What To Make Of National MP Parmjeet Parmar’s Gandhi Statue Proposition

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Backbench Opposition MPs are occasionally curious creatures, as are social media advert-targeting algorithms. Due, no doubt, to an ongoing quirk of the latter, I found myself presented with a sponsored post from National’s List MP based on Mt Roskill, Parmjeet Parmar, calling for the enshrinement of a Gandhi statue here in Auckland to coincide with the latter figure’s 150th birthday and asking me to sign a petition in support of same.

Now, the comments left in response to this post were pretty interesting in and of themselves. If you were expecting some sort of groundswell-outpouring-of-support from the local Indian community as National presumably were when they authorized the effort [and more on that in a moment], then you would perhaps be left hanging.

Many comments therefrom appeared to be in one (or both) of two camps – those who were suggesting that while such a statue might be appropriate for/in India, it didn’t necessarily follow that it’d be a good idea to have one *here* … and those who were pretty anti Gandhi for various reasons. There were also a few other sorts of response, including an array of potential alternatives if we really were in need of an additional effigy [I put in my two cents in favour of one of NetaJI, on grounds of … another story for another time], and at least one pointing out that there’s already a Gandhi statue located in Wellington by the central railway station. Virtually all of these comments (as in, all but a literal handful out of the more than one hundred responses in that thread) were from members of the Indian community.

Now that matters, not so much because of what it tells us about the perceptions and the psychology of said community’s membership – which is pretty interesting in and of itself – but rather because of just *why* the National Party apparently thought this idea would be a good issue to start campaigning on immediately on the cusp of an Election Year.

And that’s quite simple.

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The Indian community has generally been one of the more diverse in New Zealand when it comes to electoral behavior. Many vote for Labour. Many also vote for National. Up until relatively recently, many also supported New Zealand First. Even ACT managed to find itself an Indian candidate in its top four at the last Election.

So the Indian portions of the electorate – and I should not perhaps monolithicize it by saying it is a ‘community’ singular – is a battleground, as multifaceted and militantly fought over as any bellweather physical seat. And, with more than two hundred and twenty thousand Indians living here (a figure which will, admittedly, likely include quite a few who are unable to vote in the next year’s upcoming General Election), a potentially rather lucrative source of political support in what’s likely to be an incredibly tight contest in 2020.

But while in previous years, the outcomes from the “Indian vote” here have been broadly consistent – Labour doing reasonably out of it, National slowly improving its vote-share, and New Zealand First also being in there as well – various events of the past year and a quarter have thrown much of that up in the air, disrupting those comfortable certainties.

That’s created both a ‘risk’ factor for National, in terms of the potential diminishing of its own vote coming from this general quarter; as well as an ‘opportunity’, derived from going after the votes that’ve been lost by the Coalition.

The former – the problem – resulted from the Jami-Lee Ross’s airing of a conversation with the current leader of the National Party in which the party’s stance toward Indian New Zealanders appeared to be that they were a) cash-cows and seat-warmers when National sought to consider them at all … and b) that they were worth perhaps only half a Chinese person even on *that* lowly score.

It doesn’t take Crosby-Textor to tell you how and why *that* will have burned some bridges.

The latter, and much more recent event – the opportunity – was crafted via Shane Jones’ attention-grab before last. It’s an open question as to whether Jones’ rhetorical enfilading of the Coalition’s Indian constituency will lose them more votes than NZF might shore up or gain from other quarters for such displays; but while it might be tempting to regard the whole thing as an “NZF Problem”, even despite Iain Lees-Galloway (the actual relevant Minister in the situation) expressing his opposition to Jones’ comments, the fact that Jones is a Coalition Minister, whose antics are – broadly speaking – tolerated by his Coalition Partner, suggests that the fallout from that episode is unlikely to be exclusively NZF’s to bear.

So, like I say – it’s a situation of ‘risk’ and ‘opportunity’ for National going into 2020’s tight contest as applies potentially tens upon tens of thousands of votes.

