Silly Bugger Kiwi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He Tangata – Maori Policy, Economics & Moral Philosophy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions”

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

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

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

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

Adam Smith and the Enlightenment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Morality of Power

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

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

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

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

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

The Sociology of Virtue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He wrote:

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

He also wrote:

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

He seems to be describing our own times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Maynard Keynes (1883 – 1946)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virtue Ethics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Scientific Dimension
Neuroscience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Socio-economics – The Social & Moral Dimension in Economics

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

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

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

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

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

He sees two dominant paradigms:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He explores and cites the research and evidence concerning:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Political Philosophy

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

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

In it he argues that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Principles, Values, Ethics & Morals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christianity & Religion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tikanga Maori

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Challenging the Status Quo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We might say it thus:

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

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

Related Essays

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

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

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

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

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

But that comes later I now realise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The four wings of the power elite are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It further states:

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

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

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

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

Ethnic statistics show that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have lost our way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ka pu te ruha, ka hao te rangatahi”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this:

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

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

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

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

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

Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou

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

Are we up for it?

Next Essay

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

Related Essays

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

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

Read the complete analysis of alleged Maori terrorism in the Urewera

Yeah right!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smelly indeed.

Links: The Operation 8 Series

Some thoughts on ANZAC Day

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

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

What does ANZAC really mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lest we forget.

Draining the Swamp – Some Fundamentals for Maori Policy Makers

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are perhaps three reasons why that is so:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Essays

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

Perspectives of time, small prophecy, and Maori policy

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

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

“Ka mura, ka muri”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What has all that got to do with prophecy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Were that the case in Maori policy we would not:

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

We would:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boxing Day, 2013.

Related Essays

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

On Ignorance

“One kind of ignorance is willful stupidity; worse than simple stupidity, it is a callow indifference to facts or logic. It shows itself as a stubborn devotion to uninformed opinions, ignoring (same root) contrary ideas, opinions, or data. The ignorant are unaware, unenlightened, uninformed, and surprisingly often occupy elected offices. We can all agree that none of this is good”.

Firestein, Stuart. Ignorance: How It Drives Science (Kindle Locations 119-121). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

The US Election: Looking Back, Looking Forward in New Zealand

“Keep me from the man who says, ‘I am a candle to light the people on their way’; but to the one who seeks to make his way through the light of the people, bring me nearer.  – Kahlil Gibran

The reactionary authoritarian movement culminating in the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States, preceded by the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, and the rise of authoritarian right wing political parties across Europe and elsewhere, had its genesis in the 1980’s.

It was then that the business and political elites of the Western world overturned the post-WW2 social, political and economic consensus, seized for themselves (again) the reins of power from the people, their organisations and their representatives, and set out to erode the democratic process itself. Neoliberal economic ideology provided the rationale and the vehicle for them to trickle up the wealth of nations from the people into their own hands, all the while extolling the benefits of their ideology through their trickle down propaganda.

Perhaps, despite the enormous potential danger of a Trump presidency, their hubris has finally bitten them on the arse, and perhaps out of the ashes of this catastrophe, the people might regain their place in the democracy. But not of course under Donald Trump. The next few presidencies perhaps. It took over thirty years to get into this mess. It will take quite a few years to climb out of it. And they will be years of turmoil.

The danger is that the political hijackers will take us in an entirely different direction. Into something resembling fascism, in which the business elites will prosper even more at the expense of the people, and democracy will die a faster death than it has been doing under the neoliberal social, political and economic paradigm.

I’ve been waiting for over thirty years for something like this to happen. And yet I haven’t a clue what is happening. I can only watch and document it as it happens.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s I chronicled some of it as it affected Maori. It has been an interesting few hours looking back over what I wrote at the time. It might be worth reflecting on how we got to this point. In a book review on 10 October 1988 we see how the authoritarian right was always there, sheltering behind the libertarian right, poised to take over the reins of power if and when the opportunity arose.

In the United States and United Kingdom, as it is in New Zealand. Perhaps in New Zealand we will be sheltered from the worst of it by our MMP electoral system. Perhaps not.

One thing is certain. Change is upon us, once again.

Looking back.

19 September 1988

Pakeha Networks

The networks of Maoridom are well understood by Maori people, and are totally impervious to the eyes of most Pakeha.

