Sukarno to bring it to an end using their considerable combined personal charisma to achieve it through popular support of the Indonesian people.

According to the USA ambassador in Jakarta at the time President Sukarno was in accord with President Kennedy. However Kennedy was assassinated on 22nd November 1963. Konfrontasi continued.

On 17th August 1964 Indonesia landed a small military force on the west coast of Peninsula Malaysia. On 2nd September 1964 Indonesian paratroopers dropped into the same general area. That incursion drew into Konfrontasi the Australian and New Zealand battalions based in Terendak Camp near Malacca. The Indonesians were quickly killed or captured.

Attention then focused entirely on operations in Borneo rising to a peak in 1965 and gradually decreasing through the early part of 1966. Konfrontasi formally ended on 11th August 1966.

Konfrontasi was largely a political action rather than a concerted military one. It was started by Indonesia’s foreign minister. The Indonesian military initially welcomed it for it enabled them to gain more manpower and resources to build their own power base compared to the other two powers, the political elite (and President Sukarno) and the PKI (Communist Party). The military did not however commit to Konfrontasi with any enthusiasm for the PKI was its main concern. Its best and most loyal units were retained in Java where they were held in preparation to put down any communist uprising.

General Suharto (later President Suharto) who at the time was commander of the army’s strategic command (KOSTRAD) was deputed by his pro-American anti-communist superiors to effectively sabotage Konfrontasi. He initiated secret negotiations with British officials in 1964 even before the landings in Peninsula Malaysia. The landings themselves, being extremely limited in manpower and especially in logistic support, cannot be construed as a serious military invasion but as an act of political provocation (i.e. Konfrontasi).

In 1965 (before 1 RNZIR’s first deployment to Borneo) Suharto had his envoys in Singapore assure the British that the Indonesian Armed Forces did not intend to invade Malaysia. He was also responsible for the operational aspects on Konfrontasi in Borneo and elsewhere. He deliberately starved Indonesia’s units deployed along its border with Sarawak of manpower and resources. Units in Sumatra were denied the naval assets they needed to invade across the Malacca Straits to West Malaysia. However British Intelligence and military action in Borneo, including its cross border “Claret” operations ensured a high level of operational activity throughout most of 1965.

Given that Britain’s primary concern was to drive the Sultan of Brunei into the British camp, and to drive Sarawak into federation with Malaya, and given that Indonesia’s military didn’t actually intend to invade Malaysia, Konfrontasi was to all intents and purposes a phoney war. It was a phoney war on both sides.

After the tumultuous Gerakan-30 September Movement (G-30-S) in 1965, in which six pro-American anti-communist generals were killed by a joint PKI-military action and after which General Suharto assumed command of the armed forces and effective control of President Sukarno, formal negotiations with Britain and Malaysia began, ending in the agreement in August 1966 that recognised the nation of Malaysia.

The Genesis of Konfrontasi” describes the events leading up to Konfrontasi and does not cover any of the subsequent hostilities and operations described above.

The Role of Dr Subandrio

“So important was the role of Subandrio in Konfrontasi, in the preparation and instigation, that the acrimony between Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta would not have reached combustion point without his collaboration”.

Foreign Minister Dr Subandrio was the leader of Jakarta’s political elite and regarded himself as the president-in-waiting. He had some influence in Britain having been ambassador in London from 1950 to 1954. After the “G-30-S” 1965 bloodbath in Indonesia when several generals were killed he was accused of complicity and sentenced to death. He refused to ask General Suharto for clemency and it was the British Foreign Office that arranged a plea for clemency in the names of Queen Elizabeth II and US President Lyndon B. Johnson. He then spent 20 years in prison and lived for another nine years. Dr Subandrio was the main agitator for Konfrontasi against Malaysia and therefore against Britain and he was the man who declared it. That was an extraordinary plea on behalf of a former enemy unless there was a deeper connection, perhaps an Intelligence connection.

    “Subandrio was instrumental in creating conditions that led to the Brunei rebellion and the start of Konfrontasi, and that his motivation and also SIFE’s [British Intelligence] motivation was that, as the acknowledged deputy, he would soon replace President Sukarno whose health was deteriorating”.

Dr Subandrio used his leading involvement in the first anti-colonial campaign against the Netherlands and his lead role in the second campaign against Malaysia to promote his own credentials as the replacement for President Sukarno. And Sukarno’s replacement was the second item on the Colonial Office agenda. The CIA had other ideas and their preference for a military government came to pass.

In the last chapter of the book Dr Poulgrain explores the evidence for collusion between Subandrio and British Intelligence to start Konfrontasi and to promote Dr Subandrio’s cause. He presents considerable circumstantial evidence.

The Review

In reviewing this book “The Genesis of Konfrontasi” I have drawn on other sources including Dr Poulgrain’s companion book “The Incubus of Intervention” about CIA involvement in Indonesia. Christopher Pugsley’s “From Emergency to Confrontation” was valuable in sourcing information about New Zealand’s involvement in Konfrontasi. “Empire of Secrets, British Intelligence, the Cold War, and the twilight of Empire” by Calder Waldron has been used specifically to fill out information about British Intelligence in the region at the time.

Intelligence is the missing dimension in most geopolitical and military history and it is not until archives are opened 30 or 50 years after the events that the true history is revealed. A case in point is ULTRA, the breaking of the German Enigma codes during WW2, a coup that significantly aided allied victories. That secret was not revealed until 1974 just over 30 years later. In 2012 some Intelligence archives in London were declassified. They covered the period up to the early 1960s but not, it would seem, the machinations behind Konfrontasi.

Hopefully this investigation into the secret history of Konfrontasi some 50 years after the event is just the first. Dr Poulgrain presents an extremely well researched history of the genesis of Konfrontasi not at all consistent with the official history. It is a compelling and very believable version. It will however need to be corroborated by other historians in the years ahead. I hope it is.

For those of us in the military who were involved and who have lived with what may well have been official lies for the last 50 years we need to know the truth. It is somewhat disconcerting to find out that perhaps we were not simply fighting to protect Malaysia from Indonesia, but mainly to ensure that British economic interests in the region were preserved under the control of their preferred political leaders, in the form of nationhood preferred by Britain, regardless of what the people of the region might have wanted for themselves, such as a Kalimantan Utara federation in Borneo under the rule of the Sultan of Brunei.

Much of the evidence of British Intelligence involvement in the genesis of Konfrontasi is conclusive, based on historical archives and first hand accounts. Some is circumstantial, especially the relationship between Dr Subandrio and British Intelligence. It is that aspect that will need further research, and hopefully more Intelligence archives will eventually be declassified. What is certain is that the genesis is murky and nothing like the official version.

The book is so at odds with the official version that I am sure that many in the Establishment, if they ever come across a book published in Malaysia, will label it a crank theory. It deserves more serious consideration than that.

In this review I have related the highlights but there is much more in the detail. The book is packed with the detail of decades of research and is not a quick read. It is however rewarding for those with an interest in the events of that time.

The book is not in ready stock, not even at Amazon, and takes time to be sourced. I heard about it from Dr Poulgrain himself (on Skype) during a presentation on his later (2015) book “The Incubus of Intervention” about the involvement of the CIA in Indonesia. I bought the last copy of “The Genesis of Konfrontasi” online from Amazon and it is currently unavailable.

It is also advertised by a Singapore bookseller, $US17.51 plus postage.
Select Books, Singapore

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

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