It’s therefore understandable that they’d be rather keen to attempt a re-run of the ‘Ethnic Strategy’ which was a fairly prominent portion of both their national- and local-level electoral outreach efforts from about 2014-2016. I won’t go into any great detail about it here, not least because it’s probably not that interesting to most … but suffice to say it featured National attempting to take votes off Labour by putting forward ‘ethnic’ candidates and occasionally downright peculiar stabs at “appealing” to their relevant communities/constituencies. And, perhaps not at all coincidentally, had its arguable not-all-that-high-water-mark just over three years ago *also* in Parmar’s electorate, during her ill-starred contest against Labour’s Michael Wood for Mt Roskill in the 2016 By-Election.

Here’s the writeup I produced at the time, which also runs through some of them aformentioned prior examples/manifestations/missteps.

Anyway, to bring all of this back to both the present and the immediate subject at hand … it seems pretty straightforward why various minds at National apparently thought it’d be a great idea to approve Parmjeet Parmar MP putting out a release calling for “Auckland Council to provide a statue to honour Mahatma Gandhi in one of Auckland’s public spaces […] such as Aotea Square or the Auckland Domain“.

And then thought they’d double down by bringing the whole thing back two months after it was first announced [which was in early October, to coincide with the anniversary of Gandhi’s birth] through a fresh influxion of advertising cash. (Which has, incidentally, given it a far higher response-rate and interactivity, if we compare the few dozen reacts etc. each of her postings about it on the 2nd and 6th of October got to the nearly three hundred on the 9th of December one that’s been ‘sponsored’)

Part of it’s the same reason just about any party or politically inclined organization does these sorts of ‘petitions’ in the first place. It’s a contact-info gathering exercise that’ll in theory enable the Nats to more easily connect with various portions of the electorate. By self-identifying as interested in one of their pushes, and giving them your name, email, and potentially mobile phone number (especially with the “Send me text message updates” box still auto-ticked), you’re saving them the trouble of having to ferret you out or chance across you on the hustings or door-knocking, and giving them many more months to attempt to forge/build upon a connection with you through periodic emailed/txtd bluster. It’s not “spam”, because you asked for it. It’s not “junk mail”, because it’s not in a post-box. It’s not nearly as advanced nor useful as some of the much more data-driven analytic and outreach tools being deployed in the US these days … but, then, we’ve always been [often thankfully] a few years or even decades behind them when it comes to campaigning.

And anyway, that candidate/party to individual person contact-harvesting effort is only a secondary purpose compared to what this Gandhi statue push is *actually* for. Which is a much more ‘general’ sense of connectivity.

As I said some paragraphs ago, the National Party likely feel they are in a situation of both ‘risk’ and ‘opportunity’ as applies the Indian swathe of the electorate. On the one hand, they are painfully aware that they have to fend against a perception that they basically see the Indian communities of this country as little more than cash-cows and window-dressing pseudo-“diversity” … pursuits in which said party would apparently really much rather be dealing with the Chinese, thanks, anyway. That’s the ‘risk’.

But on the *other* hand, they’re also cognizant of the fact that they’re up against a Coalition which much more recently had one of its allegedly senior Ministers go on what seemed to be a sustained foray against various Indian customs, culture, community organizations, and Voice and Viewpoint(s) generally.

So therefore, what National’s chosen to do is attempt to put forward something designed to show their targets that they’re … pretty much the opposite of all of that – both of their own prior ‘shortcomings’, and of their opponents’ more contemporary tin-eared conflagrationism. A ‘symbol’, if you will.

What of? That National values the community in question, its cultural touchstones, its heritage, and its voice [as illustrated by having one of its Indian MPs use *her* voice to put the proposal forward]; and is ‘in touch’, listening to and engaging with all of the above; prepared to offer literal pride of place … or, as the press release puts it, “prime public spaces“, to same.

Except here’s the problem with that. Gandhi’s actually, to put it mildly, a rather divisive figure in India and the broader diaspora. I won’t go into why here, but suffice to say there’s *quite a number of potential reasons* from just about all possible viewpoints upon the matter. He *is* resoundingly popular with a certain sort of Anglosphere liberal, however, because of his reputation *external* to India … and if the reaction on Parmar’s recent post was anything to go by when last I’d checked it,  there’s probably rather more support in *that* demographic for a Gandhi statue out there in Aotea Square than there is in much of the local Indian community.