The networks of the Pakeha centre and left (including unions, Labour Party, peace movement, women’s movements) are also well known. Indeed many Maori people are involved in these Pakeha networks. Maoridom is also well acquainted with sporting networks (at the players’ level rather than the power level).

The networks of the Pakeha Right are not so well known these days.

As a boy I grew up under the benign influence of the old Right. In Ngati Kahungunu we were colonised by such families as Williams and Ormond. They bought the land, converted it into the very image of rural England, populated it with their subjects (white and woolly, but four-legged), and set themselves up as a colonial version of the English aristocracy.

They became the Sheepocracy.

Ngati Kahungunu was the labour force which kept the sheepocracy in the manner they aspired to. Which was not all bad. Maori contractors cleared the land, built the fences, and stripped the wool from the sheep. Good times for the sheepocracy meant good times for Ngati Kahungunu.

The Hawkes Bay/Wairarapa sheepocracy, and others like them all over the country, spread their networks deep into the business world. They dominated the boards of the meat and wool industry, and the rest of the business sector, which existed primarily to serve their interests.

Through the National Party they controlled the political life of the country for most of the last fifty years.

With the destruction of the meat industry, and the decline of the wool sector, they have finally lost the almost total grip they had on New Zealand.

I used to dream of the day it would happen; of the day when their power would be broken.

But they have been replaced by a powerful city-based elite, the libertarian Right.

The sheepocracy never ever considered sharing power with Maoridom, but they acknowledged our existence, and until recent years depended on our labour for their own lifestyle.

The libertarian Right has no use for us whatsoever. We are no longer needed to fuel the farms and the factories of the sheepocracy. The new elite don’t need us in their kingdom at all; in the finance sector.

What is the libertarian Right?

They are the very people who have been idolised in the Pakeha media for the last five years. They are the swashbucklers of the money markets, the corporate raiders, the property spectaculators, the take-over buccaneers, the Americas Cup admirals.

Their organisations are the Business Roundtable, and the NZ Centre for Independent Studies (a think-tank). An Australian think tank, the Centre of Policy Studies at Monash University, does work for both Treasury and the Business Roundtable. These think tanks are tools of the libertarian Right.

They read the National Business Review. They no longer owe allegiance to the National Party. They will support whomsoever will support them – like Roger Douglas.

Much of their impetus comes from the Chicago School of economists, from Milton Freidman and others of the “monetarist” persuasion. They are advocates of the free market. They are dedicated to the cult of individualism, and to the belief that what is good for them is good for the country.

Their central belief is totally opposed to the value system and cultural community that is Maoridom.

For instance the NZ Centre for Independent Studies, in conjunction with the National Business Review, has brought to New Zealand a Dr Thomas Sowell for a series of seminars. Dr Tom is an American Black who has a PhD in economics from the University of Chicago.

He is a strong opponent of positive discrimination and affirmative action in favour of racial minorities. He has been brought to New Zealand to speak [against] positive discrimination in favour of racial minorities in employment, and the economy as a whole.

To my knowledge this is the first overt foray into racial issues by the libertarian Right. It brings into the open their stance on these issues, cloaked in economic terms.

The theories of the libertarian Right have penetrated the very bastions of the State, to Treasury and the Reserve Bank. They are being adopted by the whole of the State Sector as practitioners of the libertarian Right spread their networks into powerful and influential places.

Who are they?

The libertarian Right is a network of likeminded people. In listing the following people “Te Putatara” does not wish to convey the impression of a conspiracy. The aim is simply to show the extent of the network.

They are listed in no particular order.

(Sir?) Alan Gibbs of Gibbs Securities, friend of Roger Douglas, chairman of the Forestry Corporation, author of the Gibbs Report on the health services, member of the Business Roundtable, and responsible for bringing the Centre for Independent Studies from Australia to New Zealand.

Professor Richard Manning of Canterbury University where many Treasury staffers have been educated, and who is involved in the Centre for Independent Studies.

Professor David Emanuel of Auckland University and the Centre for Independent Studies.

Max Bradford, formerly of Treasury, then the Bankers Association, and currently secretary-general of the National Party. Involved with the Centre for Independent Studies.

Rob Cameron, formerly a senior member of Treasury (co-authored briefing papers to the incoming Labour Government in 1984), and now an executive of the Centre for Independent Studies.

Ian Douglas of Renoufs and formerly a chairman of the NZ Planning Council.

Roger Kerr, ex-Treasury (another author of the 1984 briefing papers), now executive director of the Business Roundtable. An important link between the business sector and the mandarins of the new public sector.

