When liberal white activists jump up and down with their limp-wristed defence of giving Maori special privileges in legislation over non-Maori, I get annoyed. Annoyed enough to go and thump the wowsers in the head. White liberals, who share a range of doctrines, don’t fight back. They’re also peaceniks and pacifists, which makes them incapable of taking a whallop without going off to cry to Momma.
I descend from a long line of people who didn’t cry to Momma. They hit back. My father’s father was a third-generation Welsh New Zealander. Born at the turn of the century, he had a rich appreciation of his cultural heritage. That heritage was steeped in poverty, oppression, and human conditions that made Maori village life, by comparison, appear absolutely idyllic.
That was the heritage of an immigrant coal-miner. When the Welsh settled in New Zealand in the mid-19th Century, they arrived to expect a life that was better than existed in the Welsh coal mines. In reality, what many came to was merely a transplantation of the very lives they had lived in their homeland; on the West Coast of the South Island, in Southland and on the Coromandel, the Welsh continued to perish down black holes. Travelling the short journey from Greymouth to Blackball—the birthplace of the New Zealand Labour Party in 1915, dairy farms are littered with statues and monuments of coal mining disasters in an age when some human life was literally worth less than a chunk of coal.
So life began grimly for my grandfather; he was the youngest of ten children born in Cromwell, of whom only four would make it into adulthood. So as a twelve year old, he had two choices: to follow his heritage, and continue the path that his ancestors had trodden, and climb down the same black holes that his forefathers had climbed, or to make something of the new opportunities that life in New Zealand—however grim they may have been.
My grandfather chose the latter. He became a clerk in a bank. He was good with numbers, and by fourteen had learned to read. By the age of thirty-four, when war broke out in Europe again, he was a bank manager, and enjoying a level of prosperity that none of his ancestors had ever considered possible. That “rich Welsh heritage”, which provided so many lyrical songs and national pride—and a fearsome rugby team—was no longer appropriate to a successful life in a post-industrial revolutionary New Zealand. My grandfather continued to sing his Welsh songs, and continued to love his people and country, and continued to support his rugby team. But here’s the rub. At the age of twelve, he took responsibility for who he wanted to become: instead of looking back on the dismal failure of his forefathers to make the most of what they had, he looked ahead to a future that he could create for himself.
And my grandfather’s story is typical of many tens of thousands of immigrant stories in New Zealand. It is also typical of immigrant stories to Australia and the United States: people leaving the dismal, grim lives they had in Europe to a land of opportunity. Collectively, immigrants to the United States and Australia have made those countries great. In New Zealand, we are almost there, too.
But not quite. And one of those aspects that is holding us back is our obsession with the Treaty of Waitangi.
Although my grandfather was not a signatory to the Treaty in 1840, another ancestor was.
But where white, middle-class liberals fall down is their insistence that the Treaty was a partnership. It wasn’t. It was not considered a partnership at the time, and it is fraudulent to consider it a partnership now.
The Treaty was signed to establish several things: British sovereignty over New Zealand in 1840--in order to prevent inevitable annexation by another foreign power; the rights of Maori to have the same privileges of citizenship as British subjects; and the authority and control over both non-Maori and Maori in a country that was falling into increasing disorder.
Maori were separated into tribal groupings that had little common interest--non-Maori were settling in New Zealand anyway, and there was no capacity in New Zealand prior to the Treaty to control the process of settlement. Why? Because nobody had the legal authority to control that process. By becoming the sovereign power over New Zealand, Britain took responsibility for controlling the excesses of settlement that were already occurring. Prior to the signing of the Treaty, there was no control.
The reasons that various chiefs signed the Treaty were varied. It is fair to say that many of the Chiefs who signed—and there were more than 500 in all—did not understand the implications of ceding sovereignty to the British Crown. That was not a matter of the British misleading them on the implications; in 1840 New Zealand, 180,000 Maori were grouped across hundreds of tribal groupings. For all intents and purposes, it was a stone-age society. They were considerably more advanced than many other indigenous populations elsewhere in the world, but they were by no means civilized. Inter-tribal warfare was rife: Ngapuhi and the Waikato were almost constantly at war with each other, and Te Rauparaha was terrorizing the South Island. Cannibalism was common, and respect for civil institutions and human rights was non-existent, because both civil institutions, and human rights, were non-existent.
Some chiefs signed the Treaty because they thought they would get to wear a British officer’s uniform if they were subject to the Sovereign. Others signed to stop duplicitous activities by settlers. Still others believed they would be protected by the more savage opposing tribes. Many thought that life would continue as usual. And many did not sign. Of those that did, at Waitangi more than two hundred Maori chiefs each said after signing the document: "We are now one people."
But the signing of the Treaty established, to the best possible extent, a British right to claim New Zealand. That is the authority that the Treaty established. If a Treaty had not been agreed, then Britain would have annexed New Zealand anyway. It was, at best, a soft means of achieving greater Maori cooperation in gaining British sovereignty over New Zealand.
That is why the Treaty was an important historical document, but has absolutely no relevance to modern-day New Zealand. Attempts by the liberal left to use it to explain away their guilt complexes, by giving greater privileges to Maori than non-Maori, is an abuse, and a disgrace.
It is true that many Maori were not treated as British subjects, and were discriminated against post-1840. Injustices did occur. They were not, however, breaches of the Treaty, but breaches of British law guaranteeing equal rights to Maori.
Which is why the Treaty settlements process is appropriate, to an extent. But only in a limited sense. In many ways, the gesture does more damage than the settlement. And that is for this reason: no settlement process can adequately compensate Maori for the actual injustices that were done. By focusing attention on how to settle historical grievances, some Maori continue to claim that the grievance continues to exist.
Tariana Turia copped flak for her claim that Maori suffered a “holocaust”. While it is true that disease and illness were sweeping their way through Maori society in the mid-late 19th Century, it was not a deliberate attempt to extinguish Maori society. It was an unfortunate, and inevitable, historical consequence of two societies meeting together. But to suggest that Maori today suffer from the consequences of historical grievance is wrong.
That claim is no more valid than my claim of historical injustice against the Welsh people over a much longer period than Maori ever suffered. In reality, every person in the world today could make a claim of grievance based on generational, and historical misfortune. But I don’t make that claim. Why? Because at some point, human beings have to take responsibility for their own actions, and decide that irrespective of historical injustices, they are not going to allow themselves to be held down by continuing to blame failure on those injustices. The Welsh did exactly that. So did countless other indigenous societies that have been successful in a modern world. In short, they hardened up.
The typical test of character for a human being occurs around the age of twelve. It determines whether they are going to take responsibility for themselves and become a success in later life, or if they are going to resort to mediocrity and non-achievement. New Zealand’s education system indoctrinates Maori at precisely that age: the liberal agenda tells them that they are a failure because of historical wrongdoing. It tells them that they need special rights and privileges in order to make a success of themselves: it attempts to relieve them of the very responsibility that they need to take.
Abolition of Treaty clauses in legislation—there are over 4,700 individual references to Maori in all of New Zealand’s acts of Parliament—do not achieve greater benefit for Maori. At best, they provide a platform of privilege for an elite few, and allow some liberals to relieve their guilt complexes by thinking they have resolved historical wrongs. In that, they are wrong: historical wrongs cannot be fixed. It can only be accepted that they have occurred, and to create the conditions where every New Zealander has the equal opportunity to create their own destiny.
But abolition of Treaty Clauses are only the first step. In effect, to make actual change, we need to eliminate the liberal agenda that transfers blame for current failure on historical events that have little impact on present achievement.