So straightaway, it doesn’t look so much like “listening” to Indian New Zealanders, as an attempt to appeal to what National thinks they *should* like (both in terms of Gandhi, and in terms of a statue of Gandhi *here*), based on some rather lazy [lack of] thinking.

There’s also a bit of an irony in the actual form and capabilities of this ‘Symbol’, as well. For it is a rather curious maneuver, if you are facing an embedded perception that your attitude to the Indian community is that they are there to be seen and not heard except when being deployed for political/vote-garnering purposes …

… to then attempt to solve the problem by installing as a political stunt a statue nobody seems to have asked for in a highly public place – where it, by definition, can *only* be seen and not heard.

Statues, rather like some Opposition Backbench MPs, with the occasional exception of ‘Res Ipsa Loquitur’, are only rarely able to speak for themselves.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Given that the National Party thinks that two Indians are worth one Chinese, then I would expect them to be proposing statues of Mao Tsetung and Confucius also.

    With Bill English gone, and Maggie and that scrawny chappie a bit invisible, they may want to consider a statue of a Pope to garner stray Catholics.

    I doubt the Chinese I know would be particularly interested in statues, and in any case the Chinese seem to already support National in a direct and generous fashion.

    A statue of Mohammed for the Muslim community runs totally contrary to their own beliefs, but historically
    the National Party’s beliefs have been the only ones that ever matter, but Buddhas at every airport could scoop up miscellaneous Asians.

    A golden calf somewhere could honour both the Hindu community as well as the greed-is-good goons, and poor people could chip off that gold under cover of dark and use it to buy food and firewood and new shoes and so on.

  2. I didn’t read this properly at first. She’s got a nerve expecting the Auckland Council, ie Auckland rate payers, to fork up for a statue of Gandhi.

    In my haste I thought that this woman was petitioning Indians for money for a statue, but to my utter astonishment she’s wanting her compatriots to pressurise the council into providing it.

    Parmar really needs to back off from trying to bully New Zealanders into recognising another country’s hero, no matter how worthy he may be – and then to be paying for it as well.

    She is also trying to alter our cultural landscape, and that requires a bigger conversation than a petition from somebody who 99% of us have never heard of.

    I’m getting fed up with people 5 minutes in this country trying to leave their boot marks over it – like John Key with his own little flag fetish. And the other.

    The arrogance of the National Party is exceeded only by its ignorance, and my cynicism about all its agendas.

    If I joined the Indian Govt and asked that a statue of Hone Heke be put up in Benares, primitive sort of things could happen to me; I hope Parmar appreciates that Auckland doesn’t have over-excitable out-of-control mobs, and that in future, she makes more of an effort to be socially sensitive.

    • That is exactly why many kiwis are sick of immigration it brings people like her here. Now who the fuck does she thinks she is I find people like her hard to stomach.

    • In other countries you hear about all the great things migrants are doing for their new country. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/11/migrant-hailed-after-rescuing-man-in-wheelchair-from-fire

      In NZ all we hear about is more and more news articles spewing from MSM about whining from migrants that they need more entitlement here, more money for them and their relatives, visas are not fast enough, government jobs are theirs, they should be given a fake degree/residency because they paid someone for it, everyone is a racist apart from them, more statues and parades and diversity washing paid for by our taxes, constant brainwashing about NZ total acceptance of their culture while migrant leaders about local culture are perfectly acceptable!

      Clearly something wrong in who we are attracting here and the NZ migrant whiners are first in the queue for power to keep their mates coming to NZ and getting resources here first!

      https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1908/S00006/focus-on-housing-squeeze-not-refugees-whanganui-mayor.htm

      “Multicultural Council of Rangitikei and Wanganui president Pushpa Prasad said Māori should work on helping themselves get out of poverty rather than worrying about a small number of refugees.