Sir Ron Trotter, chairman of the Business Roundtable etc.

Allan Hawkins (Equiticorp), David Richwhite (Fay Richwhite), Peter Francis (Chase Corporation), Doug Meyers (Lion), and Robson (Independent Newspapers) are all involved with the Business Roundtable.

Rod Deane formerly deputy governor of the Reserve Bank, then Chairman of the State Services Commission and now Chief Executive of the Electricity Corporation. Also a trustee of the Centre for Independent Studies.

Graham Scott, another co-author of the 1984 Treasury briefing papers, and now Secretary of Treasury.

Sir Ron Brierly, chairman of the Bank of New Zealand, etc.

Jaz McKenzie, Secretary for Labour.

John Fernyhough of the Lion Foundation, colleague of Douglas Meyers, chairman of the Electricity Corporation, deputy chairman of the Forestry Corporation, and long time associate of Alan Gibbs. Reported to have participated in the Centre for Independent Studies. Studied at Chicago University.

Professor Bruce Ross of the Economic Development Commission.

Bryce Wilkinson who co-authored with Graham Scott, Rob Cameron and Roger Kerr the 1984 Treasury briefing papers.

Patrick Duignan who with Rob Cameron wrote another Treasury paper on state-owned enterprises. Doug Andrews who was Roger Douglas’ link with Treasury when Labour was in opposition.

Dr Don Brash, former National Party candidate, and recently appointed as Governor of the Reserve Bank. Prominent as an advocate of the free market and monetarism.

(Sir?) Brian Picot, director of Progressive Enterprises, chairman of Phillips NZ, chairman of Pacific Venture, director of NZI, and author of the Picot Report on education.

Derek Quigley, an early National Party member of the libertarian Right network. Ousted from Cabinet by Sir Robert Muldoon.

Ruth Richardson, Opposition spokesperson on finance.

Simon Upton, National MP for Raglan. One of the few who can argue his position from an intellectual and philosophical base rather than from economic prejudice.

Roger Douglas who has given his name and his political clout, along with that of Richard Prebble, to the work of the libertarian Right network.

*****

Te Putatara wishes to acknowledge its debt to Bruce Jesson, political columnist with “Metro”, author of “Behind the Mirror Glass”, and editor of “The Republican” magazine, for his research on the libertarian Right.

Readers wishing to study the subject in more detail should read “Behind the Mirror Glass”, Bruce Jesson, Penguin, 1987. “The Republican” is available on subscription ($15 for six issues) from P.O.Box 22-263, Otahuhu, Auckland 6.

*****

Much of what has been done to restructure the economy and the state in the last five years certainly needed to be done. Few would deny that.

However, the paucity of social experience and social conscience in Treasury, coupled with extreme right wing zeal, has turned the process into an absolute nightmare.

The restructuring of the rest of the state sector has been justified by Treasury on the grounds of efficiency and effectiveness. There is an even more compelling reason to restructure the treasury system – Democracy.

10 October 1988

BOOK REVIEW: A Study in Right Wing Politics – A Must for Maoridom

“Revival of the Right. New Zealand Politics in the 1980s”, A new book by Bruce Jesson, Allanah Ryan and Paul Spoonley. Heinemann Reed, Auckland, 1988. $19.95.

The September issue of Te Putatara drew heavily on the work of Bruce Jesson and his analysis of the libertarian right. Coincidentally a new book by Jesson and two members of Massey University’s Department of Sociology has just been published.

In this book the three authors combine to describe the right wing in New Zealand, both the libertarian right and the authoritarian (moral) right. These two strands are loosely linked as the new right. The authors collectively describe the philosophical and political origins of right wing belief in the western world, then in a chapter each they provide more detail.

Jesson gives a history of the libertarian right in New Zealand, outlines its rise to pre-eminence in the intellectual, political and economic life of the country, and updates its progress to the present. I believe that it is important for Maori leaders at local, regional, and national levels to understand the libertarian right and its ideology. This chapter is a must.

The chapters by Ryan and Spoonley which cover areas we are probably more aware of, are equally informative.

Ryan gives an overall view of the authoritarian right and its preoccupation with feminism, abortion, sex education, pornography, and homosexuality. She also discusses the politics of the authoritarian right, its new found enthusiasm for the economics of the libertarian right, and its links with fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity.

