“You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say you are free to compete with all the others, and still just believe that you have been completely fair.” – Lyndon Johnson, Affirmative Action, 1965
The grooming of the political right is now in full swing. A couple of days ago, I felt a strange feeling in my wairua that the right-wing ‘OneLaw4All’ party was up to no good, yet it became evident that something even more grotesque was on the political horizon. Growing in influence and political weight, the ‘Conservative Party’ is polling at 2.8%, sadly more than the Māori Party and Mana Movement combined. At first the Party’s leader Colin Craig, the millionaire Christian businessman, rocked up onto the scene as ‘just another right-wing bigot’ wanting to make some noise over ‘moral’ issues – condemning the LGBTI community and same-sex marriage. Yet I for one can say that most political commentators had no reason to take him seriously, oh the irony, but now Colin Craig has a very viable position to sway the vote come 2014. Under the MMP electoral system (as well as the demise of the ACT Party), John Key could definitely aid Craig in attaining an electoral seat (probably Epsom) in order to convert that 2.8% into four parliamentary seats and a place in the next New Zealand government. As John Key’s allies appear to be regressing into social irrelevancy the cards are in Colin Craig’s favour to be the political saviour for National’s third term in power, solidifying the religious zealot as the right-wing kingmaker of New Zealand politics. Unless Labour, the Greens and Mana can increase support and utilize the MMP system strategically; 2014 will be another hit and miss for the left.
After five years under National, the diverse Māori population is still at the bottom of society, adding Colin Craig to a third term of National would be like running away from a lion and meeting a bear (a really racist bear). Although the Māori Party have accomplished feats like establishing Whānau Ora and the Constitutional Review, it is evident that their efforts have been more of a cushion than a liberator for Māori socio-economics – with the unemployment rate still being double that of the wider New Zealand populace. Though the gains economically have been small, it would be silly not to mention how far New Zealand has come in the last 40 years in terms of race relations. Sure there are still blatant systemic and social anti-Māori rhetoric, but the days of Bastion-Point-esque politics remain a nightmare that most Kiwis would disagree with nowadays. Yet that could all change in a matter of one year. Cue Colin Craig with his Don Brash bigotry and his George W. Bush absurdity, if he had it his way, the Conservative Party leader would whitewash Māori-Crown relationships back to 1840. The abolishment of the Māori seats, the Waitangi Tribunal and other core affirmative action infrastructure would suffer at the hands of the so-called defender of the righteous. If Craig continues to take votes off National than it becomes even more apparent that John Key will have to succumb to the Conservatives’ political wish list. The Prime Minister affirms that issues like parental discipline, gay marriage and the status of Māori will not be altered by a coalition with the Conservatives – but one cannot deny the position of power Colin Craig now holds in giving/or not giving John Key his third term on the ninth floor. Having this in mind, as well as Craig’s overt anti-indigenous silhouette, there is a real concern that Māori will be pushed into the social box that shaped the race relations of the Muldoon government.
The influence of indigenous affirmative action is just beginning to be felt today (very minutely though). Recently Colin Craig likened the Māori seats to the old Miners seats, claiming that we don’t need them anymore and there is no need for any one group to have “special seats” in parliament. This is a classic example of either naïve or ignorant interpretations of mana tangata whenua or indigenous rights. Put simply, Māori are ‘of the land’, tracing our whakapapa back to the great primordial parents of Papatūānuku (Earth Mother) and Ranginui (Sky Father), we are essentially part of the land and the land is a part of us. As the indigenous people groups of Aotearoa, it is a matter of social justice that we are endowed with kaitiakitanga (guardianship) over Papatūānuku and the wellbeing of our people groups. Ironically, affirmative action (as depicted in the above Lyndon Johnson quote) is not about everyone getting equal portions of socio-economic empowerment, rather it is the vision of creating equal outcomes by implementing focused assistance to those that need it the most. For Māori, a big factor of indigenous rights post-colonization has to be the advocacy for equal outcomes, and as the socio-economic disparity has gone from a gap to a canyon, Colin Craig’s crusade against indigenous affirmative action is put into the context that it dwells within – racist bigotry of an ignorant Christian capitalist. Affirmative action is not equal, no it’s not, but it creates equal outcomes and social justice.
Māori need to get serious about voting, yes protesting and advocating is influential but it can only go so far, if Māori want to ensure that the atrocities that shaped the Muldoon years don’t happen again, than voting needs to be venerated above our status quo of protesting. If we as a collective (yet diverse) whānau do not utilize the democratic process, than we can bet that Colin Craig will and turn the MMP system into a weapon of race reduction.
Tama tu tama ora, tama noho tama mate.