      “We are chucking money in a leaky bucket or in a bottomless pit,” she said. “Never mind how much you dump in there it still won’t be enough unless people stand up by themselves and go and start fixing things for themselves or looking after themselves.”

      Ms Prasad, who moved to New Zealand from Fiji about 30 years ago and lives in Whanganui, said the city was putting in the work and would be prepared to accept refugees next year – housing crisis or not.”

      On 13 May 2009 Lee told a candidates’ meeting that the SH20 Waterview Connection could divert criminals from South Auckland away from the electorate.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melissa_Lee
      (Her vision fulfilled with more guns for police in South Auckland, thanks Melissa, ah, oh, mean Jacinda)

      Mob man’s fate hangs over historic abuse inquiry
      https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/115727405/mob-mans-fate-hangs-over-historic-abuse-inquiry

      Sometimes you wonder who our MP’s are working for and their aspirations here…

      Just weeks after Simon Bridges faced backlash over a trip to China and a meeting with the country’s spy boss, National MP Jian Yang has returned to Beijing for a major military parade.
      https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2019/10/02/838837/jian-yang-in-china-for-chinese-communist-party-celebrations

      Oh well we are not Zambia yet, just setting the conditions going forward to be homeless and bankrupt in our own country because of political decisions on growth, debt and economy and refusing to change from that course…
      https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/dec/11/china-steps-in-as-zambia-runs-out-of-loan-options

  3. Yeah, well…
    Auckland? Before you spend the money of others on a ugly arse statue read this;
    To Quote The Guardian.
    ” Little wonder India worshipped him, and still worships him, as the Mahatma – “Great Soul”. In the west he is viewed as a near-perfect combination of compassion, bravery and wisdom.
    But Gandhi was also a puritan and a misogynist who helped ensure that India remains one of the most sexually repressed nations on earth – and, by and large, a dreadful place to be born female. George Orwell, in his 1949 essay Reflections on Gandhi, said that “saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent”. If only.”
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/jan/27/mohandas-gandhi-women-india

    • Well at least Parmar is safer here than she’d be back there then, isn’t she.

      And Ghandi shared a bed with naked nubile girls to test his chastity.

      Perhaps a statue of Ghandi in bed – a big bed with a soft mattress for Auckland homeless to share.

      And I may biff the next person who proclaims that Ghandi taught the world passive resistance, and turning the other cheek – that was a Jewish preacher from Galilee whose upcoming birthday celebrations max credit cards and make some mothers weep.

      Nothing’s as it seems.

  4. The problem with identity politics, which bizarrely the political parties don’t understand, is that focusing on different minority groups with ‘bribes’ often goes against them because the other majority groups are not happy with it and get turned off voting or pushed to another party, and some of the identity group itself often just feels it is a bribe and not actually respectful to the group either.

    Aka massive backfire of policy, that the political groups seem to have zero understanding of where they go wrong.

    There is a huge lack of understanding of ethnic groups in NZ anyway and that ethnic groups themselves may have totally different beliefs (aka pro Beijing, anti Beijing Chinese living here).

    One minute Jacinda is saying to muslims are ‘you are us’ the next minute pushing through more nationals from India and China who have many laws against muslims, not to mention beefing up a surveillance culture in NZ to ‘fight’ terrorism ….

    In India they pass the Indian citizenship law which is considered discriminatory to Muslims https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/11/india-to-bring-in-law-denying-citizenship-to-muslim-migrants

    Or putting muslims in re-education camps in China, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/china-muslims-re-education-camps-amnesty-uighur-religion-human-rights-watch-a8678156.html

    But wait no press conference from Labour against that, it might stop butter imports!!!

    Or allowing more African refugees into NZ… but wait its a 10 year jail term to be homosexual in Nigeria…. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/11/first-men-go-on-trial-under-nigerias-anti-homosexuality-laws

    Not to mention how is that sitting with the huge South African and Chinese community in NZ either??? Or the Jewish community? Who knows?