Spoonley, who has previously written on racism and ethnicity, looks closely at four other issues of the authoritarian right; anti-communism, pro-contact with South Africa, anti-peace movements, and anti-biculturalism. The most significant issue raised by Spoonley is the growing racism of Pakehas.

In New Zealand overt racism has in the past been largely confined to the authoritarian right, and to extremist groups such as the League of Rights. [Incidentally Bob Martin, Welsh activist, retired fisherperson, and grandfather of two lovely part-Pakeha children, is the patron of one such group called the One New Zealand Foundation.]

However there is now a newer and more publicly acceptable form of racism. It includes the belief that when different races and cultures come into contact there is competition for resources. This is seen to generate suspicions which are entirely “natural”, and just part of human nature [see the Treasury definition of discrimination in Issue No.9/88].

With these and other justifications being developed by the libertarian right, “racial prejudice” can therefore be denied. The sophisticated racism of the libertarian right also provides a subtle vehicle for the extremists of the authoritarian right.

Spoonley states: “…the arguments will focus on the need to encourage a national will as a basis for economic growth and prosperity.”

“Biculturalism will be defined as subverting free-market capitalism, as undermining the competitive and academic elements of education, and as dividing New Zealand by emphasizing minority, rather than majority interests.”

“Already, libertarian right activists such as Bob Jones and Winston Peters, along with publications such as Metro and More, have expressed these arguments.”

“A new racism has emerged.”

On this issue the two strands of the right have a common cause. Pakeha racism is therefore becoming more entrenched and is settling in for the long term.

[For Maori people this development has long term implications. Governments come and go, but the libertatrian right has installed itself in the highest levels of the public service, and will be there for two generations at least. It is already generating justifications such as “mainstreaming” for the new face of racism, and it has a long way to go. Never mind what the politicians meant in “He Tirohanga Rangapu”; watch how the Mandarins of the libertarian right implement it in the years ahead].

The final chapter, “Reclaiming the Debate”, contains the “separate reflections” of the three authors. They suggest “new ways to recast current debates about the form and future of New Zealand society.”

The reflections are informative but contain no suggestions for Maoridom to reclaim the heights. We shall have to develop those strategies for ourselves.

A good book to have.

To those more attuned to the cut and thrust of intellectual debate on the marae it may at first seem too Pakeha to be bothered with. I suppose those educated only in the Pakeha university tradition have the same problem within the Maori intellectual framework.

However the book is worth getting into. The advantage in being Maori is in understanding both intellectual traditions.

 22 January 1989

Look in the bed, not under it!

This article is written by a retired NZ Army officer who served Queen and Country diligently and honourably for twenty years at peace and at war; an officer and a gentleman (mostly), a pillar of the establishment (Still, I tell you! Still!).

For all of those twenty years the official “enemies” of the state were the communists, and other less than loyal fellow travellers of the left. We were as a nation urged to beware of the red menace (Reds under the Bed) and the yellow peril. At various times these took the form of Russians, Chinese, and Vietnamese. At home we were warned of the evil Ken Douglas and arch-commo Bill Anderson of the Socialist Unity Party, and of the Communist Party of New Zealand.

The preoccupation with the “enemies of the left” reached its heights in the prosecution/persecution of Dr William Sutch by the government of the day for his alleged collaboration with the Russians. A former senior public servant, Sutch was presumed to have left his protégés buried deep in the public service, and after his public denunciation the Government went to great lengths to root out his influence.

Sir Robert Muldoon made an art form of commie-bashing (along with academic bashing, economist bashing, journalist bashing, union bashing, anti-tour activist bashing, and Maori activist bashing). Unionist turned capitalist Rob Campbell was consigned by public condemnation to surreptitious membership of the Socialist Unity Party for daring to stand up to Muldoon.

Well? After all those years of vigilance did New Zealand survive the holocaust?

After three decades of disastrous economic management, by both National and Labour, the social cohesion of the country is close to destruction.

Ironically the coup de grace was delivered not by our traditional enemies on the extreme left, but by our “friends” in the extreme centre and on the extreme right.

Close to 200,000 will soon be unemployed, the farming sector all but collapsed, the manufacturing sector is reeling, the share market has crashed, untold thousands of small investors have lost their life’s savings, some of the largest companies in the country have collapsed or lost millions of other people’s money, and there is more to come. [As the final edit is being done Equitycorp crashes]. The nation’s capital assets have been stripped. Muldoon’s “ordinary blokes” and their families are hurting – deeply.

