History will record that the Treaty of Waitangi was prone, like a rubbery string of sinew lodged in the teeth of Aotearoa long after the meal of New Zealand was digested. Both Maori and Pakeha at various moments have had turns trying to pick it out and each time the fingernail slides in it seems to wedge further in place. No one could find a toothpick. It stuck fast. The first and last evidence of a long and disagreeable meal. It doesn’t seem to affect anything much, except our self-confidence. It’s just we can feel it there and we can’t help playing with it with our tongue. Sometimes we play with it just to amuse ourselves. It will naturally dissolve of course, but the preference must be extracting it oneself for the satisfaction alone.
The Kingitanga’s Hui-a-Motu at Turangawaewae on Saturday (20/01/2024) – from observing the coverage – was as I expected, positive, energising and vague. It wasn’t going to be a “moanfest” of whinging as Shane Jones put it, and the “ominous” “shadow kingdom” showcased in Chris Trotter’s latest episode of Beware the Brown Bogeyman on the NZ Democracy Project isn’t going to ignite his yearned for civil war with “angry rangatahi.” If his columns from the last few years have a mission it is he dearly wants to precipitate that war, postulate it, will it into existence; and his real existential fear driving the enterprise seems to be he won’t live long enough to die chronicling it. Yes. He figures, with the confidence of the White Man with the whip hand that it will be Rorke’s Drift when it might well be… Zulu Dawn. Like the very disastrous engagement and result that befell that column, Trotter’s column seems just as desperate and equally doomed. His conception of the strong man saviour for the Pakeha in his malwhimsy is so close to Hitler that you wonder if his moustache has significantly shortened over time. Or is it white liberal naivete not to want Constand Viljoen to carpet bomb Ngaruawahia in the lead up to the Treaty bi-centenary?
Trotter’s bare logic on which he scripts The Third New Zealand War however is sound, it just not reasonable to think those conditions will ever arise, or rational to think the post-apocalyptic aftermath of it would be desirable or sustainable. On a material basis – of Pakeha lifestyle being dependent on stolen land – that land question dénouement would trigger a white out avalanche of Allan Titfords if it was ever properly remedied – sure. This question however has not been seriously proposed. It needs to be (and that’s what I am in favour of) but it is not being. Te Pati Maori haven’t seriously thought it through and the Greens have limited the scope to a fraction with their return policy. “Land Back!” has never in any of my readings came with a realistic how-to.
The superficiality of so much political and protest action, generated as it is by social media narcissism as much as by genuine grievance, and the capture of public discourse and administrative direction by the lawyers and academics and their self-interested parasitism on the state they claim they want to move beyond should fully abate Trotter’s paranoia. What are these people really capable of? Have you ever been to a demonstration recently? Is there any action at all? No one wants to dare risk arrest because their professional licences, their government funding, their mortgages, their name in the local paper’s courts page all matter more than the kaupapa. Unless it’s for the sake of likes on Facebook and Youtube views no one is prepared to sacrifice anything beyond an afternoon and petrol money. There is no mind or stomach for it.
Maori have been culturally assertive, but have been politically subsumed and assimilated into the smug complacency of the Pakeha mode of non-confrontation, incrementalism and the safety of judicial atrophy – have they not? Co-opted and copped out. The post-settlement entities foisted on the Iwi groups are now entrenched. The elites which Kingi Tuheitia made a somewhat ambivalent reference to in his concluding speech control the Iwi’s assets and suppress the Hapu’s Mana Motuhake and are now the primary block on decolonisation (as intended by the NZ Government). Tuheitia’s off the cuff remarks should be well heeded – they did it for the money – and by extension that is what they are all about:
“You know our post settlement entities – I think they’re government agencies, because you’ve got to sign their agreements to get the money and have this identity… I don’t want to hang our dirty laundry up. Our settlement… 28 years, and we’ve still got the same structure… I tried to restructure, but no one seems to want to change, they want to stay in this little huddle they’ve got…”
Colonial entities post-independence have more often than not left the land and the whips in white hands and nothing so far from anyone indicates a different scenario here.
The other strand of Trotter’s bellicose thesis is cultural. Again there is some logic to it, but again the reality he sketches is in crayon in an age of AI. The Pakeha ability to entertain “Maorification” is already a generational reality that neutralises the cultural anxiety which is of the Boomer’s immediate concern – outflanked by time it seems, the visceral hate and accompanying fear just does not exist to justify the requisite conditions for Amaorigeddon. Can you march to war without that beat?
Things are moving all right, but not in the right direction. Look at the Office of Maori-Crown Relations Treaty Settlement map. The colonial masters are filling in the country as undisputed Pakeha land – the confiscated land of which there can be no moral claim has been swallowed. All for a pittance. Locked into a legal framework the elite endorse there is no recourse now available for the landless peasants in whose names they took the money. Look at the NZ-UK FTA that came into effect last year: the preamble claims the New Zealand Crown “has now” succeeded to and assumed all rights and obligations of the Treaty from the British Crown! When did that happen exactly, what date? What Maori opposed this or even noticed it? The most significant acknowledgement of the Treaty by the actual partner, Britain, and not one of those complacent Iwi corporate drones, not one of those lawyer parasites even blinks! All the megaphone kids, silent. Not one protest! No money in it? Are these people who invoke and sanctify Te Tiriti credible when the UK and NZ governments can collude to abrogate it and they do nothing? Cretinous leadership.
None of the reports from the conference augured anything beyond conventional political engagement if we look through the rhetoric (none of which was fierce). The same people, saying the same things were not going to devise a decolonisation template they have had fifty years to come up with and haven’t. Indeed, the Rangatahi forum, God bless them, wondered aloud in their final statement why we only come together as a reaction and not as a positive pursuit on a regular basis. The Kingitanga was a reaction itself to the establishment of the NZ parliament so perhaps it is not a wonder the movement is inherently reactive.
The momentum has begun in the heat sparked by NZ First and Act. Given the fuse that sits between them is a National Party dominated by the liberal wing (something I see John Campbell refused to acknowledge in his rather churlish piece for One News) there is only so much friction that can be tolerated before the moderation switch gets tripped. We shall see how the current generation can maintain the push within the paradox of dependence on their adversaries to shove them and their elders into meaningful action.