    Meanwhile the 65- 70% Pakeha or ‘white’ as the media and some politicians have racially taken to denigrating them, that some in Labour and Greens blame for everything from the CHCH murders… to the housing shortages (that bizarrely only started about a decade ago, and now on steroids in the last 6 years with the temp & permanent permits being so high, when mass immigration started) to the treaty of Waitangi issues that often pop up close to election time…

    Meanwhile no interest in looking at the attitudes that NZ fought for decades to get rid of to become a socially bicultural country are now being tossed out.

    AKA more and more contradictory beliefs aka anti homosexuality, anti muslim, sexism, racial crimes, are fine, as long as a private provider can get some $$$ from students for a fake degree or some cheap cafe and seasonal workers into NZ and a new generation of Kiwis are going to be growing up without jobs, houses and social mobility and being taught to hate themselves (hence record suicide rates) are just ignored or used as a way to provide business with more money via social bond type/construction opportunities…

    Once here, we can’t get the crims out either, which is another point of contention of why criminal groups new to the country have more rights and ‘compassion’ that the honest people who live here?

    With Labour, Greens and Natz Laizze fair immigration of nationals who all seem to hate each other, it’s pretty clear a lot of racial and social tension going forward, is going to be our future!

    We are already seeing it with the amount of additional murders in NZ… last year there were clearly more murders caused from people who just come to NZ and seek to impose their views, than from those who were born here.

    • Yep, a lot of this is due to what a homogeneous society we are, but I still don’t understand it – my first Chinese friends date long ago to under grad days (Colombo Plan?) and Indian via academia – friends who stay in each others’ homes here and elsewhere, and who can talk about these things without pussyfooting around, but who, very importantly, know that we know and respect their culture. A Chinese friend talked of the poverty of his youth, surviving on rice with sesame seed oil -which is why he doesn’t like it now; Mrs Verma explaining why serving food on wooden platters would be offensive in India – a massively complex culture. Friends can have these conversations, but govts and bureaucrats stereotype.

      All public servants need to work at least a year in another culture – anywhere – and get their brains aired. Politicians are getting worse and worse, and the more I’m inclined never to vote again, the more I think it important that we do vote. Al with algorithms mightn’t be any worse – and cheaper.

      The pissing off thing about Parmar is the assumptions which she makes. Anyone can come here and build a church, or a temple, or a mosque, or a cathedral, and they do, and they pay for it. St Mary of the Angels in Wgtn, raised millions to restore an architectural masterpiece. Parmar is asking Aucklanders to fund a statue for her cultural icon. Why should they ? Why should any of us ?

      Its also quite demeaning to some Indians to imply that such a clumsy vote-getting gesture will make them vote National. The taxi drivers would prefer to up their incomes – most qualify for Community Service Cards. Four Square owners work 15+ hours a day, and that’s just in the shop where they run the risk of violence from a druggie or tobacco thief; the poor Asian workers being exploited by their own people live in massive anxiety. And Parmar says, “Give us a statue of Ghandi, ratepayers.” Fat lot of use that is to anybody.

      And nor was she put into Parliament just to represent Indians, but many MP’s lose sight of who or what they’re there for, and I will not forgive any of them for children growing up in this country feeling bad about themselves.

  5. When he was active, Mahatma Gandhi was often described by his enemies in terms which basically accused him of being a “commie stirrer” who led anti-government protests so it seems a bit strange that the National Party are so keen to promote him.
    On the other hand they have an ex Chinese Communist Party man on their back bench so perhaps it is not so strange – maybe its National Party “business as usual”.

    • arbeitslos – I know how to say ‘Fuck off’ in Chinese – but I’m not telling you – it was the name of my late little dog, and a Chinese homestay student’s wife recognised it for what it was – rude. I thought it was Italian. I keep meaning to say it in the right circs – but not to a Chinese, as they, by nature, are very polite people.

      Ghandi did a lot of good for India, and off the top of my head, he helped save the cotton industry. It was the Brits who engineered a terrible famine there, but I have always regarded Mountbatten as a bit of a villain – the plans for the separation of that huge ancient continent were drawn up arbitrarily in 6 weeks flat, and have caused nothing but trouble ever since. It’s something the Brits do well. My book documenting it all is another which I lent and never got back again.