Maoridom again bears the brunt of it, and the Pakeha politician drags up his trustworthy “race relations” drum to beat. It takes people’s minds off the real issues.

Dr Bill Sutch was robbed of his reputation, and eventually his will to live. His followers were hounded from the public service. Even if he was guilty as Muldoon has avowed, history will record that he did little real long term harm to the nation.

Senior public servant Dr Graham Scott and senior quasi-public servant Dr Rodney Deane of the libertarian right are still at large, both hugely rewarded for their contributions to the state of the nation today. The grapevine reports that with salary and perquisites they are both close to $250,000 per annum. No wonder they keep their salaries secret!

Sir Robert Muldoon, Roger Douglas, Richard Prebble and Trevor de Cleene have all fallen from grace, but their many supporters on both sides of the House remain in power.

Let those who would find a new enemy in the guise of Maoridom beware. Beware, for the real enemy is closer to home. Look in the bed as well as under it. That is the lesson of the last thirty years for Pakeha New Zealand#

20 February 1989

Prime Minister Pokes Treasury

Predictably, the Treasury opposed a proposal for women to get equal pay for work of equal value on the grounds that it would not be good for the economy.

The Right Honourable Mr David R. Lange stated that Treasury would have been opposed to the abolition of slavery. He’s right. Treasury IS opposed to the full recognition of the Treaty.

20 May 1989

Parliament – What a Hard Case!

Just in case you don’t know what’s going on down here. There are something like six, or maybe sixteen, or even 97 parties in Parliament.

There’s the Government which is the Tired Old Labour Party, the Jim Anderton Leadership Crusade which is the New Old Labour Party, and Roger Douglas’ Funnybone Club which is the Funny New Labour Party. Some people belong to all three parties.

On the other side there’s Jim Bolger’s Sad Old National Party, the Peters & Muldoon Charade which is the Sad & Lame Old National Party, and Ruth Richardson’s Radicals who are the Funny Old New National Party. Some people belong to none of them.

On our side of the House there’s the Cyclone Koro Party which is sometimes a tuturu Maori party, sometimes a Tired Old Labour Party, sometimes a New Old Labour Party, and sometimes a Funny New Labour Party. Good strategy Koro. Keep yourself guessing.

There’s also the Ratana Party with Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan which is certainly tuturu Maori. At the moment I think the Ratana Party will be having difficulty working out which Labour Party it had a deal with. E Whetu, I think that was Te Old Old Labour Party.

The Bruce Gregory Labour Party which is also tuturu Maori (and definitely Labour) gets upset with all the Labour Parties from time to time because they don’t take any notice of him, so it must be counted as a Labour party on its own.

Finally we have the Peter Tapsell Party which tends to be a bit to the right so it could be part of the Funny New Labour Party, but then again it could be part of the Funny New National Party. On the other hand it’s pretty conservative so it could be part of the Tired Old Labour Party, or the New Old Labour Party, the Sad Old National Party, or the Sad & Lame Old National Party. Or perhaps the Old Old Labour Party too.

Outside the House we have the Mana Motuhake Party which is a tuturu Maori party but wants to do a deal with the New Old Labour Party. You should have learned your lesson by now Matiu; they only want your votes, not your kaupapa.

Then we have the Socialist Unity Party which is telling everyone to stay in the Tired Old Labour Party, and the NZ Democrats Party which is telling everyone to join the Gary Knapp Self-Admiration Party. Bruce Beetham, who was the one who changed the Social Credit Political League into the NZ Democrats Party, is now back in the Social Credit Party: or is it the Bruce Beetham Nostalgia Party?

E hoa ma, you can’t blame all these MPs for voting for themselves to be leader. There’s so many parties they can all be leader if they want to! I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up with more Pakeha political parties than Maori tribes. That would be a real rabble wouldn’t it? They do a lot more fighting than the iwi eh.

All the sensible people I know have joined the Don’t Know Don’t Care Party. All the porangi ones are joining me in the Mad Hatters Tea Party.

 

20 July 1989

The War of the Blowfly

Paul Holmes ran a show about gun-running and landing craft in Tai Tokerau. E hoa ma, I think there really ARE things like that going on up there. But it’s not Ngati Whatua, Ngapuhi, or even those shady Aupouri. It’s the Pakeha himself.

True, e hoa ma, the kumara vine has secret intelligence that the South Island has declared war on the North Island!

