Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Case for Sickies

Very strange hearing the level of debate around Hone Harawira and his comments around what initially was being caught pulling a sickie to visit Paris while on work business to Europe, but then following a heated e-mail, morphed into a discussion around racism in New Zealand.

Some mainstream background and opinions can be found here, and here, and here.

Mr Harawira’s Mum and Derek Fox on National Radio (or Radio New Zealand National) seemed to say that what he said is similar to what lots of other people say about Maori, reflects historic wrongs against Maori, and the sentiment of Mr Harawira’s constituents. Which is all true.

But does that make it any less racist? Couldn’t Don Brash’s Orewa speech of a few years ago be “justified” by exactly the same kind of logic?

The Human Rights Commission says the comments are not nice, but then New Zealand’s freedom of speech allows them to be said with no censure.

And he probably should be allowed to say what he said, much as Don Brash was. Why not? It can only help when this kind of feeling is expressed, to get these issues out in the open and hold a proper discussion on them.

Of course, it doesn’t. New Zealand does not yet seem to be able to take that step. Mr Harawira’s Mum claimed Mr Harawira can use the English language as he liked (no comment on whether it would be impolite in Maori), while the apology for the language has overshadowed the dishonour of the initial act by both the media and the “justifiers”.

As far as (in my opinion) New Zealanders like to think it has come along the path of race relations, and how mature we might like to think we are in discussing it, these kinds of things just highlight the sentiment that bubbles underneath our “one nation” calm surface: some Maori (obviously) still see themselves as the oppressed-yet-proud eco-friendly warriors living in, and sometimes exploiting, an alien system in an occupied territory; whereas (from Mt Brash’s speech) some non-Maori see Maori underachievement in mainstream New Zealand as a sign of laziness, with the glory of Maori culture an historical treasure now incorporated into New Zealand’s social fabric.

I am not going to say that I have the answer to New Zealand’s nation-building issues, and I doubt anyone (who is not a xenophobic extremist) does. It takes time, and generations, and understanding. And we obviously have a fair distance yet to go.

Verdict: It’s a hard thing to balance the influence of the past and the actions of the present, but a much easier task to flame “racial” discontent for political gain. If some good or clarity actually came out of the latter, then perhaps it would be worthwhile. 25% visibility out of 100% (obviously).


macrocarpa said...

here is the link to don brash's 2004 orewa speech:

nowhere in that speech does don brash refer to any race of people as "motherf**kers" nor does he come even close to it. instead, if you actually read it word-for-word rather than rely upon distorted media reports, brash suggests it is time for new zealand to move on from treating people differently on the basis of race alone. from what i read here this is the antithesis - the complete and total opposite - of racism.

sorry but to compare hone harawira's offensive, expletive-ridden outbursts and outrageous behaviour as a member of parliament to don brash's reasoned argument in 2004 (whatever you think of it) is just plain silly.

R said...

Thanks for the link - I will have a good read of it later.

However, I am not sure you fully read my posting. I concede both Brash and Harawira have points - I just have not got hung up on the language in which it was delivered.

Kiwi in Zurich said...

I wonder if it shouldn't be illegal to say things like white motherfuckers. Taken from a colloquial meaning it is racist and taken from a literal meaning it is both baseless and offensive against both mothers and their children. I think freedom of speech is fine to the point that it is not blatantly racist, but this was, simply, blatantly racist. This chap is the lowest common denominator. I would love to sit down with him and know what it is that he desires. Really. What is it that he wants? Maori may not have been treated well throughout the modern history of New Zealand, but for the most part they welcomed the goods that Pakeha brought to New Zealand and in modern day NZ they continue to enjoy the wealth that living in a multi-cultural global economy brings. Perhaps this chap sees himself as the new Mugabe. NZ is already of the verge of being a banana republic, let's see how long it would take for it to go from being the breadbasket of the Pacific to a bankrupt banana republic economy like Zimbabwe. No wonder so many Kiwis are taking the boat to Ozzy.

This chap is disgraceful, people that think like him are also disgraceful.