      If Parmar goes door to door, then it’s more than what many pollies do; if she’d proposed e.g. an Indian poet like Tagore, and got the dosh together to pay for it, and donated it to some uni English Dept, OK, but an historically controversial person from her very different culture imposed upon Aucklanders is a not a good idea – and it could cause trouble. His statue stands neutrally near Wellington Railway station, and she can always pop down there with bunches of marigolds if she feels that strongly about him.

  6. Perhaps Parmjeet Parmar is resorting to the typical NZ National Party habit of hoping NZers have short memories.

    The reason for me saying this is because in the lead up to the by-election of the Roskill electorate in 2016 Parmjeet Parmar’s husband and National Party supporting cronies constantly interrupted Labour MP Michael Wood’s speeches at various events. They showed to so many how nasty they were when it suited them and of course the NZ National Party.

    Now lets compare Parmjeet Parmar, her husband and of course the NZ National Party to a much respected person in world history as Mahatma Gandhi. To this day Mahatma Gandhi is identified as being someone who was non-judgmental. I doubt he would have heckled or interrupted on a regular basis a speech by another at a meeting.

    And so compared to the NZ National Party I think Parmjeet Parmar is just grand-standing and wanting to appear important when in fact she couldn’t get her husband to stop heckling others and in fact condoned his ‘behaviour’.

    To the Roskill electorate. I hope you don’t vote for this woman again because she has clearly shown how opportunistic and self-serving she truly is. She is an excellent example of the NZ National Party. There was most likely not a peep out of her when millions of dollars were given to a Saudi Sheep farmer in the form of a bribe and all the other spending sprees the previous National government embarked on at NZ taxpayers expense.

    • JustMe – Yes, this is a woman grandstanding to try to get ‘the Indian’ vote. Don’t forget that politicians work on the assumption that all the voters are dumbos. Gandhi’s already served his purpose without her having to twitch another digit – cheap publicity.

      I had certainly not forgotten Parmar’s husband behaving obnoxiously on her behalf – it’s the first thing which came to my mind, and I was mulling away about women whose husbands fight their public battles for them, especially noisily.

      At a Wellington CC election, the sister-in-law of a prominent short Catholic poor- hating National MP ran for council, and I remember her husband reported becoming angry with an audience member at a meeting – I think he lambasted some chappie after the meeting was over. This particular family reminds me of the pictures of diseased lungs on the the front of cigarette packets, with contracts, and perks, and appendages of power, perhaps lurking in nooks and crannies all over the place.

      Stevie wonders if statues are needed at all; people grumbled about a kids’ playground at Parliament marking a children’s anniversary, but I thought it delightfully apt, and much lovelier for kids than another monument.

      Trouble with statues of real people, is that people can go in and out of favour, and along come sensitive souls who re-interpret history, and topple them, and there’s a bloke with a chainsaw in the lower NI who cuts their penises off, and a priest from Tawa tips tomato sauce over them.

      I really dislike seeing statues destroyed: they are an artist’s creation, and they still have a story to tell, but if they are likely to cause, or be the focus of trouble, then straight out bribes could be a better alternative. Packets of sweets in letter-boxes – delivered by the Night Runners of Bengal – drumming up work for dentist uncle – and Bata footwear uncle – and perhaps taxi driver uncle too.

  7. Why not statues of Te Whiti O Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi?( if statues are needed) These two practioneers of non violence in the nineteenth century pre-dated Ghandi and should have considerably more significance to people in Aotearoa.
    For those who have never heard of these two men look up ‘Parihaka’. Some of you may realise we do not always have to look for inspiration from people in other countries and cultures.

  8. But there’s already a statue of him on top of the Mahatma Gandi centre in Auckland..
    Or isn’t she aware of this?

    • @ G unit, nope she probably isn’t because she neither represents the Indian community or the NZ community.

      Instead she represents the new Tory, the individual globalist whose believes “there’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first”.

      Maybe that is why the family category for immigration is so over used!

      Labour Blairites also big on individuals and family before society, reflected in our dysfunctional immigration policy that seeks to destroy society while enriching individual family members who don’t currently live here at the expense of society who does.

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