Long, long ago during the reign of Sir Robert the Great (Muldoon silly, not Jones), those South Islanders started to get real hoha because the North Island was pinching all their electricity and not giving anything in return. Their economy got so bad all the people were leaving for Queensland, and they were in grave danger of being overrun by sheep and blowflies.

Those wily Ngai Tahu strategists saw this happening and began to organise a takeover. The situation was dangerous. So the South Island devised a strategy to conquer the North, using the North’s own weaknesses to destroy itself.

This strategy is known as the War of the Blowfly, so called because it is the tiny blowfly that would defeat the mighty sheep.

First, they trained heaps of economic saboteurs at the University of Canterbury, and then they started to infiltrate the Treasury and Reserve Bank. Their plan was to use the Freemarket to seduce the greedy business and financial sectors of the North (particularly Auckland), and to induce them to destroy themselves. Some of them got alongside Roger Douglas when he was in opposition and convinced him that he was the Messiah. Then they filled his head with their subversive ideas.

As luck would have it, on a worse than usual night in June 1984, Sir Robert the Great handed the whole country over to them. It caught them unawares but they immediately launched a small invasion on NZ Railways landing craft. E hoa ma, some of you call them ferries. In a single night in June they brought in all their economic shock troops and captured many vital installations in the economy.

I heard their chilling war-cry: “To market, to market, to buy a fat pig!”

After that, their agents in the Labour Caucus got down to some serious brainwashing, and before the month was over they had converted a mildly socialist government into an extreme capitalist enclave. Such was the power of their principal weapon; Treasury-Speak. This was their crowning victory. The takeover was complete.

Those South Islanders didn’t bargain on the resilience of the iwi though. It was Maoridom that used their own “Rule of Law” against them and blunted their attack in the courts.

So they had their propagandists launch rumours and misinformation in the North Island about Maori revolutionaries and about gun-running. This strategy used another of the great weaknesses of Pakeha North Island; their fear of the tangata whenua. Commercial fishermen and dopey farmers have fallen for it and are now armed to the gums.

Every now and then the South sends a real landing craft up to Tai Tokerau. Just to keep the pot boiling. See.

15 July 2000

Our own coup d’etat in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“What I have described ….. is a civilization — our civilization — locked in the grip of an ideology — corporatism. An ideology that denies and undermines the legitimacy of the individual as the citizen in a democracy.” – John Ralston Saul, The Unconscious Civilization, Penguin, 1997.

While the government has been pontificating on the coup d’etat in Fiji, and promoting the cause of democracy, that same government has been quietly brought to its knees by the anti-democratic forces at work in this country. There are no hostages, except that the whole country has been held hostage. The government has surrendered without a fight, and without negotiation.

This quiet coup in which democracy has been denied for at least another three years has been conducted by the business elites. The “business confidence” propaganda carried by the media controlled by those business elites has been the visible weapon they have used to defeat this government. Behind the scenes they have conducted a guerrilla war of muted threats and coercion to force the government to change almost any policy that will bring to an end the 16 year anti-democratic revolution that has taken power from the citizen and delivered it to the corporates, and their political allies.

Since the minority Labour / Alliance government came to power late last year it has spun the fable that it is the mandated government of the people, and that it is intent on closing gaps, promoting regional recovery, and building capacity. But it has all been political dissembling, cloaking reality in propaganda and rhetoric. What has actually happened is that they have given in to the business elites after six months of skirmishing, in the interests of holding on to the illusion of power. Power comes first, and democracy a poor last.

They have proclaimed themselves a policy driven government, and proclaimed their policy making prowess. When put to the test to prove their commitment to their own policy, they failed, and the policy became mere propaganda and rhetoric.

 

General Elections 2017

Anybody’s guess.

Why Vegan?

I’ve been on a serious health kick now for nearly thirty five years. It has been a mostly private exploration and experiment of one. I don’t proselytise or evangelize about health. But I’m often asked about my health regime by those seeking a better lifestyle, or the curious. It all boils down to a few simple ideas about diet and nutrition, exercise, and sleep. Mostly they ask about what I don’t eat. Mostly I tell them about what I do eat.

I’ve been vegetarian for 30+ years, and vegan for about the last 15 years. A Maori, war veteran vegan who grew up on farms. Strange you might think. Well, I might be a bit strange but being vegan is not the reason.

I’m not a political vegan, an activist vegan, an animal rights vegan or an environmentalist vegan. I’m just a health nut vegan. And I don’t really care whether you eat meat or not. I don’t. After all, I grew up hunting and fishing, and killing and butchering for the table.

The Vegan Society of Aotearoa New Zealand defines vegans as people who, “do not eat meat (fish, shellfish, livestock or poultry) eggs, dairy products, honey, gelatine or use leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics or soaps derived from animal products”.

So by their definition I’m just a dietary vegan, not the whole hog politically correct vegan. Maybe not even a vegan. Because I wear leather shoes and a leather jacket, I’ve got a couple of silk scarves, and my preferred winter fibre is most definitely wool. I’m a fan of fine merino wool garments, including my suits. Nothing like two or three layers of wool to keep the winter chill from getting into the core of this aging body. I don’t use cosmetics by the way. I’d be interested to know what sort of vegan the Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy is.

I was always an omnivore up to the age of about 40 (33 years ago), through a 20 year career in the NZ Army. But I was becoming increasingly choosy about the flesh I did eat.

Growing up, we killed some of our own meat. My mother would let me know when she wanted chicken for the table and it was my job to kill and dress the chook. We raised orphan lambs for the table. My job again to slaughter and butcher. That’s why we never named the “pet” lambs . They weren’t pets. They were food.

Out at the shearing shed it was my job to butcher the sheep the farmers would leave in the slaughter house for us.

We hardly ever bought fish because we could catch it ourselves, or the fishermen in the whanau would share with us. In fact the only fish we ever bought was battered and wrapped in newspaper with chips. That was a special treat about once a month if we were lucky.

A big pot of pork bones and puha was the extra special treat, about once a fortnight.

While I was still in the Army I attended a New Zealand Day function at the residence of the NZ Ambassador to Indonesia. The main course was BBQ fillet steak. He had flown in a whole NZ fillet from Singapore, and it was the most tender and fresh fillet you could imagine. Export quality. The sort of meat you can rarely find in the butcher shops in New Zealand. Unless the butcher raises and kills his own meat, like the butcher in Waipawa did. It reminded me of when I worked in the Tomoana Freezing Works in the boning room. The best meat was always packed for the export market. The Gold Cut was boned and packed for export to the USA. They probably turned our best cuts into hamburger.

By comparison the stuff in the butchers’ shops was low quality.

I never bought fish except for the occasional fish and chips. Or sometimes at a restaurant. For I could catch it myself wherever we were posted. And I was very careful about where I went fishing, knowing full well that a lot of fish in the marketplace are a bit dodgy. Sometimes contaminated by toxic minerals or chemicals.

After leaving the Army I took up cross country, road and track running just to keep fit.  Fit and healthy runners were good company too.

It was the running that turned me to becoming a vegetarian. During the Winter cross country season, in the Harrier Club we would train hard all week and race hard at club or inter-club meets on Saturday. During the week I would schedule one long hard training run of about 30km, usually on the Wednesday.

As we Masters runners got older we had to be careful about the amount of stress we put on the body, and about what we ate. Some of us found that the meat we were eating caused unusual stress. We would have to stop during a run for a bowel break. Meat takes about three days to digest and pass through the body. A hard race or a long training run can speed up the passage. It could be embarrassing.

So that meant that if I stopped eating meat three days before a race or a hard training run I could eat meat one day a week. So I decided to give it away for the season.

And I immediately noticed the difference. I felt better. People asked me why I was looking so good. Those close to me remarked that I had become a calmer person. I gave up eating flesh for good.

And for the last 30 years or so I have never had a problem with the gastrointestinal tract; the digesive system. No indigestion, no heartburn, no stomach aches, no constipation, no diarrhea, no nausea or vomiting. None, except for two short bouts of diarrhea caused by contaminated food.

I also gave up alcohol and tobacco at about the same time as I became vegetarian. That had a big effect of course.

About 16 years ago I was doing some work for Te Kohanga Reo National Trust. One of the main projects at the time was grommet operations for the mokopuna. There was so much ear infection in the Kohanga movement that we had a number of ear, nose and throat specialists on contract to fit grommets. They did literally thousands of operations on the mokopuna.

It was well known that Maori kids were prone to ear infections, and growing up it always seemed that Maori kids were the ones with the snotty noses. I’d noticed that most of the kaikorero on the paepae were forever clearing their throats of phlegm. I wondered why and went looking for answers.

It was the milk. Human milk is designed by nature to grow babies into toddlers, then they are weaned, sometime before the age of 4, then we feed them cow’s milk for the rest of their lives. Cow’s milk is designed by nature to turn calves into cows, and they are weaned off it when it is no longer the right food for them. So I sort of reasoned that cow’s milk was not designed by nature to feed Maori babies, let alone the toddlers, or the adults, who from time immemorial had been weaned off milk at an early age. And I came across some research that indicated that it could cause ear infections, snotty noses and excess phlegm in adults.

No one was interested of course. New Zealand is the Saudi Arabia of milk, and it is touted as one of the healthiest foods we should all be consuming. It’s not for Polynesians though.

Since the mapping of the human genome scientists have identified the milk gene. It was first discovered in Denmark. It has now been established that when the child is weaned off human milk the milk gene is switched off, and the body is no longer able to properly digest milk.

Except in those populations that have been consuming animal milks for thousands of years, for instance in Northern Europe and in Africa.  In those populations the milk gene stays switched on and they have no problems digesting cow’s milk, cheese, ice cream and the rest. The rest of us are prone to have problems digesting dairy products. The undigested or partially disgested stuff gathers in the ears, nose and throat and causes the problems.

No one is interested of course.

Anyway, before I came across the genetic science I decided, as I often do, to experiment on myself and to stop consuming dairy products. The effect was almost instantaneous. No more snot and phlegm. And it’s been that way for the past 15 years because I haven’t touched the stuff since. Nothing, except when I catch a cold, usually on an aircraft, about once every two or three years.

So there I was, 15 years ago, a vegetarian for 15 years and now off dairy as well. So I went the whole hog and cut all animal products from  my diet.

And I’ve never looked back. I’m certain that my nutrition and regular exercise are keeping me healthy. I feel good always, and I have not had any illness for the last 30 years (and for many years before that too). Touch wood.

When I was five years old my grandmother taught me that good health was the key to a good life. 68 years later I can vouch that she was right.

 

Asparagus & Sweetcorn Soup

This is a really delicious, simple vegan soup. Just asparagus and corn.

Ingredients

About 1 kg fresh asparagus
4 or 5 cobs of sweetcorn

Preparation

Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus spears. Set aside and reserve.
Snap off the tender tips of the asparagus spears. Set aside and reserve.
Strip the corn kernels off the cob. Set aside and reserve about 1 cup.

Boil the woody ends of the spears to make a stock. Strain and discard the asparagus ends.

Put the asparagus spears (the middle bit) and the corn kernels into the stock. Top up and cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer until tender. Puree with a hand blender.

Crush the reserved corn kernels and put them with the reserved asparagus tips into the soup. Bring to the boil and simmer until tender.

There you have it. One of the most delicious soups you’ll ever taste.

 

 

 

All Purpose Dressing

I eat a lot of salads. For most salads I will just use olive oil and lemon juice as a dressing. light and tasty.

But this is my favourite dressing, used in a potato salad, or just poured over steamed vegetables.

Equal measures of olive oil and lemon juice.
Couple of teaspoons of Dijon mustard.
Handful of fresh basil leaves.

Whizz, blend, pour.

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.

Serve.

Vegan Tagine

This is a vegan version of an original North African dish. Best cooked in a tagine, the distinctive North African cookware.

Ingredients

1 Onion (sliced)
Garlic
Chilli
Ginger
Ras el Hanout North African spice mix
Coconut oil (or other cooking oil)

1 handful pistachio nuts
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

Zucchini
Eggplant
Broccoli
Tomatoes
Green beans
Peas
Other vegetables

Saute the onions, garlic, chilli, ginger 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.

Delicious.

Heaven and Hell

Onions and Apples

This is an easy, different, and tasty dish. Vegan of course.

Ingredients

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)
Water

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 frozen peas (or fresh peas if you have them) 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.

Enjoy.

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 vegan for I’ve been vegan 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.

It 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 – 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.

Fruit

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.

Greenery

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.

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.

Supplements (the essential ingredients)

Non-essential supplements, but I add them anyway

  • Coconut yoghurt, just because coconut is an ancient tipuna kai (ancestral food) I suppose.
  • Lecithin (granules) because it contains choline  (about one dessert spoon); and
  • 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).

Experiment

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.

Preparation

I prepare it the night before, fruit first, then the nuts and the greenery 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.